Like clouds and wind without rain Is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely. Proverbs 25:14
Have you ever met someone who boasts of incredible abilities to do something, only to find out when you actually need those services that they were inflated beyond their actual size by the imagination of the person's mind? That is what today's proverb deals with. It warns us about the dangers of eggeration - especially when it comes to skils of abilities that we possess (or maybe don't possess).
I live in Arkansas - and that means that in the months of July and August there is a lot of excitement when any clouds show up to our west. That is because we are hoping that in those clouds there will be a little known commodity called rain. What is truly discouraging is when the sky grows cloudy - and even sometimes dark - and the result is . . . nothing. There is the promise of rain, but the actual wet stuff itself never falls. The clouds come - the winds come - and nothing else comes with it. Our hopes are raised and we become very excited about the propect of rain, only to see dust stirred up and trees bend in the wind, but the main act, rain, just is not going to show today.
This is the metaphor that God uses to describe a man who boasts of skill - who boasts of gift that would help others - only to learn that he is eggagerating and lying of these things. You believe and hope in this man - only to learn that he is full of hot air - and little else. Some folks put their whole hope in such people and are crushed by the truth that their only skill is being able to tell tall tales of their supposed exploits. In the end their promise has as much worth as a 3 dollar bill. It may look good on the outside - even holding promise for being useful - but when you take it to a store, it is worthless. Beware of men who are all talk and little or no action. They will take your for a ride - and then leave you on the curb heart broken. Do not entrust yourself to someone unless they have shown by their words and their actions that they can deliver on what they've promised.
I passed by the field of the sluggard And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense, And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; Its surface was covered with nettles, And its stone wall was broken down. When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction. "A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest," Then your poverty will come as a robber And your want like an armed man. Proverbs 24:30-34
There are certain things you can learn by making observations of physical things. These are not always universally true - but they are true more often than not. This particular observation was made by someone who knew that a field belonged to someone who was already known as a "sluggard." Therefore it was known that this man was lazy and undisciplined. The danger here is not knowing someone's character - and assuming things because of what you see physically.
What we have here is someone who is making an observation about a sluggard's field or vineyard. This person is known for two things. First is that he is a sluggard. The term refers to someone who is lazy and who shuns any kind of work. The second observation is that he is also a man who seriously lacks sense. As usual in the book of Proverbs the word here is actually the Hebrew word, "leb" which means heart. What is referred to here is not this man's physical heart, but more his spiritual condition. God is concerned about the state of our hearts - because our actions and our words come out of the overflow of our hearts. Therefore the fact that this man lacks "heart" speaks more to the truth that he is lacking spiritual wisdom and a heart that turns to God for it.
We continue to look at the sluggard and his field and we have this report given to us. It wa a field and vineyard completely overgrown with weeds and nettles, which refers to thorny plants that make for a very unfruitful, unproductive field. These things are there because of the laziness of the owner. Not only was this field ignored agriculturally - but it was ignored physically too. It is noted that the stone wall around it was broken down as well. This most likely was not due to vandalism, but rather simple neglect over a long period of time. Therefore there were serious weed problems - and also serious problems with animals getting in and destroying the crops as well. This was a field ignored completely - and therefore would be a field that was grossly underproducing for its owner.
Seeing such a field in an agrarian society made the onlooker reflect on things - actually he reflected on the owner of the field. The word for "reflect" is the Hebrew word "siyt" and it means to focus one's heart and thinking on something. One might say that this writer was taking this matter to heart. He had God lay something on his heart as he looked. The author of these verses was spiritually astute enough to have the Lord speak to him as he looked on this sad scene. He received instruction as a result of what was before his eyes. The words here speak not merely of knowledge - but rather of a kind of instructing that disciplines us and uses things to turn us from a destructive path. That was what was happening here. Oh that we would open ourselves to such "at-the-moment" instruction like this - that God could take anything and use it to help us walk in His ways. Jesus spoke like this - using everyday pictures of life to help instruct His disciples (and us) how to walk with Him and honor His Father.
This was the comment he received. It is said in a way that is placed in quotations. There are those moments when God is about to speak to our hearts. We need to be open and receptive to such "wisdom statements" from Him. As the writer mused on this scene - the Lord spoke to his heart.
