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In our last study on the fool, one of you asked:

“Since fools are so dangerous, why would we ignore the warning signs?”

I thought about the young woman who saw the warning signs weeks before the wedding

that she might, indeed, be marrying an abusive fool.

All the preparations had been made for this destination wedding.


It was too late to cancel:

the airplane reservations,

the dresses,

the flowers,

the banquet…

Her idols of comfort and approval rose up.

So she deceived herself, justifying

his temper tantrums,

his swearing,

and his abuse.

She kept silent and married him.



It’s always a heart idol.

The sin beneath the sin that causes us to deceive ourselves

and sail into disaster.


This week, for example, we’ll study this proverb:

proverbs_27Our own Rebecca gave the illustration that her doctor wanted to put her on blood thinner because tests revealed she was clearly at risk for a stroke.

But her “comfort idol” balked and so her heart deceived her:

I’m too young, that could not happen to me.”

Her wise doctor persisted, giving her a case study of a woman just like

her who had had a devastating stroke. 

By becoming alert to our heart idols, we can help ourselves

to be alert to our deceitful hearts, to our propensity to denial,

and to thereby heed the Word of God as Rebecca did.


So let us consider this week how heart idols affect our response to Proverbs. We must begin with a brief review of what Ezekiel calls “idols of the heart.” You cannot see heart idols, but you can see the bad fruit they produce. When anything bad comes out of your mouth or life, it is because you are looking to a heart idol to rescue you. Tim Keller has given three primary categories of heart idols which Leslie Vernick has diagrammed with this chart:

power-and-controlThe Lord promises to be in control, to be our security and comfort, and to love us. But when we do not look to Him, do not run to Him, we run to something else to meet those soul needs. That is idolatry. And idols promise to rescue us but always lie. If this is new material for you, or if you need a review, please watch this short clip from David Powlison.



1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

Monday-Wednesday Bible Study

Boasting and Idols of the Heart


2. Read Proverbs 27:1-2.

A. What do these two bad behaviors have in common?

B. When you are tempted to let someone know about an accomplishment or honor, what heart idol lurks beneath?

C.  How could replacing that heart idol with the truth of God’s approval of you help you remain quiet?

D.  In Paul’s famous love chapter, it says, “Love does not boast.” Why not, do you think?

E.  What else do you learn about this topic from Proverbs 27:21?

Receiving praise is a tricky thing — for to diminish it can crush the encourager, and to say “to God be the glory” can sound off-putting too. What do you do?

3. Read Proverbs 27 in its entirety. Note anything that quickens you, and be alert to topics we’ve already studied, such as friendship and fools.





I have always felt there is something sacred about the break of day — a time to be with the Lord and confess, praise, and meditate on His Word. Since idols cannot be removed but only replaced by the Lord, I feel this sacredness of the morning time with God should be honored by ourselves and by others. Ellen Davis has a penetrating commentary on Proverbs 27:14 which says: “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.” Davis writes: This is practical wisdom, humorously offered, for anyone who lives in lose proximity to others…from a college dorm to an Israelite village…Moreover it has a depth of dimension that goes beyond consideration for others’ sleep, and that has to do with the special quality of the morning’s silence. Many religious communities practice a rule of silence for the first few hours of the day.

4. What thoughts and applications do you have concerning the above?


5. What similarity do you see between Proverbs 27:14 and 15? What heart idol is beneath nagging, do you think? How could this be replaced by the Lord?

6. Read through Proverbs 28 and find, in particular, the warnings for heeding the Lord and not hardening our hearts and running instead, to our heart idols.

7. Read through Proverbs 28 again and find anything that quickens you and comment.

While the Parable on the Talents seems to fit here, I fear overloading you so I will stop.

Thursday-Friday Message

You have a choice. If the concept of Idols of the Heart is new to you, you must listen to this Keller classic.

Removing Idols of the Heart

If you have heard the above, I found this sermon from one of Keller’s mentors, Dick Lucas, delightful. He addresses many of the proverbs in this lesson.


The Friend – Dick Lucas



8. Share your comments or notes from the above.


9. What is your take-a-way and why?

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  1. 7. Read through Proverbs 28 again and find anything that quickens you and comment.
    I think I found a verse here that may help combat the idol of approval. Verse 23 says that is is better to rebuke someone than to be a flatterer…in the end, it is the one who rebukes who gets more thanks. While I don’t think I am prone to being a flatterer, there are times when I don’t speak up or say words that may provoke the other person to get upset with me or worse, even reject me (hopefully temporarily) because I want their approval/affirmation. I hate to feel that sting of disapproval or rejection; not fully resting in His approval makes me feel that way and be afraid to speak up.
    Verse 13 is like an invitation – when I know I have sinned, failed…what am I waiting for? I should RUN to the Lord because when I confess, I will be met with mercy.

