Proverbs 26:17-28: Coram Deo–Living in the Presence of God
September 17, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
“Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own” (26:17).
The implication is clear: don’t rush into mess with someone else’s argument. How can then it also be true that “blessed are the peacemakers”? It is one thing to seek to bring peace, it is another thing to rush into an argument unnecessarily. There are people who seem to enjoy arguing: and when they can’t find an argument of their own, look for another one to get involved with. Don’t be like that!
“Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking!’” (26:18-19).
“I’m just joking” appears to some to be a way to get away with saying or doing things that are cruel or nasty. How can you disagree when someone says to you that what they did was only a joke? But actually, though, the intention may be unreadable, the effect is noticeable: to deceive someone is still to lead them into deceit, and to say it is a “mere” joke does not lessen the deceit.
“Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down” (26:20).
What is it that causes quarrels among people? One of the causes is gossip. If you want to stop a community from generating friction and increase its harmony, speak out against gossip, confront it, and remove it.
“As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife” (26:21).
Another cause of quarrels in community is the personality of some people who seem to like to quarrel. The implication of this is also clear: confront the one who likes to have an argument, seek their correction, gently, and if necessary, distance yourself from them. Paul is clear on this: warn a divisive person once, then again, and after that have nothing to do with them (Titus 3:10).
“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” (26:22).
The reason why gossip flourishes is because people like it. How to prevent gossip? Remind people of the nefarious and dangerous effects of gossip. And if you are gossiping about someone to someone else, that someone else as likely as not will be gossiping about you too.
“Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart. Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts they harbor deceit. Though their speech is charming, do not believe them, for seven abominations fill their hearts. Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly” (26:23-26)
It is easy to be taken in by smooth words, “fervent lips,” charming speech. There are people who talk a good game but do not live out what they practice. How do you notice or spot this tendency? Observation of their effects in community can help you see what is going on. Someone who merely sounds good is unlikely to be able to act well all the time across a multitude of relationships. In the “assembly” (and this also has application to church discipline, too; see again Titus 3:10), the reality of the situation will gradually become clear.
“Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them” (26:27).
The universe we live in is governed by a Moral Governor, and therefore the universe works according to moral laws. Because our universe is also fallen, those laws are not always predictable anymore and do not always work according to the originally intended pattern. One day there will be a perfect moral reckoning. But in the meantime, it is still true that the moral pattern of the universe has some predictability to it. If you a dig a pit or create some sort of trap for someone else to fall into, in all likelihood you yourself will also fall into it. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword. As they sometimes say today, what goes around comes around. Therefore, act wisely—in the fear of God—at all times.
“A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin” (26:28).
We have intention and effect. The intention of lies is to cause hurt. Let us not molly-coddle or downplay what is really going on. The heart is desperately wicked and when someone lies about someone else with malicious intention, then that intent needs to be noticed—otherwise the victim will feel that we are brushing under the carpet the true nature of the situation. Likewise, the effect: a flattering mouth, someone speaking pleasant platitudes to make you seem better than you really are, while perhaps initially pleasing to hear, has a damaging set of ramifications. It can cause you to become puffed up, and pride comes before a fall. Therefore, do not believe you own press reports, but humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that in due course he will lift you up. All that matters is what God thinks of you. Live “coram deo” (in the presence of God).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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