A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding, But he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days. Proverbs 28:16
When a leader becomes an extortioner either through bribes or through taxation - he is not a wise leader at all. Today's Proverb has to do with governing officials and how they receive the money with which they work - and by which they are paid.
We are presented with a leader who according to Solomon is a "great oppressor." The word "oppressor" is very interesting because it, along with the second half of this proverb, opens up the meaning for us. The Hebrew word is "masaqqot" and it means one who oppresses by extortion. Zhodiates' dictionary defines this word this way, "It indicates a leader abusing his people by forcing them to pay money or contribute goods against their will. This he then uses to enrich himself and those ruling with him.
An unwise leader is one who decides that the money of the people he rules is his money. It belongs to the government - and therefore to him and those who serve with him. There are numerous instances where government leaders tax their people - and use that money to enrich themselves. They also use it to enrich those who support them - making sure that anyone who is their friend, supporter (or in our society, voter, campaign contributor) is rewarded richly for their efforts. In the times of kings this group was their nobles and knights - in today's society it is donors and voters. God allowed for His people to be taxed for the purpose of their governmental leaders. He also warned the leaders not to oppress His people by taxing them exorbitantly. Bribes also were expressly forbidden by God. The proverbs are filled with wisdom that promotes hard work and labor so that we can be blessed and become more and more financially blessed by it. Nowhere in Scripture does God encourage government to take confiscatory taxes from the people and redistribute it to those whom the government desires to bless.
We are told that any leader who does this kind of thing is lacking understanding. To understand something meant that you had gathered data together and were putting the pieces together so that you got a much bigger picture of things. In the context in which we find this proverb we are speaking of God's wisdom and knowledge being gathered so that we have an understanding of things beyond that of just this earth. It is seeing far enough into the future to make a wise decision and follow wise actions. The financially oppressive leader truly lacks any vision into the future.
Government leaders have authority - but it is high level authority to lead and serve people as God would have them go. Their role, like any other is to serve the people - and bless them with how they lead a nation. Unfortunately for some people, their leaders see their authority and misuse it to get rich or to stay in authority by oppressing the people with ridiculous, oppressive taxes. The king and his officials live lavishly off the people's money - and care little for the plight of the average man. They think the tax money of the people is their own to use as they see fit. They then see fit to line their pockets and their supporter's pockets. Often this is done as the rest of the nation suffers under the load of larger and larger taxed amounts.
We are told that the one who hates this kind of unjust gain will prolong his days. Two things we see here. First, God calls this kind of ungodly confiscation of the goods of hard working people "unjust." It is not good - and God does not approve of it. Second, we see that this kind of activity in government will not last long. The people will inevitably rise up and call for this to stop! History has shown that leaders who oppress their people with extortionary taxes will eventually be overthrown. Kings and queens have been beheaded - dictators overthrown, and elected officials voted out of office because they were making themselves rich on the people's taxes. Unfortunately for us, we've watched over the years as our leaders on both sides of the aisle have voted themselves to wealth and to pensions that are beyond imagination - while taxing us out of more and more of the money we earn. Over the past four years alone - the Washington D. C. area has grown in wealth and luxury, while the populace is either given the wealth of others through taxation - or taxed barren to provide such things.
As I studied this passage - and looked over history - I saw again and again leaders who loved their unjust gain. This was the case whether the government was a monarchy or a representative republic like our own. Men are greedy and want to be rich. They will do so even while falsely championing the "little guy" in their speeches. The one thing that we can be sure of though is that these governments will not long endure. They will fall just like all the others have over the years who have oppressed their people with their taxation and schemes to be rich on the people's dime.
Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men. Proverbs 22:29
When a man works hard he honors God in what he is doing. But there is also another way to honor God in your work. The man who becomes very skilled in what he does and does it to the glor of God truly honors the Lord. According to today's proverb the Lord will not be the only one honoring him either.
A question is asked as we begin this proverb. The question is this, "Do you see a man skilled in his work?" Skilled is the word "mahiyr" which means to be well-versed, to show extraordinary expertise in some area. One who has a skill of this level is said to be one who is referred toglowingly by anyone blessed by it. Ezra was such an expert in the Word of God as referred to in Ezra 7:6 - and the Messiah is spoken of glowingly as one who is skilled or an expert in righteousness in Isaiah 16:5. These two cases have to do with the things of God - but there are also experts in a field of endeavor that are a blessing as well. Such was the case with two wonderfully blessed men who helped in building the tabernacle of Moses. Bezalel and Oholiab were the two men God had gifted in all kinds of metal and embroidery work. They were skilled with jewels and with building the glorious things that God required for the Tabernacle. Their skills, which were relatively unknown, were brought to the forefront by God Himself for use in constructing the Tabernacle in Exodus 31 and 36. Their skill, developed over years of hard work and a drive for excellence landed them a job working for God Almighty, building the very tent of worship in which God would be properly sought.
