Proverbs

What can we learn from the Josh Duggar scandal?

By now the entire Christian community is aware of the Duggar debacle. Josh Duggar, son to Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, has not only been found out for his despicable acts of molesting five girls in 2002, but also his name turned up when hackers released stolen customer data from cheating site AshleyMadison.com earlier in the week. So far social media celebrity, Matt Walsh, has apologized for giving Josh a pass after the molestation revelations. Walsh used his gigantic platform to treat Josh as a victim of leftist propaganda. If I could summarize Walsh’s first reaction, it would be like this: “Yes, he sinned, but don’t you see why the left is making such a big deal out of this? This is a selective political sniper kill.” The good news is that Walsh’s most recent statement has been very clear in his criticism. Here is a lengthy quote:

So I was wrong about Josh Duggar being a repentant man. Clearly, he isn’t. Or at least he wasn’t. Maybe now he’ll finally begin the process, but it’s certainly impossible to believe that someone could be truly sorry for past sexual sin while currently in the process of fishing for affairs and “experimental” one night stands.

He’s a traitor to his family. I feel awful for them, and I pray that Josh really does come to Christ. Beyond that, I pray his wife and kids somehow recover from all of the shame Josh has brought upon them. Because, let’s be clear, if you sign up for an adultery website and then your information gets hacked and your family ends up embarrassed and devastated — that is YOUR fault. You are the one who victimized them. The hackers acted illegally, but this all happened because of your choices. Don’t want your information stolen from an adultery website? Don’t sign up for an adultery website. Pretty simple formula.

I must also admit that the more I think about this, I realized I was too easy on the the Duggar parents as well. Jim Bob and Michelle knew that their oldest son was struggling with severe sexual sin, they knew their daughters had been abused, they knew their family was in the midst of moral and spiritual turmoil, yet they STILL decided to put themselves and their children on TV for ten years.

I hope others will take the same path and recognize that no matter what royal family one is born into and no matter the influential position he may have in the culture war, no man should be exempt from the lawful discipline of the Church or state, or both.

I concur. Josh Duggar is guilty. Repentance bears fruit (Lk. 3:8). There is a long continuous pattern of sexual misconduct  by Josh Duggar. At this point we should stop and think why are we so comfortable giving a pass to these Christian celebrities? And then we should consider very carefully how we can begin fighting passionately to protect the many victims in our culture who suffer at the hands of such men, but yet are trivialized into a category of “wrong place and wrong time.” Where is the safest environment for them to be restored and emotionally healed from such torments? Who will care for their trauma? The difference is vast.

I am deeply saddened for Josh’s wife and children who will have to live and re-live these awful events due to hyped media attention. As for Josh, words of contrition only go so far. His next few years will prove whether his repentance is genuine or not. I have learned long ago that not all sin is created equal. Repentance can be easily couched in evangelical lingo. Those who defended Josh Duggar without second thought or who assumed his initial incoherent words of confession made everything just fine or who treated repentance like some nebulous concept divorced from the reality of the pain caused to victims will hopefuly have learned a significant lesson: God is not mocked. Sins are not inconsequential. This is not a left vs. right issue. This is an issue of morality  and God has made clear that his justice will not be in vain. Josh Duggar affirmed that, “He is the biggest hyprocrite ever.” But hypocrisy can only be dealt with by understanding what God hates and what he loves.

Paul spoke of temptations that are stunningly difficult to face. When he says “flee from temptation” he is not simply using a 1st century  bumper sticker. This is more profound. Paul’s context is an ecclesiastical one where confession and collective sorrow manifests themselves continually in a community of grace. But even then sin is subtle. You must flee temptation, but you must first understand what temptation looks like. Yahweh speaks about the seven sins that he hates and provides this list as a step-by-step calculation made by those who embrace evil:

16 There are six things which Jehovah hateth; Yea, seven which are an abomination unto him:

17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood;

18 A heart that deviseth wicked purposes, Feet that are swift in running to mischief,

19 A false witness that uttereth lies, And he that soweth discord among brethren.

Duggar’s long history of sexual perversions was not born after a particularly miserable day. There is a pattern of thought and action. There is an anatomy of evil involved. There is a whole-body determination to follow these sins from the eyes to the feet. There is a calculated narrative that culminated in sexual abuse and adultery. For those who do evil the feast of the wicked is incredibly appetizing. One drink leads to another and only increases the hunger.

