A Proverb for Today — Proverbs 25:28 (part one)

“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).

Actually, it is a proverb not for today, but from chapter twenty-five of Proverbs (two days ago), but I wasn’t blogging or reading blogs on Christmas Day, and I hope you weren’t, either.

Today, we’ll look at this proverb in the context of Proverbs “Road to Ruin”.  Tomorrow, Lord willing, we’ll look at the message of the proverb itself in a little more detail.

Bruce Waltke calls this a “janus” proverb, one that both ends the preceding section and begins a new section, looking both backwards and forwards.  Verses 23-27 generally have a similar structure to verse 28, with a person’s behaviour compared (metaphorically) to something which is obviously good or bad (cold water to a thirsty soul, a troubled fountain, etc.).

Since we are dealing with poetry, we should indeed pay attention to structure.  Verse 28 belongs with 23-27.  A person who doesn’t rule his spirit, who lacks self-control, is in the same general category as gossips, angry people, nagging / angry wives, those who neglect to carry good news, those who may be righteous but won’t stand for righteousness under pressure, and gluttons.  In fact, these are generally related by the topic of verse 28 – self-control.  In a sense, verse 28 sums up much of what came in the preceding verses.

And yet, verse 28 is forward-looking as well, closely connected to what follows.  This verse, Proverbs 25:28, talks about a city in ruins, and the next chapter of Proverbs ends (26:28) with talking about ruin as well.  The number seven often symbolises perfection or completeness in Scripture, and there are seven characteristics of evil described in these twenty-nine verses, from 25:28 through 26:28.

Proverbs’ Road to Ruin

Verses Evil Characteristics
25:28 The Person Who Lacks Self-Control
26:1-12 The Foolish Person
26:13-16 The Lazy Person
26:17 The Person Who Likes to Involve Himself in Strife
26:18-19 The Person Who Makes Trouble Just for Fun
26:20-23 The Gossip Who Spreads Contention and Strife
26:24-28 The Malicious Enemy Driven by Hatred

These seven characteristics give a fairly complete picture of the ways that the evil lurking in our hearts shows itself, and this description of them begins, and ends, with ruin.

Which evil characteristic appears first in this “rogue’s gallery” of seven horrible personality attributes?  Failure to rule one’s own spirit, lack of self-control, gets the first spot.

If you want to jump on the road to ruin, there is no better place to start:  abandon self-control and let yourself be ruled by circumstances, emotions, and what others do.  Fill your tank with the petrol of an uncontrolled spirit and you’ll have enough “foolishness fuel” to make a mess of your own life, as well as causing trouble for others.  You’ll also be amazed at how easy it will be to find places to re-fuel with more types of foolishness as you continue your journey to destruction.

Want to get off that road?  The fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  The slip road that takes us off this highway of ruin and gives us a better course is the work of the Holy Spirit of God in our hearts, transforming us by His power.  If we lack self-control, we don’t just have to shrug and say, “That’s the way I am, I can’t change it.”  If we are Christ’s, there is Somebody a lot greater than us involved in this situation, Someone who specialises in changing “the way I am.”

Our greatest problem isn’t usually the changing (God’s power is more than sufficient, and we know it), but simply that we don’t want to change.  I tend to like “the way I am,” and want to hang onto it.  After all, I’ve spent all my life being “the way I am,” it’s comfortable for me, so I’m just going to keep cruising down this road, ignoring the road signs that say, “Ruin ahead.”  Maybe I’ll exit at a later opportunity, but this road just seems so smooth and pleasant and familiar right now.  It’s so easy when the road goes downhill all the way….

Update:  Part twoPart three.

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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5 Responses to A Proverb for Today — Proverbs 25:28 (part one)

  1. Ah yes:
    “Our greatest problem isn’t usually the changing … but simply that we don’t want to change. I tend to like “the way I am,” and want to hang onto it.”
    Well said my good man! May abundant salutatorians of this great day which the LORD maketh, be unto thee and thine!!
    I aver that thou didst pen thy missive under the unction – for thy prose do harken to a bygone days, yeah, even yore, and the poetry thereof doth mightily reveal thine inner self.
    My quest is this: wherefore dost thou speaketh in an accent of Scot’s, set prose in English, yet quotest thou the LORD’s “King James Version” of His Holye Book in its fourhundreth year?
    Let perchance thy next missive, enlighten thy readers and thy adulant parishioners alike on the role of God’s “King James Version” in the Kirk in the land of Scots in the year o’ the LORD, twa thousand n twelve.
    Sire, Mayest the Lord blesse thee, and keepe thee: The Lord make his face shine vpon thee, and be gracious vnto thee: The Lord lift vp his countenance vpon thee, and giue thee peace. Amen!

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Well, Angus, thank you for a very good question and a creative way of asking it. :)

      To keep it brief for now, I believe the traditional Greek text (the basis for the KJV and NKJV) is a better text (as far as representing the original) than the Critical/Eclectic Text (the basis of all other major modern translations). Lord willing, I’ll write about why I believe this in future.

      So for me it is KJV vs. NKJV. The latter is a quality translation, but the former is superior in several ways. Again, Lord willing I’ll write more later. As language continues to change, the KJV grows harder to understand and needs more explanation. I recognise that problem, but as of today, I believe the benefits of the KJV still outweigh those drawbacks.

      Any translation that reflects the original with reasonable accuracy is a tool in the hands of Almighty God, as the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of men to convict, regenerate, and sanctify. The KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, NASV, and maybe others, are all probably better translations than the Greek Old Testament translation that Timothy used, and Paul had only positive things to say about that Book. God can and does use any reasonably accurate translation. Nevertheless, being convinced that the KJV is the best one we have, I use it.

      Having answered your question, I’d better clarify one thing, or I’ll get “feedback” from some of those “adulant parishioners” you mentioned. I most certainly do not “speaketh in an accent of Scot’s.” :) I think my accent is the only real and true one, but strangely, no one else seems to agree with my assessment.

      Mayest thou be strengthened with all might as thou continuest to mortify “the way thou art” whilst our God conformeth thee in thine inner man to the image of His dear Son.

      • Well met and well said!
        I look forward to the pending posts with anticipation as I concur with your comments in total :)
        FYI: For research I use MKJV (only ‘cos I don’t have NKJ on E-Sword) with KJV+ to get to Hebrew, Greek etc. For posts we use MKJV mostly, with very occasional ESV or Message to get the word over more simply. Strangely though, most of the time we find, KJV is the best version for single line verses :)
        Apologies for the assertion that you were a Fifer – after all, someone has to come from there – but don’t quote me on that – I have family there :) I only read your bio after commenting …. (must learn from that).
        Blessings.

  2. I’m doing some research and studying for a small bible study I have at home using Proverbs 25:28 and I found this today….you made some great points. I’d like to you some of the points you made, if that is alright. I think its very important to say it out loud to people that self control is someting that we all need to attain in this walk. Thank you for sharing.

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