It is funny when commentators do not know what a phrase means. Exhibit A below:
“A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
Does this Proverb refer to a) apples made of gold in a box made of silver wire, b) oranges on a tree next to orange blossoms, c) apples embroidered on a cushion, d) caramel apples in a white box?
The answer? We do not know for sure …gasp! An apple may refer to another piece of fragrant fruit, such as an apricot or an orange. A setting or network of silver could refer to different contexts that the fruit is placed in…it was Solomon’s day, so it really could refer to a solid gold piece of fruit or a carving of some sort. In the end, the simile is not as important as the meaning it implies.
The phrase “a word fitly spoken” carries the idea of a wheels spinning in time, perhaps on a cart or a Potter’s wheel. It is timely, needed, and well crafted.
As another proverb says,
“To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
and a word in season, how good it is!”
What are some words that changed your outlook, gave you a new lease on life, or perfectly fit the need of the moment? Many people have quote boards, or post “overheard” phrases that they think are witty enough to be memorialized. I’m sure that the Proverbs that Solomon collected were the best of quotable phrases heard in his day, including some he wrote himself. Words really can change lives.
This is what Paul is so concerned about in his discussion of the gift of tongues and spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14. No matter what we can do or how well we can perform, it does not do any good unless it is spoken in love for the sake of helping others! James also speaks about the power of the tongue to do good and bring harm. What words will you speak today?
God, thank You for the words in the Bible that lift our spirits and give us hope. You gave us so many promises of life. Jesus seemed to continually be instructing people to not be afraid. There is power in words that I so often neglect or abuse. Words can hurt so easily. Please help me speak words of life and blessing into the lives of people around me, even if we only interact for five seconds. Thank You for proverbs and powerful quotable images. Amen.
Here are two songs that illustrate this idea – a throwback to the age of hymns, and a popular tune you’ll hear on the radio.