The statement made to his heart had to do with sleeping too much, slumbering too much - and wanting to fold our hands and "take it easy." God is not against rest - but He is against those who do not work hard. The sluggard did not want to work - he wanted to rest, slumber, and fold his hands and refuse to work. The state of his field was proof of these things. He didn't want to work and do the things that would make for a productive and protected field. He wanted a life of rest and relaxation.
This brings me to comment on an oft-said phrase that I hear in our society. "Don't work too hard," is said to me often - and I understand that people are not urging me to slothfulness. But - in all honesty - I do need to work hard. God said that in a fallen world like ours - being a hard working person will have a tendency to protect me . . . from me! Too much time along - too much time without something productive to do - too much time to myself - and I will get into trouble. I know - because I've been there - and I know how hard it is to keep me from being stupid when there is too much time on my hands. Therefore I know that a life of hard work - of labor - and of productiveness (whether at work, or at home, or even in spiritual things) is good for me.
The end of this proverb is telling. What hapens when you get lazy and undisciplined. God says that the end of such things is poverty. There will be a poverty of finances because the sluggard won't have any crops. There will be a poverty of character because the sluggard won't do what is necessary to develop it in cooperation with God. There will be a poverty of spirit because we won't grow spiritually without some kind of discipline in our lives. Poverty is coming - and is coming like a robber. This word speaks of a vagabond who comes upon you and takes what you have. Poverty will come if a man is lazy - and it will come like someone who walks up unannounced and steals your things. Poverty is also coming like an armed man. This speaks of those who came with armies - and who plundered after they took a city or town. Poverty was coming to the sluggard - and was coming to plunder everything he had. Laziness is costly - and it is a lesson that we too need to learn - even as we see its ravages all around us.
Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, And do not deceive with your lips. Do not say, "Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work." Proverbs 24:28-29
How important is it for a soceity to value telling the truth? One might argue that without this the ability of that soceity to function with any sort of justice is completely comprommised. There has to be a basic level of trustworthiness and honesty for a soceity to function. That is why our proverb for today is so important. It urges us to tell the truth - and not to be a witness against our neighbor without cause. Don't lie about your neighbor is what we are being told. This is especially the case when any kind of bitterness of thought of revenge comes into our minds.
There is a basic level of honesty that must be prevelent for a soceity to function. Think for a moment about the number of transactions that take place every day that are based on the premise that we are being told the truth. Now consider the number of ponzie schemes that have been exposed recently in our financial system. This undermines everyone's confidence in the system itself. It is only when honesty and truth prevail that one can feel even remotely safe in a society. When that breaks down, the soceity itself breaks down. Unless there is the rule of law - and the most basic levels of truth in what we do - our society will wind up looking like a banana republic where almost everything you do will have to be accompanied by a bribe to be done. There will be no justice - and security will have to be maintained by how well you are armed.
All this starts with the breakdown of honesty and truth between neighbors. This is why God tells us NEVER to be a false witness against our neighbor. We are not to give deceitful testimony - but rather to speak the truth. The breakdown of decency is not the fault of Washington. Decency broke down because we abandoned it toward our neighbors. What we have in Washington is what happens when a society in general leaves honesty and accepts growing levels of dishonesty in itself and in its leaders. We would not have the pack of dishonest, money-hungry, power-hungry fools leading us in our capitol accept for the fact that we ourselves did not DEMAND that our leaders be better than that. When faced with dishonesty in office, we should have DEMANDED RESIGNATIONS - and if that did not happen - they should have been told plainly that this is the last term they would ever serve as our representatives in government. Instead we traded truth for government hand-outs in the form of projects, grants, and every other way one can say government bribery without using the word bribe. Without honesty, truth, and integrity - we are doomed as a nation.
