Proverbs 27:3 says,
A stone is heavy, and sand is a burden; but the irritation a stupid fool causes is heavier than both.
Like many other proverbs, this is a wise observation to be considered when thinking or acting. Can you imagine a situation where a tragedy has occurred, and on hand is a stupid fool attempting to bend the ear of one who is deeply affected by it by telling him all about his score on the latest video game?
Such a person is irritating all right!
There are always those who wonder about the “promises” in the book of Proverbs—you know, those in which it seems to say, “If you fear God and serve Him rightly, you’ll get long life, your enemies will be at peace with you,” etc. They say, “I know people for whom they didn’t come true.” What’s the answer to this objection?
Simply this: they are not promises.
“What are they?”
Look at them carefully—they are observations. They don’t say “If you do so-and-so, then God will do such and such. Instead, they say, “A man did so-and-so, and so God did thus-and-thus.” Not all Proverbs are like this, but after chapter ten, you will find as many as several chapters in which every verse is. I call them FYI chapters. They provide information about how things usually workout in God’s providence. However, they make no promises. Read them as FYI verses, and you’ll find there is no difficulty!
A soft answer turns away wrath.
But a foolish word stirs up anger.
Every time I read that Proverb, I think of Ping Pong.
Oh . . . it just seems to illustrate the principle in the proverb so well!
“Don’t get it.”
You see, many Proverbs are pictured principles of portable truth.
“What about Ping Pong?”
Oh! Here’s what I meant. One player slams a ball as hard as he can. What happens after that?
This collection, provided for us by the Lord under the title we have given to it, is extraordinary. Thirty-one chapters of solid help for living in ways to please God can be found nowhere else in such concise form. Yet, it has been neglected by theologians and laymen alike. So, it is probably wise (a word that characterizes the book) now and then to say a word or two about it.
First, not all of it is the same. The first nine chapters are more-or-less essays (of varying lengths) on one subject or another. These must be exegeted contextually as must other Scripture. There is nothing difficult or esoteric (e.g., apocalyptic style or form) about them. Then, we have the rest of the book which, apart from the essay on the remarkable woman (Chapter 31), consists of couplets on various subjects. These are not arranged topically. Now and them, you may find a series of several couplets which do address the same subject, but this is the exception, not the rule. The section on the neglected property of the lazy man (24:30-37) is a powerful vignette that, together with the provisions of the one who does care (24:30-34), give us much to think about. But such potions are rare.
The righteous person giving way to the wicked is like a polluted spring and a ruined fountain.
This powerful proverb is one for the conservative church today. Too often, by not speaking up, by failure to avow the truth, and in dozens of other ways, it is demonstrated to be true.
In Palestine, with many areas in which water was at a premium, a spring was a valuable item. To pollute it was a horrible act—a crime that meant the possible death of many who depended on it for the water of life. So, the words to an American today, who has no such vital need, may seem inconsequential. They were not to those in biblical times.
Does it trouble you to see those that you thought were mature Christians go off the deep end in one way or another?
“Yes. Is that because they never were Christians in the first place?”
Sometime, but not always.
“How else does it happen?”
Listen to one common way mentioned in Proverbs 19:27:
My son, stop listening to discipline and you will wander from the ways of knowledge.
Say what you will, it seems a bit unusual to me.
What you find in the third section of Proverbs (22:17–24:34). There are 25 sentences that begin with “Don’t,” while there are hardly any elsewhere in the rest of the Book.
Perhaps a better word is “striking.” You know, that section contains all of these important commands and warnings, yet no one—so far as I know—has ever written anything that analyzes the fact. I’d like to understand why they proliferate in this section, to know if there is some special significance in the phenomenon.
“Are you thinking of writing a book about it?”
The thought crossed my mind, but I’d have to understand the reasons behind the fact, and determine whether or not there is some special significance to it. I’d surely welcome someone else doing it though.
“Could you mention one of the verses?”
Sure. Here’s one: “Don’t eat a stingy man’s food; and don’t desire his delicacies.”
“Neat! That’s a double-header.”
And not the only one, either.
“Sounds like it would be interesting to study this section with all of its ‘don’ts.'”