Proverbs 15:4

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the Spirit.
– Proverbs 15:4

This proverb contrasts the power of words to either heal or hurt (Proverbs 18:21). The word for wholesome means curative, or healing. The tree of life imagery speaks of life-giving, as here with the wholesome tongue. Wise and apt speech gives health and life (Proverbs 16:24). The word for perverseness refers to distortion or crookedness. What is bent or distorted is obviously the way of wisdom. Such perverseness is a mark of transgressors (Proverbs 11:3). The word for breach means a fracture, or crushing. These words are damaging inwardly and outwardly (Proverbs 18:8).

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Proverbs 15:3

The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
– Proverbs 15:3

This proverb expresses the omniscience of God. His knowledge is full and complete. It’s not that he can know, but that he does know. Wisdom knows this and that knowledge provokes wise speech and actions (Proverbs 5:21). This is a comfort to the righteous (2 Chronicles 16:9; Job 23:10) and a terror to the wicked (Psalm 1:6; Proverbs 15:8-9, 11).

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Proverbs 15:2

The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.
– Proverbs 15:2

The tongue and mouth here are figures for speech, spoken words. The word for useth … aright means skillfully, or to do well. The words a wise man uses are thoughtful and deliberately chosen (Proverbs 15:28; 16:23). He has control over his tongue, which means his words will also be fewer (Proverbs 17:28). The contrast is with fools who poureth out, or gush forth, foolishness. Fools are quick to speak, which means their words are thoughtless (Proverbs 29:20). Fools also pour out a great quantity of words without restraint (Proverbs 10:19; 15:28; 29:11; Ecclesiastes 10:14).

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Proverbs 15:1

Chapters 10 to 22 are the second major section of the Proverbs, known as “The proverbs of Solomon.” This section divides into two parts. Chapters 10 to 15 are the first division with 185 proverbs that are primarily two-line, antithetical parallel phrases. Chapter 15 is the last chapter of the first division and has proverbs on various subjects, such as speech, correction, laziness, bribes, God’s omniscience, and teachability.

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
– Proverbs 15:1

The word for soft means tender, and when used of words, refers to gentleness. An answer is a reply and the word for turneth away means to turn back, or in this case, to prevent wrath. A wise man is a calm, clear thinking man who controls his speech (Proverbs 17:27) and chooses his words carefully (Proverbs 15:23, 28). The soft answer here is wise speech that calms anger and restores reasonableness. The contrast is grievous, or painful words. These are words that provoke. The word for stir up means to go up and refers to increasing anger. The stirring up of anger comes from pride (Proverbs 28:25), hatred (Proverbs 10:12), and an angry temperament (Proverbs 29:22). It is the mark of a fool (Proverbs 14:17).

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Proverbs 14:35

The king’s favor is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.
– Proverbs 14:35

This proverb is a truism, or a general rule that competence and diligence are rewarded (Proverbs 22:29). People often think that promotion comes to a person because of luck, connections, or back room dealings. Those things do happen, but we generally receive what we have earned, or reap what we sow (Proverbs 17:2). The two phrases show both sides—favor and wrath. A servant causes shame by being unreliable, lazy, incompetent, etc. (Proverbs 10:5). Everyone makes mistakes and has to learn from them. The servant who does this will be rewarded with favor, and the obstinate servant with wrath (Proverbs 13:18).

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Proverbs 14:34

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
– Proverbs 14:34

The scope of Proverbs is usually the individual, but in some places it’s broadened. Here, Solomon speaks to a nation and people. The word for righteousness means justice. A nation that pursues rightness and justice is exalted or lifted up. A nation that tolerates and approves sin by enculturating and codifying it, is brought to shame (Proverbs 11:11; Romans 1:32).

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Proverbs 14:33

Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.
– Proverbs 14:33

The word for resteth means to settle down or repose. The heart, or mind, of him who has discernment retains a store of wisdom. In light of the parallel, the first phrase also indicates that wisdom is held within with reserve and quietness, not boasting. The contrast points to the fools who thoughtlessly pour out what they believe is wisdom but is actually foolishness (Proverbs 12:16, 23; 13:16; 15:2, 28; 29:11). Solomon elsewhere noted that a fool’s words and actions continually identifies him as a fool (Ecclesiastes 10:3).

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Proverbs 14:32

The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.
– Proverbs 14:32

Proverbs speaks of life and death often, but usually in the sense of life being a reward for wisdom and death being the same for folly (Proverbs 3:2; 5:23). Many commentators think the afterlife too advanced a subject for the time of the Proverbs, but this proverb is one place it is glimpsed. The word for driven away means to be cast down. The wicked shall not stand in the judgment and riches cannot deliver them (Proverbs 11:4, 7). The contrast is the hope, or refuge, of the righteous in death. Hope is had because righteousness delivers from death (Proverbs 11:4) and is the way of life (Proverbs 12:28).

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Proverbs 14:31

He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoreth him hath mercy on the poor.
– Proverbs 14:31

The word for oppresseth means to extort or defraud. To oppress is to take advantage, even with violence (Proverbs 17:5; 28:8). The word for reproacheth means to blaspheme or rail against. To oppress the poor is to mock and insult God, who will avenge them (Proverbs 22:2, 16, 22-23). The contrast is to honor God and to have mercy on the poor. To have pity on the poor is to understand the providence of God and one’s place in the creation (Proverbs 14:21; 19:17). It is to bear the image of our maker and to love like him (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

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