Our proverb warns us in verse 29 that the worst way that dishonesty raises its ugly head is as a means of revenge. We are presented with a situation in which someone has been a false witness. We are warned not to decide that we will do to them what they have done to us. When we choose to fight fire with fire - everything and everyone gets burned. Scripture teaches us to turn the other cheek. We are informed to allow the proper government authorities to deal with these matters. We are also told that we are to treat others as we would have wanted to be treated ourselves. Know this . . . God is keeping track of all wrongs and His justice will prevail in the end. In the meantime - use every opportunity to show forth grace and mercy - so that you will also have opportunity to share the gospel - even with your enemies. Avoid revenge. It may give you a brief moment of pleasure at their pain - but in the end it will rot your soul. Give your offendedness to God for Him to heal - then embrace the very Spirit of Christ - Who will enable you to be gracioius to those who mistreat you, and will strengthen you to pray for those who abuse you. Then all will see that you are a son of your Father in heaven. Speak truth - be an honest witness - and leave judgment to God.
Prepare your work outside And make it ready for yourself in the field; afterwards, then, build your house. Proverbs 24:27
This proverb addresses the need to make provision for oneself and one's family - before we begin to seek for personal comfort. This is spoken of from the view of an agricultural society - but the principles will work everywhere. This principle is often lost on our society which is tempted daily by commercials which tell us what we just absolutely have to get . . . immediately. Therefore this particular proverb may be a good one to not only read and consider - but also to apply to the problems that seem to be multiplying in our nation.
We are told here to begin life by working hard - by seeking a proper support for ourselves and those for whom we are responsible. Please read and focus on "proper support" here - rather than the worldly standards that are set before us. Proper support means that we can provide food and clothing for ourselves and our family - as we look to the Lord to bless our efforts and our obedience. In the day in which this was written, this meant getting outside and preparing your fields or your flocks. It meant plowing the ground, obtaining seed, and then planting the seed and working the fields. This involved a lot of hard work - but we should realize that work was not part of the curse - weeds were. But regardless of whether there are weeds or not - God wants us to work - and work hard at what we do.
The instruction here is to FIRST prepare in the field - then you can build your house. For some this means building a business. For others it may mean working hard at a job and doing what is necessary to develop either their education or other marketable skills. But for all of us it means delaying gratification until we know that we can provide for ourselves and a family (if we have one - or - want one). Here is wisdom - delaying gratification - delaying all the perks you want in life - and even delaying marriage until you can provide for a wife.
Our society says, "You deserve it NOW!" But the facts are that we don't "deserve" anything for which we do not work. Never in Scripture is a "living" promised to us if we do not work hard. There is no instruction to governments to provide housing, provide transportation, provide health care, or provide food for those who are not working for it. There is no "poverty index" in Scripture that it is sinful for us to let others fall below. In fact - the facts of the Bible say that we should NOT feed those who can work - but will not do so. There should be little or nothing provided for the able-bodied who do not want to work hard. What has happened in the United States is that we've so "over-promised" a certain level of prosperity to everyone (politically - and unfortunately even religiously at times with the health, wealth, prosperity movement) that they have come to expect it. The think they are entitled to it - whether they work for it or not. The result has been a very poor work ethic - and a total lack of understanding of how business and how life works.
The proverb here says, 'AFTERWARD' you can build your house. The idea here is that a house is a luxury. One of the things that speaks volumes to me is watching a movie or show that reminds me how hard it was for the early settlers in the United States. They worked very hard to prepare the land - cutting down trees and pulling stumps. They worked very hard tilling the land and removing stones from it. They plowed, planted, and worked the land with tremendous effort and diligence. Then they would work even harder to build a house - after the land was planted. Until this was done, they lived in tents and in the wagon in which they came to the area. The reminder to me is that hard work is a fact of life.
We do ourselves and our children a great disservice to teach them a life of luxury. We are hurting them by not giving them work to do - and at times "hard" work to accomplish. We are undercutting the foundation of our society by not inclucating a work ethic into them. We are not preparing them for reality - and we are making them easy pickings for the political hacks who get their power by promising freebies. What this had led to is a society that is rotting from within because of a lack of work ethic - and an abundance of expectations that are demanded from the rest of society. God's way is to work hard at your outside work. God's way is to learn a work ethic that labors at what is good and what will provide for yourself and your family. Then when you have established such important, foundational things - then build your house - enjoy a little luxury . . . or maybe it would be better stated that you are then able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
But to those who rebuke the wicked
will be delight, And a good blessing will come upon them. He kisses the lips Who gives a right answer. Proverbs 24:25-26
We continue with Solomon's comments on partiality and favoritism. There is a blessing that comes to those who do what is right in these situations. We are told of those who "rebuke" the wicked. These are the men who give a right answer when faced with issues of justice and righteousness. Let's take a couple of minutes to learn what they do - and how they are rewarded.
