Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Proverbs 13:12: The Healer and Lover of our Souls

Proverb 13:12 
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
I am with Bruce Waltke who sees this proverb as "an index of lives that are moving either toward final despair of every expectation in death or toward a fulfillment of every desire in the the everlasting presence of the Lord."[1]  The wicked, in line one, are those who will learn the hopelessness that comes from not knowing the Lord and following after idols.  The righteous, in line two, are those who have set their desire on knowing the Lord, walking with him, and being in his presence forever.  In this life, they enjoy the continual hope and sustenance that comes from knowing him.
Earlier Proverbs gave us a picture of these two paths:

            But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
                which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
            The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
                they do not know over what they stumble.  (Proverb 4:18-19)

What the wicked do not see is that no one can live in the universe the Lord created and defy his rules with impunity.  If we do not love the Lord, but love other things more than him, we will pay a price.  The price in Proverbs 4:19 is deep darkness.  The price in Proverbs 13:12 is a heart that is sick with no hope of getting better, but only worse.

The righteous, however, desire to know the Father and the Son.  Above all else they long for eternal life in the presence of the Lord.  They know their heart is still sick with sin, and they long for the day when that sickness will be completely healed.  But even now they have a source of healing the wicked do not have.  That source of healing is called the "tree of life" in today's proverb.

The tree of life first appears in Genesis two.  The tree of life is a symbol of immortality and eternal life.  After man sinned in the garden, the first couple were not allowed to eat from the tree of life, lest they become confirmed forever in their sinful condition without a means of escape.  Therefore, they were banned from the garden:

"Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken (Genesis 3:22-23).

The next time we run across the tree of life is in Proverbs 3:18, where it is associated with wisdom, and wisdom is personified as a woman:

            Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
               and the one who gets understanding,
            for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
                and her profit better than gold.
            She is more precious than jewels,
                and nothing you desire can compare with her.
            Long life is in her right hand;
                in her left hand are riches and honor.
            Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
                and all her paths are peace.
            She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
              those who hold her fast are called blessed.  (Proverbs 3:13-18)

Since the New Testament pictures our Lord Jesus Christ as embodying wisdom, Jesus is the fulfillment of the tree of life imagery.  His cross, which is often spoken of as a tree, is the means of our spiritual healing and eternal life.  One example, would be 1 Peter 2:24:

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."

It is through the cross that our most pressing spiritual need is met, namely, our need of forgiveness and restoration to the heavenly Father.

When a person contracts a potentially fatal disease, what they want more than anything else is a cure.  Dear friends, we all have that fatal disease.  It is called sin.  It is called desiring other things more than we desire our Creator and Redeemer.

The "desire," in line two, is not a sinful desire, but a holy desire.  We know this because of the mention of the tree of life.  This desire is, first of all, to be healed of our disease.  It will be wonderful to be transformed in the age to come, free of sin, and filled with the glory of the Lord.  I don't know about you, but I long for, I desire, the day when I am set free from the sinful and wicked desires of my heart, and transformed by the glory of the Lord.

But, next, this desire is a desire to know the triune God.  It is a desire to know God as our Father; our Lord as our Husband and Savior; and the Spirit as the indwelling presence of Christ, who is changing us into his likeness.  If we don't want this, then our desires must be changed.  We must stop living for lesser things.  We must learn to see that those lesser things are merely pointers to a relationship with God, and only in the triune God is desire truly "fulfilled."

Wherever you are at spiritually, come to the great Physician.  He alone can heal your soul.  Come to the One who wants to be your Husband, and spread his arms on the cross to embrace you in his love.  Only He can satisfy your desires.  Come to the One who is your true food and drink, for only his body and blood can nourish you by faith and fill the hunger of your heart. 


[1] Waltke, Proverbs, vol. 1, 563.

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