By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.
Can you win a person in authority? Gentleness will overcome power. What works best with a hard or angry person? Submissive yielding will defuse revenge. Here is precious wisdom to be successful in relationships. Instinctive responses will seldom work.
Wisdom includes the ability to persuade those in power, which is very useful knowledge. The main authorities in life are parents, husbands, employers, civil government, and pastors. They are moved more by patient reverence than by bold debate. Though your cause might be important and right, wisdom calls for careful and respectful appeals.
Here is great wisdom for dealing with those over you. You may need to persuade a boss for your cause or dissuade one from punishing your offences. The proverb here deals with persuasion, but the same wisdom serves in dissuasion as well (Eccl 10:4). This rule, learned and remembered, will give great and peaceful skill for dealing with authorities.
The world teaches the opposite of this wisdom, and the results are horrible. Demanding your way and expecting an authority to consider your opinions or demands is proud rebellion and creates bitterness. Rather than moving the one in authority toward your cause, it will force him to solidify his position and punish your insolent insubordination.
Human nature is proud, rebellious, and selfish. It assumes all men are created equal and have many rights. But the Bible rejects such arrogant presumption. No two men are created equal, and some are put in the five offices already listed that give them power over other men. God created the offices of authority, and exalting them makes a society great. Disrespect of authority is a widespread problem in a profane and rebellious world.
Solomon wrote as a monarch, when a king and princes had great authority. They had the power of life and death, and there was no separation of powers, threat of a hung jury, meddling media, or any other limitation to ruling. The example in the proverb is a prince. Solomon gave you divine wisdom to help you persuade a powerful authority to consider your person and your cause. Much of life involves convincing others, so the lesson is key.
Forbearing is putting up with disagreement or poor treatment. It is patient longsuffering in the face of adversity. It is used here to describe a patient approach with authority. If you seek to persuade an authority to change, you must wait for them to consider your cause. Impatiently demanding their change will totally work against you. Wait for them.
A soft tongue is a metonym for gentle and respectful speech (Pr 15:1). It is so effective that it is described as being able to break the bones of a prince. Rather than arguing or debating your case, a meek and reverent appeal works far better. Aggressive and harsh words disrespect his important office and attack the integrity of his authority. Instead of soberly considering your cause, he will defend his position and rank by rejecting you.
The lower you go in humility, and the higher you lift a person for his rank, the greater leverage you have with him. To the degree you protect yourself and dilute this reverent, gentle, and patient approach, you give up leverage. Wisdom is indeed profitable to direct.
David skillfully used this wisdom appealing to King Saul for mercy (I Sam 24:1-22; 26:1-25). And Abigail, a beautiful woman with great understanding, used it to persuade David against revenge, when he was passionately angry against her husband (I Sam 25:1-42). Read these three chapters and focus on the choice of words of David and Abigail.
Child, a respectful and kind letter to parents will work far better than arguing or pouting. Both of these actions indicate you are a spoiled brat and deserve nothing. Thank your parents for their goodness to you, and declare your love and obedience to them. Humbly state your request. Remember to patiently wait for their answer. They do not owe you.
Wife, a reverent and submissive appeal to your husband, carefully chosen for timing and location, will work far better than haughty demands, presumed rights, or sexual deprivation. Remember, he owes you nothing on the spot. Patiently wait for him to consider your request. Sarah and Bathsheba called their husbands lord, and they obtained large requests from powerful men. Godly women give up their “rights” to gain privileges.
Employers and government should be treated the same way. A grievance for poor working conditions or an undesirable assignment is received much better when made with respect and patience than with demands, insubordination, or threats. Everyone knows highway patrol officers respond better to respectful answers than to arrogant ones.
The godly application of this wisdom will bring peace and prosperity into your life, and it will exalt godly authority in the earth by its careful and patient respect for those in positions of rule. The lesson here was penned by a brilliant king for your profit. Believe it. May the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of princes, be given all the honor due to Him.
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