Thursday, July 23, 2009

Proverbs 18: 9-16

9He also who is slack in his work
Is brother to him who destroys.
10The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
The righteous runs into it and is safe.
11A rich man's wealth is his strong city,
And like a high wall in his own imagination.
12Before destruction the heart of man is haughty,
But humility goes before honor.
13He who gives an answer before he hears,
It is folly and shame to him.
14The spirit of a man can endure his sickness,
But as for a broken spirit who can bear it?
15The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge,
And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
16A man's gift makes room for him
And brings him before great men.

Today's Thought Question:
  1. What proverb in today's passage spoke to you and why?
Verse 16: "A man's gift makes room for him and brings him before great men."

Gifts are given for many reasons. We give gifts of hospitality or welcome when we first meet people. Housewarming gifts as a blessing for one's new home. Gifts for special occasions to special people in our lives. Gifts can open the door to new relationships. Solomon says here that gifts can pave the way to meeting people of influence.

There's a fine line between gifts and bribes, reflecting back a day or two. Some of the cross-references mention the passages on bribes looked at the other day. But there are two Old Testament stories that highlight gifts given under stressful circumstances with the goal of restoring relationships.

Genesis 32 & 33 brings us the story of an estranged Jacob who is seeking restoration with his brother, Esau. Despite his fear, Jacob pulls out all the stops, arranging for an elaborate gift presentation for his brother.

"After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; and you shall say, 'Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.'" For he said, "I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me."

--Genesis 32: 19 & 20
Esau was surprised by the gift that he laid his eyes upon, but it paled to seeing his brother, whom he greeted with great love and affection. Esau tried to decline the gift, but his brother said, 'No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably.' Please take my gift which has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty.' Thus he urged him and he took it." (Genesis 33: 10&11)

Solomon's father, David, was on the receiving end of a gift that had a few repercussions. David was looking to take care of his shearers by asking a wealthy man named Nabal--who also had shearers--if all the men might not be able to share in the same blessings of provision. All the men were getting along and there was no competition or ill-will.

Nabal, whose name means fool, would have no such part in sharing the wealth. David was prepared to go after Nabal with swords! Intervening was Nabal's wife, Abigail.

"Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves of bread and two jugs of wine and five sheep already prepared and five measures of roasted grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. ...She fell at his feet and said, 'On me alone, my lord, be the blame. And please let your maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your maidservant.... Now let this gift which your maidservant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who accompany my lord.'"

--I Samuel 25: 18, 24 & 27

With her gift, Abigail stopped David in his tracks. David did not go after Nabal (though God would make his heart as stone and take his life 10 days later). Indeed, David went after Abigail--with a proposal of marriage, following Nabal's passing. She became his wife.

There were others who came, bearing gifts, knowing that they were in the presence of greatness.

It's not easy to cross paths with "greatness." The experts will tell you to make yourself a standout. Do something different to get noticed. Not sure sending champagne before a job interview is what Solomon is suggesting, however.

More often than not, I'm thinking, the greatest gift to give is the one that we have within ourselves. It's the most genuine. Was David won over by all the stuff, or was he won over by Abigail's grace and humility...that gentle vessel, inner beauty quality? Esau didn't need all the stuff Jacob sent. To have his brother back was enough. Did the gifts "make room"? They certainly set the stage. But, the gift of our hearts is what truly great men will recognize.

"Blessed be the Lord, who makes us welcome to come to his throne, without money and without price. May his gifts make room for him in our souls."

--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible


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Tomorrow's Scripture Focus and Thought Question:

Proverbs 18: 17-24
  1. What proverb in today's passage spoke to you and why?

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Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation, specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB). I will quote other sources if used in a post.
I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (with notes from the King James Version).


Carmen said...

Great insight!

The one that stood out to me was verse 11. Isn't it interesting that the rich trust that money protects and is a defense against all their enemies?

A high wall in his own imagination...a strong city. I love the way the bible paints such vivid pictures!

Sue J. said...

I loved that "high wall in his own imagination" phrase, too. It is so easy to get caught up in ourselves. Ties in with Chatty Kelly's thoughts yesterday about being "separated."

I didn't mention in the post, but I've been caught by verse 13 many a time: "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him." Kelly can back me up on this, too, because I have a tendency to finish her thoughts. Good friends do that sometimes, but, that doesn't make it right!

Chatty Kelly said...

v. 10 - The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.

We sing this at church. I want to be safe in the strong tower of the Lord.

Do you know the difference between wisdom & knowledge (a joke). Knowledge tells you that a tomato is a fruit. But wisdom tells you not to put it in a fruit salad.

Carmen said...

Kelly, I had to laugh at your last comment. In Holland, they put sugar on their tomatoes, because they're a fruit. But, I still wouldn't put it in a salad. Although I still do like them with sugar(unless they're on a sandwich with lettuce, etc. Then it's mayo, salt & pepper all the way).