Proverbs 19-20

Protect Yourself With Love.

“Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love.” ­– Proverbs 20:28 NLT

As you read through the Proverbs, most of them seem pretty logical and make perfect common sense. For instance, if you don’t work, you don’t eat. If you lie, it’s going to catch up to you. If you’re rich, you’ve got more friends than you know what to do with. If you’re poor, friends are few and far between. If you live with a nagging wife, it’s like listening to the constant drip of a faucet you can’t stop – ultimately, it will drive you crazy. These are like maxims or truisms that when you read them, you find yourself nodding your head in agreement. But then occasionally you’ll stumble across one that seems more like a riddle than a proverb. It seems to make no sense. It’s meaning either escapes you or it appears illogical. It goes against common sense. In fact, it seems to make no sense at all. Proverbs 20:28 falls into that category for me. Right in the middle of all the talk of fools, sluggards, unfaithful friends, liars, swindlers, and mockers there appears this surprising bit of advice for kings. Now you have to understand that the king audience did not represent a large market segment for Solomon. Among the people of Israel there were no other kings. So he is writing this to his son – the king to be. In fact, most of what we are reading as we work our way through the Proverbs was written for Solomon’s son. Over and over again, he says, “My son, listen when your father corrects you,” “My son, if sinners entice you, turn your back on them,” “My son, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands.”  So this note about kings was written for one person and one person only – Solomon’s son – the heir to the throne of Israel. And he gives his young son some really interesting advice. “Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love.”

Love and faithfulness? Really? Are you telling me that if a king wants to keep his throne secure, all it takes is love? That sounds so naive, so simplistic and out of touch with reality. What about strong armies, alliances, impenetrable walls, the latest advances in military technology, offensive strategies and spy networks? Can you imagine the President of the United States giving this advice to his successor? But what is Solomon trying to say? What’s his point? That a king who loves his people will be loved in return. A king who provides protection for his people because he loves them will be a lot less likely to face a coup or potential takeover of his government. As I write this blog, things in Egypt are heating up. Riots are taking place in the streets of Cairo. The people are demanding the resignation of their president, Hosni Mubarak. According to a recent New York Times article, conditions under President Mubarek’s 30-year rule have been less than loving. “The police are brutal. Elections are rigged. Corruption is rampant. Life gets harder for the masses as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. Even as Egypt’s economy enjoyed record growth in recent years, the number of people living in poverty actually grew.”

Mr. Mubarek could have learned from Solomon’s advice. If he had loved his people, he would have made sure that they were well-fed, well-cared-for, and protected. His love would have been practical and measurable. People know when they are being used and will not tolerate being abused. At least not for long. But Solomon’s advice is not just for kings and presidents. It applies to parents, employers, supervisors, teachers, pastors and elders. In fact, Paul shared similar advice to his fellow elders, “…this is my appeal to you: Care for the flock of God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly — not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your good example” (1 Peter 5:1-3 NLT). God had a stern warning for the religious leadership in Ezekiel’s day. “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: Destruction is certain for you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the broken bones. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with force and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd. They are easy prey for any wild animal. They have wandered through the mountains and hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them” (Ezekiel 34:2-6 NLT). Paul warns fathers, “Don’t make your children angry by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NLT).

Love really is the best protection against rebellion. Weapons, walls, power and might are no match for unfailing love and faithfulness. Our children will excuse and overlook a lot of our shortcomings as parents when they know we love them. They will tolerate our inconsistencies and inadequacies as long as they feel like we are doing the best we can – out of love for them. Demanding compliance, defending our rights as parents, shouting “Because I said so,” and expecting our kids to keep in step with our wishes, while failing to show them love is a recipe for rebellion. Remember the words of Paul? “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NLT). That kind of love is the best protection we can provide ourselves against rejection and rebellion. No, it’s not a guarantee. Because even Jesus ended up being rejected when He showed us how much He loved us by dying on the cross. But love is still the best defense. In fact, I wonder what things would be like in Egypt had President Mubarek taken the advice of Solomon. I wonder what our homes, businesses, churches and marriages would be like if we did the same thing.

Father, what a timely reminder of the power of love. It is the best offense and the best defense. Love really is the answer to all of life’s problems. But not the sentimental, sappy kind of love we see portrayed in movies and on Hallmark cards. We’re talking the selfless, sacrificial, lay-it-all-on-the-line kind of love that You showed toward us on Calvary. Your Son gave His life out of love for us. He loved us selflessly and sacrificially. He gave, expecting nothing in return. May we learn to love one another that way. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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