Proverbs Seventeen

Proverbs 17
WE are carried back to verses 16 and 17 of chapter 15, as we take up the first of the wise sayings in the present section:
1 Better is a thy morsel, and quietness therewith,
Than a house full of sacrifices with strife.
It will be remembered that portions of the peace offerings were eaten by the offerer and his friends. These are the sacrifices referred to. Such a feast would be supposed to indicate great piety on the part of the host and his intimate associates; but if marred by discord and contention, it lost all its precious character. A dry morsel with peace and quietness was much to be preferred to such an unbecoming celebration.
2 A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame,
And shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.
A dependable servant is better than a misbehaving son. The latter can only rightly blame himself if his wronged father give him but an insignificant allowance, or cut him off altogether; while the servant who has been faithful in the performance of his duties is remembered as one of the household. But after all no hired servant can give the joy to the heart of a father that is afforded by an obedient son. See Eliezer (Gen. 15:2, 32And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? 3And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. (Genesis 15:2‑3)).
3 The fining pot is for silver,
And the furnace for gold:
But Jehovah trieth the hearts.
Trials and afflictions are, for the saints of God, what the fining pot and furnace are in the purifying of precious metals. “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6, 76Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 1:6‑7)).
The refiner of silver and the purifier of gold know just what heat is necessary to purge away all dross, and will take care that just the right amount be permitted. So with our God and Father. He desires to free us from the base things of earth, and He allows us to pass through the fires of affliction for that end. But it is precious indeed to know that He sits by the fining pot, waiting till His own image be reflected in the soul; and He walks in the furnace with His persecuted children. See the sons of Levi and the three Hebrew children (Mal. 3:33And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:3); Dan. 3:19-2619Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. 20And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. 23And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 24Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 25He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. 26Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire. (Daniel 3:19‑26)).
4 A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips;
And a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.
When the heart hides iniquity, the ear readily gives heed to lying lips and an evil tongue. The upright in heart learn to know the voice of the deceiver, and to refuse his words; but the unjust and false soul readily falls in with those who are like himself. See the people of Judah and the lying priests and prophets (Jer. 5:30, 3130A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; 31The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? (Jeremiah 5:30‑31)).
5 Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker:
And he that is glad at calamities shall not be held innocent.
Compare with chapter 14:21. The Lord has left the poor always with us that we might be stirred thereby to kindness and consideration for those in less agreeable circumstances than our own. To mock and lightly esteem them because of their poverty is to reproach Him who has permitted our circumstances to be so diverse.
6 Children’s children are the crown of old men;
And the glory of children are their fathers.
God sets the solitary in families. The aged find their youth renewed in their children’s children; while the young revere their fathers, and honor them by obedience to their instructions. This is the ideal household, where government is administered according to God, and love ruler all hearts. Happy the home where the divine pattern is exemplified. See Jacob and the sons of Joseph (Gen. 48:8-228And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who are these? 9And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them. 10Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them. 11And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath showed me also thy seed. 12And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. 13And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near unto him. 14And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn. 15And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, 16The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. 17And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head. 18And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. 19And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. 20And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. 21And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. 22Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow. (Genesis 48:8‑22)).
7 Excellent speech becometh not a fool:
Much less do lying lips a noble.
Good words from the mouth of an evil man are distasteful and out of place, for the life fails to back them up. There is a sense of dissimulation about them that is very repugnant to an upright soul. On the other hand, noblesse oblige (rank imposes obligation). Falsehood coming from one who is looked up to as a leader of the people is even more to be decried. Men feel instinctively that he who leads others should be real himself. They will overlook lack of ability, an absence of brilliancy, or of natural or acquired talent; but unreality they will never forgive. It was this sense of the fitness of things that made men ask in derision, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” when his lips uttered “excellent things” (1 Sam. 10:10-1210And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. 11And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets? 12And one of the same place answered and said, But who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets? (1 Samuel 10:10‑12)). The same feeling has caused the unconverted to remember with scorn Abraham’s denial of his wife. The very fact of his exalted position causes his sin to be the more marked (Gen. 20:1-131And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. 2And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. 3But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife. 4But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? 5Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. 6And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. 7Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine. 8Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid. 9Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. 10And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? 11And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake. 12And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. 13And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt show unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother. (Genesis 20:1‑13)).
