This is part eighteen 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. Yesterday I learned that God uses difficult times in my life to shape and mould my character and that during these times I need to have a peaceful soul and restrain my tongue. I also learned the value of avoiding strife at all costs.
The predominant theme of chapter eighteen is the dangerous nature of words. Verses 6 through 8 read “A fool’s lips enter into contention, And his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, And his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body.” A foolish man will allow his mouth to get him into trouble. He does not restrain his lips and soon says something he should not have. This leads him into contention and even to exchanging blows. His words eventually lead to his downfall, for they lay a trap for his soul.
We see also that as humans we have a natural taste for gossip. We love to listen to the talebearer and the words he says are like tasty trifles to our souls. Words penetrate to the core of our being, so how much better it is to allow only good words to enter our ears and our hearts than evil words.
“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own esteem.”
The ancient Hebrews understood the name of the LORD to mean far more than just His name. The name of the LORD spoke of His character as a loving God who was faithful to the covenant He made with them. So by running to the name of the LORD, we are to run to Him and to rest in the knowledge that He loves us and will do all that He has promised. We can and should take refuge in His love.
Where the wise man takes refuge in the Lord, a foolish man seeks to find refuge in his wealth. He views his wealth as being a strong city and a high wall that can defend Him from whatever may come his way in life. The wise man, though, knows that God is the controller of wealth and depends on Him.
There are two verses that speak of the value of being attentive and careful listeners. Verse 13 reads “He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.” A foolish man gives his opinion or judgment on a matter before he has fully heard the situation. The lesson for me is to listen attentively and hear a matter out before rendering judgment. The seventeenth verse continues this theme. “The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him.” This passage stresses the value of hearing both sides of a dispute before rendering judgment or forming an opinion. When I have heard only one side I will likely have little reason to doubt the validity of what I have heard. However, to judge the matter based on only one person’s testimony would be foolish, for an examination of the person’s words may prove him to be a liar.
I will close with words from verse 19 which reads “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle.” Using metaphor, the author shows us the value of avoiding contention, for he says it is easier to win a battle against a great, fortified city than it is to win back a brother I have offended. Contention is like strong bars keeping myself away from the one I have offended.
As an aside, and I do not mean to offend any women who may be reading this, but my first thought when I saw this verse was “if a brother is harder to win than a strong city, how much more a sister?” It seems to me women are much harder to win back after being offended than men! Growing up in a household with three sisters I can testify that this is often the case. Where men will often just throw a couple of punches, call it even and then sit down to watch a game of football, women will often carry these offenses for a lifetime.