To "rebuke" here means more than just speaking a simple word of correction. The Hebrew word is "yakah" which means to argue, convince, convict, judge, or reprove. This word usually has the meaning of clarifying where someone stands morally. This involves making arguments to establish the ground upon which a moral judgment is made. The word is used of God's reproof and rebuke of the wicked and sinful. When He rebukes, there is no doubt the right-ness of His Words - and the biblical reason behind them.
When we rebuke the wicked - it is not just a simple statement that we make. This blessed man comes to the wicked with wisdom, with understanding, and with arguments to help the wicked grasp why their actions are wrong. Christians need to embrace this kind of rebuke and reproof as they seek to convince those who stand in biblically unjust positions of the truth. It is not enough just to say, "I rebuke you for your stand!" The wise man comes with ordered and convincing arguments. He does not come just to state that a position is wrong and ungodly - he makes a case that convinces and convicts the one holding it.
We are told to this kind of man there will be delight and blessing. These will come as he experiences first the blessing of God who delights in wisdom and justice. Knowing the smile of God - and His approval of our works and words is more to us than the favor of all the nations. Please understand that when a godly man takes a stand worldlings will hate him - and some will mock his views. But many will see his arguments and rejoice that righteousness is being upheld. If the "wicked" are in positions of power - this man may face problems - even imprisonment - but the blessing from God - and the joy of the people will abound in what he has said. They may not be able to rescue him from imprisonment, but his words will be embraced by those who love what is just and righteous - and that includes Almighty God Himself. Remember if your stand for truth, righteousness, and justice costs you in this life - that you will be richly rewarded in the life to come - in eternity.
We are told at the close of these statements that, "He kisses the lips who gives a right answer." The right answer here is the honest and true answer. It is the person who does not let the world, or any kind of personal favoritism enter into their thinking and judgment. The proper judgment in this matter is God's judgment. And the "kiss" that is spoken of here is the kiss one gives in approval. The idea expressed here may seem strange to us in the United States, even forward and weird. But in the middle east it was common to express approval with a kiss. Thus the idea here is that when we speak what is right - approving the righteous and rebuking the wicked - there will be favor for us. Those who love what is right will hear - and it will be as one receiving loving favor to hear it.
Wise men speak what is right. They do not allow favoritism and partiality to cloud and darken their judgment. They are instructed by the Word of God as to what is proper and true. They open their mouths to speak this truth to others - not just in a denunciation - but with convincing arguments that help to instruct men as to what is good and right. To have such men around you is a blessing that cannot be measured. Such men are rare and hard to find, so if God gives you one - thank Him for the favor He has shown you - and treasure this blessing always.
He who says to the wicked, "You are righteous," Peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him; Proverbs 24:24
As we face the issue of partiality in judgment, we are shown the danger of it - and the anger that ensues when it happens. We are told of someone who says to the wicked, "You are righteous." It is important to see that this is not a case of religious judgment, but one that is happening in a court system - and also can happen in life as well. The idea is not of religious righteousness on the par of justification. This is simply a wicked man being told that he is in the right - he is without fault in a matter that clearly is the opposite. We see this too often in our society and even in our court systems. Gone are the days when what we truly desire in our courts is justice and righteousness. When a criminal who is clearly guilty of a crime is acquitted because of a minor technicality - we groan and shake our heads in disgust.
We are told that when this happens, peoples will curse this man - and nations will abhor him. Justice is something that goes far outside our homes - and even our cities. When injustice happens, entire people groups will see - and nations will join in the condemnation of partiality and favoritism. Wars have been fought because of errors in judgment - and favoritism toward those who should be convicted of crimes.
