Forbearance
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Proverbs, chapter 25, that portion of the Word of God that we have been studying together for some time now. You will recall that we have been following our study of the book of Proverbs according to the natural divisions into which the book falls. At the present time we are considering together that division of the book that we have designated The Gleanings of Hezekiah's Men . We suggest that title for this section of the book because of verse 1 of chapter 25, where we read:

Proverbs 25:

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

Without emphasizing the details, we remind you that during the revival time of good King Hezekiah in Judah, the Word of God, long lying in dust, was uncovered. Among the scrolls were found the proverbs by Solomon, which are included in this particular section. They were copied down and eventually included in the book of Proverbs written by Solomon.

As indicated, the section begins with chapter 25, verse 1, and goes through chapter 29, verse 27. We have pointed out to you that this particular section The Gleanings of Hezekiah's Men is comprised of a number of different subjects. In chapter 25 there are unrelated comparisons. Following, in chapter 26, there are illustrations of fools and sluggards. In chapter 27 there are presented to us right attitudes and relationships. In chapter 28 is a discussion of practical righteousness. In chapter 29 are those proverbs which would naturally deal with the power of righteousness.

At the present time we are discussing the first subject in the division—unrelated comparisons. We have used that designation because we have found in chapter 25 a number of comparisons which are unrelated one to the other, and we have been dealing with them in detail. We have discussed with you, thus far, comparisons related to the king and his kingdom, the subject related to litigation. We noticed in our last lesson some comparisons that were illustrated by similes. We now want to discuss with you the subject of forbearance and, if time permits, the subject of inconsistency, for these are all a part of this general section of unrelated comparisons.

Forbearance in the Area of Wrath

Follow in your Bibles, please, noticing the paragraph which begins with 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.
18 A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.
19 Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.
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.

Since we have suggested to you that we are going to discuss the subject of forbearance and inconsistencies, it would be wise for us to recognize the subject of forbearance to begin with. If you were listening closely as we read the Word, you probably noticed the subject of forbearance is presented to us in three areas in which believers should learn to forbear. We bring to your attention the first one, which is familiar to most, because probably all of us have a difficult time in this particular area—forbearance in the area of wrath. Look at verse 15:

Proverbs 25:

15 By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.

You might at first thought say, “I understand the principle of forbearance in the verse because the word is mentioned, but why do you say that this verse suggests forbearance in the area of wrath?”

Our answer lies within the meaning of the word forbearing . Notice in verse 15: “By long forbearing is a prince persuaded…” The English word forbearing comes from the Hebrew word ‘aph , which is translated elsewhere in the Scriptures by the word anger and by the word wrath . We can notice an illustration in Proverbs, chapter 14, which gives us an illustration of the meaning of the word and a suggestion as well about the need for forbearance in this particular area. Notice verse 29:

Proverbs 14:

29 He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.

Notice the word wrath there in Proverbs, chapter 14, verse 29. That word wrath is a translation of our Hebrew word ‘aph , which is translated by the word forbearing in Proverbs, chapter 25, verse 15. So we know immediately that the subject under discussion is forbearance in the area of wrath . The advice in chapter 14, verse 29, should be well taken. Notice again:

Proverbs 14:

29 He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.

The difference lies in the depth of understanding and the shallowness of foolishness.

If you will notice chapter 29, you will notice another illustration in verse 8 of the use of this word:

Proverbs 29:

8 Scornful men bring a city into a snare: but wise men turn away wrath.

You will notice the word wrath . It is our Hebrew word ‘aph and the advice in this verse should be well taken in matters of civic importance and national importance. You will notice the emphasis was placed upon the fact that wise men turn away wrath.

Go back to chapter 25 and look again at verse 15. I would like to point out to you that associated with the word forbearing is the word long . Not only is forbearing essential, but long forbearing is essential. We would emphasize that to you because the word long comes from the Hebrew word orek , which speaks of length which is characterized by the word forever . I suspect that the mere mention of that word could drive home to our hearts the truth that all of us need. How often have we asked, “How long do I have to put up with this? How much can a man take? Just how long am I supposed to tolerate this?” Would it be too much if I said, “Forever.”? “By long forbearing is a king persuaded…” The suggestion is that you don't get anywhere by explosive temper tantrums and fits of wrath, for forbearing in the area of wrath is something definite accomplished.

