Proverbs 5:21

Sermon preached on October 18, 2009 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). (Unless otherwise noted.) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Recently someone brought up the subject of buying Portobello mushrooms. The question was whether it was okay to take the stems off before you bought them because the recipe only called for the heads. She said that someone before her had done that—because some of what were there were only stems. So she did the same thing—but wondered if it was okay to do that?

Or what about downloading songs off the Internet using a bit torrent client and not paying for them? Is that okay? It seems likely that you will get away with it. I believe the record companies only sue people who host the songs. But is it okay to have songs that you haven't paid for? Is it okay to steal in little things like that? Some people would say that they would never have paid for them anyway, so the record companies aren't really losing any money. But that's just an empty rationalization.

Or what about telling little white lies? Or cheating on an exam? Or did you ever lie to get out of an exam or get an extension on a paper? When I was in university I remember one day in my dorm I walked into a friend's room and he was painting another friend's face and arm with little red dots. The guy wasn't ready for an exam and was going to pretend that he had the measles or chickenpox.

Or what about fudging the facts a little on your resume? You really want to get the job so you present yourself in a little better light that you should. Is that okay?

Or what about not declaring income on your taxes? Or buying items out of state and not paying taxes on them and when tax time comes telling NY State that you didn't buy anything out of state.

But getting back to the mushrooms and breaking off the stems. I think one of the responses was,

"Would you have broken the stems off if someone was watching you?"

Aha! That's the key. She said she probably wouldn't have.

But what does it matter whether anyone else is watching you when our text tells us that

God sees everything you do.

Our text (HSCB),

"For a man's ways
are before the LORD'S eyes,
and He considers all his paths."

We see the same thing in Proverbs 15:3 which says,

"The eyes of the LORD are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked
and the good."

One of the great truths that the Bible teaches is that God knows everything about you. He sees everything you do. He is omnipresent—present everywhere, so He sees everything. As David wrote in Psalm 139:7–12,

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens,
you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths,
you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say,
'Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,'
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you."

In Job 31:4 Job said,

"Does he not see my ways
and count my every step?"

Of course when we speak of God seeing everything we do not just mean that He sees external things like we do. We human beings see external things but our sight doesn't go beyond that. When Samuel was told by God to go and anoint one of Jesse's sons to be king over Israel, as soon as he saw Jesse's oldest son, Eliab, he thought to himself, (1 Samuel 16:6)

"Surely the Lord's anointed
stands here before the Lord."

But God said to Samuel, (verse 7)

1 Samuel 16:7

"Do not consider his appearance or his height,
for I have rejected him.
The Lord does not look at
the things man looks at.
Man looks at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart."

We can hide nothing from God. He sees the heart. He even knows our motives. Proverbs 16:2 says,

"All a man's ways seem innocent to him,
but motives are weighed by the Lord."

God knows everything you do. He knows the reasons behind what you do. You can hide nothing from Him. Hebrews 4:13 says,

"Nothing in all creation
is hidden from God's sight.
Everything is uncovered and laid bare
before the eyes of him
to whom we must give account."

We must give an account for how we have lived.

This is the second point that our text makes.

God watches everything you do for a reason—to bless or to punish.

The context of our text is a warning to live correctly. It advises a married man to rejoice in the wife of his youth. It warns him to beware of an adulteress, for she should surely lead him to his death. As verse 23 says about a wicked man,

"He will die for lack of discipline…"

It's the same thing we read in Proverbs 7:27. It says of the adulteress,

"Her house is a highway to the grave,
leading down to the chambers of death."

The point is that those that go that way do so to their great harm. Indeed, the second part of our text, where it says that the Lord 'examines' all of a man's ways, the thought is not that He just observes as a detached spectator, rather the thought is that God ponders your ways as a Judge. (Bridges, Proverbs) God is not merely watching what you do but He watches as a Judge. He observes in order to bless or punish.

Some people have the idea that when God created the universe He would it up like a
giant clock and He lets it unwind—that He watches the things that men do, but He doesn't get involved.

I'm not really sure what the popular song, "From a Distance" (made popular by Bette Midler) is about. But one section of the song says:

"God is watching us. God is watching us. God is watching us from a distance."

It seems to suggest that God doesn't get involved in our lives, that He merely watches from a distance. If that's what it means then it's totally wrong. God watches what you do and He examines your ways and orders your life based on what He observes.

For example, you'll remember after David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah the Hittite killed, Nathan the prophet came to him and said, (2 Samuel 12:9–14)

"Why did you despise the word of the LORD
by doing what is evil in his eyes?
You struck down Uriah the Hittite
with the sword and took his wife
to be your own.
You killed him
with the sword of the Ammonites.
Now, therefore, the sword
will never depart from your house,
because you despised me
and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite
to be your own.
This is what the LORD says:
'Out of your own household
I am going to bring calamity upon you.
Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you,
and he will lie with your wives
in broad daylight.
You did it in secret,
but I will do this thing in broad daylight
before all Israel.'
Then David said to Nathan,
'I have sinned against the LORD.'
Nathan replied,
'The LORD has taken away your sin.
You are not going to die.
But because by doing this
you have made the enemies of the LORD
show utter contempt,
the son born to you will die.'"

