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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Proverbs 17

Verses 1-28

The Nearness of the Essential in Life's Discipline

Proverbs 17:24

The fool is he who despises the actual and possible, and longs for what is not; he is never where his eyes are. The text is, then, a warning against vain conceits and regrets, against frittering away life sighing for impossible conditions, whilst missing the glory before our eyes, the treasures at our feet, the prizes within our grasp.

I. Do not despise the familiar. The elements of happiness, sources of improvement, and opportunities for service and sacrifice are never far to seek. Really no folly is more egregious than that of looking high and wide for the essential gifts and blessings as though God had forgotten or denied them. Our star is in our brain, not in the sky; our ship of gold is at the quay awaiting its discharge, and not upon the high seas; our fortune is at our feet, not at the foot of the rainbow. Let us lay it to heart, there is nothing better for us in the wide universe than the set of circumstances which constitute the framework of our contemporaneous life.

II. Do not despise the mean . 'Wisdom is before the face of him that hath understanding.' The wise see great significance and taste rich satisfactions in what appears to the carnal eye poor and base, the bread-and-butter life is lighted up by the beatific vision; on the other hand, the fool hates the drudgery of duty, the weariness of work, the monotonousness of mere faithfulness, and takes refuge in day-dreams and fiction generally. Let us beware of scorning the grey, coarse, beaten pathway; for it is a section of the King's highway, despite its dreariness. Do not despise common positions; they require splendid souls to fill them: do not despise common tasks; it requires rare souls to accomplish them. Only God's jewels can worthily work out His great purpose in humble places and things; and in thus working out His purpose they are proved and polished against the great day of coronation. Do not weaken the soul with vain longings and idealizations. There is no victory like that of the commonplace life bravely lived.

III. Do not despise the small. 'The eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth seeking great things,' whilst in the apparently insignificant close at hand reside most momentous possibilities. The wise accept thankfully the small sphere, the one talent, the few things. In the most restricted sphere every noble quality of human nature may be illustrated, every grand work wrought.

W. L. Watkinson, Themes for Hours of Meditation, p. 86.

Proverbs 17:24

A distinguished naturalist declares that the best bird-nester is the village simpleton. He starts on his quest without crediting the birds with any extraordinary subtlety, and at once lights upon their retreat; whilst other seekers, assuming an acuteness in the birds which they do not possess, waste the time in exploring hidden places, overlooking the nest right before their eyes. This is a parable of human life. Things of the greatest moment are being constantly overlooked because of the mistaken notion that whatever is of the first consequence is uncommon, hidden, and remote.

W. L. Watkinson, Themes for Hours of Meditation, p. 86.

References. XVII. 24. J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. 1892, p. 195; see also vol. lxiv. 1803, p. 72. XVIII. 10. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 491. R. Winterbotham, Sermons Preached in Holy Trinity Church Edinburgh, p. 40. XVIII. 10, 11. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Esther, Job, Proverbs, etc., p. 210. XVIII. 12. Spurgeon, Sermons , vol. ii. No. 97.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Proverbs 17". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/proverbs-17.html. 1910.