Similes
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

We have been discussing a particular section of the book of Proverbs, which we have designated by the title that is found in chapter 25, verse 1:

Proverbs 25:

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

We have referred to this particular section as The Gleanings of Hezekiah's Men . We discovered that it goes from chapters 25-29, and we have found that it contained references to unrelated comparisons, illustrations of fools and sluggards, right attitudes and right relationships, a theme on practical righteousness, and an essay on the power of righteousness.

You would understand that it would be necessary for us to think about these particular sections of this particular division individually if we are going to learn everything from them that we should. You will keep in mind that we began several weeks ago a discussion of the first section of this particular division, the section that we designated as unrelated comparisons , beginning with verse 2 of chapter 25, and going through verse 28.

We have learned that these unrelated comparisons deal with the king and his kingdom. They deal with the subject of litigation, and we are going to notice that they contain some similies which should be of real interest to us. I ask you to look with me at Proverbs, chapter 25, the paragraph which begins with 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.

We pause in our reading there because that paragraph constitutes a series of similes that we want to consider. If you were listening closely as we read this portion of the Word of God, we found four similes in the paragraph. Two of the similes deal with the message which is to be delivered. Two of them deal with the messenger who brings the message, or as someone else has suggested, two of them deal with the wisdom of speech, and two of them deal with the fidelity of the messenger himself.

Illustrations and Truths

If we keep in mind the content of these four similes, as we have pointed them out to you, I think our understanding as we go along will be the clearer. I think it would be wise, because our minds have a tendency to wander, to suggest that we recognize the content of the paragraph in its entirety before we begin to look at it in individual segments.

You noticed as we read the portion of the Word in question that there is presented to us illustration and proof. That is the reason for our choice of the word simile to describe the subject matter of the paragraph. You will find an illustration designated apples of gold . The proof which is illustrated represents words fitly spoken . You will notice an illustration of gold jewelry , and the proof illustrated is advice accepted , and we might add, readily accepted. You find the illustration cold snow in time of harvest , and the proof is presented as a description of a faithful messenger. You find the illustration which we have described as false promise of rain and the proof presented is connected with the unreliable messenger .

Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver

I think it would be wise for us to notice the first illustration, so I would call to your attention verse 11:

Proverbs 25:

11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Of course, as we have pointed out to you already, the illustration is found in the phrase “apples of gold in pictures of silver.” It should be mentioned at the very outset of our discussion that the Oriental idea of beauty is not always consistent with the idea of beauty in the western mind. You might wonder exactly what could be beautiful about apples of gold in pictures of silver. As a matter of fact, it might be difficult for you to visualize in your mind exactly what Solomon had in mind when he presented such a figure of speech.

Our understanding might be clearer if we examine in detail the words in the text, so may I suggest to you that the word for pictures is the Hebrew word maskiyth which describes carved figures. Solomon is actually talking about carved golden apples in a filigree of silver. Get that picture more set in your mind and you will be able to understand the idea that he had in mind of beauty. Picture a silver filigree with carved apples inserted in their proper places.

Those of you who have studied the typical significance of things in the Word of God realize that the greater truth lies not necessarily in the physical picture, but in what the physical picture is supposed to represent.

I suppose if I were to ask some of you where apples were mentioned the first time in the Bible, your response would be, “In the book of Genesis.” You would tell me without reading that in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve ate an apple, and that is the place that apples are first mentioned in the Word. Well, if you know your Bibles, you know that such is not the case. Adam was not the first one to make a reference to an apple in the Word of God. Solomon is the first one to make a reference to an apple in the Word of God. He uses an apple as a symbol of that which is pleasant, that which is sweet, and that which is persuasive. You can understand the picture apples of gold in pictures of silver , if we keep in mind that thought, for the proof is, as we pointed out to you, words fitly spoken .

The English word fitly comes from the Hebrew word ophen , which means in season . The words “fitly spoken,” are words which are spoken in season. A word spoken in season is a word spoken at the right time, in the right place, to the right person. If you would let that sink in, you would be caused to wonder if you are an honest person, I should think. How many of us know how to speak fitly? How many of our words are fitly spoken?

