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Yellow Balloons Devotional Series: Advent

Proverbs 1:16-19

These are the proverbs of Solomon, one of the most renowned kings in the history of Israel. The word translated “proverb” is the Hebrew word “mashal.” The root of the word contains the idea of “compare”—it is translated throughout Scripture as “parable” just as often as “proverb.”

This gives us some insight into the nature of these sayings. Proverbs are not prescriptions. It is not about a formula for how to manipulate circumstances and bend them to our will. That might be wishful thinking, but doesn’t work in reality. The proverbs are, in a sense, “comparing” our human perceptions to the reality of God’s world; trying to connect the two by providing principles that shape our perspective and inform our choices such that we live constructively—that is to say, wisely.

Like parables, the proverbs are meant to guide us “to wisdom”, that is, into a way of living. A way of thinking and perceiving. It is about molding and shaping our perceptions, values, and character into something that is consistently in tune with God, not just as a rule-follower but as someone who understands and practices the essence of the divine. One who sees the world through God’s eyes, and acts accordingly.

Ecclesiastes might be thought of as a philosophical foundation for wisdom. It shows the way to properly view the many aspects of life we cannot control, the “hebel” or vaporous nature of all that surrounds us. The main thing Ecclesiastes shows us is the importance of choosing to trust God, and make good choices based on that trust.

Proverbs will reiterate the philosophical foundations of Ecclesiastes, then zoom in and expand upon the practical application of trusting God and choosing a true perspective within certain areas of life. Proverbs leads us to choose a true perspective in all areas of life, and creates a foundation from which we can choose actions that are constructive, beneficial, and fulfilling.

There are only three things we control in life: who we trust, our perspective, and what we do—our actions. Ecclesiastes makes this reality abundantly clear. Trying to control what we cannot leads to complete futility. Trusting God, however, provides a foundation for constructive living. Proverbs teaches us how best to steward the choices we have—how to trust God, how to choose His perspective, and the key actions to take that lead us to the path of wisdom.


In the first chapter of The Book of Proverbs, Solomon establishes his intent—to teach the value of wisdom so that one might live effectively in an uncertain world. To help provide his audience with a way to navigate the mystery of life through trusting in God, having faith in Him, and listening to His practical advice.

Wisdom is a pathway to effective living, in a manner that serves our true best interest. The alternative is folly. It is a binary choice. Folly often seems best to us, but is actually self-destructive. It’s not always easy to tell which is which. Proverbs provides training on how to discern the wise path.

The Book of Proverbs is a practical guide. It shapes our perspective on life and provides a blueprint for how to live according to the path that leads to our greatest benefit. Proverbs leads us to learn and grow, to apply true insights constructively. It explains how cause-and-effect actually works in God’s creation. In a word, Proverbs shows how to learn wisdom.

In the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes how life in this world is enigmatic, beyond our control, and in many ways incomplete (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 3:11). His conclusion is that mystery is an invitation to faith, an opportunity to trust God (Ecclesiastes 12:13). In the midst of the conclusion of Ecclesiastes, it says that Solomon (the teacher) has “set forth many proverbs” (Ecclesiastes 12:9). This is a reference to The Book of Proverbs, Solomon’s attempt to get into the weeds and talk about the practical realities of daily life.

Ecclesiastes might be thought of as a philosophical foundation for wisdom. It shows the way to properly view the many aspects of life we cannot control, the “hebel.” “Hebel” is often translated as “vanity,” but a more accurate translation is “vapor.” This is what Solomon ponders in Ecclesiastes—the vaporous nature of life which we cannot grasp. The main thing Ecclesiastes shows us is the importance of choosing to trust God, and make good choices based on that trust.

Proverbs will reiterate the philosophical foundations of Ecclesiastes, then zoom in and expand upon the practical application of trusting God and choosing a true perspective in all areas of life. The wisdom in Proverbs creates a foundation from which we can choose actions that are constructive, beneficial, and fulfilling.

