Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs
[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 17 ESV”]
Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.
2 A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully
and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the Lord tests hearts.
4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
5 Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker;
he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.
7 Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
still less is false speech to a prince.
8 A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it;
wherever he turns he prospers.
9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
10 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
than a hundred blows into a fool.
11 An evil man seeks only rebellion,
and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
12 Let a man meet a she- bear robbed of her cubs
rather than a fool in his folly.
13 If anyone returns evil for good,
evil will not depart from his house.
14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
16 Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom
when he has no sense?
17 A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.
18 One who lacks sense gives a pledge
and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.
19 Whoever loves transgression loves strife;
he who makes his door high seeks destruction.
20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
21 He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
and the father of a fool has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
23 The wicked accepts a bribe in secret
to pervert the ways of justice.
24 The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
25 A foolish son is a grief to his father
and bitterness to her who bore him.
26 To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good,
nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.
27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
Proverbs 17:2 A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
The obvious first application to be noticed here is how this pictures redemption. Those who hear and believe the Gospel, are given the power to become Sons of God. Though we are but servants to the Creator, we become adopted sons and daughters through the Cross-work of Jesus: “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11–13) The glory of this mystery is unfathomable. We are not just adherents, members, citizens, creatures or worshipers, we are children of the most high, in a relationship to God the Father as close to that of the second member of the Trinity as we can be, without actually being divine ourselves. And this, due to the fact that the Gentiles are grafted in to the promises of Abraham through faith in Christ Jesus. “Hear God, and inherit all He promises” is the call. Even if those to whom the promises were originally given failed to obtain it. “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened” (Romans 11:7).
What an amazing salvation we have in Jesus – and to what heights of walking within those realities and privileges ought we to aspire.
But secondly, we have an historic record of how this principle plays itself out in the most tragic of ways.
Moses had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. As Levites, they belonged to the priestly class. Yet it fell to neither one of them to take Moses’ place. That honor goes not to one of the sons – but to the servant, Joshua. Joshua who distinguished himself in his wise dealing and seeking after God in his service to Moses all his days. On a side note, this is a caution about building ministerial dynasties in the Church today. Being someone’s son or daughter gives no one some spiritual right to a ministerial position, any more than being a son or daughter automatically excludes them. But each must stand on their own record of seeking and following the Lord in fidelity.
What becomes of these two, Gershom and Eliezer? Little is told to us but what we read in Judges. Judges 18:30–31 “And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. 31 So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.”
This is extremely important. From the time of Moses’ grandson, all the way until the Assyrian captivity of the northern tribes, idolatry had been tolerated among some of “God’s people”. As it appears, Moses’ own offspring at the very least had no counter influence to be noted against this idolatry, and at worst, they were complicit if not participants as the text would seem to imply. And all this happened while The Tabernacle was still present among them and in full use. It is positively mind-boggling.
But this too is not without an example of astounding grace and patience on behalf of our God. For The Lord will wait hundreds of years before sending the Assyrians to devastate them over this unrepentant use of idols along side of claiming to serve the Living God. They will still be part of Israel’s united kingdom under David’s leadership and halcyon era of Solomon’s. All the while, this corruption is never addressed by them, never abandoned. How tragically sin makes its appearance, indeed builds its own tent along side of God’s.
But how patient God is. How long He strives with them. How he sends prophet after prophet and chastening after chastening and blessing upon blessing upon blessing before He takes drastic action. And even then with the promise of abiding love and compassion, and a willingness to restore upon confession and repentance.
As Tim Keller is wont to say, we are far more wicked than any of us dares to believe, and God is far more loving and gracious than any of us dares to believe.
What a Savior!
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Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.