  2. oh ladies!!! I came on here this morning and felt so much LOVE! you are all so precious to me. When im not here I miss you. Lizzy, Rebecca, Nancy, Susan, Dee, your words brought me to tears this morning. Thank you for your dear prayers. I am able to see with clearer eyes this morning that the enemy is at work and I am going to spend some time in battle as soon as I get off of here.
    I started to pray a month ago that I would “fall in love” (the goggle eyed head over heals kind, I do love him very much) with Paul. I know that is what he wants more than anything, and it is happening!!!! I know satan HATES this because he has used our marriage to such joy our of our lives for years! Your sweet prayers have been heard and I am truly falling in love with paul, not just behaving lovingly but heart  beets faster when he walks in the room falling in love.
    BUT with this has come major attacks, I am praying that I can see then as that and do battle in prayer instead of trying to “fix” everything.
    Thank you for your kind words and prayers, they are so powerful! I had 10 young women in Bible study last night and we laughed until we cried! Also, one student has asked to meet with me so that she can share something that she has been struggling with for years. what an amazing blessing to love on college age girls!!!
    My desire with starting the Bible study for older women was so that I could encourage them to go out and make a difference, to use time wisely and to forgive themselves of the past so that they can share their stories of beauty from broken with others….there is so much that I just do not have the time or energy or talent to do and my passion is to mobilize an army of women to go out there in honesty and wholeness and serve the hurting in our community. Thank you ladies for reminding me that the only one who would not want me to do that is satan, I am going to have a battle on my knees! Im afraid my approval idol and pride had taken over, Im so blessed to have you to put me back on track!

    1. oh Cyndi–you passed the tears on to me now! REJOICING with you and praising Him for His rescue–oh I especially love that you’re feeling the “head over heels” kind of love for Paul–and that you prayed for that! wow. Love you sister~

    2. Cyndi, what wonderful answers to prayer! You are so amazing…I can just “see” you sitting around with those college girls, laughing – proves Bible study doesn’t have to be boring and dry! And the fact that one wants to meet privately with you shows that she must sense the love you have for her unconditionally, just like the Lord.

    3. Oh, Cyndi, so happy to read your comment.  I have found that the evil one’s assaults are of greater intensity and more frequent when he is fearful of action(s) for the Lord.  Glad that you are putting up your shield to dodge his assault arrows.  The Lord has blessed those college girls with your presence…blessed to be a blessing…:)  Your bible study for older women sounds wonderful.  I will pray for the Lord to assist you in discerning how to get to this population, to allow them the blessing of this study.

  3. 2. Read Proverbs 27:1-2
    A. What do these two bad behaviors have in common? Confidence in oneself, perhaps over-confidence. And possibly confidence in oneself only. (?)
    B. When you are tempted to let someone know about an accomplishment or honor, what heart idol lurks beneath? Approval. Not so much approval from the person I am speaking to but proving that I am approved by God to that person. There is a sense of “See?! Look! God has worked in me and so He loves me and I am not as awful as I think I am even though I still see awful coming out of me…”
    C. How could replacing that heart idol with the truth of God’s approval of you help you remain quiet? When I rest in His love and approval (not because of anything but by grace alone) my heart is content. Is 30:15 “…in quietness and in trust will be your strength…” I am taking that verse out of context a bit but it is how I feel when I remember the truth of His unending grace and love and moving towards me instead of trying to have confidence in my own boasting – me trying to prove I am loved by Him, instead of just resting in that love.
    D. In Paul’s famous love chapter, it says, “Love does not boast.” Why not, do you think? Boasting is self-glorifying, self-seeking, this is the opposite of true love which instead lays down His very life for others. God is love and he has no need to boast because boasting comes from insecurity and uncertainties that you meet certain qualifications or requirements. God is God and perfect so His demonstration of love was perfect, too, He need not boast for He has already “shown His mettle.”
    E. What else do you learn about this topic from Proverbs 27:21? This verse was confusing because it is difficult to tell if it referring to his own praise or others’ praise of him… I found the amplified Bible helpful and it answers the question well, I thought.
    Proverbs 27:21 The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold to separate the impurities of the metal, And each is tested by the praise given to him and his response to it, whether humble or proud. 
    Receiving praise is a tricky thing – for to divish it can crush the encourager, and to say “to God be the glory” can sound off-putting too. What do you do? I just say, “Thank you.”  With a possible, “I’m so glad you enjoyed it.” added on and then either (kindly) change the subject or ask a question about how it ministered to the individual (such as a song shared may touch someone and if you ask about that they are free to share their story and the focus is back to what God did rather than me – although it may be possible that their thanks to you is not a misdirection of focus but rather just an acknowledgement of all the players in what God did).

