Today's proverb has to do with the power of persuasion - especially when the one who is to be persuaded is someone in authority, like a ruler or a king. How is it that we persuade someone so high in office? The answer might shock you, because the Lord says that it is not the forceful man that will win the day. Patience and gentleness have much greater power to persuade than a blustery, arrogant person.
Forbearance is what is needed, according to our proverb. The Hebrew word here is "orek" and it means something long or lengthy. It describes physical measurements. The word used to describe the length of Noah's ark as well as to describe things like large land measurements. But what is measured as long in this passage is the patience and willingness to stick with one's cause before someone in authority. The idea is that a person forbears the fact that the ruler has a different opinion - and seeks to bring the powers of persuasion to bear on him over time. Most rulers are not given to quick swings in opinion - and when they do - it has the danger of not lasing long. The influence of the wise man is applied to a decision over a long period of time. That is one reason he is effective in getting the ruler to think and reason as he does. William Wilberforce spent his entire lifetime forbearing with those who differed with him on the issue of slavery. Yet he held to his views and continued to persuade men by holding them no matter what the outcome of votes within Parliment. In the end, his willingness to remain in the fight and stay there for years won the day for him and his cause.
There is a second tool that a wise man uses in persuading a ruler. We are instructed that a soft or gentle tongue can break a bone. What a powerful picture that is for us - and yet how contrary to the way that many of us are wired to think. It is not boisterousness and bravado that win the day with the ruler. It is the wise, soft spoken and gentle man who can eventually persuade the king on a matter. Consider Daniel for a moment on this matter. He was a very wise man who had tremendous influence on the king. Yet we do not have a single passage where Daniel speaks impassioned words to the king. Joseph was the same way. He was a man of controlled passions when it came to his dealings with Pharaoh. This kind of strength under control allies great power. The king and the Pharaoh came to have great confidence in these godly men. Their words - though gentle in their presentation - were powerful and could accomplish much.
Of those who led with forbearance and gentle words, Jesus stands more significant among all. He was patient with His disciples - and submitted Himself to God and even to others when He Himself had once sat at the right hand of God Himself. He spoke in ways that made men marvel - and commanded even the elements to submit to His will. When standing before a corrupt pseudo-court of man - Jesus was able to be quiet - even amazing His captors with His behavior. And when it came to raw displays of power - His simple words, "I am He," in the garden caused a wicked mob to stagger backwards and fall to the ground on their backs. Gentleness bearing great power - Jesus was the epitome of it in life.
Too many in our day think that to be influential you have to be a jerk. They see power as something wielded with an iron fist. You don't take anything from anybody - even someone in a position of authority. Such behavior may get you a temporary rung higher on the corporate ladder, but it will NOT bode well for you long into the future. The "gentle-tongued" man does not make the kind of enemies that the man with the macho attitude. He does not leave a trail of crushed egos and smashed careers along the way. The man who triumphs with power and a lack of gentleness will have many who will cheer for his fall. The gentle man learns to break a bone with the gentle and controlled way that he quietly and consistently speaks for his principles. Thus he comes to the point of persuasioin without all the baggage of his blustery counterparts.
Learn to influence others wisely. Learn to stand in positions of principle steadfastly. Learn to persuade others with soft, gentle, bone-crushing power. The power you access in the process will not be that of the fleshly elite of this world, whose kingdoms are passing away. The power you access will be that of the Son of God - Who remained silent as a lamb before His shearers - and yet who crushed death and hell under the weight of His godly obedience to His Father. There, dear saints, is power!