This FIFTH SECTION now has similarities to the fourth, but carries us further, for if the fourth stresses mainly the testing of ways and walk. This dwells more upon results, that is the recompenses of a true Divine government. What is sown will also be reaped, and this is to be a most sobering consideration as regards our entire conduct.
The first verse vividly declares this principle:
"He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Great as is the patience of God and His warnings and reproofs many, yet the more often He has reproved the more awful and swift will be the judgment. Because man appears to get away with rebellion once or twice he dares to more harden his heart against reproofs. His sudden destruction without remedy - no hope of appeal or of restoration - is an awesome answer to such arrogance.
"When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice: but when the wicked heareth rule, the people mourn.''
Proper authority though firm and decided is cause for peace and rejoicing among the people: but authority in the hands of one whose motives are evil and selfish will spread sorrow and distress everywhere. How the world has suffered from this! But only when he who is absolutely righteous takes authority into His own hands will real peace and joy be established on earth. This is a normal result of good government; though it is very possible also for an abnormal state to exist, such as at the end of the thousand years of the peaceful reign of the Son of Man, when only wicked pride and hatred of God lead men in rebellion against Him whose reign has been in every way faithful and beneficient.
"Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance."
The desire to rejoice a father's heart should itself be a strong incentive to lose wisdom: and how much more so in the ease of a child of God, whose love of wisdom rejoices the heart of his God and Father. In contrast to this is the selfish unfaithfulness toward God that chooses evil companionships wrong associations and thereby squanders his substance - all of that by which he might be serving God profitably. Whether it be natural things, natural abilities, or spiritual benefits we must, as stewards, give account of the use we have made of them.
The king by judgment established the land: but he receiveth gifts overthroweth it." This judgment is of course a just administration. The only basis for solid prosperity in any government. Bribery and corruption is the opposite of this. A ruler receiving such gifts will be false and unjust in his rule, and the land itself be overthrown. Is the child of God not unspeakably thankful for a Ruler whose justice is absolutely perfect?
"A man that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth a net for his feet.''
This of course is the same principle as bribery. Let the believer take care to avoid such ensnaring nets. Accepting flattery is accepting falsehood, for flattery is actually deceit: it is not even honestly meant, nor is it sober, real fact. Satan is extremely adroit in such methods.
"In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice."
A man's transgression will result in snaring his own feet: he may think himself immune, but he will be caught, just as Haman was hanged on the gallows he spitefully erected for Mordecai. But the righteous, with tranquil conscience, need fear no snares of this kind: they sing and rejoice.
"The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.''
If one does not want to know it, he can likely persuade himself he is ignorant of it, but the righteous desire to know, and they consider the cause of the poor. Not that this means indiscriminate giving of money or of goods, but rather help wisely given, and in proper time.
'"Scornful men bring a city into a snare: but wise men turn away wrath.'"
The New Translation renders this, "Scornful men set the city in a flame." This attitude is that of haughty contempt for the Word of God and warnings of danger. Isaiah 28:14 speaks of "scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem." It is distinctly prophetic of the time of the end, when the King of the North threatens the nation. But their brazen self-confidence, and confidence in "the beast," the revived Roman Empire, will set their own city in a flame: they will be trodden down (vs. 18). If wise men were rulers, they should know how to "turn away wrath," rather than invite it.
"If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest.''
There can be no satisfactory conclusion in a case like this: the wisest, clearest arguments are likely only to enrage a foolish man, or to invite him to derisive laughter. For this reason it is wise to "go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge." "Foolish and unlearned questions" we are to avoid (2 Tim. 2:23).
"The bloodthirsty hate the upright: but the Just seek his soul."
This has been true since the days of Cain, "who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." This hateful spirit manifests the man; for "the just" care for men's souls. If one should claim to be a Christian, and yet show hatred toward believers, it is the same haughty attitude as Cain's, when he defiantly answered God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" of course, the reason for this is that the honorable practise of a believer irritates the conscience of the man who chooses evil.
A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.''