  4. Prov. 28
    I read this in the message to get a fresh new look at it.
    vs 13 “you can’t whitewash your sins and get by with it, you find mercy by admitting and leaving them.
    this stood out to me because I make my kids verbalize things that they really do not want to because I believe  that once it is said it loses a lot of its power. I love the admitting and LEAVING. when you go over some sin a million times in your head it gains more and more power.
    vs. 25  A grasping person stirs up trouble. but trust in God brings a sense of well-being.
    LOVE this!!! its so very true! when we trust God we can relax!but when we are always grasping at straws, trying to figure it all out on our own we tend to create drama wherever we go.
    vs. 26 If you think you know it all, you are a fool for sure…real survivors learn wisdom from others.
    If I had a dollar for every time I “thought I knew it all” I would be rich. seeking wise counsel is always a sign of true wisdom!
    I agree with you Dee, this would be a good time for the parable of the talents.  If we are faithful with little HE will place more in our hands…I need to remind myself to be faithful in what feels little (2 people at a Bible study) and IF it is something that is needed HE will bring more women as HE sees fit. I need to do my very best for 2!

  5. 4. What thoughts and applications do you have concerning the above?
    Concerning the morning time as the ideal prayer and worship time, I’m in the same boat as Laura on this one. When I wake up I don’t want to talk to anyone and I don’t want anyone talking to me, most of my thoughts are negative and I say things in a way that I later regret. I know that it sounds like I’m making excuses for bad behavior, but I have spent years trying to fit the mold of a morning person and biting my tongue and it doesn’t change what’s going on inside. I find that trying to pray, read the bible or meditate is unproductive.
    When people suggest that I’m somehow less spiritual because I won’t get up a half hour earlier to spend “quality time” with the Lord, I want to ask them to consider the flip side. At night everything is quiet and still, you don’t have to worry that your children are going to get up early and ruin your alone time, you have just finished a day in which things have happened that you need to talk to the Lord about and if you say that you need to get to bed on time, that you need your sleep or that you’d fall asleep trying to pray and meditate at that time then I’d say you finally know how I feel 😉

    1. Dawn–“it doesn’t change what’s going on inside”–all of this post is so well said! I still fight inside the idea that it’s somehow not just more spiritual but generally “better” to be a morning person–almost like I fight against some stereotypes about introverts! I’d like to naturally be a morning person, I do think mornings can be beautiful–but I am a hard-wired (introverted) night owl at heart 😉

    2. Dawn, you describe my mother…you and she (and Laura) are “night” people, your energy is at night.  I think the concept is the same whether “morning” or”night”…it is speaking to spending time with the Lord when our energy is high, our focus is especially in-tune, and the world around us is quiet and free of distraction; the optimal time spent with the Lord for a “night” type person is late evening.  Whether morning or night, no one should feel judged as the concept is the same.  

    6. Read through Proverbs 28 and find, in particular, the warnings for heeding the Lord and not hardening our hearts and running instead, to our heart idols.
    “A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.”
    ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭28:25‬ ‭ESV‬‬
    We are normally very good stewards of our money, but in the past few years we have struggled; our children were in college and living expenses/college tuition was more than we could really bear. We didn’t want to take out massive loans, and the college money we thought we had available didn’t turn out to be what we thought it would be to help us.
    My husband is a financial controller and prides himself on taking care of our family. I appreciate that he does this, however in the past few years it has taken over his life 🙁 …he constantly worries about money and how we are going to pay the bills. I tell him to stop worrying and just rely on God. It has become a sort of idol for him. Every single time we get in a bind, God comes through! It has not happened just one time, as a coincidence; it has happened over and over again! This past week, we were wondering how the groceries would be bought, and, voila! A check arrives in the mail for more than the normal amount, and although we have had these checks before, they don’t come with regularity (It is a garnishing of a criminals wages because he sucker punched my son when he was a minor and the criminal was an adult – we asked for restitution for our sons teeth, which have been repaired to the tune of $8000, and the court agreed). They have always been a weird amount – $51, and my husband and I were just commenting wondering how they came up with that amount. The check arrived and it was $85! Enough to buy a few groceries for the week (Food is crazy expensive right now and we are trying so hard to get back on our feet without using our credit cards)! Praise the Lord! God is good! Thank you Jesus!!!