If you are familiar with Hebrew you know that there is a difference of opinion among Hebrew scholars as to the exact Hebrew word that is used in this particular portion of the Word of God. Some feel that it is the Hebrew word ophen , which we have called to your attention. Others, who are equally reputable authorities, feel strongly that it is another Hebrew word, alah , which can be translated “God-spoken.”

When I find a difference of opinion along this line, when no violence is done to the Scriptures, I am not particularly concerned. As a matter of fact, I am rather glad that there is a suggestion of a difference of opinion because it gives an opportunity for added emphasis. If it is the Hebrew word ophen , referring to words spoken in season at the right time at the right place and to the right person, there is a tremendous lesson that ought to be received. On the other hand, if it is the Hebrew word alah , which indicates that if it is a word which God speaks, then we are even better off because most of us, even though we know we should speak a word at the right time at the right place to the right person, feel quite incapable of doing it. However, if the fit words we use are the words which God has spoken, then we will be sure that we have always used the right word.

Turn in your Bibles to I Peter, chapter 3, verse 15, where we have an illustration of what it means to speak a word in season in the sense that we are bringing to your attention at the moment. We will not have time for an exegesis of the verse, but the truth is on the surface. Notice:

I Peter 3:

15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

If you are indoctrinated, if you are filled with the Word of God, then when you are asked for a reason for the hope that is within you, you will never need to be concerned whether you give a right answer or not. You can't help but give the right answer because you will give the answer that is God-spoken, for you will give the answer of the Word.

It has been pointed out to you that many will be the questions, and when I speak of many questions, I speak not numerically, but I speak of variety and quality, so that the only way you will be able to answer the questions that are presented is to know the Word of the living God; for if you answer them in your own mental vaporizings, there will be no more advantage to the listener than if he had not even asked the question.

I made reference earlier to the fact that Solomon was the first to mention apples in the Word of God and that Solomon used the apple typically. He used the apple typically as a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn, please, to the Song of Solomon, and notice in chapter 2, a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ, keeping in mind that the Song of Solomon is an allegorical representation of the relationship that exists between God and Israel, a representation that exists between Christ and the believer, as well as a very practical dissertation on married sex and the purpose and the plan that God has for it in your life. Notice verse 3:

Song of Solomon 2:

3 As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved [this is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is compared to the apple tree among all the trees of the wood] among the sons. [The Shulemite who is typical of the believer says in the latter part of the verse] I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

May I digress long enough to suggest that we should practice sitting down under His shadow. We might find greater delight. Certainly we would find fruit sweet to our taste.

When Solomon, then, drawing the parallel in the book of Proverbs concerning words fitly spoken and apples of gold in pictures of silver, he was able to do so to emphasize that words that come from God are always fit words. Again we emphasize the fact that it is true by calling to your attention what is recorded in the book of Isaiah, chapter 50. In this chapter there is a prophetical reference to our Lord Jesus Christ. You will have to accept that somewhat by faith for we do not have time to enter into the textual study of the surrounding verses. If you have already recognized the relationship of this verse to the surrounding verses, you know whereof I speak; but if you don't then you simply have to take by faith what I say—that the person speaking in verse 4 of Isaiah, chapter 50, is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. He says:

Isaiah 50:

4 The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.

The Lord Jesus Christ limited the exercise of His deity while He was upon the earth. He depended upon that personal communion with God in the early morning hours to have that which would be needed through the day for His communication with men.

Someone has well said, and it would be wise for us to heed it today, that we should not attempt to stand before men for God until we have stood before God for men. There is a tremendous weight of truth which I have just delivered. I would emphasize that you don't make the mistake of beginning the day without a little time alone with the Lord, regardless of how little that time might actually be because you will not be able to speak the fit word and you will not be, presenting the beauty of apples of gold and pictures of silver without such a practice.

