Last week we discussed Proverbs 24:17-18 which speaks of not gloating when your enemy falls and Proverbs 24:27 which addresses the issue of proper planning.  Today we will begin in Proverbs, chapter 25.

       Proverbs 25:1: These are more proverbs of Solomon, copied by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah:

       When we began this series in October of 2015, I discussed how the book of Proverbs came about and how most of the proverbs contained in this compilation appear to be from Solomon. Chapter one verse one of Proverbs identifies the proverbs as being of Solomon.  Chapter 10 also begins with the phrase, “The proverbs of Solomon.”  Now here in chapter 25 the narrative begins with the phrase, “These are more proverbs of Solomon.”

       As pointed out in my first sermon in this series, not all the proverbs in this collection are from Solomon.  In Proverbs 22:17 and 24:23 the writer speaks of “sayings of the wise” which may indicate sayings of other wise men are included in this collection.  Some scholars have noted that 30 sayings of the wise in Proverbs 22:17 to 24:32 contain similarities to 30 sections of an Egyptian document of instruction that was contemporary with the time of Solomon. 

       In addition to the “sayings of the wise” possibly being associated with sayings other than those of Solomon, we also find chapter 30 attributed to a person named Agur, son of Jakeh and Proverbs 31:1-9 is attributed to King Lemuel.  Neither the Scriptures nor secular sources identify who Agur or Lemuel are. We will be getting to the proverbs of these men as we move along in this series.

       As explained in my first sermon in this series, we don’t know when the individual proverbs of Solomon and others were compiled and made into the book handed down to us called Proverbs.  This may have been a work in progress for many years.  Proverbs 25:1 indicates there were additional proverbs of Solomon that were found and were being copied by scribes during the reign of Hezekiah. Hezekiah reigned around 230 years after Solomon died. This tells us that a number of Solomon’s proverbs were already written down at this point in history and had been compiled into some form of document which was now being added to.

       1 Kings chapter four records that Solomon spoke 3000 proverbs.  The book of Proverbs contains around 800 of these proverbs.  This means there are another 2,200 proverbs given by this man that we have no record of. An apparent editor of Solomon’s Book of Ecclesiastes tells of Solomon setting in order many proverbs.

       Ecclesiastes 12:9-10:  Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs.  The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.

       1 Kings 4 records Solomon spoke 3000 proverbs. While it is apparent that many of these proverbs were written down, it is very possible that many were not written down and that is why we have no record of them. Those proverbs we do have a record of provide us with the many insights this man had as a result of the wisdom God gave to him.  Before we go forward let’s review what the Scriptures say about how these proverbs came to be.

       1 Kings 4:29-34: God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite--wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.

       These are rather impressive credentials and because of these credentials we can be confident that the observations on life that Solomon provides in the Proverbs can be of benefit to us.  We must keep in mind, however, that as great as Solomon was in wisdom and understanding, our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus was and is greater and we should give even greater heed to His observations on life as given throughout His ministry.  In chastising those who refused to consider the legitimacy of what He was teaching, Jesus made this statement.

       Luke 11:31: The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.

       The Jews of Jesus’ generation had the words of Solomon but by their recorded behavior in the NT narrative, it is obvious that they often didn’t behave in accordance with what Solomon taught.  Now they had the words of Jesus whose teaching was even of greater value than that of Solomon’s and they were rejecting that as well.

       This being said, let’s now continue our journey though the Proverbs. We will begin with Proverbs 25: 4-5.

       Proverbs 25:4-5:  Remove the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith; remove the wicked from the king's presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness.

       Webster’s dictionary defines dross as the scum or unwanted material that forms on the surface of metal.  A secondary meaning is waste or foreign matter of any kind or something that is base, trivial or inferior.

       Many of you probably have a set of silverware eating utensils which like us you use only for special occasions like when you are having a dinner party.  The problem with that is that if these sliver utensils are left unused for any length of time, they begin to corrode.  They develop a film on them of unwanted material and the silverware isn’t usable until this unwanted film is removed. This is the dross that Solomon says must be removed before a silversmith can do something with the sliver.

       Solomon, however, isn’t concerned here about dross covered sliver per se. He is using this as an analogy to wicked people in a government administration of a king preventing the king from reigning in righteousness.  This principle has broad application.  It certainly has application in government where those who are sincerely trying to do what is right for the people are often hampered by those who are more concerned with ingratiating themselves to special interests often at the expense of the people.  It is only when such hindrances are removed that those who are going about their business in a righteous manner can be established.

