Today we get the opportunity to turn the page in Proverbs and learn a brand new lesson. Proverbs 27 is an interesting chapter in that verses 1-10 and 11-22 are really a reflection of one another. The footnote in The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible says,
This unit brings together a loose collection of proverbs that primarily pertain to friendship. The key synonyms “friend” and “neighbor” occur in verses 6, 9, 10, and 14. Other proverbs are paired with these and indirectly pertain to the topic. The unit falls into two balanced halves (vv.1-10 and vv.11-22). These two sections parallel each other: introductory admonitions regarding relationships (vv.1-2, vv.11-12), negative teachings about folly in relationships (vv. 3-4, vv.13-16) and positive teachings about the nature and value of friendship (vv. 5-10, vv.17-22). (The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, pg. 1022-1023.)
Today we are going to focus on the first ten verses of Proverbs 27 as we seek to learn about friendship. We’ll learn as we listen in on Solomon’s instruction to his son. This is an important lesson for us because friendship is such an important aspect of life and yet there is so much heartache and pain that comes when friendships go bad.
Friendships are important because they give us a sense of belonging, they give us support when things are not going well for us in life, and they give us folks to share the variety of life with–our interests, our ups and downs, and our hopes and fears for the future. On the other hand friendships can be so devastating when we experience the hurt and pain that come from broken friendships. We feel betrayed, we feel alone, we feel taken advantage of when a friend becomes an enemy or when a friend decides that they would rather be friends with somebody else. Listen to this poem written by Heather Thomlin, a young high school girl, about the hurt she felt as a result of her “friends.”
I don’t know why I feel this way,
So unhappy and depressed, day after day.
It hurts so very much for me to see,
My OLD friends talking without a place for me.
Why does this bother me? Why do I care?
My heart has already begun to heal the tear.
I care because they all have a place in my heart,
Even though they stabbed my heart with a dart.
We had been great friends, the best of friends,
Why does this all have to come to an end?
(This poem was written for Alisha, Janet, Jenny, and Michelle, 3 months after they stopped talking to me.) (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7609/poem5.htm)
That’s a sad, but often repeated reality for so many young people today. How often do we see this take place at school? Little girls on the schoolyard hold hands as they skip across the asphalt court. They make friendship necklaces out of clover, they jump rope together, and describe one another as their very best friend. As they grow and get older they talk on the phone late at night, talk about their boyfriends, and have sleepovers at one another’s house. Then someone moves in on the relationship, a mood or a rumor crack the fortress of friendship, and eventually another friendship is trashed. This is not an isolated experience, this is the reality that each of us has faced and will face again in the future. This isn’t just the experience of the young. Regardless of how young or old we are we have experienced the heartache of broken friendships. Friendship gone bad has been written about in books and poems, they’ve been displayed in movies, and sung about in songs.
Many people are familiar with Eminem. If you are not familiar with him then you just need to know that he’s the angry, often foul-mouthed and vulgar, white guy who sells more rap CD’s than any other artist in the world. What’s he so angry about? Maybe the lyrics to one of his older songs will give us a clue. The song is called, “If I Had,” Eminem writes,
What are friends?
Friends are people that you think are your friends
But they’re really your enemies, with secret identities
and disguises, to hide they’re true colors
So just when you think you’re close enough to be brothers
they wanna come back and cut your throat when you ain’t lookin.
(“If I Had” Eminem)
When we hear the word, “Friend,” the word conjures up all kinds of emotions within us. We can instantly recall great memories of genuine friendships that have endured throughout our lives as well as horrifying stories of betrayal by insensitive, hard-hearted people who proved their lack of love.
Today, we are going to learn a valuable lesson from Solomon’s wisdom. In verses 1-2 of our Scripture we find Solomon’s counsel on refraining from boasting about ourselves and accepting praise from those outside of our family. In verses 3-4 we learn about the impossibility of building a relationship with fools, those who are angry, and those who are jealous. Last of all, in verses 5-10, Solomon teaches us about the positive characteristics of friendships. Let’s dig in by reading our Scripture together.
1 Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. 2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips. 3 Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but provocation by a fool is heavier than both. 4 Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? 5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. 7 He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet. 8 Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home. 9 Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel. 10 Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother’s house when disaster strikes you; better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. (Proverbs 27:1-10)
In verses 1-2, Solomon encourages his son to never boast about what he is has done, what he’s going to do, or what he will become in the future. In the Hebrew Bible the very first word of verse 1 and the first word of verse 2 are the same word. The word in Hebrew is “halal” and the word means, “to shine, to praise, boast, or to be commended.” We are not to boast about ourselves, anything about ourselves. The reason we are to make every effort not to brag or boast about what we are going to do or what we have done is because we do not have the power to control one thing about our life. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote these words,
13 Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16 NIV)
It is imperative that we place our trust and reliance upon the Lord and His purposes for our lives. So many people talk about their plans for the future as if they are sure to happen, but in actuality we don’t have the power to bring anything to pass. We are not to trust and put our hope in our abilities, but in the Lord alone. In Jeremiah, God encouraged the people with these words.
23 This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV)
Don’t let pride move humility out of your heart because you made the National Honor Society this past year. Don’t brag or feel like you are better than those around you because you are good looking, can play an instrument, or because you are a great athlete. Don’t get puffed-up because you live in a big house or drive expensive cars. If you are going to feel pride about anything then glory in the fact that God knows you, loves you, and has claimed you as His own. If you glory in anything else then you are going to watch your kingdom crumble at some point.
I wish Courtney Butler could be here to tell you what I am saying is true, but Courtney has gone home to be with the Lord. Courtney was a high school sensation–the kind of kid that every parent dreams of having. She was the homecoming queen her senior year at her high school in Columbia, Louisiana. She wasn’t just another beautiful young lady; she played basketball and golf for her school as well. If being beautiful and an outstanding athlete weren’t enough, Courtney made straight “A’s” throughout her high school career. She was the Valedictorian of her senior class.
Courtney graduated from high school and attended Louisiana College, a Christian college in Alexandria, Louisiana. She was named the Outstanding Student Trainer at Louisiana College. She studied Sports Training and was in her senior year when she was out one night with her boyfriend and four other friends. They were driving down the road when they came to a curve in the road and Courtney’s boyfriend didn’t make the curve. The accident was horrible and Courtney was badly hurt.
The night before her accident she had looked into going to the University of Oklahoma to get her Master’s Degree in Sports Training, but all of that changed on the night of November 21, 2003. Courtney was in the hospital until May of 2004.
When Courtney finally got out of the hospital she went home where her mom and dad would wake her up at 6:30 am to bath and dress her for the day. Then they feed her through a feeding tube at 8 am, Noon, 4:00 in the afternoon, and 8:00 in the evening. The biggest victories they celebrated was Courtney responding to their voice or holding her head up without assistance. Most everything was taken away from Courtney except the one thing that mattered most. One year before Courtney’s accident she had accepted Christ and been baptized. When everything was taken away from Courtney she still had her relationship with the Lord that would strengthen her and her family until the day the Lord wiped her tears for the final time and took her home.
Solomon tells his son that instead of ringing his own bell he should let “another” praise him. This is an interesting thought because “another” is not just anyone. Solomon has a specific kind of person in mind when he uses the Hebrew word, “zuwr.” The word means, “be a stranger, another, or foreigner.” The “stranger” or, as Solomon says, “another” is not a complete stranger, but someone outside of the family. As we live our lives for the glory of God we are to pray that others outside of our own family will see godly attributes exhibited through our lives. We are to live and pray that others will see Christ living in us. If they praise us for a job well done or for some virtue they see in our life then we are to be grateful for God at work.
