The Eternal Appetite of Infancy

December 18, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 8:30–32 (NKJV)

30 Then I [Wisdom] was beside [the Creator] as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 31 Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men. 32 “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.”

As we anticipate the arrival of Christmas, I doubt that I have to remind you that children love these times of festivity. While we adults often grow tired, kids never tire; they long for the celebration. “When are we going to get the tree? When are we going to put up the lights? When are we going to open stockings and presents? When is everyone coming over?”

We see in our text from Proverbs today that the delight and energy and joy of children reveals God’s own delight in all His work. Wisdom was daily God’s delight and rejoiced in His presence, rejoicing in God’s creative genius, and delighting in the sons of men. So who is the blessed one? What does Wisdom speak to you children? “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.” The blessed one is the one who keeps and observes the way of wisdom – and the chief of wisdom’s ways is to delight in God and to rejoice in His works. The blessed man or woman or child is he who looks upon the world with wide-eyed wonder at God’s creativity and genius and generosity; who marvels at the intricacy of the human cell; who laughs at the gangliness of a giraffe; who delights in the companionship of a friend. The cursed man is the one who has grown too dull to perceive the wonder of the world and those who dwell therein.

Just a few weeks ago Pastor Chase quoted G.K. Chesterton who explains all this in his inimitable way in his book Orthodoxy. He writes:

Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

So what of you? Have you sinned and grown old? Have you ceased to look in wide-eyed wonder at the world? You teens, have you become too insecure, too self-important, or too distant to rejoice with joy? You young adults, have you become too self-absorbed or too ambitious to slow down and enjoy family and friends? You adults, have you become too tired or too lazy to celebrate with joy? Or perhaps too greedy to enjoy the simple delights of friendship? Or too distracted.

Reminded that we often sin in various ways and that our sin causes us to “grow old”, that we become bored and complacent with God our Creator and Redeemer and with the world in which He has placed us, that we complain and mutter rather than overflow with thanksgiving, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sin to the Lord. 

The Prudent Man

November 13, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 12:16 

16A fool’s wrath is known at once, But a prudent man covers shame. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are instructed to shun outbursts of anger and to cover shame.

Life is often hard. We live amongst sinful, selfish, silly people and we ourselves are often sinful, selfish, and silly. Hence, we often rub one another the wrong way; we say things that we shouldn’t say and do things that we shouldn’t do. People are often inconsiderate. Children are often disobedient. Fellow Christians are sometimes uncaring. Unbelievers are sometimes cruel. Others do things that are shameful or that embarrass us. So how do you respond?

On the one hand is the fool: A fool’s wrath is known at once. He responds to such things with wrath. He lacks self-control and is characterized by, in the Apostle Paul’s words, “outbursts of wrath” (Gal 5:20) – visible and vocal expressions of anger, indignation, and frustration. So your toddler throws a fit in the store and you explode at them, making a scene in the cereal aisle. Your child embarrasses you at church and you scold them through clenched teeth. Your wife doesn’t have dinner ready when you get home, and you yell at her in front of the kids. Your friend says something insensitive, and you immediately get mad and tell your other friends all about it. The fool lacks self-control over his emotions; he believes he has a right to just express them and let the chips fall where they may. But, make no mistake, he is a fool.

On the other hand is the prudent man: But a prudent man covers shame. He responds to embarrassing or frustrating things with self-control thinking others more important than himself. So if your toddler throws a fit in the store, you don’t imitate him but you correct him patiently and leave the cart full of groceries in the aisle if necessary to go to the car or even to go home and discipline him. If your child embarrasses you, you receive the embarrassment and govern your emotions and determine if your child’s action is just childishness or if it is disobedience – if it is childishness then you instruct privately covering their shame; if disobedience then you take them somewhere and discipline them privately to lessen their shame. If your spouse disappoints you, you don’t yell at them in front of your children but speak to them discretely to cover their shame. If your friend says something insensitive, then you restrain your hurt and determine if this is a matter that love should cover or if it is one you need to address with them directly. A prudent man possesses self-control and carefully weighs the things that have occurred rather than responding hastily.

So what of you? Are you a fool or are you a prudent man? Are you routinely characterized by outbursts of wrath? Or do you exercise self-control and do all in your power to cover the shame of others? “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Pr 16:32). 

Reminded of our calling to be men and women of self-control who do not let our emotions rule our lives and destroy our relationships, let us confess that we are often foolish, that we often lack self-control and increase shame rather than covering it. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. 

The Wisdom of Heeding Counsel

October 16, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 12:15 

15The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are instructed to be humble men and women who heed counsel.

The Proverb begins with a warning, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes…” A fool commits himself to a plan of action and concludes it is the best course simply because he has chosen it. He closes himself off from competing counsel. So this is the man who sets himself to marry a woman, or a woman who sets herself to marry a man, that their friends warn them not to marry. It is the young man who seeks, like Rehoboam, the counsel of those who will tell him what he wants to hear rather than what he needs to hear. It is the husband who seeks out his buddies when he is contemplating a new purchase rather than discussing it with his wife. It is the wife who tells her husband her woes not so that he can give her counsel and correct her perception of the situation but so that she can nurse her resentment or bitterness or hurt. The fool is proud, believing that his or her own assessment of the situation is adequate and that he doesn’t need to hear contrary counsel. It is not a sign of foolishness to need counsel; it is a sign of foolishness to need it and not seek it; or to seek it and not heed it. Don’t be a fool.

Instead be a wise man. And what is the character of a wise man? “But he who heeds counsel is wise.” Notice that it is not the man who merely seeks out counsel but the man who heeds such counsel who is wise. Now this, of course, assumes that the counsel received is good. The wise man knows his own frailty, he knows his need for the advice, encouragement, and support of godly friends, so he seeks out their counsel when in difficulty and he implements it in his life. So if you are considering vocational options, whether and whom to date or marry, how to process a severe loss, how to shepherd your children faithfully, how to work through a relationship tangle, etc. seek out godly counsel. This is why God has given us one another, to be counselors in perplexity. Did not our Lord Jesus Himself open His heart to his friends and ask them to pray for Him in His times of need? So if He did, then how much more ought we?

So what of you? Do you count it a sign of weakness when you have to seek out godly counsel? Or do you recognize it as a gift from God that He has put godly counselors in your life whom you can seek? Do you regularly seek out wise counsel when making important decisions or do you think that you can go it alone? Are you proud and unwilling to appear weak in the eyes of others by seeking counsel? Or are you humble and willing to acknowledge your need for help? And then, having sought help, do you listen carefully to the counsel and give heed to it? “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise.”

So reminded of our calling to be humble and to seek and to heed wise counsel, let us confess that we are often proud and stubborn and willfully pursue a course of action without seeking godly counsel. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord

The Faithful Worker & the Wicked Schemer

October 9, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 12:12–14 

12The wicked covet the catch of evil men, But the root of the righteous yields fruit. 13The wicked is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, But the righteous will come through trouble. 14A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth, And the recompense of a man’s hands will be rendered to him. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. While last week constrasted the faithful worker with the idle dreamer, this week contrasts the faithful worker with the wicked schemer.

On the one hand is the wicked schemer. He covets the catch of evil men. The wicked schemer uses the gifts and skills that God has given him – he is not an idle dreamer; he is willing to work. However, rather than work honestly and devote himself to fruitful labor to the glory of his Creator, he emulates the actions of evil men: he covets their catch. He studies how, by their cleverness, they manage to swindle, steal, murder, and rob for personal profit. So who are such men? This would include gangsters and thieves, rapists and murderers, adulterers and homosexuals. It includes politicians who use the power of the civil government to take that which lawfully belongs to others. It includes unscrupulous lobbyists that pressure politicians for handouts. And it includes those who hide their sin, hoping that their spouses or parents or friends will not uncover their gambling, their porn use, or their spending spree. But the schemes of such men will inevitably be thwarted by the God who rules and reigns over heaven and earth. The wicked schemer will be ensnared by the trasngression of his lips. He will inevitably trip up and get caught – his own lips will betray him. His deceitfulness will be turned back against him. He will lay a net for his own feet. Don’t be him.

On the other hand is the faithful worker. The faithful worker is rooted deep in God Himself – trusting in the Lord who has given him the ability to work and using his abilities to the honor and praise of his Creator. Such a man’s labor will yield fruit. Though he faces hardship and struggle – the common infirmities of this life – yet he will come through these troubles by the grace of God. Whether in this life or the next, his labor will yield good fruit. His honest lips and his hard work will have their reward: A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth, And the recompense of a man’s hands will be rendered to him. God will bless him according to his labor and he will have no cause to be ashamed even in times of trouble. By his honest speech and diligent hands, he earns the respect of his neighbors and a profit from the Lord.

So what of you? Whose work do you emulate? Do you covet the catch of evil men, studying those who deceive and scheme to advance their cause? Or do you study the work of those who are honest and hard working, speaking only what they know to be right and true and looking to God to bless the work of their hands? Our calling is to emulate the latter; indeed to be the pattern that others, especially those in the next generation, can follow.

So reminded of our calling to work with our hands that we might be satisfied with good, let us confess that we and our neighbors often scheme and plot instead of pursuing honest labor. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletins.

The Faithful Worker & the Idle Dreamer

October 2, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 12:11 

11He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, But he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today our passage contrasts the faithful worker with the idle dreamer.

On the one hand is the faithful worker. “He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread…” Scripture reminds us that “all hard work brings a profit but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Pr 14:23). So the wise man is a faithful worker. He sets himself diligently to his labor knowing that it is God Himself who has called him to it. Work is a gift from God, given to us as human beings prior to our fall into sin. While toil is a result of the fall, work itself is part of our design. Hence, God calls us to labor and blesses us with bread as the fruit of our labor. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you…” (2 Thes 3:7-8). Our calling is to support ourselves with our work.

How perverse, therefore, the one who is an idle dreamer; who follows frivolous schemes rather than setting himself to faithful work. Solomon is not forbidding ingenuity and risk here. Rather, he is forbidding idle dreams – the man who lives in his parent’s basement and mooches off them while failing to develop his vocational skills; the college student who takes on tens of thousands of dollars in college debt to study feminist studies and then wonders why she can’t find a job; the young man who thinks society owes him a job, owes him a car, owes him a house but who has no marketable skills. He who follows frivolity is void of understanding. He doesn’t understand that it is the one who is excellent in his work who “will stand before kings” (Pr 22:29). Like the fool in “The Big Rock Candy Mountain,” he sings of the place “Where they hung the jerk That invented work.” But God invented work and the one who fights against work, who wants to eat without labor, is a fool.

So what of you? Are you committed to work? Do you give thanks that God has placed you in this world that you might love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength – and that loving Him with your mind and strength involves using the gifts that He has given you to bless your neighbor by developing the latent potential of the world? Do you work with your mind and hands? Do you rejoice that he’s given you another problem to solve, another job to do, another meal to fix, another nose to wipe? Or do you want the fruit of labor without the labor? I fear that we often desire that, do we not? We are often, like the Cretans in Paul’s day, liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons. 

So reminded of our calling to work with our hands that we might have bread to eat, let us confess that we are often lazy, that we want the fruit of labor without the labor. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletins.

