Monday, December 5, 2011

Proverbs 27 - On Relating and True Friendship

LINK: Proverbs 27

BACKGROUND

This chapter is a continuation of the more than 100 proverbs of Solomon collected by Hezekiah’s men 250 years after Solomon wrote them. Sixteen out of 27 verses deal with relationships with people. It contains sage advice against boasting, not being provoked by a fool, genuinely loving and challenging our friends toward growth, attitude toward material possessions, commitment to family, being a quarrelsome wife, working well at one’s job, the true heart reflected in our words, accepting praise modestly, foolishness, and the importance of caring for one’s resources and working hard. The warning about uncertainty in Proverbs 27:1 is repeated in James 4:13-16.

This chapter contains many “Homilies in Similes” which are mini-sermons and the form of a comparison using the words like and as. This is called “emblematic parallelism.” The Hebrew word for proverb comes from a root meaning “to be like.”

Also, 27:5 is one of only 19 “better . . . than” verses in the entire book of Proverbs.

Some of the verses are “antithetical parallelism” where one line is the opposite or contrasts the other and often uses the word “but.” Most of the antithetical parallelism occurs in Proverbs 10-15, but there are a few in this and upcoming chapters.

REFLECTIONS on Friendship

I love this chapter because 16 out of 27 of the verses are about relating with people, and I love to relate with people! Often, I fall so short in this area, and Proverbs has been a constant reminder to continue to depend on God as I relate to others.

I particularly love the verses that relate to friendship:

Better is open rebuke 
Than love that is concealed 
Faithful are the wounds of a friend 
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. 
(27:5-6) 

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, 
So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend. 
(27:9)

These two verses get to the heart of friendship: honesty even when it hurts and sweet counsel. Rebuke is mentioned frequently in Proverbs as a helpful kind of verbal correction (27:23, 25, 30; 3:11; 9:8 [twice]; 13:1; 15:31; 17:10; 19:25; 25:12; 27:5; 30:6). So God approves of it! Sadly, I do not think we practice it enough in our friendships. I think we feel like it is our role to always make our friends “feel better” about themselves and not interfere in their “stuff.” Sometimes God does call us to just listen and bear their burdens, but sometimes true friendship involves rebuke! Rebuke can feel like an enemy is wounding us, but they really are a genuine expression of true friendship because it shows that our friend cares about us and our growth toward Christ-likeness. It is a way that God uses friends to sharpen us:

Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another 
(27:17)
When iron is rubbed against another piece of iron it shapes and sharpens it. Similarly people can help each other improve by their discussions, criticisms, suggestions, and ideas. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary)

I am grateful that I have friends who love me enough to speak truth into my life, even when that truth hurts, because they want to see me grow and mature. I have walked almost thirty years through the deep waters of life with two of my dearest friends, Patty and Debbie. They are the two of the first people I call when I am going through tough things and need prayerful, honest counsel about tough situations. Sometimes, their honesty has hurt, but I know that they love me and will pray for me so that I might grow to be more like Jesus Christ.

APPLICATION

Do you have honest and open friends who help you to become more like Jesus? If you do not, begin to pray that He will lead you to this kind of relationship.

Here are a few timeless principles from Many Aspire, Few Attain by Walt Henrichsen:
11. Accept rebuke 
“For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:6).

Some people never make it because they can't take rebuke; they aren’t teachable. I don’t mind God rebuking me, but the fact of the matter is that God uses other people in his correction of me. Solomon said, “He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul” (Prov. 15:32). If you refuse to take instruction, you are despising and destroying yourself. Why? Because the rebuke God brings into your life is for your own good.

“Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee; rebuke a wise man, and he
will love thee” (Prov 9:8). Don't rebuke the foolish because not only is it a waste of time, but they will hate you for it. But if you rebuke the wise, they will love you.

When was the last time someone rebuked you? When was the last time someone sat you down to help point you in the right direction? If it hasn’t been recently, it’s because people don’t consider you to be wise. They think you are a scorner, and they are afraid that if they rebuke you, you won't be able to take it. Don’t deceive yourself into believing that you haven't been rebuked lately because you haven’t needed it. You need it. The question is, are you getting it? You can tell whether or not people think you are wise by how often they rebuke you. Therefore, invite them into your life and thank them when they confront you.

Once, when a buddy and I were doing Bible study together, his application was to pray that God would send someone into his life to rebuke him at least once a week. What a challenge! How do you feel about praying this for your own life? Remember, the older you get, the harder this will be to accept.
If you are still not convinced that rebuke is a good thing, I heartily recommend the book Caring Enough to Confront by David Augsburger

PRAYER

Lord, would You please provide us with faithful friends who can sharpen us to be more like Jesus? We ask this in His name. Amen.
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