Howard Mooney - Suggestions for Studying the Book of Proverbs

Read it through first just for surface meaning.  All that is said about the TONGUE, for example, needs no spiritualization.  If everyone took just that counsel alone and applied it, we would find ourselves in a far better world.  Proverbs 11:13, this has stopped me when I’ve been tempted to pass on some information; the thought comes to me, “If you do that, it means you have an unfaithful spirit.”  An old brother no longer able for the work was much appreciated in the friends’ homes.  One man said, “He never brings up a discouraging subject, and he never refers to anyone unless he has something good to say about them.  We like to have him around our children.”  That man had a faithful spirit.

There’s much in Proverbs about snares and pits.  A snare is used to catch small animals and birds.  Some teenagers asked one of the workers if there was anything wrong with a certain activity.  They were so surprised when she pointed out a number of dangers and problems connected with it.  “We didn’t know that.”  "No," she answered, "Of course you didn’t know.  All you can see is the bait, and there is nothing wrong with the bait.”  We’d encourage young people to make a list of places throughout the Bible where God says, “Look out!  There’s a snare.”  Otherwise you might never know until you got caught.  Pitfalls are made to trap larger animals – hidden in their feeding places.  Unsuspecting, they fall in – and the end is destruction … unless some benefactor will come and lift them out.  One day David was feeding in a pasture that no child of God should ever be feeding in.  All of a sudden, down he fell into the bottom of a horrible pit.  David threw himself on the mercy of God – knew he would perish if God did not lift him out.  Psalm 40 describes the horrible pit into which he fell.  Psalm 51 is the awful cry of anguish that went up to God when he found himself in the pit.  Psalm 103 is the new song God put in his mouth after He lifted him out.  Keep in mind that pits are found in the forbidden pastures, not in the green pastures where God leads His sheep.

Proverbs is also a book of LIFE (mentioned at least 40 times).  It gives a wonderful description of the abundant life Jesus intended for people to have.  It is the only life worth living.  “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.”  And to the religious world, “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye THINK ye have eternal life.”  Really, just a dead existence.  Teenager with a hamburger and bottle of Coke was heard to exclaim, “This is living!”  We’re grateful to know there’s more to life than that.  The Lord’s people in New Guinea, instead of saying “profess,” use the expression, “when the new life came.”  Those poor souls who had so little to live for are now enjoying the abundant life.  Recently received a letter from a native worker there, “Three more received life in our meeting last night.”  We read of 4 things in Proverbs that are a “tree of life.”  Chapter 3:18, 11:30, 13:12 and 15:4.  Perhaps some people have trouble getting interested in Proverbs because it is not a continued story with a climax – like David killing Goliath, or Ruth becoming the bride of Boaz.  But there are some definite themes that run throughout the book.  You can trace 3 sets of contrasts:  the wise and foolish, the righteous and the wicked, the slothful and the diligent.

The word “slothful” comes from the SLOTH, a very inoffensive little animal.  It never disturbs anybody with its noise, because it doesn’t make any noise.  It doesn’t get in your way, because it spends most of its time hanging in a tree.  It never offends anybody with its odor, because it doesn’t have any.  No, the sloth isn’t guilty of offending anybody – but it just never gets around to doing anything else either!  Proverbs 12:27 speaks to me of SLOTHFULNESS IN MEDITATION.  The man had gone hunting, but just never got around to roasting it.  He was hunting for the right thing – meat.  Some people only go hunting for trophies!  When you’re reading the Bible, are you looking for food or are you looking for trophies (something to impress others that you are such a good Bible student)??  A minister and his wife were converted after 42 years.  After professing one year, he said, “I have gotten more good out of the Bible this past year than all the 42 years I was in the pulpit.  At first I wondered why, but now realize it’s because as a minister I was just reading it to get something for somebody else.”  Meditation to a child of God is like roasting the meat.  Psalm 1, “meditate day and night.”  When I was 17 years old, I received a working principle at convention.  A young worker was speaking (and I never cease to marvel at the helpful line of thoughts that even the youngest workers share) about a battle he’d had with wrong thoughts – proud thoughts, bitter thoughts, jealous thoughts, etc.  I sat up and listened, because I’d been having trouble with the same kind of thoughts.  He said, “The secret that has helped me get victory is every night before I go to bed, I get a portion of Scripture in my mind.  Then the next morning when I awaken, I turn to it and begin meditating on it again.  It puts me in a better condition to pray.”  I don’t know of any advice that has been any more help to me than that.  I won’t say that I have succeeded in doing it every day, but every time I have done it, it really has paid off.  If I wake up in the night, I’ve found that meditating helps put me to sleep.  And early in the morning is a wonderful time to roast the meat!  A diligent man doesn’t waste time.  His substance is precious.  Roast it right away so it won’t spoil.

