************ Sermon on Proverbs 15:17 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on August 14, 2016

Proverbs 31:10-31 and Selected Passages
Proverbs 15:17

Everyone of us is part of a family. Young and old, married and single, male and female -- everyone is involved in some kind of family. I counted them up this past week -- the book of Proverbs contains 78 verses dealing with family and family relationships. So the book of Proverbs speaks to everyone of us.

The purpose of Proverbs is to give us wisdom for daily living. God want us to live wisely in our family relationships. God wants to give us good advice for family relationships so our relationships can be beautiful. We all want that. We get there not by being nice to family members but because of our relationship with Christ.

I Proverbs 15:17; 17:1
We begin our look at the wisdom and advice of God for families by turning to our text from Proverbs 15.
(Prov 15:17) Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.
I would also like to quote from a similar wisdom saying found in Proverbs 17:1
(Prov 17:1) Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

These two verses contrast poverty (having a mere meal of vegetables and bread crusts) with prosperity (feasting on a fattened calf). Normally people choose luxury over deprivation, but Proverbs tells us love is more important. Many people have found that a home where material possessions are few but love for each other is present is far better than a house of great wealth where people hate each other. I have noticed that the happiest and most content people have the fewest possessions. What they do have is love. Love for each other. Love for those outside of the family. Love makes one’s difficult circumstances endurable, whereas hatred wrecks all the enjoyments that good food and wealth might otherwise bring. For family relationships to thrive, there needs to be love.

One should never look at Proverbs 15:17 without also looking at Proverbs 15:16.
(Prov 15:16) Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil.
This helps to put love and wealth into perspective. Like all other things in Proverbs, it begins with the fear of the Lord. Unless you love Jesus, unless He is your Savior and Lord, unless you live for Him Who died for you, wealth and family will bring turmoil and heart-ache. The fear and love of the Lord, on the other hand, bring peace, not confusion.

II Proverbs 21:9,19; 27:15-16
We begin our next point by reading from Proverbs 21:9 and similar passages:
(Prov 21:9) Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. (Cf Prov 25:24)

(Prov 21:19) Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.

(Prov 27:15-16) A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day; (16) restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.

Don't you wonder why Solomon said this? Don't you wonder whom Solomon had in mind? I can tell you this much: With his 700 wives and 300 concubines, Solomon must have had a couple of doozies that he kept as far away from himself as possible. Solomon’s multiple wives were in direct violation of God’s Law, and there were consequences -- one of which was the quarrelsome wives he had to put up with.

A peevish, angry wife makes her husband’s life miserable. You cannot live in peace and happiness if you cannot live in peace and love. Proverbs would go so far as to say it is better to have no company than bad company. It is better to live in a solitary wilderness, exposed to wind and weather, than in company with a miserable woman.

Let me hasten to add that over the years I have come across men -- fathers and husbands -- who are just as miserable to live with as the beauties Solomon describes in the verses I just read.

Wives and mothers, do your husband and children want to be around you or is your company so distasteful that they distance themselves from you? Are you someone who is a pleasure to be around? Or, are you always negative and down-in-the-mouth and complaining and unhappy? A godly wife is a wise wife. So she makes it a point to be her husband's comfort and companion. She is someone he delights in.

III Proverbs 31:10-12
But now let's read about another kind of woman. A godly woman who is not quarrelsome and ill-tempered. A wife and mother who is full of wisdom. A wife and woman who fears the Lord. The book of Proverbs ends with a poem in praise of this woman (Prov 31:10-31).
(Prov 31:10) A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
Notice, Proverbs calls her a "wife of noble character."

The question "who can find" (cf Prov. 20:6 which asks the same question about men) does not suggest that such women are nonexistent but that they should be admired because they, like noble men, are rare. Also, they are more valuable than rubies. If rubies were as plentiful as grains of sand on the seashore, none of us would take note of them; rubies are valuable because they are so rare.

We meet a number of these valuable women in the Bible. For instance, Ruth is described as a "wife of noble character" (Ruth 3:11). The phrase is not specifically applied to her, but Deborah was also a wife of noble character (Judges 4).

What is she like, this wife of noble character? The word for "noble character" can also be translated as "capable, strong, able, competent, worthy." How so? In what way? This poem goes on to say that she works hard, makes money, is kind to the poor, is fearless about the future, enhances her husband's reputation, speaks with wisdom -- all this and more. Verse 17 sums it up:
(Prov 31:17) She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
She is a strong woman. In her strength she is not competing with her husband. She is not going through an identity crisis over sexual politics. She is not a Hillary Clinton trying to break through the glass ceiling. She is beyond that. She is giving herself away to her family and her community with wholehearted selflessness. She has high standards, and she sticks to them. Let me note that here in Trinity URC we have many wives and mothers who are Proverbs 31 women.

