Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king,
and stand not in the place of great men:
For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither;
than that thou shouldest be put lower
in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.
1. This is a proverb that deals with a temptation that is “common to man”, namely, self-promoting ambition.
2. It is a common desire to want to elevate and advance ourselves.
3. In this proverb, Solomon gives some inspired advice on how to deal with that desire.
4. Solomon tells us what NOT to do and why.
Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king
1. “Put forth” – to honour; adorn; glorify; be high; to swell; elevate.
2. The command:
a. Solomon is commanding his readers NOT to elevate themselves in the presence of the king.
b. They were not to seek honor and glory for themselves from the king.
c. The command did not forbid them from BEING honored or elevated by the king. The command was that they should not put themselves forth for such honor.
d. The idea here is that while promotion is good; self-promotion is not.
3. In the presence of the king
a. Solomon (as a king) would have seen much too much of this kind of behavior.
b. No doubt, he was surrounded by self seeking, self promoting, ambitious, greedy men who were trying to USE the king’s presence to elevate themselves politically or financially.
c. The word “presence” means: “In front of, before, in the presence of, in the face of.”
d. In other words, Solomon is speaking of a person who seeks to push himself in the presence of the king… seeking to be seen with him… seeking to be in his presence as much as he can—but for selfish reasons.
e. No doubt we have seen this sort of thing when there is a press report at the White House or in the House. The President or the Speaker of the House (the important people) stand in front of the microphone. Behind them is a crowd of politicians all jockeying for position to have their face seen on national television alongside the President or the Speaker. Their goal of course, is to advance their own careers.
f. Just being seen with the King or with a President adds credibility and stature to the one seeking to advance his career.
4. Putting forth oneself…
a. This kind of self promotion is as old as the hills.
b. It is an integral part of human nature—fallen human nature, that is.
c. Pride is at the root of it all.
d. Pride tells us that we OUGHT to be advanced… that we DESERVE to be advanced… that we are better than others.
e. We tend to rank ourselves higher than do others.
f. Thrusting yourself forth in the presence of the King comes in various degrees too.
• It might involve pushing another politician out of the way so that your face can be in the picture with the President.
• It might involve trampling over the careers of others in order to advance yourself. (Climbing the corporate ladder on the backs of your co-workers)
• It often involves dishonesty, lying, and cheating to get yourself in the presence of the king or president—like Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the infamous party-crashers at the White House. They put themselves forth to be in the presence of the President through deception.
• Pride, greed, and raw ambition can motivate a person to commit all kinds of other sins.
And stand not in the place of great men
1. Self promoting ambition does not only occur in the presence of the King in the royal court.
a. It also occurs in the presence of ALL great men.
b. “Great men” here refers to men in important positions; men of prominence, fame, wealth, and stature.
c. Great men always have others who want to be associated with them—and usually with self seeking motives.
2. It is not likely that many of Solomon’s readers (or us) would have had any opportunity to put themselves forth in the presence of the King, but they would have similar opportunities in lesser arenas.
a. Perhaps you are on a committee somewhere. Sometimes committee members can become a little pushy and self assertive in seeking to become the chairman.
b. This sort of thing takes place every day in the business world: unprincipled people using unsavory means to advance themselves—often at the expense of other more deserving people. They put themselves forth in the presence of the boss… the CEO.
c. This thing can even occur in the local church. Paul told Timothy that it was good to seek to serve the Lord in an office or some other position in the local church. The warning in our proverb is not to be self assertive and self promoting.
d. Unfortunately, this kind of self promotion occurs in the ministry too. It shouldn’t, but it does. Some men in a ministry USE a ministry as a steppingstone to advance their own “careers.” It is sad to say, but sometimes there is politicking going on in the background and jockeying for position.
3. The command: “Stand not”
a. Defined: To stand; to present something to another; to appoint; to prop up; (lots of shades of meaning).
b. This term is used in Lev 16:7 of presenting a sacrifice before the Lord.
c. Solomon is commanding his readers not to present themselves before great men—and in the context, he means for the purpose of self-advancement… self-promotion.
d. The idea is that we should not take the initiative ourselves.
• We should not be pushy, assertive, overly aggressive, or forceful in pushing ourselves on anyone.
• Prov. 27:2a – “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth.”
e. Thus, the advice that Solomon states here is going to be extremely ego-deflating to a man full of ambition whose main goal in life is to advance himself and his career or his product.
f. Nevertheless, the commands remain: Don’t elevate yourself before a king; don’t assertively push yourself on a great man—like your boss.
