Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Proverbs 11:5 --- Our Father's Wise Repetition

Proverbs 11:5
The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
    but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.

Proverbs 11:5 is quite similar in thought to Proverbs 11:3 and 11:6.  In reading these similar proverbs it is easy to find fault with Proverbs.  Why does our heavenly Father give us such similar proverbs?  Why does our heavenly Father keep repeating the same idea?

If you have children, then you know the answer to these questions.  Wise parents must repeat themselves to emphasize important points.  Wise parental training means repetition and correcting the same errors over and over again.

Our heavenly Father is the Father of fathers.  He is the ultimately wise parent.  Thus, he knows us well.  He knows how slow we are to learn.  He knows how prone we are to forget.  He knows our inability to discern important points.  And, so, Proverbs is going to come back to the same things again and again, and use repetition to reinforce vital lessons. 

Verses 3, 5, and 6 are not identical.  There are nuances in each.  But it seems our Father has placed these three similar proverbs close together, so that our minds might mull over the important point he is making.

Laying out these three proverbs together in order and emphasizing the parallel terms in the first lines and then second lines, helps us to see how similar the three proverbs are:

            v. 3 The integrity of the upright guides them,
            v. 5 The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
            v. 6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them,

            v. 3 but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.   
            v. 5 but by his own wickedness the wicked falls.   
            v. 6 but by their lust the treacherous are taken captive.

The internal principle of the believer and unbeliever is the main contrast of all three proverbs.  The inward orientation of the believer, described as either the upright or the blameless, is integrity or righteousness.  The inward orientation of the unbeliever, described as either the treacherous or the wicked, is crookedness, wickedness, and lust.  The terms underscored with the dotted line describe the opposite outcomes of the opposite inward dispositions.

The upright or blameless are guided by their integrity or righteousness.  The inward desire of those who belong to the Lord is to honor the Father and do his will, which they learn from his Word.  Having been saved by grace, the Father's children long to live in his favor, and not displease him by their sin.  This internal integrity and righteousness guides them in their walk and leads them eventually to their heavenly home.  If the believer wanders away from the Father and the Son, the inward work of the Spirit who forms an honest and good heart within, leads them back to the Father and the Son.  George Lawson writes:
"[The believer] cannot enjoy pleasure in the way of sin, for it is contrary to the tastes that have been excited, and are still preserved by the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 John 3:9).  When Christ's sheep wander into the paths of sin and error, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and his grace shall reclaim them (cf. Psalm 23:3).  But the wicked wander from mountain to hill, till they fall irrevocably into the pit of destruction."[1]

Nathanael, in John 1:43-51, is a good illustration of how a righteous inward orientation will guide and lead a person to Christ and eternal life.  Nathanael was an "Israelite in whom there was no deceit," therefore, it did not take much for Nathanael to recognize and follow Jesus as the long-awaited king of Israel. 

But Caiaphas, and the majority of Israel's leaders, are a good illustration of how an inward orientation of crookedness and wickedness leads to destruction.  Instead of seeking the Lord's honor with a good and honest heart, Israel's leaders worshipped at the shrine of self and the sanctuary of power.  Rather than an inward disposition to glorify God, they sought to glorify themselves, even if it meant putting the Son of God to death! (see Matthew 27:18; John 11:47-50, 12:19, 18:14). As Lawson puts it, "They crucified him with a view to maintain their honor and preserve their nation; but by their perverse conduct both were destroyed."[2]




[1] Lawson, Proverbs, 131.
[2] Ibid., 130.

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