       This principle can be applied to societies in general.  It is the dross that often corrupts and makes it difficult for the righteous to have the upper hand. This was certainly a problem in ancient Israel and God had to address it a number of times using terminology similar to that of Solomon. 

       Isaiah 1:21-23: See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her-- but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow's case does not come before them.

       Israel had been given a law of righteousness. This law spelled out how they were to conduct themselves before God and man.  Israel started out on the right foot.  When Moses gave then the law, they publically said they would do all that the law required.  They apparently did this for a while.  Isaiah quotes God in saying that righteousness once dwelled in her.  This righteousness was equated with sliver.  For a time the people of Israel were looked upon as pure silver without any containment’s.  But that all changed.  The Israelites allowed their sliver status to become tarnished.  They allowed contamination to set in. There leaders became self serving.  They chased after bribes and failed to look after the needs of the fatherless and widows.  They became dross on the sliver they once were and in so doing became enemies to God and God had to do some purging.

       Isaiah 1:24-25: Therefore the Lord, the LORD Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: "Ah, I will get relief from my foes and avenge myself on my enemies. I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities.

       Solomon said to remove the dross from the silver so that the pure silver can be seen and utilized by the silversmith.  The blood of Jesus has removed the dross of sin for every one of us.  Before God, the chief silversmith, we appear as refined silver, perfect in every way because of what Jesus did.  Our daily goal should be to keep that perfected silver from gathering dross.  In so doing we can be pleasing to God.

Proverb #2

       Proverbs 25:6-7: Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, "Come up here," than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman.

       This proverb is all about the practice of humility.  There is much teaching in the Scriptures about our need to be humble and we are going to spend the rest of the sermon time discussing this issue. Paul spoke about looking upon others as better than ourselves.  Paul wrote that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Jesus very likely had Proverb’s 25:6-7 in mind when He said the following:

       Luke 14:7-11: When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable:  "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, `Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, `Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

       Being humble before God and man is hammered home repeatedly throughout the Scriptures.  This appears to be a primary attribute of character that God expects of us and will respond to.  We have that often quoted statement recorded in 2 Chronicles.

       2 Chronicles 7:14:  If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

       The Hebrew word rendered “humble” in this passage and a number of other OT passages is kana and simple means to “bow the knee.”  This word is used to describe someone who comes before God in acknowledgement of who God is and His sovereignty over all things and that He is to be obeyed. It is seen in Scripture that God will positively respond to our humbling ourselves before Him. There are a number of examples in the OT of this very thing.  Let’s look at several accounts in Scripture where the Hebrew word kana is used to describe behavior.

       It’s recorded in 2 Chronicles 12 that after Rehoboam became king, he and all Israel abandoned the law of YHWH.  Because of this, God allowed the king of Egypt to attack Jerusalem.  This king and his armies captured the fortified cities of Judah and was about to take Jerusalem.

       At this point a prophet came to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah and explained that God allowed Egypt to successfully attack them because of their unfaithfulness to God. It’s recorded that Rehoboam and the leaders of Israel  humbled themselves and acknowledged they had it coming to them and God was only doing what was just.  They in essence bowed the knee to YHWH. They must have truly humbled themselves as it is recorded that God said He would not pour out His wrath upon them but would give them deliverance from the King of Egypt.

       In 2 Chronicles 33 we read that King Hezekiah of Judah became ill and was at the point of death. He prayed to YHWH and was healed. But Hezekiah's heart was proud and he did not show proper respect or thanks for the kindness God had shown him.  The result was that the God’s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem. Hezekiah apparently came to his senses and humbled himself before God as did the people of Jerusalem and God withheld His wrath.  

       2 Chronicles 32:26: Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah (KJV).

       Let’s look at one more example of what humbling oneself before God can do and also what a failure to be humble before God does.  In 2 Chronicles 33 we have the account of Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, who was twelve years old when he began to reign in Jerusalem over the nation of Judah and he reigned 55 years.

       Manasseh began his reign on the wrong foot and things went from bad to worse. He rebuilt high places, shrines to other God’s, which Hezekiah his father had broken down.  He constructed pagan altars to worship the sun, moon and stars.  He caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom and observed times, used enchantments used witchcraft and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards, all things condemned in the law. He even set up a carved image in the house of God which was strictly forbidden. 

       Needless to say, God was very displeased with him and brought upon Judah the armies of the king of Assyria who took Manasseh and carried him to Babylon.  But then look what happened.

