Golden Apples

Proverbs 25:11-12.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.” (KJV).

A Word Fitly Spoken: Timely Advice

I love the Bible. Not just because it is God’s Word, giving us wisdom for living life and teaching us how to get to Heaven – but also because of the majestic, poetic symbolism the Holy Spirit uses to communicate truth with us. In Proverbs 25:11, Solomon (under the inspiration of God’s Spirit) tells us that someone who gives a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. The New Living Translation says: “Timely advice is as lovely as golden apples in a silver basket.” It’s sweet. It’s beautiful. It’s awesome.

Words are powerful! I have experienced many times the truth of Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Every word that we speak can bring life – comfort, encouragement, and hope – or it can bring death – depression, discouragement, or hopelessness. I have had people lie about me, gossip about me, and slander my name, and I know how much it has discouraged and frustrated me. How much it has caused me to want to give up.

But I have also experienced the flip side of the coin – words of encouragement, timely advice, words fitly spoken, that have been sweet, beautiful and awesome. I have people in my life who encourage me – whether it is through spoken words, handwritten cards, or an e-mail note or Facebook message. I believe it was Mark Twain who said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” That’s so true!

An Earring of Gold: Valid Criticism:

In Proverbs 25:12, Solomon tells us that a wise reprover upon an obedient ear is like a golden earring. In other words, “Valid criticism is as treasured by the one who heeds it as jewelry made from finest gold.” (NLT). Not only do we need words to encourage us when we are doing well, but there are times when we need good friends who will speak the truth in love and let us know when we’re messing up in our lives. Their goal isn’t to hurt or destroy us, but to help keep us on the straight and narrow. Such people are more valuable than precious jewels.

It would be nice if every time a wise person corrected their friend that they would be met with an obedient ear, willing to respond to that correction, but that is not always the case. Sometimes even when we speak the truth in love, people will reject that truth because they don’t want to change. That’s unfortunate!

Lord, give us people in our lives who will speak encouraging words of life to build us up and encourage us when we need it. But also give us people in our lives who will be wise reprovers, who will challenge us when we get into sin or error, and help us to have an obedient ear that is open to correction. Amen!


I’ll Make You Famous!

Proverbs 25:8-10.

“Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame. Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.” (KJV).
“Don’t be in a hurry to go to court. You might go down before your neighbors in shameful defeat.  So discuss the matter with them privately. Don’t tell anyone else, or others may accuse you of gossip. Then you will never regain your good reputation.” (NLT). 

I’ll Make You Famous!

billy the kid

The fall after I graduated from high school (in 1990), I went to Calgary for two weeks to spend some time with my biological dad. Because he and my mom were divorced before I was five years old, his involvement in my life was minimal, and I never really knew him well. However, during this trip, I spent two weeks living with my dad, getting to know him for the first time.

One of the things I remember about my visit with my dad was that we saw the western movie Young Guns II together. The movie tells the story of the infamous Billy the Kid, and the movie ends with this main character, played by Emelio Estevez, saying, “I’ll make you famous!” However, there’s a big difference between being famous and infamous.

Dealing with Offenses:

In the days of cowboys and cattle drives in the Wild West (so Hollywood would have us believe) all disagreements were quickly dispatched with a six-gun. But the Bible gives us better ways to deal with our hurts and offenses!

In today’s Scripture, Solomon tells us to be careful about running to court to sue someone who hurts or offends you. Instead, he says we should go and talk to that person first and try to work it out with them. Jesus taught the same thing in Matt. 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”

It’s unfortunate that nowadays, when someone does something wrong to somebody, they turn around and gossip, slander them, lie about them, or blog about them. God’s Word has a lot of strong warnings against those who would gossip! “A gossip goes around revealing secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence” (Proverbs 11:13). In today’s Proverb, Solomon says that if we start gossiping, our “infamy” will not turn away.

Do you want to be Infamous?

