Saturday, January 21, 2017

Proverbs 12:5 --- Whose Counsel Will You Follow?

Proverbs 12:5
The thoughts of the righteous are just;
    the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.

The next three proverbs are connected by the Hebrew catchword, resha'im, which means wicked people.  "These three sayings progress from the nature of the words of righteous and wicked people to the effect of their words and then to their final state, either in everlasting paradise or perdition."[1]

The first comparison in today's proverb is between "thoughts" and "counsels".  The words are similar.  But the word thoughts points to the truth that our words originate in the heart or inward being.  If you listen carefully to a person's words, you can learn what that person's heart is like.  Van Leeuwen puts it like this, "The righteous and the wicked are here characterized by the thoughts and advice that preoccupy each."[2]
The important question here is what advice or counsel governs the heart?  The wicked are sadly the great majority, whose hearts are governed by the counsel of their own understanding, not the counsel of God's Word.  Followers of Jesus must follow their Lord, who was always governed by the counsel of the Word of God, saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).

Jesus also taught us that God's Word is truth (John 17:17).  Thus, the second comparison is between the words "just" and "deceitful".  The righteous are honest and straight forward.  Their thoughts and counsel are right and just, and reflect the truth of God's Word.  But the thoughts and counsel of the wicked are deceitful, because the fallen human heart is deceitful.  Jeremiah's famous description of man's heart after the fall comes to mind:

            The heart is deceitful above all things,
                and desperately sick;
                who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Proverbs ought to teach us how desperately we need an inward transformation.  Because our hearts are desperately sick, we desperately need the medicine of the Great Physician, who promises to breathe the breath of his Spirit into our hearts.  Only that clean wind can reform and refresh these polluted hearts of ours. 

Jay Adams writes, "The need is for the inner goals, aspirations, loyalties and intentions to be changed."[3]  Basic to a change in heart is the fear of the Lord, which Psalm 19:9 teaches "is clean, enduring forever."  Without this foundational reverence or fear of the Lord in our hearts, we simply cannot be wise.  Proverbs 9:10 says:

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

Our hearts are changed by knowing the triune God.  We learn to fear and know him from his Word.  Thus, the counsel our hearts listen to is vital.  Who is catechizing your heart, the world or the Word?

This mixture of fear and knowing/loving our God, which we see in Proverbs 9:10, is also not absent from the New Testament.  Some would relegate the fear of the Lord to the Old Testament, but such is not the case:
"So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being   built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied" (Acts 9:31).
Notice, that the Word is implied in the passage above by the words, "built up," for again and again in the New Testament, believers are built up by the Scriptures (for example, Acts 20:32).

This devotion has focused mainly on the issue of counsel.  Whose thoughts, whose counsel, whose advice will preoccupy and guide our lives?  Will this world, this present evil age, as the New Testament describes the world, form and shape us?  Or, will we be formed and transformed by the thoughts, counsel, and truth of God's Word?

We live in a rebellious world.  In our present culture, our rebellion has gone so far as to deconstruct words, marriage, and even gender.  Such is man's distrust and hatred of God's truth, that English professors spend their time arguing with words (ironically!) that words have no meaning.  Such is our enmity of the triune God, that we now redefine the institution of marriage that he so graciously gave us at the beginning.  And, now, our rebellion has reached the absurdity of not accepting the gift he has given us of gender, which so gloriously teaches our very purpose, for those with eyes to see it.

It seems to me that the time for decision has arrived.  Whose counsel will you follow?  You can try to live in the meaningless, normless, absurdity of this present evil age in its utter lostness as it spins out of control.  Or, you can return to your Creator, whose Word gives you meaning, truth, and abundant life in fearing, knowing and loving the Father and his Son, by the Spirit, who works powerfully within you to change your heart.

[1] Steinmann, Proverbs, 305.
[2] Van Leeuwen, Proverbs, 125.
[3] Adams, Proverbs, 90.

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