Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Proverbs 10:30 --- Christ's Fulfillment of the Land

Proverbs 10:30
The righteous will never be removed,   
but the wicked will not dwell in the land.

Douglas Sean O'Donnell writes, "In his commentary on Isaiah, the church father Jerome wrote, 'To be ignorant of the Scripture is to ignorant of Christ.' Jerome was right.  If we know nothing of the Word of God we will know nothing of the Son of God. . . . Jerome's saying, however, can be reversed to make just as pointed a point: 'To be ignorant of Christ is to ignorant of Scripture.' For isn't this the claim of Jesus himself?  In John 5:39-40 Jesus rebuked the Pharisees with these words; 'You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.'" O'Donnell goes on to ask, "So, are the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job about Jesus?"  O'Donnell answers his own question, "Jesus says so."[1]

Our last proverb taught us that Jesus is the way and the refuge for his people.  Our proverb for today, read in the light of Christ's fulfillment, teaches us that Jesus fulfills all the promises related to the land in the Old Testament.

The land promise was very important to Israel.  You cannot have a nation or a kingdom without land.  A kingdom consists of a king, a people, and a place.  In fact, a good definition of God's kingdom is God's king (Christ), ruling his people, in his place, under his rule and blessing.  But where is the place --- the land --- now that Jesus has come?

The place according to the New Testament is in Christ.  213 times the apostle Paul uses this phrase.  Believers live in Christ.  We abide in him, the way the Old Testament believer lived in the land.  Psalm 37:3 says:

            Trust in the Lord, and do good;
                dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

By faith we now dwell in Christ.  He is our home.  By the Spirit, we have been baptized into Christ.  We are planted in him by faith.  Faith has united us to our Lord, and just as the faithful Israelite was to "befriend" or cultivate faithfulness in the land, so are we to learn to abide with Christ our Lord.  Waltke puts it like this: "The land of Canaan, though impersonal, had a sacramental value, for in the land, sanctified by God's unique presence, Israel had experienced her unique relationship with God.  That sacramental value is now experienced more richly in our being in Christ.  Paul's 'in Christ' . . . was for him the massive, Christologized fulfillment of the land promise."[2]

What has happened in the New Testament is that the land has been Christified.  There has been a Christification of the land and the temple.  The attachment of the Israelite to the land of Canaan has been replaced by an attachment to Jesus Christ.  Waltke puts it like this: "The promise that Israel will inherit a land flowing with milk and honey becomes a metaphor for the milk and honey of life in Christ, a participation in heaven itself and in a world that is beyond what saints could imagine or think."[3]

But has the idea of place been done away with by this Christification of the land?  No, there still is, and still will be a place in the future.  Our place is wherever Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, is.  Where is Jesus right now?  He is in heaven at the right hand of God.  How then can we be with him now, since he is in heaven and we are on earth?  The answer is the Holy Spirit who is given to us.  Christ indwells us by his Spirit, and the Spirit lifts us by faith to indwell our Lord in heaven.  Every time we pray, do we not enter into the presence of the Father and the Son?  Already we dwell with our Lord by faith, for we are baptized and joined to him.

But what about the future?  Won't there be a new heaven and earth?  Yes, there will be, for the land has also been eschatologized in Christ.  The better country that Abraham and all of the Old Testament saints were looking for (Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16) will be fulfilled in the new heaven and earth.  Of that place, Revelation 21:1-3 and 22:3-5 says:

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God."

"No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever."




[1] Douglas Sean O'Donnell, The Beginning and End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from the First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job, 30-31.
[2] Bruce Waltke, An Old Testament Theology: an exegetical, canonical, and thematic approach, 576.

[3] Ibid., 586.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Proverbs 10:29 --- I AM the Way

Proverbs 10:29 --- I AM the Way
The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the blameless,
    but destruction to evildoers.