A fool will pour out all that he knows, or thinks he knows, without regard to the need or condition of those to whom he speaks; and without considering the damage he might cause. He may even pride himself on being "frank and outspoken," while actually crude and ill-mannered. A wise man, on the other hand, will he careful to weigh well what he speaks, taking time to consider the implications that might easily be attached to his words. Not that he will in any way be deceitful, but he will consider the condition and the need of those to whom he speaks.
"lf a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked.''
How serious the responsibility of a ruler to ascertain without doubt the truth or falsehood of a matter. If he listens to lies, he encourages the falsehood of his servants: all his servants will be wicked. Though David was generally careful in such matters, yet even he failed sadly in his listening to Ziba's slander of Mephibosheth, a true-hearted servant of David (2 Sam. 16:1-4; 19:24-30). Nor did David afterward properly judge the matter as he ought to have.
"The needy and the oppressor meet together; the Lord lighteneth the eyes of them both.''
Whether to the poor, or to the oppressor, it is the Lord who gives light and understanding. When they meet together therefore, is it possible that the oppressor's conscience is dormant when the Lord has lightened his eyes? Can he think that the poor is so unenlightened that he does not discern that he is oppressed? Oh no! The Lord gives them both light to discern the situation. Let them look one another in the eye, and see whose conscience writhes.
"The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established forever.''
In a full, absolute sense this will be true only of the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a King perfectly faithful and true in His adjudging matters for the poor of the land. Men may today loudly acclaim their anti-poverty campaigns, while the poor are still discriminated against and oppressed. It is only a shallow veneer. How the earth groans for a King who will reign in righteousness and fully plead the cause of the needy. His throne alone will be established in perpetuity. All others have failed, though some have been blessed in measure for the measure of faithfulness on the part of the particular king.
"The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.''
If one is not wise, he will not learn wisdom by mere education: the rod and reproof are imperative needs. They may not be taken kindly at the time, for they are intended to hurt. A child needs this, as does also a child of God when disobedient. God may use providential means to chasten and scourge us and we know it is for good. If a child is left to himself, his ignorance will lead him badly astray, so that the shame of it will come upon his mother's shoulders. The child of God may well thank his Father that He does not leave us to ourselves, but "scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Heb. 12).
"When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth: but the righteous shall see their fall."
Such is the state of things as the end of a dispensation nears. The wicked multiply, and evil is more bold, developing at an alarming rate. Here is the law of cause and effect: but the wicked seldom stop to consider that such an effect in turn becomes cause of another effect: "the righteous shall see their fall." For wickedness builds feverishly higher and higher a tower badly out of balance, which, when it reaches a certain point, must fall.
But verse 17 is a lovely contrast to this,
"Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul."
The child must be corrected in order to be preserved from increased transgression. Moreover, this will cause rest to the faithful parent, and more than this, a real solid delight. Observe in all this chapter the value of proper, careful government.
"Where there is no vision the people cast off restraint; but happy is he that keepeth the law."
Vision here is that perception that sees beyond the realm of mere natural observation, a spiritual insight that is the only real preservative of honor and order. "He that is spiritual discerneth all things" (1 Cor. 2), even things that are merely temporal. If this character is lacking then the people will "cast off restraint." How forcible a comment on this is our present-day revulsion against the blessed truth of God! Apostasy has brought with it a reckless abandon that scorns every warning of the judgment of God. Yet nevertheless, in the face of it, there is yet blessing for the individual whose heart bows to the truth of God. In Israel, he who still kept the law, was actually happier than those who cast off restraint.
"A servant will not be corrected by words: for though he understand, he will not answer.''
The Septuagint translation renders this "a stubborn servant," which would of course seem more clear. But it is a painful thing for a master to get no response to his words of correction. Let the servant of God take heed, and thankfully receive the correction a wise Master sees necessary to give; and answer Him with true submission of heart.
"Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope of a fool than of him"
Scripture regards a fool as one who leaves God and eternity out of his reckoning. We may ask, Can there be anything worse? Yes, at least there is still a very real possibility of such a man's conversion. But a man who habitually speaks his mind without consideration is virtually a hopeless case. He is so self-opinionated that he thinks he need never take time to consider anything. It is evident that such an attitude will effectually hinder any change in the man. What he hears he will hastily condemn if it does not suit his own selfish thoughts.