Where do we begin then? If situations like this do not cause us (particularly men) to be ever cautious then we will not have learned from it. Every person’s crime is a reason to re-consider our strategies to fighting sin and living righteously. If I had five minutes to counsel Josh I would tell him to look at this list and begin to detail where his narrative went awry. Where and when did his eyes become arrogant and haughty? At what point did he think he was invincible? At what point did he rationalize the presence of God away from his actions in secret? Then, when did he begin to put into words his pride by lying about his reality? I would be sure to point him to Jesus; not the Jesus that dismisses sins, but rather takes them with utmost seriousness and urges him to put on Christ and put off the deeds of darkness.

Josh needs to re-consider this list. He needs to see grace as redeeming the mind and abolishing calculated plans for evil. God has plans of his own. His plans involve demolishing our plans and replacing them with plans that are good, true, and beautiful. The task is great. Josh is only a clear example due to his high profile status. There are many Joshes out there currently afraid that they may be found out; afraid that their secret adventures will come out in Duggar fashion. The good news is God has already found you out. The bad news is that God has already found you out. In the end of the day to be found out by God is the best news. His throne is justice. He makes no mistake. His discipline will hurt, but it will not damn you. Accept it. Receive it. Confess it. Find refuge in Him.

Like a Bad Tooth

John Gil elaborates on Proverbs 25:19:

Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble
is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.
(Proverbs 25:19 ESV)

It is not good to put confidence in any man, not in princes . . . much less in an unfaithful, prevaricating . . . man; and especially in a time of distress and trouble, depending on his help and assistance, which is leaning on a broken reed, and trusting to a broken staff.

Sermon: Proverbs 11:26-31; To Fall or to Flourish?

People of God, this is our last look at Proverbs for this Pentecost Season. We will certainly come back again and again in years to come. It is impossible to grow as a people without the wisdom of King Solomon.

Proverbs are not merely suggestions for better living, rather they are commands for the good life on earth as it is in heaven. Proverbs define the true meaning of success, wealth, and joy. Proverbs is a dictionary whose substance is not subject to change with time or modern fashion. Proverbs is not just true for all times, it is at all times true.

This is why there are so many lessons to learn in Proverbs, and this is why the more we read it the more we will gain from it. “A proverb a day keeps the devil away,” said my old P.E. Teacher. He was right. There is nothing more anti-devilish, anti-Screwtape than drinking deeply at the fountain of kingly wisdom.

Read. Meditate. Memorize. Apply. Proverbs is for you! You have the responsibility to embrace it and allow it to shape you. C.S. Lewis once wrote:

What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what sort of person you are.[1]

The sort of person you are and will become is largely based on how well you receive wisdom. If you look at wisdom and say: “Well, this is just too complicated and it has the potential of causing some pain, so I will choose to overlook it for now.” At that moment you have made a decision. You are shaping the person you will become one day. But if your response is: “This is the wisdom of God, and though it will not be easy at times to live by it, I know that this will shape me to be more like my King.” This is the proper attitude: one that is not blind to the consequences of wisdom, but one that knows that wisdom is worth pursuing.

The question before us is “to fall or to flourish?” Solomon is demanding an answer from his son. Life is filled with decisions, and the primary decision you make as a Christian each day is whether you will make it your life-long goal to pursue wisdom, or whether you will choose to cavalierly walk through life? The latter makes you susceptible to falling, the former makes you more like our Lord. Decision-making is unavoidable. Solomon puts it into perspective in verse 26:

The people curse him who holds back grain,

but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.

In verse 26 the market is at the center of the king’s attention. It is amazing how much the Bible has to say about the economy! Solomon here is describing someone who does not want to see the market run its course. He does not want to see competition. He withholds from the people the wealth of the nation. He keeps what rightly belongs to the people. Joseph withheld grain for seven years because he knew that a famine was coming. He was working on behalf of the people, but this leader has large stores of grain at his disposal but he will not allow the market to possess it and sell it at a fair price. He withholds because he knows the people are dependent on it for survival. He manipulates the market.

We see this in communistic countries. Communism is a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state. When this happens the people curse their government, their leader, and their king. Government is not to hold back wealth. Government is not to keep wealth; they are not to stop competition, they are to allow the market to function. They are to encourage people to buy goods from sellers. More

Exhortation: Consider the Ways of Wisdom

Proverbs presents Christ, but it also presents our works in the sight of God. This Wisdom Book is an earthly book. It shatters the nice and politically correct discourse so prevalent in our culture. Proverbs makes us all human again. It brings us to the day to day struggles; from the ivory towers to diaper changing to the sweat of our brows. The type of discourse that typically offends our more “refined” sensitivities is the type of language the Bible loves to address. Proverbs is a shocking, adventurous journey into exploring our own natures and realizing that we are never mature enough; that growing and following the steps of our Lord is the way to wisdom. If you want a view of sex, wealth and wisdom the Bible will provide that for you, and once you grow up into the language of the Bible then you learn to judge everything else by it. What standard is going to shape the way you think about life? As we prepare for worship this morning, consider that God has spoken, and He is not silent. Consider that living in wisdom is not an easy path, but it is the righteous path. Let us prepare our hearts and enter into his gates with praise!

Prayer:

God of grace, you have given us minds to know you, hearts to love you, and voices to sing your praise. Fill us with your Spirit, that we may celebrate your glory and worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Tree of Life

The tree of life is the result of the fruit of righteousness. It is the tree that would have been granted to our forefathers had they exercised godly patience. The tree of life means discernment and the ability to act and direct the economy of your own home. Economy means the managing of your own house, so Solomon uses this image in Proverbs 11:30, which is connected to verse 29. The tree of life is the language for those who reach some level of maturity in their walk, and thus is able to use his money wisely with the covenantal vision of passing on his inheritance to his children.

“He That Winneth Souls is Wise”, An Exegetical Comment on Proverbs 11:30b

Evangelistic rallies, tent revivals, and door-knocking gospel programs appeal to Proverbs 11:30 as justification for their conversion agendas. The old King James translates it as “He that winneth souls is wise.” The great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, used this as proof-text for evangelistic endeavors. While a call to arms to invade neighborhoods with tracts and pamphlets may be a worthwhile endeavor, this passage has been poorly misused by well-intentioned Christians, and should therefore be cautiously used.

Solomon has been building a strong case ever since the beginning of verse one of chapter 11. The matter here is life versus death in the realm of wisdom. Wisdom leads to a fructiferous life whereas foolishness leads to destruction. Verse 11 in the ESV says “…and whoever captures souls is wise.” The Hebrew loqeah mepasot usually implies the “taking of lives” as in “to kill.” Yet this does not make sense out of the context, since the “wise” is the subject of the verb. A direct translational read would be unhelpful at this point, and would seem to minimize Solomon’s argument.

The better approach to this section of verse 30 is to parallel Solomon’s words to the central theme of Proverbs (1:3), which is to “receive instruction” or to “comprehend instruction.” There is then a parallel between 11:30a and 11:30b. The tree of life is a reference to the wise who “gathers/plucks/captures life from death. The wise is like a strong green leaf filled with energy and abundance. As Paul Koptak summarizes: “This is an envcouragement to become wise in order to save not only one’s own life/soul but also the lives of others.”

The wise man, the man who bears good fruit (Ps. 1:3) is a man who is deeply interested in the rescuing of those who abide in wickedness and whose choices are leading them on the crooked paths (Prov. 11:20). One must be wise, in order to provide life for the unwise.

In summary, there are evangelistic implications to this passage, but any form of evangelism needs to be grounded in wisdom, rather than a quick 4-step plan to conversion. If there is an evangelistic implication to this passage it is that placing new Christians at the forefront of these endeavors may be unwise since he lacks maturity and biblical knowledge to communicate the wisdom of Yahweh to the world. Solomonic wisdom offers unbelievers more than simply a quick way to heaven, but the very offer of heaven on earth to those who have despised kingly wisdom.

P.S. As Tim Russel observed in a conversation we had, there is a danger of interpreting this as “only the theologically astute can evangelize.” This is not what I wish to convey, so it is an important reminder. In order to best reflect this skepticism, I changed that sentence to this: “…it may be unwise since he lacks maturity and biblical knowledge to communicate the wisdom of Yahweh to the world.”

As Daniel Hoffman observed on FB, there is some type of interaction between Solomon in Proverbs 11:30 and Genesis 3. I have suggested:

One way to consider this is to assert that finding life or being joined into a wisdom/tree implies dying first. Therefore, rescuing necessitates death…abandoning foolishness and embracing wisdom is a form of death.

{Thanks for the interactions of Tim Russell and Daniel Hoffman}

 

Sermon: Reaping What You Sow, Series: Kingly Wisdom, Part X, Proverbs 11:20-25

Outline

  1. The Certainty of Evil’s End and the Certainty of the Vindication of the Righteous (20-21 & 23)
  2. Physical Beauty Without Character is Contradictory (22)
  3. The Richness and Abundance of Giving (24-25)

People of God, there is coherence and harmony in Proverbs. They are not randomly written down. Solomon is giving instruction to his son on how to become a King. He is covering various angles, various possible temptations that may befall a king-to-be. And since repetition is the best teacher, Solomon is our great teacher . Solomon is, of course, reflecting the greater Solomon, Jesus Christ, who lived a life of wisdom in the presence of men. Ultimately, Proverbs is preparing us to be more like our Lord.

Part of maturing and becoming like our Lord demands understanding this fundamental principle made abundantly clear in Proverbs: You reap what you sow. The Apostle Paul captures this in Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

We continue where we left off last week, and we are going to see this principle again in our passage. Let me read a few verses that set forth this principle of sowing and reaping beginning in verse 20:

Those of crooked heart are an abomination to Yahweh,

but those of blameless ways are his delight.

Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished,

but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.

And verse 23:

The desire of the righteous ends only in good;

the expectation of the wicked in wrath.

We see here the Certainty of Evil’s End and the Certainty of the Vindication of the Righteous.  In verse one, Yahweh said that a false balance was an abomination to him and in verse 20 he says a “perverse heart” is an abomination to Yahweh. It is something that provokes his disgust.[1] If you want to know what God hates, Solomon tells us. If you want to know what makes God smile, Solomon tells us: blameless ways. This is how God refers to His people. He is not saying that He will only delight in you if you perform perfectly without flaw. If that were the case God would never delight in us, rather He delights in us when we walk faithfully. When our lives are in conformity with His desires and commands. But when does that happen? It happens each day you repent, each day you confess your faults before a Holy God, each day you treat your brothers and sisters with respect, each day you work hard, each day you speak words of encouragement, and each Lord’s Day you gather with His people.. The object of God’s love is the Christian who perseveres in grace through repentance. On the other hand, the object of God’s hatred is hypocrisy.

“Be assured,” “be certain” “be sure of this,” verse 21 says. The Hebrew root here is very interesting. “As hand joins hand to clap in affirming something,”[2] so too will an evil person be punished. “If you think you can live life as you please without acknowledging God, you are profoundly mistaken.” Evil deeds will not go unpunished. There is an ultimate justice of God that will be felt by everyone who denies His name. Why? Because it is God’s nature to not overlook sin. It is God’s nature to not allow evil to succeed. And- by His grace—it is God’s nature to deliver us from our own sins and vindicate, justify, and affirm us at the end of history.[3]

We see this in verse 23: “The desire of the righteous ends only in good;

the expectation of the wicked in wrath.

Here it is stated again emphasizing the human desire. What are your expectations? Do they reflect the character of God? What are your desires? Do they reflect the good, true, and beautiful? When you consider your neighbor, do you wish that he would get what he deserves? If you think that way you are thinking as a covenant-breaker. The desire of the righteous is transparently good. He knows the principle that you reap what you sow. You sow justice, you receive justice. If you express mercy you will receive mercy from God and your fellow man.[4] On the other hand, Matthew Henry uses the analogy of wicked men fishing in troubled waters. They may catch a lot of fish, but when they eat what they have caught they will discover it to be putrid and poisonous. They will be caught and trapped by their own expectations. Evil’s end is certain and the vindication, justification of the righteous is also certain. This is not karma, this is God’s perfect justice.

But secondly, “physical beauty without character is contradictory.”  Look at verse 22:

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout

is a beautiful woman without discretion.

You may ask yourself “what is this verse doing here in this passage? How does this fit into this context?” The point of this verse is to say that there is a contradiction in these descriptions. It doesn’t make sense. What doesn’t make sense? A beautiful ornament like a gold ring placed in a pig where it will be covered with mud.[5] The wicked desires gold no matter how it is gotten. Solomon here is applying this to relationships. “Desiring gold without wisdom is like marrying a beautiful woman without discretion?” Proverbs 31:30: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears Yahweh is to be praised.” Solomon is training his son. He is saying “Stay away from these women!” Their beauty hides their lack of discretion; their lack of judgment. Yes, Eve was a beautiful woman, but she accepted the serpent’s lies. You can marry a beautiful woman, but if she is like a ring on the pig’s nose always rubbing itself on the mud, then that is your destiny also. She will bring you down.[6] She will bring your business down. She will bring your name and reputation down. Men, be discerning! You are called to marry for life! Be wise! By all means marry a woman to whom you are attracted, but don’t let that attraction substitute or replace her ability to discern and judge correctly, rather may she fear Yahweh and may her fear be the basis of her beauty.

Finally, Solomon says true wealth and abundance comes through giving. Listen to verses 24-25:
One[7] gives freely, yet grows all the richer;

another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,

and one who waters will himself be watered.

If you want true wealth, then give. These are very paradoxical statements. These are very Solomonic observations. The rich man who gives gets even richer. The man who withholds ends up lacking.  The generous man is a man of blessing. The one who nurtures others will himself be nurtured.

The idea of giving implies someone who gives freely and liberally. Solomon does not offer a definition here of what that giving entails, but applications abound. There are societal, Church, charity, marital implications. Any of these applications are appropriate in this passage.

On the matter of charity, there is no doubt that the best use of charity is done locally. Who betters knows our neighbors than ourselves? Who better knows the needs of each other in the congregation than the individual in that congregation? Who better is aware of those needs than the ones called to serve others in the Church?. One way we use the tithes of the people of God is by directing it to benevolence. Individual, Church, Communal giving is much more effective than our monies being distributed from some unknown, unwise hand at the top.

But not only is this giving monetary, it is also selfless. How much should we give of ourselves? As much as we possibly can. We are not to allow people to take advantage of our giving to our own detriment, but we are called to give ourselves again and again. It is remarkable what happens when a conversation goes beyond the typical greetings. We are actually able to delve into people’s lives; to know their needs and pain. How can we comfort if we do not know people need comfort?

Will you bring blessing? Will you embody blessing? If you do so, you will grow all the richer.

How Now Shall We Then Live?

We see in verse 25 that there is a principle of reaping what you sow. If you water, that is, if you nurture others, you will be nurtured and watered yourself. By giving we are reaping joy. By selfless service we are reaping wealth. The principle of faith is that when we invest in others we are actually investing in ourselves. We are made to participate in the nurture of others. We are created to bring the taste of heaven to the lives of those whose heaven seems so far off.

And what more can we say, except that our Lord Jesus himself is the fulfillment of these verses, and in fact of all of Proverbs. He became the vindication of the righteous by becoming the spotless lamb sacrificed for our sakes. He is the beautiful Savior whose character is blameless. There is no contradiction in Him. And finally, Jesus is the paradigm of selflessness. He was exalted because He gave and gave and gave until the point of death.

Jesus Christ is the eternal giver, the wealth of the nations, the selfless King, the beautiful Savior, the blameless Man of God, the water given to nurture His people, and the embodiment of blessing. May His Name be blessed forever and forever, Amen.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 


[1] Paul E. Koptak, The NIV Application Commentary, 322.

[2] Yad to yad

[3] All judgment is eschatological in Proverbs. It is true that evil may be punished and justice may be seen in this life, but for many, justice is ultimately eschatological.

[4] Following previous verses, “mercy” refers to the hesed of God.

[5] Koptak, 323

[6] The analogy can also refer to women who wore nose rings in the Middle East.

[7] Interesting that Solomon is encouraging his son to give of what he has. He does not say “give away the possessions of the kingdom, which are the fruits of the labors of others.”

The Vindication of the Righteous

Consistent in Proverbs is this continuous theme of the vindication of the righteous in God’s eschatological promise. Proverbs 11:23 says that the “desire of the righteous ends only in good.” Our desires need to comport with God’s desires. His hesed needs to be reflected in our actions toward others. In this sense our desires are shaped by God himself and its ultimate triumph is its vindication. Creation repeats itself. Our vindication is in God calling our desires good at the end of history.

Sermon: A Call to Faithful Presence, Proverbs 11:12-19, Kingly Wisdom, Part IX

People of God,  Proverbs is a book of wisdom. It is applicable to our day, it is worthy of our investment, it is healthy to be memorized, it is powerful in counseling, effective in discerning, faithful in its consistency, paradoxical in its diversity, accurate in presenting the antithesis, strong in its denunciation, and bold in its wisdom. And when you consider the nature of Proverbs, it is simply a manual for parents to train their children. In particular, Solomon is discipling his son to be a king, and by implication we know that ultimately this is Jesus training his children to be Kings and Queens in this world.

Echoing my sermon last week, the city is ours because it belongs to our King, Jesus Christ. So we can’t simply go to the Court House and tell the judge that he needs to step down because we have a Christian replacement for him. We cannot simply go on theorizing hoping that leaders of the community will come to our front door and offer us an important seat. There is work to be done. We need to have a faithful presence. Faithfulness is our daily duties. It is by example that our Lord taught us to live. In other words, we need to first change diapers before we can opine about the woes of the world. We need to first take the trash out before cleaning the world. We need to first do the hard work of establishing a good and faithful testimony before the world can look to us and desire what we have and put us in places of leadership. More

Proverbs 11, Blessing the City, Series: Kingly Wisdom, Part VIII

People of God,  we are going to continue our look through Proverbs. I hope this study has been refreshing and challenging to you as it has been to me in my preparation.

We are going to look through verses 5-11 this morning. We can summarize these verses with the following statement: “A community is blessed through righteousness.”

Once again Solomon emphasizes the great distinction between those who exercise a life of faithfulness–which in context implies humility—and the treacherous—the prideful. Remember that the treacherous is the one who takes advantage of the innocent. He abuses others with his specialized knowledge. He deceives them. But their end is catastrophic.

Solomon says in verses 5 & 6:

The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,

but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.

The righteousness of the upright delivers them,

but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.

These are parallel verses stressing the same basic idea that the righteous will find a safe shelter and the wicked will be temporarily covered until they are overcome with the flood of God’s wrath. The very thing used to shelter will collapse under the weight of sin. On the other hand, when someone asks you “Who are you are? You are to be identified as a Christian, and a Christian is a person of integrity, according to King Solomon. Kingly wisdom means integrity in a community. Again, the theme of this section is: “A community is blessed through righteousness.”

The lust and the greed to possess certain things will eventually swallow up the wicked. But the righteous sacrifices for others. He does this by living ethically and by giving of himself and his possessions for the sake of another. The atheist philosopher Ayn Rand once wrote: “I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”[1] This attitude is precisely the one Solomon is condemning.

What is it worth the possession of the world and the loss of your own soul?

Verse seven says: “When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too.”

We are called to not place our hope in wealth. Hope in wealth perishes. When death comes all the escape money provided will no longer suffice. Matthew Henry writes:

Even wicked men, while they live, may keep up a confident expectation of a happiness when they die, or at least a happiness in this world. The hypocrite has his hope, in which he wraps himself as the spider in her web.[2]

The wicked appears to have the upper-hand. He persuades himself that his deceit will never be found out, but as verse eight says: “He walks into trouble.” By taking a shortcut here and there, by refusing to obey the standard that God has placed, he ends up at the place of ruin.

This is why Solomon calls Christians to be knowledgeable of God’s standard. The king is saying that the first part of training to be kings is a good dose of common sense. Invest wisely. Do not spend what you do not have. Give to others out of your abundance. Do not allow greed to characterize you in the Church. Those who lack charity lack wisdom.

This is what Solomon says in verse nine: “With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.” This passage has a couple of different implications:

First, the word “neighbor” in the Hebrew can refer to a friend, a companion, or a fellow-citizen.[3] So, the words of a godless man, a manipulative businessman, an unethical seller can destroy people of all sorts. The “godless” here also translated “hypocrite, profane, or irreligious” really is not looking out for your best interest. He is not seeking to esteem others better than themselves, he is seeking his own good to the detriment of his neighbor.

Second, this verse teaches that knowledge keeps us out of trouble. This also applies to our topic of friendship we covered some weeks ago. Knowledge is not just facts, it is the ability to not fall for dirty tricks. It is the ability to use common sense to stay away from those people who are not so interested in right living or walking the straight paths. Knowledge is selective. Knowledge delivers you from deceivers.

A community is blessed through righteousness, and righteousness is appropriated by living faithfully, wisely, and alert to your surroundings. The Christian faith is a faith for the wise and those who are pursuing wisdom. In some ways, the Christian faith is the journey from infancy to maturity. It is learning to take those first steps on your own, and then going from maturity to maturity. It is like looking both ways before crossing the street. We teach this to our children, and kingly wisdom means learning it ourselves. This is why there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.

But this wisdom affects our communities, and it has the effect of also changing our city. We see this in verses 10-11:

When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,

and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.

By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,

but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.

The series of contrasts between righteous and wicked come to a culmination here in these two verses. “The life of the city is affected for better or worse by the character of its citizens.”[4] The city is blessed by the righteousness of the people; the city is cursed by the unrighteousness of the people. “The destructive talk of the wicked does widespread damage.”[5] Now this is not the typical Sunday School lesson you heard growing up. I doubt your Sunday School teacher was encouraging you to memorize Proverbs 11: 10: “When the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.” This is where our evangelical sensitivities are really challenged. We want good and bad to work side by side. We are content to see a little evil here and there. But God is not, and He says neither should we. Practically, this means we need to pray that God would convert sinners, turn their greed into charity, their deceit into honesty, their wickedness into deeds of kindness, but when they perish Solomon says: “There is less darkness around.” The city, our city, needs to succeed not through the deeds of wicked men with their vile policies and unethical behavior, the city needs to thrive with the work of the righteous. Even when we are surrounded by a culture that despises our God, we are still called—in the words of Jeremiah 29—to bring the shalom of God to the city. Listen to the words of N.T. Wright:

God is going to put the whole world to rights… But the advance plan for that is to put human beings to rights in advance. The gospel isn’t just Phew! I’m okay now so I’m going to heaven! It’s I’m actually being put right, in order that I can be a part of that ongoing purpose…”[6]

This is a battle of ideas, of causes, of visions, of education, of words, of symbols and rites, of marriage, of sexuality, of world-views, and more. Whose ideas will the city imbibe? Will the city be overwhelmed by a fountain of blessing or curse? If blessing, will we as a Church be at the forefront of that? Will we be righteous in our dealings? Will we bless the city with our lives? Will we bring peace to the city? This idea of peace-to underlie the quote from N.T. Wright-is not solitude and passivity. It is actually volunteering to be at the forefront of what God has called the Church to do. Peace is not the absence of war, it is the consequence of a war well-fought.

