Monday, March 27, 2017

Proverbs 13:9 --- The Necessity of the Right Goal

Proverbs 13:9 --- The Necessity of the Right Goal
The light of the righteous rejoices,
    but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
Reading the Proverbs in the light of Christ's death and resurrection transforms our reading of the Proverbs.  Read christologically, Proverbs 13:8 is transformed from a verse that deals with the unlikely situation of kidnapping or enslavement and how that might apply to the literal rich and poor, to a spiritual lesson for the poor in spirit and the way to deal with persecution from an unbelieving world.

The other transformation that often occurs when we read the Proverbs in the light of Christ's resurrection is that we find a remarkable flow to the Proverbs.  Each proverb seems to flow seamlessly into the next.  So, for example, we are not terribly surprised to read about the joy of the righteous in this proverb, for this theme of joy is exactly what we find in Jesus' teaching about the persecuted in the Beatitudes:

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:10- 12).

When we read the Old Testament in the light of Christ's death and resurrection, the Old Testament truly becomes Christian Scripture, and that is a good thing!  One of the reasons we shy away from reading the Old Testament is that we doubt its value for us.  But when we read it as our Lord taught us, seeing Christ prefigured in the Old Testament, the Old Testament teaches us wonderful things as we discover truths that were hidden until the coming of Christ, but now are made known to us, his people.  As Colossians 1:25-26 says:

"I [Paul] became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints."

The "word of God" Paul made fully known was the Old Testament.  But for generations, the full meaning of the Old Testament was not fully known.  But now it can be known by us, who are God's saints, i.e., his people who have been set apart for him, for his use, and for his glory.  The Old Testament is now fully known to us, for it has been revealed to us.  How privileged we are to live in this era after Christ's death and resurrection!

So now we come to the proverb for the day, and we see that the human heart always has a goal.  The human heart is likened to a lamp.[1]  A lamp is made to be lit.  The question is whether the lamp will be lit with a worthy goal or an unworthy goal.  Will we live according to our purpose as the Lord's image bearers or will we resist that purpose?

The Heidelberg Catechism nicely summarizes our purpose as his image bearers.  We are to "truly know God . . . love him . . . and live with him in eternal happiness for his praise and glory."[2]  Is this our goal?  Is it our goal to know God, and his Son whom he sent?  Jesus said, "This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."  Is it our goal to love him?  Paul wrote, "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed" (1 Corinthians 16:22).  Is it our goal to live near him?  The psalmist wrote that his presence is our good (Psalm 73:28).  Is it our goal to honor him with our lives in all we say and do?  The apostle wrote, "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).

We will be healthy spiritually only if our aim and goal in life is good!  Jesus taught this when he said:
"Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.  Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness (Luke 11:34-35).

Are you being careful?  Is your purpose in life to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ?  Or, is your eye --- your purpose --- bad?  You see, Jesus is teaching us that if we are seeking something less than knowing God, loving him, and living with him for his praise and glory, then our lives are full of darkness.  And even if we think we are spiritually okay with a lesser purpose than to glorify our triune God, we are deceiving ourselves, and that deceit makes our darkness greater.

Eventually those who live for lesser things will experience what our proverb teaches us: "the lamp of the wicked will be put out."  It will be put out by God himself.  Therefore, the warning of our passage is to repent and turn from our darkness, and turn to Jesus and his light.  Let us confess our failure to have the right purpose for our lives, and let us humbly come to the Lord to live in a new way for the honor and glory of our triune God.


[1] Waltke (vol. 1, 560) points out that "the light is part of the broken, stereotyped phrase 'the light of the lamp' (Jer. 25:10; cf. Job 18:5-6; Prov. 6:23), it should be interpreted as part of that imagery and not contrasted with the artificial light of a 'lamp.'"
[2] Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 6.

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