The Cruel Mercies of the Wicked

September 25, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 12:10 

10A righteous man regards the life of his animal, But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today our passage contrasts the conduct of the righteous and the wicked. While a righteous man has care even for the life of his animal, the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

So who is the righteous man? The righteous man is the one who, aware of his own sinfulness, confesses his sin to God, trusts in the forgiving mercy of God in Christ, and then lives in the fear of God, endeavoring to conform his life to God’s holy character as revealed in His moral law. The righteous man thus acknowledges that there is a moral law to which he is accountable. Unlike Adam who strove to be a law unto himself and rebelled against his Creator, the righteous man submits to God’s law. He strives to be humble, recognizing his propensity to sin and treating others the way he would want to be treated. Hence, the righteous man cares even for the life of his animal. He knows his place in God’s hierarchy, knows that he has been created to rule the earth, but he rules in such a way as to honor even the lesser creatures whom God has likewise created. And if the righteous man cares for the life of his animal, how much more will he honor other humans who like him are made in the image and likeness of God?

The wicked man, however, believes that there is no God – or at least he acts like there is no God. He imagines that there is no heaven; no transcendent moral law to which he is accountable; no God who sees and hears his plans and deeds; no God who will judge him for his deeds. He believes, like the atheist Richard Dawkins, that “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (MSYW, 68). Hence, he has no basis for distinguishing kindness and cruelty. He bemoans the rise of suicide and self-harm among today’s youth but threatens surgeons who refuse to perform sex-change operations on perfectly healthy bodies. He declares that legitimate sexual encounters must be consentual but uses force to compel bakers and flower arrangers to praise his perversities. He objects to the racial profiling of pre-Civil Rights America but insists that every white person must repent of his whiteness. The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. The wicked man has no basis for distinguishing kindness and cruelty and so he often practices cruelty in the name of kindness.

So what of you? Have you acknowledged that you are created by God and accountable to your Creator? Have you striven to submit yourself to His moral law revealed in your own conscience and in the Bible? If so, then are you respecting others who are made in the image of God and even caring for the lives of your animals? Children, are you caring for your pets? Or have you instead pretended that you are a law unto yourself? Pretended that there is no God who will judge you and hold you accountable? Practiced cruelty in the name of kindness?

Reminded that we are all called to submit to the Lord of all, the Creator of heaven and earth, whose law stands over us all and defines good and evil, let us confess to the Lord that we have often failed to care for the life of our animals and, even more so, failed to honor the image of God in our fellow man. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Commendable Man

September 18, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 12:8–9 

8A man will be commended according to his wisdom, But he who is of a perverse heart will be despised. 9Better is the one who is slighted [despised] but has a servant, Than he who honors himself but lacks bread. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today our passage contrasts the man who is commended with the man who is despised.

On the one hand, a man will be commended according to his wisdom. Normally, people commend those who act wisely – those who offer good counsel, who guide their affairs with discretion, who demonstrate competence in their field, who show loyalty to their family and friends. The degree of wisdom the person manifests determines the extent to which he is commended. So Pharaoh exalted Joseph to be second in charge in Egypt; the Queen of Sheba extolled Solomon as the greatest of monarchs; Nebuchadnezzar promoted Daniel to be the chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon; and even Jesus’ enemies declared, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (Jn 7:46) A man will be commended according to his wisdom.

On the other hand, he who is of a perverse heart will be despised. Normally, people despise those of a perverse heart – those who seek their own advantage, who boast in their own achievements, who over promise and under deliver, who demonstrate incompetence in their field. The degree of perversity the person manifests determines the extent to which he is despised. So Jacob despised Esau who sold his birthright for a pot of stew; Abigail despised Nabal who foolishly insulted the kindness of David; Jeroboam and the Israelites despised Rehoboam for listening to the counsel of his young friends; and our Lord Jesus despised the deeds of the Nicolatians, a heretical movement in the early church (cf. Rev 2:6; 3:15). He who is of a perverse heart will be despised.

In our day, there are many who complain about this dynamic of being commended or despised. Shouldn’t we just be nice? But Proverbs reminds us that such categories are inescapable. After all, should we commend or despise those who aren’t nice? It is not whether we commend some people but which people we commend; it is not whether we despise some people but which people we despise. Hence, when people argue that we shouldn’t despise anyone, they are trying to deceive us – and, according to Solomon, should be despised.