The difficulty many have seen in this verse is that it is hard to see how a way can be a stronghold.  Invariably, in the Old Testament, it is the Lord who is a stronghold for his people.  One example is Psalm 27:1:

            The Lord is my light and my salvation;
                whom shall I fear?
            The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
                of whom shall I be afraid?

The coming of Jesus solves the dilemma of a way being a stronghold.  It turns out that the way is a person!  Jesus himself told us this in John 14:5-6:
"Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"

In these words, Thomas displays the integrity that is inherent in the Hebrew word translated in our proverb as blameless.  Thomas is humble in his approach to the Lord.  "He asks rather than demands, which conveys a sense of humility."[1]  But he is also honest, and is willing to admit his ignorance.[2]  This is the "honest and good heart" Jesus spoke of in the parable of the sower (Luke 8:15).  It is this sort of honest humility that receives and holds fast the gospel word, and it describes those who have the Lord as their stronghold.

Just as Jesus is wisdom incarnate, so Jesus is the way.  When we read Proverbs 10:29 in light of Jesus' coming, it is impossible not to see this, and we should see it!  Christ's coming has changed the way we read the Old Testament, or at least it should!  This is just common sense and the way history works.  We now read about World War II through the lens of the allied victory, not as though the outcome was still in doubt!  If we read a mystery novel, once we have read the book and know the outcome, a second reading of the book must be different than our initial reading!  We now know the significance of the blue cap and the unlit cigar found at the scene of the crime!  Similarly, when we read that the way of the Lord is both a refuge and a path we walk, it is not a surprise, but merely what the coming of Jesus has made clear.

There already have been hints in the Old Testament that the way of the Lord would be a person.  Psalm 1:1-2, for instance, could have given its first readers pause:

            Blessed is the man
                who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
            nor stands in the way of sinners,
                nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
            but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
               and on his law he meditates day and night.

The Psalter opens with a verse that excludes blessing to all sinners, for what sinner has ever kept the law in a perfect way?  Who has never walked in the counsel of the wicked?  Who, after Adam and his race rejected the law of the Lord, has always delighted in the Lord's instruction?  The answer is no one.  But the Bible from Genesis forward was looking for a second Adam, the seed of the woman, who would delight in the word of God and walk in his way.  This man would lead us back to the Father.  This person would be the way to God, taking away our ignorance and death by his truth and life.  This person would give us the blessing we had lost.

Jesus is this man, but he is the God-man.  He is the I Am of Exodus 3 and John 14:6, whose truth can heal our ignorance and life can raise us from death.  He is the way, who restores us to the Father.  When we know Jesus, we know the Father, and we are saved from the destruction that awaits "evildoers."  The way is a person, and he will be either a stronghold or the destruction of every member of the human race.  "Therefore, [believer], as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him" (Colossians 2:6), for he is your stronghold and he is your way in which you walk.

[1] Rodney A. Whitacre, John, 350.
[2] Ibid.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Proverbs 10:28 --- The Centrality of Jesus Christ and His Cross

Proverbs 10:28
The hope of the righteous brings joy,
    but the expectation of the wicked will perish.

One commentator observes a pattern in verses 24-28.  He writes, "We may observe a mirror pattern in the framing of two proverb pairs about future outcomes (10:24-25 and 27-28) around the incongruous proverb about vinegar, smoke, and sluggards."[1]  It is a good observation, but, sadly, he misses the import of his observation because he does not interpret these proverbs Christologically.  What should have been obvious is not.  The proverb about "vinegar, smoke and sluggards," is really a proverb about sending (10:26), and it speaks of the centrality of Christ's coming to the destinies of men.  Heaven or hell will be determined by our response to Jesus Christ.  Christ and his cross is the crux of history that divides all men.

Again, we see how eschatologically oriented the book of Proverbs is, as we run into another proverb about the future.  Waltke attributes this future orientation to the audience for Proverbs: "Being a primer on morality for youth causes Proverbs to focus on a future when the righteous rise, not on a present when they fall: 'For if a righteous person falls seven times, then he rises' (Proverbs 24:16)."[2]  While I would prefer to say that the audience for Proverbs is the children of the heavenly Father regardless of age, Waltke rightly notices the future orientation of Proverbs.

