Proverbs 17:7-28 (ESV)
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.
Day 1: Loving God
Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Hebrews 2:11 says that Jesus is “not ashamed to call [us] brothers” (cf. Mark 3:34; Rom. 8:29). And in John 15:15 Jesus says, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus is the “friend [who] loves at all times.” Jesus is the “brother … born for adversity.” In our greatest adversity, when we faced the greatest enemy that is our own sins, that alienated us from God, Jesus our friend and brother came to our rescue!
As Proverbs 17:15 earlier said, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.” God is holy and just, and He cannot condone the wicked. He cannot justify the wicked. And yet, as Romans 4:5 says, so that God might “justif[y] the ungodly,” Jesus our brother bore our sins and died in our place on the cross, and was raised on the third day. John 15:15 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus laid down His life for His friends. Have you been taking God’s saving grace for granted? Or do you live with fresh gratitude toward the God who justifies the ungodly?
- Remember and thank God for all that He has done for you.
- Confess the ways in which you have been prideful and entitled, and ask God for the humility and faith to submit to His will in all things.
- Confess the ways in which you have sinned in your speech, “repeating” (v. 9) matters that should not have been repeated.
- Pray that you might grow in “understanding” and “knowledge” of God (i.e. the fear of God), so that you are more self-controlled and restrained in your speech (vv. 27-28).
- Pray for personal spiritual renewal, that the person and work of Jesus Christ might be more real to you today.
Day 2: Loving One Another
Verse 9 says, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” The expression, “repeat the matter,” is wonderfully ambiguous, like the similar Greek expression of being “double-tongued,” or literally, “speaking twice.” It means to repeat something that shouldn’t be repeated, whether it’s betraying someone’s confidence and repeating a secret, or berating someone by harping on something that he did wrong. When you repeatedly remind your friend of how he offended you, when you retell his offense to others, you are jeopardizing your friendship. If all of us keep this proverb in mind, we can greatly strengthen our community. An offense is like a cut on your skin, once a scab covers it, there is a chance for healing, just as when you cover up an offense, you seek love, but if you keep picking the scab open, it will never heal, in fact, it can get worse with an infection, and it will leave a permanent scar. If you repeat a matter, if you gossip, if you slander, even close friendships, even intimate relationships, will not survive that.
As verse 17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” A fair-weather friend, a bandwagon friend, is no friend at all. Love in hard times is what friends are made for, enduring support in times of adversity is what a brother is born for!
- Pray that we would be true friends and brothers and sisters to one another, who uphold and upbuild one another even through adversities.
- Pray that our church would be characterized by judicious, restrained speech, not repeating matters that should not be repeated, but freeing confessing our sins to one another and offering forgiveness.
- Pray for a long-term, suitable, affordable meeting space for our church.
Day 3: Loving Our Neighbors
In this upside-down world, fools often get their way. Wicked are justified and righteous are condemned (v. 15). Bribers pervert justice (vv. 8, 23). Liars and criminals get their way (vv. 19-20). But in the end, God’s sovereign judgment will prevail. This knowledge of God and expectation of His sovereign judgment makes us restrained in the face of human folly. We don’t need to vent, because of God’s vengeance. We don’t need to fight, because God defends us. We don’t need to win the argument, because of God’s judgment. In what ways is God asking you to preserver in integrity and righteousness, even when that means loss, persecution, and suffering? “[I]f when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:20-23).
Verse 10 says, “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” We should rebuke “a man of understanding,” the person who will listen and gain knowledge. If a wise person is suited for a rebuke, the fool is suited only for beating. But even when a fool receives blows, it says, the teaching doesn’t penetrate, it doesn’t go very deep into the fool. This is what verse 16 is speaking of, “Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom when he has no sense?” Proverbs sometimes uses the imagery of “buying” wisdom (cf. Prov. 4:5-8; 16:16; 23:23). But why should a fool be able to buy wisdom, when he has no mind to learn it? What’s the use of giving Shakespeare to an illiterate person? What’s the use of playing Mozart for a deaf person? “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town” (Matt. 10:14-15).
- Pray that God would increase your trust in Him so that you might be a fearless and winsome witness even in the face of hostility.
- Pray that God would illuminate the eyes of our unbelieving neighbors’ hearts so that they leave their way turn to Christ, the Wisdom of God.
- Pray that God would give you the discernment to know whether you are speaking with “a man of understanding” or a “fool.”
- Pray that God would use our Alpha Course, which started in July 13th, to bring people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ through it.
- Pray for revival in Cambridge/Boston and New England, that the Spirit of God would move powerfully in our region.