Hold Your Tongue

May 8th, 2017
Lord Kenyon

Lord Kenyon

Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult. Proverbs 12:16

Lord Kenyon was a Chief Justice of England who greatly simplified the law. King George III had a high opinion of him and Kenyon also held the king in warm regard. However, Kenyon was prone to lose his temper and often did so in court. King George and others considered this a grave fault in one who held so high a position. During one of the king’s receptions, shortly after Kenyon had one of his outrageous explosions in the Court of King’s Bench, the king said to him: “My Lord Chief Justice, I hear that you have lost your temper, and from my great regard for you, I am very glad to hear it, for I hope you will find a better one.”

The contrast between Kenyon and Christ could hardly have been more pronounced. Christ responded wisely to attacks on himself and only became angry when people disrespected God or trod on other people under the guise of religion. When appropriate, Christ remained completely silent, as he did at his trial before Pilate, except to speak a few words intended to enlighten the governor regarding eternal truth.

Proverbs 14:3 Grief in Laughter

December 9th, 2012

the laugh

Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief. Proverbs 14:13

In one of his sermons, South African evangelist Keith Daniels told of being in a gathering at which one girl laughed louder than all the rest of his companions. Suddenly she left the room. Minutes later she was picked up dead in the street where she had thrown herself from an upper story of the building.

Although Christ used a few lines which may have been intended to evoke a laugh, he does not come across as a man of mirth. Joy, however–that is a different thing. He spoke of his joy (John 15:11) and it came from fulfilling the will of the father.

19:8 Dwight Handles Yale Radicals Wisely

November 18th, 2012
timothy dwight

Dr. Timothy Dwight

He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good. Proverbs 19:8.

The United States has produced a number of educators who obtained wisdom as well as learning and saved not only their own souls, but those of their hearers. One of them was Dr. Timothy Dwight. An orthodox thinker, when he became president of Yale College he found the students largely apostate and Deistic in outlook.

These students of his first debate class asked for permission to argue the question “Are the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament the word of God?” Although direct challenges to the Bible were banned by the rules of the college, Dwight acceded to their request. Every student took the case against the Bible, leaving Dwight alone to defend it. He did so with vigor, marshalling facts and logic so persuasively that revival broke out.

(He also had the courage, in keeping with the charter purpose of Yale, to dismiss Deistic and skeptical professors.)

In his attitudes toward wisdom and truth, he was not a faint echo of his master Christ, who is the very incarnation of wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30).

2:12-13 Apostasy Begins with the Tongue

September 16th, 2012

Richard Baxter whose friend went bad.

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways. Proverbs 2:12-13

While residing at Ludlow Castle, Richard Baxter (who would write The Saints’ Everlasting Rest) became friends with a young man who showed genuine zeal and diligence in faith. He was the first person Baxter ever heard pray from the heart in the pulpit without reading his prayer. He was full of kindness and love, read God’s word and good books and greatly helped Baxter to grow in faith. However, this preacher was encouraged by a higher ranking clergyman to leave the Puritans and to begin speaking evil against them. Soon he debauched himself and became a complete apostate. His error began with perverse words and ended with personal ruin.

By contrast, anyone who continues in the teaching of Christ becomes his true disciple, learns truth and the truth sets him free (John 8:31-32).

19:17 Lending to the Lord

February 5th, 2012

He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and he will pay back what he has given. Proverbs 19:17

Elizabeth of Hungary feeding the poor.

Fabiola, Basil the Great, Elizabeth of Hungary, Vincent de Paul, George Müller, John Barnardo, William Booth, Carolyn Chisholm, William Passavant…these and many other names in Christian history wear an aura of glory because they cared for the poor. God blessed them with all they needed in their own lives and multiplied their ability to help others.

