Today we have a simple proverb that contrasts the righteous and the wicked. One of the things that the Word of God makes very simple is knowing the difference. Our world is confused about such matters and finds it odious that anyone - even God - would categorize people into two such groups. That is what happens though when men decide that they themselves will determine what is good and evil - which was the choice that was made in the fall of man. Man decided that he himself would stand as ultimate authority over good and bad - right and wrong. What is fascinating is that modern man has come to despise the whole idea of wrong, wickedness, and sin. There is no such thing for modern man. Maybe there is a lack of education - or a willful ignorance of the barbaric nature of anything like absolute truth. Nevertheless wisdom is gained by being able to detect differences - to discern right from wrong - and even to begin to see how men and women come to think, know and act according to what is just or what is deceitful.
The first thing God makes clear for us is that the righteous are clear in their thinking. Their thoughts are filled with justice. “But what is just?” you may ask. How does someone determine the difference between what is just and what is unjust? For the righteous man identified in Scripture, God determines what is just. Thus the thoughts of the righteous, which are just, are determined from what is written in the Word of God. This is not a problem for the believer who knows that God’s character is perfect, wise, loving, gracious - and yet also just, righteous, and holy. This also means that the righteous man will not be tainted by selfishness or by self-interest. He will desire justice apart from the corrupting influences of this world or even of his own selfish heart. That is a good thing because issues like greed, sensual lusts, bitterness, racism, and any other myriad of problems that have come due to the fall of man into sin will not dominate the righteous man’s judgment. He has chosen to die to himself and live to make decisions based on what God says it proper. One of the things God said to leaders and to those who were given the responsibility of judgment among His people was that they were not to act with favoritism or to take a bribe to pervert justice. They were to judge according to what God said and had revealed in His Word.
As God compares the righteous to the wicked there is a major difference. The counsels of the wicked are revealed to be deceitful. Their judgments are tainted with deceit and lies. Their judgment is clouded by selfishness and a desire to please themselves. They can be bought with the right price to pervert justice. The word “counsels” is important for us to see here. The word “tahbulah” meant counsel or wise advice. The problem for the wicked is that they ignore God’s advice and counsel and appeal to their own selfish and self-centered heart. That is why justice comes out wrong when they seek to offer it.
King Saul is an excellent example of how this works. When he began as the king he adhered to God’s counsels. He listened to the prophet Samuel and followed the Lord fully in the early years of his kingdom. But when he was told to destroy the Amalekites he decided to take counsel within himself. He destroyed everything he saw that was bad - but then decided to keep everything that was not despised. He even kept wicked king Agag alive - as a trophy for himself before other nations. God was grieved that Saul had moved from the wisdom of the righteous to the self-interest of a godless man. In time Saul would continue on his path of self-centered, wicked counsel. It would lead him to make an attempt to kill godly David some 24 times. It would goad him to murder the priests of the Lord when he thought they were working with David to overthrow him. The ungodly counsels of his own heart were so treacherous that when he was desperate to hear from God on the eve of the battle that would cost him his life, he turned to a witch and tried to speak to the dead to get answers for himself.
Who is your counselor in life? Is there a standard - a truth you turn to as you seek to live in this world? The wicked turn to themselves and to an ever-changing code of ethics based far more upon their own lusts and desires than on anything remotely close to wisdom. The righteous man has learned the secret of living by God’s perfect, holy counsel. He has learned to come to God and His Word and humble himself to obey what God says. Such a lifestyle may not always be the most comfortable - but in the end - it is the wisest way to live.