"He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length."
Faithful, true dealing with a servant will normally produce a response of faithfulness. This is beautifully illustrated in God's own dealings with mankind, as Galatians 4:1-7 bears witness. In the Old Testament, believers are looked at as young children under tutors and governors, differing in no way from servants. But in the New Testament, by virtue of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, every believer is seen to have received the adoption of sons, no longer in the place of mere servants, but given a place of trust and dignity. What wisdom and faithfulness there is in all God's ways with us, to accomplish such results! The contrast to verse 20 is evident: God is not hasty, but patient, faithful, considerate; and this bears fruit.
"An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.''
Again, cause and effect are seen here. But this contrasts with the previous verse. Anger against a servant would not produce the effects of verse 21. One may have even clear thoughts as to right and wrong, but his strong anger against wrong will not correct the wrong: it will rather stir up strife and cause worse friction than the evil a man condemns. If one has formed a character of this kind, the harm he will do is incalculable. In fact his fury against what he considers wrong will cause him to "abound in transgression": his wrongs will be more than those he denounces.
"A man's pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.''
Thus pride causes the opposite effect to that which man intends by it. He wants to exalt himself, but actually brings himself low. How many since Eve have been deceived by Satan with this same sugared yet poisonous bait, "Ye shall be as God." But on the other hand, the humble in spirit, who seek no place of distinction, no honor in the world, are yet upheld by such honor as God in grace puts upon them. They honor God: He honors them. This is beautifully seen in such men as Joseph and Daniel, while the opposite is seen in such as Absalom and Haman, and how many more!
"Whoso shareth with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth the adjuration, and declareth not" (New Trans.).
The evils we have previously seen (hasty words, bad temper, pride) may easily lead to bad companionships, indeed they are almost bound to do so, if not judged. Though one is not himself a thief, his consorting with a thief will certainly brand him: he is showing hatred for his own soul, for he callously makes his own soul suffer, by such folly. He is in a position where he knows the guilt of the other man: he hears the adjuration, but he declares not. This refers to Leviticus 5:1: "If anyone sin, and hear the voice of adjuration, and he is a witness whether he hath seen or known (it), if he do not give information, then he shall bear his iniquity." If he knows and does not declare the guilt of the thief, then he may expect the same judgment as the thief. The principle is evident in any kind of wrong association, of course: let the believer guard against implicating himself in any questionable companionship.
"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
The connection with the previous verse is obvious. One who is partner with a thief would fear to expose the thief. If I put myself under obligation to man, in that measure will the fear of man influence me; and I am ensnared by my own fear. But how dreadful a thing that through fear of offending a mere man, I may find myself in the position of positively offending God! The only safety from such snares is a dependent, genuine trust in the Lord. This means no confidence in the flesh, for it is choosing the Lord as the soul's confidence rather than anything or anyone else.
"Many seek the ruler's face; but a man's right judgment is from Jehovah" (New Trans.).
The reason for many seeking the ruler's face is evident: their object is generally selfish, that is, to influence the ruler on their own behalf. Do we seek God's face for this reason? Many do this, not realizing that God is no respecter of persons: He will act in absolute truth and justice in every case. In the day of accounts there will be no favoritism. Let this deeply influence our own character now, so that in realizing that a man's right judgment is from the Lord, we may be sure to judge ourselves honestly, with a just balance.
"An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked."
The world may speak of "tolerance," as though man ought to tolerate everything, yet it is impossible: the most strenuous advocate of "tolerance" will himself be intolerant of at least some things. It should be evident there can be no concord between a just and an unjust man: there is actually "a great gulf" between the two; and Divine government will rightly "fix" this gulf unless, before death, the unjust turn in repentance to the Lord.
But this verse, coming as it does at the end of this fifth section, dealing with God's government and man's reaping as he sows, would seem to imply the solemn truth of Revelation 22:11, "He that is unjust, let him he unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him he righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still." It is an eternally fixed state, with no hope of concord ever existing between the first two and the latter two: the "great gulf" is "fixed."
This page is part of the book: Wisdom's Closing Message - Bible Commentary on Proverbs 25-31 - by L M Grant
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