8 A gift is a stone of grace in the eyes of him that hath it:
Whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.
A gift presented as a token of pure affection and esteem will be highly valued by its possessor, and will pave the way for much that is of value. He who would find love, should be a giver—not a mere receiver. But see verse 23. Jonathan’s gifts to David cemented their friendship by expressing the love that was in his heart (1 Sam. 18:3, 43Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle. (1 Samuel 18:3‑4)).
Spiritually, we are reminded that Christ has ascended on high and given gifts unto men—not to be used for self-aggrandizement, but to be of service to the Church. Rightly employed, however, the gift truly will be a store of grace, giving acceptance to him who has it, among those who value what is of God.
9 He that covereth a transgression seeketh love;
But he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.
See remarks on chapters 10:12; 11:13; and 25:23. He who covers transgression is an imitator of God, and will be loved by all. He who repeats a matter to the detriment of another, takes for his pattern that evil spirit who is called “the accuser of our brethren.”
To cover a transgression, however, does not mean to make light of sin and allow iniquity to go unrebuked in another. It is, on the contrary, to go to the erring one personally in tenderness and brotherly kindness; to seek to exercise his conscience as to that in his course which is bringing dishonor upon his Lord. If such a mission is successful, the sin should never again be mentioned. It is covered, and none other need know of it.
Alas that this is so seldom carried out among us! Evil is spread abroad; backbiting goes on in secret; and thus many are defiled, love wanes, and fellowship is destroyed.
The one who goes about repeating things for which there is no real necessity, is in a wretched business indeed. He separates true friends by his detestable practices, and casts reproach upon the name of the Lord. It is a pity the people of God are not more awake to the evil character of the talebearer. He should be shunned as a polluted leper who will defile all who listen to him.
God alone can safely hear the sad story of a brother’s shame. Into His ear it can all be poured, coupled with earnest prayer for the restoration of the one who has gone astray. To persist in retailing accounts of evil-doing to fellow-saints is but to distress and injure those who are persuaded to listen. Few indeed are the men who can eat the sin offering in the holy place, and who, hearing of a brother’s wrongdoing, will take it to heart, and make it an occasion for self-judgment and confession on their own part to the Lord.
Someone has said, that, if tempted to relate unsavory things of an absent person, it is well to ask mentally three questions: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? To these a fourth might well be added: Have I told him about it personally? We fancy the effect of this would be to shut off an immense amount of sinful gossiping.
Nathan was one who could reprove in the fear of God, and cover when repentance was manifest (2 Sam. 12). In Sanballat we see the typical whisperer endeavoring to separate Nehemiah and his brethren by shaking their confidence in his integrity (Neh. 6).
10 A reproof entereth more into a wise man
Than a hundred stripes into a fool.
Chastise the fool severely, and he maintains his self-complacency still; but gently reprove a wise man, and he will take it to heart. The one is so thoroughly enamored of his own poor judgment that he can conceive of none more capable than himself. The other realizes his own limitations, in measure at least, and is thankful for advice and correction. Contrast Abimelech and Herod (Gen. 21:25, 2625And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away. 26And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to day. (Genesis 21:25‑26); Luke 3:1919But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, (Luke 3:19)).
11 An evil man seeketh only rebellion:
Therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.
12 Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man,
Rather than a fool in his folly.
13 Whoso rewardeth evil for good,
Evil shall not depart from his house.
Nothing galls a haughty, insubject man more than to be held in restraint by lawful authority. He breathes the air of treason and rebellion; therefore he must be dealt with in severity. To contend with him is like battling with an enraged beast that has been robbed of its offspring. He will repay good with evil; therefore evil shall not depart from his house. “He that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.”