I'm going to step into a danger zone here and comment on convoluted foreign policy. I do so realizing that often the choices put before our state department are never between pure right and wrong. They are usually choices between bad and horrible. Regardless of the dilemmas that are faced, we too often support brutal dictators who are guilty of gross injustice toward their people. We wring our hands wondering why in parts of the world people hate our country. One reason is because our power is used to support oppressive, murderous men in positions of power. We may consider them to be the lesser of two evils - and I understand that. But we also need to grasp that when we put someone like that in power and say to the populace of that nation - this wicked man is righteous - at least righteous enough to be your leader, they are going to hate us.
Honestly, I am glad I do not have to make decisions like the ones our state department makes, and I pray for them to have wisdom. They have very difficult decisions to make. But when we do call the wicked righteous - we need to know that the peoples and nations will curse and hate us. It is just a fact of the Bible - and of life on this earth.
Since we are talking about "a little bit of wisdom" in these articles, some may ask, "Then what should we do?" What would the "wise" thing be to do in these situations? That is a difficult thing to answer. But my thoughts are that we should first tend to issues of justice in our own nation. First of all, we are horrific oppressors of the first order in our practices toward the unborn. Our sins and crimes in that area match anything ever seen in the world - and since we export this barbaric practice all over the world for the so-called purpose of population control - we have serious problems of our own. We too often paint ourselves as the great hope - while we are not even living up to the heritage handed to us by our forefathers. My advice would be first to reclaim wise judgment in our own land - before we go off telling others how they should administer justice in theirs. We need to remove the proverbial log from our own eye - before we try to go all over the world removing the speck from the eye of other nations.
"How can we do something so huge!?" would be the next statement made. It actually begins by starting personally - with our own hearts. We repent of the injustices in our own lives - and cry out for God's wisdom in rectifying our own wrongs. Then we fall to our knees and pray for our country. We pray for a revival that will break hearts and turn our churches back to biblical justice and righteousness. Once biblical righteousness has been restored to our lives and the lives of God's church - then we can begin to address our public officials. We can demand something other than base politics govern their thinking - and elect true men of character to our public offices. They can then address the policies that promote ungodliness and gross injustice in our land - by the standard of God's Word. Then and only then can we begin to hope to address the world about matters of justice. We do it now - but only by the use of power and money. May God so work in us, our churches, and our nation that one day we can speak from a vantage of moral clarity - and not just national self-interest.
These also are sayings of the wise. To show partiality in judgment is not good. Proverbs 24:23
Solomon now gives us the sayings of the wise through the end of this chapter. These are things we should definitely keep in mind as we walk in this life. They are over a number of different topics which will be faced as we walk through our lives. The first of these topics is the problem of partiality in judgment.
The statement, "to show partiality" is literally "to regard the face." This is when someone who is to render judgment sees a face they know - and suddenly their judgment is clouded due to a favorable reaction to this one they see. Once they see their friend or aquaintence, they look upon them no longer with wise judgment, but with an attitude of personal preference. This is one reason why our legal system has within it the practice of recusing ourselves from a case because our relationship with someone might skew our thinking and affect our judgment unfairly. This is the case at the level of the judge, the prosecutor, and the jury. To have justice be fair is of the utmost importance.
I remember the first time I saw the statue that represents justice - and realized that she has a blindfold over her eyes. She stands their blind to who is before her - with a set of scales in her hands. The statue represents how we should enter into judgment with others. We should be blind to who they are - not recognizing or regarding the face of the one before us. Without this kind of blindness to who is before us - we cannot render fair and just decisions. When we start recognizing "faces" that come before us in the justice system, we face the danger of favoritism.
A wise man learns to administer justice blindly, without recognizing a face and without the favoritism that comes with it. He learns to act according to the wisdom of God's Word in rendering judgment and decisions on matters of right and wrong
Do not fret because of evildoers Or be envious of the wicked; For there will be no future for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked will be put out. Proverbs 24:19-20
Ever watch what is going on in the world and wonder if the evil and wicked are winning the day? It is difficult at times not to fret and become angry (even at God) when we watch the evil men and women of this world seemingly prosper and succeed during our lifetime. But the wise man knows the Word of God - and knows that God promises that He is just, and knows that in the end it will not go well for the wicked. His lamp may burn brightly for a season, but in the end his lamp - his influence - his power will be put out.
We are warned against two things in this passage. The first is that we do not fret because of evildoers. The word "fret" here actually does not refer to worry but rather to anger. The word for fret is the Hebrew word, "nahar" which means to burn, to be kindled and glow, or to grow warm. It refers to someone becoming angry. It was the word that was used of Potiphar's anger when he thought that Joseph had raped his wife. It is also used in Joshua 23:16
of God's anger toward those who disobey His Law. Here, we are being warned against becoming angry at God - because we watch evildoers prosper in this life. David struggled with this very thing in Psalm 73
. The more he looked at the wicked and the evildoers in this present life - the more his anger was being kindled. He reached the point in that psalm where he said that he almost betrayed his generation until he entered the sanctuary and saw the latter end of this wicked people. His betrayal would have been the things he said about God and His justice. David would have allowed his fretting to be manifested toward God. But he saw that all at once these prospering evil people fell - that they faced God's wrath with no recourse. He saw that they thought all was well until death or calamity crushed their world. Since they were only living for the here and now - that meant that their entire world was destroyed. David's fretting ceased - and instead he felt compassion toward them - and awe and fear toward God in his "ULTIMATE JUSTICE."
We are also warned not to become envious of the wicked. This second warning comes because we will watch the shrewdness of the worldlings as they use graft and corruption to gain wealth in this world. We may watch them seemingly succeed in regard to money, sex, and power. But once again we must see things from God's perspective. As they gather power, sex, and wealth to themselves - they are also storing up wrath for disobeying God's commandments and laws as well. Their supposed prosperity comes at an eternal price tag. In the end their future will be horrific - not blessed.
That is what these two verses in proverbs deals with in the second verse. We are told that there will be no future for the evil man. The word future is our old friend "acharith" which means the end of the matter. Though the wicked does all his evil desires, and seemingly prospers in them - he is not seeing long term. He may enjoy the moment - but the latter end of his life will be devastating. There is NO future - NO latter end - NO prosperity eternally. He will be damned for his rebellion and destroyed utterly for his wickedness.
Only someone who sees with a ridiculous short term vantage point would trade a few years of pleasure for infinite pain and suffering. God's Word refers to this life on earth as a mere breath while there is no end to our state in eternity. The other warning to us here is that the lamp of the wicked will be put out. As I said earlier, he may burn brightly for a little while - for a breath or two - but his light will be extinguished. Consider all the terrifying dictators of the past - Hitler, Ghengas Khan, Sadaam Hussein, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot - and a host of others throughout history. For a brief moment they seemd to have a bright light burning for themselves and their regime. Yet all are viewed as horrible men who committed disgusting crimes against humanity itself. God assured that these men do not live on as famous - but as infamous. So also will be the legacy of all those who oppose God and live out their wickedness. Their lights will go out - snuffed out by God Himself.
The wise man does not become angry with God over such men and women. He certainly does not envy them. What we should do is pity such men. We should pity them and pray that they would repent and turn to God. We should also realize that God is showing them great mercy by not consuming them instantly in His wrath. He is offering them another day of mercy during which time they have opportunity to hear the gospel and repent. But know that beyond any shadow of doubt the day is drawing near for them to be judged according to God's law. Envious? Angry? - no . . . we should pity them - and we should tremble before the awesome, exact justice of our holy God. And as wise men - we should depart from their ways and fully embrace those of our Lord.