    1. I love stories of provision Laura, thank you for sharing this with us! have you discussed idolatry with your husband? I can relate to his bent, I am the one in our marriage that has struggled to relax and trust God financially. I still struggle, but I see the battle now. I will pray right now for your husband and for you.

    6. Read through Proverbs 28 and find, in particular, the warnings for heeding the Lord and not hardening our hearts and running instead, to our heart idols.
    v4: Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked, but those who heed it resist them.
    v9: If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.
    v13: Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper  but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
    V14: Blessed is the one who always trembles before God but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.
    V18: The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit.
    V25: The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper.
    V26: Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.

  8. Such a cool story, Laura!…thanks for sharing.  
    7. Read through Proverbs 28 again and find anything that quickens you and comment.
    “Evil men do not understand justice, But they who long for and seek the Lord understand it fully.” (v. 5)
    My heart aches for the vulnerable of this world; I pray regularly for a firewall to be between them and their persecutors/perpetrators.  I don’t understand how people traffick and enslave their fellow wo/man without any conscience, regret, repentance.  I don’t understand the mistreatment that is done to fellow wo/man because of gender, nationality, ethnicity, etc. without any conscience, regret, repentance.  This text explains…the evil don’t understand justice; they simply don’t get it.  They are blind (in the pit of the evil one) and don’t see the injustice.  
    “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But whoever confesses and [b]turns away from his sins will find compassion and mercy.” (v. 13)
    This brings to mind a situation where pride got in the way…a man did something wrong that had he simply admitted it was wrong, all would have been forgiven.  Instead he refused to admit any wrong doing and continued efforts to cover-up, heaping on more wrongs.  The result of his actions was an explosion of sorts…a parting of the ways for many, bad feelings, mistrust…he has never since enjoyed the respect and camaraderie that he enjoyed prior to this situation.  What a mess…so easily avoided by the admission of the initial wrong.

  9. 7. Read through Proverbs 28 again and find anything that quickens you and comment.
    Initially, when I read verse 1 popped out like fire. The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”  
    I am thinking these two contrasting pictures are the end result of someone who is in the chains of their sin and idols vs. someone who is hiding in Jesus daily walking in repentence and faith for the righteous have idols that cry out too and sometimes the righteous bend to their idols..The difference is that God convicts them and opens their eyes and they yield to Him-even if they have been bound for a long time. I confess I know what it is like to ‘flee though no one pursues’. The guilt from inward sin and honestly not experiencing the delight of being in His presence-missing it yet at the same time clinging to these worthless, dead idols put me in a very dark place emotionally-worrying about what others thought of me when they weren’t thinking of me, worrying about anything that happened. My idols turned around and bit me by taking me in a pit away from His presence. Even though my idols still arise and I have yielded to them-the difference is I am not in chains by them anymore like I was..God opened my eyes-He rescued me through Idol Lies and that was HUGE..He has helped me to grow in confidence of Who He IS. I can go to Him in confidence and confess and repent and turn because He loves me even though I have failed Him which maeks me not want to fail him even though I still can!! Yet it is that hidden confidence in Him He has built up in me over the years since Idol Lies that keeps me running to Him and away from the heavy chains of my idols. I am SILL in awe of how He pursued me in my darkest hour when my idols had me in chains and when His presence was dim. 
    Sorry this is so long..I don’t have time to edit and I have to get ready for work. 🙂

    1. I am glad you didn’t edit Rebecca 🙂
      When I read the verse you choose i thought of my approval idol and this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt 
      “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

