God’s Word for You
Proverbs 25:4-8 Do not be hasty
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, May 27, 2019
4 Remove the dross from silver,
and out comes material for the smith.
5 Remove the wicked from the presence of the king,
and his throne will be established in righteousness.
Take away what is bad, and the craftsman will have something to work with; this is also true of a king. For the silversmith, dross is a problem. Dross is any impurity in silver ores. The metal must be heated in a crucible to more than 960 degrees before it melts (such as from a charcoal fire), at which point the impure dross will be seen as a dark region in the reddish-white glow of the heated ore. The dross can be skimmed off with a stone or ceramic scoop and what remains is a purer silver ore, suitable for pouring directly into molds to be cooled until needed.
Solomon compares a king’s court with this process. One by one, the men who advise him and perform tasks for him, his ministers and generals and admirals and others, are tested. Those who pass the test add their wisdom to his and form a solid and respectable government. Those who do not pass the test are removed in favor of more suitable candidates. This leads directly to the next proverb:
6 Do not honor yourself before the king
or stand in the place of great men,
7 for it is better to be told, “Come up here,”
than to be moved down to the lowest place
because of the arrival of a nobleman
you have seen with your own eyes.
Proverbs 25:6-7 is interlaced neatly between two other statements which otherwise have no connection. This Proverb calls to mind a time when Jesus was invited to dine at the house of a prominent Pharisee (Luke 14:1-24). It was there that he spoke the Parable of the Great Banquet, but first, he said something about the guests who were picking the places of honor around the table:
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not take the place of honor, in case someone more
distinguished than you has been invited by your host. Then
the host who invited both of you may come and say to you,
‘Give this person your place,’ and then you would have to
move down to the lowest place, humiliated. But when you
are invited, go and take the lowest place, so that when your
host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’
Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at
the table with you. For all those who exalt themselves will
be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be
exalted.” (Luke 14:8-11)
There is some uncertainty about the last line of verse 7. Is it part of verse 8, or does it go with verse 7? I have taken it as part of verse 7. In this setting, it shows that you (the one humiliated in the king’s presence) should have known that the prince or nobleman who was there (“you have seen with your own eyes”) would be invited to a better seat than you. There are enough pitfalls in the sinful world. Don’t set yourself up to be humiliated by failing to pay attention to the people who are around you.
When we invite children up to the front of church for a children’s devotion, there are two brothers (I’ll call them Jamis and Levi) who would like to sit right next to me, but they always let their younger brother do it instead. The older they get, the more they want to let the younger children participate, and they are a model of Christian modesty and humility. They’re an example even for me.
8 Do not be hasty to go to court,
or else what will you do in the end,
when your neighbor humiliates you?
These two proverbs (25:6-7 and 25:8) are about bringing humiliation on yourself. I think that they also reveal to us the origin of many of the Proverbs. I believe that Solomon composed these sayings in one of two ways. Most weekdays of his reign, some of his time would have been taken up in hearing disputes; court cases that were either too difficult for the court at the gate or else he would have been a kind of court of appeals. I get the impression that as Solomon heard these cases, after he spoke judgment and was waiting for the next case to be brought before him, he summarized his thoughts in a quick poetic couplet, and a court reporter wrote these down in a special log which became the source of the Book of Proverbs. Or perhaps King Solomon wrote them down himself in the evening as a way of relaxing his busy mind.
The application of this proverb is that if you were to be patient with your neighbor rather than hauling him off to court (or blaming him for something at work) you would find out that there was a good reason that he walked off with your cow, or that he stove in the thwarts of your boat, or parked in front of your driveway, or didn’t get his sidewalk shoveled today. Maybe you’ve been gone, and if your cow is about to give birth she needs exercise first (so he walked off with her, but brought her back). Maybe he damaged your boat so that marauders would not use it to raid your daughter and son-in-law across the river. This proverb teaches us to take things in the kindest possible way; to assume the best.
There’s a little boy in my church, I’ll call him Karl. He assumes that everybody, child or adult, will be his new best friend. He takes things in the kindest possible way. I’m sure his parents make sure that he’s not too friendly with strangers out in the world, but at church his behavior is a model of Christian kindness and he sets a fine example for his younger sister and for us all.
As you and I consider the Word of God and model it with our lives, we become living proverbs for the people around us. Give God glory with what you do, and your simple acts of faith will inspire even your pastor to be a better Christian.
Pastor Timothy Smith