Each was a fitting representative of their master, who went about helping the neediest and most sorrowful of his day. He gave an incentive to doing good when he promised, “whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

22:11 Gracious and Pure

January 8th, 2012

He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend. Proverbs 22:11

Thomas Ken, author of the Doxology

Thomas Ken was a man with grace on his lips. Sometimes it came out as rebuke of kings—he rebuked both Charles II and William III. Sometimes it emerged as poetry, including one of the most-used verses of praise ever penned—the doxology: Praise God from whom all blessings flow…

One of the most famous incidents in Ken’s life was the time he refused to house Charles’ II’s mistress, Nell Gwynne. Ken did not think it appropriate for the Lord’s priest to offer his home for the convenience of a king’s lustful assignations. Surprisingly, Charles II took this in good part and befriended Ken by making him a bishop when a vacancy occured.

Christ the most pure, the most full of grace, was friend and more than friend of the highest king of all. His grace and virtue exalted him to the right hand of God.

21:22 City of the Mighty

December 11th, 2011

A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust. Proverbs 21:22

When the Greeks could not defeat the Trojans, crafty Odyssus is supposed to have suggested leaving a giant horse outside the city with one soldier. The Greeks would sail away and the “abandoned” soldier would tell the Trojans the horse was a gift for the goddess Athena. Inside the horse soldiers would be hidden, and when, as expected, the Trojans hauled the horse into the city and the Greeks returned, the soldiers inside would pour out and open the gates. The strategem worked.

Many people make a stronghold of something which is not really a source of strength. The walls of the Trojans became their coffin. God does us a favor whenever he exposes the weaknesses of our vaunted positions.

Perhaps this proverb was based on the exploit of Joab, who broke into Jerusalem by leading his men up a water shaft which the Jebusites no doubt would have considered one of their chief assets in a seige.

Christ also scaled the fortress of Satan in a sort of Trojan Horse move, descending to the bottom, subjecting himself to death and apparent defeat that he might ascend to the highest eminence in the universe.

22:4 Cinderella Story

December 4th, 2011

Bathilde

By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life. Proverbs 22:4.

Bathilde may have been the original Cinderella. Born into a noble family she was captured and sold as a slave to the French court. Serving there as a kitchen maid, tradition says she handled herself with such dignity and modesty she attracted the notice first of a prince and then of the king. Eventually she became Queen of France, and after the death of the king, became regent for her son. Because of her bitter taste of slavery, she sought to ease and limit the practice, offering new life to many slaves by buying them and setting them free. A woman of faith, she spent the last years of her life in a convent.

Bathilde did not voluntarily humble herself, but allowed grace to work in her situation. Jesus, by contrast, willingly humbled himself. Highest and noblest, he stooped to be lowest. He even identified himself with criminals. In his agony, he feared God, and said, “Not my will but thine be done.”

As a consequence, in a far greater way than Bathilde, he freed people from slavery–slavery to sin. He became poor so we might be rich. He was dishonored so that we might become partakers of glory. He died so that we might have eternal life. Everything now belongs to him. He has the name above all names. He has the power of a resurrected life.

17:21 The Pain of a Foolish Son

November 20th, 2011

To have a fool for a son brings grief; there is no joy for the father of a fool. Proverbs 17:21

Jacket of My Son, My Son

The pain for a father whose son goes bad is agonizing. Bernard Palmer recounted his own experience with this in My Son, My Son. His defiant self-absorbed son, Barry, became an alcoholic, gambler, debtor, and adulterer. Thankfully, the ending in this case was happier than the beginning.

God’s Son when he came as a man, was, by contrast, the epitome of wisdom, one of the reasons God declared from heaven, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.”

11:21 Unholy Alliances

November 8th, 2011

Though they join forces, the wicked will not go unpunished; But the posterity of the righteous will be delivered.* Proverbs 11:21

Maryland National Guard unit battles union workers.

When for a few months I was compelled to belong to a union in order to hold a job, I read the union papers with interest. I found that unions had made unholy alliances with evil organizations for political power. Hand had joined in hand for evil. The union urged support of abortion, reverse discrimination, and homosexual “rights.” Not surprisingly union bedfellows included socialists, communists, and everyone opposed to free enterprise. Historically unions have advanced their power through mob violence. Those same coalitions and tactics are evident today. In nothing I read from the union did I get a hint that the authors and editors gave a moment’s consideration to God or to the eternal consequences of their advocacy issues. A naked materialism held sway.