For better it is (vs. 7)
1. After giving the ego-deflating commands, Solomon next gives the reason WHY.
a. Solomon was not trying to discourage his ambitious readers.
b. He wasn’t trying to prevent them from getting promoted.
c. Rather, he was trying to prevent them from being humiliated.
2. “For better is it” (Vs.7a)
a. The word better has a broad range of meaning including: Good; pleasant; agreeable; glad; happy; prosperous; appropriate; becoming.
b. His readers may have been engaged in self promotion, which could lead to humiliation.
c. Solomon shows them a “more excellent way” – a way that they will find much more agreeable, appropriate, and pleasant than being humiliated.
3. As counterintuitive as it might sound to ambitious men, the better way to experience promotion is to OBEY the first two commands!
a. Don’t advance yourself. Don’t be overly assertive and push yourself on the king, or the great men, or your boss.
b. There are two possible ways to be found in the presence of the King: one right and one wrong.
c. One is honorable, the other is humiliating.
4. The WRONG way is to put yourself in his presence.
a. This is what was forbidden in the proverb.
b. For example, at a photo shoot at the White House, many ambitious congressmen would be pushing themselves forward to be as close to the President as possible.
c. Maybe the rookie no-name congressman from New Hampshire works his way right next to the President. How humiliating to be told to step back so the senior congressman from California can have the spotlight.
5. The RIGHT way is to obey the command and NOT assert yourself and push your way into the presence of the King.
a. Far better is it to be standing off in a corner somewhere, and to be ELEVATED to an important position than to be LOWERED in the presence of all the people you were trying to impress!
b. It is more agreeable, more pleasant, and more satisfying to have someone ELSE advance you than to advance ourselves.
6. Luke 14:7-10 – Jesus taught a parable based on this very truth.
a. The setting is a wedding feast held by an important man.
b. According to the customs of the day, the closer one was seated to the host, the more important the position.
c. Thus, there was sometimes a little scramble for the most honorable seats at such feasts. Everybody wanted the best seat for themselves.
d. Jesus taught this parable as a rebuke to the Pharisees.
• They assumed that because they deemed themselves to be important, they should have the highest positions in the Kingdom.
• However, if they maintained that attitude of pride and self assertion, they would be given lowly seats in the Kingdom.
• They would be humiliated when lowly people (like humble, repentant tax collectors and harlots) would be exalted and the Pharisees would be humiliated.
e. This parable rebuked the Pharisees, but even the apostles had a problem with this sin of self-promotion. (Matt. 18:1-4)
• They argued over the best seat in the Kingdom too—who would sit on the right and left hand of the Lord.
• They argued over who would be the greatest in the Kingdom.
f. Those who put themselves first will be last.
g. Before honor is humility. (Prov. 18:12)
7. The New Testament writers also apply this principle to Christian living.
a. Jas. 4:10 – “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”
• Our job is not to lift ourselves up.
• Our job is to lower self; humble self; be a servant.
• Servants don’t stand in the presence of great men. They don’t try to hobnob with important people. They know their place.
• We should learn to be content with our place of lowliness rather than greedily seeking promotion and exaltation.
• Our job is to walk in lowliness.
• The LORD is the One who lifts us up. The Lord is the One who advances us to the position He wants us in.
• Joseph became Prime Minister of Egypt not because he was assertive and self promoting. Rather, he became Prime Minister because he was a good servant and his skills were noticed, appreciated, and eventually led to the king advancing him to a place of honor.
b. I Pet. 5:6 – “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”
• Again note the order: we humble ourselves; God does the exalting.
• Note the words, “in due time.”
• This implies that it is easy to become restless, anxious, and tired of waiting.
• After waiting for advancement longer than WE think we should, there is a tendency to take matters into our own hands and become self-assertive and self-promoting.
• It is far better to wait on the Lord and let HIM do the exalting.
• One final note: “Acting humble” should not be used as a strategy for self-advancement.
» God knows the heart. There are thousands of evangelicals who USE the Bible to advance themselves and their business.
» The whole gospel of success is based on this perversion of truth.
» They used good principles from the Bible, but the real motive is self-advancement, earthly success and riches.
» Many Bible principles when practiced in the business world WORK—even if their motive is selfish and greedy.
» Unfortunately for them, God knows the heart.
» God can tell the difference between a person who walks humbly and is honest with his clients in order to (1) glorify God or (2) make a lot of money.
• God wants GENUINE modesty and humility. That is what the Lord looks for and exalts.