Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 25 2019 - Proverbs 17 – Living well with others

Much of Proverbs 17 is about how to live well with others. The wise person is the one who pays attention to these proverbs and so lives well before God and with others. The trials of life and the behaviour of others may test us to the very limit, but as a furnace is used to purify gold, so the Lord tests our hearts to ensure that our hope, trust and strength are in him and not in ourselves (v. 3).

I want to focus particularly on the seventeenth verse from this chapter:

A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

The English proverb, "A friend in need is a friend indeed" expresses the same thought. True friends are those who stand beside you in days of difficulty, distress and need. Where they can, they come to your rescue and aid. Where there is little else they can do, they come to encourage, express their sympathy, care for you and pray for you. We all want friends like that. We all need friends like that. We all need to make sure that we are friends like that to others around us for they also need us.

We need to value our friends and strengthen the bonds of our relationship with them. Verse 9 states, "Whoever would foster love covers over an offence, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." When a friend commits some minor offence against us, we do not take it to heart and harbour resentment against them; we are ready to forgive and forget because we value their friendship above our personal feelings (cf. 1 Peter 4:8) – and because we want them to treat us in the same way. So also we are to be careful not to gossip about the wrong we believe that someone has done either against us or against someone else. Such gossip breaks up friends and sets one person against another. As we value our own friends, so we are to value the friendships others enjoy with one another and not seek to undermine them.

The friendships we make with others are to be deep, sustaining and enduring; we are not to be unreliable friends. In the following chapter of Proverbs (18:24) we read:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The latter half of this verse has often been used by preachers to speak of Jesus Christ. He became incarnate – took upon himself our human nature – because he wanted to identify himself fully with us. He was not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters. He came to us when we were in trouble and came to save us – he is a brother born for a time of adversity. He is one who has promised never to leave us. He loves at all times. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He has covered over all our offences with his own shed blood so that they are never again brought before God to condemn us.

Jesus calls us to learn from him and to follow him. We are to become like him in our care for others. We are to be those who love at all times and are always ready to help others when they face trouble and distress.

Think of friends you have had in the past but with whom you no longer enjoy the same kind of relationship. What caused that friendship to grow cold or break apart? What could be done by you to restore it? How will you maintain and increase the friendships you currently enjoy? How could you be a better friend?

Lord Jesus, we stand amazed that you have been pleased to call us your friends and that you have bound yourself to us with cords of love that nothing can break. You do not turn away from us when our affection grows cold. You are always ready to seek us out again and draw us back to yourself. You are a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Help us by your Spirit to be more like you.

Peter Misselbrook