Note the ways and doom of Joab when he became lifted up in his own eyes (1 Kings 2:28-3428Then tidings came to Joab: for Joab had turned after Adonijah, though he turned not after Absalom. And Joab fled unto the tabernacle of the Lord, and caught hold on the horns of the altar. 29And it was told king Solomon that Joab was fled unto the tabernacle of the Lord; and, behold, he is by the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him. 30And Benaiah came to the tabernacle of the Lord, and said unto him, Thus saith the king, Come forth. And he said, Nay; but I will die here. And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me. 31And the king said unto him, Do as he hath said, and fall upon him, and bury him; that thou mayest take away the innocent blood, which Joab shed, from me, and from the house of my father. 32And the Lord shall return his blood upon his own head, who fell upon two men more righteous and better than he, and slew them with the sword, my father David not knowing thereof, to wit, Abner the son of Ner, captain of the host of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, captain of the host of Judah. 33Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab, and upon the head of his seed for ever: but upon David, and upon his seed, and upon his house, and upon his throne, shall there be peace for ever from the Lord. 34So Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up, and fell upon him, and slew him: and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness. (1 Kings 2:28‑34)).
14 The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water:
Therefore leave off contention before it becometh vehement.
A leak in a dike that could be stopped with a pebble, if noticed at the beginning, will, if neglected, grow greater and greater until, at last, the inrushing waters will carry all before them. So it is with strife. How many a lifelong contention has begun with a few hasty words, which, if repented of and apologized for at once, would have been healed immediately, and years of sorrow averted. The Spirit of God has said, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Eph. 4:2626Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: (Ephesians 4:26)). If this simple rule were literally obeyed, what untold heartaches would be avoided! Happy the man who lays his head upon his pillow nightly with the knowledge that there are no hasty actions or angry words unrepented of and unconfessed to any who have been offended, and who might have been alienated forever if the breach had not been made up at once in the fear of God. When days and weeks of charges and countercharges are succeeded by months of crimination and recrimination, reconciliation is a hard and difficult matter to bring about. Far better is it to humble oneself and take wrong, if need be, at the beginning, than to grieve the Holy Spirit of God and lacerate the hearts of beloved saints by a long period of un-Christlike wrangling which will leave wounds that never can be healed; or, if healed, scars that never can be effaced. See Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:35-4035Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. 36And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. 37And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. 39And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. (Acts 15:35‑40)).
15 He that justifieth the lawless,
And he that condemneth the just,
Even they both are abomination to Jehovah.
To justify the wicked and to condemn the righteous is to call evil good, and good evil (Isa. 5:2020Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)). Jehovah would have judgment according to truth. What is opposed to this is an abomination. Observe that to justify necessarily means to clear, or to declare righteous; not, as some theologians would have it, to make righteous. God justifies the ungodly on the basis of Christ’s finished work; that is, He clears guilty sinners of every charge when they trust His Son, turning to Him in repentance. Making such to be practically upright in their lives is a different thing. It results from justification, but it is not that in itself. This is a distinction of vast importance if we would understand aright the Christian doctrines of grace as set forth in the letters to the Romans and the Galatians.
Here, to justify the lawless is to wink at sin and to pass by iniquity without a suited atonement; while to condemn the just is to impute evil where it is not found. To so do is intolerable in the sight of Him who is the righteous Judge. This was Pilate’s dreadful sin, when, in order to please the people, he released Barabbas and condemned Jesus, albeit declaring His innocence a few moments before (Matt. 27:24-2624When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. 26Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. (Matthew 27:24‑26)).
16 Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom,
Seeing he hath no sense (lit., heart)?
It is useless for one who does not set his heart upon the acquisition of wisdom to endeavor to learn it by rote. No price can purchase it, if the senses be not exercised to discern between good and evil. A fool may grasp certain forms of knowledge, by dint of study and intellectual application; but this is a very different thing from having the reins of the being possessed by understanding. We only know truth as we walk in it. See Simon Maus (Acts 8:18, 1918And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:18‑19)).
17 A friend loveth at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.
Involuntarily the Christian’s heart turns from any human example, however true and devoted, and calls up one Friend whose love the many waters of judgment could not quench, neither could the floods of wrath drown it. Our Lord Jesus Christ is that Friend, whose love changes not, and who is preeminently a Brother born for adversity.
In thus writing of Him, one would not for a moment countenance the mawkish sentimentality which so forgets the dignity of His person as to call Him our “Elder Brother,” and apply to Him similar unscriptural titles. But as a devoted brother can be depended on in the day of adversity, so can He be ever counted upon in the hour of need and trial. “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:11Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. (John 13:1)).
“His is an unchanging love,
Higher than the heights above;
Deeper than the depths beneath,
True and faithful, strong as death.”
It is unspeakably precious for the soul to abide in His love. If one doubt come in to obscure the full splendor of His undying affection, joy and peace will give place to gloom and foreboding. But when nothing is permitted to hinder the enjoyment of that perfect love that casteth out fear, life is sweet indeed, and communion with Him dearer far than any human friendship can afford.
There is no question but that many saints have trusted Him as their Saviour, who do not really know Him as a living, loving Friend—One who enters into all their griefs and would share all their joys. It is when He is known in this character that the difficulties of the pilgrim path can be faced with equanimity, and the heart can confide in Him in every hour of trial. See Proverbs 18:2424A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24).
18 A man bereft of heart striketh hands,
And becometh surety for his friend.
See notes on Proverbs 6:1-5; 11:151My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, 2Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth. 3Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend. 4Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. 5Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler. (Proverbs 6:1‑5)
15He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure. (Proverbs 11:15)
. It is the lack of sound judgment that leads one to go surety for another in the light of the repeated warnings of the word of God; unless, indeed, he is quite prepared to lose, and can well afford it. “Heart” is used throughout this portion of the Scriptures very much as, in everyday language, we speak of common sense. It must be so understood here. (See verse 16, above.) Paul went surety for Onesimus, as Judah did for Benjamin; but each had counted the cost, and was ready to pay the uttermost farthing (Philemon 18, 1918If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; 19I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. (Philemon 18‑19); Gen. 42:37; 44:3237And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again. (Genesis 42:37)
32For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever. (Genesis 44:32)
).
19 He loveth transgression that loveth a quarrel:
And he that exalteth his entrance seeketh destruction.
20 He that hath a froward heart findeth no good:
And he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.
There are those who delight in contention, and who thereby manifest their love for their own ways, being impatient of restraint. In their haughtiness, they make high their gates, thus inviting destruction; for, exalting themselves, they are near to a fall. Having a froward heart, they find only evil, their perverse tongues continually stirring up mischief. Ha-nun, proud and defiant, had to prove this to the full, as narrated in 2 Samuel 10.
21 He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow:
And the father of a fool hath no joy.
Such a verse requires no comment. It is an unhappy fact; so patent, that all may realize it. David’s grief over Absalom is proof of its truthfulness (2 Sam. 18:3333And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son! (2 Samuel 18:33)). See also ver. 25.
22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:
But a broken spirit drieth the bones.
See Proverbs 15:13, 1513A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. (Proverbs 15:13)
15All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15)
. Nothing breaks the system like gloom and melancholy. When the heart is filled with joy, the whole being is refreshed thereby. The merriment of the Christian is far more real than the mere frivolity of the worldling. He is able in all circumstances to rejoice in the Lord, and thus be lifted above what would depress and weigh down the soul. Then, in place of manifesting his happiness in the empty ways of the world, he can sing and make melody in his heart unto the source and object of his gladness. “Is any merry? let him sing psalms” (James 5:1313Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. (James 5:13)). The man of the world has to resort to various expedients to relieve his uneasiness and rouse his spirits. Hence his eager participation in all kinds of diversions; the object of which is to enable him, for the time being, to forget. On the contrary, it is when the child of God remembers his place and portion in Christ that his joy overflows. Contrast the different states of the unknown writer of Psalm 116 when occupied with himself, and when faith soared up to God.
