The Old Testament lesson for this Sunday is from the book of Proverbs as penned by King Solomon. The text is Proverbs 25:2-10 and, as verse 1 indicates, is part of a larger collection of Proverbs (25-29) assembled by King Hezekiah’s men. This is an assortment of sayings intended to be used to instruct kings and/or their courts. Andrew Steinmann points out how these contain, “modern applications to those in government and the Church” (page 510).
There is a large use of comparison proverbs in the grouping, 13 in this section alone. And, as we read and study the New Testament, we see these proverbs have had a large influence on the writings of the Evangelists, including Paul. The “humble” attitude spoken of in verses 6-7 are repeated by Jesus in Luke 14:8-11. The “reconciliation” advice in verses 8-10 is mirrored in Matthew 5:25-26.
All of this is interesting and useful in preparing a sermon. However, there are no explicit words of Gospel in this text. How does one preach without shoe-horning the Gospel into the message, perhaps in an inappropriate or confusing manner? The important detail to remember is to whom these words are being delivered. There are certain assumptions in these proverbs; the most important being they are addressed to the faithful, covenantal people of God. Their relationship with the LORD is already a reality via God’s grace and mercy, not by their works of obedience. We see this as the case also in Deuteronomy where Moses describes, rather than prescribes, how a child of God lives. Their identity is as people of the Covenant. Because of this reality they live and walk in that identity. So, the book of Proverbs is given not to unbelievers, but rather to those who have already been brought into the Kingdom. These proverbs describe what a member of the Kingdom does. The same understanding is assumed in the letter of James in the New Testament.
These proverbs describe what a member of the Kingdom does.
In preaching, it may be wise to first define who is being addressed (who they are and what they are) the redeemed children of God. For them, as for us, identity means everything. They were the covenantal people of God, and we are the baptized children of God.
Thanks are due to Andrew Steinmann for his Proverbs Commentary in the Concordia Commentary Series. It is a great help in working through this interesting writing.
25:2 הַסְתֵּר;; (has-Ter) root: סתר (saw-thar) Hiphil, infinitive construct: “to hide; to conceal”
חֲקֹר] (cha-Kor) Qal, infinitive: “to search out; to explore; to investigate”
25:3 לָרוּם (La-rum) from: רום (room) “height; loftiness”
לָעֹמֶק (la-O-mek) from: עֹמק (o-mek) “depth”
חֵקֶר (Che-ker) “searching; unsearchable” Note the same root as the verb in verse 2.
25:4 הָגוֹ (ha-Go) root: הגה (haw-gaw) Qal, infinitive absolute (translated as an imperative; see also verse 5): “to expel; to remove” This verb is found outside of Proverbs only in Isaiah 27:8.
סִיגִים (si-Gim) from: סיגִi (seeg) “dross; galina” In the plural form it refers to the impurities which are removed when refining silver.
וַיֵּצֵא (vai-ye-Tze) root: יצא (yaw-tsaw) Qal: “to cast (casting)” See also Exodus 32:24 and the incident with the golden calf.
לַצֹּרֵף (latz-tzo-Ref) root: צרף (tsaw-raf) Qal, participle: “to smelt; to refine; to sift (smelting; refining)”
25:5 רָשָׁע (Ra-sho) “the wicked” is associated with “the dross/impurities” and the removal of the wicked/wickedness equates with righteousness.
וְיִכּוֹן> (ve-yik-Kon) root: כון (koon) Niphal: “to established” (to be established)
25:6 תִּתְהַדַּר (tit-had-Dar) root: הַדר (haw-dar) Hithpael: “to boast; to honor oneself; to glorify
oneself” Note the reflexive sense. This is this verb’s only Hithpael form in the Old Testament.
25:7 אֲמָר-לְךָ (a-mor le-Cha) Qal, infinitive construct: “to say to you”
מֵהַשְׁפִּילְךָ (me-hash-Pi-le-cha) root: שׁפל (shaw-fale) Hiphil, infinitive construct: “to humiliate; to put someone in a low position; to make someone low” The causative sense is at play here.
נָדִיב (na-Div) “nobleman; nobly; princely; ruler”
25:8 לָרִב (la-Riv) root: רִיב (reeb) Qal, infinitive construct: “to carryon; to contest a lawsuit; to conduct a legal case” Connected to יצא (yaw-tsaw) the idea of participating in a legal proceeding comes through.
מַהֵר; (ma-Her) Piel, infinitive absolute (used as an adverb): “quickly; hastily; speedily”
בְּאַחֲרִיתָהּ (be-a-cha-ri-Tah) from: אחרית; (akh-ar-eeth) “result; end; afterwards”
בְּהַכְלִים (be-hach-Lim) root: כלם (kaw-lawm) Hiphil: “to put to shame; to humiliate”
25:9 רִיבְךָ, רִיב (Ri-ve-cha riv) “to argue a legal case; to contest a lawsuit; to conduct a legal case; debate your case”
וְסוֹד (ve-Sod) “secret; scheme; secret counsel”
25:10 יְחַסֶּדְךָ (ye-chas-sed-Cha) root: חסד (khaw-sad) Piel: “to bring shame; to expose to shame” This is the only verbal form of this word in the Old Testament.
שֹׁמֵעַ (sho-Me-a) Qal, participle: “a hearing one; anyone who hears”
וְדִבָּתְךָ (ve-dib-ba-te-cha) from: דבהI (dib-baw) “report; rumor; evil report; reputation” (see Genesis 37:2; Ezekiel 36:3)
Concordia Theology- Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Proverbs 25:2–10.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Proverbs 25:2–10.
Lectionary Podcast- Rev. Christopher Maronde of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Proverbs 25:2–10.