Being skilled at something requires work and focus. These are things that are valued in the kingdom of God. God desires for us to work hard - and here we see also to work with skill and excellence. God mentions the excellence of those who worshipped Him specifically mentioning men like Chenniniah and Asaph. There were even men who served God with excellence doing things we might never notice - such as Obed Edom who was known for his care for the Ark of the Covenant and later an excellence as a door keeper in the house of the Lord. Finally, there were the mighty men of David listed in 2 Samuel 23 who were known for their leadership and bravery in fighting the battles of the Lord.
When a man has developed skill and excellence above all others we are told that he will serve before kings and important officials. Such a skilled man will not serve or stand before ordinary men. His skills will make a way for him - and he will be known widely. In a day where too many look to knowing the right people to get ahead - or a big break to suddenly be noticed, this is a welcome call to hard work and excellence. It is a reminder that time and time again men and women have distinguished themselves by being the very best at what they do. That is the way to true success in business or in some skilled profession. Any other way to make it to the top will leave the one gaining the position very vulnerable. His vulnerablility will be to those who actually have the skill to be where he is. When that is the case - the one who is there will resort to intrigue, betrayal, and many other kinds of wickedness to stay at the top. Better to let your skill talk for you - than to trust in your ability to be one step ahead of your competition. Because at the end of the day - or better said at the end of life - we will not get ahead that way. We will be known for our willingness to serve - and to serve with skill and excellence for the glory of God. That is the way to get ahead now - and even if you are unnoticed in this world - you'll be rewarded in the next.
The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1
Who controls world history? That is a question that makes some people squrim in their seats. The reason it does is because it seems easier to say that history is at times in Satan's hands - or at least it is in no one's hands than it does to say that God is sovereign over all history. If God is sovereign over all history - then the questions about evil and about suffering become far more complicated to us. God is sovereign over all human history - and at all times the hearts of all kings and rulers of this world are like channels of water in his hands. This proverb is true - He turns the hearts of these kings wherever He wishes. If then this is true, what are we to do with the Hitlers and others like him in this world - and in the course of history?
What do we do with the Pharaoh's who oppressed and enslaved Israel for hundreds of years? What do we do with the kings who conquered Israel and Judah - and leveled the temple to the ground? If you have a God Who functions according to the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, these things become very difficult to deal with in terms of the sovereignty of God. God is more than just a cosmic sugar daddy who has come to give us everything we want if we just claim it. He is a God Who is working toward His own purposes and plans. He is a God who is concerned with the manifestation of His grace - yet Who does it while maintaining justice and righteousness. These are deep issues that find their only final answer in the end when we gaze at God's beauty, glory, wisdom, and majesty for all eternity. Yet - there are whispers of His workings for us in Scripture while we live here on earth.
The way God moves kings is always in accordance with His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. It always has been and it always will be. There are times when God moves the hearts of kings to deliver His people - much like He did with Esther and Mordecai. These are glorious times when we see God protecting His covenant people and showing that He is the One with the last word. There are other times when the king acts - and even in the king's wrath God delivers - as with Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. In situations like these God does not move the king's heart until after that king has seen God's power and might. But there are other cases like that of Nebuchadnezzar destroying and carrying away God's people. These are times when a king is used for the purpose of disciplining and correcting God's people. Kings are used for a myriad of purposes by God for His ultimate plan and purpose. Even the ultimate worldly king, the antichrist, will serve God's ultimate purposes of bringing judgment on the earth and saving His covenant people, Israel.
Kings serve God's purposes and plans - even when they themselves do not know it. They serve God even though they may even deny His existance and rebel against Him. We must remember that even the New Testament tells us in Romans 13 that there is no authority except from God. Paul goes on to remind us that all authorities are established by God. Our problems come when we think that these authorities are here for our blessing alone - misonstruing Paul's admonition to Timothy which says, "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." (1 Timothy 2:1-2) Some mistakenly think this admonition is a carte blanche to us to always have kings and rulers who bless us. Yet Paul's own life was taken by an ungodly ruler when he died. Persecution came upon the church again and again in the early days of its existance. We are to pray for such things - and ask God to move the king's heart. But ultimately God's plans and purposes will prevail. Remember here we are told He moves the king's heart - wherever HE wants it to go. That will mean for both blessing and for discipline - for good and for bad - for times of peace and also times of conflict and yes, even persecution and great difficulty.
