The Gleanings of Hezekiah's Men
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

We have been studying the book of Proverbs for quite some time, following the natural divisions into which the book of Proverbs falls. We completed the discussion of the fourth division of the book of Proverbs in our last lesson and we now want to begin a discussion of the fifth division which, for want of a better way of designating it, I have called The Gleanings Of Hezekiah's Men . This is somewhat a lengthy division, beginning with Proverbs 25, verse 1, and going through the last verse of chapter 29.

Obviously, we can't do justice to this division in one single discussion, so we will be thinking about this particular division of the Word over a series of lessons. Since that is true, I would like to offer to you an analysis of this particular division so that as you read within this area we have designated—and I hope you will—you will be able to notice some of the truths which we will be emphasizing to you in these lessons.

We will discover in chapter 25 some unrelated comparisons. I think you will understand why I use that designation when we get into the chapter. There are a series of comparisons which are not related one to the other. We could list any one of them out of this particular section and have a complete dissertation without thinking of the surrounding verses.

In chapter 26 there are illustrations of fools and sluggards. There are two kinds of people whom we have met in our study of the book of Proverbs: the fools—those who are in rebellion against God—and sluggards—those who are afflicted with a spiritual lethargy that prevents them from advancing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. In chapter 27 we have a discussion of right attitudes and right relationships. In chapter 28 we have a discussion of a practical righteousness. Then in chapter 29 we have a discussion presented to us of the power of righteousness.

As we have gone over this particular analysis of this division, there is probably a very practical and sensible thought in your mind and that is, why do we use the term The Gleanings of Hezekiah's Men to designate this particular division of the book of Proverbs? Our answer is found in verse 1 of chapter 25:

Proverbs 25:

1 These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.

When you have the time, turn back to the second book of Kings and familiarize yourself with the reign of good King Hezekiah. He is so designated in the Scriptures because he was one of the few good kings in Israel after the division of the kingdoms. Hezekiah realized that the sacred Scriptures had been neglected by the people. He wanted a revival of the reading of the Word of God, so he sent men to scour about in the sacred rooms of the Temple to find all of the sacred writings, which had long been covered with dust, that they might be brought to the attention of the people. In this pursuit the scholars of Hezekiah's day, among other things, uncovered the proverbs which are recorded here in chapters 25-29. When the book of Proverbs was put together, the gleanings of Hezekiah's men were included as a definite division of the book.

The fact that Hezekiah gleaned these particular proverbs has no particular significance unless we could relate these things which are emphasized in this particular division as being important to spiritual growth. The neglect of them resulted in a condition of being back-slidden and lacking in fellowship, as was the case of Israel at the time that these were uncovered and put back into use.

In the analysis of this division, the first thing that we suggested to you as being part of this particular division, we referred to with the words unrelated comparisons. I would like for us to read the portion of the Word that deals with the unrelated comparisons, though we will not be discussing the entire portion. I am going to suggest that we read this passage of Scripture with an outline in mind so that the subject matter will be constantly before us.

The King and His Kingdom Compared to God and His Kingdom

I suggest that we first read the comparison that deals with the king and his kingdom, as it is found, beginning with verse 2:

Proverbs 25:

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
3 The heaven for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of kings is unsearchable.
4 Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.
5 Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.
6 Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:

Here in this paragraph the king and his kingdom (perhaps Solomon had himself in mind) is compared with God and His Kingdom.

The Comparison of Litigation

We pass on to the next comparison which we have described by the use of one word: litigation . Notice verse 8:

Proverbs 25:

8 Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.
9 Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another:
10 Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.

You recognize our English word litigation as a reference to law suits, matters that are settled in court that could best be settled out of court, as you will see when we study the passage.

The Element of Similies

Proceed to the next paragraph, which I have described by one word: similes . Some similes convey some very definite truths. Notice verse 11:

Proverbs 25:

11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
12 As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.
13 As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.
14 Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.

I think the similes in the paragraph are apparent without our pointing them out in more detail.

The Element of Forbearance

We proceed to the next paragraph, which I have designated by the word forbearance , for it speaks of a number of instances in which forbearance is wise, if not a necessity. Look at verse 15:

Proverbs 25:

15 By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.
16 Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.
17 Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.

I think you can see the element of forbearance in each one of those verses.

