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.
When the wicked increase, transgression increases; but the righteous will see their fall. Proverbs 29:16
There is a principle at work here - and one that has been seen again and again in the world. The more the wicked increase in a society, the more that the society will turn toward wickedness. This is not a recent phenomenon - it has been happening ever since the fall of man. In fact, one of the most powerful examples of it was not long after man fell into sin.
We read in Geneis chapter 6 of this kind of situation. "Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose." The progression here is fascinating to see. First the wicked began to multiply. You might wonder why I think the wicked multiplied - and not the godly. The reason for this is because man is sinful - and will always orient himself toward his sin and ungodliness unless God intervenes by His grace to change things. The next step was that the wicked began to modify - and they modified God's intention for marriage. They married at will - based on something other than God's plan. This led to the wicked multipliying even more. The god-desired role of the family was perverted and rather than pass on godliness - men began to pass on and even grow in his wickedness.
We read in verse 5 of that same chapter of Genesis, "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Two more things began to happen. The wicked began to magnify their wickedness. God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth. The original intent for creation was to magnify the Creator, God. Now it was filled with men who magnified the creation, man. The second thing that happened was the the Wicked began to meditate on their wickedness. Every intent of the thoughts of their heart became evil continually. God's desire was for men to meditate on Him and His Word - instead, they meditated on their godless desires - which led to even worse conditions.
The wicked then turned to mayhem and murder in their wickedness. God said the following to Noah about this in verse 13 of chapter 6 of Genesis. “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth." James warns us in chapter 4 of his letter that the cause of our fighting is our lusts that wage war within us. This leads us to even kill so that we can fulfill our lusts that rage for more within us. The sad ending of all this is that the choices of the wicked led to the condemnation of the wicked. God destroyed that generation.
As we turn our attention back to our proverb - we see just what Solomon is communicating to his sons - and to all who would read these words. When the wicked increase, transgression among men increases as well. But in the end the righteous will see their fall. Wickedness cannot reign long in a land - it consumes it to a point of catastrophe. It did so in Noah's day - and we read that as it was in the days of Noah, so also it shall be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man. The ungodly will always be ungodly - and the wicked will seek to multiply their wickedness. But what is there for us to learn from this - just don't be wicked? No, there is a message for us today - one that will magnify the grace of God in the gospel.
How can we keep the wicked from increasing? Every time a child is born - another ungodly heart enters the human race. We are fallen - and we multiply into more fallen men and women over time. The answer lies in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the ONLY way that we can stem the tide of the wicked multiplying on the earth. We must multiply! We must be about sharing Jesus Christ with all who are around us. We must take the one thing that can take a wicked heart and transform it into a godly one. That one thing is the gospel of Jesus Christ! Jesus sent us into the world to make disciples of all the nations. As the early church took that mandate seriously they multiplied disciples - leading them to Christ - baptizing them as they identified with Christ - teaching them to obey all Jesus commands - and then doing it in each and every generation until the end of the age. This, and only this, can stand against the wicked and their wickedness multiplying in a society! May God give us grace to accept no substitutes in this matter - no political or social or military option which in the end will only fail. May we see that the glorious mandate to minister the gospel - and make disciples IS God's only answer for our world!
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.
The desire of the righteous is only good, But
the expectation of the wicked is wrath. Proverbs 11:23
What do you want? That is a pretty general question - but it is the one that is addressed in today's proverb. The thing is that we are looking at what people want from the perspective of God, not just what people or the "market" wants.
From God's standpoint we are oing to watch Him put boh the righteous and the wicked man into the balances, weigh them and their choices, and state what each deserves. First we see that God places the righteous into the scales. He says that the righteous man's desires are only good. This coincides with what Jesus says in the Beattitudes. In Matthew chapter 5, we read the following, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." God not only is pleased with those who hunger and thirst for what He says is right - He promises wonderful levels of satisfaction for those who do. There is also another statement made in the Psalms that when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart. It is so important to know that when we are living for righteousness and pursuing what is right - God cuts us loose to enjoy as much as we want. That is why He says here that these kind of desires are "only good."
The wicked, though, have no sch guarantee. We read that the expectation of the wicked in wrath. It is helpful for us to see that word "expectation" here. The reason it is so important is because often what the wicked desire will give them an immediate positive feeling. The person who abuses alcoholic drinks has an immediate positive response as he feels better and is much more free in his expression of himself. But he can expect problems later. Having been a drunkard before I was saved I can concur with God's statement here. The expectation of the drunkard is only wrath and bad consequences. There is the hangover that comes in the morning. There is also the realization that the supposed freedom that you felt the night before took away your natural defenses against saying something stupid. Can't tell you how many times a Friday night bender led to a whole week of consequences with friends and aquaintences. Another area I want to address here is that of sexual immorality. The person who is sexually immmoral loves the immediate pleasure provided by it. Unfortunately, the crisis pregnancy, the positive STD test, and the broken relationships are not so pleasurable. The pornography may give us a temporary high feeling and sense of thrill as we look at it, but later the bondage that results, the pull into deeper perversion, and the way it leads people to treat the opposite sex as an object can be devastating.
The Word of God speaks of God's "judgments." These are things that God has said concerning certain behaviors in life. When we choose to disobey God and embrace our lfleshly lusts we do so because of the promise of pleasure and immediate satisfaction. The problem is that God has said what His response will be to such things. These are His judgments. He says that problems will result - disasters are on the horizon - and blessing will be forfeited. These judgments WILL COME upon those who choose to disobey regardless of what God says. They can expect the wrath of God when they rebel. God has made this very clear when He said in Romans chapter 1, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness ofmen who suppress the truth with their unrighteousness." God's attitude and actions toward ungodliness and unrigteousness have been settled from eternity past. Those who reject Him and His Word need to know that He has amply published the results of such behavior - and it has never been good. Therefore the truly wise man knows that blessings await those who embrace righteousness - but for those who chose a wicked lifestyle - only wrath awaits them.