Glance again at verse 15 where you see presented to you in contrast to the uncontrollable anger suggested in the first part of the verse, a way to change the most obstinate person in the world. If I were to say that, of course, you wouldn't need to accept it, but the Word of God declares it. Notice verse 15 again:

Proverbs 25:

15 By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, [notice especially now] and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.

That is what some of us would like to do. When we have our fit of temper, when our long forbearing is exhausted, we would like to break somebody's neck; but the Scripture says, “A soft answer breaketh the bone.” Really, we are not talking about breaking bones; we are talking about changed personalities. The word bone here comes from the Hebrew word gerem , which is translated elsewhere in the Scripture by the word self and the word personality , so you see what we are talking about. A soft answer can change a personality.

Perhaps the most interesting comment on that subject we noticed earlier in our discussion back in chapter 15 of the book of Proverbs. Turn back there and notice the simple statement:

Proverbs 15:

1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

We asked you to turn here for a comment because you are probably wondering all that might be included in a soft answer. You find it here. A soft answer is best defined by contrast. A soft answer is contrasted with grievous words. What are grievous words? Needling words. Sometimes we hear a discussion going on and we say to an individual, “Why do you talk to him that way? Why do you treat him (or her—whatever the case may be) that way? The answer comes back, “Oh, I just like to needle him a little.” Do you know what it means to needle somebody? That kind of thing stirs up wrath, but a soft answer, which is in direct contrast to that, will provide peace. A soft answer will change the most obstinate personality there is.

Perhaps you are calling to mind what is brought to your attention in I Peter, chapter 3, in which the relationship of the husband and wife is described. We are told that a woman taking her scriptural place as a wife, when married to a man who is obstinate, may without a word see a transformation in the life of that man.

As we have pointed out to you before, sometimes the emphasis is placed upon the idea that without the Word of God they may be won, but the original text will not permit that interpretation. It simply means that the wife doesn't needle and she doesn't nag. She doesn't have to. The transformation can occur.

Forbearance in the Area of Moderation

Let's go back to Proverbs, chapter 25, and notice another area in which there is a need for forbearance. The need for forbearance is found in the area of moderation. That is brought to our attention by what we read in verse 16:

Proverbs 25:

16 Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.

I think that does not take a great many comments to help you to understand why we have suggested to you the word moderation for this particular verse. If you are still wondering why we did, notice the word vomit . “If you have found honey,” says the Word of God, “eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith and vomit it.” There is a need for moderation.

The lesson that should be emphasized in this particular portion of the Word lies in the symbolism of honey in the Word of God. Honey, in the Word of God, is a symbol of that which is pleasurable and that which is enjoyable. The wise man is suggesting here that if you find something pleasurable and if you find something pleasant, just partake that which is sufficient. Don't overdo it. Participate in it in the manner that is sufficient without excess.

The two words used for comparisons, sufficient and filled , are interesting words because that first word sufficient refers to the natural reaction to anything that is pleasant. We want to enjoy it to its fullest. We want to have enough of it. The word filled suggests the other extreme. Greed would perhaps be a good word to describe it. Natural ambition strives for sufficiency; greed strives for the second word.

You might be wondering exactly how you can determine sufficiency in any given area in which you are participating. Let's anticipate ourselves a bit and turn to Proverbs, chapter 30, and notice the paragraph which begins with verse 7. Often we have called to your attention this portion of the Word because it has always been a very appealing portion to us. Notice verse 7, where Agur prays:

Proverbs 30:

7 Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:
8 Remove far from me vanity and lies [that is one thing]: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:

He says, “Lord, if you want to do something for me, take me away from emptiness and falsehood. Then the other thing you can do for me is give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:” There is our word sufficient in different form. Notice, as we read on:

Proverbs 30:

8 …give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

What is sufficiency? It is not poverty. There is no spiritual virtue in poverty. Remember that. There are any number of people who equate spirituality with poverty. The poorer you are, the more spiritual you are. That simply is not true.

