August 11th 2018 – Proverbs 20:2-5

The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion;
    whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.
It is an honour for a man to keep aloof from strife,
    but every fool will be quarrelling.
The sluggard does not plough in the autumn;
    he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water,
    but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Proverbs 20:2-5

The moral in 2 seems to be: Watch what you are doing, and be sensible, not tactless, in face of authority. We can hardly complain about coming to grief, if we have asked for it. Authority is a reality, and those who kick against it may forfeit their life (RSV), certainly their wellbeing. There is a good deal for us in 3: our attitude under provocation, whether real or imagined, is very revealing. We cut ourselves down to size by our reactions - by our touchiness, by the ease with which we seem to allow ourselves to be provoked. Here is a mirror for us - let us look into it to see what manner of people we are. The sluggard (4) is an oft-recurring figure in Proverbs; here he is given a cold dash of realism that may serve to jolt him out of his world of make-believe. To use Paul's words in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, if he will not work, neither should he eat. 'There was no social security in those days to subsidise idle malingerers. Today, work-stoppages in the cold season have become a powerful anti- social weapon to disrupt the country and cause untold hardship to many. When will we become realistic and call things by their proper names? The theme in 5 is discernment, and with this gift a man of understanding can discern the intentions of another man's heart. The picture is of some crafty schemer, secretly devising ill to others, and having his clandestine plans penetrated and exposed by someone with discernment enough to see through him, and bring them to nought. Happy and fortunate the society where such discernment obtains!