There are unholy alliances on the other side, too, where materialism is often masked behind a facade of faith. Historically, the money interests have often colluded with unjust political structures and established religions. Such coaltions are also evil. The point is that when evil men join hand in hand, whatever their politics, they are wrong and will not go unpunished.

Jesus belonged to no coalition. Like the boldest of his followers ever since, he stood alone when it counted, not linking hands with evil-doers on any side. Unable to co-opt him, all factions united to kill him–the money interests, the religious establishment, the mob, and the tyrannical Roman government. Forty years later, the Jewish nation reaped the fruit of their choices in the destruction of their nation, their holy city, and their temple. But the righteous Jesus was resurrected from death to found the most noble institution the world has ever known.

*Some modern translations lose the concept of coalitions.

21:1 Turning a King’s Heart

October 9th, 2011

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; like rivers of water he turns it wherever he wishes. Proverbs 21:1

Harry Truman.

There are many instances in history in which the leader of a nation has changed his mind or acted against his own best interests in a way that leads people to believe God must have been at work.

Such an example could be the decision by Hitler not to launch an invasion of Britain (which might have won him the war), but rather to turn on his ally Stalin.

An even better example might be the about face of Stalin after World War II. Previously his government had been anti-zionist, but now he began to sponsor the cause of a Jewish homeland; the Soviet Union voted for the Palestine partition plan in the United Nations, under the illusion Israel would become a socialist state.

Truman, harking back to his Christian upbringing, quickly recognized the fledgling Israeli nation, although the State Department urged against it.

It was time for Israel to be reborn, and God moved the hearts of rulers to bring it about.

Until the end of his life, Christ had little contact with kings, rulers and governors. Nonetheless, that Pilate yield to the roar of the Jerusalem mob was necessary for our salvation, and turned his heart to do what he knew was wrong.

Following his resurrection God also turned the heart of kings. The first ruler recorded as accepting Christ was not a king, but the the proconsul Sergius Paulus on the island of Cyprus. Within three centuries, the history of Europe and Asia Minor would become a history of kings who bowed their knees to the Lord and brought their nations into the fold of Christendom, beginning with Armenia in the third century and ending with Lithuania in the fourteenth.

We cannot presume to determine why God has not chosen to turn the hearts of other kings to Christ. But as the history of this age draws to a close and we see prophecies fulfilled, we likely will get deeper insight into God’s plan.

28:17 Blood Fugitive

September 18th, 2011

A man burdened with bloodshed will flee into a pit; let no one help him. Proverbs 28:17

Charles IX of France, by Clouet.

When I worked as a prison librarian, one of my workers always wore a haunted look. He told me that he had killed during the commission of a robbery. “I can’t get that old woman’s screams out of my head,” he said. He was burdened with bloodshed.

Likewise Charles IX of France suffered terrors because of his role in ordering the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which butchered thousands of Huguenots without warning. At times he would boast of the massacre, and at others exclaim that he was damned and that the screams of the innocent victims were ringing in his ears. Sometimes he blamed himself; at other times he accused his mother and others who had counseled him to the atrocity.

Solomon’s approach seems pitiless: such a person is not to be assisted. The Old Testament law substantiates Solomon’s position: no sacrifice was provided for murder, but rather the murderer was to be executed; a life for a life. However, even under the Old Testament law there was mercy for some murderers: David was told he would not be executed for his plot against Uriah and the Lord witheld his hand from Ahab when that wicked king donned sackcloth after being rebuked for the killing of Naboth.

Now that Christ has come with his new covenant, there is forgiveness for things which were not forgiven under the old law. As Paul remarked in Acts 13:39, “and through Him [Jesus] everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.”

If I had had the wisdom at that time, I would have shared this hope with my worker.

