An unjust man is abominable to the righteous, And he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked. Proverbs 29:27
The godly and the ungodly take very divergent paths. This is fairly elementary to anyone to see. But what we often do not see is that not only are these paths different - they are also disgusting to each other. The word that is used in today's proverb to describe the view that they have of each other is "abominable." The word used here is the Hebrew word "ebah" which means anything that is offensive or what is an abomination to someone else. In Scripture God uses this word to describe those who depart from His Law. Often the word is used for more grevious sins - like idolatry, child sacrifice, and homosexual behavior. What God is saying to us is that there is a radical and serious difference between those who desire to live godly and those who do not. Let's look at little further into this as we seek to understand God's wisdom for us today.
The "unjust" man ("awel" in the Hebrew) is one who deviates from God's way. This kind of behavior and choice is usually set in contrast to words like righteous, upright, and justice. There is a basic injustice in the one who deviates from God's way - and God, being just, will have to bring judgment and punishment to the one who does so. This is why the unjust man is abominable to the righteous. The godly man sees that the unjust man is unjust first and foremost to God Himself - then from that infinite injustice flows all other lesser injustices to others. Since we know that the righteous man is not so because of his own works but due to God's grace, the righteous man knows the cost of this ungodly behavior. That cost is God's Son, crucified on the cross (to the Old Testament saint it was the promise of this in the sacrifices of the Law). To embrace such behavior is to treat God's gift - the sacrifice made to forgive us and remove us from under God's wrath - as worthless and empty. This is an abomination to the righteous man.
The same is true of the ungodly man toward the upright. What the ungodly see is a man who is "upright in the way." This phrase communicates the path of the godly man. What the ungodly sees is a guy who is seeking to walk according to a set of rules that are different than his. He is seeking to be upright - which means to do what is good and what is right. That alone is offensive to the ungodly man. His worldview involves him deciding what is right and good. It even involves him changing his views to match his lifestyle if he desires. To have what he considers an arbitrary set of morals set by God - which is then viewed as ultimate truth is untenable to him. That would mean his own views of right and wrong are in error if they are different than those God has given. His value system cannot tolerate this - becasue his value system is that of the book of Judges. He does whatever is "right in his own eyes." He is a law unto himself. He does not judge anyone else (unless they judge him or get in the way of him doing what he wants to do) and he expects the same from everyone else (of course always giving way to what he wants if there is any contradiction). Thus the "way" or lifestyle of this guy who is so arrogant as to call his way "right" is an abomination to him. It offends him to the core of his being!
Paul told young Timothy the following in his second letter to him, "Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:11-13) Often we focus only on the last of these three verses - that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. This was only a conclusion for what Paul had already said in verses 11-12. In those verses he spoke of his teaching, conduct, purpose, and faith. Paul was persecuted becasue he chose to live in "the upright way." That way consisted of two things - both of which are vital to understanding Christianity.
First is the 'way of salvation.' The upright way will never be lived out by effort and striving. Righteousness and upright living is attained by grace, not by our works. God MAKES us upright by an act of His mercy and grace. That comes through the gospel - and only through the gospel. The world finds this incredibly offensive and very narrow minded. But that is the truth. That is how God has addressed sin - and that is, according to Jesus Hismelf, the only way, truth, and life - the only way to the Father. The second truth of the upright way is that we live and walk it out in a paradox - we work as God works within us. We are called to obedience - and we seek God's power by which we can then walk in that obeience. We are to make choices - strong and bold choices - even as it is God who works in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Living a godly life involves a glorious tension in our lives. We are to do it - and He is to do it within us. We cannot think we do it on our own - and we cannot think that He will do it for us without our cooperation.
The wicked find this whole scenario ridiculous and an abomination. To them it is ridiculous because there is no God - or if there is, their god agrees with them. They have a god of their own making - who looks and acts just like they do. Any other God is unacceptable. The word "wicked" here is telling. The word is "rasa" and it means to be guilty - a wrong-doer, criminal, or a transgressor. It means someone who is wrong! The reason the wicked hate the upright, and find their way abominable is because as they watch them - they know they are wrong. They do not want anyone telling them they are wrong. Their reaction to this is to fume within and rage about how judgmental the Christian is - even if the Christian is not saying anything to them. Their very lifestyle is a rebuke to them. If the Christian speaks out - then they explode - because their guilt rages within them.
There will always be a radical distinction between the righteous and the wicked. There will also be a hostility to the way each other chooses to live. That is the wisdom that God is seeking to impart to us through today's proverb. Therefore the constant effort among Christians to make the gospel unoffensive is silliness. We can be gracious and kind in how we communicate the gospel - but to make it unoffensive to the wicked is impossible. There will always be the offense of the cross of Christ. There will always be the offense of God asserting that He is God and He is absolutely right on moral matters (and all others he touches upon as well). Thus the constant effort to make Christianity unoffensive in its essence is a fool's pursuit. It would be wise for us to abandon it and return to living it simply before the lost, loving them from the heart, and doing all that we can to share the message of the gospel with them. We do so not becasue we think we are superior. Perish that thought. We do it because we've received grace and desire for them to receive it as well. We want them to be saved - made rightoeus by grace - and abandon their abominable way to embrace a life lived by the grace of God unto the glory of God.
