Synopsis of Sermon Preached at An Overseas BPC on 17 November 2023

Text: Proverbs 24:1-18
What does it mean for one to be strong? For some, strength is measured in terms of the amount of weight one can lift, or the distance in which one can run. For others, strength is measured in terms of dollars and cents or the abundance of goods which one possesses. Moreover, there are those who define strength as the ability to influence others to your cause. However, the Scripture gives us an emphatic answer today in Proverbs – true strength lies with the wise and he will only get stronger as he increases in learning. “A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.” (Prov. 24:5)

We have 18 verses for our consideration today. However, each proverb is so rich in the teaching of the wise man’s strength, just like the punch that is packed in chilli padi. We can have an entire devotion for each of these pithy sayings in our text today. Nevertheless, in the short time that we have, let us draw three principles on the theme for our learning concerning the wise man’s strength.

The Wise Man is Strong, Because Wisdom Upholds Righteousness (v.1-4)
The wise man that is spoken of in the book of Proverbs is not one who is full of the wisdom of the world but of heavenly wisdom. It is through this heavenly wisdom from God and His Word that one shall find strength. The world claims that might is right. However, the wise man knows that no might is right but right is might. The wise man can say with Sir Galahad, “My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure.”

James 3:17 teaches us that the wisdom from above is “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” Godly wisdom upholds righteousness and seeks to do good to all men. However, the “wisdom” (or should we say foolishness) of the world is different – “For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.” (v.2) They cannot stop designing wicked plans and machinations. Thus they not only get others in trouble (amal, translated “mischief” in verse 2), but sooner or later will fall into their own pit of ruin. James condemns such earthly “wisdom” – “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, vthere is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” (Jas. 3:14- 17)

“What are some of the characteristics of the wicked? In the economic world, they practise cheating. They borrow but from the start, they have decided not to pay back. The wicked are plotters, schemers, whose aim in life is to enrich themselves at the expense of others. In legal terms, they commit criminal breach of trust. Can you think of notorious tycoons who are sent to jail for manipulation of public funds?” (T. Tow)

Now the wise men, in embracing righteousness, pursue a very different philosophy. Knowing the Lord as his Provider, he uses all his resources in the promotion of God’s glory. He gives rather than steals. He knows it is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35) Committing his way to live for Christ, his true riches lie in heaven where rust does not corrupt. This contrasts with the riches of this world which no man can bring to his grave and will one day be destroyed (1 Jn. 2:17). Yea, the wise mean “who live unto God, and with regard to their fellowmen, will receive a good reward, even on earth. While heaven is the ultimate goal of a godly life, there are the blessings of earth that God lavishes on the meek.” (T. Tow) Thus the Scriptures declare, “Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” (v. 3-4) Through diligence and integrity, a man shall be blessed.

The Wise Man is Strong, Because He is Never Alone (v.5-9)
The wise man is always seeking wisdom (v.5). He is humble and knows that there is much he can learn from others. The late Rev Timothy Tow used to say that he learnt much from his students in homiletics class. And thus, he was a wise preacher and pastor.

As the wise man knows that there is much to learn, he is humble before God and man. In his humility, he shall receive the favour from the Lord. His humility is also attractive to other wise men, for they know he shall be open to their godly advice, for “in multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (v.6) He understands that he cannot stand alone but to find his wisdom in God and recognises that God has also placed others alongside him that all may be successful in doing the will of God.

On the other hand, the foolish thinks highly of himself and thus in an ironic twist, finds that he can never attain wisdom (v.7). Those who think they know actually do not know! Or as the English saying goes, “Empty vessels make the most noise.” Thus, the arrogant student preacher also discovers that there is much to learn when he is set in his place by the lecturer is his first homiletics class. Or that high-minded intern who thinks he knows all the skills to survive in the workplace.

What happens if they persist in their stubborn pride? The Bible says he will be known as a trouble-maker (i.e. a mischievous person v. 8) and will become an abomination to men (v.9). His name becomes nauseating to others and soon he will find himself standing alone. No God. No friends. Thus, the fool is weak, but the wise strong.

(III) The Wise Man is Strong, Because He Will Stand Forever (v.10-18)
The Lord is the ponderer of all hearts and He will judge each man perfectly according to their works (v.10-12). The wicked in their jealousy seeks to destroy the wise, for the darkness of their heart is exposed by the righteousness of the wise. Those that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). However, the Scripture tells the wicked never to plot to destroy nor disturb a righteous man’s house, for God will surely judge those who commit mischief. On the other hand, the protection of the wise is said to be perfect, for though he falls seven times (seven being the number of perfection), yet the Lord will always make him stand. Nothing shall be able to take him away from his precious place in the heavenly family of God. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.” (Ps. 37:23-24 )

Herein lies a warning to those who think themselves wise, that they should not fall into the sin of schadenfreude or the sin of rejoicing when misfortune comes upon others. The Chinese will call it 幸灾乐祸. Our heart must never gloat when the wicked receive their just desserts. The Lord will turn on you instead. The truly wise firstly understands the desiderative will of God, that he does not desire that any should perish but come unto repentance. The wise also understand that vengeance belongs to the Lord (Deut, 32:35; Ps. 94:1) and rest in the Lord’s vindication. He lies content in the knowledge that nothing shall be able to separate him from the love of God (Rom. 8:39).

Dearly beloved, knowing the wise man’s strength, will you therefore not seek the sweet honey of God’s wisdom? (v.13)

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew