Pro 18:16 A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
Pro 18:17 He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him.
Pro 18:18 The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.
Pro 18:19 A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
There's a lot here . . . let's jump in! Verse 16 speaks of bribery, and what that bribe can accomplish. In the previous chapter, Solomon noted that a bribe could "pervert the ways of judgment" and here he says that it can place him in the company of men of power. Verse 17 speaks of a person presenting his case, and reminds us that we must hear both sides of a story before passing judgment or making a decision. Next, verse 18 notes that endless arguments and struggles between powerful people were settled in ancient times by lot. We have many examples of this in the Old Testament, in the division of the land of Canaan, to settle doubtful questions, and directly determine a decision. Solomon is noting here that after the lot is cast, the wrangling will cease (at least if both parties agree to accept that decision!).
Verse 19 is our focus verse today . . . remember when we had a verse that talked about a strong city -- a fortified city, perhaps with a tower? The castle inside may have bars on the doors and windows, to make it even harder to conquer. We mentioned then that this was a very secure position to be in: safe and strong. That city is exceedingly hard to conquer or overcome.
Solomon is drawing a parallel between that hard-to-conquer city, and the hard-to-win offended brother or sister. We must take great care not to offend or hurt those we are related to, either in our earthly families, or in our heavenly ones (those who are our Christian brothers and sisters). Resentments can be carried too far or too long, and the longer they are carried, the harder it is to overcome them. Remember Esau? He had been offended (actually he was treated pretty shabbily) by his brother, and it took a work of God's grace to change his heart. He was won, in answer to Jacob's prayer.
It may be that we have offended a brother or sister in Christ. Let us always be open to self-inspection, and ready to make amends, before they become as hard to win as a fortified city, with bars on the castle!