Proverbs 15:19, SLOTHFUL IN OBEDIENCE.  It’s easy to step over a hedge of thorns in the beginning … but later on it becomes very painful.  “Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart.”  The fact that God has spoken to you today, indicates that today is the best time to do it.  If you put it off, it is going to be very painful – but you have to get over the hedge of thorns if you are going to make any progress.  A 17-year old boy was asked by his mother to fill the wood box.  He kept on reading.  She asked again and he still ignored it.  The father said, “If you do not bring in the wood, you can leave.”  He walked out in anger.  A few days later he returned … but he didn’t walk in the front door as if nothing had happened.  And he didn’t try to make a joke out of it by saying, “Here I am, you fortunate people!”  He came in the back door, with tears streaming down his face, carrying a large armload of wood, “Here’s your wood, Mom.”  If only we could learn to obey in the beginning, we would be saved a lot of pain.

Proverbs 26:13, SLOTHFUL IN PRAYER.  If he had been diligent in prayer, he wouldn’t have been afraid of the lion.  Daniel proved that.  “He prayed and gave thanks.”  Why would he be so thankful, knowing he was headed straight for the lions’ den?  He was praying to the God who was greater than the lions.  One reason we are slothful is that we don’t realize the power of prayer or understand the full intent of the statement, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”  Isaiah 40:15  Even if the whole world is against us, it’s as nothing.  A lion in the streets – could speak of inside the city and in the way – or outside.  Whether we’re trying to help someone inside the Kingdom or outside, the Devil, the roaring lion, is there.

Proverbs 26:14, SLOTHFUL IN SERVICE.  You’ve heard an old barn door creaking upon its hinges; every time it moves, there is a groan.  This is like a man who doesn’t know the joy of service.  I am kind of partial to Isaiah because his book is so full of JOY.  He had a wonderful vision of the way of salvation, but also of the joy of salvation.  And in spite of the difficulties that surrounded him, no one writes more about rejoicing, singing, etc.  Maybe that’s why Jesus quoted Isaiah so often.  A young man was very hesitant to offer for the work, but after he was in it he said, “I didn’t realize it was going to be this wonderful.”  In Jesus we have an example of the joy of service – getting up early to pray … helping a soul at noonday when others were seeking rest in their own homes, and not even partaking of food when it was brought to Him, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of.”  May God help us to see the joy of this service, regardless of what our place may be.

Proverbs 24:30-31, SLOTHFUL IN PROTECTING what had been entrusted to his care.  “Void of understanding” – he didn’t understand the value of the vineyard.  He was probably the 3rd or 4th generation.  The one who planted it knew what was involved – all the time and toil and sweat – to clear the land and plant those choice vines.  And his son would have known it too, because he was right there helping.  But the grandson was different – not that he did anything bad; he just didn’t know the value of it … and soon the vineyard was completely taken over by the elements of the world.  When jumble land is cleared, it has been found that the jungle will reclaim that piece of ground within 3 years, if left to itself.  In one of the northern states, there were several acres of dryland ferns – good for nothing.  Finally someone cultivated that land and planted strawberries.  Sixteen years later we passed by and that strawberry field was still very productive – but we noticed that several people were out there hoeing.  And what were they hoeing? … Dryland ferns!  Whatever grew in the background is what tries to take over again.  Before the vineyard was ever planted (Proverbs 24), we know what grew there – nettles and thorns.  Some of you worry because you have to keep fighting your old background.  Whether it was a religious or an irreligious background, you find that some of those old tendencies keep springing up.  Let me give you this word of encouragement:  Just keep fighting!  Don’t let the jungle take over.  May God help us above everything else to realize the value of this inheritance we have.  God save us from being void of understanding.  When I think of the generations that have gone before us – all their sacrifice and blood and tears – that we might have access to this glorious fellowship today, and now it is in our hands.  We want it to be just as wonderful when we hand it down to the generation following as when it was handed to us.                                                                                                                       

* These are notes from Edgewood