Proverbs 22:17,18, Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge. For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.
Between 1963 and 1966 my family and I lived on the Japanese island of Kyushu in the city of Sasebo while I served in the U.S. Navy.
I served as the engineering division officer of a group of Japanese engineers.
My assistant was a Mr. Kikitsugi whom I called Kikitsugi-san.
He was a man of about 45 years old and I was at the time 20 years his junior, just a young officer at his second duty station, still somewhat wet behind the ears.
It was the custom of Kikitsugi-san to be a his desk when I arrived each morning.
Quickly after I had sat down at my desk he would come into my office, stand at attention in front of my desk, position his arms in a precise way, click his heels together and sharply bow before me, making sure the depth of his bow was appropriate to my station in life.
He would say, Good Morning, Mr. Opager.
I would rise and also stand at attention and in return a bow to him but I would make sure that my bow was not as deep as his bow.
I would say, Ohayo Go-sia-mus, Kikitsugi-san.
We would pass some pleasantries of the day and then he would return to his office and engage in the business of the day.
This was a daily workday occurrence for the two years that I was his supervisor.
Kikitsugi never neglected this and by doing this he daily reinforced in his mind that his duty was to bow down his ear to my instruction.
Bowing is an important part of the Japanese culture but it reveals an understanding of authority that is largely missing in our country.
Each workday by the simple act of bowing both Kititsugi-san and I recognized and honored the lines of authority.
He knew who was in charge and by his bow he yielded to that knowledge.
I knew his bow was more than just a tradition because his daily acts of loyalty and devotion revealed that along with the bow of his body his heart also bowed to the authority under which he had been placed.
I was twenty years his junior but in spite of my youth and inexperience he bowed his ear to my direction and heard my direction and applied my direction.
He recognized that I had been given authority by the U. S. Navy to perform the engineering duties for the fleet activity that served fighting ships of the most powerful navy in the world.
He knew that orders from me were properly constituted orders and that I had the authority to command him.
He was obedient to me and that obedience instilled in me the desire to be careful in my direction of him because I knew he would carry out any direction I gave him.
That is the responsibility of authority, to be careful and prudent in its use.
Authority is to expect obedience as the norm and its commands are to be given with the expectation that they will be carried out.
Kititsugi-san taught me that, by his yielding bow.
Kititsugi-san was a man who worshipped false gods made with men's hands as evident by the altar I viewed in his house but he knew what authority was and he honored authority.
He bowed himself to me and he bowed his ear to my sayings.
He lived our proverb for today in a worldly sense: Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.
Like Kititsugi-san this proverb reminds us to bow down our ear to the words of the wise.
We are to daily yield our ear to the hearing of the words of the wise and we are to apply our heart to those words.
As children we are to bow down our ear to our parents.
Children are to bow down their ear to their teacher.
Wives are to bow down their ear to their husband.
We are to bow down our ear to those who have rule over us.
The young are to bow down their ear to the elders.
We are to bow down our ear to every ordnance of man for the Lord's sake.
We are to bow down our ears to our Pastor as he preaches the word of God.
As Kititsugi-san came to me each morning and bowed in submission that day, we are to come before the Word of God and bow our ear before him yielding ourselves to his authority for that day.
We are to recognize on a daily basis the authority of the word of God over us and then go about our business applying that word as we serve God.
In other words we are not only to be people of faith abiding in the Word but we are to be people practicing the word of God.
And Proverbs 22:18 promises that, ...... it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.
Notice the condition that is given here.
The words of the wise are pleasant only if they are kept within.
This speaks of abiding in the words of the wise.
This speaks of abiding in the word of God.
This speaks of abiding in the vine, Jesus Christ.
Why is this pleasant? Because only by keeping the word in you will you bear the fruit of the Spirit.
The word of God can simply be used in the performance of outward religious exercises.
And this is done all over the world but it is not a pleasant thing because it only results in the flesh pretending to be spiritual.
It only results in the hypocrisy of religion and not the realty of being in Christ.
By abiding in the word of God and bearing the fruit of the Spirit your lips will be properly fitted to speak words that conform to Jesus Christ.
The lips of the natural man are not fitted to serve God.
Jesus Christ rebuked the Pharisees in John 8:37 when he said, I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
They did not keep the words of the wise in them and therefore their lips were not fitted to serve God.
God must perform an operation on the lips if they are to be fit to serve God.
And that operation can only be performed by the Spirit of God as the words of the wise are kept within.
It happens to the lips in direct proportion to the degree of abiding that takes place.