17:8 Bribing One’s Way to Success

September 11th, 2011

A. W. Tozer reminded us of eternity

A present is a precious stone in the eyes of its possessor; wherever he turns, he prospers. Proverbs 17:8

Some people think they can bribe their way to success. To them a present is like the philosopher’s stone in alchemy. This was a hypothetical stone which was supposed to be able to turn into gold anything it touched. (In the first fifteen Christian centuries, alchemists wasted vast amounts of time and energy searching for this mythical stone.) Bribe-makers often do succeed, but at the cost of corruption. Therefore, what seems precious in the eyes of its possessor may actually be recognized as a bane by onlookers.

Of what value is success in this brief life if it leads to eternal loss? One of the most chilling verses in the Bible, found in Psalm 106, tells us that God gave the Israelites their desire, but sent leanness into their soul. Christ added an even more solemn warning: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?”

A. W. Tozer summed the idea up this way: “Apart from God, nothing matters. We think that health matters, or knowledge, or art or civilization. And but for one insistent word, they would matter indeed. That word is eternity.”

This does not mean there is no place for presents. Christ brought to the Father a present far more valuable than anything anyone can bring another on earth: his precious blood. It paid for our sin.

If bribe-givers (and takers) would reflect, they would see that the only true success in to be a partaker of Christ’s present, for when one comes under the blood, one receives eternal life and gifts of the Spirit. What is more, to those who overcome, Christ promises a white stone, a truly valuable stone, on which is written a new name, known only to God and the recipient—a token of a priceless, intimate, unique relationship between God and an individual. Is not this the success to seek?

20:28 Elisabeth’s Extravagant Love

September 4th, 2011

Elisabeth of Hungary

Mercy and truth preserve the king, and by lovingkindness he upholds his throne. Proverbs 20:28

Elisabeth of Hungary was just fourteen when she wed Ludwig, but was wise beyond her years. While he was away fulfilling duties with Emperor Frederick II, famine overtook their land. Over the objections of her greedy inlaws, Elisabeth opened Ludwig’s treasuries and set up soup lines and a hospital to provide for the starving populace.

On Ludwig’s return, his family assaulted him with angry charges of Elisabeth’s “extravagance,” but he endorsed all that she had done. Both died young, but the people of Thuringia cherished their memory and considered them saints. They retained a kingdom in the hearts of people.

Christ is a ruler of lovingkindness who purchased his subjects from slavery with his own blood. In all our trials he shares our suffering. He is our bread. He is our healer. He, too, is a ruler of hearts.

18:16 Unusual Gift

August 28th, 2011

John Leland, whose gift was worthy of a president

“A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.” Proverbs 18:16

One of the most unusual gifts in American history brought a Baptist pastor before a president. The Baptists had been much persecuted in the colonies and the president had befriended them. As the pastor brought the gift down from New England, cities full of people turned out to see it, and he used the opportunity to preach the gospel to them.

The pastor’s name was John Leland. The president was Thomas Jefferson. The gift was a giant cheese, weighing 900 pounds made by the women of Cheshire, Massachusetts.*

Jesus brought a far greater gift before a far greater ruler. The gift he brought was his own blood; the ruler was God the Father.

*This, and many other anecdotes appears in my book The Archbishop Who Killed a Man.

11:26 Grain for the Hungry

August 21st, 2011

Francois Fenelon who opened his graneries

The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it. Proverbs 11:26

During the wars that ravaged Europe in his day, Francois Fenelon was renowned for his generosity and kindness to the wounded of both sides. Snubbed by the King of France, he returned good for evil, opening his granaries to his majesty’s starving men, and refusing any compensation.

This was but one example of his Christlike spirit. He bought medicines for the wounded, housed whom he could in his residence and rented houses to serve as hospitals for others. Friend and foe alike blessed him. There was in him none of that “let them eat cake” mentality which in a subsequent generation would cause the people to curse the French monarchy and behead their king and queen.

