21 My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: 22 So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck. 23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble. 24 When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. 25 Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. 26 For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken. 27 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. 28 Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee. 29 Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee. 30 Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm. 31 Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways. 32 For the froward is abomination to the LORD: but his secret is with the righteous. 33 The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just. 34 Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly. 35 The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.
This passage is the fourth parental lecture of the book.
The opening parallel of the lecture is the same general theme we've seen in the last few lectures:
let not them [wisdom and understanding] depart from thine eyes || keep sound wisdom and discretion
That is to say that the pursuit of wisdom is the principal thing. It is what we should be focused on.
The next few parallels focus on the benefits of wisdom/discretion, particularly with respect to safety.
So shall they be life unto thy soul | grace to thy neck.
This concept of "grace to thy neck" is the basic idea that they keep you from breaking your neck, an equivalent concept to maintaining one's life.
Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely | thy foot shall not stumble.
One way that your neck can brake is if you trip and fall. Continuing this kind of metaphor, the parallel indicates that wisdom shows the safe way to walk.
When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid | yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.
Not only does wisdom give you safety when you are walking, but when you are sleeping as well. Imagine the troubled sleep of one who is not right with God, for if he is to die in his sleep (as many have done), he will awake in hell for eternity. But the man who has taken hold of wisdom will not fear death in his sleep, but will enjoy his rest.
Be not afraid of sudden fear | neither [be afraid] of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.
There is no need for one who has followed wisdom to be afraid of the judgment day, when the wicked will be destroyed. It is not because that person has saved himself by his wisdom, but rather, as the next parallel explains, it is all of God:
For the LORD shall be thy confidence | [the LORD] shall keep thy foot from being taken.
Notice how the parallel links back with the previous discussion of stumbling. Confidence in the Lord is the way to be sure footed. Of course, the spiritual sense of this parable relates not to simply the preservation of one's physical life but of one's soul. It is by confidence in the Lord and him alone that we are preserved from hell.
The next few parallels are practical implementations of wisdom/discretion.
The first parallel is positive encouraging good deeds to one's neighbor:
Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it | Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.
There is a small difference between the two. The first of the parallels deals with a neighbor to whom something is owed. The second is more general, about procrastinating assistance for your neighbor. This is the moral law of God and it is also practical. Get rid of your obligations when you can, particularly when your creditor is asking you to do so.
The second parallel is negative discouraging evil deeds toward one's neighbor:
Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee. | Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.
The first part of this parallel emphasizes our duty to secure our neighbor in his welfare, and the second part of the parallel emphasis the injustice of striving with those who have been peaceful toward us.
The final parallel of this set is a general discouragement to those who wish to have the riches that come with being an oppressor:
Envy thou not the oppressor | choose none of his ways.
It is easy to wish to have what those who oppress the poor have. We are not to do that. We are not to admire or imitate them. Instead, we are to eschew them and their deeds.
The final sets of parallels relate to the benefits of following the parental advice in this lecture - more specifically the bad things that happen to the bad are contrasted with the good things that happen to those who do good.
For the froward is abomination to the LORD | but his secret is with the righteous.
The Lord hates wickedness and loves righteousness. This basic principle seems to be absolutely foreign to the modern mind. The modern mind seems to see righteousness as a tedious task to gain merit or as mere legalism. Properly understood, it is neither. It is doing what God likes, because we like God. God shoves away the wicked, but holds the righteous close to him.
The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked | but he blesseth the habitation of the just.
This is simple enough to understand: God curses the bad and blesses the good. Houses are used here, but we should understand it to be speaking of the people generally. The house doesn't necessarily mean the wooden structure in which they live, but rather their family.
Surely he scorneth the scorners | but he giveth grace unto the lowly.
Scorn and grace are opposites, and scorning and humility are opposites. The humble man does not scorn, and he who wishes the favor of God rather than the reproach of God humbles himself before God.
The wise shall inherit glory | but shame shall be the promotion of fools.
Again, the contrast is plain: glory for those who are "wise" - namely those who seek after the heavenly wisdom. In contrast to glory stands shame, which is what those who fail to seek after the heavenly wisdom will receive.