He who digs a pit will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him. Proverbs 26:27
This is not a proverb that explains why bad things happen to Wylie Coyote - even though at first glance it might. It is actually about those who plan to do evil to others. Those who set traps to catch others and have bad things happen to them are warned in this proverb that what they do will eventually happen to them. Let's take a look at what this means - and also see an example or two.
Those who dig a pit do so to catch someone in it. In biblical times people would dig pits and cover them for the purpose of catching more than just animals who would fall into them. These pits would be dug and covered with camouflage as well as wetted down on the sides so that whoever was caught in them would not have opportunity to escape. Those who caught the person would then either take them captive as a slave - or kill the one who fell into the pit. The reason a stone would be rolled is to be put on a steep hill so that it could then be rolled down to kill or badly injure someone who was coming through the valley. This was a tactic of thieves who wanted to steal what travellers would have as they went through valleys and along roads that were next to hilly or mountainous areas. The idea with a pit or with a stone was to injure or kill someone for evil purposes.
God warns that those who do such things will fall into a pit themselves. God also warns that the stone that is rolled with come back on them. This is not a reference to an actual pit or an actual stone rolling on them - but was a warning that God was going to hold them responsible for their wicked actions. A good example of this would be the story of Joseph and his brothers. The brothers threw Joseph into a pit with the original intention of killing him because of their jealous hatred of him. Joseph and his stinking varicolored coat reminded them every day that their father loved him more than them - so why not teach the little runt a lesson. Of course killing your brother is a little intense. In the end they decided just to sell him into lifelong slavery (their sibling rivalry was way more intense that what I remember with my brothers). They covered their tracks by dipping the hated coat in blood and telling their father that a wild animal killed Joseph. But the pit they dug - and the rock they rolled was going to come back on them one day.
The first "pit-experience" was when their father almost died from grief. Then there was the famine that came and caused them to have to go to Egypt where they had to ask for food from . . . wait for it . . . their snotty little brother who was now the second ruler of Egypt. What was very good for them was that their brother had far more mercy on them in their pit that they had on him when he was in theirs. They had rolled their stone on him - but he refused to roll his on them. He chose forgiveness rather than revenge.
The varied pits that you can fall into are as numerous as the ones you dig for others. It is amazing as I grow older to see all the various pits that people have fallen into after they've dug ones for someone else. It is a fact of life that what goes around comes around. That is the simple, one-sentence way to define this particular proverb. I just hope that we all remember that the next time we grab our shovels and start digging for someone else.
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22
Here is a proverb that is usually misunderstood because of the phrase that is used in it. The phrase to which I refer is where we are told that we will "heap burning coals on his head," when we are kind to our enemy. Of course, our intial thought is by doing good to our enemy - we will burn his head or melt it. Heaping burning coals on someone usually has that effect - scorching their head. But the phrase that is used does not mean this. It actually is a phrase that speaks of blessing another. Let's take a look at this phrase and how it counsels the wise man to act toward his enemies.
The call for the wise man is to give his enemy food when he is hungry and water if he is thirsty. The reason he is to do this is to act with mercy and with love - even toward someone who considers him an enemy. This is a way that the world sees that we are radically different than they are. We do not seek revenge on our enemies, but rather to show mercy - even as we have been shown mercy by God. It is important for us to remember that at one time we were enemies with God. He did not pour out his wrath upon us, rather He gave us mercy and grace. He had His wrath poured out upon His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ - and instead gives us grace to be made righteous in His sight. Therefore the call to be merciful and loving toward our enemies is a call to be like God Himself.
The problem comes when we look at why we do this. The passage says that by doing this we will pour burning coals upon our enemies - upon their foreheads. When we do this, God rewards us for acting in this way. One view of this is that conviction is in order - and that is what happens when the burning coals are put on our enemies. Thus this phrase is seen as judgment on them - because let's be honest - who wants their forehead burned up with burning coals? But the phrase used here is a Hebraism - a Hebrew expression they would understand - but we would not.
The picture here is of a very loving, very merciful deed toward our enemies. The idea here is of placing coals that are already hot into a clay pot or some other kind of insulated container. That container would then be carried, often on the head, to the person's fire pit, which has been extinguished. They would then take the coals and re-ignite their fire so that they could cook their food. This was a very loving and merciful act on their behalf, because it was not an easy thing to have a fire of coals lit for someone. This act of mercy and love would be very beneficial to the enemy - and would help to melt their hardened heart against the one who acted with such grace.
The wise man knows that winning an enemy is a difficult thing. He also knows that prolonging a fight is not to his advantage unless there is no way to reach his enemy - or his enemy is actively seeking to destroy him. In these cases one must defend himself. But if possible it is better to win over your enemy. There is a picture of this in the book of 2 Kings in the life of Elisha. The king of Aram was furious that Elisha could predict by God's power everywhere the Arameans would prepare to attack Israel. In a rage he sent his entire army to kill Elisha. As the army approached Elisha prayed that they would all be struck blind. Then he led them into Samaria where Israel could destroy them. But look at what God led them to do - and the result.
"When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “O Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the Lord opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” He answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel." It would have been easy to destroy the Arameans, but instead God led Elisha to counsel them to feed them with a feast. When they did so - it made their enemies turn away from their destrutive ways - and they no longer sent marauding bands into Israel any longer. Remember this, for it is wisdom of the highest order, mercy triumphs over judgment. Therefore God paid the judgment, and showed us mercy in Christ. Oh that we would be wise enough to do the same with our enemies. When we do, they will see a glorious display of the very gospel that is at the heart of what God is and does among men.
Do not say, “I will repay evil”; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you. Proverbs 20:22
Revenge is something that is very dangerous. We are told by today's proverb not to say that we ourselves will repay the evil done to us. Instead we are to wait for the Lord to be the One who saves us. There are two interesting examples of this - and Solomon was well aware of both of them. These two examples were Saul and David. They were the opposite ends of this issue of taking our own vengeance and repaying the evil done to us. They are also the difference between blessing and destruction.
Saul started out his career being wise in this way. When he became king some scoffed at him - and did not bring him any kind of present - on a day when presents were in order. Shortly after this God allowed a situation where Saul proved his worth - and showed that he indeed was fit and called to be king. When some wanted to bring vengeance on these men who rebuffed Solomon, his response was wise. He said that no one was going to be put to death, because God was gracious and had been good to His people. Thus Solomon allowed the Lord to defend him. But later in life Saul no longer followed the Lord - and began to be rebellious to God's purposes. When he faced a supposed wrong by the priests of the Lord - he reacted violently. Even though the priests acted without any knowledge of any kind of rebellion, Saul had the entire city, men, women, and children put to death. Thus was his reign marred by a continual desire to repay any suspected slight or evil done to him.
David was much different. He was wronged repeatedly by Saul and by those who followed him. Yet twice David rejected the opportunity to kill Saul - even when God put the opporutnity to do so. He saw Saul as God's annointed and therefore a man to be honored. His statement to the men with him who desired to put Saul to death was that God would be the One to bring Saul down - but David would not take his own vengeance and repay the evils done to him. David was blessed greatly because of this -a nd God greatly prospered his kingdom. God also blessed David with deliverance after deliverance.
Saul . . . he experienced something much diffferent than David. Saul went crazy - he was mad - he lost his mind. This is what happens to us when we think we have to defend ourselves against every slight and every evil done to us. This is a responsibility and a weight on our minds that we cannot carry. Soon the world itself is against us - and everyone and everything is suspect. This will make you lose your mind - just like Saul did. The way to peace is through forgiveness.
When we choose to forgive the evils done to us we are blessed. We are adopting the mind and heart of God, Who chose to forgive even though it cost His Son His life to do so. Our minds, when we forgive, are loosed from the constant torture of remembering the wrongs done to us. They are set free from bitterness which will consume our sanity like a dry forest is consumed by a fire driven by dry winds. We are free to give all our slights to God and allow Him Who sits on the throne to determine how to measure out justice and righteousness. Since there is only one ultimate throne in this universe - with only One Who sits upon it - truly, only He can mete out perfect justice. We are liberated from decisions taht are beyond our ability to make.
As long as we live in a fallen world there are going to be slights, problems, evils, and injustices that come our way. The wisdom that God offers to us today recognizes these things and gives us a way to deal with them without losing our minds. In the process we are protected from the deeper damage these things can do to us - and we are given the glorious priviledge of forgiving others - which is when we reflect both His character and His glory most.