There are other folk who go to the opposite extreme and equate riches with spirituality, and that is a very dangerous thing to do. We are not told in the Word of God that poverty will necessarily drive a man away from God. We are told what poverty may cause a man to feel and may cause him to take the name of God in vain; but we are told in detail in Paul's first letter to Timothy that riches will fill a man's life with sorrow—that is, riches may, but they don't have to. Riches may fill a man's life with sorrow, and he could fall into many foolish and hurtful lusts; so the happy medium, the sufficiency that is described in our text, is found in the words: “…feed me with food convenient for me.”

You know, it is a wonderful thing to have the Lord meet your needs. Did you notice what I said? It is a wonderful thing to have the Lord meet your needs. Of course, we could place the emphasis upon the fact that the Lord meets our needs and talk about the miraculous way in which God does supply, but that is not where I would like to place the emphasis. I would like to place the emphasis upon the fact that the Lordmeets our needs as believers. “My God shall supply all of your needs,” and the reason that I emphasize the fact that the Lord meets the needs is that He knows what our needs are.

So often we overestimate or underestimate, and we malign God if our needs are not met along the lines that we have in mind. It is so good to let Him meet our needs, and I have discovered that He always thinks we need more than we think we do, for most of us are afraid to trust God for a great deal.

Go back to Proverbs, chapter 25, again and notice something else about our verse. It revolves around the word filled . Notice again:

Proverbs 25:

16 Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.

What does it mean to be filled? The picture is not so much of an empty barrel that is filled to the brim with a foreign substance. As a matter of fact, the word filled comes from the Hebrew word sabea , which in the very next verse is translated by the word weary . Notice verse 17:

Proverbs 25:

17 Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.

You see the word weary . It is the translation of the Hebrew word sabea , which is translated by the word filled . What is the Spirit of God suggesting to us? That when we find something good, enjoy it. Don't overdo it, lest you become weary with it and you have no real joy in doing it any more.

A bit of advice for believers in this age is brought to our attention in Paul's letter to the Philippians, chapter 4. Notice this word of exhortation to all believers in this age that is found in verse 5:

Philippians 4:

5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Do you get the message? If you have found honey, don't get too involved with it, particularly in the end of this age because the Lord is at hand. We must be very careful as the end of the age draws nigh that we don't become too busy with the figurative beehives and gorge ourselves with honey when there is a need for moderation.

Forbearance in the Area of Imposition

Go back to Proverbs, chapter 25, and notice with me the verse we read just a moment ago in order that we might draw an illustration concerning the word filled , for in that verse we have another area in which forbearance is essential. Notice verse 17:

Proverbs 25:

17 Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.

I would suggest to you that there is a need for forbearance in the area of imposition. It is so easy for us to impose upon people, oftentimes without realizing it. It is very easy for us to impose upon our neighbors if they are obeying the Word of God. We are interpreting the word neighbor in the broader sense in which it is found in the Word of God. In the book of Romans, we are told that we should show no ill to our neighbor, and in the light of the context we learn that that is not a reference to the man next door necessarily. Rather, it is a reference to him who is a member of the household of faith. Because that is true, we have a problem because on one side of the ledger we have the instruction that is found in I Peter, chapter 4, verses 7-9; on the other side of the ledger we have the text which we have read here.

Turn to I Peter, chapter 4, and see if you, as a member of the household of faith, are following the injunction that is presented to you in verses 7-9:

I Peter 4:

7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
9 [Notice this particularly] Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

Sometimes we who are members of the household of faith need our pure hearts stirred up by way of remembrance in connection with this statement here: “Use hospitality not grudgingly.” There are times when we entertain. There are times we invite folk into our homes, but some of us find it very difficult to be hospitable, and we may feel that we have ample reason for feeling so. We are so very, very busy, but God says that you and I should show fervent love among ourselves and, as an indication of that love, open our homes and invite folk in and spend time one with another. Only eternity will reveal the weak Christian who has found strength enough to continue through a difficult time because someone was hospitable.

