Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart. Proverbs 25:20
There are three things mentioned here in this passage - all three of which are wrong. The first two are examples, while the third is what the proverb is seeking to help us understand is wisdom. This proverb is one that I would call a "considerate" proverb. God is trying to get us to understand what being considerate means. The situation is that of someone who is troubled or sad about a situation or situations in life. The trouble has reached the point of troubling their heart. When this is the case, we need to understand that we need to be gracious and kind. A person who sings songs to someone who it troubled - is being inconsiderate toward the person. They will not think it a blessing to have happy songs sung to them. Even less would be the suggestion that they join in singing, which would then be presented at the perfect thing to help them get out of their emotional doldrums.
This kind of action is compared to someone who takes off their outer garment on a cold day. This would not be a blessing. The person would immediately react negatively to the cold and want to wrap up again. The other instance mentioned is someone who pours vinegar on soda. There would be an instand negative reaction as the soda vinegar mixture would begin bubbling up ruining both the soda and the vinegar. The purpose of giving these two examples if to remind us that as we would think either of them an unwise thing to do - so we should realize that someone who is dealing with a troubled heart should not do so by singing happy songs.
A wise man ministers to someone based on their need - not based on his own feelings at the time. A man is troubled not just because he is not feeling good emotionally. He is troubled because there are genuine issues that are unmet. He needs godly counsel. He needs someone who wants to understand him and the circumstances that have him so troubled. That kind of loving counsel will minister to him effectively.
Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot Is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble. Proverbs 25:19
Speaking as a man who has actually had a bad tooth and an unsteady foot, I can say that it must not be a good thing to put confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble. Today's proverb deals with who to trust when times are difficult. The one you want to trust is one who has proven himself faithful - and who has done it over the long haul of life.
A bad tooth is something that is very tricky. I had a tooth that was cracked. It was a hairline crack the entire length of the tooth. This made for a very interesting time eating - and especially drinking something cold. The problem was that the tooth would be fine a lot of the time. It was just when something hit it and opened the hairline crack that things got interesting. My dentist couldn't find it when I went to him about it. He looked and looked, but just couldn't seem to get the hairline to open so that he could see if it was that particular tooth that had gone bad. Then he was able to shoot some liquid where it went into and opened the crack. Needless to say, I began to levitate off the chair in tremendous pain. Thankfully, he was able to remove the tooth - and life has been much better. That experience helps me understand the need for good teeth - not bad.
The same can be easily said for the character of who you trust in a time of trouble. You do NOT want someone who is faithless in that moment. The faithless man is the one who will either run - or possibly even turn on you in trouble. He will not be faithful to stand and fight. He will not be faithful to stand and encourage you. He will not be faithful to stand back to back and watch your back and your blind spots as trouble passes by in life. That man is not to be trusted with your difficulties and trials. For that you want a faithful friend!
Similarly, you don't want someone who is like an unsteady foot. The Hebrew word here specifically speaks of a "slipping" foot. You want a foot that is steady - especially in times of trouble, trial, and storminess in your life. You want to plant your foot and know that it is steady and strong. You want to know that it will not slip - but will be a foundation that though all else is giving way - your foot will be steady. As I said at the begining of today's post - I know something about an unsteady foot. This particular story is somewhat embarassing because it also evidences my propensity for doing some fairly dumb things.
We live in northeast Arkansas - where in the winter we are in the habit of having some pretty nasty ice storms. One winter recently we had a doozy - which dropped about 5-7 inches of ice on us. The problem with ice storms is that they weigh down trees and break their limbs. This ice storm had broken a huge limb off of one of our trees and dropped it into our bedroom. The limb fell in such a way that it pierced through the roof and was sticking through our bedroom ceiling. Seriously lacking wisdom, I made my way onto the roof of our home (which was covered in ice) to get the limb off the roof. With a chainsaw (I know the level of stupidity is rising) and a tree saw, I went to remove the limb. I was able to accomplish this easily and lowered the chainsaw and saw with a rope to the ground. Then I went to get off the roof. The problem was I had pretty much flattened the ice on it to where it made a great slide - which, by the way, is not what you want your roof to be when attempting to get off of it. That is, unless you want to get off quickly - which was what happened to me. What was pretty sure footing on the way up - was not an icy slide on the way down. To say I had an unsteady or slipping foot is an understatement. I survived the fall off the roof onto my driveway (just missing a car hood) and decided that any other limbs could remain as a decorative touch to my roof if they damaged it. I was going to wait until the ice was gone. But, for our purposes today, this was the example of a slipping foot. Not something to trust on an icy roof - or in icy conditions in your life either.
