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.               

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