Proverbs 27:17, Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
Proverbs tells us much about friendship and the responsibilities of friendship.
It tells us that there is friend that sticks closer than a brother, it tells us that a friend loveth at all times, and it tells us that even his wounds are faithful.
Our proverb for today gives us another result of having friends.
As we discuss this proverb think of Jesus as your perfect friend and how he lives this proverb in your life.
As usual in the proverbs God gives us a trail to follow in understanding this proverb by telling us to consider the process of iron sharpening iron.
How is sharpening accomplished? Perhaps "Audels" Carpenterís and Builderís Guide, will help. I quote:
"It cannot be said too often that edged tools must always be kept in perfect condition, in order to do satisfactory work. This means that the cutting edge must be: 1, keen 2, free from nicks and 3, have the proper bevel. Sharpening is done by subjecting the tool to friction against an abrasive."
The first step of sharpening is to get the proper bevel, which is the proper angle. This varies according to the tool. Once the bevel is secured then the edge must be honed in order to reduce the nicks and irregularities on the wire edge that are visible to the eye. In spite of honing there will be nicks in the edge that are visible under a microscope.
If a stone is used for honing it is absolutely necessary to keep the stone clean and in perfect condition, otherwise the fineness of the edge is affected.
Ecclesiastics10:10, says that: If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.
So sharpening your tools is profitable. Otherwise greater effort must be made to accomplish the same work.
Notice that in sharpening a tool the bevel of the edge is most important.
Bevel means the relationship between the sharpening instrument and the tool to be sharpened.
In aviation the word attitude is used to describe the inclination of an aircraft relative to the wind or to the ground.
We can adopt this term in place of bevel to describe the relationship between the sharpening instrument and the tool to be sharpened.
The question can then be asked, what is the sharpening instruments attitude to the tool?
Look at this example. Here is a kitchen knife.
Here is a steel sharpening tool.
The proper bevel or attitude for sharpening this knife is approximately here.
If this tool has this attitude as it is drawn across the knife then I will have a sharp knife.
But if I vary the attitude to the extreme and draw the tool across the edge of the knife the same tool that sharpens the knife now causes it to be dull and useless.
The knife is the same, the sharpening tool is the same; the only difference is the attitude of the sharpening instrument.
The position or attitude that the tool is in as it is applied to the knife is very important.
In the same vein of thought your attitude toward a person determines whether you will sharpen him or dull him.
Your attitude toward a person will determine if you are a friend.
As iron or steel will bring a knife to a better edge when properly whetted, so a friend may exite another to think deeply, he may furnish useful hints, he may invigorate and each may be improved by this mutual interchange.
As a wise man once said, "But let me sharpen others as the hone/Gives edge to razors, though itself has none."
You may think of yourself without sharpness as this steel rod has no sharpness but God tells us that we can be used to sharpen others.
If a brother or a sister seems to walk alone, sharpen his or her iron by godly communication.
This is a bond of brothers and sisters in Christ.
We should walk together mutually considering each otherís infirmities, trials, and temptations and mutually provoking each otherís gifts and talents.
Job was encouraged by his friends when they reminded him of his testimony in Job 4:3,4, Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands. Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.
And the Lordís example for us to adopt with friends in Luke 24:32, And they said one to another, Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
Each of these examples resulted in the sharpening of friends.
Do you come to the services here to be sharpened?
Have the cares of life dulled your heart?
Has your countenance fallen into a dull stupor?
Do you need an abrasive to be applied to you to hone your sharpness?
This proverb tells us that sharpening the countenance of friends is a result of friendship.
There needs to be a collision of minds if sharpening is to take place.
Discussion, challenges, ideas, hints, stated in the course of normal conversation will stimulate thinking and bring a keenness to the mind.
The Spirit of man needs cheering, it needs brightening, needs inspiration for the daily tasks that face each man or woman, boy or girl.
It is not good that man or woman should be alone.
Acts 18:5, And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.
Acts 28:15, And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.
2 Corinthians 7:6, Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus.
God gives wives, God gives husbands, and God gives friends, God gives brothers and sisters in Christ.
By social discourse with wives, husbands and friends manís and womenís powers are expanded or sharpened.
We are to use our influence to sharpen our friends.
Just like tools we need to be sharpened continually if we are to be useful in Godís hands.