Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.
We have here the "strong tower" and the "strong city;" the man lifted up above danger on the battlements of the one, and the man fancying himself to be high above it (and only fancying himself) in the imaginary safety of the other.
I. Consider first the two fortresses. One need only name them side by side to feel the full force of the intended contrast. On the one hand the name of the Lord, with all its depths and glories, with its blaze of lustrous purity and infinitudes of inexhaustible power; and on the other "the rich man's wealth." (1) The name of the Lord, of course, is the biblical expression for the whole character of God, as He has made it known to us, or, in other words, for God Himself, as He has been pleased to reveal Himself to mankind. His name proclaims Him to be self-existent, and, as self-existent, eternal; and as eternal, changeless; and as self-existent, eternal, changeless, infinite in all the qualities by which He makes Himself known. But far beyond the sweep of that great name, Jehovah, is the knowledge of God's deepest heart and character, which we learn in Him who said, "I have declared Thy name unto My brethren, and will declare it." The name that is the strong tower is the name. "My Father!" A Father of infinite tenderness, and wisdom, and power. (2) Look at the other fortress: "The rich man's wealth." Of course we have not to deal here only with wealth in the shape of money, but all external and material goods; the whole mass of the things seen and temporal are gathered together here in this phrase. Men use their imaginations in very strange fashion, and make, or fancy they make, for themselves out of the things of the present life a defence and a strength. Like some poor lunatic, out upon a moor, that fancies himself ensconced in a castle; like some barbarous tribes behind their stockades, or crowding at the back of a little turf wall, fancying themselves perfectly secure and defended,—so do men deal with these outward things that are given them for another purpose altogether; they make of them defences and fortresses. Of all delusions that can beset you in your course, none will work more disastrously than the notion that the summum bonum, the shield and the stay of a man, is the abundance of the things that he possesses.
II. Consider next how to get into the true refuge. How does a man make this world his defence? By trusting to it. He that says to the fine gold, "Thou art my confidence," has made it his fortress; and that is how you will make God your fortress—by trusting to Him.
III. We have, lastly, what comes of sheltering in these two refuges. (1) As to the former of them, as one of the old Puritan commentators has it, "The tower is so deep that no pioneer can undermine it, so thick that no cannon can breach it, so high that no ladder can scale it." "The righteous runneth into it and is perched up there." (2) I say little about the other side. The world can do a great deal for us. It can keep the rifle bullets from us. But, ah! when the big siege guns get into position and begin to play; when the great trials that every-life must have, sooner or later, come to open fire at us; then the defence that anything in this outer world can give comes rattling about our ears very quickly. It is like the pasteboard helmet, which looked as good as if it had been steel, and did admirably as long as no sword struck it.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 1st series, p. 301.
References: Proverbs 18:10.— Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 491; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 8th series, p. 118; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xvi., p. 269. Proverbs 18:12.— Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 97.; Evening by Evening, p. 66. Proverbs 18:15-19.— R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. ii., p. 191. Proverbs 18:17.— W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 126. Proverbs 18:20-24.— R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. ii., p. 202.
Proverbs 18:21I. The tongue is like a steed (Jam 3:3): (1) When it speaks too much; (2) when it is boasting; (3) when it is angry.
II. The tongue is like a sword (Psalm 57:4): (1) Against the weak and helpless; (2) against sacred things and holy persons.
III. The tongue is like a serpent (Psalm 140:3): (1) when it slanders; (2) when it flatters.
IV. The tongue is like fire (Jam 3:6). It is like fire when it speaks profane or foul words in the hearing of others; because those who hear them speak them again, and so the evil spreads and spreads.
J. Stalker, The New Song, p. 24.
References: Proverbs 18:22.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 131; W. M. Taylor, Old Testament Outlines, p. 160.
Proverbs 18:24When Christian people talk of a friend that sticketh closer than a brother, there is commonly one Friend in their mind, the best Friend, the most faithful, and sympathetic, and mighty, our blessed Redeemer. But that thought was quite out of the mind of the man that wrote the verse. The writer was not thinking at all of Christ. All he names here is the fact of experience, that men have sometimes found a friend who was more constant and faithful than a brother.