That word infamy means extremely bad reputation, public reproach, or strong condemnation as the result of a shameful, criminal, or outrageous act. If you are a gossip who stirs up strife, be careful, because you may never again regain your good reputation. Gossip says, “I’ll make you famous!” Or is that… infamous?


In the Presence of the King

Proverbs 25:1-7

1 These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.
2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.
3 The heaven for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of kings is unsearchable.
4 Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.
5 Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.
6 Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:
7 For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.

Hezekiah was the son of King Ahaz. King Ahaz did not cover himself in glory. (The story of Ahaz is told in 2 Kings 16:10-18 and 2 Chronicles 28:16-25.) Because Ahaz was a foolish man the people he ruled suffered as foreign armies invaded the land of Judah. A key verse is 2 Chronicles 28:19 (NLT):

The Lord was humbling Judah because of King Ahaz of Judah, for he had encouraged his people to sin and had been utterly unfaithful to the Lord.

King Hezekiah did not follow his father’s example. He did not get everything right, but as a young man of twenty-five he quickly set about putting right the wrongs of his father. Idols were removed and destroyed, and the Temple that had been boarded up by Ahaz was reopened for worship. It seems that Hezekiah took note of the wisdom of Solomon to the extent that he had the Proverbs of Solomon reproduced as part of his commitment to following God (Proverbs 25:1). Scripture records that:

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. (2 Kings 18:5-7 NLT)

As a King, Hezekiah was well placed to understand the importance of not indulging in an attitude of over-importance. Jesus drew on verses six and seven when he was at a feast and observed people fighting for the best place at the head of the table (Luke 14:7-14). Jesus suggested that the best place to be is the foot of the table. But that was before He died. Today the best place to be is at the foot of the cross. If we dare to look up we will see that the cross is empty. The King of kings is no longer nailed to that cross, but reaching out to take our hand. It is only when we humble ourselves before Him that He reaches down to us in this way. As it says in verse 7 above:

For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen. 


Don’t Be Lazy!

Proverbs 24:30-34.

“I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.” (KJV). 

The Fields Preached a Sermon:

In today’s Proverb, Solomon describes a story from his personal life. He tells about a time he was walking by the field of a simple, lazy man, and – no surprise – it was overgrown with weeds, the fence was knocked down, and there was no fruit. The lesson he learned? If you are lazy, and spend all your time napping, you will become poor really quickly, and you won’t be able to do anything about it. What a great lesson for today’s generation!

lazy

Today’s Lazy Young People:

I don’t know about you, but I have noticed that a lot of young people today lack any sort of work ethic. They don’t want to do anything, and they want everyone to do everything for them. There is a song by Bruno Mars that I think so perfectly captures the spirit of today’s generation: “Today I don’t feel like doing anything, I just want to lay in my bed.” It is aptly named simply “The Lazy Song.”

I know that I am greatly (and perhaps unfairly so) generalizing here, as I know that there are many young people who are diligent and hard-working. However, such persons are so rare that when they are seen, they are taken as a notable exception to their peers, and are looked upon as extraordinary.

The Book of Proverbs has a lot of warnings to the lazy man (or woman):

  • 12:24: The hand of the diligent will rule, But the lazy man will be put to forced labor.
  • 12:27: The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, But diligence is man’s precious possession.
  • 13:4: The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.

Application: How Then Shall We Live?

First of all, if you’re 30 years old and still live in your mom’s basement playing video games all day long – go out and get a job! (That challenge is only partly tongue-in-cheek). God’s Word challenges us to be diligent and hard-working people, and warns against a lazy lifestyle. The Bible says, “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Colossians 3:23, NLT).

If you work hard and are diligent, God will bless you. So don’t be lazy!


Victim Lawyers

Proverbs 24:28-29

28 Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.
29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.

Perhaps you remember my last entry from a few days ago, Pray for Your Enemies and the few since then. There is a common theme that is continued here, a theme dealing with envy and revenge and, ultimately, pride.

Perhaps you have heard of those so-called “victim lawyers” who look for ways to sue people and/or businesses for supposed infractions on freedoms or services received. Even though there is rarely solid cause for these lawsuits, there are enough times when the “victims” win their cases. This causes fear and confusion for many, causing pushed up prices, changes to things (often for the worse), or closing good businesses.