The Element of Inconsistency

We pass on to the next suggestion, beginning with verse 18, which I have described by the word inconsistency :

Proverbs 25:

18 A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.

I use the word inconsistency because it is inconsistent that a man should bear false witness against his neighbor, if we interpret the word neighbor in its broader sense. Verse 19:

Proverbs 25:

19 Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.

It is inconsistent to find one whom you thought faithful in time of trouble to be unfaithful. Notice verse 20:

Proverbs 25:

20 As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.

Solomon has emphasized in the book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time to rejoice and there is a time to mourn. Here he emphasizes the inconsistency of being lighthearted in the presence of grief.

Exhortation Concerning Enemies

In the next paragraph, beginning with verse 21, there is a word of exhortation concerning enemies. We read:

Proverbs 25:

21 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.

If you are interested in further study other than our immediate lesson, I would suggest that you arrive at a conclusion as to the meaning of the phrase, “For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.” It doesn't mean what it is commonly said to mean. That might challenge you to further research.

Personality Weaknesses

The next paragraph I have labeled Personality Weaknesses , and this should be of interest to most of us because I think we will find some personality weaknesses of our own in this particular paragraph. Notice verse 23:

Proverbs 25:

23 The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.

Is one of your personality weaknesses a backbiting tongue? Notice verse

24:

Proverbs 25:

24 It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house.

Is one of your weaknesses brawling? I didn't say bawling . That is a personality weakness, too, but brawling is the word I used. Notice verse 25:

Proverbs 25:

25 As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.

Is one of your personality weaknesses negligence in the area of correspondence where it is needed and where it will be beneficial to the people whom you neglect? Notice verse 26:

Proverbs 25:

26 A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.

I do not ask you if this is one of your weaknesses because I think it would be more apt to say, “When was it last evident in your life?” I do not believe I have met anybody who does not have the weakness of failure and of falling. It is sad indeed when the failure and the fall is in the presence of the unsaved. Notice verse 27:

Proverbs 25:

27 It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.

We would ask the simple question: “Is one of your personality weaknesses described by the word conceit ?” That is what this particular passage is talking about.

Then, you will notice in verse 28, the words:

Proverbs 25:

28 He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.

Is one of your personality weaknesses a lack of self-control? We will be looking individually at these suggestions that we have made to you in reading this chapter that deals with unrelated comparisons in due time so that the Spirit of God might be able to speak to our hearts in as much detail as He desires. If we go rapidly over His Word, as we certainly can do in the interest of saving time, we could miss much that God has for us. We don't have any schedule to keep in relation to the study of the Word, so we are just going to let the Spirit of God minister the Word of God to our hearts, which I trust will remain open for that purpose.

Comparison of the King and his Kingdom to God's Kingdom

Let's go back to the very beginning of chapter 25 and notice the comparison to which we have already made reference—the king and his kingdom. I am going to suggest that we read this paragraph again so that the words will be fresh in your minds. Notice verse 2:

Proverbs 25:

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
3 The heaven for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of kings is unsearchable.
4 Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.
5 Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.
6 Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:

Keep in mind that the author was an earthly king who could speak from experience, and he would know that the things to which he made reference were reality. We suggest that verses 2-3 speak of a king and verses 4-7 speak of the kingdom.

In Solomon's comments concerning the king, he draws attention to comparison and contrast between an earthly king and God, emphasizing that the king must spend most of his days searching out a matter. Look at verse 2:

Proverbs 25:

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.

The word honor and the word glory come from the same Hebrew word, and what Solomon is saying is that the only way that a king can maintain his honor, the only way that a king can be sure of his honor, is to be searching out matters. There must always be a good information bureau which he can tap if he is to maintain his reputation.

On the other hand, God is more interested in concealing matters than He is in searching out matters because God is omniscient. His glory does not depend on any information bureau. I pause for sake of emphasis because some of God's dear children need to have that emphasized in their hearts, and perhaps it will govern the use of their tongue, for there are some of God's dear children who feel that God's glory is dependent upon their activity in searching out all evil and making it known to everybody they can.

You can well understand why any earthly government would feel far more secure if it knew every treasonable act that might be planned against it. By contrast, God gets glory to His name by concealing matters so that human effort cannot even be exercised in matters of revelation, so that when the whole matter is considered, one must say, “To God be the glory.”

