“Like apples of gold in settings of silver
Is a word spoken in right circumstances.”
Thursday’s Bible reading is Proverbs 25. The very first verse tells you about this chapter that begins a new section of Proverbs: “Further Proverbs of Solomon (Hezekiah’s Collection).”1 After you read, check out some cross references in the Bible: Luke 14:7-11; Matthew 5:25, 44; and Romans 12:20.
In his commentary on Proverbs, Derek Kidner writes that one mark of “Words at their best,” is that they are apt.1
“A truth that makes no impression as a generalization may be indelibly fixed in the mind when it is matched to the occasion and shaped to its task. There is a craftsman’s as well as a recipient’s delight glimpsed in 15:23: ‘To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!’ The same aesthetic pleasure glows in the language of 10:20 (‘the tongue of the righteous is as choice silver’) and 25:11 (‘like apples of gold in a setting of silver’); cf. also 25:12; 22:11; 10:32.”2
In my post on Philemon I quoted William Hendriksen on tactfulness (emphasis added):
“In the various textbooks of the biblical sciences this subject is generally neglected. Yet it is by no means of minor importance. Tactfulness is definitely a virtue….in its noblest form it is a product of special grace. Its parents are Love and Wisdom. It is that skill which, without any sacrifice of honesty or candor, enables a person to speak the right word at the right time…The tactful person does not shirk his duty even when he is convinced that he must admonish or rebuke….
“…Before taking leave of this subject of the use of tact it should be pointed out that this application of discretion or prudence in practical matters is as it were a theme that runs through the book of Proverbs from beginning to end. See especially Prov. 1:4; 2:1-5; 2:11; 3:1-12; 3:21; 5:2; 8:12; 10:19; 11:22; 15:1, 17, 28; 19:11; 22:24, 25; 25:11.”1
“Its parents are Love and Wisdom,” describes how to become a craftsman of words that are a delight to the hearer—words that are apples of gold in settings of silver come from someone who is wise and who speaks with love.
Wise words adhere to the truth of God’s Word, because the wise person fears the Lord (cf. Proverbs 1:7, 9:10; Psalms 111 and 112 from yesterday’s Bible reading), and wisdom includes knowledge and understanding of God’s Word (cf. Psalms 111:10, 112:1).
Do you know God’s Word? Have you pondered it? Have you applied it to your own life? Have you learned it from wise and humble pastors and teachers? Do you speak hold fast to God’s truth without compromise or retreat?
Wise words are spoken with love when you comes alongside someone to help him; to listen, consider the person and pray for discernment and wisdom to know if a reproof or encouragement is needed. In Suffering & Lovingkindness I wrote about presumption. So much damage is done by speakers who presume—and not just to people who suffer. Humility is a guard against presumption.
Think and ask God for wisdom about what the person needs, rather than saying what you think he needs. Do you listen before you speak? Do you take the time to consider who the person is? Or are you caught up in playing the role of counselor rather than actually being one? Words of clichéd advice are not apples of gold.
Do you think over how much a person is ready to hear, and if it’s the right time to speak? There are times when words have to be said as warning even when the listener will rebel. There are times when to say a little is to say enough. Do you have the wisdom to discern these settings of silver?
Becoming a craftsman of the right word at the right time is a work of wisdom and a labor of love, but we all need to hear apples of gold in settings of silver, and we all need to learn to speak them.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Still-Life with Plate of Apples and Orange Blossom, Juan de Zurbarán: Public Domain.
1, 2, 3Derek Kidner, Proverbs, pp. 57, 48.
3William Hendriksen, “Appendix: Scripture on Tactfulness,” New Testament Commentary: Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, pp. 231–232.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter