Book of Proverbs Chapter 21: 1-16

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Book of Proverbs


Chapter 21:1-16
21:1God is able to turn the heart

This proverb reveals the absolute sovereignty of God in human affairs (see 16:1, 9; 20:24). In Bible times the king had absolute authority over his kingdom. His word was law, yet God has control over the most powerful of men. A man may be a pharaoh in Egypt, a ruler over Babylon, a Caesar in Rome, or a Hitler in Germany, but no man is above God or beyond God’s control. We have examples of how God controlled the king’s heart (Abimelech, Gen. 20:6; Cyrus, Ezra 1:1; Artaxerxes, Ezra 7:21-23, 27; Neh. 1:11; 2:4-9; Ahasuerus, Est. 5:1-3; Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. 4:34; 10 rulers in Rev. 17:17).


21:2God is able to test the heart

A person may justify or rationalize his behavior, but God is able to analyze and ponder (weigh) the hearts (motives). See Prov. 16:2; 24:12; 1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Cor. 4:5. God is the heart specialist. He is able to diagnose heart trouble and provide a new heart.


21:3God prefers godly living to heartless worship

Going through the motions of worship is no substitute for living right (1 Sam. 15:22; Prov. 15:8; Isa. 1:10-17; 58:3; Hos. 6:6; Mic. 6:6-8; Mk. 12:33). This was the problem of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

21:4Everything rooted in self is sin

The root of all sin is the middle letter in that word “sin” (I). A haughty look and a proud heart (attitude) are rooted in self. Even self-centered work is sinful. This verse shows that everything about man is tainted by sin (Prov. 15:8; Isa. 64:6). All things including our work should be for God’s glory.

21:5Hard work pays off rather than get-rich-quick schemes

The thoughts and plans of a diligent person bring prosperity, but the thoughts and plans of someone taking a shortcut always fail. Notice that “thoughts of the diligent” (work of the mind, planning) are important as well as work of the hands. The wise person plans his work and then works his plan. Too many people want to know “the tricks of the trade” rather than the trade. Our world has many pitfalls for those who want to get rich quick (lottery, sweepstakes, risky investments).


21:6Getting money by lying is disappointing and deadly

This verse reminds us of people like Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme (named after Charles Ponzi who was guilty of this practice in 1910). Vanity is emptiness. Ill-gotten gain is worthless. The story is told of a man who was lost in desert. He discovered a chest that had fallen from a traveling caravan. Hoping this chest might contain food and drink, he opened it only to find gold, silver and pearls. They were worth a fortune, but they were of no value to him. People who climb the ladder of success by dishonesty get to the top only to find out it’s leaning against the wrong wall. Revelation 21:8 says that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone.

21:7Crime against others is self-destructive

This is the boomerang effect of evil. Those who rob others will not benefit, but they will be destroyed. See Prov. 1:18-19. Crime never pays, it costs dearly. Verses 5-7 address the problem of ill-gotten gain. It may be acquired hastily (vs. 5), deceitfully (vs. 6), or violently (vs. 7).

21:8It is possible to live right in a world gone wrong

The way of man means the way of the world. This verse describes actions not words. A godly person is known by his work. It is difficult to be pure in a perverted world, but it is possible. Dr. Bob Jones used to say, “Do right if the stars fall.”

21:9Fussing and fighting make a house unlivable

A wide (big) house may not be a good home. Roofs were flat and used like patios today. A man is better off to live outside his large house than to live inside with a contentious or quarrelsome woman (see vs. 19; 19:13; 25:24; 27:15-16). One such husband said he didn’t know what true happiness was until he got married and then it was too late. An old Arabic proverb says three things make a house unlivable: NAK (a nagging wife), TAK (a leaking roof), and BAK (bugs). A nagging husband makes a house unlivable, too.


21:10A wicked person has no concern for anyone but himself

A wicked person has such an all-consuming passion to do evil that he will not even let a neighbor stand in his way. Sin can become an addiction. Matthew Henry commented: “The root of wickedness lies in the soul.”


21:11Learn from your own mistakes and the mistakes of others

See 19:25. This verse describes three different attitudes: the scorner has a closed mind and refuses to learn even when he is punished; the simple has an empty mind and he can learn from the punishment of the scorner; the wise person has an open mind and will learn from personal instruction. A wise person has a teachable spirit.


21:12A godly person considers and avoids the punishment of the wicked

See Ps. 73:2-3, 16-19. A wise person understands the outcome of evil, and therefore he does not envy its temporary satisfaction.

21:13Whoever shows no mercy will receive no mercy

See Prov. 19:17 for the opposite. Matthew Henry called this “the description and doom of the uncharitable man.” The rich man who denied Lazarus a crust of bread on earth was denied a drop of water in hell (Lk. 16:19-25). Another illustration of this truth is found in Matt. 25:41-46.

21:14A secret gift can calm an angry person

This describes life as it, not as it should be. The secret gift is a bribe that works like a charm. Jacob sent gifts to Esau in hopes of appeasing him (Gen. 32:13-20).


21:15Righteous people love to do what is right and sinners love sin

The godly person wants to do what is just and finds satisfaction in it, but those who work iniquity (sin) delight in it.


21:16The only alternative to God’s way is death

The congregation of the dead is “the devil’s congregation.” See Prov. 14:12; 16:25. The way of understanding is God’s way, the narrow way that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14). Many are on the wrong road because they have wandered (strayed) from the narrow road. Straying means being lost. This proverb is pictured by the young man who was seduced by the immoral woman (Prov. 7:6-27). Anyone who strays from the way to Heaven will go down the road to Hell.




