271 - Recovering Some Ancient Proverbs (Proverbs 25–29)
The proverbs of Solomon in chapters 25–29 contain godly wisdom for daily life—what we should avoid, what we should practice, and the attitudes and character we should develop. True success in life will be found through embracing this divinely inspired instruction.
Recovering Some Ancient Proverbs
In our study of Proverbs, we now begin a new section of the book in chapter 25. We are told here in verse 1 that these are more “proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.” Solomon composed these proverbs, but they were collected, copied, and added to this book more than 200 years later by scribes on the payroll of King Hezekiah.
In this section, which runs from chapter 25 through chapter 29, most of the proverbs are presented as contrasts or comparisons. And just like the previous chapters, these are words of wisdom for a variety of things we encounter in life.
Remember, wisdom is the ability to make the right decision at the right time for the right reason. For instance, here in Proverbs 25:7-8, Solomon gives some wisdom on handling a legal dispute. He writes:
What your eyes have seen do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame?
In other words, don’t be so quick to run to court. Many people take others to court, only to see it backfire. Solomon wants you to consider that in rushing to court, whether you win or lose your case, you run the risk of losing your reputation—and your reputation is far more important than winning a case in court.
Solomon goes on to offer a better solution. He says in verses 9-10 to handle the matter personally and quietly if at all possible. Try to settle that case with your neighbor and resolve the issue without throwing mud back and forth in a public courtroom setting.
Solomon also tackles the subject of gossip again in chapter 26. He offers wise counsel, writing in verse 22, “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” Gossip is just about irresistible, isn’t it? Somebody once said that the phrase “This is none of my business” is usually followed by the word “but”—“This is none of my business, but . . .” And then the gossip begins.
Solomon warns in verse 21 that gossip is like wood added to a fire, which produces an even bigger fire than before. The simple solution, by the way, is not to listen to it, because if you don’t listen to it, you will have nothing to repeat.
Here is a rule of thumb that will protect you and many others around you: if you are not part of the problem and you are not part of the solution, stay out of the situation. As Solomon promises in verse 20, without the fuel of gossip, the fire will die out.
Now we find this unique proverb in Proverbs 27:19: “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” In other words, just as you can see your reflection in water, so your heart gives you a reflection of who you really are.
What you treasure, value, love, desire, and pursue is a reflection of your true character, even if you try to convince yourself you are something else. Regular, careful self-examination in light of God’s Word will reveal to us who we are and drive us to repentance and dependance on the Lord.
Along this same line, Proverbs 28:13 warns us and encourages us at the same time to get real with ourselves and before the Lord. Solomon writes, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
We find several character traits emphasized in these five chapters of Proverbs. There are traits to avoid, as well as character traits to develop. On the negative side, there are repeated warnings against conceit, or pride. Look at Proverbs 26:12: “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
No matter how intelligent or talented a person you might be, conceit will make you almost a hopeless case. Why? Well, if you are too proud to listen to counsel, or admit to sin, or see any need for God, you are closing all the avenues of God’s grace intercepting your life. And if you don’t have the grace of God intercepting your life, your life is going to be without hope.
Here is another danger sign about pride in chapter 27: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (verse 1).
This does not condemn the idea of making plans and thinking through tomorrow; rather, the point is that all the wise planning in the world is not going to guarantee tomorrow. That kind of boasting effectively ignores the truth that God is in control. God is ultimately in control of your today, and He is in control of your tomorrow. So, learn to say, as James writes in his letter, “If the Lord wills” or, “If it’s the Lord’s will” (James 4:15).
Solomon goes on to deliver another practical piece of wisdom in verse 2 of chapter 27: “Let another man praise you . . . and not your own lips.”
This is a practice to develop at any age. I remember when our twin sons began playing soccer in elementary school. One of our sons was amazingly talented at scoring and the other son just as good at defending. They would go on in high school to win all-state recognition among the top offensive and defensive players. It was not unusual to watch one of our sons score three or four goals in a game, while his brother defended so well the other team remained scoreless.
Well, you can imagine the conversation on the way home: “Did you see what I did in that play?” “Yeah, and did you see what I did?” My wife was so good to consistently say, “Boys, remember, ‘Let another man praise you, and not your own lips.’”
Let me tell you something, you never outgrow the temptation to say, “Did you see what I did?”
There are so many people who have quit serving the Lord—in the church, on the mission field, in some volunteer role—because they did not get the recognition they felt they deserved. Nobody seemed to notice.
But keep in mind, beloved, the Bible says that the Lord Himself will not “overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name” (Hebrews 6:10). He has not missed one thing you have done for Him.
Here is another promise to encourage you to keep walking in wisdom. Solomon writes in Proverbs 28:18, “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.” Integrity refers to walking uprightly—that is, according to what is right. But those whose ways are crooked—that is, according to what is wrong—are in danger of ruining their lives. And that can happen suddenly; it might happen, so to speak, overnight.
Regardless of the circumstances around you, walking with integrity—following God’s instructions about what is right and wrong—is always going to be the wisest path to walk.
How gracious was God to make sure these five chapters of wisdom were not lost to the ages. He motivated godly King Hezekiah, more than two centuries after Solomon, to put together a team of men to collect and copy down these proverbs so that we would have the benefit of this wisdom to this day.
Here is how to live, how to act, how to view yourself, and how to treat other people. Here is how to make the right decision at the right time for the right reason.
 Gossip: 6:16, 19; 10:12; 11:9, 12–13; 16:27–28; 17:4, 9; 18:8; 20:19; 25:9–10, 23; 26:20–22
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