Here we are being called to make war with those who want to overthrow the city. The city is ours! The world belongs to Jesus, and Pensacola belongs to Jesus. And at the front of this city is the people whom God has chosen. We need to seek the salvation and the renewal of this city. We may be a small part of that transformation, but our vision needs to be a magnificent vision. So, the question is, “Will our city rejoice because of our actions?”

How Now Shall We Then Live?

Here we are at the end of our fiscal year. We have been very blessed as a Church. We have obviously grown. We are going to see new members added to our numbers soon, but what do we do then? How do we bless the city as we have been blessed? One clear way of doing that is by bringing the city into the Church. We rejoice because we have been transformed by the God of all joy. Worship summons the assembly to enact itself publicly for the sake of the world.[7] Let them get a taste of joy before they can bring joy to the city. No city will be transformed without joyful worship. If the city sees a somber Church, she will have no desire or enthusiasm to celebrate the God of the city.

I also want to emphasize the importance of localizing our concerns. Sometimes we are so prepared to offer a national solution to our problem that we overlook where our basic problem lies: locally. Our vision to change the world needs to begin in our Jerusalem. This is where life affects us the most. The local policies, the local abortion industry, the local corrupt leaders, and the poverty that afflicts our communities. What can we do that is lasting and transformative? It is encouraging to see groups like Micah 6:8 offering a robust Christian faith to this community. The labors of Trinitas offering a profound commitment to Biblical truth in the realm of education, some of you using your work to do Bible studies during lunch time with other co-workers, the labors of Waterfront Rescue Mission, the home-schooling efforts, Christians offering a distinctly Christian ethic in business and where else they may be. This is fundamental to the changing of this community. We must offer an alternative society to this decaying society; an alternative polis/city to this city.

I offered recently a few suggestions for being a better localist. Here are a few:

A) Pray for your city. Pray for the peace of your city. For justice to be known among her people. Pray for her shalom and its well-being as you drive through it daily.

B) Give to the city by being a part of its affairs. Participate in local activities when possible.

C) Read about the city. Instead of turning to CNN, turn to your local news or newspaper. Be informed about the matters of your city, for the sake of better praying for her.

D) Biblicize your city. Start Bible studies. Equip others to love the city by discipling her. After all, this is the call of the Great Commission.

E) Vote and Elect godly leaders of the city. Before considering national politics, do not forsake your responsibility before your fellow city-dwellers. Seek to be informed about local politics. Comment on local on-line news about those decisions made by politicians that are blatantly against biblical principles and priorities, and always offer alternatives. We need practical solutions, not more theorizing.

F) Unite with other churches. Despise the divisive sentiment that is so prevalent. Know the local pastor’s names and meet with them. Pray for them when possible. Build relationships with others from other traditions who also seek the good of the city.

G) Imprecate against those who do not seek the well-being of the city. The psalms provide a perfect platform for such prayers. There is no neutrality. You either seek the good of the city through the blessings of the Trinitarian God, or you despise it.

H) Minister to the City through giving. Contribute to local charities either through the Church tithe or through personal gifts.

I) Teach others about your city. When I visited the Pacific Northwest once I was surprised how little and misinformed people were about Florida, and in particular the Panhandle. Inform people about the good, the bad, and the ugly while emphasizing the good a lot more.

I) Love the city by loving the Church. Congregate. Worship. Adore the Only-True God by worshipping the One who is King of the City, Jesus Christ.

We cannot bless the city by sitting idle. Our goal is nothing more and nothing less than seeing the imprint of King Jesus in every square inch of this town, and may we be loyal to this vision.

 

In The Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

 


[1] Quote. There are some valuable contributions from Rand, but her broad atheistic worldview offers nothing beneficial to the Christian.

[2] Henry, ON-line commentary.

[3] rā’·ah

[4] Paul Koptak, commentary on Proverbs, 319.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Quoted in notes from Rich Lusk on Jeremiah 29.

[7] Aidan Kanavaugh. Quoted in Lusk’s notes.