Proverbs 27:17

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man
sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

~ Proverbs 27:17

“The words of the Preacher” on this occasion have to do primarily with fellowship. Generally, iron in the scripture denotes hardness and solidity. Iron is thought of as strong and unaffected by other materials. Hence, God told the prophet Jeremiah, “For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee” (Jeremiah 1:18-19).

However, when the iron file is rubbed on the iron blade, that strong iron blade is shaped and sharpened. And, so it is with man. No man is an island unto himself, independent and unaffected by others. No matter how strong he may seem to be, his fellow man may sharpen him or grind him down to slivers. Now, let us consider our verse to meditate upon and grow thereby.

In the first place, fellowship is necessary for us. Even when man was in a perfect state, with perfect communion with God, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). This was uttered before man fell. The man needed a companion, one of his own kind. He needed friendship and fellowship. Solomon observed that “one alone” was a “sore travail” and that “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:8-9). He goes on to support his claim by giving several evidences from his experience. Man needs fellowship and it is not good to abide alone. We need to be sharpened. The blunt instrument is of little use, and can actually be a hindrance, where a sharp edge is needed.

However, there are two types of fellowship: good and bad. Good fellowship is most profitable to us while bad fellowship is destructive. Realizing that our closest companions will exert a tremendous influence on us, they should be chosen with consummate care. Paul instructed young Timothy to “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). He told Timothy to choose companions that were godly and spiritual, those that were following righteousness, faith, charity, and peace and calling on the Lord with a pure heart. He was to aim high in his choice of close friends.

Our fellowship should challenge and convict us. Our close friends should bring out the best in us. They should be honest with a sincere love of the Lord. In this way, we should sharpen one another. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25). We are to provoke one another to love and good works.

Our friends should bring us up to a higher and nobler plane. Solomon wrote, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise” (Proverbs 13:20). David proclaimed, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Psalm 119:63). The new members of the first church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship.” They continued “daily with one accord,” and God blessed them greatly (Acts 2:42, 46).

However, we oftentimes err in our choice of friends by aiming far too low. We do not want someone that is going to challenge us and convict us by their life. We just want a good-time buddy that does not expect much from us. This buddy lives to a much lower standard than we believe we should and keeps our thoughts and affections on things below, not above. We will probably justify this friendship by thinking that we will have a good influence on them and help bring them up. In fact, the very opposite is true. They are going to bring us down. Paul wrote, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

In reality, this friendship is enjoyable to the flesh. We do things with them that we would not normally do. We easily allow them to coax us into wrong. We feel like that we have some sort of license with them because they have no conscience. Let us be warned, knowing that God brought judgment upon Jehoshaphat causing his enterprise to fail because of his evil association with Ahaziah (2 Chronicles 20:37). Likewise, our bad friendships will bring us to ruin. Solomon warns us “a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20). Let us then heed his wise counsel when he says, “Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding” (Proverbs 9:6).

In the second place, we see the aspect of accountability in good fellowship. That iron blade left to itself will go dull. God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18) before the man fell and had evil sinful desires in his flesh. The man needed accountability.

Without accountability in good fellowship, a man will usually go one of two ways. One way is he will begin “to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3). He begins to become his own standard of measure. He will look down on others that do not do every little thing the way he does them. He may even begin to dismiss everyone else as not being orthodox or sound enough. He has no respect to cultural differences that are not violations of Scripture and thinks his way is the only way.

The other way is he will run into sin freely. Having no restraints, he will run to excess. That lack of fellowship and maintenance of a high standard will cause deterioration of his moral principles. He will rationalize and justify a loose lifestyle, with no one to check him. This is one reason why we are such undisciplined eaters. We either have no accountability at all, choosing our food foolishly or else when that accountability is momentarily absent, we cheat and either way we fail.

In conclusion Christian, are your friends propelling you to greater heights in your service to God, or are they hindering you and holding you back? Do they provide accountability and help you to live up to a higher standard? If they are hindering you, you need new friends. If they are a true blessing to you, you should thank God for them, cleave to them, and sharpen one another. God help us to find safety in a multitude of wise counselors!

Proverbs 28:26

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool:
but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.

~ Proverbs 28:26

Certainly, a uniquely wise man, like Solomon, is qualified to identify a fool. In the verse before us, he calls such a one as trusts in his own heart, a fool. The Hebrew word batach, here rendered “trusteth,” means “to be reliant, trust, be unsuspecting.” The word implies a great confidence even to the point of blind trust. It seems to have the sense of being careless or thoughtless. The idea is of one who without question follows the tendency of his own heart. Maybe you could say, “He flies by the seat of his pants.” You might also say of one, “He follows his gut instinct.” Either way, he follows his own instincts without deliberation or contemplation of the Word of God. He lives a carefree, spontaneous life. However, this man is a fool. “The prudent man looketh well to his going” (Proverbs 14:15). Let us now consider this great folly.

In the first place, the heart is not a good guide. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The heart of a saved man, while he continues on this earth, has not been glorified. He still has the flesh with which to contend. We should never look within ourselves for guidance. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).

Only God knows the depth of depravity to which the human heart can descend. The flesh is still sinful and therefore cannot be trusted. Paul said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). The flesh is to be mortified not trusted. The blessed man of God “walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,” even if that counsel issues from his own heart.