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Or the LORD will see it and be displeased, And turn His anger away from him. Proverbs 24:17-18Here is a reminder to be gracious and merciful to our enemies. We should have mercy on our enemies - even when God is the One who is bringing the judgment upon them. That may seem a little strange to us at first, but if you will give me just a few moments, you will soon see why this is wise for us.When we are walking with God, we will have enemies. That is a given in our fallen world. But when God displays His anger toward someone - we should not be on the sidelines cheering for their judgment. We can cheer God's justice - but we should do so with a measure of fear and trembling. The reason for this is because we need to remember who WE are.We are beneficiaries of God's mercy - not His judgment. If God were to judge us for our actions - we would quickly learn that we too, apart from His grace, are His enemies. There is something to grasp - and it is important that we keep it fresh in our minds. Were it not for what God did in Jesus Christ, we would be under His wrath and anger as well. It is only because of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross that we are not currently under God's anger. Therefore, we do not need to rejoice when our enemy stumbles and falls. We need to remember that except for the grace of God, we would be enemies as well. To dance and sing over someone's destruction also is not what God desires from us. Paul was mercilessly persecuted by the Jews as he preached the gospel. He faced opposition in many cities - and in one he was dragged out and stoned. They sought to have him condemned in court once he was arrested by the soldiers of Rome - and that arrest was because of their wrongful accusation of him. Yet how did Paul respond to them? Did he desire their destruction? Did he cheer when they were judged and destroyed? Paul's response in Romans was that he wished himself accursed for their sakes - if only that would result in their salvation. That does not sound like someone who is rejoicing over the anger of God against his enemies. That sounds like someone who grasps that he is the chief of sinners. That sounds like a man who grasps that apart from grace he took would be accursed, damned if you will because of his sin. And it was this grasp of spiritual realities that led Paul to respond with mercy - not rejoicing over his enemies and their position before God.The Lord sees when men rejoice over the stumbling and falling of their enemy - and it displeases Him. He is judging with a righteous judgment - but we have no standing upon which to take joy in another's fall. We all would face the same fate as they, were it not for a merciful God. When God watches us rejoice over someone else's destruction - He is displeased. The Bible also tells us that He will turn away His anger from them. What is pretty frightening is that most likely His displeasure might be refocused - on us! When I consider this passage - I remember a historical event from 2 Kings chapter 6. Elisha was prophet at the time, and it enraged the king of Aram that Elisha knew his secret war counsels and would warn Israel where Aram was about to attack. The king of Aram sent his army to surround Elisha in order to capture or kill him. Elisha saw the armies of Aram surround his city and prayed that God would strike the entire army with blindness. God answered Elisha - and he told the blind army to follow him. He led the army into the center of Israel's territory where they were now surrounded by Israel, who readied themselves for the slaughter. But when Elisha prayed that their eyes would be opened - the king of Israel asked if he should kill Aram's armies? I love God's response in this matter. Elisha told the king of Israel not to kill them - but to make a feast for them - showing them the ultimate mercy. This ended their hostilities. What a great picture of God's ways. God is angry with us due to our sins - He is angry every day with the wicked. But . . . He does not bring judgment - but shows mercy. It is His mercy that leads us to repentance - and He desires for us to show the same mercy to our enemies that He shows to us. What a glorious picture of His grace this leaves us. Therefore we should not rejoice at the fall of our enemy. We should pour love on them in Jesus name, no matter what their response. This is wisdom. This is God's way. This is the power of God that brings men to salvation - and to a change in how He views them. What He desires is for us to rejoice in mercy - and tremble at the display of His anger. It is a solemn reminder of what could have been ours, if we had not been saved by His grace.
Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; Do not destroy his resting place; For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of
calamity. Proverbs 24:15-1
There are times when you wonder about the providence of God. These are times when you look at the wicked - how they strut about on the earth - and how they attack the righteous and seek to destroy them. Asaph had one of these times in Psalm 73
. He struggled mightily with the prosperity of the wicked and the difficulties and trials of the godly. Yet in the end, when he considered eternity and the end of the ungodly, David returned to his sanity and found himself worshipping God - and pitying the wicked.
Here we have a warning given to the wicked - or at least the wicked man who thinks he can destroy the godly. He is warned not to lie in wait against the dwelling of the righteous. Here we have someone who is planning to do something destructive. The word used for "lie in wait" is a single Hebrew word that means to ambush, to lurk, or to lie in ambush as a military tactic. In the military context it always has the meaning of also doing this for the purpose of killing another.
