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God’s Word for You

Proverbs 27:7-9 God’s friends

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, May 2, 2020

7 A satisfied life says no to the honeycomb,
  but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.

Nephesh can mean breath, spirit, life, or sometimes body. Here, the sated stomach is probably meant, but Solomon leaves the possibility open to the idea that a life that is generally happy will be able to exercise self-control over sweets, although there are those who might argue otherwise. The point, however, is that someone who is not satisfied, who is hungry or even starving, is willing to eat even what is bitter, stale, or spoiled.

In a deeper, spiritual sense, this is never so obvious as it is with the gospel. Those who are starving for the pure gospel are willing to swallow almost anything that sounds or seems close to the message of Christ. C.F.W. Walther cautioned his students: “Some preachers of our time hush certain things that are offensive to worldly people. They do this with the good intention of not shocking their hearers. But this is a great mistake. You cannot make a person a true Christian by oratory, though it be ever so sublime and fervent, but only by the Word of God. The Word of God alone produces repentance, faith, and godliness and preserves men therein until the end.” (The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, p. 111).

If your child were starving, you would not give him stale bread just because he wouldn’t know the difference. You would give your own dear child something good to eat, something that would help him, nourish him, and bring him back to health. And so it is with the Word of God. We are nourished by the Law that drives us to regret and be sorry for our sins, and we are refreshed by the Gospel that teaches us to trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of all those sins that trouble us, so that our spirits may have rest, ease, and peace.

8 Like a bird that strays from its nest
  is a man who strays from his home.

Homelessness is not only caused by straying from home, but when a person wanders away on purpose, they have a hard lesson to learn. War, fire, flood, crime, debt, an unkind stepparent, financial disaster (whoever’s fault it might be), or even a government taking possession of one’s property under eminent domain can cause a person to lose their home.

The dangers are immediate. There is an instant inconvenience for personal needs: shelter, a bed, and so on. But then there is more than inconvenience. There is security. There is the question of being a legal resident in many communities. Churches can give a certain amount of help to the homeless, but shelters fill up fast, and some villages and towns have no shelters at all. Most building owners frown on the custom of squatting (living in a place without permission). In one case I know of, a young man lived by a stream in his hometown for a time. He used public buildings such as the local school for restroom needs, but he would not have been able to live where he was indefinitely. In the end, he begged his grandmother to let him live with her. She was so reluctant that he feared he would have to go somewhere else on foot (“down south somewhere” was on his mind, wherever the winters would not be so cold). In the end, she took him in, and the irony was not lost on him that she was far more reluctant to see him go than when he tried to talk her into letting him stay. The very status of being homeless changes one’s view on the fragility of life. Most people never go through this, and God be praised. But those who do, like Abraham, David, Lot, Hagar, and others, hopefully learn a deeper trust in God who watches over us even when it seems that no one else does. When they learn the meaning of the first verse of the 23rd Psalm, they learn it in a way that few others can.

9 Perfume and incense make the heart glad,
  and the sweetness of a friend comes from life’s wisdom.

The first phrase is clear, but the second phrase is not so obvious. The Hebrew of the second line ends “from the counsel of life.” This is variously translated, “from earnest counsel” (NIV), “sincere advice” or “your own advice” (EHV), or “the counsel of the soul” (KJV margin). Perhaps we can say that a friend’s advice is the thing that is sweet.

Obviously, this proverb has ordinary, everyday applications that are clear enough. But spiritually we must not forget who our real friends are. “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Those who believe in God are called God’s friends (James 2:23). Why? Because they are righteous by means of their faith in Christ. When God says, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20), it is the sweetest thing we can ever hear. But when a human friend also gives us the benefit of the experience of his life, this, too, is sweet, when his wisdom points us to Christ.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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