But this future or eschatological orientation is built upon the sure foundation of Jesus' suffering then glory, death then resurrection.  The reason the "hope of the righteous brings joy" is because it is founded on the sure work of Jesus' death and resurrection.  But the reverse is also true: "the expectation of the wicked will perish."  This is because only Christ gives eternal life, through his death and resurrection.  Waltke puts it like this: "The wicked hope to retain their present pleasures, but their expectation will end in a dying gasp because what they delight in is inconsistent with the character of the Holy One who holds the future."[3]

The main contrast in Proverbs 10:28 is between two different hopes or expectations, one of which "brings joy" and one of which "will perish."  Just as the cross of Christ divides men into two groups, the righteous and the wicked, and divides their hopes into reality or illusion, so it also divides men as to the locus of their present and future joy, or lack thereof.  Consider this verse from the pen of the apostle Paul:

"But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).

Paul understood that forgiveness and grace was only possible because of the cross.  He knew that he was a sinner, saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone.  The law had not brought Paul near to God, but the cross of Christ made Paul, formerly a persecutor of the church and enemy of God, a son of God.  There was no room for boasting, for Paul contributed nothing to his own salvation.  The cross of Christ was where the transaction was made that earned our salvation.

But the cross also changed how Paul lived.  This world had crucified the Son of God.  Therefore, no longer could Paul live for this present evil age, for the world's true colors were displayed at the cross.  The eternal Son of God came into the world, and the world put the Son of God to death.  The cross exposed the world as an enemy of God.  No longer could Paul live to gratify the pride of life, the lusts of the flesh, and the lusts of the eyes, the things which characterize the world in its opposition to the Father and the Son.  No longer could Paul seek his delight in this world.  As James put it, "You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).

The righteous find their joy in the Lord and his salvation.  The righteous find their delight in the Lord and his people.  Their highest satisfaction is to know the triune God, to live for his glory, and the eternal blessing of others.  But the wicked do not delight in the Lord, nor his people.  They have no interest in knowing the Lord or bringing him honor.  They live only for this world and the things of this life, which they turn into idols.  Therefore, the expectation of the wicked will perish in the age to come.  For as John put it, this world, and the pride, lust, and rebellion  that characterize it, is passing away:

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.   And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will  of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17).





[1] Koptak, Proverbs, 297.
[2] Waltke, Proverbs, vol. 1, 108.
[3] Ibid., 478.               

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Proverbs 10:27 --- Married to Wisdom

Proverbs 10:27
The fear of the Lord prolongs life,
    but the years of the wicked will be short.

Our last proverb dealt with the royal Son who was sent by the Father.  Is it any surprise that that the Spirit of God would next bring to our attention the eternal life which the Son earned for us?  John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

One of the things biblical scholars in recent years have tried to discern is the arrangement of the Proverbs.  No longer do scholars think the book of Proverbs is a completely random collection of individual sayings.  They are discovering interesting connections between the Proverbs, especially in terms of vocabulary, syntax, alliteration and assonance, as well as thought.  But one of the things that may be impeding their search is a reluctance to see Christ in the individual Proverbs.  Could it be that the Spirit of God arranged the individual Proverbs with Christ's work in mind?

Discerning the order of the individual proverbs may require us to interpret the Proverbs Christologically, using the method of interpretation Jesus commanded when he said, "These are the Scriptures that speak of me" (John 5:39-40).  But scholars are often so wedded to the literal meaning of the text that they are reluctant to move from the literal meaning to the Christological and ecclesiastical meaning of the text.  In saying this, I don't mean to be ungrateful for the excellent work of Hebrew scholars who have unlocked many wonderful truths about Proverbs.  But I do think Jesus, who is Lord, should be Lord of how we interpret his Word.

