Monday, June 13, 2016

Christ in the Proverbs: Proverbs 21:7

Proverbs 21:7
The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
    because they refuse to do what is just.

Verse seven continues to teach us about "the wicked."  It is helpful to learn about the wicked, so that we might be warned and kept from following their path.  The wicked, as the Lord defines them in his Word, are people who live only for this life.  Psalm 17:14 puts it like this, "they are men of the world whose portion is in this life."  Sadly, secular society thinks there is nothing wrong with teaching children there is no God, that life somehow began by blind chance, and that all that exists is matter.  If there is no creator, then ultimately we answer to no one, and we may live however we please.  But such a godless and short-sighted worldview creates people who live just for this world, and will inevitably do whatever it takes to get what they desire through get-rich quick plans (v. 5), lying (v. 6), and violence, as in the present verse.

The word translated "sweep" in line one, pictures a net that catches fish.  It is the same word that's used in Habakkuk 1:15 to picture catching fish with a dragnet.  Just as the previous proverb spoke of "a snare of death," this proverb speaks of getting caught in a net.  Allen Ross describes it this way:  "It is the 'violence' of the wicked that destroys them---it 'drags them away,' probably to more sin, but ultimately to their punishment."[1]

Our verse shows us a pattern.  The pattern begins with self-will.  The person refuses "to do what is just," or what is right.  This leads to the slavery of sin.  The person gets caught in the net or snare of sin.  Finally, the threefold pattern culminates in eternal death, as the violent man is dragged or swept away to punishment.  Self-will motivated by lust and greed brings about slavery to sin and ultimately eternal death --- this is the pattern.

But surely this verse applies only to violent criminals, right?  Literally, this may be the case, but there are reasons to think this verse has an application to all fallen sinners, unless we repent.  First, this pattern of self-will, slavery, and then eternal death is shared by the entire, fallen human race.  Second, can we really be sure that our lust and greed do not involve violence?  Recently, I watched two documentaries, one on sex-trafficking and the other on the drug trade.  What becomes clear is that our lust or demand for pornography and drugs leads not only to the individual's enslavement, but also to various forms of violence.  The evil one weaves a web that takes our self-willed lusts and makes our greed for money, sex, and pleasure an important part of the web of violence.[2] 

God is not mocked.  What we reap we sow.  There is a steep price we pay individually and socially for our self-will motivated by our lust for money and sex and pleasure.  When a culture refuses to do what is right, refusing to restrain anti-social lust and greed, the results are increasing addiction/enslavement, chaos, and ultimately judgment.  The same is true for the individual who refuses to put to death the sinful nature, but lives for the lusts of the flesh.  The same results can be expected: enslavement, and ultimately, judgment.  Lust and greed are inherently destructive and anti-social.  They are the opposite of love, which alone builds up and edifies. 

As the cross of Jesus Christ teaches, all sin has a violent aspect to it.  The cross showed us the violent nature of our sin.  Fallen man violently took away the life of God's Son when he came to earth.  Our sin put him on the cross.  Sin is anti-social and the opposite of love.  Sin destroys individuals, families and communities, precisely because sin hates the triune God of love with a murderous rage, the God who is himself a relational community of love.

O how we should seek to escape the net of self-will that drags us away to the slavery of increasing greed, lust, and eternal condemnation!  How much better it is to be caught by our Lord's gospel net, which frees us from condemnation and pours out the love of the Father into our hearts by the Spirit!  Our Father, give us receptive, submissive hearts that love you and your will.

[1] Ross, Proverbs, 1051.
[2] Think of the violent effects of sexual lust in the break-up of families or the millions of abortions performed around the world.  Surely, such effects are a form of violence against spouses, children, and babies in the womb.

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