Read Proverbs 25:1-14
Some are almost verbatim and others so close that you will think, “Didn’t I just read that?”
There are also some new insights and challenges and guidance.
These first few verses of the 25th chapter talk about kings. In today’s context we may want to translate that to those in authority.
Sometimes authority means power. Sometimes it means mastery of a subject. If you make it all the way through this series, you might be accused of being an authority on the Proverbs.
There is still much mystery to God, but there is joy in those set upon discovery. In Solomon’s day, kings and wise men were dedicated to discovery and learning.
Today it seems that everyone is a philosopher, but so few are called to true exploration and discovery.
Today, we don’t trust those in political power very much. In another time, if you were the king or the governor, then you were expected to make sense out of the mysteries of life and explain them to those who were neither equipped nor called to discover these truths themselves.
In a small way, this is a self-justification and statement of authority for Solomon spending his time writing these quips of wisdom. He is saying, it is my duty and my calling.
But there is a second part to this authority business. The king, the CEO, the boss, the commanding officer, and others in positions of considerable authority have a responsibility to weed out the wicked among them.
Those in authority have to be able to make the tough calls. Every time that I relieved or fired or terminated the contract of someone, I was not sure how others would receive this. More often than not, those who sheepishly said nothing for weeks or months suddenly remarked, “I was wondering how long you were going to put up with that guy.”
As individuals, we are to pray for those in authority. If we find ourselves in authority, we must not tolerate wickedness or wicked people in our charge.
The next proverb deals once again with humility.
Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence,
and do not claim a place among his great men;
it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,”
than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.
Jesus told us the same thing. He said, sit in the least important seat and give your host a chance to upgrade you.
This is not about holiness.
This is not about sinfulness.
This is not about salvation.
This is just wisdom that should be common sense, but if sense were common, everyone would have it.
You have heard the saying, “Actions speak louder than words,” and “Her reputation precedes her.” If your actions and reputations have earned you an important seat, then let you host graciously offer it to you.
The next proverbs once again bring us back to court. Actually, they say, “Stay out of court if you can help it.”
The judge will consider many factors but he is not obliged to see things your way.
If you betray a confidence, the one you betrayed may come out of the woodwork with all sorts of accusations against you and some of them may stick.
In equity, there is something known as the clean hands doctrine. Parties should not seek an equitable judgment unless their part in the legal action was squeaky clean.
It is better to live with some injustice in our lives than to end up dragging all of our dirty laundry into court.
Compare this to what Jesus told us about judging. We can see a speck in the eye of another person and insist that they take care of it. All the while, we have a whole lumberyard in our eyes and don’t seem to be the least bit concerned.
There is another side to this justice coin. That is when justice does exactly what it is designed to do.
Think of the O.J. Simpson case. The system did what it was designed to do. It produced a verdict, but few thought that justice was done.
Think of the George Zimmerman case. The system produced the verdict it was designed to produce and acquitted Mr. Zimmerman, but half of the country didn’t feel that justice was done.
Most of the time, justice is messy business. Things are seldom clear cut.
But on that rare occasion when the accused woman who is truly not guilty is set free with the court’s apologies, then justice rings true.
When the man who was embezzling from the retirement fund of employees is caught, tried, convicted, sentenced, and required to make restitution; then justice rings true.
But even sweeter is the counsel of a judge or wise person when it lands upon a teachable spirit and that person learns not from experience in the school of hard knocks but from this piece of counsel given before the wrong course is selected.
Solomon’s counsels here boils down to something we have been reading and hearing throughout these proverbs. Wise people love good counsel.
It keeps them on the right path.
It keeps them out of court.
Wise counsel received is like a fine piece of jewelry.
The 13th verse talks about a reliable messenger. I can’t think about this verse without thinking about a very short book by Elbert Hubbard, A Message to Garcia. It won’t take you 10 minutes to read this short piece and I won’t try to recap it here, but it ends this way:
Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals.
Anything such a man asks shall be granted. He is wanted in every city, town and village - in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such: he is needed and needed badly - the man who can "Carry a Message to Garcia."
Consider this verse in The Message.
Reliable friends who do what they say
are like cool drinks in sweltering heat—refreshing!
You would think that people who do what they say they will do would be common place. They are not. When you find one of these people, hold on to them for as long as you can. They are in high demand.
The first half of this chapter wraps us with this interesting comparison.
Like clouds and wind without rain
is one who boasts of gifts never given.
If I win the lottery, I will help you out with some lunch money.
If I had a million dollars, I would buy your kid a new coat.
I was going to do that for them but somebody beat me too it.
I won’t mention any names, but once upon a time I called a certain state representative’s office asking for help with the signs in the school zone. I had been to the school and town hall and they couldn’t help. I called the highway department and left many messages but nobody returned my call, so I called my representative.
I was told and present it verbatim, “He is very busy and doesn’t have time for that.”
Once upon a time, I might have reached through the phone and strangled that person, but not on this occasion, I just contacted the Lieutenant Governor’s office.
The sign was moved within the hour.
But the fun part of the story is yet to come. A few weeks later, I received in the mail a letter from my representative telling me how glad he was to help me resolve this issue.
Like clouds and wind without rain
is one who boasts of gifts never given.
In a dry land we understand clouds and wind without rain, and while a little shade and a cool breeze can be nice, they are not the substance of what we need.
What is our counsel in this matter?
Jesus told us that one hand shouldn’t know what the other is doing when it comes to giving. Our hearts don’t need to keep a record of this. Our accountants might need a record for tax purposes, but what we give should be a matter between God and us. We surely don’t announce it.
We do not boast in the gifts that we give, so surely we will not boast in those we don’t give.
Paul told us that the only thing we should really boast in is the salvation that we know in Christ Jesus.
Here’s what we covered:
· Those in authority are charged to lead well and rid their court of the wicked.
· Humility is always a good place to start.
· Justice sought in a courtroom seldom comes out like you hoped it would. It is better to steer clear of such encounters whenever possible.
· Every once in a while, justice will be swift, clear cut, and welcomed by all. Sometimes it just comes out right and everyone knows it.
· Being someone who does what they say is very rare. Value these people. Be these people.
· We don’t need to brag about what we give, and we should don’t need to brag about what we don’t give.