      1. Chris, Great quote by Eleanor-and SOOOOO true!!! 

  10. 3. Read Proverbs 27 in its entirety. Note anything that quickens you, and be alert to topics we’ve already studied, such as friendship and fools.
    All these verses are form the Amplified version.
    As I looked at these verses my mind was on repentance, our friends who we risk being real with can often see the things we are blind to, We need people who we are honest with, who we invite to be Nathan’s in our lives. I have a friend who recently admonished me about lies that I was believing and how it affected my thoughts about my husband. God had been reveling these things to me, but hearing her say it pushed me to a turning point, to repentance. Though the truth is so hard to hear sometimes, it is a sweet thing to repent, that I get to repent, to turn away from lies and wrong thought patterns and toward the Lord who welcomes me and is delighted that I am turning and choosing Him, He promises to complete the work He has begun 🙂
    5 Open rebuke is better than love that is hidden.
    6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are lavish and deceitful.
    9 Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a friend’s counsel that comes from the heart.
    10 Your own friend and your father’s friend, forsake them not; neither go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near [in spirit] than a brother who is far off [in heart].
    12 A prudent man sees the evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished [with suffering].
    17 Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend [to show rage or worthy purpose].
    19 As in water face answers to and reflects face, so the heart of man to man.
    These following verses comfort me that while I often do foolish things, I am not a true fool, because I know I have seen some of the impurities in my heart burned away by trial. The foolish earthly things I satiated myself with proved to be useless when they were tested by suffering, when things are clicking along according to my plans, when I am glutted  and satisfied by lesser things, I have little desire for the Gospel, to hear that I am wicked and hopeless apart from Christ. But when the temporary satisfaction of those things are shown empty, devoid of hope, or even a bit of relief by real trauma, then the sweetness of the Gospel becomes something I cling to for life.
    21 As the refining pot for silver and the furnace for gold [bring forth all the impurities of the metal], so let a man be in his trial of praise [ridding himself of all that is base or insincere; for a man is judged by what he praises and of what he boasts].
    22 Even though like grain you should pound a fool in a mortar with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.
    7 He who is satiated [with sensual pleasures] loathes and treads underfoot a honeycomb, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.

  11. 5. What similarity do you see between Proverbs 27:14 and 15? What heart idol is beneath nagging, do you think? How could this be replaced by the Lord?

    Control, The neighbor and the wife are both trying to manipulate, to get the target of their passive aggressive behavior to do what they want them to do.
    It comes down to unbelief. I don’t believe that God is really in control, I have to push and direct the people in my life, If it is going to be it is up to me. I might pray for the people, but my manipulation shows that my real hope is in me.

    I need to repent of sitting on the throne. To ask God to help me know that He is good and for me and that He is in control and can be trusted. I need to see the arrogance of my unbelief and let it break my heart. I need scripture ready at hand to combat the enemy when he comes telling me I need to direct my world.

    6. Read through Proverbs 28 and find, in particular, the warnings for heeding the Lord and not hardening our hearts and running instead, to our heart idols.
    4 Those who forsake the law [of God and man] praise the wicked, but those who keep the law [of God and man] contend with them.
    14 Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is the man who reverently and worshipfully fears [the Lord] at all times [regardless of circumstances], but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
    25 He who is of a greedy spirit stirs up strife, but he who puts his trust in the Lord shall be enriched and blessed
    26 He who leans on, trusts in, and is confident of his own mind and heart is a [self-confident] fool, but he who walks in skillful and godly Wisdom shall be delivered.
    James 1:5 was given as a cross reference for verse 26:
    If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him.

  13. 7. Read through Proverbs 28 again and find anything that quickens you and comment.
    v. 13: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
    As futile as I know it is, I still default in my sin nature, to want to cover myself. I want to hide the messy sides of me, I want to be cleaned up for others. I know the Truth and yet how easy it is to still want to hide behind my achievements and goodness. But not only is my own “covering” threadbare, it actually hinders my growth. It keeps me from His covering, His mercy. To “forsake” my own coverings—to throw them in the fire, and run to His robe of righteousness, by His mercy and grace…what love He has for us!

    1. i want tto hide my messy… I have a horrible habit of trying to find someone else to blame whenever I make a mistake. It’s as if my heart feels like everyone else is allowed to not be perfect except for me.

      1. Cyndi, popped on here to say I’m listening to Dick Lucas while cleaning…and then read your post..and  i said,  Me too!! But with a twist.  I feel like everyone else has it together except me. That is pride. Yuk..

    2. Lizzy, 
      “But not only is my covering threadbare, it actually hinders my growth. It keeps me from His covering, His Mercy.”
      Oh my, this is Gold..beautiful.

  14. Dee,  how is your proverbs 31 study coming? Recently on A friends facebook page a blog about what if your life is Psalms 31 when your desire is for it to be proverbs 31. Made me think of you and your upcoming study.