Iron Sharpeneth Iron
By David J. Stewart
Proverb 27:17, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
There's nothing in this world any more dear than a friend whom you can count on in time of need. Of course, Jesus is that Friend which sticketh closer than a brother and will always be with us, "even unto the end of the world" (Mathew 28:20). Howbeit, we all need flesh to comfort us at difficult times in our life; hence, God often brings to us a friend in time of need to console, encourage, advise and help us. This is one of the ways in which God helps us, by giving to us a friend.
The Bible says that, as iron sharpeneth iron, so does a friend sharpen the countenance (facial expression) of a friend. The meaning of Proverb 27:17 is that one who has a sad and downcast facial expression will lift up their head after being encouraged by a friend. Oh, how priceless is such a friend in time of great need.
Job in the Old Testament was very unfortunate. He lost his children, his crops, his livestock, his servants, his health and his wife's support. In Job's darkest hours of despair and grief, his closest friends also turned against him and became his worst enemies. Job 16:2, "I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all." Poor Job! He lost everything except his faith. Sometimes that's all we have left in this life is our faith.
The last thing a hurting person needs is for someone to be judgmental, as were Job's so-called "friends." Job 16:20, "My friends scorn me: but mine eye poureth out tears unto God." Don't allow people's words to discourage you as Job's friends did. Truthfully, they weren't his friends at all. We need to do what Job did by pouring out our heart and tears to God.
I know what it's like to be sad and lonely and for someone to make the situation worse by speaking cruel words. I also know what it's like to be emotionally down and depressed and to have a friend lift me up with kind words that give me focus and strength. May we as believers strive to encourage those who are hurting, to lift up the fallen and to strengthen the weak. Ezekiel 34:16, "I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment."
Perhaps someone reading this article knows of one who is having a rough time, or one who has recently lost a loved one, or one who is sad and all alone. The Christian thing to do is to encourage them in the Lord in their time of woe, and share with them the precious promises of God, and not judge or hurt them further in any way. At some point in life everyone needs an understanding friend who will just take the time to listen, for hours if need be, and simply be there.