Earrings and Necklaces of Fine Gold

We hurry on to our second illustration and the truth so illustrated by calling your attention to the illustration gold jewelry as we have described and advice readily accepted . Go back to Proverbs, chapter 25, verse 12:

Proverbs 25:

12 As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.

The illustration is found in the statement: “As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold…” There is no need to explain the word earring . You are familiar with that, but we have been intrigued with what this other ornament might be. The word ornament in our English text does not indicate what it might be, and so we wonder what other piece of jewelry could illustrate advice readily accepted. We find our answer by examining the original text and this English word ornament is the translation of the Hebrew word chaliy , and it is translated elsewhere in the Word of God by our English word necklace , so we have two pieces of jewelry which provide our illustration: earrings and necklaces. Individuals who are a bit afraid to adorn themselves with a bit of beauty might keep in mind that the Spirit of God was pleased to use such outer adornments time and again to illustrate precious spiritual truths.

I think it is wise, not from a legalistic standpoint, but from a simple standpoint of testimony for believers to recognize the spiritual truths related to such symbols in the Word of God and carry them out in relation to their own lives. One of the most precious memories I have is the memory of the privilege of giving gifts to Cricket—jewelry that had a spiritual significance in the Bible. She didn't wear a placard around her neck saying what that significance was, but she knew and I knew. It oftentimes meant a great deal to us.

I remember that just shortly before she left us she asked me if I would have cut down to size the ring that I had given her for each one of our children. She reminded me that when I gave her that ring I told her that as the high priest of Irael carried upon his breastplate a precious stone for every tribe of the nation of Israel that he might be faithful in intercession, I was giving her this ring with a birthstone of each one of our children that she might be faithful in intercession for them. As she asked me to have the ring cut down so that it might fit her in the last days of her illness, she reminded me in the words: “Though I am not well I am still able to pray. I need the ring.” We had it cut down because the truth was evident: There is a spiritual blessing in discovering the truths in the Word of God and carrying them out in our individual lives.

A Wise Reprover and an Obedient Ear

We are reminded, as we look at this particular passage of Scripture, that the illustration is of truth that is readily accepted by those who hear. Look again at verse 12:

Proverbs 25:

12 As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.

I would like to emphasize that there are two things to keep in mind: a wise reprover and an obedient ear. Perhaps you are saying, “That is evident. I can read it. I see it there with my own eyes.” Do you really? You should put the emphasis not upon the word reprover , but upon the word wise , and you should put the emphasis not upon the word ear , but upon the word obedient . Reprovers are a dime a dozen, and ears are cheaper than that, but wise reprovers are special kinds of people. Take heed to what I am saying. It is not difficult to reprove, but it takes real wisdom to be a wise reprover.

Young people, listen to what I am saying. Ears that hear are not difficult to have unless there is something physically wrong with you, but ears that readily accept what they hear from a wise reprover are not easy to come by. As a matter of fact, they must be grown. They must be developed. They must be received from someone outside of yourself.

For a picture of a wise reprover, may I invite your attention to a parallel statement found in I Peter, chapter 3. This reference will be familiar to many of you even before we turn there. Notice beginning in verse 1 that we might get the full sense of the passage:

I Peter 3:

1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
3[Notice] Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

Let us not limit the application of this Scripture to the wives that are present. In its context, the primary interpretation is found therein, but let's recognize that a wise reprover will be one who wears something beside the ornaments of gold, for the ornaments of gold carry a deeper meaning. In this particular passage of Scripture you find the ornament of gold in verse 3 in apposition with the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit in verse 4. Keep in mind that a meek spirit is not a spirit which is vacillating in determination. It is a spirit which can, but won't. Once you realize that, you who have the business of reproving might get further in your reproving if you maintain a meek and a quiet spirit. Make sure that your earrings are the right kind of earrings. Make sure that your necklaces are the right kind.

Did you notice when we looked at the passage in the book of Proverbs that the earrings of gold and the ornaments of gold were brought to our attention? In the English text you can tell no difference between the two words, but there is a different word used for the first word gold than is used for the second word gold . The first word speaks of the color; the second word is for the purity of the metal.

I am not going to insult your intelligence by drawing a parallel between costume jewelry and precious gems. There is a difference. Permit me to say to those of you who have the privilege and the responsibility of reproving that some of you may be wearing costume jewelry instead of the real article. Your children are the first to recognize it, and because they recognize the artificiality of the jewelry you wear, they are not too anxious to readily accept the reproof which is offered.

