Ours is a society that is enamored with violence. We glorify it daily in our entertainment mediums - movies, television, magazines, books, and newspapers. It is interesting that we also try to sit in judgment on cultures like Rome, saying that they were barbaric in their gladiator games and other forms of public violence. Yet, if we were to look at what we do and how we consume it - there is little difference in our two cultures.
God says not to envy a man of violence or to choose any of his ways. The word for violence is very telling in this passage. It is the word "hamas" in the Hebrew - and it means to do violence or wrong. The word implies not just violence - but also cruelty, damage, and injustice as well. We are to stay away from people who are like this - who are violent - and whose violence is manifested in being cruel, unjust, and in doing damage to that which belongs to others.
The reason some might "envy" this violent man is because of the gain that it brings him in the short term. Think about the people who in history have gained money, influence, and power because of their violence. Many of the world's most heinous dictators used violence to their advantage. But Scripture tells us not to choose ANY of the violent man's ways. This is because everything these men do is tainted by their violence. This is why I've included verse 32 with verse 31. There is another reason to reject the ways of the violent man - which is shown to us in verse 32.
The violent are also "devious." The word devious here is the Hebrew word "luz" which means to be crooked or perverse. God is telling us here that when a man is a violent man - he will also be a perverse or crooked man as well. The idea behind this word is that being crooked and perverse is what a person is trusting in - as a way of walking through life. This word is used in Scripture to describe those who are wicked, perverse, and who reject God. They reject His ways - things like righteousness and truth - and choose instead to twist the truth to their advantage.
When someone wants to trust devious and violent ways - they do not have a heart to seek God - or to learn from His Word. They do not want to walk with Him. That is why God says that these devious ones are an abomination to Him. This is because they utterly reject Him and His ways. We should also note the word, "for" that begins verse 32. This links what is said here to the previous verse. The devious are the violent ones - and the violent ones are those who function with a devious and God-rejecting mindset. They choose violence and deceit because they do not want to trust God with their plans and purposes. Since they do not have God's power at their disposal, they have to trust their own thinking (which is fatally flawed due to sin) and their own power.
The last thing said in this verse is that God is "intimate" with the upright. What a wonderful thought this is for us - that God is intimate with us when we walk in His ways and choose His paths. The word "intimate" here actually means intimate counsel - and has the idea of being brought into a kind of inner circle where God shares His wisdom with us. So God is promising us that if we reject the violence and deceit of this present world's ways - that God will bring us into the inner circle with Himself for the purpose of teaching us.
This particular proverb is one we should consider - especially when we consider the way our current society is so enamoured with violence. We see it in just about every form of entertainment we consume daily. When there is not violence in a movie or television show - it is almost completely ignored. We are inundated with violence - and the tendency is for this violence to more and more graphic in nature. This is happening at a time when we are watching a corresponding decline in our desire for intimacy with God. Is this just a coincidence - or - is it exactly what God is trying to get us to see in this proverb? The more we embrace violence - the more we will embrace deception and a rejection of God and His ways. The more we embrace violence - the less we will embrace God Himself - and with this we will also place a lesser value on the counsel of His Word. May God bring to us a return to Him and a corresponding turn from loving violence. Remember Jesus' name is the prince of peace - and His Word tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9, NASB)