The one constant for us is not that everything goes well all the time. This is a recipe for spiritual disaster and a severely stunted spiritual growth rate. Our one constant is that God is working all things after the counsel of His will - His good purposes - and His glory. This is a constant becasue we know that He is good and in Him is no darkness, no sin, no evil, and no wrong. Therefore regardless of our current situation - and in light of today's proverb - regardless of our current leader here on earth - God is still sovereign. He is in control and all things are working toward His ultimate end of summing all things up in Christ Jesus. He WILL work whatever we think is good, bad, or anywhere in between toward His ultimate purpose for us as well. That purpose is not for us to be rich or live in perfect health - and to never have problems. His ultimate purpose for us? It is that we are conformed to the image of His Son. It is that our character and lifestyle look more and more like that of Jesus every day we live! To that end He will move kings and rulers, despots and even maniacal dictators to work with Him so that we, and all other believers in all ages and all places, will be to the praise of the glory of His grace!
In a multitude of people is a king's glory, But in the dearth of people is a prince's ruin. Proverbs 14:28
A king is not a king unless he has a kingdom over which to rule. A kingdom will not exist where the people are not fruitful and multiply. Therefore it is wise for kings to encourage their people to grow in number. Today's proverb handles this situation - but the implications of this proverb are fascinating, especially when applied to what is happening in both the United States and Europe.
The simple meaning of this proverb is obvious - a king needs people to have his kingdom flourish. When there is a multitude of people under his rule - he is blessed, but when there is a declining population within the kingdom - it points to the ruin of his son. The son will have a far smaller kingdom over which to rule - or possibly none at all.
As I stated at the beginning of this post, this has amazing ramifications for both our nation and the nations of Europe. Both places have declining populations when it comes to the original population of the countries. As a result of this both of these regions are trying their best to maintain population growth by immigration. The problem is that as the numbers of immigrants grow, they are having more and more influence in the policies and direction of the nation. Give this direction a few more years - and soon Europe will be different - completely different than their forefathers. The United States is not that far from this development either. Why is this happening to these once great nations?
For a king to continue to rule over his own people, he has to encourge his own people to multiply in their families. If they do not, the indigenous people of the land will begin to dwindle in numbers. The result of this will be that a different group of people will begin to rise up and rule the land. All this happens because the people do not have children. Or, in our case, they only want 2.4 children or less. That is what has happened in our nation. We have become a people who do not believe that having multiple children is a blessing. This all began with people espousing a worldview that did not value children. We became a people so interested in our own comforot and our own pleasure that we decidd that children were no longer a blessing of the Lord. We came to the conclusion that the man whose quiver if full of children is not blessed at all. In fact, we decided children were a burden - an unnecessary burden - and within a couple of generations - an unwanted burden.
According to the humanistic worldview - this was a wonderful development. We were supposedly choking the world to death with our overpopulation - our poluting - and our urban sprawl. So when people bought this unbiblical view, they stopped having childen, or they did what was necessary to reduce the number of children they have. Everything seemed wonderful and the planet would be saved. But over time, the dearth of children began to weigh heavy on our society. Now we face problems as our system is imploding. It is doing so because we no longer have far more families coming up, because we do not like or enjoy the thought of having multiple children. Programs like Social Security require a larger generation of younger people than in the older generation. Even our national character - is shifting from being European and western to being either Mexican or Islamic.
A wise set of leaders would have had a biblical worldview. That worldview remembers that God said to be fruitful and multiply. The whole concept of overpopulation is foreign to God. He promises to supply our needs if we will live for His glory and obey His Word. But since those things have been jettisoned just as we have done with His view of children and family - we are facing the "dearth of a people."
An interesting thing about this passage is that it says that the prince is ruined by this. The king is to rule not just with an eye toward himself - but toward his sons - and his grandsons. That is a fascinating thing to see here. It is fascinating because one of the curses of our current political fabric is that we only see the immediate future as important. Most of our elected officials actually only see the next election cycle as important - therefore they plan only to keep people fat and happy til past the next election. All the while as we are doing this - the princes of our future (our children) are having their future ruined by the selfishness of the current generation.