23 A lawless man taketh a bribe out of the bosom,
To pervert the ways of judgment.
Secretly the lawbreaker, conscious of his evildoing, would endeavor, by a gift, to bribe those who are called to sit in judgment on his crimes. Such a course is a tacit acknowledgment of guilt. It is hard indeed to deal faithfully with a man to whom one is indebted for a favor. Therefore the need of sternly refusing ought from those who are bent upon a sinful course. It was when the king of Babylon sent letters and a present to Hezekiah that even so godly a king as he was taken off his guard, and acted without seeking counsel of Jehovah, as he had so readily done when it was a letter of blasphemy he had received (Isa. 39:11At that time Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered. (Isaiah 39:1), and contrast chapter 37:14).
24 Wisdom is before him that hath understanding
But the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.
Concentration of mind upon the one great object of gaining the knowledge of the Lord, and walking with Him; this is the wisdom that absorbs the man of understanding. The fool, with no settled purpose, wanders aimlessly here and there, tasting of various theories, getting a smattering of everything, but all to no purpose. Of such are those against whom Paul warned Timothy, men who “heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears,” but who, after all, have no heart for the truth of God (which alone is wisdom), so are turned unto fables, “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” The very opposite was that which characterized the great apostle himself, who could say, “One thing I do!” (See Phil. 3:1313Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, (Philippians 3:13).)
25 A foolish son is a grief to his father,
And bitterness to her that bare him.
See chapter 10:1, and notice verse 21, above. The young man is not the only, nor by any means the greatest, sufferer, when he throws discretion to the winds, and plunges into folly and vice.
The poignant grief of his father’s heart, and the bitter disappointment of his mother, are sorrows too deep for words to express. To have brought into the world one who despises their love, and overleaps all restraint, is terrible indeed. Alas, that it so little affects the haughty, stubborn heart of the wayward youth who plunges recklessly on, adding grief to grief, and woe to woe! See the stubborn and rebellious son of Deuteronomy 21:18-2018If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: 19Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; 20And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. (Deuteronomy 21:18‑20).
26 Also to punish the just is not good,
Nor to strike nobles because of uprightness.
The perversion of justice on the part of the prince who punishes the good man, or on the part of the subject who strikes the noble because of his uprightness, are alike evil. Neither is rare in this world, for it has been a common thing to take vengeance on innocent men in order to shield guilty ones, and to revolt against God-fearing princes because their peaceable ways were opposed to the lawless, restless spirit of the age. See the account of Ishmael’s assassination of the upright prince, Gedaliah, and then his massacre of the fourscore men from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria. lest they make his crime known (Jer. 41:1-71Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah. 2Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land. 3Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war. 4And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it, 5That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the Lord. 6And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went forth from Mizpah to meet them, weeping all along as he went: and it came to pass, as he met them, he said unto them, Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. 7And it was so, when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them, and cast them into the midst of the pit, he, and the men that were with him. (Jeremiah 41:1‑7)).
27 He that hath knowledge spareth his words:
And a man of understanding is of a quiet spirit.
28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise:
And he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
See notes on Proverbs 12:2323A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness. (Proverbs 12:23) and 15:2. It is the simpleton who is always babbling. The man who has knowledge will not be continually airing his acquirements. He is of a quiet spirit, and can bide his time. A man who must always be talking is generally one whose grasp of things in general is very slight; and, among Christians, an ever-running tongue certainly is no commendation to the discerning. He whose knowledge is limited is esteemed wise when his words are few. One who lives in the fear of God sets a value upon words that the careless soul cannot understand; for he remembers that “for every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Even that which he has experienced of God’s love and favor is not always to be told lightly to others. Paul seems to have kept for fourteen years the secret of his having been caught up to the third heaven, till a seasonable time came to relate it (2 Cor. 12:1-71It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 6For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. 7And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. (2 Corinthians 12:1‑7)). Note the self-control of Elisha in this respect when going out after Elijah (2 Kings 2:33And the sons of the prophets that were at Beth-el came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. (2 Kings 2:3)).