I have been so blessed throughout my life to have people in my life who have been willing to teach me. I’m not talking about lessons learned from books, although I’ve learned some good lessons from classes that I’ve had throughout the years. The lessons that have made the biggest impression on me are lessons that I’ve learned from people who were wise, not necessarily educated, but wise. They are people who have experienced life, the good and the bad. They’ve taught me lessons about life: How to relate to people, how to give my all regardless of how big or small the task, how to save for a rainy day, and avoid spending money on non-essentials. They’ve taught me to love people and use money–and never confuse the two. They’ve taught me to value and respect all people. They’ve taught me that the most important thing in life is to passionately pursue knowing Jesus each and every day.
I’ve learned some great lessons, unbelievable lessons, from some truly great people, but there is no lesson that I’ve ever learned that can even begin to compare to the lessons I’ve learned from God’s Word. I share that story with you today because I hear many people say, “I’ve tried to read the Bible, but it just didn’t make any sense to me.” My friend, I don’t buy it. If somebody like me can read God’s Word and gain such wonderful lessons from its pages then absolutely anybody can. I’m not saying that it is easy, but it wasn’t easy the first time you or I tried to ride a bike either. The first few times we tried anything wasn’t easy, but if we were persistent and determined then eventually it came. And so it is with the Word of God. If we will cry out to God in our ignorance, confess our lack of understanding, and stay put before God’s Word, then God will teach us. It is amazing how God teaches those who persistently come before His presence, seeking to understand His Word day-in and day-out.
Our study of Proverbs 16 this morning is a great illustration of the uncommon wisdom that will come to those who take time to allow the Lord to teach them through His Word. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Proverbs 16:16-20.
16 It is better to get wisdom than gold, and to choose understanding rather than silver! 17 Good people stay away from evil. By watching what they do, they protect their lives. 18 Pride will destroy a person; a proud attitude leads to ruin. 19 It is better to be humble and be with those who suffer than to share stolen property with the proud. 20 Whoever listens to what is taught will succeed, and whoever trusts the LORD will be happy. (Proverbs 16:16-20 NCV)
There is so much uncommon wisdom available for you and me in these 5 little verses of Scripture. All of the wisdom in verses 17-20 flow from verse 16. 16 “It is better to get wisdom than gold, and to choose understanding rather than silver!” If we make the right choice in verse 16 then we will be able to see the wisdom in the counsel that follows in verses 17-20, but if we choose the pursuit of endless accumulation and acquisition then none of the wisdom that follows will make any sense.
What will you allow to guide you through this life? What drives you? Are you set on getting more and more? You may have just gotten a promotion, but you’ve already set your sights on the next level. You are making more money than you’ve ever made in your life, but it’s not enough–you want more. Is the pursuit of more what’s driving you today? Or are you allowing godly wisdom and understanding to lead you through each new day? Is godly wisdom determining your steps? Has godly wisdom called you to downsize rather than super size? Has godly understanding led you to spend less time on your business and personal pleasure so that you can spend more time on God’s business and His passion? We need to allow the Lord to examine our hearts and show us the truth of what is driving us today. Solomon says that we should choose to pursue more and more wisdom and understanding instead of more and more gold and silver. Understanding and wisdom will endure my friends. Just ask Bunker Hunt.
Nelson Bunker Hunt is the second oldest son of H. L. Hunt, the deceased Texas oil tycoon. In 1921, H. L. acquired his first well in Arkansas and just four years later he had made $600,000.00 through his oil ventures. H. L. vacillated between being broke and rich several times before Fortune magazine labeled him the richest man in the United States on April 5, 1948. He was worth $263 million and producing 65,000 barrels of oil a day at the time.
Mr. Hunt was able to make money, but his personal life left much to be desired. He had three different families–he was married to two of the women at the same time without them knowing it. In November 1957, Mr. Hunt married Ruth Ray and adopted her four children, who had been born between 1943 and 1950. Ruth Hunt later admitted in an interview that H. L. Hunt was the kid’s real father.
Two of H. L. Hunt’s sons, Nelson Bunker and William Herbert, enjoyed the benefits of their father’s wealth. They made investments of their own and lived the good life. During Bunker’s hey day he had oil wells pumping dollars into his pockets and a stable of over 600 race horses scattered all over the world. By the age of 35 he was one of the richest men in the world.
Bunker and his brother never took the time to answer the question, “When is enough enough?” In the 70’s and 80’s the two brothers tried to corner the silver market. Beginning in the early 1970s, he and his younger brother Herbert doubled their money on an investment on 200,000 ounces of silver they purchased. Surely if 200,000 ounces of silver is good then 59 million ounces would be even better right? Wrong. Greed drove the brothers to try and corner the silver market. They drove the price up to $50 an ounce and had made about $4 billion on paper. The high prices led to an insane increase in supplies of scrap silver and every miner on the planet wanted to work in silver mining. As a result of this activity and increased supply of silver, the price dropped through the floor. The price of silver dropped more than 80% and the brothers lost more than $2 billion. Bunker and Herbert filed for bankruptcy. Bunker left bankruptcy court and still owed the IRS $90 million to be repaid over 15 years. I wish Bunker would have known Solomon’s counsel–“choose understanding rather than silver.”
Our first choice will determine our path. If you choose to pursue godly wisdom and understanding according to God’s will then you will find your steps ordered by those commitments throughout your life. Solomon writes,
17 Good people stay away from evil. By watching what they do, they protect their lives. (Proverbs 16:17 NCV)
We need to know that when Solomon speaks of “good people” he is describing people who stay on the path, those who walk in the ways of God, and not someone who simply does “good” deeds. Throughout God’s Word we see that God calls His people to walk in His ways, He leads them in His way, and this is to protect them from destruction. Let me give you an example of how intimately the Lord is involved with His people. In Isaiah 30:21 the Lord spoke to the people of Jerusalem and told them that He would lead them.
21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV)
In the very next book, the prophet Jeremiah, we read that the people were heading off path and following in the ways of their forefathers rather than in the way of God. Read along with me from Jeremiah 7:21-24.
21 “‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. (Jeremiah 7:21-24 NIV)
Today, if we have a friend or a child who is making bad decisions we might say, “Well, they’ve got to find their own way.” My friend, you need to know that God has not left us here to find our way–we were born as lost as a goose and left to our own devices we will never find the way. God has provided His Word and His Spirit to show us and lead us in the way that leads to life. Jesus told His followers in John’s Gospel.
13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. (John 16:13-14 NIV)
Solomon says in verse 17 that God’s people stay away, or turn away, from evil. The Hebrew word that is used for “stay away” means “to turn aside or depart.” The word is used 301 times in the Hebrew Bible. Solomon says that God’s people turn away from evil, from wickedness, from anything that is not of God.
God desires to bless us with His presence and lead us in His righteousness. He wants us to turn to Him so that we can turn away from ungodly things. The sad reality is that many of Jesus’ followers turn away from Him to those things that promise excitement and endless thrills. In Jeremiah 2 we see the people of God doing exactly that. Read along with me.
20 “Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, “I will not serve you!” Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. 21 I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? 22 Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Sovereign LORD. (Jeremiah 2:20-22 NIV)
In Malachi the people of God had turned away, not from wickedness, but from God. Even as they had turned away God was there calling them back from destruction. What a wondrous and gracious God we serve. For those of you who have drifted away or turned away please hear the voice of God calling you back to Himself in Malachi 4:6-7.
6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?'” (Malachi 3:6-7 NIV)
Oh my friend, don’t turn away. You say, “But I didn’t mean to. I never dreamed that it would lead where it did.” I know because I’ve experienced the same thing. I didn’t mean to, but it just happened. I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t watching my life, examining my friendships or decisions, and as a result I got into trouble. How can we keep from straying? Great question! Solomon says, “By watching what they do, they protect their lives.” We’ve got to pay attention. We’ve got to keep our eyes on our Savior. We’ve got to stay in God’s Word on a daily basis and allow the Word to mold and shape us, convict and judge us.
In Proverbs 16:18 we read, 18 “Pride will destroy a person; a proud attitude leads to ruin.” “Pride goes before a fall.” We’ve heard that wise saying all of our lives, but applying it to our lives is another matter. We are so quick to blame others when trouble or hard times come our way, but we are so quick to take the credit when something good happens. King Nebuchadnezzar had been blessed by God. The Babylonian kingdom had prospered. The king had a disturbing dream that had been interpreted by Daniel and the dream was about king Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogance and how God was going to humble him. Nebuchadnezzar could have repented and given the glory and honor to God, but we read in Daniel 4 what happened.