I just love what Proverbs says about the husband of such a woman:
(Prov 31:11-12) Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. (12) She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
The husband of such a woman "lacks nothing of value." The word translated as "value" is "loot, plunder, the spoils of war, goods that have been plundered." Why such warlike language? Because life is a struggle, a battle. This woman is not living in a perfect environment where life is a breeze. She is living in the real world, and she is up to the challenge. No wonder her husband trusts her. In fact, there is only one person this husband trusts more than his wife, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Right now some of the women sitting here might be thinking, "I'm not that kind of woman. I'm not a Proverbs 31 wife or wife-to-be [which is nearly every woman here]. I have not set very high standards for myself. I would hardly describe myself as a strong, capable woman; in fact, if anything, I might describe myself as a defeated woman." Proverbs describes what God makes you in Christ and under Christ: strong, capable, excellent, valuable. A noble woman. A woman who fears the Lord and loves Jesus.

I need to say something to the men sitting here. Maybe you are thinking, "I'm not a Proverbs 31 husband or husband-to-be [which is nearly every man here]. I do not trust and value and affirm my wife the way I should." Let's think about this. If you are a husband, here is your job: to cultivate and nurture your wife. Your lifetime impact on your wife should be that her life opens up more and more so that she becomes all that God wants her to be. God is calling you, as her husband, to so care for her that when she looks back she will say, "What a great life I've had! My husband understood me. He cared for me. He inspired me to grow in Christ."

How does a husband do this? Not by browbeating his wife. Not by complaining. Not by being negative. Not by lording it over her. But by encouraging her. Look at what verses 28-31 say:
(Prov 31:28-31) Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: (29) "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." (30) Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (31) Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Notice, her children rise up and stand up and speak respectfully to and about their mom. They esteem her and admire her as a woman of God. Where did they learn this? Where did they get this from? From dad: "he praises her." "Praise" is the key word in these verses; it appears three times. A husband cultivate his wife with praise. No putdowns. No fault-finding. No insults. Not even neutral silence. But rather bright, positive, life-giving praise.

What is it that the wise husband says? "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." The word for "noble" is also the word for "excel." "Many women do excellent things, but you surpass them all." How does your wife excel? Tell her. Tell her in front of the children. Have this conversation often. Begin at your noon time meal today and have it again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that ...

Men, is your wife magnificent because she married you? That is what should happen. That is what should be happening.

Men, this is not 10 steps to a better marriage. This is the Gospel. This is about God and your relationship with God. If you cannot bring yourself to praise your wife, there is something lacking in your relationship with God. If you live with your wife in silent, sullen, defeated mediocrity, its because you do not see Jesus as the Lord of all your life. The fact is, a living relationship with God in Christ will change how you treat your wife. So, let's repent of our silence and the sin of withheld love.

IV Proverbs 15:20; 20:20
This brings me to two proverbs about children and their relationship to their parents:
(Prov 15:20) A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother.

(Prov 20:20) If a man curses his father or mother, his lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.

Every one of us has a dad and a mom. So God is speaking to all of us here. What does wisdom say about how we treat our parents? The key words of the two verses I just read are "despises" and "curses." To despise our parents is to treat them as worthless. To curse our parents does not mean to swear at them but, again, to treat them as worthless. These words are the opposite of wisdom. What is the way of wisdom? Let me point you to the fifth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother" (Ex 20:12). This command applies to us all our life, even after we grow up and leave the home. To honor our parents is to treat them as weighty and worthy. They do not have to earn our respect; we owe it to them. According to the Word of God, the burden is not on them but on us. Teenagers sometimes think their parents are dumb; regardless of what you think, you keep it to yourself and you give them respect.

Let me state two specific things you can do to honor your parents. First, you can thank them. Thank them for raising you with all that involves: food, clothing, shelter, schooling, direction, love, support, etc. Second, if they are Christians, imitate them. Hebrews says, "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith" (Heb 13:7). Imitate their faith. Their love for the Lord and His body, the church. Their commitment. Their faithfulness. Don't let that faith die. Keep the fire burning.

V Proverbs 22:6
Proverbs has a lot more to say about family, but let me end with what it says about being a parent:
(Prov 22:6) Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

There is more at stake for your child than getting into the best schools and the best sports and the best colleges and the best jobs. Your child has an eternal destiny. Your child has a soul. God has called you to train your child to go to heaven. That, ultimately, is the way he should go.

The word "train" means "dedicate." Dedicate your child to Christ. Do not raise you child for the American Dream. Warn you child against the American Dream. It is an easy way to hell. Your job is to raise your child to be excited for Jesus.

How do we do this? Lots of Bible reading and prayer in the home. Model Christian living for your children. And, we are at the start of another school year. I hope and pray that every parent is looking at Christian education for their children and youth -- whether it is in the home or one of our local Christian schools. I look at this verse in the light of what God says through Moses:
(Deut 6:6-9) These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (7) Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (8) Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. (9) Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
"Train a child in the way he should go ..." "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit ... and when you walk ..." In the light of these verses, Christian schooling is not an option. It is a requirement.

Whether you are a husband or husband-to-be, a wife or wife-to-be, a child, or a parent, the Lord has something to say to you. Our starting point, as I said, is the fear of the Lord. So that yours is wisdom. God is addressing you as His sons and daughters. He is exhorting you and discipling you and directing you.

Why? So that we are beautiful. So that we are His beautiful people. God is leading us into maturity and wisdom and greatness. So that the light of the Gospel shines in our homes and in our community.

Trust in Jesus. Come to Jesus. And, as a family, be wise.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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