This is part seventeen in my 31-day study through the book of Proverbs. The purpose of this study is to learn what God has to say in this book about wisdom and discernment. Today we are looking at the seventeenth chapter of Proverbs.
“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests the hearts.”
Silver and gold are of little value or beauty before they go through the process of refining. During this time they are heated to great temperatures so the valuable metals can melt away from the worthless rock. The metaphor of refining fire is used many times in the Bible to show to us that God uses tough times in life to refine our character. Though these times may be painful and devoid of joy, so often we can look back at them as the times when God shaped us more and more into His image. As one seeking wisdom, I need to look for God’s work in the midst of times of sorrow.
“Children’s children are the crown of old men, And the glory of children is their father.”
Does not every elderly man want to have grandchildren? If this is true today, it was even truer in ancient Israel, for the Israelites were people of the covenant. God had promised to them that the blessings of the covenant would pass from generation to generation. The promises and blessings would be possessed by their children’s children. What a blessing it was, then, for these people to live to see God’s promises extend that far. And what a blessing grandchildren should be to us even today!
At the same time that we look to the future to see God’s blessings continue to future generations, we ought to look back at our parents and see them as great blessings. As a child I remember sitting with my parents and learning from this very book (Proverbs). I remember them teaching me about God and about correct doctrine. My parents were the most influential teachers in my life and I rejoice that God saw fit to have me raised by such godly people.
“He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends.”
It is far better to forgive and forget sin than to gossip about it. This proverb does not tell us to overlook sin as if it is not important, but it does say that we are not to dwell on it. When we have forgiven people who sin against us we need to forget their sin and not tell others about it. Similarly, if we see a person sinning we should correct them, and if they accept the correction, forget that it ever happened. To tell others about it is to sin along with the person.
“Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool.”
As I have noted previously, the value of rebuke is an ongoing theme in Proverbs. This verse, rather than only repeating what has been said before, expands on the folly of foolishness. Wise people will turn from their sin when they are rebuked and this may help them stop sinning before they come to a point where their sin requires punishment. A foolish man, however, can be severely punished and still be no closer to understanding that he has been sinful. This stresses the importance of attempting to correct others before they have to face punishment for their sin. It also shows the value of accepting rebuke before I need to face punishment.
“The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.”
I have mentioned many times how much I enjoy the imagery used in Proverbs. In this verse the author compares the beginning of contention to releasing water. I am reminded of my youth when I used to play at the beach. As the tide came in we would build sand walls to try to hold back the water along a certain strip of the beach. We would build these walls up and make them as strong as we could and then wait for the water to rise. Soon the waves would begin to lap at the bottom of the wall and would start to pull away some of the sand at the base. We would try to fortify the wall but inevitably the water would rise and continue to beat against it until there was nothing left and all the sand was swept out to sea.
Contention is just like that water. What starts as just a gentle trickle soon becomes a pounding wave that will destroy anything in its path. Wisdom tells us to guard our tongues!
“He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.”
In earlier chapters the author stressed the point that wisdom is sometimes best expressed through silence. In this verse we see again that a wise man knows when to speak and when it is better not to speak. When he keeps his emotions in check he is able to hold his speech and, when opportunity arises, to render wise judgment. Even a fool who realizes the value of holding his tongue may show some potential for wisdom, for he displays at least a degree of discernment.