Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him.
Proverbs 27:22 ESV
This is a rather brutal sounding proverb of Solomon’s! I can imagine an ancient Israelite woman crushing the grain in the mortar with her pestle. Just imagine if she found the inedible chaff of the husk of the grain in there- she wouldn’t be pleased!
Solomon’s dad compared the wicked with the chaff that the wind drives away. If the chaff ended up in the mortar, pounding it with a pestle wouldn’t make it any more edible! It’s only fit to be thrown away.
Likewise, a fool by name is likely to be a fool by nature, and not even a pounding will drive his folly away. Having said that, people call us fools for trusting in the cross of Christ. But by sending His Son to give His life for us, God made foolish the wisdom of the world and made a way of salvation that to the world looks like folly.
What matters isn’t mankind’s verdict, but our Master and Maker’s verdict. If God judges us to be fools, we’re in trouble. We need to be completely transformed through repentance and faith in His Son, by the power of His Holy Spirit.
“God, have mercy on us for our foolish ways. We know that only the blood of Jesus can wash away our folly and evil and we trust in You to cleanse us by Your Holy Spirit, in Christ’s name, amen”
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.
Proverbs 27:21 ESV
This is an intriguing proverb. One might assume that the praise a man recieves is like gold and silver in how valuable it is to him. But not, Solomon compares a man’s praise to a test like a melting pot!
Maybe Solomon was mindful of his step brother Absalom, who sought out man’s praise. It made him an arrogant upstart and usurper of his father’s throne. Far better to recieve unasked for praise than to go looking for it.
The danger is that if we seek out praise that in fact we’re not praiseworthy at all. Instead, we’re like the scum that has to be skimmed off gold and silver when they’re refined by fire. It’s much better to have others recognise our value, and to then attribute that value to God, rather than ourselves.
Even merited praise can go to our heads and corrupt us. We need to stay grounded and humble. God doesn’t just test us with the fires of affliction, but in the furnace of human praise.
“Dear Yahweh, help us to remember that anything praiseworthy in us is thanks to Your work in us. And so to You be all the glory, honour and praise, now and evermore, amen”
Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man.
Proverbs 27:20 ESV
We might say that death and hell are never satisfied. The curse that they are is upon mankind, and even when we die, if we’re not saved, we face an eternity of dissatisfaction in hell. Death is like a monster whose stomach is a bottomless pit- it’s never filled.
This is a very powerful, strongly worded proverb, but how true it is! If we look for satisfaction in the things we can see, we will always been unfulfilled. Only the infinite God can fill the aching void in our souls.
No matter how much screen time we get, it’s never enough! Just one more blog post, one more vlog, one more comment and like on a picture! And Solomon didn’t even have all the technology that we have an insatiable appetite for!
Knowing that technology can never satisfy, I’m sure that the occasional detox wouldn’t do us any harm. More properly, we might call such a detox a fast from technology. We don’t have to go and live in a cave, but the occasional break would help us to realign our priorities.
“No eye has seen what You oh Lord, have prepared for Your children! At last, in the new creation, our resurrected eyes will be satisfied. May we get our priorities right, for the honour of Your Son, and in His name, amen”
As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.
Proverbs 27:19 ESV
If you want to know what someone looks like, of course you look at their face. If you want to know what someone actually is like however, you need to look into their heart. “The eyes are the windows of the soul”.
So we can get a clue as to what people are like at heart, their facial expressions offer clues. We can also start to work people out by their words and actions. The Bible itself offers a mirror onto our souls.
So if we want to know ourselves, we will look into the mirror of God’s Word. It will show us up as the rotten sinners that we are, with our deceitful hearts. But it will also show us we can get a spiritual heart transplant and be made righteous.
As God’s children, our enemy satan wants us to see ourselves as hopelessly rotten sinners. Our Father in heaven though wants us to see ourselves as He does, as sanctified saints. We’re not so much sinners who do good sometimes as saints who sin sometimes.
“Heavenly Father, help us to see ourselves as You do, as beloved children of the Most High God. May we live accordingly, and not as spoilt kids! For Your honour and praise, amen”
Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honoured.
Proverbs 27:18 ESV
I’m not a great authority on fig trees if I’m honest. But I can assume that if you want figs, you’re going to have to tend to your fig tree. It will need pruning to make it more fruitful. In the UK it would need to be in a greenhouse for it to be warm enough to bear fruit.
So if you want figs, you have to look after your fig tree. Similarly, if you want honour, and presumably promotion, you need to look out, not just for your own interests, but also for the interests of your employer. After all, they’re the one in a position to honour and promote you.
We might often think of doing a good job as simply fulfilling the tasks assigned to us. But Solomon encourages us to go above and beyond, and to serve our employers with distinction. Unfortunately, Solomon’s skilled and promoted employee, Jereboam, ended up snatching the ten northern tribes of Israel from Solomon’s son Reheboam!
I’ve just got a new job myself at the time of writing. A friend prayed that I’d excel my colleagues by ten times! Well part of that would be to look out for my manager’s concerns, and not just my own.
“Our Master and God, we pray that You would help us to be diligent employees not just at our immediate tasks, but also going above and beyond the call of duty for our employers. For Your honour and praise, amen”
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17 ESV
I remember over a decade ago as prayer secretary of Aberystwyth University Christian Union leading a series of devotionals on Proverbs. My friend chose this proverb to speak on; he’s now a pastor in New Zealand. Solomon’s point is about the blessing of relationship.
We weren’t designed to be hermits, living in “splendid isolation”, aloof and apart from the world. God who is love and relational as Father, Son and Spirit created us in His image and likeness for relationship. We might sometimes “rub each other up the wrong way”, but it’s good to positively relate to one another as fellow humans.
Solomon uses the image of iron sharpening iron. If iron isn’t sharpened by iron, it becomes blunt and useless. The better quality interaction we have with one another, the more nuanced a blessing we become to one another.
Just as the Word of God is sharp and “cuts to the chase”- shining a light on our hearts- so quality conversation can edify and uplift. Even relating to people hostile to God sharpens our ability to defend our faith. But believers especially can help to make one another effective for the furtherance of God’s kingdom in the world.
“Dear Yahweh, we thank You for the blessing of the relationships we enjoy. May we sharpen one another as we seek to become increasingly effective for the extention of Your kingdom in the world. For Jesus’ sake, amen”
A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one’s right hand.
Proverbs 27:15-16 ESV
This is a bit of a theme for polygamous Solomon. I’m sure some of his seven hundred wives fit this bill. I think I must have memorised a bit of a paraphrase, because I always remember these proverbs as “a nagging wife is like a dripping tap!”
Repeated dripping on a rainy day reminds me of a “Chinese water torture”. This is where irregular drips of water are dripped on the victim’s face. In other words, a nagging wife is torture apparently, thankfully I wouldn’t know personally!
Solomon uses a couple of other illustrations for the nagging wife. Restraining her is like restraining the wind- in other words a hopeless task. I’m also reminded of old king Canute who tried to hold back the tide.
The other illustration is of grabbing oil in your hand. Oil of course is extremely slippery. Of course, by comparing a nagging wife to oil, Solomon isn’t being very politically correct. But sadly, he probably is being very apt for some people!
“Dear Yahweh, don’t let us nag, and so to torture people and make their lives miserable and seemingly futile. Also, don’t let us give cause for people to nag us! In Christ’s name, amen”