The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. (Prov 10.20, ESV)

This is the second of three verses in which Solomon addresses the tongue and speech with the general theme of Words: Good and Bad (Tyndale Commentary), which could also be the theme of this particular verse.  Some questions arise from this little proverb.  Why is what the righteous speaks “choice silver?”  Is it the words they speak, or is it choice silver just because it is the righteous who speak them?  Why does Solomon contrast the “tongue” of the righteous with the “heart” of the wicked?

We have Jesus’ teaching from the New Testament which helps us understand what exactly Solomon was getting at in this little proverb.  Jesus says:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6.45, ESV)

The righteous speak “choice silver”/“good treasure” because that is what is in their heart because they are righteous. This is just something that is inside of them, which we know as we read the New Testament is due to the work of the Holy Spirit in them.

Solomon contrasts the heart of the wicked with the words of the righteous because out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

The takeaway for us; the thing that Solomon wants us to understand is that what we speak comes from our heart, and it is what is in our hearts that will determine whether what we say is choice silver or valueless, and our hearts are a work of God.

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When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov 10.19, ESV)

This is the first of three consecutive proverbs in which Solomon discusses the use and power of words.  The Tyndale Commentary assigns the overall theme to these proverbs as: Words: Good and Bad. In this first proverb, we have an encouragement to be spare in our use of words.  Indeed, Solomon goes out of his way to draw a direct connection between many words and offending others.  “When words are many,” Solomon writes, then we can be sure that transgressions against others are many also. Solomon understood the human heart better than anyone before or since his day (with the exception of Jesus), so he fully understands the power of the tongue.  We see this same truth expressed by James in the New Testament:

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3.7-8, ESV)

The antidote to many words and corresponding many offenses against others is prudence, which is intimately connected with restraining one’s lips.  Prudence takes careful thought, analysis, and reflection; it requires care and concern and the ability to judge the actions and motivations of others correctly, and precisely none of these things can be done while we are talking.  Thus Solomon’s direction to keep our words few and our prudence sharp.

We are always better off listening before speaking.  Why is this so difficult for us to grasp as humans?

Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10, ESV)

This is the only place in the New Testament where I can find a reference to a reason for joy in heaven. Of course I am not saying that there is little joy in heaven, because that is not true, and I’m also not saying that this is the only reason for joy in heaven, that is an absurd notion. What I am saying is that it is very significant that this is the only reference to joy in heaven that we have. God is trying to tell us something here.

Two words in this statement strike me deeply: “one” and “repents.” The word “one” implies the importance of the individual to God. The joy comes when an individual sinner repents because God cares about, indeed he died for, the individual. This is the whole notion of Psalm 139, that we have a God who is vitally concerned about and dotes over (as it were) all of his people individually. God’s concern for the individual is our basis for concern about the worth and value of every individual human life, from unborn babies, to the disabled, to the elderly and infirm.

The joy in heaven comes at repentance. What is it about repentance that causes joy in heaven? Wouldn’t you have joy if your prodigal son showed up one day to return to the family? If you employed servants wouldn’t they be happy also? How much more so the angels in heaven when one sinner repents since their whole mission is to serve The One who makes the way for repentance possible.

May we rejoice with (and like) the angels when we see one sinner come to repentance.

““Let your waists be girded and your lamps burning; and be like men waiting for their master to come home from the wedding, so that when he comes and knocks, they will open the door for him immediately.” (Luke 12:35–36)

Jesus’ teaching to his disciples. A couple of things here:

  1. There is the inevitability of separation.  The disciples didn’t understand what this separation would entail, but they would come to understand it.  Waiting for their master to return, implied that he was going somewhere.
  2. There is the instruction to be prepared while waiting.  Be like men waiting for their master to come home from the wedding, Jesus tells them.  A wedding was an event at which there was no set time that the master would return.  He would come back unexpectedly, and a good servant would be ready no matter when he returned.
  3. There is the instruction to open the door immediately. As a servant an immediate response was the normal expectation.  The master shouldn’t come home and have his servants nowhere to be found to attend to his needs.  Their job was to serve him, they must do it immediately.

Jesus seems to be telling his disciples (and us), that our job while he is away is to be always prepared for him to return, to let our lamps be burning, to watch at the window for him, to listen for his footsteps on the pavement of the street.

What does this mean in a practical sense for us now? It seems to mean that we take both the long view and the short view in our lives; that we plan and prepare for the future, but we always do it with an eye on Jesus’ imminent return; that we do not allow ourselves to become spiritually lazy and inert, but we keep on growing in the Holy Spirit’s power so that we will be continually ready, continually expecting his return.

 

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but chosen by God and precious,” (1 Peter 2:4, Mounce NT)

Rarely do we see anyone use the three words rejected, chosen, and precious in the same sentence to describe the same person, so we had best pay attention to Peter’s words here, because they are important. Peter is alluding to Is. 28.16:

Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable.” (Isaiah 28:16, HCSB)

Jesus was rejected by men, just like Isaiah himself had prophesied:  He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, (Is 53.3a), but in God’s eyes, he was chosen and precious, the very opposite of being rejected. What mankind hated and despised, God loved and esteemed, and This Man became God’s way for us to become chosen by God and precious, for when we follow Jesus by faith, that is what we become. Peter will put it like this:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9–10, ESV)

Sing to Yahweh、 all the earth, Tell the tidings、 from day to day、 of his salvation: Recount、 Among the nations, his glory, Among all the peoples、 his wonders. For great is Yahweh、 and worthy to be mightily praised, And to be revered is he above all gods;” (1 Chronicles 16:23–25, EMPH)

Sing, tell, and recount are verbs of speaking and verbs of action.  When we sing something, or tell something, or recount something, we are doing something with our mouths.  Language is one of the things that separates us from the animal kingdom, we can speak, we can tell, we can praise with our language, and this glorifies God.  The stars and the planets, and mammals, birds, fish, and insects, all praise the Lord, but they cannot do it with words.  We can praise the Lord with words. This is unique to humans; this is our privilege.

David encourages Israel here (and us) to use the unique ability that God has given us as humans to mightily praise Our Lord.  We will do this in heaven, we can do it now.

Oh…and lest you think that David implies that there are other gods beside our God, the very next thing he says is this:

For all the gods of the peoples are things of nought, But Yahweh made the heavens.” (1 Chronicles 16:26, EMPH)

Yes. Yes, He did.

“Surely the eyes of the Sovereign Lord are on the sinful kingdom. I will destroy it from the face of the earth. Yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the Lord.” (Amos 9:8, TNIV)

When it comes to a covenant relationship with God, I’m thinking that it is never a good thing if God refers to your entity (here the nation of Israel) as “the sinful kingdom.”  This was a damning indictment, because Israel was supposed to be faithful to God; they were to willingly follow his law; and gladly do his will.  They have declined to the point at which God only refers to them as the sinful kingdom and vows to destroy them from the face of the earth.  This prophesy was fulfilled when the northern ten tribes were carried off into exile, never to return.

But…

We always discover mercy breaking through judgment in the Scriptures.  Here, in the space of this one verse, we see both God’s judgment and his mercy: Yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob, declares the Lord.  When it comes to God’s character, mercy always seems to bubble up, spilling over into God’s judgment, especially when it comes to his own people.

All of this makes me hopeful.  I do not have to live a perfectly sinless life.  I want to live a life that pleases God, but when I fall short, when I fail, I know that mercy and grace are waiting to pick me up, dust me off, and get me on the road again.