You'll also recall God's words to King Belshazzar in Daniel 5:26-27. King Belshazzar saw a hand writing on the wall and he was terrified. Daniel came to him and gave him the interpretation of the writing. But before Daniel did that he told him the story of his father, King Nebuchadnezzar and how God gave him a great kingdom, but because he never acknowledged God, his heart became proud. So God drove him from the company of men and how he lived among animals until he acknowledged that God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. Daniel told king Belshazzar that he knew all this but didn't learn from it. Instead, he took the goblets of gold that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem. With them King Belshazzar praised the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron and wood. Then Daniel explained the words on the wall,

"Mene: God has numbered
the days of your reign
and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed
on the scales and found wanting."

God weighed King Belshazzar in the scales and found him wanting. Therefore He took his kingship and life from him.

So let us all take this lesson to heart. Every day God is watching you and examining how you live. He either blesses you or withholds His blessing on the basis of what He sees.

We see this in many places in Scripture. In 2 Chronicles 16:9, the prophet Hanani rebuked King Asa for not trusting in the Lord to help him. He said,

"For the eyes of the Lord
range throughout the earth
to strengthen those whose hearts
are fully committed to him."

God watches and acts of behalf of those who are doing what is right, on those whose hope is in Him. Psalm 41:1–4 reads,

"Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;
the Lord delivers him in times of trouble.
The Lord will protect him and preserve his life;
he will bless him in the land
and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.
The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed
and restore him from his bed of illness."

Proverbs 16:7 says,

"When a man's ways
are pleasing to the LORD,
he makes even his enemies
live at peace with him."

And Proverbs 3:9–10 says,

"Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine."

2 Corinthians 9:6 is similar. The apostle Paul wrote,

"Remember this:
Whoever sows sparingly
will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows generously
will also reap generously."

In John 15:1–5 Jesus said,

"I am the true vine,
and my Father is the gardener.
He cuts off every branch in me
that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes so that it will
be even more fruitful."

In 1 Samuel 2:3 Hannah warned against arrogance. She said,

"Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed."

Proverbs 16:5,

"The LORD detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this:
They will not go unpunished."

Proverbs 15:29,

"The LORD is far from the wicked
but he hears the prayer of the righteous."

Proverbs 15:27,

"A greedy man brings trouble to his family,
but he who hates bribes will live."

Proverbs 17:20,

"A man of perverse heart does not prosper;
he whose tongue is deceitful
falls into trouble."

But someone may say—but it doesn't seem to work like that.

The psalmist gave expression to that in the first part of Psalm 73. He wrote, (verses 3–14)

"For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from the burdens
common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, 'How can God know?
Does the Most High have knowledge?'
This is what the wicked are like—
always carefree,
they increase in wealth.
Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning."

The psalmist found that his experience was the opposite of what I've been telling you.

Indeed, anyone who would make judgments on what I have said so far would go far wrong.
Job's three friends would agree with everything I quoted before Psalm 73. That's how they understood things. Because so many bad things happened to Job they concluded that he must have been a horrible sinner. Thus they were very unkind and unfair to Job.

It was the same way with
Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Elkanah had two wives. Hannah was righteous but Peninnah was not. For years Peninnah provoked Hannah, especially when she was going up to the house of the Lord. She did it to irritate her. (1 Samuel 1) The underlying reason that Peninnah provoked Hannah was because Hannah had no children, while Peninnah did have children. To conclude from that that Peninnah was righteous and Hannah evil would have been a grave mistake. God did eventually reward Hannah, but she had to be patient for many years.

Also, if you look at the apostle Paul's life, you'll see that his life was full of difficulty. He spent time in prison, he was whipped with rods three times, stoned once, shipwrecked, etc. etc. (2 Corinthians 11)

Thus we cannot look at this in the short term in reference to time or merely in earthly terms. Nevertheless, the principle holds true. Later in Psalm 73 Asaph wrote of the wicked, (verses 16-19)

"When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!"

As Galatians 6:8–9 says,

"The one who sows to please his sinful nature,
from that nature will reap destruction;
the one who sows to please the Spirit,
from the Spirit will reap eternal life."

So what does all this mean for us?

For Christians knowing that God is always watching you has great implications.

It should affect us at least four ways.

First, it means that

you should be very diligent about how you live. You should be holy.