We all are going to face difficulties and trials in life. There will be trouble if we are fallen humans, which we are, in a sinful world - which it is. Therefore there is no need to compound our trials and difficulties by having to rely upon someone who is untrustworthy and unfaithful in the midst of them. This is where you need true friends who are reliable. It is also a reminder to us on an ultimate level to consider Almighty God as the ultimate friend in all circumstances. The false gods of this world will fail you for they are infinitely unfaithful to stand in the ultimate day of trouble - the judgment day. In that day you want the "friend who sticks closer than a brother." You want the Savior whose blood speaks better than the blood of Abel. You want the foundation that will stand when the storms come and the floods burst against the house of your life. You want Jesus Christ - King of kings - Lord of lords - the True and Faithful One Who will stand. And in a lesser, yet very applicable picture for today, you want the Good Tooth and the Steady Foot - both of which Jesus is every day for all eternity. Trust Him - for He will never forsake you - or fail you!
All the days of the afflicted are bad, But a cheerful heart has a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15 (NASB)
So, how is your attitude lately? Here in today's proverb we have an interesting truth that is being presented to us. The truth has to do with what is governing our hearts, or said another way, our choice to how we look at our circumstances in life. We can choose this, whether you know that or not, and it will truly govern what kind of day we are going to experience. Intrigued? Then let's take a look at the proverb today and learn how choosing our attitude each day in response to the grace of God can govern in many ways what kind of day we are going to have.
All the days of the afflicted are bad. This seems to be a "University of Duh" kind of statement, if there was not a second part to this proverb. But this is not speaking of those who are dealing with affliction and hardship and trouble alone. The second half of the proverb points us to what is ruling in a man's heart. The truth of the matter is that often feeling bad in the midst of affliction is far more a matter of the heart than it is just the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Let me explain.
There are those who in the midst of very difficult affliction seem to thrive and keep a great attitude - and - there are those who even in abundance, consider themselves afflicted. I've watched people face the most awful circumstances and still have a cheerful attitude. They are the kind of people you go visit in the hospital, and after leaving the room you wonder who came to encourage who? You can supposedly to encourage and lift their spirits - but leave honestly more encouraged by them. They seem to have an almost inconquerable spirit about them. The reason being is that they do not face life thinking they are afflicted. They do not look at the glass as always half empty. They look at things in light of the grace of God.
When you realize that you deserve hell and the wrath of God for your sin. When you grasp that you honestly deserve nothing but punishment and affliction for the choice to grieve God and live in rebellion to His will. Then you grasp that God in His mercy did NOT punish you - and then in infinite grace sent His Son to pay the price for your rebellion and sin. That you have been given life and life abundantly instead in Christ Jesus. Well, then nothing in this life can even begin to disturb you at your core. I am not saying that afflictions won't hurt and that problems might not get you down initially. But the fact of your salvation should blow your mind and bring you to where you have continually a cheerful heart. Paul warned the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. He told them again that they should rejoice. This was to protect them from having the sense of an afflicted heart - that would eventually see a cloud inside of every silver lining. Instead we should see how God in His mercy had blessed us beyond all measure. When we see this, we should be filled with a happy heart - a redeemed heart - a joyful heart - and as we read here a cheerful heart. Grace and grace alone is ground to have this indominatable cheerfulness control and utterly dominate your demeanor.
The cheerful heart, we read here, has a continual feast. Christians should have a great attitude - at all times. We should know that light and momentary discomforts (which when you read what Paul called light and momentary seem far from that description) are working for us an eternal weight of glory. We need to know that the varicolored trials and difficulties that we face are reason to rejoice exceedingly - for they are working endurance in our lives. This endurance will result in being mature and complete - lacking nothing in our lives. There is nothing - absolutely nothing that will ever separate us from the love of God that was given to us in Christ Jesus. Therefore even death is not a problem any more. We can walk through life knowing that the final foe is defeated. This, dear saints, is what can fill your heart with joy (i.e. here called cheerfulness) no matter what is going on in your life. I've even seen those facing death have a cheerfulness about their demeanor.
So, what will be your choice today? Will you walk about as one of the continually afflicted - manifesting an "Eyeore-ish" ability to see the reason to not rejoice? That will make every day that you live seem as if it has some bad aspect to it. There is another choice, which is to fill your heart with a joy that comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul said it best in Romans chapter 5 when he said, "Therefore, having been made righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God."
It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud. Proverbs 16:19
Humility is something to be embraced by God's people. It is not usually considered a great thing because often to be humble means that you will not be on the top rung of things. Here where Solomon tells us it would be better to be humble in spirit with the lowly that truth comes out. The humble man is the one who is to embrace a low social position. The humble man does not seek great things for himself. The sense of this Hebrew word is that one is not only humble, but they are also meek (strength under control) and they are contrite (they know their sin and greive over it. The humble also associate with a group most people would shun - the lowly. The lowly are those who are poor, afflicted, and usually crying out for help to the Lord. These people are often absued by the rich and by oppressive leaders. When you associate with such people, it means that you most likely will not be among the movers and shakers of society. Yet it is better to be here among the lowest of the low than to be with those who suffer from pride. Something that will prove helpful in understanding the second part of this proverb is the reality that the humble are not seeking advancement for themselves. They serve God and look to Him for their advancement and their victories.