Book of Proverbs

Chapter 21:1-16

21:1 – __________________________________________________________________

This proverb reveals the absolute sovereignty of God in human affairs (see 16:1, 9; 20:24). In Bible times the king had absolute authority over his kingdom. His word was law, yet God has control over the most powerful of men. A man may be a pharaoh in Egypt, a ruler over Babylon, a Caesar in Rome, or a Hitler in Germany, but no man is above God or beyond God’s control. We have examples of how God controlled the king’s heart (Abimelech, Gen. 20:6; Cyrus, Ezra 1:1; Artaxerxes, Ezra 7:21-23, 27; Neh. 1:11; 2:4-9; Ahasuerus, Est. 5:1-3; Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. 4:34; 10 rulers in Rev. 17:17).

21:2 – ___________________________________________________________________

A person may justify or rationalize his behavior, but God is able to analyze and ponder (weigh) the hearts (motives). See Prov. 16:2; 24:12; 1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Cor. 4:5. God is the heart specialist. He is able to diagnose heart trouble and provide a new heart.


21:3 – ___________________________________________________________________

Going through the motions of worship is no substitute for living right (1 Sam. 15:22; Prov. 15:8; Isa. 1:10-17; 58:3; Hos. 6:6; Mic. 6:6-8; Mk. 12:33). This was the problem of the Pharisees and Sadducees.


21:4 – ___________________________________________________________________

The root of all sin is the middle letter in that word “sin” (I). A haughty look and a proud heart (attitude) are rooted in self. Even self-centered work is sinful. This verse shows that everything about man is tainted by sin (Prov. 15:8; Isa. 64:6). All things including our work should be for God’s glory.


21:5 – ___________________________________________________________________

The thoughts and plans of a diligent person bring prosperity, but the thoughts and plans of someone taking a shortcut always fail. Notice that “thoughts of the diligent” (work of the mind, planning) are important as well as work of the hands. The wise person plans his work and then works his plan. Too many people want to know “the tricks of the trade” rather than the trade. Our world has many pitfalls for those who want to get rich quick (lottery, sweepstakes, risky investments).

21:6 – ___________________________________________________________________

This verse reminds us of people like Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme (named after Charles Ponzi who was guilty of this practice in 1910). Vanity is emptiness. Ill-gotten gain is worthless. The story is told of a man who was lost in desert. He discovered a chest that had fallen from a traveling caravan. Hoping this chest might contain food and drink, he opened it only to find gold, silver and pearls. They were worth a fortune, but they were of no value to him. People who climb the ladder of success by dishonesty get to the top only to find out it’s leaning against the wrong wall. Revelation 21:8 says that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone.

21:7 – ___________________________________________________________________

This is the boomerang effect of evil. Those who rob others will not benefit, but they will be destroyed. See Prov. 1:18-19. Crime never pays, it costs dearly. Verses 5-7 address the problem of ill-gotten gain. It may be acquired hastily (vs. 5), deceitfully (vs. 6), or violently (vs. 7).

21:8 – ___________________________________________________________________

The way of man means the way of the world. This verse describes actions not words. A godly person is known by his work. It is difficult to be pure in a perverted world, but it is possible. Dr. Bob Jones used to say, “Do right if the stars fall.”


21:9 – ___________________________________________________________________

A wide (big) house may not be a good home. Roofs were flat and used like patios today. A man is better off to live outside his large house than to live inside with a contentious or quarrelsome woman (see vs. 19; 19:13; 25:24; 27:15-16). One such husband said he didn’t know what true happiness was until he got married and then it was too late. An old Arabic proverb says three things make a house unlivable: NAK (a nagging wife), TAK (a leaking roof), and BAK (bugs). A nagging husband makes a house unlivable, too.


21:10 – __________________________________________________________________

A wicked person has such an all-consuming passion to do evil that he will not even let a neighbor stand in his way. Sin can become an addiction. Matthew Henry commented: “The root of wickedness lies in the soul.”

21:11 – __________________________________________________________________

See 19:25. This verse describes three different attitudes: the scorner has a closed mind and refuses to learn even when he is punished; the simple has an empty mind and he can learn from the punishment of the scorner; the wise person has an open mind and will learn from personal instruction. A wise person has a teachable spirit.

21:12 – __________________________________________________________________

See Ps. 73:2-3, 16-19. A wise person understands the outcome of evil, and therefore he does not envy its temporary satisfaction.


21:13 – __________________________________________________________________

See Prov. 19:17 for the opposite. Matthew Henry called this “the description and doom of the uncharitable man.” The rich man who denied Lazarus a crust of bread on earth was denied a drop of water in hell (Lk. 16:19-25). Another illustration of this truth is found in Matt. 25:41-46.


21:14 – __________________________________________________________________

This describes life as it, not as it should be. The secret gift is a bribe that works like a charm. Jacob sent gifts to Esau in hopes of appeasing him (Gen. 32:13-20).


21:15 – __________________________________________________________________

The godly person wants to do what is just and finds satisfaction in it, but those who work iniquity (sin) delight in it.


21:16 – __________________________________________________________________

The congregation of the dead is “the devil’s congregation.” See Prov. 14:12; 16:25. The way of understanding is God’s way, the narrow way that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14). Many are on the wrong road because they have wandered (strayed) from the narrow road. Straying means being lost. This proverb is pictured by the young man who was seduced by the immoral woman (Prov. 7:6-27). Anyone who strays from the way to Heaven will go down the road to Hell.


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