God’s Word for You
Proverbs 30:32-33 put your hand over your mouth
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, April 21, 2021
32 If you have been so foolish as to exalt yourself, or if you have been planning evil, put your hand over your mouth.
Before we go on to verse 33, we need to understand what verse 32 is saying. The last phrase is literally “your hand over your mouth” with no verb, so it could mean:
(a) If you’ve been planning evil, with your hand over your mouth (the way people often pose as they’re thinking deeply about something), or
(b) If you’ve been planning evil, then put your hand over your mouth, so as not to say anything out loud. Don’t take the next step.
Some older commentaries prefer the first option, but as you see from the translation, I prefer the second option. The beginning of the verse connects with what we read in the previous section about proud-seeming animals that strut around like kings: lions, songbirds, he-goats. They behave the way God made them. If you have been foolish enough to exalt yourself and to act that way without deserving it, then you must humble yourself, or you will be humbled. Jesus teaches humility many times and in various ways. One of the most striking is his warning not to grab the best seat when you’re invited to a banquet. The host might come and say, “Give this man your seat,” and, humiliated, you will have to move down to the least important place (Luke 14:9).
If option (a) is to be preferred, then the conclusion is similar: If you have plotted evil, or have foolishly exalted yourself, and you catch yourself planning more (with your hand to your chin), stop right there. Take the time to consider whether this is about God’s glory, or yours. Maybe it’s time to say nothing at all.
33 For just as pressing milk brings on cheese, and pressing the nose brings on blood, so pressing anger brings on a fight.
Beginning with “for,” verse 33 is the conclusion to what we have read before. Three kinds of pressure give results. Pressing on milk makes cheese (or butter, with a churn). Pressing or tweaking the nose will cause bleeding (so will a good solid punch to the proboscis). Jesus cautions us not to retaliate when we have been struck (Matthew 5:39), but the Holy Spirit also says, “a rod is for the back of him who lacks judgment” (Proverbs 10:13). Our culture is becoming increasingly polarized, with some insisting that no one should be disciplined for any reason, and some others committing murder in the streets. Perhaps a little more discipline for some would cause a little less suffering for many, cooling off potential killers and firming up some snowflakes. But pressing too much on anger will cause a fight.
To sum up: Don’t push when you slip into sin. If there is a temptation, clap your hand over your mouth before it goes too far. Or if you find yourself sinfully pressuring someone, let up before it gets out of hand. Catching yourself while you are in the middle of sinful, regrettable words or actions is not an easy step to take. There are many people who, once on a path of a sin, seem incapable of turning around. But that’s the function of the conscience. It calls up God’s law, compares us with God’s holy will, and it sends us a report of just how sinful we are. It shows us that we need a Savior. This is not only the function of the conscience, but of the whole law. What we must remember is that the law does not show us our Savior. No one can be saved by keeping the law, since all our works and thoughts are already stained by our original sin at the very least. It is faith in Christ alone that saves. And for all of us with faith, the law serves as a guide for godly living (Psalm 23:3). Give God thanks and glory with what you do, and use these Proverbs with wisdom and faith. “For God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end” (Psalm 48:14). Amen.
Pastor Timothy Smith