If fictitious, man-made stories and some true stories say you need food, water, shelter, and a companion, is that true for the Christian? 100%. If the story of Exodus is about redemption from slavery and consecration to worship, we all need a few things to survive. We need water, we need food, we need clothing, and if we’re going to survive, we need a friend.
There’s no greater friend than our Lord Jesus Christ. Authors, scholars, and students look at the book of Proverbs from different lenses. When we come to these lectures, they’re somewhat explanatory, but then we get this disjointed arrangement. Whether you’re just a Bible student or a scholar, it’s common to organize some of these themes.
Themes in The Book of Proverbs
The most prominent theme in this book is wisdom. The subset themes are wealth, politics, the husband and wife relationship, brothers, friends, raising children, the importance of work, life, and death.
Wisdom is available to all. That’s the thesis of the book. The two paths are righteousness and wickedness. There is also the woman who’s an adulterer versus the woman who’s a faithful wife. The naive and the fool can still learn, but they have to respond to the wisdom of God. It doesn’t fall off the tree. They have to want the fear of the Lord.
The Friend in Proverbs
Two primary root words are used for friends. The word friend in Proverbs has a slight differentiation from the word neighbor. It can be translated as a friend, neighbor, love, or brother. It all depends on the Bible translation you use. The most frequent meaning for a friend is a close fellowship, but not familial. Proverbs is emphatic that a few choice godly friends are more important than a host of relationships. Derek Kinder even observes that in the life of Jesus Christ, the apostle John was called his beloved friend, as well as Peter and James.
The Good Neighbor
A good neighbor is a man of peace. He doesn’t spread strife. He’s kind, generous, and careful, especially in his judgments. Kindness cannot overbalance sentimentality, meaning you’ll speak the truth to a friend if you’re a good friend. Not everybody can speak that kind of truth to a friend. You have to be that friend to speak that way. You can’t just play the Holy Spirit around your friends.
The Good Friend
Good friends are dependable. Fair-weather friends don’t stand the test of time. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times. And a brother is born for adversity.” This is the kind of friend we should seek. They’re born for adversity, and they show up for the fight.
Proverbs 18:24 counterbalances this saying, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This kind of loyalty can’t be bought and has to be earned. We should want that kind of friend in all these, but we must be this friend. And in God’s kindness, maybe you’ll have some that will reciprocate. The transitional nature of friendship is complex. They need to speak the truth to you.
Good friends are direct. Proverbs 27:6 shows us that if a true friend wounds you, it’s for your good. David failed his son Adonijah. 1 Kings 1:6 says, “He had never crossed him at any time by asking him, Why have you done so?” He was too busy, important, and disengaged with his son to say, ‘what are you doing?’
The Good Friend Continued
Third, the good friend is a man of counsel. Proverbs 27 gives some comparisons that build on each other. Proverbs 27:9 says, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.” We don’t understand that in the ancient Near East, in an arid climate, you don’t get to shower every morning or every night.
It doesn’t sound very good to us, but they would take oil, rub it, and pour it through their hair, face, and beards. The metaphor of oil coming down the beard is a picture of being refreshed to Near Easterners. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” Most people miss that this is a verse about a healthy clashing of views. Proverbs tells us that a true friendship is encouraging but also confrontational.
Lastly, a good friend has tact or respect for the other person’s feelings, knowing how and when to talk to them. Proverbs 25:17, Proverb 27:14, and Proverbs 26:18-19 all point to the fact that only a true, proven friendship has the right to direct counsel.
The Vulnerability of Friendship
The strongest term for a friend, allûp, a bosom companion, usually occurs in the Old Testament in situations of betrayal (as in 2:17) or estrangement (16:28; 17:9), as if to remind us that the closest friendship needs guarding. The strains arising from thoughtlessness are the least: the real danger is from malice: the whisperer’s delight in disruption (16:28) or the delight of one who holds an advantage in pursuing it (17:9). The integrity of a friendship depends as much on spiritual resources as does that of an individual.
The body of Christ was designed for God’s word, Spirit, and people. The foundation is His word. His Spirit involves the believer; you need God’s people to survive this world. 1 Corinthians 13:7 greatly represents godly friends. “You can take away my identity, my job, my titles, and my money. You can take away anything worldly, but you may not have my friends.”
We need good and godly friends to live the Christian life as God designed it. He did not leave us without a witness, but He also indwelt you with the Holy Spirit. Don’t let pride keep you. In the Exodus, they had manna, water, and Christ. That’s the baseline.
In My Father’s Wake by Dave Gibson
Catch up on the rest of the Proverbs series here.
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