In our next section of Scripture we see Solomon describing for his son those who are incapable of friendship. The warning for you and me is stay away from these folks. Don’t allow yourself to get in a friendship with the fool, the angry person, or those who are jealous. Let’s read our Scripture together.
3 Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but provocation by a fool is heavier than both. 4 Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? (Proverbs 27:3-4 NIV)
The first part of verse 3 describes for us things that put a heavy weight on us physically. A “stone is heavy” and “sand a burden,” but a fool will weigh you down even more than either of these. We understand the weight of huge boulders, but the thought that sand is a weighty burden might be hard for us to grasp because grains of sand are so small. Hold on a minute and let me read to you from Jeremiah 5:22 where God describes the power and weight of sand.
22 ‘Should you not fear me?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it. (Jeremiah 5:22 NIV)
God says that the boundary of sand around the oceans holds it in place. We’ve witnessed the destructive power of the oceans with the reports we hear about tsunamis and hurricanes, but the water eventually goes back to its place. How vast and overpowering are the seas and oceans of the world and yet a boundary of sand keeps them in their place. If you think a sack of rocks or a load of sand will wear you out, then you’ve never had a friend who is a fool.
In verse 4 Solomon describes others who are incapable of the kind of friendship that God desires for you and me: the angry person who is full of cruelty and fury and the jealous person. If you’ve ever had a friend who would fly off the handle and spew venom when things didn’t go his or her way then you know how impossible it is to build a lasting relationship with these kinds of folks. The jealous person is incapable of friendship because you can never be at ease around any other friend without your jealous friend coming unglued. They constantly question you: “Don’t you like me?” “I saw you talking to her at lunch today. What’s up with that?” If you receive accolades or applause for a job well done a jealous friend doesn’t celebrate with you, they are jealous that they didn’t get recognized.
In Genesis 30 we see an example of this type of behavior. Jacob had two wives, Rachel and Leah. Leah was able to have children and Rachel didn’t have any kids. Rachel saw her sister having all of these children and she became jealous. Read along with me in Genesis 30:1-2.
1 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’ 2 Jacob became angry with her and said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?’ (Genesis 30:1-2 NIV)
My friends, we’ve got to be discerning when it comes to friends. Stay away from those who fly off the handle and get angry whenever things don’t go their way. Stay away from those who are jealous and envious.
In verses 5-6 we see the wisdom Solomon shares with his son about what to do when things go wrong in a real friendship. This wisdom only applies when two people are genuine friends. This wisdom won’t work if you have a relationship with any of the three folks that we’ve just described. Solomon writes,
5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs 27:5-6 NIV)
Both of these verses really describe the same phenomenon that takes place in friendships. Solomon begins verse 5 with the word “better.” He says that an “open rebuke” is better than “hidden love.” What does he mean by this comparison? That’s a great question! Whenever we have friends it is inevitable that things will go wrong: harsh words will be spoken, feelings will get hurt, somebody will do something crazy or stupid, and the friendship will be fractured. What do you do then? Well, if you are a genuine friend then you will work to repair the breach. A real friend will seek to correct the problem.
I got a call this past week from a friend who has a friend who is living in a destructive way right now. My friend felt the need to talk to him about what he was doing and the danger he is in because of the way he is living his life. He didn’t want to talk to his friend to crush him or to appear “better” than his buddy, but he wanted to talk to his friend to try and turn him back from destruction. When I talked to my friend he said, “I don’t know how he will react. He might hear me, but then again he might blow off steam and tell me that it’s none of my business.” How his friend responds will show the quality of their friendship.
What most people want in a friendship is nothing more than “hidden love.” You know what “hidden love” is? It’s nothing more than staying out of your friend’s business. If your friend is living destructively then you say, “Oh well, it’s her life.” If your friend comes to you because they experience a moment of regret for something they’ve done then you respond, “Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself. You are not as bad as… You and I need to know that this is not friendship. Solomon says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.”
