Saturday, December 17, 2016

Proverbs 11:20: Morality Apart from the Lord?

Proverbs 11:20 
Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those of blameless ways are his delight.

This verse warns us of a mistake we are prone to make, especially in a secular culture that denies the Lord.  The mistake I speak of is the mistaken notion that it is possible to live moral lives apart from the Lord.  We are greatly mistaken if we think morality has nothing to do with the Lord.  We are greatly mistaken if we think that we can live moral lives, but care nothing about pleasing or displeasing the Lord.

Eric Lane rightly says, "Morality is not just keeping the rules or adopting the best policy, but pleasing or displeasing God."  Lane goes on to say of the Lord, "He is interested in motive, particularly in our attitude to himself.  It may be 'the best policy' to be honest and even kind, but in that case it is done out of self-love not love for God or even for the other person (1 Corinthians 13:3).  I may gain in the short term but my heart is not right with God and I shall ultimately face his, 'I never knew you.  Away from me, you evil-doers' (Matthew 7:23)."[1]

Love longs for the approval of the one beloved.  But who is it that we are to love supremely?  Jesus tells us in his summary of the Old Testament, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).  How can we claim to be his if we have no love for him?  And if we love the Lord, his approval, "his delight," and not his disgust, is what we long for.

Love longs for the approval of the one beloved.  But who is our beloved?  Is it not Jesus Christ, who is the Father's beloved Son?  No wonder the apostle Paul penned these sobering words, "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed" (1 Corinthians 16:22).  Learning to please our beloved Lord, our Husband, is learning to conform our ways and our affections to his.  We are to love what Jesus loves and hate what Jesus hates. 

At this point we must cry out for the light and oil of God's Word and Spirit!  We see our need.  We see how far we have fallen short.  We need the light of God's Word to show us what pleases our Lord.  But we also need the oil of his Spirit, to heal our souls and breathe new life, understanding, and affections in them.

Light comes to us from our proverb when we consider the meaning of the phrase, "crooked heart."  What is a crooked heart?  This description is of the crooked heart is helpful:
"Whatever is crooked bends away from what is straight.  Thus whenever the Bible speaks about crooked things, it presupposes a straight standard, a standard grounded in the character of God himself: 'Good and upright is the Lord' (Psalm 25:8).  Since the Lord is upright, his people must be upright."[2]
Kitchen describes those with a crooked heart by saying, "At their basic core, they are twisted and turned away from God."[3]  But the crooked heart is not just a description of the criminals in our society, but rather the description of all of our hearts apart from the oil and breath of the Spirit, who can change our hearts.  Thus, Peter says in his Pentecost sermon, and so he addresses us as well, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation" (Acts 2:40).

We save ourselves when we come in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the one to whom the Father said at his baptism, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."  Baptized into Christ by the Spirit, we too are beloved, and are well pleasing to the Father.  Jesus is the one to whom the Father said at his transfiguration that prefigured his present glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." 

Are you listening to him?  Are you learning from him?  Are you learning what pleases and displeases your Husband, your Lord?  Are you crying out to him for a greater measure of light from his Word, and life from his Spirit?  If we are united to Christ, and are bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, then surely his pleasure and displeasure will be our highest concern.



[1] Lane, Proverbs, 102.
[2] Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 183.
[3] Kitchen, Proverbs, 251.

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