Proverbs 10:27 is an example of how we need to go beyond the literal meaning of a proverb.  So many scholars reject any idea of eternal life in this particular proverb (there are a few happy exceptions!).  But there are good reasons to think that the phrase "prolongs life", which literally says, adds days, should be seen symbolically as a pointer to eternal life:

First, the context points in this direction.  Verses 25 and 30 clearly speak of eternal life.  Verses 25 and 30 speak of the Lord's judgment, and contrasts the destinies of the righteous and the wicked.  The wicked will not dwell in the eschatological new heaven and earth, but the righteous will never be moved.

Second, long life is often a symbol of eternal life in Scripture.  A good example of this is the fifth commandment:

            "Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your     days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is           giving you" (Deuteronomy 5:16).

Typologically, the land is an eschatological picture of the new heaven and earth, and parents point to the archetypal Father of the human race.  Thus, the promise of a long life in the fifth commandment functions as a type of eternal life in the land that will be our eternal home.  Just as honoring father and mother generally brings a person a long life on earth, so honoring the heavenly Father and his Son will, without exception, bring eternal life in the new heaven and earth the Lord will make for his children.

Third, "the fear of the Lord" in line one gives us wisdom.  Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10:

            The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
                fools despise wisdom and instruction.

            The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
                and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

But Proverbs 1-9 personifies wisdom, picturing Wisdom as a woman, whom young men must marry to avoid folly.  Proverbs 1-9 culminates in two wedding feasts.  One must either marry Woman Folly, who stands for idolatry, and whose house sinks down into hell: 

            But he does not know that the dead are there,
                that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. (Proverbs 9:18)

Or one must marry Woman Wisdom, who stands for the Lord and who brings her people eternal life:

            For by me your days will be multiplied,
                and years will be added to your life. (Proverbs 9:11)

But the New Testament reveals that Jesus is true wisdom, embodying it perfectly as the wise Son of God.  We must marry him, becoming bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.  213 times in Paul's letters he uses the phrase, or some form of it, in Christ.  By faith we are united to Jesus Christ, who is the bridegroom of his people.  We are united to him, and each week as we take his Supper we look forward to the marriage feast that is coming.  To be united to Wisdom incarnate is to have eternal life:

            "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom     you have sent" (John 17:3).

Therefore, as we have been betrothed to one Husband, may we not be led astray from our sincere and pure devotion to Christ our Lord (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).  May we live in union and communion with him each day, who in his grace paid the bridal price with his shed blood to give his people eternal life.  Amen.



Monday, October 17, 2016

Proverbs 10:24 --- Dread and Desire

Proverbs 10:24
What the wicked dreads will come upon him,
    but the desire of the righteous will be granted.

Verse 23 has given us some insight into the heart of the wicked.  The fallen heart likes to sin and finds pleasure in it.  Proverbs 10:24 now gives us further insight into the heart of the wicked, telling us that fear is fundamental to the human soul after the fall.

The fear of the wicked is not the good fear of fearing the Lord (Proverbs 1:7).  Rather, it is the fearful dread of the Lord's judgment.  Just as Adam and Eve hid from the Lord's presence in fear after their sin (Genesis 3:8-10), so the sinful heart still has this terror and dread.  Commenting on Psalm 14:5 ("they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous"), Donald Williams writes, "Even though they deny God, they live with underlying anxiety.  Either this anxiety or fear is unconscious, or they know well that God is with the righteous after all, and that evil workers cannot escape Him."  Speaking of the same dread of the wicked in Psalm 53:5, Williams writes, "The reason [for the fear] is not simply God's presence with the righteous.  Rather, the reason for the fear is God's judgment."[1]

The fear of death and judgment is real and universal.  As Eric Lane writes, "The psychologist will try to persuade [the wicked] these fears are unreal, derived from the primitive past of the human race or an over-strict upbringing.  But the truth of God is that these fears are justified.  Even if he escapes misfortune in this life, he cannot avoid death 'and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).'"[2]

