Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. — Proverbs 16:24
Edward was interested in photography, and when he was sixteen years old, he saved up enough money to buy his first camera. Excited about his purchase, he took fifty pictures on the very first day. To his great disappointment, only one shot — a portrait of his sister at the piano — really amounted to anything. When Edward’s father declared that one out of fifty was a poor showing, the young camera enthusiast was so disheartened that he almost gave up his new hobby on the spot.
However, Edward’s mother insisted that the photograph of his sister was so beautiful that it more than compensated for the forty-nine failures. So the young man picked up his camera once more… and eventually became one of the world’s most renowned photographers. Concerning photography, there was not much that Edward Steichen didn’t do, and do extraordinarily well. Landscape, architecture, fashion, portrait, and war photography all appeared in his portfolio, and brought him international acclaim. He was published in a wide range of magazines, served as Director of the Department of Photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and at one time was regarded as the best-known and highest-paid photographer in the world. And what was it that renewed his faltering spirit and started him down the road to success? The encouraging words of his mother!
There is great power in “pleasant words.” Solomon recognized that; scores of this wise king’s proverbs relate to speech. In our key verse, he stated that pleasant words bring sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. Kind words can encourage the disheartened, as they did for Edward. They can comfort the grief-stricken, and strengthen the weak. They can instruct, inspire, and invigorate.
Powerful, positive, life-giving words have an important place in our spiritual lives. Each one of us has the power to encourage or discourage others by what we say. When people leave our presence, are they spiritually uplifted? Carefully chosen words that are directed by the Spirit of God can heal wounded spirits, mend broken hearts, and strengthen the inner man. They can point souls to Calvary, and motivate fellow believers to persevere to the end.
Our prayer should be, “Lord, make my words an encouragement. Help me to uplift and strengthen others in the way. Help me to tell what You have done in the past, and influence others to look forward to the things You will do for us in the future.” Let us share the message of Jesus Christ with pleasant words of spiritual hope. We will bring life and health to all who listen!
This chapter continues the section of Proverbs that is often called the “Proverbs of Solomon.” However, today’s text begins a portion that reflects a slight change in style. The pithy instructions contained in chapters 10-15 often taught by making an initial statement in the first half of the proverb, and then showing a contrast in the second portion. The maxims from 16:1 to 22:16 have a more parallel construction; the second part of the proverb generally further explains or repeats the first statement.
Throughout this chapter, Solomon often referred to the power and sovereignty of God. Since he was king, he knew the power that came with sovereignty, and also that with power came more responsibility (verses 10-12).
In verse 11, Solomon talked about a “weight and balance,” a metaphor that described God as being fair and just. In the days of King Solomon, business transactions easily could be skewed in favor of the merchant by weighting the scale deceptively. Solomon relayed that God is concerned about every part of business, and that every transaction should be fair.
The “hoary head” mentioned in verse 31 is a reference to the white hair of the elderly. The Hebrew people believed that longevity was a sign of God’s favor, so indicators of advanced age were good so long as the years had been spent in righteous living.
The phrase “the lot is cast into the lap” in the final verse of the chapter refers to the system of casting lots to determine a course of action. It refers to the practice of throwing lots into the folds of an individual’s robe, from which the deciding lot would then be drawn. A similar American maxim is the saying that a person has received “the luck of the draw.” However, this Scripture points out that the Lord decides the ultimate outcome. The word translated disposing is from the Hebrew word mishpat, which also means “verdict.” In spite of the many references to casting lots in the Old Testament, nothing is known about the actual lots themselves. They could have been sticks of various lengths, flat stones like coins, or some kind of dice. The closest modern practice to casting lots is likely flipping a coin.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The sayings of the way of wisdom
A. The proverbs of Solomon (375)
2. The call of submission to God (16:1 — 22:16)
There is power in pleasant words — they can be of great benefit to others. How generous we should be with our words of encouragement!