This is part twenty five in my 31-day study through the book of Proverbs. The purpose of this study is to learn wisdom and discernment from God’s Word. Yesterday I learned that wise people surround themselves with trusted, godly counselors and then heed the counsel of these people during tough times. I also saw that I am to show equal love to both friends and enemies and never rejoice in anyone’s trouble.
Chapter twenty five is prefaced with the words “These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.” Hezekiah was a godly king who lived long after Solomon. During his reign there was a return to the Law of Moses and it seems that there was also a return to emphasis on wisdom. The proverbs were copied, either from existing documents or from oral tradition, so they could be widely distributed.
Verses 6 to 7 read “Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of the great; For it is better that he say to you, “Come up here,” Than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen.” The meaning of these verses is clear and speaks of a continual theme in Proverbs. I am to be humble, lest I bring myself to shame. If I artificially assume a position of great honor but am not worthy of that position, I will have to suffer the humiliation of being rebuked and brought down to my rightful place. However, if I act with humility and place myself in a fitting position, I may receive a promotion to a greater place. It is far better to be exalted than demoted.
“Do not go hastily to court; For what will you do in the end, When your neighbor has put you to shame? Debate your case with your neighbor, And do not disclose the secret to another; Lest he who hears it expose your shame, And your reputation be ruined.” I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I enjoy those “real-life court shows” such as Judge Judy. I am continually amazed at the cases that get brought before the courts and I’m sure this goes a long way to explaining why the judges are always so grouchy. I cannot imagine going to court over a small, almost insignificant debt that a member of my family owes me, yet people continue to present their cases before these judges who then draw out the shameful stories that led to a the injury or accident for which plaintiff now wants restitution. As this proverb says, their secrets are disclosed to the masses, families are torn apart, and their shame is exposed, all for the sake of a few hundred dollars. How much better it is to settle things quietly with wisdom and humility!
Verse 14 speaks of the importance of following through with promises. “Whoever falsely boasts of giving is like clouds and wind without rain.” This verse made me think of a time when my father was without work and a friend stepped forward and offered him a job. When my father showed up at the man’s business he explained that he no longer had any work for him. Just as clouds that bring rain to water the ground and bring relief from heat provide promise, yet often blow right on by, so this man’s job offer just left my father disappointed and disheartened. Humans love to boast about what they can and might do, but to boast about giving without actually committing to giving is folly.
“Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, Lest you be filled with it and vomit. Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house, Lest he become weary of you and hate you.” Though different proverbs, these two follow the same theme: know your limits. Know when to stop. Even something as good as honey can be nauseating when eaten in large quantities. Having friendly relationships with neighbours is wonderful, but continually abusing their hospitality will make them turn on me. A wise person will be able to avoid excess.
Some people always know what to do and say in difficult times while others do not seem to have this ability. I believe I fall squarely into the latter category. Verse 20 speaks about this. “Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, And like vinegar on soda, Is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” Making light of someone else’s pain is often an embarrassed reaction people make when they do not know how to react in times of trouble. Yet this passage shows that to do that is like taking away someone’s garment when it is cold. It is like mixing soda and vinegar (which does two things – it makes a neat chemical reaction that fizzes up for a few moments, but it also renders the soda and vinegar useless). As one seeking to be wise, I need to be careful in times of sorrow, remembering that it is better to say nothing at all and have people believe I’m a fool than to open my mouth and prove it.