We are warned that it is better to be with the lowly and to be humble with them - than to divide the spoil with the proud. The proud (Hebrew word "ge'eh") are not just proud and haughty - they are those whose pride is bringing the Lord Himself to a point of desiring to judge them. Granted, they are getting the spoil - which meant money and things - but at what cost? The idea of spoil means that they are fighting or warring against another. The spoil was what was left over after they had wiped out their enemies. The proud conquer their opposition, and then rise up and take their stuff afterwards. Their advancement does not come by trusting the Lord - but by dominating and destroying their competition. They leave in their wake a large number of people who are either ruined or are so dominated that they surrender what is theirs to their conquerors. True, they may have a lot of money, a lot of stuff, and victories to their credit - but they also have God as their adversary. God watches all this and burns with anger - responding to their pride and arrogance by promising a recompense that may not come today - but it is surely coming. When you consider this, seeing that even though they have victories and spoils, they come at far too high a price, the judgment of God - you also see why it is better to be with the humble and even oppressed than with this crew who are one day going to face the wrath of God.
All the days of the afflicted are bad, But a cheerful heart has
a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15
Your attitude often will make all the difference in how you experience the events of your life. For some, their mindset is that if anything bad can happen, it will. For others, they take everything that comes to them - and somehow make even the worst of things beneficial. Their mindset is to take the proverbial lemons and life and turn them into lemonade.
We first read of the pessimist. "All the days of the afflicted are bad." This is the person who not only sees the glass as half empty - but who also figures that there are people who are working to make sure that it eventually empties further. They consider themselves afflicted - CONSTANTLY! They see themselves as "the afflicted" - which here is the word "aniy." This word means to be poor, oppressed, miserable, in constant want and need. It is a sad thing to watch someone like this because like the proverb states - they see every day as a bad day. These are the constant complainers. In church we would be tempted to ask them to lead in a word of complaint or criticism - rather than to ask for them to lead in prayer. They always seem to have a sad story to share - a problem that seems overwhelming - a way that they have been treated horribly - or something they see wrong. Don't misunderstand, there is a place for these things - and we do not need to squelch people's ability to share in difficult times. But the "afflicted" here never ceases to have something like this. To find them content and grateful for their lives - is next to impossible. They are always ready to be the grand marshall in the bummer parade!
The second half of this proverb contrasts another person. This is the one who has a "cheerful heart." Hebrews called this a "good" heart. It was someone who was happy, who was glad. They often chose to be happy, glad, delightful, and pleased. Their choice to be this way was a matter of their own heart. This is the person who simply chooses to be happy in their lives. They will look at difficulties and problems as opportunities to grow - or even better ways that God is working to conform them to His image. They see every situation as a potential wonderful thing God is working in their lives. They grasp that not eveything in life is going to be pleasant - but they take the same hard knocks that make the afflicted see every day as bad - and turn them into a reason to be thankful, grateful, and filled with joyeous expectation of what God is going to do to glorify Himself in every situation. They truly do understand that, "all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, and who live according to His purposes."
The Bible says that these folks - the cheerful ones - have a continual feast. They tend to be happy no matter what happens to them. They see God's providential hand in everything that happens to them. They are thrilled to watch Him do what only He can do - and are willing to wait for Him to act - even if it means a prolonged period of difficulty and trial. They take whatever God's sovereign hand gives them - and make it into a gourmet feast.
To be a cheerful, grateful person is far better than to be one of the continually afflicted. People want to be around the first person - and honestly - struggle with the second. It is not hard to be around someone who genuinely needs encouragement because they are having a tough time, but when someone is always seeming to have a tough time it becomes hard to know what to say. What often needs to be said is that the "afflicted" needs to see God as sovereign in all their affairs. They need to hear that God does work these things out for good - if they will allow Him to conform them to the image of His Son. They need to hear from the book of James that they are to consider it pure joy when they encounter various trials. God wants us to be joyful people - not miserable ones. Paul admonished the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord - and that to say that same thing to them was not a burden to him - but was indeed a protection to them. Joy is part of the inheritance given to every believer. This does not mean that we can never have hard times - but it does mean that if we see ourselves as the continually afflicted whose every day is bad - something is wrong with our perspective. The Lord does not want us living on the scraps of misery - but wants us to enjoy His presence, His perspective, and the continual feast that comes by being in His presence.