A STUDY OF WISDOM FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
What Life is Like when Righteousness and Justice Prevail
Proverbs 21 SCC 11/22/15
GOD SOVEREIGNLY DIRECTS WORLD EVENTS & DECISIONS OF WORLD LEADERS 1
Out of the knowledge of everything that could possibly happen, God devised a plan, which is the actual course of events. That’s sovereignty. God channels those plans as a framer does water. This plan is for God’s own pleasure and it leaves us with the confidence that there are no accidents (Isaiah 53:10; Philippians 2:13). This is Solomon’s biggest emphasis concerning the character of God. Whether it is kings or poor people, God controls them all. For example, government leaders may think they are directing things, but God is directing even the thoughts of their hearts. No human ruler is supreme or we could say that the Lord is truly the King of Kings. Scripture offers many examples of this reality (Pharaoh Ex 10:1-2; Tiglath-Pileser Isa 10:5-7; 41:2-4; Cyrus Isa. 45:1-6; Artaxerxes Ezra 7:21; Hen 2:1-8; Daniel 2:21; John 19:11).
NB: It is important when we pray we remember God is in charge. We do not control the weather, the world, or even the circumstances of our lives. God is ultimately in charge. That reality relives our burdens and increases our enjoyment in life. What does it mean to say God is in charge? It does not mean that everything that happens is His will. It means that in spite of the evil and rebellion in the world, God is working out a plan. He will have the last say. That is what it means that God is in charge. Everyone is responsible for their decisions while God uses those to His ends.
PT: When Christianity was birthed Roman Peace (Pax Romana), Roman road system, prevalence of Greek language, and Jewish Diaspora enabled Christianity to spread with maximum impact. It did not just happen. God was in charge of the timing directing world affairs. According to 1998 life books the most important event in human history since 1000 AD was the printing of the bible on Gutenberg’s printing press in 1455. The renaissance, the protestant reformation, the political and industrial revolutions, the founding of America, the modern missions movement, resulted in part from the printing of the Bible available to the public at large for the first time. The invention of the printing press and the timing of its presence was no accident. God was in charge directing history forward according to His plan. We can say the same of modern history, the Middle East crisis, terrorism, and refugees.
HUMAN INGENUITY IS NO MATCH AGAINST GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY 30-31
First, human capability is no match against God’s wisdom v 30. Notice three human qualities that encompass human capacity and ability are sighted. That is, human wisdom, human insight, and human planning, cannot undermine, thwart or compete with God. When these qualities are in defiance of God they cannot succeed. These are nothing in comparison to the wisdom of God. Only when human capacity is in conformity to God’s will can it be successful.
Second, human efforts also have their limitations v 31. The contrast here is between the plans and efforts for a battle being prepared with horses over against the true acknowledgment that it is the Lord who is ultimately the source of victory. It is useless to fight against God v 30 as well as fight without Him v 31. No matter the preparation for battle it is the Lord alone who can turn battles His way in spite of mans efforts. Those efforts have their limitations.
NB: The point is that God’s sovereignty means His plans are never thwarted by anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Israel was only allowed to have an infantry. Chariots and cavalry were not included in Israel’s military. Psalm 20:7 says, “Some boast in chariots (the Egyptians and the Philistines) and some in horses (the Canaanites and the Syrians), but we will boast in the name of the Lord our God.” During war God told Israel, “When you go out to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them for the Lord your God is with you who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 20:1).
PT: God’s ability to carry out His plans ensures their fulfillment. That includes his plans for your life. Your birth, your nationality, your gender, your parents are evidence of God’s capability to deliver. He placed you, he gifted you, he planned you, and you can trust Him with His plan for you. Quit arguing with Him about that. Accept your circumstances in life and trust Him while you walk faithfully.
GOD PREFERS RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUSTICE TO RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY 3
Righteousness and justice are never separated in the Bible. At least 60 times these are used together and this linkage indicates that both are equally important in the foundation of God’s throne (Psa 89:14). We cannot separate righteousness from justice and have a biblical message. For instance, can we have a righteous man who refuses to be a just father? Can we have a righteous employer who does not pay his employees on time? Is there such a thing as a righteous employee who steals from his employer?
The social gospel says justice is more important that righteousness. Pietism divorces personal righteousness from justice. On the one hand righteousness is ignored. On the other justice is ignored. In both cases one is pitted against the other. Once one is divorced from the other they have divorced it from the Word of God.
Solomon says the Lord requires righteousness and justice before religious service. Doing what is upright and just is preferred over religious sacrifice. In Israel, involvement in the sacrificial system was no substitute for the sacrifice of righteous living (1 Sam 15:22). God ridiculed his people through the prophet Isaiah for this very thing: “…I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed cattle. And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats” (Isa 1:11). The reason, “how a faithful city has become a harlot, she was full of justice! Righteousness once lodged in her, but now murderers” (Isa 1:21).
NB: We should care equally about righteousness and justice not just one or the other. We must not set the priority of personal righteousness over social justice or vice versa. We must preach and live out the whole counsel of God. Religious acts are valueless without righteous and just living.
REFUSING TO BE JUST WILL BE PUNISHED 7
Solomon says that the violence of the wicked destroys them. In other words, people who are guilty of violence to others will find it boomerangs. The wicked will be dragged into more sin and ultimately punishment. But they are not passive victims of their crimes or circumstances for they ‘refuse’ to do justice. So in the final analysis they can blame only themselves for they choose to persist in evil rather than do what is right.
NB: One chooses to do evil. That choice is over against what they already know to be right. When a society is evil it is because people have chosen to be and do so. Before the flood Moses writes of society, “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” (Gen 6:5). Then came punishment. It has taken 4000 years for humanity to become wicked on a global scale. Punishment in the form of a Tribulation is next.
HOW PEOPLE RESPOND TO JUSTICE REVEALS THEIR CHARACTER 15 (8, 12, 21, 29)
The occasion—when justice is executed (either legal or doing right in general)—the point is that people who are law-abiding citizens are pleased with justice v 15. But those who are not are terrified by it, tend to ridicule it, and try to get around it on some way. The wicked may be shaken into reality when justice is carried out even though they may still prefer wickedness. It does not mean they are reformed due to it but have to acquiesce because of it. Here are some additional responses to justice:
1. Righteous behavior reveals righteous character v 8. The antithesis to this is also true namely those sinful acts betray the wicked. Whether described as guilty, false or proud, men are devious.
2. Righteousness will be satisfied when the wicked are punished v 12. Here is a righteous person, presumably some type of leader or judge who, although kindly disposed to the house or family of the wicked nevertheless is obliged to condemn him.
3. Righteousness will be rewarded v 21. Specifically, one who pursues righteousness will be filled with life, prosperity and honor. Conduct that conforms to God’s standards delivers its own rewards. Jesus said, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled’ (Mt 5:6).
4. The righteous cultivates a consistent lifestyle pleasing to God v 29. One who is wicked may persuade others to believe him by deceit and lies but the truly righteous one solidifies his righteous conduct by honesty, consistency, and no hypocrisy. The wicked actually despise these while appearing not to.
NB: Be righteous in every single area of life. Your personal and spiritual integrity are paramount.