In 2 Peter 3:11 Peter talked about the destruction by fire of this earth. He said,

"Since everything will be destroyed in this way,
what kind of people ought you to be?
You ought to live holy and godly livesÖ"

In the same way, we can apply the second part of that to the doctrine before us. Since God is watching you, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to be holy and godly in everything you do.

Don't waste your life, your opportunities. You don't want to be like the man in the Parable of the Talents who hid his talent and didn't put it to work for his master. Because we belong to the new era in Christ, the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:14–16, (HSCB)

"Get up, sleeper,
and rise up from the dead,
and the Messiah will shine on you.
Pay careful attention, then,
to how you walk—
not as unwise people but as wise—
making the most of the time,
because the days are evil."

We need to be diligent, not lazy. Our time here is short and we need to make the most of it. God is watching you. What you think, what you do, how you treat other people—all of this is so important. As the apostle Paul urged Christians in 1 Corinthians 15:58,

"Always give yourselves
fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that
your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

This doctrine also means that

when you're evaluating your life, your dealings with other people—your scrutiny of yourself should not to be superficial.

God sees through all your rationalizations, all the things that others can't see through. He knows all about you.

This means is that your life should be open and honest.

It's reported that Joseph Kennedy Sr. once gave some counsel to his sons, advice that he hoped would one day win them an election,

"It's not what you are that counts, but what people think you are."

Wow. That's the opposite of what it should be. It's what you are that counts. The Pharisees were well thought of by many of the people of their day. Yet what did Jesus say about them? (Matthew 23:27)

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,
You are like whitewashed tombs,
which appear beautiful on the outside,
but inside are full of
dead men's bones and every impurity."

God hates hypocrisy. There should be no hypocrisy in you. There should be no pride in you.

The kind of life you need to live, in front of God and men, is described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2, where he detailed his and Silas' behavior among the Thessalonians. In verse 10 he wrote,

"You are witnesses,
and so is God,
of how holy, righteous and blameless
we were among you who believed."

Paul talked about how they didn't use flattery among them, how they had no impure motives, how they tried to please God and not men, how they worked hard among them, how they were gentle with them, as a mother caring for her little children, how they didn't take anything from them, how as a father they encouraged and comforted them, and urged them to live lives worthy of God. Paul even says that they were not only delighted to share the gospel with them, but their lives as well.

Paul and Silas lives were open and honest. It's like their lives were an open book. There was no hypocrisy in them, no subterfuge, nothing unworthy at all—only love in Christ. That's what your life should be like—open and pure. God sees you. He sees what you do. He sees your heart. The only appropriate response is to get rid of hypocrisy, duplicity, impurity.

Third, for Christians,

this should be a source of joy for you.

Your life is lived in the hand of God. It is the Good Shepherd who is watching us, disciplining us, leading us, guiding us to glory. Our God is with us. We are walking with Him. As Jesus said in John 14:23,

"If anyone loves me,
he will obey my teaching.
My Father will love him,
and we will come to him
and make our home with him."

God does more than watch us. He has His home in us. He indwells us. As the apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:3

"We proclaim to you
what we have seen and heard,
so that you also may have fellowship with us.
And our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ."

We are in a relationship with God. We are the redeemed of Jesus Christ. We can rejoice in this relationship even though we know that in ourselves we are unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10) and our best works are as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) We can rejoice because it's all of grace. Moment by moment we have opportunities to thank God for His grace and goodness to us.

Live your life in the recognition that God is always with you. Moment by moment acknowledge Him, seek help from Him, praise Him, rejoice in Him.

Fourthly, for Christians, this should

be a great comfort to you in the sense that God knows your faithfulness.

In Matthew 10:42 Jesus said,

"And if anyone gives
even a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones
because he is my disciple,
I tell you the truth,
he will certainly not lose his reward."

Never think that the things you have done for God will go unnoticed. As Revelation 14:13 tells that those who die in the Lord are blessed, that their works shall follow them. The apostle Paul gave testimony to this in 2 Timothy 4:7–8. He wrote,

"I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me
the crown of righteousness,
which the Lord,
the righteous Judge,
will award to me on that day
—and not only to me,
but also to all who have longed
for his appearing."

Christians, be encouraged in your work. You will be rewarded. As the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23–25,

"Whatever you do,
work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord,
not for men,
since you know that
you will receive an inheritance
from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, the fact that God is watching you, that He sees everything you do, that He knows your heart—

this means that unless you go to Jesus you're going to be doomed.

You cannot hide your sins. Ecclesiastes 12:14 says,

"For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil."

In Matthew 12:36 Jesus said,

"But I tell you that men
will have to give account
on the day of judgment
for every careless word they have spoken."

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) Unless you go to Jesus, on the last day your sins are going to be made known and they will condemn you to everlasting punishment. Don't let that happen. Go to Jesus and have your sins washed away. Go to Jesus and find life in Him. Ask Him to save you and He will.