Fenelon went beyond the minimum requirements. In this he was like Christ. Jesus left his unspeakably glorious mansion for us. He opened the granaries of God by freely offering himself as the bread of life. While on earth, he shared the little he had in his money bag with the poor. And he yielded his very life for the lost.

16:23 Wise Heart, Wise Tongue

August 14th, 2011

The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Proverbs 16:23

Bud Robinson

When Bud Robinson became a Christian he was a stammerer and could not even write his own name. He felt called to preach, telling others of the liberation he had experienced in Christ, and stood up before the rough ranchers he worked with in Texas.

Here was fun! The men gathered around, taunting and mimicking the stutter they anticipated. They fell silent when Bud began to warn them of coming judgment and point them to Christ. His stammer completely disappeared. That this was a supernatural work of the Spirit was evidenced by the fact that as soon as he had finished preaching, his stammer returned.

Aided by Sally, his godly wife, Bud Robinson eventually overcame his stammer, learned to read and write, and went on the become a holiness leader in the Nazarene church and editor of its paper, for which he wrote hundreds of thousands of words. During his life, he won thousands to Christ.

The wisdom of Christ had taught his mouth to speak and given his lips power. It was the same wisdom that Christ demonstrated when he walked the earth: powerful, well-considered, and so persuasive it reaches across the ages to touch other lives like Bud Robinson’s to this day.

13:10 Pride Brings Strife

August 7th, 2011

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. Proverbs 13:10.

Cardinal Beaton, a man of much ability—and pride.

A few years ago I attended a banquet at a local lodge in appreciation of several honors students. Tension was thick between the leaders, evidenced in surly remarks, butting in, and talking over each other. Clearly they were vying for precedence.

It reminded me of a notorious scuffle between two churchmen in Glasgow. Cardinal David Beaton and the Archbishop of Glasgow were at odds, and arriving at the door of the church simultaneously, each claimed precedence to enter first. Their men soon were shoving and tearing at each other. The pride of these grandees brought nothing but strife.

How different the spirit of Christ. Greatest in heaven, he stooped to become the lowest on earth, basing his whole life on the word of God. In this and his subsequent elevation to the highest place at God’s right hand, he demonstrated that the foolishness of God is wiser than the greatest wisdom of man.

12:4 Excellent Wife

July 31st, 2011

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones. Proverbs 12:4

Ann Hasseltine Judson

Adoniram and Ann Judson were pioneer missionaries to Burma. Before her conversion to Christianity, Ann had been a society girl, flinging her life away in frivolity. Afterwards…what a change.

It is arguable that Adoniram’s work would have come to nothing without his wife. For instance, she was quicker than he at solving the language problems. Her letters home roused interest and support for their work. And when Adoniram was imprisoned under torturous conditions, it was only through her herculean efforts his life was sustained. Her exertions destroyed her health and she died shortly after his release.

The work of other Christian leaders has been hindered by wives who were out of sympathy with them. If I choose not to mention specific cases, it is because no one but God ever knows the full story of what has happened between a man and his wife, in which he is perhaps as much to blame for the disaster in his home as she is.

The ideal character of a man toward his wife is best set forth by Paul in Ephesians 5, and comes from a comparison of what Christ is to his bride—the church. Christ lived, suffered and died to win his bride, and prepare her radiant and spotless for an eternal marriage. What man can claim to have fully lived up to that high standard?

25:26 Giving Way to the Wicked

July 24th, 2011

A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring. Proverbs 25:26

Richard Wurmbrand tells that, fearing for their families and lives, many pastors in Romania publicly endorsed the atheistic Communists when they took power. Solomon would categorize them as fouled springs. By contrast, Wurmbrand spoke up for Christ and spent many years in prison where he was brutally tortured.

In his suffering this Lutheran pastor was like Christ his master. Jesus would not give way to false accusers. He neither endorsed untruth nor kowtowed to the men who gave him a kangaroo trial. Rather, he witnessed plainly to those who were about to crucify him. Consequently, he suffered all that the spite of men and demons could contrive against him. He was no polluted fountain.