In the portion of the Word that we are looking at, we find an illustration of the wonderful balance of the Scripture. That is the reason we need to know it all and we need to compare one passage with another. Just as certainly as the household of faith is prone to be hospitable, the household of faith is told not to impose upon that hospitality, for again we read in Proverbs, chapter 25, verse 17:

Proverbs 25:

17 Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.

I am going to be a bit crude for the sake of emphasis. In the previous verse, if you get too much honey, you are going to vomit. Wouldn't it be a sad thing if you imposed on the hospitality of your neighbor to such an extent that every time he saw you coming he would want to vomit? That is a bit crude, but that is what the Word of God says. You see, there needs to be a balance, and so you are told to withdraw your foot from your neighbor's house, lest he be weary of thee. The emphasis is again on the phrase, “so hate thee.”

The word hate and the word love used in the Scripture are always relative words, and actually the word hate here is not a good translation of the text. As a matter of fact, the word hate comes from the Hebrew word sane , which is translated by the word odious. Turn to Proverbs, chapter 30, and you will notice that the wise man said that he was puzzled about a number of things that were difficult for the earth to bear. I think it would be wise for us to begin to read with verse 21. Notice:

Proverbs 30:

21 For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear:
22 For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat;
23 For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.

He goes on to make a comparison, but go back to verse 23, and notice the statement: “For an odious woman when she is married…” The word odious is the translation of the Hebrew word sane , which is translated by the word hate in Proverbs, chapter 25, verse 17.

Let me say at the outset that odious has nothing to do with odor. This doesn't say that it is difficult for the earth to bear a woman who smells bad when she gets married. I think that would be difficult, and I hope you don't have to go through anything like that. But that isn't what the passage of Scripture is referring to. An odious woman who marries is a woman who is constantly nagging and constantly needling and constantly cutting down the man whom she marries. Recognize that in the area of imposition there is a need for forbearance.

I said that I wanted to think with you about two things here: the subject of forbearance, at which we have looked, and the subject of inconsistency. We think about the two of them together, not because they are related, but because we do need to get along with our discussion and we have only a few more minutes to look at this particular comparison of the word inconsistency to be considered.

The Inconsistency of a False Witness

Look at chapter 25, verse 18:

Proverbs 25:

18 A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.
19 Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.
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.

In these three verses are three inconsistencies that should interest us. The first one is related to the subject of a false witness . Notice verse 18 again:

Proverbs 25:

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

Here again we interpret the word neighbor as being more than your next door neighbor, though he is not to be excluded. Your neighbor is who is described in Romans, chapter 13, as a member of the household of faith. Why do I use the word inconsistency ? Because the Spirit of God says that one Christian who bears false witness against another Christian is acting as inconsistently as though he took a maul, a sword, and a sharp arrow and made war against a member of the household of faith.

A sword and a sharp arrow need no particular explanation, but the word maul is a word that most of us don't know much about. It comes from the Hebrew word mephiyts , which is translated “war club.” The Spirit of God is saying that if you as a believer bear false witness against another believer, you are murdering him. You are causing as much damage as a man would cause if he were to beat another man over the head with a war club, such as was used in the days of Solomon. It speaks of complete devastation that may be wrought by a false statement.

The sword speaks of that damage that is done by a false witness in close associations, for a sword is used in hand-to-hand combat. The arrow speaks of that damage that is done in false witnessing in secret and at a distance. The maul is devastating, but perhaps the most dangerous kind of false witness is typified where the false witness stays out of the picture entirely and yet his arrows find their mark. God forgive us for being false witnesses. So often among Christians this sin goes unnoticed and, going unnoticed, goes unconfessed. It is inconsistent to think that those who should be dealing with us in love are making war upon us with a maul, a sword, and an arrow.

The Inconsistency of Blind Trust

I want to suggest to you there is another area of inconsistency that should be brought to your attention. That area of inconsistency is one that is brought to us in 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.

When you read this verse, you might say, “How foolish can you be to put confidence in an unfaithful man?” May I suggest to you that the emphasis is not on the unfaithful man, but the faithful man who has proved unfaithful. There is a difference, you know.

