Summary: These proverbs present the solution for the peaceful life.
We have an interesting selection of proverbs. We are told that gray hair is a glorious crown; patience is more effective than strength; and an act of chance is a sure thing of being of God. What I hope you will obtain from these lessons is the solution to a peaceful life.
31 Gray hair is a crown of glory;
it is gained in a righteous life.
Gray hair is a crown of glory. I like that. Let me read a similar proverb: The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair (20:29). If there was only another proverb that said something like, “How magnificent is the head unencumbered with temporal hair”!
We take the opposite view of gray hair. We think it is gained in a trying life. “You kids are enough to give me gray hair!” “I didn’t have gray hair until I took this job.” We envy the man or woman able to enter middle age with no gray hairs. If Solomon is trying to lure us into living a righteous life with the promise of gray hair as our crown, he needs to hire a marketing firm. This will not fly. “Would you like to turn your hair gray? Try living a righteous life.”
This proverb comes out of a culture that honors old age. The law, in Leviticus 19:32, commanded respect: You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. In general, the older the person, the more respect he or she was given for possessing wisdom. The elders of Jewish society were the authorities and judges. Thus the term, which originally refers to age, took on the added meaning of leader. The proverb already quoted – The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair (20:29) – is not exalting a hair color but wisdom. Young men have strength; old men (and women) have wisdom.
Though the biblical writers honored old age, they were also realistic about its problems. Psalm 71 was written by someone who had entered into old age. His problem is this: Now that he is old and no longer strong, his enemies are trying to take advantage of him. That certainly is a problem the elderly can relate to today. So he prays to God to be his protector.
In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame!
2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me, and save me!
3 Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come…
9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent.
10 For my enemies speak concerning me;
those who watch for my life consult together
11 and say, “God has forsaken him;
pursue and seize him,
for there is none to deliver him.”
12 O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me…
17 O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
20 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again…
Old age literally has its aches and pains. Perhaps the most unsettling factor of growing old is growing weaker, unable to protect and provide for oneself as once able.
Even so, old age is to be valued by those who attain it because (and this is the essential element) of living a righteous life. Gray hair is not this proverb’s focus. It is being a righteous person, i.e. a person who is morally good, treats others justly, and is devoted to God. Long, productive life is often the reward for such persons, whose gray hair serves as evidence.
God rewards a good life with length of life. But also to the point is that living a righteous life avoids the pitfalls of the wicked and foolish life so that one is able to live out one’s days. How many men and women have died young because of their foolish ways? Poor decisions about lifestyles, ways to pursue pleasure, were as Proverbs 16:25 says, seemed right at the time, but in truth were ways to death.
32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
This is an important principle to learn, and the ones who have learned it (both the righteous and the wicked) have achieved great success in life. Even the wicked know the truth of this proverb.