Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Proverbs 25:24-28 better to live on a corner of the roof

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, May 31, 2019

24 It is better to live on a corner of the roof
  than to share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

There are five proverbs like this one, two where the husband would be better off up on his rooftop (here and Proverbs 21:9), two where the wife’s nagging is like a constant dripping (Proverbs 19:13 and Proverbs 27:15) and one where the husband would be better off living alone in the desert (Proverbs 21:19).

Some commentaries go out of their way to talk about the difficulty of the text and never apply the words. Where does a good wife come from? She is “from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22), and a man who wants a good wife should turn to the Lord first and ask his blessing. For a Christian, marrying a wife who is an unbeliever is unwise, however the heart feels. A wise man will throw himself completely upon the Lord’s guidance; it might be better for some men to be blind, using only their ears (and noses) to choose a wife.

I have said before that every Christian should embrace these “quarrelsome wife” proverbs as if they were written to warn us about our relationship with our divine Bridegroom. Is the Church the kind of bride Christ would embrace, or would he be better off out in the desert or up on a corner of the roof? For that matter, am I, personally, the best sort of Christian I can possibly be, or am I like a constant dripping in Jesus’ ears? Wife, mend your life if the Word of God tells you that you should. Husband, say nothing about your wife until you are such an example of devout Christianity that even your wife sees your excellent qualities and good deeds and will glorify God on the day he comes (1 Peter 2:12).

Many women find their role as the subordinate in a marriage to be stifling, and some even rebel against it, imagining an egalitarian utopia for themselves. But the truth is, someone will always be in charge, and God’s will is that the husband be a good husband, and that his wife be “a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). Ponder the truth of a sinful world: As soon as anyone is told that they have an equal say to someone else, they no longer want the someone else to have an equal say. A woman who makes her husband miserable does nothing less than make herself miserable. There is a saying in modern America, “If mama ain’t happy; ain’t nobody happy,” but women would be wise to realize that the reverse is inevitable. God commands husbands and wives to love each other (Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19; cp. 1 Peter 4:8; 2 John 5 and many other passages). This should be our first goal in marriage, every morning and every evening. Every time you come home, before you even set your hand on the door of your house, make it your goal to love everyone within, to be patient and understanding, to work for their happiness no matter how tired you might be, and to take everything in the kindest possible way. “If papa don’t try, ain’t nobody trying.”

25 Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
  is good news from a faraway land.

Solomon had many dealings with faraway lands. He is the only King of Israel we know of who was successful in using ships for commerce. His fleet of trading ships sailed every three years, bringing him “gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons” (1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chronicles 9:21). In an age of instant communication, it isn’t easy for us to imagine news that could take years to travel, and how good it was to hear that the news that came was good news! Think of Hagar dying of thirst in the desert. She received good news and water to drink, too (Genesis 21:18-19).

What better news have we ever received than the gospel of Jesus Christ? “For behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which will be for all people: This day in the city of David, a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: You will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12). The baby born to Mary was the Savior, the promised Messiah, the Lord God himself. His life was lived without sin, in perfect obedience to God. His life was given up on the cross to atone for our complete disobedience. Through Jesus—what good news from a faraway land!—we have forgiveness and eternal life.

26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted well
  is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.

In a land where fresh water was so scarce, a muddied spring or a polluted well was a tragedy. Someone who ruined one of these sources was guilty of a crime against his whole community. “Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?” (Ezekiel 34:19). How much worse a righteous man who does not stand up for his faith before the wicked? When he stands up for the truth, a righteous man is God’s servant, as Paul was even before Peter and Barnabas when they slipped into error (Galatians 2:4-5,11,13). Jesus is the pure spring flowing with water for all to drink. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said: streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:36-37). By this he meant the Holy Spirit flowing out of him into each of us, described many times in the Scriptures (Numbers 11:25; Judges 14:6; Micah 3:8, and other places).

27 It is not good to eat too much honey,
  and to search for one’s own glory is a burden.

We were already cautioned about eating honey in moderation (Proverbs 25:16). But what is sweeter to a man than his own glory? But we should not seek glory for ourselves. A soldier who is after glory is in danger of either finding his own death or finding out that he lacks bravery (or that he doesn’t know what true bravery really is). A businessman who is after glory will try to manufacture glory for himself. A politician who is after glory will soon discover that holding a public office is virtually a punishment (as Luther says in his lecture on Genesis 41).

The three words that make up the second line do not include a negative, so the words seem to say, “a search – for glories – (is) ‘glory.’” But the Hebrew word for “glory” (cabad, cabod) as both a noun and a verb has another meaning: “to be heavy.” For example, “We would only be a burden to you,” 2 Samuel 13:25, or “Your father made our yoke heavy,” 1 Kings 12:10. The connection between “burden / be heavy” and “glory / glorify” is that when we place honor on someone, we also place responsibility and expectations on them, making their role heavier. To want to do that to yourself is to desire the benefits of glory (the praise and adulation) without thinking about the additional responsibilities and other burdens. Here, I think Solomon is using the first cabod as “glory” and the second one as “burden,” as a pun or paranomasia.

28 Like a city broken into and left without walls
  is a man without self-control.

This interesting turn of phrase needs careful meditation to be properly understood. How is a defenseless city like an impulsive man who speaks out of turn and who constantly indulges his desires? The city is valuable, something dear to the people who live within and which has walls to protect those people. Perhaps this was the original intent of Cain, who began to build a city for his family about the time he and his wife had their son Enoch (Genesis 4:17). That ‘city,’ which may have been little more than a cluster of huts with a palisade around it, offered protection from wild animals, and after the fall this may have been a primary consideration to the tiny but growing population of the world. Without a wall or even a row of sticks for defense, a city is just a better target for bandits and bullies, and so it is with a man who lacks any self-control. A man who is at least quiet develops an air of mystery around himself, but a man with no self-control is no mystery to anyone. Everyone knows what he likes and dislikes, and what he is thinking at any moment. But like any city, he is also valuable to someone. God values every human soul; precious is their blood in his sight (Psalm 72:13). If he could rebuild his ruined walls, he would not be subject to so many attacks, especially the attacks of the devil and his hoards. A little restraint would go a long way, and the gospel is the means for teaching this to anyone.

This chapter has been a study in moderation and restraint. The implied solution to each and every problem here is the gospel of forgiveness through the promised Savior. Only the gospel of Jesus inspires true change in us. Our response to the forgiveness of our sins is a renewed faith in God and a desire to walk in God’s ways. This walk is the path of moderation and restraint. We are free to enjoy the pleasures of life, but within the bounds that God has established for our benefit. This is true freedom, because it means that our pleasure will come without shame or guilt. When we walk in God’s way, his word itself is our delight.

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.

Browse Devotion Archive