I don't want to make you stay awake at night worrying, but there are very sinister forces today that are lying in wait against the righteous. Radical Islam is one of them. For years the 9/11 terrorists were waiting and training for their one day of evil. It was spooky to say the least to learn just how long they were among us - acting like nothing was going on - and all the while they were planning the worst terrorist attack in history against us. It was even scarier to read an article that listed the top 10 ways that Muslim terrorists were planning to attack us. The article was written by someone from the homeland security department. This list blew my mind because the attack that they are planning currently makes the 9/11 attacks look timid in comparison. In addition to the threat from radical Islamic terrorists, there are also threats from the far left. The radical homosexual movement wants to destroy conservative Christianity, making it illegal to hold views that are consistent with Scripture. There are those among the religious and academic elites who think that Christianity should be relegated to the ash heap of ideas - with laws enacted and enforced to make sure this happens. Like I said, this is disturbing to know - that there are those who are plotting and planning our demise.
God warns such people that this is not a wise thing to do. Remember saints, that God considers us the apple of His eye - and warns against those who would seek to harm us. He warns that such things are very unwise and will elicit his judgment. God warns specificially against seeking to destroy the "resting place" of the righteous. It is true that some want to destroy our "physical" dwelling places - but there is also the fact that those who oppose us among academia and the marketplace of ideas - want to destroy the Biblical Christian worldview and the philosophy that goes along with it. They fight us on the front of creation and science - saying that only their view is acceptable and that creation science is no science at all. They fight us on the moral front, saying that our views on morality from a biblical standpoint are outdated and should be cast aside for more modern (read immoral here) standards, which wind up being no standards at all. They fight us in the arena of human value - as they push abortion, euthanasia, and population control. They fight us in the arena of God's purpose as they exalt the earth with their environmentalism - even saying that humans are a blight upon the planet and should be culled back from our current 7 billion to no more than 300 to 500 million people. All these things are attacks on our "dwelling place" and "resting place" in the Lord God and in His Word as the ultimate source of truth.
One could get the to the point of living in fear if he or she did not read the rest of this proverb. The relentless attacks have not been just in this generation. They have existed all throughout history. Whether it has been the emperors like Nero, Diocletian, and Galerius or the attacks of the currently worldly educated like Darwin, Nietzsche, Hitchens, Harris and Freud, Christianity is amazing just for the fact that it is still around and still considered even a marginally valid worldview. But it is far more that that. The Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ continues to transform millions every year - and provide for them a resting place for their faith and their lives.
We should take heart though, because this proverb gives us great hope - even though we are beset on all sides by those who seek to destroy us. God tells the wicked that even though a righteous man falls seven times - he will rise again. We have the peace of knowing that He Who began this good work in us, will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. He will not allow us to be destroyed and decimated. Even in death His martyrs speak - and the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of His church. We may fall seven times - but He will pick us up and make us to stand because of His grace and work in us.
But this proverb comes also with a warning. The wicked are warned that they will stumble in times of calamity. When difficult times come - when evil befalls because of their wickedness or because of God's judgment in their lives - they will stumble in it. The word for "stumble" here means to stagger, to totter, to be brought down or cast down. The word is used in the Old Testament to describe not just the fall of individuals, but the fall of cities and nations who fall because of the evil and wickedness that they've committed. So we come full circle on this proverb to what I began saying in this article. Asaph almost stumbled when he considered the prosperity of the wicked in Psalm 73
. But in the end, he remembered the judgment and the sovereignty of God. He considered their end - and how they were consumed all at once in their wickedness and iniquity. This moved him to two things. First it moved him to worship God, who is truly sovereign over all things. He worshipped God because he knew there was more to this life than - well, just this life here on earth. In light of the fear and terror of God in judgment, he worshipped with trembling as he considered the end of the wicked. Second, he was moved to pity and mercy towards the wicked. Seeing their latter end, he pitied them and grieved over their destruction. Finally, he was thankful for God's grace and love for him.
Here is wisdom . . . God is sovereign, even when it seems that the wicked are being destructive towards His people. We should not stumble over this reality - but rather realize that God is working, even in the moments when it seems like the world is out of control - or even worse - under the control of the wicked. Know this - God is working for His own glory. If He used a moment as horrific as the cross of Christ to redeem the world - believe me when I say that He can also use anything to eventually bring about His will in this life.