So what of you? Do you want to be commended? I hope you do. So are you striving for wisdom so that you can earn such commendation? It will not come just because you are who you are. It will only come as you manifest wisdom in your actions. So notice our second Proverb:  “Better is the one who is [despised] but has a servant, Than he who honors himself but lacks bread.” Normally, it is the wise man who is commended and the man of perverse heart who is despised. But it is better to be wise and have people despise you than to think lots of yourself when in reality you are a worthless chump.

So are you striving to become a wiser man or woman? Striving to become a better husband, a better wife, a better father, a better mother, a better son, a better daughter, a better neighbor, a better friend? Are you striving to gain more skill in your vocation? Striving to become a better teacher, a better plumber, a better accountant, a better electrician, a better housewife, a better manager, a better officer, a better nurse, a better engineer? Luke tells us that Jesus “grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Lk 2:40). Is that true of you? If not, then don’t be surpised if others despise you and lightly esteem you. It’s your own fault.

Reminded that we are to pursue wisdom in order that we may be commended and not despised, let us acknowledge that we often think much of ourselves while lacking substance and skill. And as we confess our sin, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

An Excellent Wife

August 21, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Marriage, Meditations

Proverbs 12:4 

4An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones. 

The Proverbs direct us in the way of wisdom and teach us what it is to imitate the character of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Even as Proverbs 12 has contrasted those who love instruction with those who hate correction and the good man with the wicked man, so today it contrasts an excellent wife with a shameful wife. 

The Scriptures extol marriage as one of the greatest gifts that God has given to humanity and an excellent wife as one of the greatest gifts that God gives to an individual man. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov 18:22). “Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (19:14). Marriage is among God’s greatest gifts to humanity because it is “a great mystery” (Eph 5:32) that symbolizes the relationship between Christ and His Church. The husband images Christ while the wife images the Church. Wives, therefore, are called to reveal in their lives the way that the Church relates to Christ Himself. As Paul writes to the Ephesians:

22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 

An important biblical distinction is between indicatives and imperatives. Indicatives are statements of fact while imperatives are commands. “Christ died for sinners” is an indicative. “Believe in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” is an imperative. So note in Paul’s instructions that we have both an indicative and an imperative.

The indicative is “the husband is the head of the wife.” This is the way that God has structured the marriage relationship. God created the woman to be a helper comparable to the man – to assist the man in fulfilling his calling to fill the earth and subdue it. So if you are a wife this is your identity. It is not an imperative, it is an indicative: your husband is your head. Hence, God united you with him to be a helper comparable to him – to assist him in fulfilling his calling to fill the earth and subdue it. That is his calling; your calling is to help him achieve it.

So what is the imperative that emerges from this indicative? Paul is very clear. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Now the Greek behind this word “submit” means “submit.” Paul clarifies later, “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” So how does the Church submit to Christ? By listening to Him, honoring Him, obeying Him, praising Him, respecting Him. If you are a wife, it is in this way that you are to relate to your husband – you are to submit to him as to the Lord, and to be subject to him in everything. Listen to him about the finances, training the children, relating to your friends, cleaning the house, working outside the home, etc. Now all this entails, husbands, an immense responsibility on your part to rule your household as would Christ Himself who is the head and Savior of the body – sacrificing for the protection and blessing of His bride. But our text today speaks to wives not husbands.

So, wives, you are to extol the beauty of the Church in the way you relate to your husband. Such a wife, a wife who clearly honors and respects and submits to her husband, is an excellent wife and, Proverbs declares, the crown of her husband. She demonstrates that her husband is a true king, capable of ruling his family and the world under God.