Many seek the ruler's favor, but justice for man comes from the Lord. Proverbs 29:26
Where do you get justice in our world? Today's proverb weighs in on this issue in a way that reminds us that we need to keep an eternal perspective on all things. This world may seek what they call justice from the officials who rule over it, but true justice for mankind comes from God.
Many do seek the ruler's favor - and consider that justice. The problem comes when you realize that rulers are not always righteous. There are rulers and officials who receive bribes and favors to turn justice toward the one who gave them. Another problem arises when you read the statement that "many" seek the ruler's favor. That means if your bribe is not high enough, you lose. If someone else comes along and offers something more or something better, justice goes to the highest bidder. Such was the case with Haman, Mordecai, and Esther. Haman, angry with Mordecai because he would not bow down to him - paid a ridiculous amount of money to the king to have "his justice" enforced. That justice did not involve punishment on Mordecai - but on the entire nation of Israel. He did not want Mordecai to be punished alone - he wanted the extermination of his entire race. The price was right - and a decree was made to have the Jews destroyed kingdom-wide. Thus goes justice when you seek the ruler's favor. The real problem for Haman though, was the justice he bought was not final. When Esther gave two banquets for the king, told him he was a Jew, and on top of all this the king later learned that Mordecai had saved his life - the price for this justice went much higher. In the end, justice from the king meant Haman's hanging, the destruction of his entire family, and the destruction of Israel's enemies in the city and throughout the kingdom.
God warns those He puts in authority repeatedly against taking bribes perverting justice for a price. Although power can corrupt - and absolute power can corrupt absolutely - God alone is the One Who cannot be corrupted. Therefore wisdom tells us that, "justice for man comes from the Lord." God's justice is based on His perfect righteousness and justice. He does not have such things - He IS such things. God does not base justice on a set of laws given by others - He is the Lawgiver, He is the Source of righteousness, and He is the Judge. His throne is founded on justice and righteousness. When He speaks, He speaks with absolute authority - and - with absolute, perfect just and right decisions. When He speaks and judges - His statements are final - and always beyond question. Here is what He said about Himself when revealing Himself to Moses. "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6-8) God is just - but our salvation is not His justice, but His mercy and grace.
Justice for man truly does come from The Lord. The gospel bears this out. God is just and the Justifier of the one who believes in Jesus Christ. He carried out His perfect, absolute justice when Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross. If there ever was a time when God might have set aside justice and righteousness - it would have been for His Son. But God's justice is perfect - and Christ had to die for sins for man to be forgiven and made righteous in God's sight. Thus the fullness of God's justice and wrath fell on His Son that day. But . . . as a result, justice for man comes from the Lord. We have a choice - to face the full brunt of God's wrath for our sins ourselves - or to turn to Jesus Christ, believe on Him, and receive grace and mercy. The Just God - had His justice satisfied by the death of His Son for sin. Now He will justify (declare rightoeous) anyone who turns to His Son in repentance and faith. No man can offer such a thing. Therefore the wise man is the one who seeks absolute justice, not from fickle men who can change justice as often as they change socks, but from God. He will not only give just decisions here on earth between men - but will give the ultimate justice to us in heaven - not based on us paying the price of our sins - but based on the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do not move the ancient boundary Which your fathers have set. Proverbs 22:28
This proverb is understood as one speaking about real estate and how land is treated. At least this is language which is used. The "ancient boundary" referred to markers, usually rather large stone markers that were set in place by the previous generation - by which the boundaries of the land were marked. Those who do surveying today do the same thing - except they use deep metal spikes driven into the ground as the markers. All land surveying is done from these markers to make sure that land that is sold and transferred is done legally. So on the surface level this passage is saying that God is against illegal land transactions where one party tries to cheat another out of land by moving the ancient boundary marker to their advantage. But there is more to this proverb than what we see on the surface - there is a principle that is very important for us grasp - especially in light of our ever-changing culture.
There are physical boundaries - and there are social and spiritual boundaries. There are things which our forefathers gave us as a nation - and things which our spiritual forefathers gave us in the church. The question in an ever-changing society is this. When is it right to change things - altering with the times - and when are we dealing with the ancient boundaries that our fathers set for us? Even more important for us in the church there is the question of when is something an enduring spiritual truth - and when is it something a tradition arising out of denominational preference?
