Proverbs 12:25 Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.

Proverbs 22:11 He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.

Proverbs 27:9 Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

II Timothy 1:16 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:

17 But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.

18 The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.


MEMORY VERSE: And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said unto him, Fear not. —I Samuel 23:16-17


CENTRAL THOUGHT: The gracious words and encouraging counsel of a friend serves to strengthen the purpose, refresh the soul, lift up and make glad the heart, and sharpen the intelligence; even a king chooses one who has sincere, gracious speech to be his friend.




Proverbs 12:25 “Heaviness”: anxious care. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible suggests the kind of anxiety of an oppressed people under compulsory labor or tribute.

Proverbs 27:9 “Sweetness”: agreeable, pleasant, attractive speech of one’s friend. “‘As balsam and fragrant perfumes marvellously refresh and comfort the natural spirits, when they droop and are tired; so doth the very presence of a true-hearted friend, and much more his faithful counsel, rejoice a man’s soul; especially when he is at such a loss, that he knows not how to advise himself’” (Bishop Patrick in Benson Commentary).

Proverbs 27:17 “Sharpeneth”: to make sharp and keen. As “learned men sharpen one another’s minds, and excite each other to learned studies; Christians sharpen one another’s graces, or stir up each other to the exercise of them, and the gifts which are bestowed on them, and to love and to good works” (Gill’s). “Sharpening the manner and forming the habits and character; that one helps another to culture and polish [his] manner, rub off his ruggedness, round his corners, as one has to make use of iron when he sharpens iron and seeks to make it bright” (Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament).

II Timothy 1:16 “Onesiphorus”: meaning “profit-bringer”. “A Christian friend of Paul at Ephesus, who came to Rome while the apostle was imprisoned there for the faith, and at a time when almost everyone had forsaken him. This is supposed to have occurred during Paul’s last imprisonment, not long before his death. Having found Paul in bonds, after long seeking him, he assisted him to the utmost of his power, and without regard to danger; for which the apostle implored the highest benedictions on him and his family” (ATS Bible Dictionary). “Refreshed”: literally, to cool by blowing; revive; bring comfort.

I Samuel 23:16 “Strengthened his hand”: to fasten upon; sustain; encourage.




We have cited several of Solomon’s proverbs, a passage from Ecclesiastes, and two Bible examples as texts for this simple lesson, which addresses a God-given purpose of friendship: to use our speech to build up, encourage, and strengthen our friend who may be oppressed, laboring under a load of anxiety, dull of inspiration or courage, or needy of direction, positive instruction, or a heartening lift!

Examples in history of pure-hearted, gracious-speaking individuals who became close advisers and friends of kings include Hushai, David’s friend, and Daniel, friend of King Darius.

In the example of Paul in prison, it 35 touches the heart to think of this dear brother in Ephesus, who obviously didn’t know where Paul was incarcerated, but searched about the towns and neighborhoods until he found him. It doesn’t say how long he searched or what kind of necessities he brought to Paul, but whatever it was, it was refreshing to Paul’s spirit. He also obviously shrugged off the stigma of being identified with a man and a group of people who were being persecuted and hunted as heretics. Paul used the words “often” and “many” to describe the kind of service Onesiphorus gave to him, so we know it wasn’t just one time. When we study, as we find positive examples detailed in the scriptures, we are justly challenged to copy those examples. In this case, Onesiphorus set the standard pretty high for us!

We again mention Jonathan’s encouragement to his friend, David. As we noted in an earlier lesson, this was the last meeting of the two friends. I would love to have heard his bracing words of courage as Jonathan charged David to remain true to God!

Another scriptural example is that of Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian eunuch who heard of Jeremiah’s plight down in the miry dungeon, went to the king and obtained permission to help Jeremiah, and led a rescue party to lift him up out of the pit. God later sent a message to Ebedmelech through Jeremiah, assuring him that because of his faith in God, he would be delivered in the time of danger (Jeremiah 38:6-13; 39:15-18).

These examples challenge us to be the kind of friend who refreshes and strengthens.

—Angela Gellenbeck



  1. What three positive things come from the bracing (sometimes abrasive) challenges, good words, and hearty counsels of a friend, as shown in the first few verses in our lesson?
  2. Share a personal example or story about a friend who helped you when you had fallen.
  3. Share how Onesiphorus helped when Paul was imprisoned.
  4. What are the background circumstances of Jonathan’s encouragement to David, as stated in our memory verse?
  5. What other Biblical examples of the strengthening help of a friend can you share?



Friend of my many years!

When the great silence falls, at last, on me,

Let me not leave, to pain and sadden thee,

A memory of tears,

But pleasant thoughts alone.

Of one who was thy friendship’s honored guest

And drank the wine of consolation pressed

From sorrows of thy own.

I leave with thee a sense

Of hands upheld and trials rendered less,

The unselfish joy which is to helpfulness

Its own great recompense.

The knowledge that from thine,

As from the garments of the Master, stole

Calmness and strength, the virtue which makes whole

And heals without a sign.

Yea more, the assurance strong

That love, which fails of perfect utterance here,

Lives on to fill the heavenly atmosphere

With its immortal song.

By John Greenleaf Whittier

—Angela Gellenbeck




Iron Sharpeneth Iron


Iron sharpeneth iron, a proverb true;

Fine edge admire, a process due!

Friction—oh, that reality dread

Allowed to work, sharpen instead.

Truth exterior, not hard to bear

But cutting of soul, not even dare.

Let not friend become enemy

When words of truth pierce into thee.

Prophet of old—tis enough, said he

Another resigned to the fate of the sea.

Temptation great, as they so we

Must bravely face truth, honestly.

Refusing, fleeing, excuses to make

Blunts the soul, failed destiny create.

The Lord sharpens the countenance of man

By many tools, but especially the friend.


—Bob Wilson