When you read this chapter you think, ‘Where did Solomon get all this wisdom?’but then you remember he asked for it when God said he could ask for whatever he wanted, in 1 Kings 3. Solomon asked for an understanding heart to judge his people. God was pleased with his request so said for this reason He would give him a wise and understanding heart but in addition He would give him what he did not ask for, namely riches and honour. It pays to ask God for What He wants us to have, or to ask according to His will because then He hears us and grants our request. Also it says in James that if anyone lacks wisdom we should ask God for it and He will give it to us liberally and without reproach. God wants us to have wisdom! If we put God first He gives us over and above what we need. (Romans 8:28)
The first part of this chapter concerns the foolishness of speaking rashly and ‘raging against all wise judgement’(verse 1). To be honest this is to do with self isolating! We all need to meet with others, whether in person or online! Solomon says this is what we do when we are seeking our own desire as opposed to God’s. Interesting.
Going back to speaking rashly, we are all guilty of this at times, so Solomon reminds us to think before we speak! This is obviously the relevance the relevance of the well known verse, ‘The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe’(verse 10). If we are tempted to sin with our lips or speak out of turn, we need to remember to call on His Name and we will be kept safe.
Verse 21 says, ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue’. It is a deadly weapon if we use it for evil but whether we use it for good or evil we eat its fruit, That’s a solemn warning.
Another warning ,in verse 13, is to hear a matter before answering it. It sounds obvious but so many times we speak before we listen! Children often say ‘No!’ before they hear the question! But I know we can all be guilty of not listening to what has been said before giving an answer! And we need to listen to God before we expect Him to listen to us!
One reason for listening to what has been said is that we might learn. In verse 15 it says that the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Often people who are quiet are a mine of information because they have spent time listening to others instead of voicing their opinions!
If we speak without thinking we can very often cause offence. I know I can be guilty of this! And it says in verse 19, ‘A brother (or sister) offended is harder to win than a strong city and contentions are like the bars of a castle’! This is a verse worth remembering!
We have all heard the proverb,’Pride comes before a fall’. Well that is what it means in verse 12 when it says ‘Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty’. But before honour is humility. That is the other side of the coin. Do we want to face honour or destruction? Then we need to be humble and not proud. Let us remember that we have nothing that we did not receive. And as many of us are discovering in these days, we can lose what we have in a moment.
There are a lot of positive proverbs as well as negative sounding ones. I like this one, ‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord’, I am sure you men all know this is true!
And the last verse is a very useful proverb to remember, ‘A man who has friends must himself be friendly’ (although in my margin it says ‘may come to ruin’!) But ‘there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother’ and we know who that friend is, the Lord Jesus Himself!i
Since writing this I have read the letter of James and I am amazed at how much of these thoughts and instructions are repeated, especially those relating to the tongue but also thoughts on pride and humility. I could recommend a read of this short book from the New Testament which gives us lots of practical advice. I surely need it!