A Wise Reprover will be a Daysman

I would like to call to your attention something else about the wise reprover . It is an interesting fact to my mind. The word reprover in Proverbs, chapter 25, verse 12, comes from the Hebrew word yakach, which is translated in the book of Job by our English word daysman . Turn with me, please, to Job, chapter 9, to notice a point which should be well taken at the moment. You will remember that Job was conscious of his own insufficiency in the presence of a holy God. He felt that there was no way at all to contact Him. In the description that is presented he recognized that not only was he incapable of being in touch with a holy God, he cried out in his ignorant despair, in verse 33:

Job 9:

33 Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.

You notice the word daysman there. It is the translation of the Hebrew word yakach which is translated by the word reprover in the book of Proverbs. Are you thinking with me? What is a reprover, as far as you are concerned? Well, to many folk it is wearing the costume jewelry of empty rebuke, which your children see no real reason for, and it comes from you only because you have stood what they are doing as long as you can.

A wise reprover, Beloved, ought to have a meek and quiet spirit. He ought to never utter a word in anger. He ought to always be in full control of the situation. But, more important still, a wise reprover will be a daysman. He will stand between his child and God, not in the sense that he must take the responsibility for the spiritual welfare of his child or the decision which only his child can personally make, but you will find obedient ears much more readily if you spend some time in intercession as well as open reproof. Haven't you discovered how much more readily your child will accept reproof from God before he will accept it from you?

I am not suggesting that you abdicate your position as a parent. I am not suggesting that you say, “Oh, God is going to take care of everything,” but I am suggesting that you become a daysman. You will indeed be a wise reprover and you will find obedient ears.

Refreshment of a Faithful Messenger

Notice the third illustration and corresponding truth, which reminds you that Solomon suggested that “cold snow at harvest time is like a faithful messenger,” and if you have been following the continuity of the thought, you realize that we have passed from the message to the messenger. Look at verse 13, please, where we read the very interesting simile found there:

Proverbs 25:

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.

Here again, this simile may not be of great interest to you because of the difference in customs. Harvest time in the land of which Solomon spoke, was a hot time of the year. Then they did not have the conveniences which we have, not even cool water to drink, so the individual who was concerned about the laborers in the harvest oftentimes would send to the Lebanon mountains and have the cold snow brought down from Lebanon and distribute samples of cold snow among the laboring harvest men. You have the picture, I think. Imagine laboring in a difficult harvest, thirsty, fatigued, and suddenly a man comes with the cold snow from Lebanon. The refreshing is there. Solomon chose to use this ancient practice to describe a faithful messenger. Notice what he said:

Proverbs 25:

13 As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him…

Read the word carefully. If you do not read that passage of Scripture carefully, you might say, “…so is a faithful messenger to them to whom he is sent…” There would be an element of truth in that, for a faithful messenger is truly like cold snow from Lebanon to those who receive him.

Turn, please, to II Timothy, chapter 1, for an illustration of how refreshing a faithful messenger can be. Of course, there is a sense in which any messenger bearing the message of the Gospel is a refreshing messenger, but the Word of God is tremendously practical and the Word of God deals in deeper depths and greater quantity with messages other than the simple message of salvation, and we are prone to forget that. Notice verse 16, where Paul said:

II Timothy 1:

16 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:

This has always been a tremendously interesting verse of Scripture to me. Paul was in prison and Onesiphorous often refreshed the Apostle Paul. I wonder how he did it. He said that he was not ashamed of his chain, which indicated that he was not ashamed to visit the Apostle Paul while he was in prison, and maybe just the visit itself was as cold snow from Lebanon.

Have you stopped to think how many folk there might be scattered about who need a little cold snow from Lebanon? These are not idle remarks, Beloved. There is a real ministry that all too many folk have delegated to the duty of the pastor that is your privilege. You say, “Oh, I don't know where these folk are.” It is possible that this dear man originally did not know where Paul was. Look at verse 17:

II Timothy 1:

17 But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.

Did you notice that nobody sent a request for a visit? This dear man bore cold snow from Lebanon because he was prompted by the Spirit of God to do it. The Apostle Paul said, concerning him in verse 18:

II Timothy 1:

18 The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things [he added as an afterthought] he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.