Hebrews 2:15 tells us about this fearful anxiety of judgment and death, and speaks of "those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery."  Like criminals imprisoned by lust  and idolatry while awaiting trial, the fallen human race desperately grabs for life wherever it can find it.  But not seeking it from Him who is the sole source of life, they seek it in created things, and become enslaved to these idols.  It is the fear of death and judgment that engenders the attitude so common to fallen sinners: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (1 Corinthians 15:32).  But neither Satan's lie, "You will not surely die" (Genesis 3:4), nor man's false bravado, nor the psychologist's denial, nor eating and drinking can rid the human soul of the truth of God's judgment.  While our society tries to remove every reminder of the triune God from sight, the task is futile, for how can one truly escape an omnipresent and omniscient God?

Ironically, what the wicked dread and the righteous desire, is the same thing, namely, the Lord!  After man's rebellion, the human race's plight is pictured in the story of the prodigal son.  The prodigal son wants nothing to do with his father, and so he goes to a far country to try to find pleasure in created things (Luke 15:11-13).  While the older son looks a bit better outwardly, he also wants to enjoy "life" apart from the father with his friends (Luke 15:29).  Neither son wants to live in the father's house in intimate communion with him.  The prodigal seeks joy in wild "living," but the older brother seeks his joy apart from the father also.

The human race was created to live in the Father's house.  We were created to live in intimate union and communion with God our Father.  But our rejection of his word has led to our great fall.  We now no longer desire our Father, and we live under and await his judgment.  What can we do?  Can we return?

The answer is yes! because the Father in his grace sent his Son to remove the death and judgment we deserve.  At the cross, Jesus suffered sin's penalty and the anguish of hell in our place.  We can return to the Father by receiving and welcoming his Son into our lives, and when we do, the judgment that was hanging over our heads all our lives is removed, so that we might find true joy and peace in our heavenly Father's house.  No longer do our hearts need to be haunted by anxiety and dread, for Jesus suffered and died in our place, and Jesus will replace our unwillingness to live with the Father by willingness when we put our faith in him:

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:1-2).

Life as a criminal awaiting sentence while enslaved to idols which disappoint (Luke 15:14-17), or acceptance and joyful living in the Father's house, whose Son in gracious love has made room for you.  This is the choice we are given.



[1] Donald M. Williams, The Preacher's Commentary: Psalms 1-72, vol. 13, 122-123.
[2] Eric Lane, Proverbs, 85.                                             

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Proverbs 10:22 --- True Riches

Proverbs 10:22
The blessing of the Lord makes rich,
    and he adds no sorrow with it.

In this verse we learn what true riches are.  True wealth is to have the Lord's blessing or favor.  Derek Kidner makes an important point about the meaning of this proverb when he says, "The Hebrew adds an emphatic pronoun (as in AV, RV): 'it makes rich' --- nothing else does."[1]  Here is how the King James Version, which retains the pronoun "it" found in the original Hebrew, translates the verse:

            The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich,
    and he addeth no sorrow with it.     

We are truly poor, if we do not have the Lord's favor.  We could be the richest billionaire on the planet, but if we do not have our Maker's blessing, we are to be pitied.  Why is this the case?  The first reason is that we were made for the Lord and for fellowship with him.  We live in spiritual death apart from union and communion with our Lord and bridegroom, Jesus Christ. 