First of all, I am not sure that anyone can know all boundaries perfectly. Nations and especially churches are in conflict about such things on a regular basis. What is tradition that is the ancient boundaries - and what tradition is . . . well, just tradition? When it comes to things like this, we need an authority in the matter - and it needs to be outside ourselves. It even needs to be outside of our fathers and forefathers. Therefore we turn to the Scriptures for guidance. The things that are immovable have to do with theology. We can NEVER change our theology. Things like the Deity of Christ - His virgin birth, death, burial, and resurrection can never be altered. Things like the person and nature of God - the Holy Spirit - the veracity of the Bible as God's self-revelation are all non-negotiables. Then we have the negotiable items. These are driven more by basic principles and preferences. One very controversial area in the church is music and ministry styles. There are basic principles of sharing the gospel. The gospel must remain pure - but the style in which we share it will morph as society changes. Wisdom says that there is merit in modernizing our style of ministry - how we share the gospel - ways we interact with people - but the truth of the gospel itself is never to be changed. Similar things exist in musical worship. The principle that God is worshipped and is the center of our thinking and focus cannot be changed. We sing to Him and He is the One on whom we focus in worship. Instruments in worship may change over time - even styles of music will alter over the years, but there is never to be a change in focus.
Traditions can be tricky things. Those who survey land know that it can be a tricky thing to do it properly. At Calvary Chapel we had a problem with survey work that was not done properly for us in a land transaction. The surveyor did not accurately read the set pin for our land. He just guessed at it - and as a result made what seemed at first a minor miscalculation in drawing a line for our land border. The problem became much more pronounced though as the line went out further. Eventually the line which ran for about 100 yards cut off an ever-increasing pie-shaped part of our land. What started out as a small error - got far worse as it widened out. The final result was a large corner of land and a large error - all because he ignored the set pin put down by the fathers. This can happen to us spiritually as well. It may seem like such a small thing - a small change that we are making. It may seem like we're only ignoring a small principle of the Scriptures at first. The problem is that as time progresses, ignoring the ancient set point of our fathers (which they set according to Scripture) will be far worse in the future. Such things won't happen if all we are doing is seting new traditions for a new generation of people. But ignoring Scripture - ignoring the ultimate Father and the boundaries He has set - will cause great harm in the end - and honestly - even in the meantime.
Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding, But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. Proverbs 17:24
In order to have wisdom we must be one who has discernment. What is interesting is what the Scriptures have to say about how we get this "discernment." We are told by James that if we lack wisdom we should, "ask of God" (James 1:5
). We are also told that God offers this wisdom as One who gives freely to all without rebuke when they ask. In Proverbs 2:6
we are told ". . . the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." This is a promise of the same thing mentioned here in Proverbs 17:24
. It is only when we turn to God and listen to what He has to say that we have what is necessary to grasp wisdom. The discernment needed for this is the ability to determine what differs between two things. The vast majority of decisions we will have to make in life will involve one of two choices placed before us. If we cannot discern the difference between these two things - we will not "understand" which is the will of God and which is not. The wise man knows only because he fills his mind with the Word of God - and learns to discern and distinguish between things because of the counsel he receives from God as a result of meditating upon the Word. He sees clearly and can distinguish between things that are worldly, fleshly, and spiritual.
The fool knows of no such wisdom. His eyes are not fixed on God, but on the "ends of the earth." The fool looks everywhere for answers - everywhere except God's Word. He looks to the wisdom of man, the wisdom of godless scholars, the thoughts and meditation of gurus, or to his own understanding. Others turn to a darker side, looking to false religion, the occult, spiritism, and even to drugs for enlightenment. Our culture turned from God in the 1960's to eastern religious thought and practice. The rock and roll world introduced us anew to the so-called enlightenment of eastern religious sages, Hinduism, Buddhisim, and various other eastern ways. The culture grabbed onto reincarnation and the thought that they could discard their individualism and become part of the one - with no real self-consciousness at all. Others turned to philosophy that started at Deism, but eventually turned to Naturalism and its eventual end Nihlism and complete hopelessness. These movements have given to us all the same problems that the culture of Canaan gave to its inhabitants. There was not wisdom in all this - but multiplied foolishness that has ceded to us a disregard for life or any kind of moral code. Our current post-modern philosophy has reached its conclusion with the view that there is no right or wrong - no truth - no absolutes (except the absolute that there are no absolutes - which by the way is an absolute) - and no basis for societal cohesion except the rare times when we agree on something.
Seeking some other answer to life than that of "absolutist" Christianity - the world has gone hunting for anything other than truth. The result of their search mission is more like a search and destroy mission for anything and anyone who would dare to say there is absolute truth. But what has the wisdom of this current dominant culture given us? Since their deconstruction of Christian morals and absolutes has ensued, we've watched 2 world wars and a host of other smaller ones - numerous ethnic cleansings - political theories that allow dictators and rulers to decimate their people (as in Russia, China, Cambodia, and most of tribal Africa). The wisdom of the ages is nothing more than the same old lie that thrust our world into darkness in the first place. Either there is no God - or we ourselves can be god. That does not end well. Maybe the answer is not found in looking to the "ends of the earth" in search for some secret wisdom of the gurus. Maybe the truth all along has been right under our noses in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. It is my hope that by turning again to God and to His Word we will recapture the wisdom that has been abandoned by recent generations - and that God will revive His people with understanding so that they will not be fools. That, though, would require mankind humbling themselves and turning to God with ALL their heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is my hope that our current "great minds" would humble themselves and understand that unless we surrender ourselves to God . . . there will be very little wisdom available to us.