Wisdom means that rulers think ahead - they think long-term - and honestly, they should think biblically. To do otherwise is to think in a way that God will not bless. This, more than the economy or any other factor, is what will bring about the blessing or the dearth of our society and its people. We should always remember the verse, "Blessed are the people who are so situated. Blessed is the nation who's God is the Lord."
a roaring lion and a rushing bear Is a wicked ruler over a poor people. Proverbs 28:15
Oppression of the poor by a wicked ruler - that sounds like a modern day headline in one of our newpapers - or in a report that we would read online. Unfortunately oppression has been going on every since the fall of man - and the beginning of politics. When the sinfulness of man combined with the treachery of politics - it was not going to be long before men learned how to oppress the poor and helpless for their own benefit.
We read in today's proverb that a wicked ruler over a poor people is like a roaring lion or a rushing bear. A roaring lion scares the other animals in the forest. The lion roars to establish his territory and his authority. Thus when a wicked ruler acts like a roaring lion - he is establishing that he has the power and authority over the poor ones he is oppressing. We've seen it again and again in history. The powerful oppress and dominate the poor - even resorting to attacking them with the army to establish their power. They will use the secret police to kidnap them and torture them to silence anyone's opposition and threat to their power. It is a sad thing to see - but unfortunately it will continue until the day that Jesus Christ comes to establish a kingdom based upon justice and righteousness.
Those who dare to stand against such a wicked ruler will find themselves quickly attacked and often silenced for good. They may be thrown into prison - or summarily executed for their boldness to oppose the ruler - or threaten their absolute stranglehold on power. However it is done, the poor quickly learn to hide any desire for freedom and justice, because these things can cost them their lives. This is why it is so vital for those who have the freedom to choose their leaders, to choose wise and godly ones. To do otherwise will cost us far more than just a wrongly cast vote - it could cost us our freedoms - and in some severe cases - even our lives.
In the light of a king's face is life, And his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain. Proverbs 16:15
This verse in Proverbs is given as a second statement about rulers - and it comes from a positive point of view. Verse 14 dealt with the fury of a king - while this one deals with his favor.
The light of a king's face is life. No one knew this more than Esther, who dared come into the presence of king Ahasuerus without being summoned. She knew that there was a punishment for this kind of action - death. Only if he extended the golden scepter to her would she be delivered from the death penalty for such an offense. To receive such an action was to be allowed to see the king's face. That meant that he was showing her grace and favor.
The favor of the king is also compared to a cloud with the spring rain. This was called the "latter" rain - and it was the rain that was absolutely necessary if a good crop was to be expected. Without these latter rains, the crops would be killed by the lack of rain. When these clouds would come up over the land, people would rejoice because they knew that God had blessed them and that they were going to have a crop that would bear abundantly. So also the favor of the king meant that blessing was coming. In the culture at the time the king had absolute power. If he decreed that you were to die - you would die. If you knew his favor - then great blessing would come to you and your family.
We sing a song in worship at Calvary that goes this way, "Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me, Your my glory, and the lifter of my head." This song deals with something very similar to this verse. The lifting of the head was a symbol that the one who had previously bowed to the king was being allowed to see his face - and thus receive his favor. If you remember in the book of Esther, when the king was furious with Haman, a black bag was put over his head. This symbolized that he would NEVER see the face of the king again. It also meant death.
The amazing thing about this whole idea of the light of the king's face is the way that is reflects to us the message of the gospel. There is a King that we all have to approach one day at the end of the age. He is a King Whose holiness prevents us from coming before Him without being judged for our sin. Were we to try to approach Him unworthily, we would be consumed by His wrath and righteous judgment upon sin. But there is also One who has gone before us - Jesus Christ - and who has taken our sin and paid the full penalty for our sin. He has taken the judgment. Not only this, but He has also given us His perfect righteousness - by which we can stand before God accepted and welcomed. Truly Jesus Christ is the light of the King's face to us - and he is the reason God's favor can be granted to us. May God ever remind us of the grace gloriously showered upon us by His gracious act in Christ - and may we rejoice in His favor like the clouds filled with the latter rains. Christ has opened the way and brought us to see the King's face with favor - favor purchased by His death, burial, and resurrection. Glory to God for His grace, favor, and the joy of seeing His face in Christ Jesus.