The second reason we desperately need the Lord's favor and blessing is the reality of sin and God's righteous wrath against sin.  We need the favor and blessing of God to replace the curse and wrath that rests upon us (cf. John 3:36).  But what can remove the debt of sin that is in the credit column of all of our lives?  Put all of the billionaire's wealth in the debit column, but it has no way to budge the balance of the huge debt of sin against us in the credit column.  As Psalm 49 puts it:

            Truly no man can ransom another,
                or give to God the price of his life,
            for the ransom of their life is costly
                and can never suffice. (v. 7-8)

Only one thing can remove the huge debt of sin and the Lord's wrath we have incurred, and that is the shed blood of Jesus and his perfect righteousness.  This is the good news of the gospel.  Our sins can be cleansed, and we can be declared righteous through the righteousness of God's Son.  Christ's righteousness is imputed to all who come to him in faith.

To put this in monetary terms, our salvation is like this:  not only is our debt of sin forgiven, but the righteousness of Christ is put into our account.  Now, the Lord views us in Christ as not only forgiven, but as righteous in his sight.  Like a beautiful robe, believers now wear the perfect righteousness of God's Son.  Here is how the Heidelberg Catechism puts is, speaking of the conception and birth of Christ:

  How does the holy conception and birth of Christ benefit you?

  He is our mediator, and with his innocence and perfect holiness he removes from God's sight my sin---mine since I was conceived.

The second line of our proverb, "and he adds no sorrow to it," is pointing us to two lines of thought.
  First, it is pointing to the future.  As we have said already, but will say again and again, Proverbs is an eschatological book, meaning that it points toward the future state when there will be a new heaven and earth.  At that time, as Revelation tells us, the Lord "will wipe away every tear from [his people's] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4).

But, second, there is a sense in which the blessing of the Lord has no sorrow in it, even now.  As James says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17).  The favor and blessing that is ours in Christ is a perfect gift, which none of the sorrows of a fallen, rebellious world can diminish or take away.  In fact, to have Jesus Christ is to have the pearl of great price, which is like a talisman in every sorrow we experience on this earth.  Christ is the treasure that is the answer to our every need.  He is our portion that will not be and cannot be taken away.  We are truly rich if Christ is ours.  We are truly to be pitied if he is not.



[1] Kidner, Proverbs, 84.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Proverbs 10:21 --- A Lack of Heart

Proverbs 10:21 --- A Lack of Heart
The lips of the righteous feed many,
    but fools die for lack of sense.

The second line of this proverb literally says, "but fools die for lack of heart."  The human race has a heart problem.  The problem with the human heart is that it will not receive the words of God its king.  The human heart will listen to many voices, but the one voice it shuts out is the voice of the Lord.

The first line of this proverb literally says, "The lips of the righteous shepherd many."  While feed is an acceptable translation of the Hebrew, it loses the connotation that shepherds not only feed the sheep, but also protect the sheep.  It loses the royal connotation of this proverb, since shepherds were pictures of ideal kingship in the Old Testament.  Psalm 23 is the classic example: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." 

The key issue of life and death for the human race has always involved listening.  To whom will we listen?  Will we listen to the Lord or the serpent?  Will we receive the words of the Lord or will we refuse his words?  This was the question at issue in the garden, and it was a wisdom issue.  Eve rejected the word of the Lord, because she thought she would receive wisdom apart from it (Genesis 3:6).  Instead, she became a fool, and lost the divine life within.  Man, post-fall, lives in the famine of a world that lacks the word of God, and, therefore, lives in death.  Man, as Kitchen writes, "is dying from the inside out."[1]

Jesus, the good Shepherd, emphasizes the need of hearing the words of God:

"The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. . . . I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:3-5, 14-16).

The distinguishing mark of Christ's people is that they listen to his voice.  The sheep listen to the Shepherd.  Jesus goes on:

"So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:24-28).

The problem with the human heart is that it has no heart to receive the words of God.  There is no divine life in the human heart.  The human race needs the eternal life only the Lord can give them.  But man by his willful rejection of God's Word, has cut himself off from the life that comes from listening to the Lord.  "Fools die for lack of heart" --- a heart that lacks the life of God, because it refuses the words of God.

