Sunday, October 24, 2010

Proverbs 24 – Justice in Relationships (Sayings of the Wise)

“Prepare your outside work,

get everything ready for you in the field;

and after that build your house.”

~Proverbs 24:27 (NRSV).

This chapter of Proverbs in many ways discusses the right order of things, and the above verse is commended to just that philosophy—of getting our priorities right.

I recall a farmer I met in another Australian state. He and his family lived in a shed for many years, and perhaps still do, as they tend to their farm, gradually building the main house. Whilst we do want to eventually finish our ‘main houses’ in life, it’s best that we tend the foundations—our livelihoods, and the security of our families—first.

Other themes of this chapter include:

Do Not Envy the Wicked

Calling us back to the wisdom in Psalm 37—as was issued somewhat in previous chapters—verses 1-2, 14 and 19-20 read just like they were transcribed directly from the psalm itself.

The “wicked” are never to be envied, only fled from. These are those plotting violence and setting out for trouble. Alternatively, when we embrace Wisdom, making her sweet to our souls, we will know a “future hope”—our hope won’t be “cut off” like the wicked person’s hope will.

The Deeper Character of Wisdom

Shimmers of Wisdom’s deeper character flicker through in verses 3-6 (Sayings 21-22). Wisdom takes on the imagery of a house here; “understanding” is the house’s foundations and through “knowledge” its rooms are filled with much valuable furniture.

A wise person has strength and adds to it, but they must—and will—always need advice and to seek confirmation of their ways.

Verses 13-14 (Saying 26) entreat us to find what is good and to take it appropriately—for whatever cost is required.

Wisdom’s Too High for the Fool

A short exposé of folly is exacted in verses 7-12 (Sayings 23-25). Sometimes the wise, or those seeking to grow in wisdom, will worry that a foolish person will be gifted the blessings of wisdom without paying the price to learn it. These proverbs set those minds at rest. Wisdom is too high for the ignorant, the simple and the mocker.

Those denying knowledge of wrongdoing are not fooling God and how very pitiable it is for that person to “faint in the day of adversity,” for the wise try and store their reserves for that very time—God’s grace always seems sufficient for them (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The Sluggard Makes a Return

A mini-portrait of the sluggard is set out in verses 30-34, returning us back to Proverbs 6:9-11. The sluggard—a particular kind of fool—is not given to diligence and “lacks sense/judgment” or is otherwise seen as stupid.

It’s from such a recount-of-observation that the father (or mother) warns the son (or daughter) against such folly. Story-telling is an important device in painting for the parent imagery into the child’s mind and heart.

True Justice is the Lord’s

Even though the truly righteous person may stumble, they’ll not fall entirely. Not so the wicked. Verses 15-18 (Sayings 27-28) and verses 21-26, 28-29 (Saying 30 and Further Sayings) all speak in their own way on the theme of right and detestable justice.

We don’t act unjustly on those who’ve done little or no wrong. Likewise, how foolish it is to “gloat” and let our “hearts be glad” when our enemies fall—the Lord will see this and suddenly have pity on them and appease their situation and the cream pies will be on our faces instead.

To show partiality in judging—as highlighted previously—is not good. Acquitting the guilty will bring about the people’s wrath, and cowardice in sentencing is also not good. That ‘mercy’ will backfire.

Verse 29 is poignant—we cannot afford, as people of the Lord, to take vengeance into our hands. The Lord repays each person for “according to what they have done” (verse 12). We must learn to trust this Divine process entirely.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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