This week’s verse is short, sweet, and…um, sharp. Not only will we learn a bit about filing, whetting, and sanding; we’ll also discover why talking with a friend face-to-face can make all the difference.
As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron,… Proverbs 27:17
I’ve quoted this verse for years, as if I knew what I was talking about. But the truth is, I’ve never even met a blacksmith and, until today, had no idea how this sharpening business works.
Now, I do. In 20 seconds, you will too.
The Word tells us, “iron is made sharp with iron” (NLV), a process that begins with a standard metal file and an iron blade.
The iron blade is propped on a support—say, a small wooden block—then the metal file is drawn across the edge of the blade in slow, measured strokes, until a sharp, rough edge is revealed.
Next, the “iron is whetted” (WYC), using a small amount of oil on a whetstone. Rubbing the iron blade against the oiled stone smoothes away the rough edge, leaving the blade polished and sharper still.
Then, “in the same way that iron sharpens iron” (VOICE), heavy-duty sandpaper is cautiously smoothed along both sides of the iron blade’s edge. This blends the edge with the rest of the blade and makes the finished product even sharper.
Handle with care, beloved.
Sharp, pointy objects do a fine job of slicing bread for a meal. But they also can pierce our hearts and pry us open: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The Hebrew word here, barzel, literally means “iron tool.” When we use our words like swords, we’re called to follow the Lord’s example:
- Instead of cutting apart, open gently.
- Instead of rubbing the wrong way, polish.
- Instead of inflicting new wounds, bind old ones.
This is no wooden toy we’re swinging through the air. God’s Word is powerful. It can and will change lives. Change us. Change everything.
…so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
Not just any person. The Hebrew word rea means “friend, companion, fellow, neighbor.” Someone we know well. Someone we care about.
Our goal as believers is to hone one another, so we become sharper and more effective in our faith. People opposed to God may “sharpen their tongues like swords” (Psalm 64:3), but those of us who love Him are called to “improve each other” (NCV).
Three centuries ago, Matthew Henry said, “Wise and profitable discourse sharpens men’s wits.” Still true today. Conversation—one-on-one, eye-to-eye—accomplishes far more than texting, tweeting, leaving messages, or sending emails.
After all, our faces talk too. Eyebrows rise with surprise or furrow with confusion. Mouths smile, frown, twist. Noses wrinkle. The Hebrew word paneh means “face.” Literally, “friends sharpen each other’s faces” (CEB). We smooth away the rough spots not with sandpaper, but with truth. We “whetteth the face” (WYC) of a friend not with a stone, but with a timely word.
The end result is better “character” (CJB) and sharper “minds” (CEV). Friends are meant to encourage one another and cheer each other on, but sometimes we have to say the hard things.
As a new Christian, I began dating a man who I knew, deep down, was not God’s choice for me. But I was single. He was handsome. I was 30. He was available. How could this be a bad thing?
I met with a close friend to pray, fearful of what she might say. She said it anyway. “This relationship needs to end, Liz.”
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. But it was what I needed to hear.
We prayed, we wept, then I followed her godly advice. So hard. Still, “wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6). They’re meant to help, to heal.
She told me the truth because she loved me, and because she loved the Lord, who urges us to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
A spiritual sparring partner: rare, wonderful, necessary.
Do you have one? Is it time for you to be one?
Now it’s your turn
- How has another believer sharpened your faith?
Please take a moment to Post a Comment below. I read every one and respond whenever I can. The best reason to comment is to “spur on” one another!
I’m so glad it’s finally October. Best. Month. Ever. Thanks for sharing a few minutes with me each week!
Your grateful sister, Liz