This is the only place in the Old Testament that the imagery of the shepherd is applied to the righteous.  In all other places it is applied to the Lord or to the king.  Kings in Israel were only good kings if they listened to the voice of the Lord.  This is also how we will be judged.  When we refuse the voice of our Lord and Shepherd, we refuse life.  If we refuse life, then we have no life to give to others.  But the righteous are those who receive the life of God, because they receive the words of God.  Therefore, they have life to give to others.

Jesus' feeding of the multitudes through his apostles is a beautiful parable of life.  It is only as the twelve received bread from the hands of their Lord and Shepherd that they were able to "feed many."  It was a beautiful picture of what this proverb teaches.  It is only as our hearts receive his words, that we will be able to feed, protect, and shepherd others under our spiritual care.


[1] Kitchen, Proverbs, 230.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Proverbs 10:16 --- Quality of Life

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Proverbs 10:16 --- Qualitative Life
The wage of the righteous leads to life,
    the gain of the wicked to sin.

Proverbs 10:15 spoke of the astounding grace of God our Father.  The ruin of our spiritual poverty is not our undoing, if we will but humble ourselves and admit our sinful, dependent state.  In the end, it is not our sin that will bring us eternal ruin, but our failure to confess our sins and humble ourselves before the Lord.  As James 4:6 says, "But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'"

Since 10:15 spoke of the marvelous grace of God, we must read 10:16 in the light of this grace.  The "wage" our Father gives us is not earned by our merit, our good works, or any goodness in us.  No, the wage he gives his children comes from his abundant goodness and benevolence.  "Wage" is a metaphor that continues the economic language we encountered in the previous proverb.

The key to unlocking the meaning of this proverb is the unexpected contrast between "life" and "sin."  One would expect to find the word death, but instead the contrast is with "sin."  Derek Kidner notes that this contrast points to the spiritual meaning of the word life in line one.[1]  Life in our proverb means fellowship with God.  It refers to life in a qualitative sense.  It is the kind of life Jesus spoke of in John 17:3: "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

How gracious the heavenly Father is to his children!  He saves us from our spiritual poverty by giving us spiritual riches in his Son.  He gives us his Son's perfect righteousness to cover our sinful nakedness.  He graciously forgives all our sins through his Son's shed blood.  He gives us fellowship with himself through his written Word, by his Son who is the eternal Word.  He gives us access to his throne of grace in prayer, because we are his adopted children through Christ.  Best of all, he gives us the Spirit to indwell us, a gift the resurrected Jesus breathes into us, so that his life might be in us.  O how true Proverbs 10:16 is!  The gracious wage of our heavenly Father leads to life!

But as Psalm 1:4 says, "Not so, the wicked."  The wicked have trusted in themselves, in their own spiritual riches and understanding.  They falsely believe they are autonomous, not dependent creatures.  They either deny their sin or blame others for it.  Their sin is a small thing in their own eyes.  They refuse to humble themselves, turn from sin, and turn to the grace of God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, they remain in their spiritual ruin.

But not only do they remain in their ruin, but their condition grows from bad to worse, because their wage --- their "gain" --- is sin.  The wicked want to sin, therefore, the Lord gives them over to more and more sinful indulgence.  This is the taught in Romans one, in the thrice repeated line, "God gave them up" (Romans 1:24, 26, 28).  Desiring freedom from the Father, the wicked become slaves to sin.

What do you want most?  Jesus once said to two men, "What are you seeking?" (John 1:35-39).  It is a good question for us to answer.  Are we seeking life and fellowship with the Father and his Son, or are we seeking sin and to go our own way independent of the Father and the Son? The two men gave the Lord a good answer to his question.  They said, "Where are you staying?"  The Lord answered, "Come and you will see." 

O to stay where Jesus is staying!  O to live where Jesus lives!  O to live near the Father and the Son!  That is life --- qualitative life --- eternal life!  All so-called life apart from this is sin and death.  But to be near our triune God is eternal life: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

[1] Kidner, Proverbs, 48-49, 83.

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