Monday, July 20, 2009

Respect for the Authorities in Proverbs 20

There’s often a massive difference between our desired and perceived destinies and the actual outcomes in our lives--somehow things happen mysteriously enough in life which leaves us thinking we’re not the only ones in control. There are many chapters of Proverbs commenting on Kings and the LORD, but there’s a thread in Proverbs 20 which’s significant.

This thread aligning rulers, both human and Divine, and their power over us ends the chapter with a punch. For starters, there’s an eternal warning not to take retribution into our own hands; instead, we’re to ‘wait for the LORD, as he will avenge us’ (v. 22). Patience is required in waiting on God’s justice; in many circumstances real justice doesn’t come for years.

God detests differing standards (v. 23) and chances are our own slightly warped sense of justice will only add a skew to the context of our situation. Simply, we need to get out of the way judiciously when we’re intimately involved in things. Dishonesty is disastrous.

Verses 24 and 27 combine to add to the plot of our dependence on authority, especially the Divine. We finally see that we cannot fathom our own steps along the journey of life (v. 24). Our words (our “spirit”) bring us judgment in accord with the level of our obedience or disobedience with the plan of God (v. 27). This proverb calls forth Proverbs 27:19--a personal favourite--but instead of us revealing ourselves to each other by what we say and our actions, we reveal ourselves to God. God (in his disciplining loving kindness) searches us, and if we’re wise we respond, often in repentance. But, ‘lips that speak knowledge (all the time) are a rare jewel’ (v. 15).

Adding to the weight of our own inadequacy without God is verse 9; really, who can say they’ve got a pure heart and are free from sin? None of us have kept the intent of the Ten Commandments. And through Jesus, the Father no longer condemns, thankfully. To the discerning, our character’s are ‘lit up’ by our words and actions; even children (especially children) are vulnerable to this, which highlights Proverbs 1–9s’ very purpose--to chide the young person to listen to Mum and Dad.

The king in all these passages of Proverbs can be relevant to our employer, the overall judicial system, and certainly anyone in authority. We’re blessed for the most part in this age to have accountable systems of authority as a check on the checkers. We can anticipate justice and can know with ample warning prior to actually crossing the line (v. 2, 8). The systems of justice generally, at least here in this blessed country, align with right kingly rule.

To make us wiser, therefore, justice brings about consequences (“beatings” in v. 30) for those transgressing. Punishment like this is designed to bring about repentance--a change of mind and heart for future life and decision-making.

We can hence be reassured that we’re in the lap of God and his appointed and anointed authority. It’s safety to us. We’re not to fear it, but respect it.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

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