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God’s Word for You

Proverbs 25:20-23 vinegar on soda

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, May 30, 2019

20 Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day,
  or like vinegar on soda,
  is someone who sings songs to a heavy heart.

It’s tactless to try to use a happy song to cheer up someone who’s sad. In fact, it may stir up anger just as taking off your jacket on a cold day rips you away from your comfort and makes you want to plunge back into the warmth of your jacket. In the same way, pouring vinegar onto soda causes a chemical reaction. Solomon probably didn’t think of it as the creation of carbonic acid or carbon dioxide gas, but rather as a way to make vinegar boil. The sad heart may boil over in frustration or anger when a tactless person tries to cheer them up with the wrong words or a happy song. Grief needs to be released, not suppressed.

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
  and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22 and you will heap burning coals on his head.
  The LORD will reward you.

Far better to feel pain today when you can still change your heart and your life than later on when the hot coals will never stop. Paul uses this Proverb as an example of what happens when we do not take revenge on our enemies (Romans 12:20). Luther said: “The human heart, no matter how much it has been irritated, can be softened and appeased… It can be so softened by kindness and forbearance that it glows and burns within itself as it acknowledges the kindness of him whom it regards as an enemy, and that it rebukes itself as it thinks: ‘Why did you hurt this pious man? Why did you persecute an innocent person?’ These are the coals that catch fire because of patience, gentleness, and kindness. In this way Isaac’s perseverance in his faith, hope, love, and hospitality moves and overcomes the king, so that the king has not only been reconciled with him but is also converted to the true worship and knowledge of God [Genesis 26:7-13]. For he undoubtedly heard the sermons and entered the tabernacle of Isaac to learn the Word of God from him. Thus God won the king himself and many others through the word of Isaac. For he has given his word not only for our sakes but also for the sake of others, in order that we might share it with others.” (LW 5).

23 The north wind brings rain,
  and a sly tongue brings angry looks.

In Israel, the south and east winds are from the desert; they bring heat. The north wind as well as the west wind brings rain; usually, these winds pick up as winter approaches. Readers of the Classics are sometimes confused by this, since Homer so vividly describes a different picture, “As when whirlwinds of the west encounter a storm from the clearing south” (Iliad xi,305). But Homer was living on the western shores of Asia Minor and writing for people familiar with the wild Aegean storms. Solomon was sitting on his throne in Jerusalem, where the winds were regular features and as constant as the seasons themselves. Therefore his point is that a sly tongue will consistently, always, and without fail, bring angry looks.

This is also the way it is when a man deviates from the word of God and pretends to still have God’s word on his side. When Saul was commanded by God to destroy the Amalekites, he was told to “put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (1 Samuel 15:3). But when Samuel arrived and asked him why he heard so many sheep bleating, Saul claimed to have gotten a bad copy of the text of the Lord’s message, and that he planned to sacrifice the sheep and cattle. It might seem like a small thing, but it was a test. Saul’s claim to have misunderstood was nothing more than a sly tongue wagging, and it brought more than an angry look from God. As surely as the north wind brings rain, Saul’s tongue brought down his own reign, and the next thing God said to Samuel was to anoint a new king for Israel: one of the sons of Jesse in Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:1).

Do not stray from the word of the Lord. “Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:27; 2 Chronicles 34:1). “To the faithful, show yourself faithful” (2 Samuel 22:26), and God is faithful (1 Corinthians 10:13). He will be with you even when you are tempted, and he will lift you up even when your body has died. He has made a place for you, set aside and prepared only for you, a place within heaven, within sight of his everlasting throne.

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.



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