I. A sorrowful alienation from those once nearest is a sad characteristic of our life as years go on. Most human beings would need a friend nearer than almost any of their blood. A characteristic of advancing years is a growing selfishness; a shrivelling up of all the real interests of life into the narrow compass of one's own personality. The most unselfish and the kindest-hearted will need diligently to counterwork that increasing alienation, which in the latter years tends to estrange us from others, to throw us in upon ourselves, to make us quite alone. Keep as near as you will, there is still an inevitable space between, a certain distance between you and your best friends in this world. We would all need to have a friend who can keep nearer us, and understand us better, and stand by us more faithfully, and help us more effectually, than any human being.
II. And there is such a friend. If we could vividly believe that Christ is our friend, it is very easy to see how good and great a friend, (1) Think of His power—His power to help and protect, in work, in danger, in temptation. (2) Think of His sympathy—He can feel for us, He can understand us, and all we are feeling and going through. His might to help us is as of one raised like the stars above us; His understanding of us is nearer than that of one who sits by the same fireside. (3) This best Friend will never disappoint us; as those we thought our good friends here sometimes do. (4) This best Friend is always near. (5) This Friend is never estranged. (6) He will never die. There is no shadow of coming parting to hang, unspoken of, but oftentimes silently remembered, over our communion with Him.
A. K. H. B., From a Quiet Place, p. 169.
Our text speaks of a friendship which is the noblest and most enduring. It compares it with what is usually regarded as one of the most powerful and abiding relations on earth, the love of brethren. There is a friend, it tells us, that sticketh closer than a brother. Who that friend is it says not. It may refer to the fact that even in our common life we meet with friends that are better to us than even our relations; but who can doubt that, whatever its primary reference, it does emphatically describe the character of One who is pre-eminently the Friend of man, the Friend of sinners, and the Friend of saints?
I. The love of this Friend is disinterested. How could it be otherwise? What drew Him to us? Was it primarily to be blessed Himself or to bless others that He came? It was not His own happiness He came to seek when He left the world in which He is and was God over all, blessed for ever—it was ours; His joy was that of seeing others rescued, redeemed, purified, glorified.
II. The friendship of Christ is an intelligent friendship; it is a friendship which is based on knowledge, and a complete knowledge of us. Many of the friendships of this world have no such basis whatever, and it is this which often accounts for their very brief and unsatisfactory character. Christ knows what is in man. He knows, therefore, the worst of us. There is nothing that can come out to surprise Him and revolt Him. And yet He sticks closer than a brother.
III. The friendship of Christ is marked by its fidelity. He does not love us with a fondness which shrinks from admonition when admonition is needed. If He be unseen, He is still at our side, and by His providence is speaking to us now, as once He spoke in an audible voice. He will not suffer sin in us to go unreproved.
IV. His friendship is marked by its constancy. It is not like the moon with its phases, but like the sun, without variableness or the shadow of a turning. He does not break off from us because we are not all we should be to Him. He sticks to us closer than a brother.
E. Mellor, The Hem of Christ's Garment, p. 292.
What our text says is true of human friends,—describes them, and furnishes a reason why we should value them, and do all that is right and proper to retain them. But if it applies to any, it applies to the Lord Jesus. It is most of all true of Him.
I. The text is true of Jesus in respect of His love. He loves you better than a brother does. He is the very embodiment of the love of God, and "God is love."
II. The text is true of Jesus in respect of His kindness. He is kinder to you, does more for you than a brother. Kindness is the outcome of love, the result of love, the expression of love.
III. The text is true of Jesus in respect of His patience. He bears with you more than a brother. If anything could win the hearts of children, it should be the patience and gentleness of Jesus.
IV. The text is true of Jesus in respect of His nearness. He is nearer to you than a brother. In Old Testament times the only one who could be a redeemer was the nearest of kin (Ruth iv.). That was meant to bring out the nearness of Christ's relationship to all who are His.
V. The text is true of Jesus in respect of His steadfastness, His constancy. He never changes, never leaves you. Jesus never gives up any friend.
J. H. Wilson, The Gospel and its Fruit, p. 157.
References: Proverbs 18:24.—B. W. Noel, Penny Pulpit, No. 3,633; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 120; W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 116. Proverbs 19:1-3.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs vol. ii., p. 215.
A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.
When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.
The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.
It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.
A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.
A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.
Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?
The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.
A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.
The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.
A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
A man's belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.
The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.