Friday, September 23, 2011

Neighborly Advice

Today our Sunday School lesson is reviewing the Old Testament Literature to be taught and learned from Proverbs 25:1-10. The proverbs (wisdom) contained in chapters 25 through 29 were composed by King Solomon but copied years later by the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah. King Solomon was made king over Israel as a young child. The number of people in the nation of Israel to be governed were overwhelming. God appeared to him in a dream and asked what he would like most of all. He asked for an understanding heart for the great task of judging and ruling the people. The request pleased the Lord and it was granted, together with riches and honor, and also long life, if Solomon would walk in obedience to God. 'Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing.' 1 Kings 3:9,10

Much of the Old Testament Literature was written during times of peace. Because he honored God, Hezekiah's reign was marked by peace. The nation of Israel had divided into the Nortern and Southern kingdoms. Hezekiah was one of the few kings in the Southern kingdom who honored God. His father, King Ahaz, was the most wicked king that Judah had ever known. King Ahaz had a love affair establishing idolatry so strongly that even King Hezekiah was not able to completely remove it when he took reign. King Ahaz nailed the doors of the Temple shut which kept the people from entering the house of God to worship the one and only God. 'Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem. And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers.' 2 Chronicles 28: 24,25 He took gold from the Temple and used it as sacrifices to his gods and bribes to the enemies who deceived him. It provoked God to anger. When he died he was buried in Jerusalem, but not in the tombs of the kings. He was not honored by God and his reign was not marked by peace.

'It is the glory of God to conceal a thing...' Prov. 25:2a God is omniscient, all-knowing. There is nothing unknown to Him. God does not have to search or discover any matter. This is His glory because He is the Almighty Creator of all things. Nothing is made new to Him. There are many things yet hidden in creation and in the Word, secret to us now, that awaits our finding. ' search out a matter is the glory of kings.' Prov. 25:2b It is an honor to kings to be able to search out matters and solve them. A wise king will keep himself informed as to important developments which affect his kingdom. He will keep himself surrounded by wise counselors in order to make full investigations and render full, sound judgments and policies. Each of us should be as kings when it comes to search out the matters of the Bible. The heavens seem unsearchable in its height and the earth seems unsearchable in its depth, but the hearts of kings are mysterious. See Prov. 25:3 A king uses his keen administrative skills to uncover the matter, bringing him a certain 'glory' in the sense of fame and accolades. A wise king always knows his glory does not equal the glory of God.

'Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the refiner. Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.' Prov. 25: 4,5 The process of purifying silver was compared to the purification of society in general and rulers in particular. The
duty of magistrates (government official) is to take away the wicked to frighten them and restrain them that they may not spread the infection of their wickedness. This is called taking away the dross from the silver, which is done by the force of fire. "Going through the fire" is not easy. Wicked people are the dross or impurities of a nation, the scum of the country. Once the impurities are separated, the dross rises and leaves very valuable material for the silversmith. If men will not take the wicked away, God will. Likewise, the king and the pastor's reign will be hampered as long as wicked officials are present. They must be removed at all costs in order to establish righteous leadership, thus ensuring stability during his reign.

'Put not forth thyself, in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower, in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.' Prov. 25:6,7 It is a wise policy not to push yourself to the forefront in the royal court, or to seek a place among the celebrities or politicians. It is much better to be invited to a place of honor than to be humiliated, in front of all the great men, to go to a seat in the rear as you did not have an invitation to sit in front. Jesus taught in a parable saying, 'When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.' Luke 14:8-11 Live in humility before God and in harmony with others. God will honor you, and this is the real way to advancement.

'Go not forth, hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbor hath put thee to shame. Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself; and discover not a secret to another: Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.' Prov. 25:8-10 The Bible discourages a spirit of litigation. Do not be hasty to sue someone. The believer is encouraged to settle his grievance out of court. 'Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?' 1 Corinthians 6:2 Favorable court rulings are not guaranteed and may have disastrous consequences. A believer might testify in court as to everything he has seen and knows, but not have sufficient or the proper evidence to prove his case. His neighbor will then be able to discredit him (put him to shame)and even tell secrets of the believer to the world. The Judge hearing the matter may state it was a frivolous and/or vexatious lawsuit. He may rebuke you for not going directly to the Defendant/offender, and at that point your reputation/infamy has been changed. Costs of court and Defendant's costs may be taxed against you because you lost the grievous matter. It is best to go to your neighbor to settle the grievance. If you settle, that is good. You will have a better relationship with your neighbor because you did not take them to court. If the matter is not settled and it is a just cause, put on your armor (Eph 6:10-18) for the battle is the Lord's. Pray for guidance as to whether He has given you the battle plan to move to court as His vessel.

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