Solomon said, “Where there is not vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18). If you relate it to driving, this proverb makes a lot of sense. Obviously, we can’t drive blindfolded. If we did, we would end up in an accident pretty quickly. When we obey the traffic laws, we avoid getting tickets and usually arrive at our destination on time.
The Bible often compares life to a journey and heaven as the destination we want to arrive at. In this context, vision can be thought of as a clear view of the spiritual realm in which God exists. When we ignore or don’t pay attention to spiritual things, we ultimately end up in the wrong place, hell.
God’s laws are meant to be signposts that point us in the right direction. Sin is sometimes referred to as missing the mark. Another way to think of it is making a wrong turn or missing your exit on the freeway. Sin keeps us from reaching our destination. Therefore, we are much better off if we do what God tells us to.
Aside from reaching our final destination, heaven, our life’s journey includes lessons or pit stops along the way that refresh and restore us so that we don’t get worn out from our travels. Having a vision or road map helps us to not miss the exit when the next gas station is 100 miles away and our gas tank is almost empty. This is what I believe Solomon meant when he said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). He wasn’t talking about ending up in hell. He was referring to a loss of time or lack of progress. In essence, your life being put on hold.
Keeping God’s law is not so much about what we do as it is about what God does. When we obey God, He protects us and keeps us from harm. The word translated keepeth in the phrase “keepeth the law” (Proverbs 29:18) is shamar. Shamar means to hedge about or guard. “The word also means ‘to keep’ in the sense of ‘watching over’ or giving attention to (8104). As we pay attention to God’s traffic signals, He keeps us away from detours and makes sure we don’t end up in a ditch.
Very little of the Bible focuses on the lives of women. There are only two short books, Esther and Ruth, completely dedicated to the lives of women. Therefore, Proverbs 31:10-31 is an important portion of scripture because it clearly portrays the characteristics of a godly woman. What surprises me the most about the description is that it is so contrary to what I have seen and been taught in the churches I have attended. Perhaps that is why this section of Proverbs 31 begins with the question, Who can find a virtuous woman?
The Hebrew word translated virtuous in Proverbs 31:10 is chayil (khah´ – yil). It is the same word translated strength in Proverbs 31:3 where it says, “Give not thy strength unto women.” “Chayil means strength; power; wealth; property; capable; valiant; army; troops; influential; upper-class people. This word signifies a faculty or ‘power,’ the ability to effect or produce something. This word is used of physical ‘strength’ in the sense of power that can be exerted (2428). Most people think of power in the context of a position that one holds, such as President of the United States, but the context of power in the virtuous woman is work, physical labor. The only woman in the Bible associated with chayil is Ruth, who worked in the field of Boaz to support herself and her mother-in-law Naomi, a widowed Israelite.
It says of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:17, “She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms” and in verse 25, “strength and honour are her clothing.” Some of the activities of the virtuous woman are “working willingly with her hands (vs 13); she considereth a field, and buyeth it (vs 16); she maketh fine linen, and selleth it (vs 24); she openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (vs 26). I think an appropriate one-word description of the virtuous woman is industrious or prosperous. It is important to note that the virtuous woman is a wife and mother. It says in Proverbs 31 that “the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her” (vs 11) and “her children arise up, and call her blessed” (vs 28).
One of the misconceptions I had when I was married was that a good wife’s primary responsibility was to take care of her husband’s sexual needs. My ex-husband once told me the reason that he married me was so he wouldn’t have to pay for sex. Today, it seems like most women are concerned with the way they look; attracting a man sexually is very important to them. It says in Proverbs 31:30 that “favour is deceitful and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.” If I ever get married again, I want to be a good wife, but instead of focusing on my sexy 60 year old body, I expect the man I marry to be impressed with the balance in my bank account.
Between the ages of four and seven, my sister and I were molested by our brother. Because I am almost four years older than my sister, her abuse started about the same time mine ended. One year, when we were on a family vacation, my two brothers, sister, and I were in a truck camper on our way to Arkansas. While I was taking a nap, my two brothers molested my sister. I woke up in the middle of it, but pretended to be asleep so that they wouldn’t know I was listening and could tell what was going on. I never told anyone about it. Several years later, I was raped while spending the night at a friend’s house. I only recently realized the circumstances of the two events was very similar. It felt as if I was being punished for not protecting my sister because I could have stopped her abuse.
Solomon said, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief” (Proverbs 28:13-14). According to Solomon, confessing and forsaking our sins can prevent our hearts from becoming hardened because when we receive God’s mercy we are then able to be merciful to others. The Hebrew word translated mercy, racham means to have compassion or show pity to someone and racham is also translated as love (7355). Mercy is at the heart of salvation and it was modeled by Jesus as he died on the cross.
