by Sam E. Stone
This month’s studies in Proverbs have been extremely practical—helping us to pursue righteousness, make right choices, and teach values. They have brought us to today’s theme.
Recording the Teaching/Proverbs 25:1
The book of Proverbs contains two groupings of Solomon’s proverbs (10:1–22:16 and 25:1–29:27). The book also includes collections of sayings by other wise people (22:17–24:22 and 24:23-34). We know that Solomon himself wrote more than 3,000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32). This means that, even though this book includes more than 500 of them, hundreds more were not preserved for us.
Hezekiah is remembered as a “good king,” one who encouraged the people to both read and obey Scripture. He was king of Judah from 721 BC—693 BC. The “men of Hezekiah” collected the proverbs of Solomon that we are considering today. The king led a real revival during his reign. He restored the singing of hymns to its proper place in Jewish worship (2 Chronicles 29:30) and obviously was especially interested in both psalms and proverbs. These unnamed scribes of Hezekiah rescued from oblivion the helpful maxims that comprise the next five chapters. Keil suggests that we consider the first collection of proverbs as “a book for youth,” while this second one be considered “a book for the people.”
Relating to the King/Proverbs 25:2-7b
The workings of God and kings are first contrasted: It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. God’s ways are inscrutable (see Deuteronomy 29:29; Romans 11:33-36). A king’s glory is shown as he investigates and solves difficult problems. Men may not be able to understand all that kings do. The hearts of kings are unsearchable. The wise man previously declared, “The king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1). Just as silver is cleansed by removing the dross, so the king must remove all wicked influences from his presence. Then, his throne will be established through righteousness.
All who are under the king’s rule are warned, “Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among great men.” A humble person does not put himself forward, but defers to others. Jesus emphasized this truth when he taught, “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor . . . . But when you are invited, take the lowest place . . . . Then you will be honored in the presence of your fellow guests” (Luke 14:8-10). He concludes, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 11).
Responding to Others/Proverbs 25:7c-10
What you have seen with your eyes do not bring hastily to court. Courtroom shows on television offer ample evidence of the problems that arise when one files a frivolous lawsuit, casts aspersions on another, or gives inaccurate or misleading testimony. Problems always follow! Disputes can be serious and can lead to trouble. Earlier Solomon warned, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out” (Proverbs 17:14).
The prudent individual will think carefully before taking precipitous action (see also 24:6). Hasty speech often brings regret. Caution is needed (see 24:28). Jesus issued a similar warning. Instead of hurrying to court, one should first go personally and privately to an offended neighbor and seek to work things out (see Matthew 18:15-17). Discretion also helps one maintain a good reputation. An offended neighbor can create many real problems for the person who attacks him. Over and over the book of Proverbs warns that we must keep our anger in check (see 14:29; 15:18; 19:11).
While the language used in the proverb speaks of litigation—literally “plead in the law court” (v. 8)—the application is clearly broader. “Contentious and ill-advised actions . . . will only turn to the shame of the person bringing them,” is how one teacher summarized it. The New Testament clarifies the motive that should govern such decisions (see Matthew 18:15-17). Albert Barnes observed, “In the teaching of Christ the precept rests on the Divine Authority and the perfect Example.”
The verse immediately following today’s printed text states a principle that summarizes the theme of this week’s lesson: “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). If we always guard our speech, we will truly be “acting with discernment.”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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