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As we begin a new year, we’ll be studying the book of Proverbs for the first 31 days of the year. The new year is a great opportunity to invite your friends, families, and Life Groups to read along with you in 2023. If you missed the first day’s reading or are looking for an overview of the book, click here to catch up!
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Read Proverbs 21
21 In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water
that he channels toward all who please him.
2 A person may think their own ways are right,
but the Lord weighs the heart.
3 To do what is right and just
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart—
the unplowed field of the wicked—produce sin.
5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit
as surely as haste leads to poverty.
6 A fortune made by a lying tongue
is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.
7 The violence of the wicked will drag them away,
for they refuse to do what is right.
8 The way of the guilty is devious,
but the conduct of the innocent is upright.
9 Better to live on a corner of the roof
than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
10 The wicked crave evil;
their neighbors get no mercy from them.
11 When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom;
by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.
12 The Righteous One takes note of the house of the wicked
and brings the wicked to ruin.
13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
will also cry out and not be answered.
14 A gift given in secret soothes anger,
and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.
15 When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous
but terror to evildoers.
16 Whoever strays from the path of prudence
comes to rest in the company of the dead.
17 Whoever loves pleasure will become poor;
whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.
18 The wicked become a ransom for the righteous,
and the unfaithful for the upright.
19 Better to live in a desert
than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.
20 The wise store up choice food and olive oil,
but fools gulp theirs down.
21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love
finds life, prosperity and honor.
22 One who is wise can go up against the city of the mighty
and pull down the stronghold in which they trust.
23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues
keep themselves from calamity.
24 The proud and arrogant person—“Mocker” is his name—
behaves with insolent fury.
25 The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him,
because his hands refuse to work.
26 All day long he craves for more,
but the righteous give without sparing.
27 The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable—
how much more so when brought with evil intent!
28 A false witness will perish,
but a careful listener will testify successfully.
29 The wicked put up a bold front,
but the upright give thought to their ways.
30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan
that can succeed against the Lord.
31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but victory rests with the Lord.
Proverbs provides many wisdom principles to live by. Chapter 21 causes us to consider both our inward motivations and outward actions. The chapter can be broken down into 2 lists: wisdom principles or character traits of the wise and warnings or character traits of the wicked. Take a look at the chart below to help recap the traits listed of the wise and wicked:
Wisdom principles/ character traits
V. 3: does what is right and just
V. 2: thinks their own ways are right
V. 5: diligent
V. 3: puts sacrifice over caring for people
V. 8: upright conduct
V. 4 & 2: haughty and proud
V. 11: pays attention to the wise
V. 6 & 7, 28: lying and violent
V. 26: generous
V. 8: devious
V. 20: stores up wisely
V. 9 & 19: quarrelsome
V. 21: pursues righteousness and love
V. 13: shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
V. 23: guards their mouth and their tongue
V. 16: strays from the path of prudence
V. 28-29: careful listener and thoughtful
V. 17 & 25: loves pleasure and is a sluggard
The inward motivations of the wise lead them to pursue diligence and righteousness. Outwardly, they care for others through conduct and justice, and they seek to be wise with their words. In Luke 10: 30-36, Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan. This Samaritan doesn’t ignore the needs of others, as the priest and Levite do, but cares for the man in distress. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, our actions an outward reflection of what is in our heart.
Sometimes in Proverbs the descriptions of the wicked can seem extreme or removed from our own character. However, when we look closely at words contained within the warnings, it forces us to consider and be convicted by what is familiar. Thinking our way is the right way, pride, lying, being quarrelsome, ignoring the needs of others, and loving pleasure are examples of a few within this chapter. The righteous are aware of their own weakness and confess it to God and community. To pursue what is right, we must know what is wrong and turn from it. Romans 12:9, “…hate what is evil, cling to what is good.”
Ultimately, wisdom is found in the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). The Lord is after our hearts. The key verse of this chapter states, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.” (Proverbs 21:30) When we pursue Him and His ways and seek Him with all our heart, then our life and our actions will begin to reflect who He is calling us to be.
- What is the state of your heart? What does your life reflect?
- Make a list of sin present in your life and talk with your community about how you can turn from it and pursue what is good.
- What is the “good” God is calling you to pursue?
By the Way
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