Obey What is Plainly Revealed

If you are familiar with your Bibles and you are thinking, perhaps you are wondering about what appears to be an inconsistency, for a very familiar passage of Scripture comes to your mind: Psalm 19, verse 1:

Psalm 19:

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

You may be saying, “God's glory is dependent upon revelation.” I want to bring to your attention a few passages of Scripture that will emphasize that God gets greater glory out of His sovereign right of concealment than He does out of what you may deem necessary revelation. Turn with me, please, to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 29, which deals with God's wrath toward disobedience and men feeling that if they knew more, they might do more. God said, in verse 29:

Deuteronomy 29:

29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

We have read this passage of Scripture not for a discussion of the place of the law in the believer's life, but to emphasize a principle. Notice what that principle is in this verse: Our responsibility is not to uncover that which God has been pleased to conceal; rather, it is to obey what is plainly revealed. That is what the passage of Scripture says.

Don't misinterpret what I have said. Don't sit back in a false sense of comfort and say, “On the basis of that, I don't need to recognize a responsibility to know the Word. I don't need to recognize a responsibility to seek the truth of God's Word.” That is a misinterpretation of what I said. I said that God's glory is related to matters of concealment, and that which He has been pleased to conceal, for reasons known to Himself, we should not be overly concerned about. His glory will not suffer thereby. Our responsibility is to obey what is revealed.

For a similar passage of Scripture in the New Testament, turn to the book of Romans because I would like for you to notice the last few verses of chapter 11, emphasizing the point that though earthly kings must be continually searching secret things to maintain their honor, God's glory is maintained through concealment. Notice verse 33, where we read:

Romans 11:

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Earthly kings or rulers must have standing beside them an individual who can advise, who can counsel, who can direct, but not our God. Who is the man who would dare to stand by the side of our God and give Him any advice whatsoever?

Turn back to the Old Testament and notice Psalm 131, for always we are coming in contact with people who are greatly troubled about things in the Word which God has not been pleased to reveal. They want every piece of puzzle to fit into its proper place, according to their way of thinking. If they have a piece of the puzzle which does not fit they become tremendously concerned. They perhaps think that the whole puzzle has been miscut. Recognizing that it is to the glory of God to conceal things, I would have you notice what the Psalmist said about his personal reaction to things he did not understand. When certain pieces of the puzzle didn't fit into place, he had this reaction. Notice verse 1:

Psalm 131:

1 Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

Translated, it reads: “I am humble enough to say I don't know. I am humble enough to say I don't understand. I am humble enough to leave the matters which are concealed to God and enjoy that which is revealed.”

Satan is so clever at wresting truth that I feel the need of making this point. You see, I am not suggesting by the remarks that I have made up to this point that there will not be times in your life when matters will not be clear to you, which will later be perfectly clear, for light is a progressive thing. As you know more of the Word, you will have more light; and as you walk in light, more light will be granted. So it is perfectly possible that something will not be clear to you today that would be perfectly clear a month from now because you know more of the Word. I do not want you to think because of what I said that God does not intend to reveal truth. I am simply saying that God has declared that here in this comparison found in Proverbs, chapter 25, His glory is oftentimes related to matters of concealment. There are times when you and I must be like the weaned child to whom reference has been made in the Psalms, when we must quiet ourselves as a weaned child who is perfectly willing to let matters rest with the Lord.

Principle of the Finer's Pot

If you will go back to Proverbs, chapter 25, you will recall that I said verses 2-3 deal with matters related to the king, while verses 4-7 deal with matters related to the kingdom. Notice verse 4:

Proverbs 25:

4 Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.
5 Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.

There you have the comparison. You have the illustration in verse 4 of the finer's pot, which has been often used in the Scripture. Look at it again:

Proverbs 25:

4 Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.

That is, when the refiner of the silver heats the metal to the place where the dross can be skimmed off, you have a vessel of which the finer will be proud. This is a principle and it can apply in many areas of life. That is the reason that some of God's dear children are called upon to go through times of testing and trial. That is the reason that the Apostle Peter could say, “The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth.” There are some things that you and I should not try to run away from. I would like to emphasize to you that when Peter was so speaking, he was not saying that your faith is more precious than gold; he was saying that the trial of your faith is the precious thing. Perhaps if we could realize that, we could enter into the trials that come our way with a great deal more courage and a greater depth of peace, knowing that the experience through which we will go is one that is exceedingly precious, though very, very difficult.