Yes, this man was a minister and what was his ministry? The humble task of carrying cold snow from Lebanon. I am always provoked almost to the point of irritation when folk tell me they don't have anything to do for the Lord. Why not try carrying a little cold snow from Lebanon? God looks upon it as a real ministry.

Go back to Proverbs, chapter 25. I said that if we read the passage of Scripture carelessly we might make such an application as we made. It was proper to make the application for it is made elsewhere in the Scripture, but I want you to notice the verse very carefully, now. Look at verse 13 again:

Proverbs 25:

13 As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them [notice carefully now] that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.

Notice that last statement: “the faithful messenger refreshed the soul of his masters.” How good it is when a man sends someone with a message to know that the message will be delivered to the right person, unadulterated as it was given. Here, Beloved, we are reminded of another tremendous truth in the Word of God which would take several lessons to pursue: the truth related to the Judgment Seat of Christ. To you who have been given the responsibility, the obligation of carrying the cold snow of Lebanon, will be the privilege of hearing the “Well done” of the Savior when you stand in His presence at the Judgment Seat of Christ, when He will tell you that you refreshed Him because you took time to take the cold snow of Lebanon to those who stood in need.

A False Prophet of Rain

Notice with me the last illustration and the last truth that is found in this group of four similes in our text. You find the illustration that I have termed A False Promise of Rain and the truth Unreliable Messengers . Yes, There are both. There are the reliable messengers like the cold snow from Lebanon, and there are the unreliable messengers that are like the false promise of rain. Look at verse 14:

Proverbs 25:

14 Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.

You will notice the last statement: “clouds and wind without rain.” That is the reason we used the phrase, a false promise of rain . I suspect that we in West Texas can communicate with Solomon on this matter as much, if not more, than any other people anywhere in the world. God said in His Word that such a person who boasts of doing that which he does not do, and really that which he does not intend to do, is like clouds and wind without rain.

Another rendering of this verse of Scripture emphasizes not only the lack of the discharge of duty, but the false intent as well. You read, “Clouds and wind that bring no rain is the one who boasteth a gift he never gives.”

Of course, we might bring a very practical, prosaic message from the practical side and talk about pledges people make financially, but they don't fulfill; but since we don't believe in pledges, we have quite a problem in using that for our discussion. It might be wise for you to remember that any promise that you make before the Lord should be fulfilled.

I think the Spirit of God would have us consider a deeper meaning than this mere practical meaning to which I have made reference, so I will ask you to turn to the epistle of Jude, that little book that comes just before the book of the Revelation, and notice verse 12. There the Spirit of God, the same individual who prompted Solomon to write what he wrote in the book of Proverbs, prompted Jude to write in the epistle that bears his name. Since it is just one chapter, we refer to verse 12, but to get the thought we would ask you to notice verse 11, where the Holy Spirit speaks of false teachers:

Jude:

11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.

False teachers are compared in these verses to spots in love feasts, a practice of the early church, to trees whose fruit withereth, the trees themselves twice dead, to raging waves of the sea, to wandering stars. False teachers are compared to the illustration of the moment in the midst of verse 12: “clouds they are without water, carried about by the wind.”

The individual who, according to James, desires to be a master or a teacher should be very careful that he does not fall into the category described in this portion of the Word of God where he has a promise of rain and produces nothing to quench the thirst.

False teachers can do nothing more than that—just give the promise of rain. But there are individuals who would not necessarily be designated false teachers because they do believe in the deity of Christ and the inspiration of the Word of God, but they offer no more than the false teacher—a promise of rain which never comes because their emphasis is not upon words fitly spoken; their emphasis is upon the essays of men.

Conclusion

Notice the similes which we have considered together. Find the application for them in our individual lives, and ask the Spirit of God to make the application, for He is the only One who can make it effectively.


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