Some of these lawyers do it for fun, while others do it because they have been wronged before and wish to help others no matter the social cost.

The Great Accuser

There is one who does this against each and every person, but with much greater consequences and cost to the individuals.

Sadly, much of his accusations are true.

Thankfully, we have a better lawyer … if we are Christians. The Devil, the one full of pride and envy of the love we give God, accuses us of our sins straight to God, yet he does not have the ultimate victory over us who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior from our sins.

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.

11 They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.

12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.”
Revelation 12:10-12, NIV

Our Father, help us to live like the father of lies. Remove all envy and malice, hatred and pride from our hearts. Create in us hearts that do not want to bring shame to our neighbor and lead to our destruction, but hearts that are full of love and may help lead others to everlasting life, in Jesus name.


Prior Planning and Preparation

Proverbs 24:27 

Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.
Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. (NIV)

photoA very good friend of mine is building his retirement home at the moment. I have to admit that Frank has certain advantages as a trained carpenter who has worked in construction all his life. He also has experience, having built his first house forty years ago. Frank sold that house when his father died and moved into his dad’s bungalow. Directly behind his father’s home there was an orchard. Frank cleared the orchard and some old outbuildings, and got planning permission to build a large garage with an adjoining workshop. This was designed and constructed so that it would comply with the rules for a residential building, with the aim of one day converting the garage/workshop. That work is currently underway. A new smaller garage has been completed and the former garage/workshop extended and altered internally. The roof is now complete, windows were being fitted last week, and under-floor heating has been installed.

A great deal of planning has gone into Frank’s new home over a number of years. There has been wise financial planning, and much forethought on many levels, including the need to comply with past and present building regulations. Without this level of planning Frank would not have been able to build his new house.

Thinking about this proverb and the way that Frank has planned reminds me of another carpenter, and the amount of prior planning and preparation that preceded His arrival in the world 2,000 years ago. God didn’t just have a bright idea one day in Heaven. He planned for His Son to visit our planet in human form before He created the Universe. Furthermore, God’s attention to even the smallest detail meant that He planned the writing of this Proverbial Thought and He knew who would read it. I find that absolutely mind blowing. Having planned and prepared God then built His house. Jesus told us that it has many rooms; and that there is a room in His Father’s house for each of us. It gets better. Jesus paid the rent up front, in full.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4 NIV)

Kissing the Truth

Proverbs 24:23-26

These things also [belong] to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment. He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him: But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them. Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.

Ultimate Turnoff

There are a lot of things which we could cover in today’s proverb, but I will focus on only one: attraction.

What attracts you to other people? Their good looks? Their personality? Their sense of humor? You could probably create a long list of attractive qualities, but the last on your list, I would bet, is prejudice. And more than that, I bet people who lie on the witness stand or render prejudiced verdicts from the bench disgust you, don’t they?

According to this proverb, those who call the wicked “righteous” and let criminals walk free are the scum of the earth. Nobody likes them (except the wicked). People from all walks of life “abhor” prejudicial judgment; it’s the ultimate turnoff.

Ultimate Attraction

According to verse 26 the most attractive thing is truth. Now, I am not one who goes around kissing everyone who gives me a correct answer. For instance, I’ve never kissed anyone who gave me truthful directions. I’ve never kissed my daughters every time they answered a spelling question correctly.

When I asked my dog, “Did you do this!?” I did not kiss his wet nose the moment he bowed his head in guilt. But, I did kiss my wife when she said, “I will.” I assumed that was the right answer.

What Solomon is trying to express is the refreshing joy we feel when someone tells the truth, especially when the wicked are being judged. Truth makes the system work. Truth gives us hope. Truth brings justice. Truth is not prejudicial. That is why the wise are drawn to it.

Note: Isn’t it interesting that Judas, the most abhorred man in history, betrayed Truth with a kiss? (Matthew 25:48-49)