Secondly, our emotions are bound up in our hearts. I fear that far too many Christians live according to their feelings. I had a conversation once with a certain saved woman. We were in disagreement about a subject. I quoted plain scriptures. She responded with, “I understand that, but I feel… Yes, but I feel… Well, I feel… etc.” If we base the interpretation of scripture upon our feelings, we have a very fluid theology that more resembles the shifting sands than the solid rock that Christ claimed wise servants to be building upon.

Christianity does not preclude all emotions, but it is not founded upon our feelings. A saved man that is sick does not feel very good. Does this mean his religion is vain? In the mind of some charismatic heretic, maybe it is, but not according to God’s Word. True religion is based solely upon “Thus saith the Lord,” and not our feelings. Our emotions swell and rescind like the tides, but God’s Word is forever settled in Heaven. How I feel does not change God or His Word in the least. Lazarus did not feel very good laying at the gate, competing with stray dogs for dinner, yet “now he is comforted,” and that rich man that felt so good faring sumptuously every day is “tormented.”

In the last place, we see the man that walks wisely. Our verse says, “But whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” The fool trusted his own heart and the wise man placed his trust elsewhere. He heeds the admonition found in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” He forsakes the dubious counsel of his heart for the “sure word of prophecy.” “But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). He looks well to his own goings. He considers his path in the light of God’s Word. He declares confidently, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). It is not his intelligence, experience, reason, or feelings that he depends on, but rather the infallible “counsel of God.”

The wise man walks “not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). In regeneration, we receive the Spirit, the divine principle of life within us. To walk after the Spirit, we must deny the lusts of the flesh. If we are walking satisfying the flesh, we are not walking after the Spirit. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25).

The wise man will not trust his flesh to be his guide. Neither will he glory in the flesh if he walks a path that is right. He well ascribes all the glory to God knowing, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13). Let us put our full trust in Christ and sing the old song.

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know “Thus saith the Lord.”
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more!

Proverbs 24:16

“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again:
but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”

~ Proverbs 24:16

Probably nothing manifests the fact of our frail frame more than the stumblings we suffer. This is no teaching that we ought to fall, but we do sometimes. It is a mark of the righteous that when they fall, they rise up again. This remarkable resilience confounds the wicked. “They lie in wait” for the righteous and rejoice when they fall, thinking that it is the end. The righteous “riseth up again.” It is not so with the wicked, they “fall into mischief.” Their stumbling and fall is ultimately their destruction. They are never recovered out of the snare. In truth, both are susceptible to falling, but it is the righteous that “riseth up again.”

Now the wicked may be glad at the fall of the righteous but the word to the righteous concerning the fall of the wicked is, “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth” (Proverbs 24:17). Never let just men assume the posture of the ungodly. Never let them sing the same songs of mirth over one that is fallen. Yes, the standard is higher for the child of God. We are not to rejoice at the fall of the wicked, and we should not rejoice at the fall of our brother. Let us have the “spirit of meekness” and restore one who is “overtaken in a fault.” Now let us turn to our text and consider the falling of the righteous and their subsequent rising again.

Firstly, we observe that the saints do fall. The narrow way is not without its difficulties. Though we sometimes walk with joy, we many times tread in sadness. We believe in the absolute sovereignty of God, which affords us comfort. We might be perplexed if not for the good providence of our Father. Paul knew that “bonds and afflictions” were abiding for him wherever he went. We also know “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Suffering is the peculiar lot of God’s people in the earth. However, these sufferings are temporal, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (I Corinthians 4:17). Often through trials and perils we stumble and fall. But the good man of God will rise up again.

Many times our greatest occasion of stumbling is the flesh. No matter how hard we strive, we have not escaped the body of sin just yet. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8). Only the Holy Lord Jesus lived a life completely without sin. No one of us can match His impeccability. We have not reached the mark. When sin has laid us low we must go to the Father, confessing our guilt for “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

We have not fallen to where the Lord cannot reach us. He told Israel that His arm was not shortened. Have faith. He can reach all the way. Sometimes we have confessed and felt God’s forgiveness, but the fall lingers in our memories. Our own frailty and inadequacy mock us. They seem as a great weight that holds us down. Christian, “Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?” (Numbers 32:6). How long shall you wallow in the mire of self-pity and use your past failure as an excuse for your present inactivity? We have an advocate with the Father. Do not question His ability to forgive sins. In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up! Simon Peter stumbled, as did John Mark, to name a couple. But they were restored to greater service. Our verse says, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.”

Secondly, we see that the righteous fall “seven times.” Our first trial is sure not to be our last. Having begun on the way, let us hold on without wavering. We can be certain that trials wait, so long as we tabernacle in this body. There is warfare within and the battle shall not be over until we leave this world. There is hope in our verse. No matter how oft we stumble, the righteous “riseth up again.” We sing the glad song of the righteous:

They may on the main of temptation be toss’d,
Their sorrow may swell as the sea;
But none of the ransomed shall ever be lost;
The righteous shall hold on his way.

Surrounded with sorrows, temptations and cares,
This truth with delight we survey;
And sing, as we pass thru this valley of tears;
The righteous shall hold on his way.