When you know a man is unfaithful, obviously you are not going to place your trust in him, but if you consider a man to be faithful and you place your trust in him and he fails you, then he is a disappointment to you. Yet, the suggestion that is found in this verse, is such that I have labeled this inconsistency blind trust , for there is nothing so inconsistent on the part of the believer as blind trust, especially in the light of the plain teaching of the Word of God. How often men place their trust in individuals and say, “I know he will never fail.”, and perhaps bolster up that statement with a suggestion, “He is a Christian and a Christian wouldn't act that way.”

I wish I could tell you that that is true. I wish I could tell you that every Christian acts like a Christian, but I can't tell you that because sometimes Christians don't walk in the Spirit, they walk in the flesh; and when they walk in the flesh, they don't act like Christians. I think it would be wise for every believer to heed the admonition given in Psalm 146, verse 3:

Psalm 146:

3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

I don't suggest that you go up and down suspecting everybody, but I do suggest, Beloved, that in every man in whom you have confidence, be charitable enough to expect disappointments because no man alive can be so perfect in every instance that disappointments will not come.

The comparison that is presented in verse 19 is a painful one. Look at it please:

Proverbs 25:

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

Perhaps you have had a broken tooth, and you know how painful it can be. Perhaps you have had a foot out of joint and you have had to walk upon it. If you have, you know just how painful those two comparisons can be. May I suggest that other renderings make them even more formidable, as far as pain is concerned: “Blind trust in an unfaithful man, when that trust is violated, it is like chewing with a sore tooth or trying to run on a broken foot.”

If you have been disappointed in other believers, let me say something to you, very kindly. It is your own fault. Instead of being disappointed in God and bitter against God and losing all confidence in Christians, remind yourself that you should never have had that much confidence in anybody.

The Inconsistency of False Comfort

Notice the last inconsistency that I would like to suggest to you in 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.

I have used the words false comfort to describe this particular inconsistency. There is nothing so inconsistent as the false comfort that is rendered to sad hearts by well-meaning people. You will notice what he said, “The man who offers false comfort is like the man that taketh away a garment in cold weather.” You see the inconsistency, don't you? If there is a person in cold climates, it would be inconsistent of you to take away his garment. You ought to help him button it up so he will be a little bit warmer.

The comparison again—as vinegar upon nitre. How inconsistent it is to put vinegar upon nitre if you want something calm to drink. Actually the word nitre here is the word that is translated by our English words baking soda.

Perhaps you are familiar with a soda fizz. I grew up in the generation when if you had indigestion, you made a soda fizz. It was the best cure there was for it. It was the days before Alka-Seltzer. You took a spoonful of baking soda and a little bit of vinegar and you poured it in a glass and when it began to fizz, you began to drink it. If you got it all down before it quit fizzing, you got a good burp out of it and the indigestion was all gone. If you want something calm and quiet, which you do when there is a soul disturbed by grief, you don't put vinegar on nitre.

You will notice in the last part of verse 20: “…singing songs to a heavy heart.” That is just as inconsistent as taking away a garment in cold weather and as pouring vinegar upon baking soda. Singing songs to a heavy heart? I wonder what the Spirit of God had in mind there. There are some individuals who do not have the right perspective of grief. When a heart is saddened, they think there should be no grief, so they come along with words, well meaning like Job's comforter did, and suggest that the best way to handle grief is to ignore it. They will go somewhere and say, “So and So is real down in the dumps. Let's go cheer him up.” They sing songs that are light and airy when the individual's heart is heavy. Perhaps he is too polite to say, “I wish you would cut that out.” It doesn't do him any good. As a matter of fact, one translator has suggested that it is like rubbing salt in wounds.

If you feel called upon to engage in the ministry of comfort, let me suggest that you follow what the Word of God has to say and don't sing songs to a heavy heart. Learn how to speak a word in season. Don't rub salt in the wounds, for it is an inconsistent thing to do. As inconsistent as taking away a garment in cold weather and pouring vinegar upon nitre.

Conclusion

Let us then recognize the areas in which we as individuals need forbearance, and let us avoid the inconsistency that accomplishes nothing.


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