There are only three things we control in life: who we trust, our perspective, and what we do—our actions. Ecclesiastes makes this reality abundantly clear. Trying to control what we cannot leads to complete futility. Trusting God however provides a foundation for constructive living. Proverbs teaches us how best to steward the choices we have—how to trust God, how to choose His perspective, and key actions to take that lead us to the path of wisdom.

Solomon’s audience are youth—young people. He wants to get to them early, to set up the parameters for choices and consequence, for wisdom versus foolishness, and for what is truly in their best interest. Each of these requires making a choice.

In Chapter 1, Solomon sets up the two diverging choices we have set before us. On one hand is the choice of wisdom, calling to us from the streets. It is the design for our lives and for the world. On the other hand is the self-destructive and violent path of sinners, diverging from God’s instructions. Foolish people lose their alignment with reality and truth by derailing to a lesser way.

In this opening chapter, Solomon is working hard to set the stakes. He implores us to see how important and immediate the choice is between wisdom and folly. He wants to show which is truly in our own best self-interest and why. He wants to warn us of the slippery slope of choosing the foolish way, and guide us to the great hope and joy available when we align with God. When we commit to the way of wisdom. Chapter 1 makes it clear that if we desire to follow the path of wisdom, we must be intentional in choosing to listen to wisdom, understand its ways, and choose to follow in its path.


The Book of Proverbs is committed to explaining the reality of how life works. Solomon does this by discussing the ineffectiveness and danger of foolishness.

This passage is a continuation of the warning to the youth concerning sinners and their enticements. Verse 16 is a quotation of Isaiah 59:7 and seems to be an interpretation of the previous verses, which also sets up the verses that follow.

For the sinners’ feet run to evil. In their attempts to acquire wealth and status through the destruction of the innocent, the sinners only rush into evil. Rather than progress toward success through honest means, their feet run to evil. Rather than fearing the Lord and adhering to wisdom (Proverbs 1:7-9), sinners want to control, to determine, to gain by extraction from others. In their haste, they rush into evil. In this case they seek to control the lives and livelihoods of other people. They hasten to shed blood because they believe it to be the path to riches and success. Rather than work to produce, they desire to extract from others. Their path to wealth, power, and respect comes through violence and robbery. And occurs in opposition to the ways of God. All of this makes their efforts both ineffective and evil.

One of the fundamental agendas of The Book of Proverbs is to teach young people reality—how life works. Reality is that the attempts by the evil to entrap others is actually entrapping themselves. Sin creates its own destruction. Such evil is all done in foolishness and in vain. It will not achieve the desired results.

The reality is this—they lie in wait for their own blood. They (the sinners) are setting bait for an unaware bird—themselves. It is like if someone at the office is waiting around a corner to prank a coworker by jumping out and surprising them, but do not realize that while they are waiting, the very same coworker is sneaking up behind them to do the same. They will be caught in their own snare. They think they are laying a trap to catch the innocent and take what is theirs; instead they are waiting for their own destruction. They wait for their own blood and have set an ambush for their own lives.

If a hunter were to spread the baited net in the sight of any bird, the hunt would be useless. The bird will not fall for a trap if it sees the hunter setting it. But in the case of the sinners, they are setting a trap thinking it is for others, but it is actually for themselves. In seeking the path of violence, they lay an ambush for their own lives. Everyone who gains by violence will experience violence.

The violence they apply to others will boomerang back to them. The baited net, lying in wait for their own blood, and ambushing their own livesthese are the ways of everyone who gains by violence. This foolish lifestyle will take away the life of the possessors of violence.

Those who attempt to gain by violence are living in a false reality. They think they will succeed in trapping others but they will only succeed in losing their own life. Gain by violence or any evil means is a poison to its possessor. As opposed to the life-bringing and character-building of wisdom, violence takes away life and leads to destruction.

Biblical Text

16 For their feet run to evil
And they hasten to shed blood.
17 Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net
In the sight of any bird;
18 But they lie in wait for their own blood;
They ambush their own lives.
19 So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence;
It takes away the life of its possessors.