       2 Chronicles 33:12-13:  In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.

       From these examples, it can be seen that God reacts very favorable to the humbling of oneself, even when great sins have been committed as seen in the case of Manasseh. In all three of these examples we see kings and others repenting of what they were doing.  To humble oneself before God most often involves repentance.  To repent is to recognize ones sin and strive not to repeat such sin.  God reacts very favorably to such humbling of oneself.  On the other hand, God has little tolerance for an unrepentant sinner who refuses to humble himself as we will see in what happened to Manasseh’s son.

       Manasseh acted on his repentance and got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image he had placed in the temple.  He removed all the altars he had built to other god’s and he restored the altar of the LORD and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thanks offerings on it.  He instructed Judah to serve the YHWH, the God of Israel.  After Manasseh died, his son Amon became king.  Let the Scriptures tell what happened.

       2 Chronicles 33:21-23: Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem two years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as his father Manasseh had done. Amon worshiped and offered sacrifices to all the idols Manasseh had made. But unlike his father Manasseh, he did not humble himself before the LORD; Amon increased his guilt.

       Unlike his father Manasseh, Amon did not humble himself before the LORD. What was the result?  He was assassinated by officials in his government.  God did not support Amon and simply allowed events to proceed or maybe even brought about the events that resulted in Amon’s death although the Scripture doesn’t say that.  What happened to Amon is reflective of what Samuel states about how God reacts to the humble versus the haughty.

       2 Samuel 22:28: You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.

       In this passage the Hebrew word aniy (awnee) is rendered humble.  This word has a basic meaning of being afflicted, wretched and poor and is used to denote such conditions in various OT Scriptures.  However, a secondary meaning of this word is to be meek, mild and humble.  When this word is used in contrast to being haughty, it is this secondary meaning which is applied as seen here in 2 Samuel.

       This same word is also used in Numbers 12:3 to say Moses was the most humble man on earth and by David in Psalm 18 where being humble is contrasted with being haughty. David uses this word in Psalm 25 to show God teaches the humble His ways.  In all these passages the secondary meaning of this word is obviously being employed.

       Numbers 12:3: (Now Moses was a very humble (Hebrew aniy) man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

       Psalm 18:27: You save the humble (Hebrew: aniy) but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

       Psalm 25:9: He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

       Isaiah uses the Hebrew aniy in the context of making a very profound statement about how God looks at us in relation to how we relate to Him.

       Isaiah 66:2: "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.

       God esteems those who are humble, contrite in spirit and tremble at His word.  This a virtual description of what God expects of us and the fact He values this kind of attitude and behavior in his human creation.  He is saying this should be our response to Him.  If you read what God says prior to the statement under consideration, you will find God prefaces what He says by pointing out that he is the creator of all things and because of this we are to respond to Him in humility, contrition and tremble at His word.

       Another Hebrew word rendered into the English word humble or humility is the word anavah.  The Hebrew Lexicons define this word as being humble, modest, lowly of mind and gentle.  This word is derived from another Hebrew word that the Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon defines as having a lowly, pious and modest mind which prefers to bear injuries rather than return them.  Solomon uses the Hebrew word anavah three times to promote the value of humility.

       Proverbs 15:33: The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility (Hebrew: anavah) comes before honor.

       Proverbs 18:12: Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.

       Proverbs 22:4: Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life.

       There is one other Hebrew word that means to be humble and this word appears only once in the OT.  The word is tsana (tsaw-naw) and it means to be lowly and submissive.  This word is used by the prophet Micah in summarizing how God wanted Israel to walk before Him.  Through the prophet Micah, God addresses Israel and asks the following question:

        Micah 6:3-4: "My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.

       As you read through chapter six you will see God listing a number of grievances against Israel and chiding them for their offering of many sacrifices before God but failing to change their behavior, failing to repent.  He then makes a statement that we all should make a copy of and paste it to our refrigerator door where we can see it every day.

       Micah 6:8: He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly (Hebrew: tsana) with your God.

       Micah uses the Hebrew word tsana which means to be lowly and submissive.  We are to walk lowly and submissive before God.  This is the bottom line of how we are to relate to God.  God wants us to submit to Him which means he wants us to behave in line with his will irrespective of all else.

       It is interesting that if you ask an Islamic what the word Islam means he will tell you it means to submit.  It means to surrender to God. To be humble before God is to surrender to God.  There is a Christian hymn entitled “I Surrender All.”   Surrendering all is what God requires of us.  That is what it means to be humble before God.  God wants us to recognize His supremacy and preeminence.  God wants us to always bear in mind that He is Lord of and over our lives.  If we acknowledge his Lordship it will go a long ways toward our walking humbly before Him in all we think, say and do.