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God’s Word for You

Proverbs 18:23-24

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Greek translation (the Septuagint) does not have Proverbs 18:23-24, but substitutes this:

He who finds a good wife finds grace
  and has taken hold of God’s joy.
But he who drives away a good wife
  drives out goodness.
He who holds onto an adulteress
  is a fool and is godless.

This would be a fine proverb and a godly saying. It doesn’t contradict anything in the Bible at all and agrees with everything in Scripture. But that doesn’t mean that it is part of God’s inspired word. Like the Apostles’ Creed, we would have to name this a good and godly saying which we could even use as a part of worship. But it comes from the pen of a believer, not from the breath of the Holy Spirit.

     23 The poor plead for mercy,
         but the rich answer harshly.

Some people see this proverb as a reflection of stereotypes, since it describes conduct. Poor people generally defer to the rich and the rich are generally condescending and harsh to the poor. But the proverb is more than just a painting: it’s a call for change and a call to repentance. The poor do not just defer to the wealthy. They plead for mercy. What happens when an imbalance of wealth and power is vastly contrasted by an imbalance in numbers? If the wealthy outnumber the poor and there is no help for the poor, then the poor will be oppressed and will be driven to extremes. If the poor outnumber the wealthy, there can probably will be revolution. Those who are poor must not behave as if they are entitled to what the wealthy have, and those who are wealthy must not behave as if they do not care about the plight of the poor. Wealth must not become a dividing factor between people, because the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Instead, the love of Christ must become the uniting factor between all. The poor are tested by God to show their trust while living in their poverty. The wealthy are also tested by God, to show their trust despite their wealth. Who has the harder test? Praise God that he has given you what he has given you, and that he has withheld what he has withheld. Perhaps we should all be ashamed that God has not made us the opposite of what we are. We should certainly thank and praise him that in his mercy and in his infinite wisdom, he has chosen to give us what we have.

     24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
         but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (NIV)

In the NIV, this proverb seems to be about choosing one’s friends wisely. The Hebrew is quite poetic and difficult to translate. The “friend” in the second line is literally “the one who loves,” and perhaps this is where the Greek Septuagint got the idea for its proverbial saying about a good wife.

However, “the one who loves” is masculine in Hebrew, and this suggests a different way to understand the verse, which we could see with a minor change to the NIV:

   But there is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother.

What a Friend we have in Jesus! Our closest friends might be wisely chosen, excellent friends, and good companions. But even if your best friends were Moses, David, Daniel, John and Paul, they would all have one thing in common despite their great faith and faithfulness. They would all still be sinful human beings. David complained: “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). Although we know that David was speaking prophetically about Judas denying Jesus, David was also speaking from personal experience about a betrayal in his own life and among his own friends.

Jesus Christ is the friend who never fails. Jesus said: “I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). He is the one who has truly loved us. “Love one another,” he said (John 13:34), “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

You have the Good Friend in Jesus. If you also have a good friend in the world, give them the kind of love Jesus has given you. Reflect his love for you in your love for your friends, and trust in the love of Christ, which has rescued us from our sins and given us a place with God forever in heaven.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.