Solomon said, in verse 5, “If I could purify from my kingdom all of the wickedness as dross is purified from the metal, then my kingdom would be established in righteousness.” I think it goes without the need of a great deal of emphasis to say that any kingdom, any nation, any government would be established if you could burn away the wickedness as the finer burns away the dross. But you don't know any government like that. I don't. In case you are foolish enough to think that there will be such a government at the hands of men, I would remind you that such will not be the case.

Dross to be Burned Away

Solomon is often used in the Scripture as a type of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is used as a type of David's greater Son. Solomon was his son. David's greater Son was the Lord Jesus Christ. Though Solomon's kingdom never had the dross removed from it, David's greater Son's kingdom most certainly will. We could have a study in prophecy and remind you that shortly, I hope, there is going to come upon this earth a period of tribulation. That, of course, will be preceded by the events toward which we all look with a great deal of expectancy—the Rapture of the Church, when the Body of Christ will be removed from this world. Then there will begin a time of tribulation, when in the fires of the tribulation all of the dross will be burned away. As the Lord Jesus Christ said in parabolic language in the Gospel of Matthew, “Removed from the Kingdom of Heaven will be all those things that offend.”

Looking Forward to the Reality of a New Kingdom

That is the conclusion of this time to which I have made reference, which is referred to as The Judgment of the Nations . The dross and its removal will reach its climax, and there will go into the new millennial age those nations to live under a rule of righteousness with David's greater Son on the throne. What Solomon himself could never realize, though he longed for it, David's greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, will realize because His kingdom will be one with all the dross burned away, with all the wickedness gone.

It thrills my heart to think about it, because we, if we have received the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, are going to have a part in that Kingdom. I don't know how you feel, but sometimes I become very, very weary reading in news columns, editorial pages, televised comments of the wickedness and the utter undependability of the leaders of our world and of our nation. I think, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have one person we could trust? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have one leader that we could unreservedly believe in? I have become weary of a world like this and long for a world where such things will not have to be a bother.

You need to and I need to take advantage of all the means that are ours to find some men that you can trust. You know, sometimes when I go to the polls, I go with a sense of misgiving. I wonder if the man whom I feel that I could cast my vote for, after prayerful consideration, really will be the man I hope he will be. More times than not, I have been disappointed. But such will be until the day comes when the dross of earthly kingdoms will be burned away and the Kingdom of our God will be established. That encourages me. It enables me to carry on even though, ordinarily speaking, I might tend to give up. I carry on in the light of what is possible now, looking forward to the reality of a new Kingdom.

Presence Pride and Absence of Humility

One last thing I would say to you in this paragraph concerning the King and his Kingdom, and it is expressed in the words pride and humility , which is the bane of any existing king. It was a reality to Solomon. It is something we face today. Look at verse 6:

Proverbs 25:

6 Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:

The interesting thing to me is that these are the words that fell from the king. How weary he must have been of those self-seeking men who always wanted to sit next to him, who always wanted to stand next to him, who always wanted to find their position as close to him as possible for their own glory. The kingdoms of this world are marked by the presence of pride and the absence of humility, and so men have to be put down and men have to be raised up according to the plan of God. There is coming a day when every man will have his rightful place in the Kingdom to come.

If I asked you if you were interested in politics, you might readily answer, “No, I am not.” If I were to ask you if you were interested in holding office, you might answer, “Frankly, I am not interested in holding any office,” but I am going to suggest that sometime between this Age of Grace, and the Age of Righteousness, which is to come, you are going to have to change your outlook because you are slated to hold office in the Kingdom that is to come upon this earth, for God has ordained that we who are members of the Body of Christ, faithful in the discharge of our responsibility in this Age of Grace, will have committed to us the rule of this earth during the Age of Righteousness; but thank God, we won't have to seek the places of responsibility through maneuvering and working people to our own end. We will be appointed to those places, and He who appoints will make no mistakes.

I look upon earthly kingdoms and I am discouraged. I look forward toward the heavenly Kingdom that is to come upon the earth and I am elated, for I don't believe it will be too long until we will be able to live under a rule such as I have described.


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