I believe the process of hardening a heart begins at an early age, perhaps when we are as young as two years old. The tendency we have to rebel against our parents is the same tendency that causes us to rebel against God. I know it was a hard heart that made me keep silent instead of helping my sister and I was only about eight at the time. Today, because of what Jesus did on the cross, we can confess and forsake our sins at any time and receive God’s mercy. Just as the process of hardening the heart can go on for many years, I believe the process of unhardening or softening the heart can also take time. Thankfully, the condition of my heart has improved significantly since I accepted Christ.
Culture is an unseen force that causes us to become like the people we spend a lot of time with. Every family and organization has its own unique culture. The head of the family or leader of an organization plays an important role because members naturally follow his queue about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. That is why Christians need to be careful about who they associate with and what organizations they belong to.
Solomon stated in Proverbs 27, “Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” and “as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” (Proverbs 27:17,19). In other words, we are a reflection of those around us. If you want to know what you are really like, take a close look at your friends.
In general, a fool is someone that believes in himself rather than God (191). It is possible for a person to have a relationship with God and still be a fool (3684). Solomon described the fool that knows God, but does not understand his ways, as being unreliable, a bad investment with regards to doing God’s work (Proverbs 26:6-9). And yet, Solomon said, “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope for a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12). To be wise in one’s own conceit means that in one’s view or opinion it is possible to master the art of living. In other words, the man wise in his own conceit can figure things out on his own, he doesn’t need God’s input.
The word hope is often used figuratively in the Bible to convey the idea of expectations (8615). The word translated hope in Proverbs 26:12, tiqvah literally means a cord that is used to bind things together (6961) or as an attachment. In this sense, you could say that having hope is being attached to a certain outcome. You want something in particular to happen. The problem with being attached to a certain outcome is that we might be disappointed when things don’t turn out as we expect them to. That’s why it is foolish to get our hearts set on something that is not God’s will.
When I was a young Christian, I had my heart set on having a big family. After I was married, I had three children and then my husband had a vasectomy. For a long time, I thought he had made a mistake and might change his mind about having more children. When he didn’t, I became resentful and felt my husband had cheated me out of my right to have more children if I wanted to. Eventually, I became angry at God because I was stuck with a husband that didn’t want children. Now that I have reached the age where I am no longer able to have children, I realize that it was not God’s will for me to have more than three children. Because I have matured in my faith and understand God’s ways a little better, I am very thankful that I have three children. Compared to having no children, three seems like a big family.
When we are born again, our spirits become alive. Like our bodies, our spirits grow and mature, and must be nourished in order to develop properly. We know our spirits are healthy if they are producing fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). One of the fruits of the spirit is referred to as temperance, which is the exercising of self-control (1468).
Solomon was talking about self-control in Proverbs 25:28 when he said, “He that hath no rule over his spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls.” In other words, a lack of spiritual maturity leaves a person open to attack. This is an interesting point because in Solomon’s time, people were not born again, the entire population of Israel was dead spiritually. That is why it was inevitable that the Israelites would end up in exile. They were spiritually defenseless.
Being born again doesn’t guarantee spiritual success. After I became a Christian, I read my Bible, attended church, and talked to God on a regular basis, but I still failed miserably with regards to spiritual growth. What I was lacking was spiritual exercise. The apostle Paul used the phrase “walk in the spirit” (Galatians 5:16) to describe spiritual exercise. What Paul meant was for us to allow the Holy Spirit to control our behavior. Really, self-control is not about us being in control, but the Holy Spirit overruling our sinful desires. We have to give him permission to do that.
It is natural to do what we want to. God made man with a free will, therefore, he respects our right to choose for ourselves what we do with our time on earth. When we choose to follow Christ, we are in essence saying that God knows better than we do what choices to make, and yet, most of the time we still do what we want to. It wasn’t until I became “like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28) that I decided to exercise self-control and actually do what God told me to.
Buried deep within the unconscious mind are a million memories of things that have happened over a lifetime. It says in Proverbs 25:2 that “it is the glory of God to conceal a thing.” One of the reasons we cannot think as God does or understand his way of doing things is because we have so little access to the information that is stored in our brains. Most of the time we are inundated with too much information, more than our brains can process efficiently. Sometimes it may seem as if certain memories are hidden from us. It is as if they have been stored in a secret compartment that we no longer have access to.
Over the past few years, I have been going through a process of recovering memories associated with being raped when I was a teenager. During a conversation with my sister, I learned that she had shared information with someone that I thought was a secret between just the two of us. The knowledge of what had happened caused a shift in my thinking and suddenly everything connected to the event we were talking about became clear to me, it all made sense.
In spite of Solomon’s supernatural wisdom, it appears that he was unable to reflect on past mistakes or make sense of patterns in his own behavior. In Proverbs 25:3, Solomon said, “the heart of kings is unsearchable.” Solomon believed that God controlled his heart (Proverbs 21:1) to the extent that all his actions were divinely ordained. Solomon could not turn to the right or the left without God directing his footsteps (Proverbs 16:9), therefore his thought processes were limited.
In order for us to understand why we do the things we do, we must be able to access our unconscious minds. It is possible that Solomon was referring to this when he said, “the heart of kings is unsearchable” because according to the Hebrew language, memory is an activity of the heart (3820). Just as trauma can cause various types of amnesia, so may God block certain memories in order to accomplish his purposes.
I inherited alcoholism from my dad. I’ve never been the type of alcoholic that gets drunk everyday or shows up to work late with a hangover. To me, alcohol is something you turn to when you can’t take anymore, when life is too difficult or painful and you need some relief. When I found out my ex-husband was having an affair, I started drinking after being sober for 15 years. A gradual decline in my self-control occurred over several years until finally I was getting drunk every weekend and my health was starting to deteriorate.
Proverbs 23:29-35 contains a series of questions followed by an explanation of why intoxication is a vicious cycle that is difficult to escape. Solomon asks, “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?” and then answers, “they that tarry long at the wine” (Proverbs 23:29-30). The phrase tarry long means to remain behind and could imply dwelling in the past or refusing to move on with your life. Intoxication as a form of escape usually involves a pattern of repeated mistakes that make you feel as though recovery is impossible.
When my dad died of cancer five years ago, I was confronted with the result of a lifestyle that was self-destructive. Even though my dad had stopped drinking seven years before his death, his way of life prevented him from really recovering. My concern at the time was not what was going to happen to me, but what alcohol was going to do to my children if I didn’t stop the cycle of addiction. The key to my freedom was a realization that getting drunk didn’t make me feel better. Afterward, having a hangover made me feel worse and my problems were still there.
I think there comes a time in every Christian’s walk with the Lord when our will and God’s will are opposed to each other. Because we have free will, God does not overrule us. In fact, if we insist on having our own way, God allows us to do what we want, he does not stand in our way. The biggest mistake I’ve ever made occurred because I thought I knew better than God what was best for me. I thought I would be better off living the rest of my life by myself rather than staying married to the father of my children.
Proverbs 18:2 says, “a fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.” The word translated discover, gâlâh (gaw – law´) means to make oneself naked in a disgraceful sense (1540). This term is associated with exile because captives were usually stripped before they were taken into captivity. When the Israelites went into captivity, they lost control of the land God had given them and were forced into pagan worship. Galah can also apply to the “revealing” of secrets and of ones innermost feelings. In this sense, galah refers to the revealing of our will, the intentions of our hearts.
I didn’t divorce my husband because he cheated on me, lied to me, or broke my heart. I divorced my husband because I didn’t believe God could change him. I had been praying for his behavior to change for many years and instead of it getting better, it kept getting worse, so I finally gave up. I wanted a husband that would love me, but what I didn’t know was that the problem wasn’t him, it was me. I was ashamed of being raped and felt he deserved to be with someone better than me.
My best friend’s name is Shawn. We met 15 years ago when I was going through my divorce. At that time, Shawn was the happiest person I had ever known. She had been divorced for several years and was about to start over with a wonderful man. When I met John, I could tell he loved Shawn very much. The two of them seemed to be perfectly suited to each other. John was the strong silent type and Shawn his faithful companion. A little over a year after they were married, John died of cancer.
Proverbs 17:17 tells us that “a friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Another way of saying all times would be in every circumstance or in every season of our lives. The word translated brother, ’ach (awkh) typically refers to a blood relative, but “in several passages, the word ach connotes ‘companion’ or ‘colleague’ – that is, a brother by choice” (251). When Solomon said that a brother is born for adversity, he was implying that in the most difficult times of our lives, our best friend is there for us. His or her friendship is meant for that purpose.
The thing that attracted me to Shawn, her happiness, is what kept me by her side when she lost her husband to cancer. It was hard to watch her go through such a difficult trial and even today she still suffers in some ways, but Shawn has a beautiful heart and cares so deeply for the people around her that you can hardly tell how broken she is inside. I wish I could say I chose Shawn to be my best friend because of her happiness, but really it was her suffering that made me love her more than I do my own sister.