29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.” 33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. 34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.” 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (Daniel 4:29-34; 37 NIV)
You and I are no different than king Nebuchadnezzar. God is able to humble those who are prideful–and He will.
In verse 19 we read 19 “It is better to be humble and be with those who suffer than to share stolen property with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:19 NIV) We just learned in verse 18 that pride goes before the fall. Here Solomon says that it is better to be lowly, or humble, and with those who are lowly or afflicted, than to share in the stolen spoils of the proud. The Hebrew word that is translated, “suffer,” can also mean “lowly” or “meek.” Society believes that those who are lowly or meek are powerless. They have no one to defend them, they can’t find their way before powerful people who can protect them, and they are defenseless. These are not the kind of folks that you want for friends because they can’t get you anywhere or do anything for you. That’s what conventional wisdom will tell you. The kind of friends you want are movers and shakers. Oh, they may be unethical, but they get the job done. They may be unscrupulous, but they can help feather your nest. No my friend, if you choose to leave the path of righteousness and hitch yourself to their wagon then you will fall right along with them in due time.
God’s Word teaches us that we are to remain humble and associated with the humble rather than to align ourselves with the crooked and proud. The word for “humble” at the beginning of verse 19, means “low” or “humble in condition or spirit.” You may think that there is no advantage to being humble or lowly in condition, but let me show you some other places where the word appears. In 2 Samuel 22:26-28 we read,
26 “To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, 27 to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd. 28 You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low. (2 Samuel 22:26-28 NIV)
God will save the humble, He will rescue them from those who seek to bring them down even further or take advantage of them, but to the proud or haughty He will topple their pride. In Psalm 138:6 we see another instance of the same Hebrew word.
6 Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar. (Psalm 138:6 NIV)
YHWH God is exalted above all gods, but He sees the lowly, the humble. You may be a non-entity to the powerful in society, but you are somebody to God. He sees and He cares. He does more than see and we can see that in Psalm 147:6.
6 The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. (Psalm 147:6 NIV)
YHWH God does more than see, He sustains. He is our nourishment, He is our provision, He gives us “this day our daily bread,” and He will continue to sustain us throughout our life. He will do more than sustain according to Proverbs 29:23.
23 A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor. (Proverbs 29:23 NIV)
A person’s pride will topple their paper kingdom. Do you know someone who is arrogant and prideful? Leave them alone and their pride and arrogance will take them on a ride that will eventually crumble their kingdom. On the other hand, the humble and lowly will be honored. How will that happen? When was the last time you saw a destitute person honored at a parade? When was the last time you saw a single mom working for $8 an hour and supporting four kids invited to a ball in her honor? You never have and you will never will, but that doesn’t mean that honor doesn’t come to the lowly. Take a look at Isaiah 66:1-2 with me.
1 This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? 2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2 NIV)
I would rather be honored and esteemed by God than by the richest and most famous people on the planet. Stay on the path of holiness, walk on the path of righteousness, walk with God regardless of your station in life and you will be honored by the King of Glory. Moses knows what I am talking about. In Hebrews 11:24-26 we read about the choice Moses made.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)
Before we leave here this morning let’s take a look at verse 20 where Solomon says,
20 Whoever listens to what is taught will succeed, and whoever trusts the LORD will be happy. (Proverbs 16:20 NCV)
This is a promise my friends. If we will listen to what is taught then we will prosper, we will thrive. Now, you have to realize that we must listen to godly teaching, God’s Word, for this promise to be true. You can listen to all kinds of teaching, but that doesn’t mean that you will prosper. Solomon also says that if we trust in the Lord we will be content, at peace. Who wouldn’t want to see these, prosperity and peace in life, as constant companions in their life? Regardless of what we are going through, whether hungry or well fed, experiencing peace or tremendous turmoil, wouldn’t you like to know that it is well with your soul? I know in your heart you are saying, “Yes! How desperately I would like experience peace in my turmoil filled life. How I long to know that I am going to be alright, that I will thrive regardless of what comes my way.” For those who long to see these important characteristics present in their life you need to know that if you will invite Jesus into your heart then He will bring these gifts with Him. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114