Thursday, June 22, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 29, The Righteous Versus The Wicked, Part One

King Solomon is going to take us through a series of short proverbs today that compare the outcome of righteous living with the outcome of wicked living. This is his favorite teaching method, and we must keep in mind that he used these proverbs to instruct his young son, so they are simple and to the point. We've noted that at times Solomon gives his instruction to "sons", and although the Bible doesn't tell us whether Solomon had more that one son, it's the opinion of several commentary books that he was in the habit of teaching in classrooms where young men gathered for religious instruction. If so, as an older man in a position of authority, it makes sense that he would address these young men as "sons". In the book of Ecclesiastes he refers to himself as "the Teacher" (the Hebrew koheleth) and this is likely because he was known by this name. Solomon not only held the title of King of Israel, but he also held the title of Teacher. Each teacher has his or her own individual style, and Solomon's style is to construct short descriptive sentences that contain one bad thing and one good thing. His goal is for his students to clearly understand the difference between the good and the bad and to choose the good.

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid." (Proverbs 12:1) Everybody messes up, but the smart person learns from mistakes. The smart person takes correction in the helpful spirit in which its intended. But the spiritually foolish person doesn't learn from mistakes and keeps on making the same ones over and over.

"Good people obtain favor from the Lord, but He condemns those who devise wicked schemes." (Proverbs 12:2) The Lord holds the godly in high esteem. He knows how difficult it is to live in a fallen world, so His blessing is upon those who choose to do what's right, especially when it would be easier to do what's wrong.

"No one can be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted." (Proverbs 12:3) Like a plant that fails to sink its roots deep into the ground, so is the person who lives wickedly. A day is coming when he will be uprooted because he is not grounded on the solid Rock that is Christ. But the righteous are like plants with roots that go deep into the ground where the vital minerals can nourish them and where the water can refresh them. They cannot be plucked up, not by their fellow man, not by Satan himself. Solomon's father David once described the security of the godly person in this way, "But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love forever and ever." (Psalm 52:8)

Because he is speaking to young men, Solomon has something to say about choosing the right kind of wife. Men in Solomon's day often married in their late teens, and at that age it's easy to fall in love for the wrong reasons. A young man of eighteen might be so attracted to a particular girl's looks that he fails to check out her character, so the king emphasizes the importance of choosing a wife of godly character. She should be as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. "A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones." (Proverbs 12:4) He asks, "Do you want a wife who will make you proud? If you choose a godly woman you will always be able to hold your head up in public. But if you choose an ungodly woman she will bring you shame. You will be embarrassed when you go out in public because you will know your neighbors are talking about her."

"The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful. The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them." (Proverbs 12:5-6) You've probably heard the expression that you have to have a good memory to be a liar. I like to watch the true crime shows on television and it always amazes me how many times the suspects change their stories. You would think they would come up with one story and try to stick to it, but somehow they can't. It's just simply harder for the brain to remember a lie than to remember the truth. The brain has a recording of the truth that it can play back like a video, so it takes a fair amount of effort to remember an event one way but to describe it in another way. A lie doesn't embed itself in the brain's memory in the same way an actual event embeds itself. This is why Solomon says, "Liars will be caught sooner or later. Their words will testify against them. But the righteous don't have to remember their lies because they won't tell them in the first place."

"The wicked are overthrown and will be no more, but the house of the righteous stands firm." (Proverbs 12:7) The wicked may flourish for a time, but judgment is coming. Even if they are never convicted in an earthly court, we can be certain our holy Judge will convict them of the crimes they have committed and the cruelties they have perpetrated. David was confident of this, so he said, "Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away...The blameless spend their days under the Lord's care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish." (Psalm 37:1-2, 18-20a)

It's believed that David also wrote Psalm 92, which assures us that a day of reckoning is coming for the wicked. We mustn't fall into despair when we see evil people getting ahead. God will reward them according to their deeds. We can trust Him with the fate of our adversaries. Our job is to keep our eyes on Him and to keep on doing what's right in a world that seems like it's always going wrong. God's blessing is upon the godly. His strength and comfort will be with us in this life, and He has an inheritance waiting for us that will last forever. We will close today by reading Psalm 92 in its entirety.
"It is good to praise the Lord
    and make music to your name, O Most High,

proclaiming your love in the morning

    and your faithfulness at night,
 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
    and the melody of the harp.
 For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
    I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
 How great are your works, Lord,
    how profound your thoughts!

Senseless people do not know,

    fools do not understand,
 that though the wicked spring up like grass
    and all evildoers flourish,
    they will be destroyed forever.
 But you, Lord, are forever exalted.
 For surely your enemiesLord,
    surely your enemies will perish;
    all evildoers will be scattered.
 You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox;
    fine oils have been poured on me.
 My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries;
    my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.
 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
 planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
 They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.

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