Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Christ in the Proverbs: Proverbs 12:22---Practicing the Truth

Proverbs 12:22 
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those who act faithfully are his delight.
"A sense of what disgusts God is essential to the fear of God."[1]  So writes Michael V. Fox, and indeed this is true.  It is so helpful for us to learn about the Lord, our Creator --- to learn what he is like.  The goal when we open our Bibles is to get to know the Father and the Son and be conformed to his image.  Verses like this teach us what our heavenly Father and Lord Jesus Christ hate and love, and what we also should hate and love.

For our goal, our purpose, our aim in life is to imitate our Lord.  This is what image bearers are created for!  We were created to represent the Lord on earth.  We were created to show forth the character of the triune God in all we think, feel, will, say, and do.  In the temple of this world (the tabernacle or temple was designed as a microcosm of the universe), men and women are His images placed in the temple!  Only in Israel's temple, first the tabernacle and then Solomon's temple, were no images placed.  In all of the pagan temples, images were placed, so why the difference?  The difference comes because human beings were created to be God's likeness in his temple, not lifeless idols that cannot think, feel, speak, will, or do.  Man, male and female, were to be the triune God's representatives.

But why does the Lord hate "lying lips?"  Why are lies such an abomination to him?  It is because when we lie we imitate the evil one, who Jesus tells us is the "father of lies."  When we lie, we do something reprehensible.  We imitate, not the Lord, but the enemy.  We act treasonously.  We participate in the darkness rather than the light.

But the good news here is that "those who act faithfully," or those who do the truth or practice the truth, are the Lord's "delight."  This word translated as "delight" is the Hebrew word ratzon, which also carries with it the idea of favor, intimacy, and protection.[2]  We see something of the intimacy that those who belong to the truth enjoy, in Proverbs 3:32:

            for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord,
                but the upright are in his confidence.

How wonderful it is to be brought into this intimacy and favor with the Father and the Son.  In Christ, God's beloved Son, we can come to know this intimacy and fellowship.  Think of the apostle John, who describes himself throughout his Gospel as the disciple whom Jesus loved, and you get a sense of the favored and intimate relationship the Father wants to have with us his children (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7,21:20).

But this intimacy with the Father comes only through Jesus Christ, who came as the perfect revelation of God (e.g., John 12:44-50, 14:8-10).  Many people lie and claim an intimacy with God, but reject God's Son.  We must reject the claim of such people for it is false.  Those who reject the Son, reject the Father who sent him (John 5:23,15:23; Luke 10:16; 1 John 2:23).  Fellowship with God is only possible through God's beloved Son.  Though the Jewish scribes and Pharisees claimed to have fellowship with God, their rejection of Jesus showed their true, inward colors.  Their rejection of Jesus pointed to their true Father, who was not the Father of our Lord, but the "father of lies," i.e., the devil (John 8:44).

We should also note that this fellowship and intimacy with the Father and Son can only be ours if we acknowledge our sin.  This was also part of the problem with the Jewish leaders who rejected Jesus: they were unwilling to acknowledge their sin.  If we are unwilling to humbly acknowledge our sin and unworthiness before a holy God, then we can never enjoy the intimacy of union and communion with the Father and Son for which we were created.  This truth is stated in 1 John 1, using the same phrase we find in the second line of our proverb, namely, to "act faithfully" or more literally, to "do the truth."  This phraseology is picked up in 1 John 1:6 as practice the truth:

"If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truthBut if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

Part and parcel of practicing the truth, doing the truth, or as our proverb puts it, acting faithfully, is acknowledging Christ's atonement for sin.  If we say we have no sin, we reject Christ's atoning work on our behalf.  Ironically, in order to "act faithfully" the Lord's people must humbly acknowledge themselves as liars and sinners who need the gracious atoning work of Christ, which transfers us into his kingdom and cleanses our hearts daily from sin.  May the Spirit teach us what it means to practice the truth in intimate and delightful fellowship with the Father and the Son.

[1] Fox, Proverbs, vol. 1, 167.
[2] Waltke, Proverbs, vol. 1, 539.

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