Thursday, February 2, 2017

Christ in the Proverbs: Two Leaders, Two Peoples, Two Ways of Life, Two Outcomes

Proverbs 12:12 
Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers,
    but the root of the righteous bears fruit.

There is an interesting phenomenon that takes place in Solomon's Second Collection (10:1-22:16).  Almost all of the proverbs in chapters 10-15 are antithetical.  Of the 174 proverbs in chapters 10-15 about 150 are antithetical.[1] These antithetical proverbs contrast the righteous and the wicked, pointing to two opposite, antithetical ways of life. 

There is something similar that occurs in the Psalms.  The book of Psalms, which consists of 150 psalms, is divided into five books: 1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106 and 107-150.  Fifty percent of the root words for the wicked (rasha), and the righteous (tsadik), occur in book one of the Psalter.  Why is this?  O. Palmer Robertson has written a wonderful book about the structure and flow of the entire book of Psalms.  Book one of the Psalms (1-41) stresses the spiritual war that has arisen in the world.  Robertson writes, "The Lord God Almighty rules eternally over heaven and earth.  But the 'mystery of iniquity' has arisen to challenge his sovereignty among humanity. . . . The instrument by which . . . redemption will be accomplished is a 'singular saving hero' who in the fullness of time will enter into moral conflict with Satan himself."[2] 

Book one of the Psalms is particularly focused on this spiritual war between the two seeds, a war that began in Genesis 3:15, when the Lord in response to man's sin, declared (speaking to the serpent):

                  I will put enmity between you and the woman,
                      and between your offspring and her offspring;
                  he shall bruise your head,
                      and you shall bruise his heel.

The spiritual war between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman will be won by one man, who was foreshadowed by David, who was God's anointed king or christ.  The One greater than David, who came and won this war by bruising the serpent's head, was the true Christ or Anointed King.  Although the enemy bruised the true King's heel on the cross, this only fulfilled the Father's plan for dealing with man's sin.  The Son's suffering led to glory, resurrection and enthronement at the Father's right hand.
                                                
Although I've digressed slightly, the point is this.  Both the Psalms and Proverbs 10:1-22:16 begin by telling us something fundamental about life: There is a spiritual war in this world.  In this war, there are two leaders, two groups of people, two ways of life, and two outcomes.  Each of us must choose our leader, our people, our way of life, and accept the eventual outcome of our choice.

Proverbs 12:12 gives us maybe the most fundamental difference between the righteous and the wicked.  It tells us about what motivates the wicked, and what motivates the Hero of the righteous, his people.

A more literal rendering of this proverb would read something like this:

                  Whoever is wicked covets the net of evildoers,
                      but the root of the righteous gives.

The wicked covet the "net" that contains all the precious treasure the wicked have gained.  The wicked are motivated by lust for money, pleasure, reputation, power, and the things of this world.  But in the end, the wicked will find their covetousness a net that captures them, like a bird captured by the net of the hunter (Proverbs 1:10-19, esp. 17-19).  Their desire for, and worship of, created things will be the very thing that sends them to hell.  Having chosen to worship created things rather than the Creator, they will be ensnared by their own lusts and perish eternally.

But the righteous forsake covetousness, which the New Testament calls idolatry (Colossians 3:5).  Instead, the righteous imitate their Hero, their Lord, who gave himself for us in self-giving love. 

An excellent commentary on this proverb is Philippians 2:5-8.  It shows us that our Lord did not grasp after the things of this world.  Rather, he emptied himself in love, first in love for his Father, and then in love for sinners like us.  Instead of living in the idolatry of covetousness, he lived and died in the trust, love, and worship of God, and the blessing of others:
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of  men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

But where will Jesus' people get a self-giving love like this?  Where will we get a love like this for our heavenly Father, and Jesus our Bridegroom and Lord, and the people we live near every day?  Our proverb answers the question.  Jesus is the source.  Jesus is the root of the righteous, who give his people love and life.  United to him by cords of faith and love, his life and love will flow to us, the way nutrients and sap flow from the root to the plant.  It will happen for those united to Christ "because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Romans 5:5).













                                                        
                                                                                      
                                                                             



[1] Steinmann, Proverbs, 250-251.                               
[2] O. Palmer Robertson, The Flow of the Psalms: Discovering Their Structure and Theology, 53.

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