We need the corrective love of our brothers and sisters in Christ. I need other men who have my best interest at heart. Men who are willing to risk our friendship because they love me enough to correct me or ask me to think about what I am doing or how I am handling things.
Let’s move on. In verses 7-8 Solomon describes what should be the closest friendship of all for those who are married, their husband or wife. Solomon writes,
7 He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet. 8 Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home. (Proverbs 27:7-8 NIV)
For those who are married there should be no greater friendship than the one they share in their home. I read an interesting definition of friendship this past week on a website at cyberparent.com. It defines friendship this way,
It is an in-depth relationship combining trust, support, communication, loyalty, understanding, empathy, and intimacy. Aspects of life that all of us crave. (http://www.cyberparent.com/friendship/what.htm)
This is what God desires for husbands and wives and yet this isn’t the definition that most husbands and wives would offer in defining their relationship. I get to walk with many couples as they prepare to get married. They are so in love! It is so encouraging to meet with them and just see the love oozing from their pores. As I meet with them and they do the homework I give them I tell them that my job is to prepare them for marriage. I want to give them as many tools as possible to help them live together and love each other for the rest of their life. I let them know that the love they will experience in the future, if they will trust God through the tough times, will be different from the love they are enjoying now.
You know what happens after folks get married. We learn things about one another. We argue about differences, there are turbulent times, rocky roads that must be traveled, and many husbands and wives lose their love in those distressful days. This is an interesting thing that happens that Solomon evidently knew about because he compares a man who strays from home to a bird who “strays” from its nest. At first sight you probably thought the same thing I thought, “What does a bird straying have to do with a man straying from home?” The key word for us is the word, “nadad.” The word means, “to retreat, flee, depart, or move.” Birds leave their nest when their comfort, their peace, is disturbed. How many husbands or wives have fled the nest for these very reasons? Oh but the blessing comes when husbands and wives will apply the wisdom of Solomon and reconcile those differences, repair the hurts, and watch God work.
In the last section of Proverbs 27 that we will look at this morning Solomon tells us that a genuine friend who is nearby is better than a distant relative during our time of need. Let’s read verses 9-10 together.
9 Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel. 10 Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother’s house when disaster strikes you–better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. (Proverbs 27:9-10 NIV)
Once again Solomon compares two different things to make his point: the sweet smell of perfume and the pleasantness of a friend’s earnest counsel. The word for “earnest” is the Hebrew word for “soul.” As we’ve talked about already in this study, the counsel of a genuine friend may not always be easy to hear, but it is needed. He or she will offer us godly counsel that seeks to turn us away from destruction and lead us into the abundance that God desires for us.
A friend who is a genuine friend, a godly friend who is nearby, is far more needed than a blood relative who lives in a distant city. I love my family. My dad and sisters have been such a wonderful blessing to me throughout my life and I am grateful that the Lord placed me in the family He did. Throughout the years my family has grown. Not my biological family, but those who love me and have demonstrated their undying devotion to seeing me become the man that God desires for me to be. There have been times in my life since Connie and I moved to Oklahoma City that we have gone through some very difficult times. Many of you have shown yourself to be friends in the truest sense of the word. You have prayed for us, stood with us, helped us, and encouraged us like we were born from the same mother. We aren’t of the same mother, but we are of the same Father and He has placed us in His family so that we might be one another’s friends.
Each week that I turn another page in Proverbs I am amazed at the wisdom, the practical help that I receive from God’s Word for my daily life. I hope that you are growing in your understanding of God’s Word as well. I would be doing us all an injustice this morning if I didn’t let those of you who feel like you do not have a friend know that there is a friend waiting to hold you in His arms this morning. Jesus knows what it is like to be betrayed. He knows what it is like to be rejected. He has a heart for those who feel friendless. He will not only be your friend, but He will forgive you of all of your sin, the times you have betrayed others, hurt others, and even turned away from God. Won’t you invite Him in to your heart this morning and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 8, 2013