Diligence and Skill (Proverb 22:29)

Scripture Text:

Proverbs 22:29 (NIV) “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand (serve) before kings; he will not stand (serve) before obscure men.

Structure:

Proverbs 22:29 is an unusual saying. Its central emphasis is “A man skilled in his work.”. The structure of this verse can presented in three lines:

  • Do you see a man skilled in his work?
  • He will stand (serve) before Kings.
  • He will not stand (serve) before obscure men.

Definition:

The Hebrew word for “skilled” combines the ideas of: Skill, speed and use of time wisely. The word “skilled” (máhír) includes:

  • Excel, diligent. It has the root idea of “quick, prompt.”
  • It also combines the ideas of talent, understanding, and careful pain-taking work:

In other words, the person is quick to improve his circumstances and pursue opportunities. He is the person who is improving his skill all the time and is making the most of every opportunity. For Example:

  • Ezra the Scribe –
    “This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready (skilled) scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given; and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord, his God, upon him.” Ezra 7:6
  • The Singer –
    “My heart is overflowing with a good matter; I speak of the things which I have made touching the king. My tongue is the pen of a ready (skilled) writer.” Psalm 45:1
  • Future Davidic King –
    …be prompt (skilled) in justice.” (Isaiah 16:5)

First Promise:

Proverbs 22:29b “He will stand (serve) before kings.”
This proverb states that the person who works hard and with skill will succeed in his career. He will work for the most powerful and influential people in society:

  • He will be marked out for special notice, for “advancement and honour” (higher service), whether in the secular or ministry.
  • He will stand out above the average persons in his work-place.

Promotion should come as a reward of diligent acquisition of skill, not so much from “ladder climbing” and unholy ambition. Proverbs 12:24 extolled the rewards of diligence. Now, it specially addresses the outcome of focusing on work ethic before advancement. The Scriptures are filled with examples of just such reward:

  • Joseph rose to serve, first, Potiphar (Genesis 39:4) and then, Pharaoh himself (Genesis 41:46).
  • David served King Saul (1Samuel 16:21-23).
  • Nehemiah served King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1 & 2).
  • Daniel served King Nebuchadnezzar, etc (Daniel 1-12).

We need to improve our skill and work diligently whether in the secular or in the ministry
because it brings glory and honour to our Lord Jesus.

2nd Promise

Proverbs 22:29c “He will not stand before obscure men.” The promise is further enhanced: “He will not stand (serve) before obscure men.”The words “stand” and “obscure” are importance:

  • “To Stand” – In the Hebrew mind, to “stand before” meant to “view or to stand ready to serve.” Thus, the promise here is not advancement to a place where the person no longer must work, but to further, albeit recognised service.
  • The word “obscure” (h’shukkím = “unknown”), used here suggests the people who work in the “dark” and thus, hidden or obscured. The person who is skilful and diligent will soon find himself promoted from working for “obscure men” to serving successful and influential persons (“Kings”).
  • Thus, a skilful and diligent person would not be satisfied with serving masters that are slothful and men of no importance because he knows that he is capable of better things.

Summary

  • This proverb states that the person who works hard (diligent and excel), with “right skill” and divine favour will succeed in his career. He will work amongst “influential people” in the society.
  • While a person who is unskilful and slothful will spend his career working for people on the lower end of the social stratum – Proverbs 12:24 “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labour.”

Prayer

“Lord Jesus, help me to honour You in my work. Thank You, Lord, that You have given me meaningful and fulfilling work to do and that You have given me the skills with which to do it.”

Book of Proverbs

It is difficult to be diligent without a dream, a vision or a goal. See it, set it, secure it, and succeed with it.

  • The diligent will always have sufficient, but the lazy will become poor – Proverbs 10:4 (NKJV) “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
  • The diligent rules (is a leader) but the lazy becomes slave – Proverbs 12:24 (NKJV) “The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor.
  • The Diligent will always follow through, but the lazy will do a halfway job – Proverbs12:27 (NKJV) “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man’s precious possession.
  • The Diligent plans for his future with financial prudence in mind – Proverbs 21:5 (NKJV) “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.
  • The Diligent and skillful will stand before great men and kings – Proverbs 22:29 (NKJV) “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men.
  • Pastor is to know the state (condition) of his flock and to attend to the flock’s needs – Proverbs 27:23 (NKJV) “Be diligent to know the state of the flocks and attend to your herds.” – Acts 20:28 (NKJV) “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

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