Proverbs 27:17

Proverbs 27:17

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Leviticus 19:32 (Daily Verse and Comment)

  Leviticus 19:32

(32) 'You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD. 
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

The American Heritage College Dictionary defines deference as "submission or courteous yielding to the opinion or wishes of another; courteous respect." Americans historically have prided themselves on their informality, having been brought up in a nation that operates under the belief that each person is just as good as anybody else. However, great misunderstandings exist regarding what the term "good" means because no one has set a national standard for it. Thus, each person feels free to set his own standard. Interestingly, the same dictionary defines informalas "not in accord with prescribed regulations or forms."

Forms of "defer" appear seven times in the King James Bible, and only one of them is in the New Testament. However, the concept is described in different terms frequently in both testaments. It should be because deference is an important virtue for a Christian to have as part of his character. Why? It reveals one's humility—that he is thoughtfully aware of others' well-being and seeking to serve them even in seemingly unimportant and insignificant ways.

Jesus points out its importance: "And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Matthew 23:10-12). Truly, human nature loves to be praised, and then it takes advantage of those who heap the praise. It loves to receive distinction that elevates it above others. It covets being the one directing and controlling others and their opinions.

Yet, Jesus makes it clear that His disciples are not to follow that path. Instead, they are to lower themselves in order to serve. In the end, it is Godwho gives true exaltation, and that will be decided based on the humble service the Christian has given. Thus, a truism arises: The humble heart defers without regret to those it willingly serves.

Hebrews 13:17 provides an example of commanded deference. "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you." Other portions of the Bible clarify that the author is not commanding obsequious, fawning, or slavish obedience. The Greek word translated as "be submissive" simply means "to yield." Yielding is synonymous with deferring. The author is simply asking for willing cooperation to help the congregational leaders carry out their teaching and organizational functions.

James 2:1-4 provides an example of a wrong kind of deference:

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

James is obviously saying that the deference given to the rich man at the poor man's expense is prejudiced and wrong in God's eyes. Nor should solicitous attention be given to the poor man at the expense of the rich. Instead, both should be given equal attention.

The Bible gives many examples of faithful people deferring, usually at some sacrifice to themselves, in service to others. This pattern of exemplary teaching is established for all to learn from. Abraham is a clear example:

And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock. . . . So Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or if you go to the right, then I will go to the left." (Genesis 13:7-9)

Isaac learned this lesson well from his father, applying the same approach over long periods in many disputes, frequently over water rights (Genesis 26:18-22). Another fine example appears in Ruth 1:16-18, in which the elderly lady, Naomi, defers to the earnest request of the much-younger Ruth:

But Ruth said, "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you: for wherever you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge: your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also if anything but death parts you and me." When [Naomi] saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her [stopped trying to dissuade her].

I Samuel 25 provides a parallel illustration, when David was about to wreak vengeance against Nabal for his stubborn refusal to give him and his warband some food after they had successfully defended Nabal's property and crops. However, upon Abigail's appeal, David deferred. Many more examples appear in Scripture, but in each case, some measure of wisdom was required to make the right choice. However, if the attitude of humble and respectful submission to God and to each other had not also been present, no deference would ever have been made. This is our choice.

— John W. Ritenbaugh

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