But, Proverbs insists, a shameful wife is rottenness to the bones. A wife who disrespects her husband, who scorns him in public and in private, who manipulates and cajoles him, who nags and berates him, who refuses to listen to his voice is rottenness to the bones – wearing him down, increasing his stress level, and undermining his ability to accomplish the tasks to which God has called him. He is weakened – and when a storm comes he will likely break just like a rotten branch or tree.

So what of you? If you are a wife, are you striving to be an excellent wife, a crown of glory on your husband’s head, enabling him to fulfill his calling? Or are you a shameful wife, rottenness to his bones, inhibiting his ability to do what God has called him to do? Reminded that our marriages are to extol the relationship between Christ and His Church and that many of us husbands and wives have failed to live up to our callings, let us confess our sin to the Lord.

A Good Man

August 14, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 12:2–3 

2A good man obtains favor from the Lord, But a man of wicked intentions He will condemn. 3A man is not established by wickedness, But the root of the righteous cannot be moved. 

The Proverbs direct us in the way of wisdom and teach us what it is to imitate the character of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Last week Solomon contrasted those who love instruction with those who hate correction. This week he contrasts a “good” or “righteous” man with a “wicked” man. 

Now, on one level, the Scriptures tell us that “there is none righteous, no, not one… There is none who does good, no, not one” (Rom 3:10b, 12b). We have all turned aside and by nature both our actions and our motives are corrupt. Apart from God’s grace, we all have, in Solomon’s words, wicked intentions. The two greatest commandments are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Hence, we are to do everything we do – changing diapers, building houses, fixing cars, teaching children, managing investments, running electrical wire – we are to do everything we do with good intentions – out of love for God and neighbor. 

However, by nature, we none of us live that way. We worship idols and love ourselves more than our neighbors. We justify lying or cheating or stealing; we break our vows, mistreat our children, and dishonor our parents; we do shoddy work, use foul language, and commit adultery because we do not live from love of God and neighbor. Hence, we endure God’s condemnation in this life and the next – our conscience afflicts us, our bodies betray us, God’s moral law condemns us, and Jesus Christ will judge us when we die and appear before His judgment seat. A man is not established by wickedness.

Nevertheless, the Scriptures also teach that when God saves us and delivers us from our natural corruption through faith in Jesus, when He turns us from the worship of idols to the worship of His Name, He begins to transform our character. As we have been emphasizing recently, we become like what we worship. And so, because the God we worship is a good God who upholds righteousness, those who worship Him become good men who likewise uphold righteousness. 

As we learn to live this way, as we learn to become good men who uphold righteousness, we obtain favor from the Lord (12:2). God is pleased with us. So Paul prayed for the Colossians that they “may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). As we learn to fulfill the two greatest commandments – to live out of love for God and neighbor – we please God. And because we trust in the Lord and walk in obedience to His Word, Solomon insists that we cannot be moved. Even if we suffer for righteousness’ sake, we are blessed (cf. 1 Pet 4:16). And when we die and enter into the presence of our Lord, He will say to us, “Well done thou good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your Master” (Mt 25:21). The root of the righteous cannot be moved. 

This contrast between the good man and the wicked man recalls Psalm 1. The good man is like a tree planted by streams of water whose leaf does not wither and in whatever he does he prospers. He meditates on God’s law and lives out of love for Him. His roots absorb water from the everlasting fountain of God’s grace and so he flourishes even in times of drought or trial. But the wicked are not so. They are like the chaff which the wind drives away; therefore, the wicked shall not stand in the day of judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

So what of you? Are you sinking your roots deep in our Triune God and in His word so that you can stand firm in prosperity and trial? Are you being intentional about living out of love for God and your neighbor? Or have your loves become disordered? Are you loving self more than your neighbor and loving your neighbor more than God? 

Reminded that we are to be good men who live righteously out of love for God and neighbor, not wicked men with wicked intentions whose loves are disordered, let us confess that our intentions are often corrupt and that we need God to forgive us and transform into His image, into the image of our good God who upholds righteousness