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The LORD Directs and Judges Everything
Pro 21:1 is one of the clearest proofs in Scripture of God’s sovereignty. We see that in the life of the mightiest rulers that we meet in the Scripture, like Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:1-37), Belshazzar (Dan 5:1-30), Ahasuerus (Est 6:1-14) and Koresh (Ezra 6:22; Isa 45:1-7). God has the full control over them. The same goes for the world leaders of today and also for the two great dictators in the end time; the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth (Rev 13:1-18). Therefore, no human ruler is the highest ruler of the universe, but the LORD. He is the real King of kings (Ezra 7:21; 27; Isa 10:6-7; Isa 41:2-4; Dan 2:21; Jn 19:11; Rev 17:17).
The decisions that a king makes in his heart are directed and controlled by God. He guides the king in “wherever”, which means nothing excluded, “He wishes”. The heart of the king is in His hand, which indicates that He has total control over it. It is like “channels of water” which with He does like a farmer does who digs channels in order to direct the watercourse up to and over his field in such a way that it comes exactly where he wants it to. In that way God deals with the heart of a king.
Pro 21:2 seamlessly connects to Pro 21:1. Like God knows the heart of a king, He knows the heart of every man. A man may think that “all his ways are right”, but indeed in “his [own] eyes” (cf. Pro 16:2). We are very well at making our ways “right”, while we go a wrong way. The real Judge of what is in the heart, is God. He not only sees the way that one goes, but He also “weighs the hearts”. He searches the motives.
The Pharisee, who has a very good opinion about himself, appears to have a heart full of pride in himself, while it is full of disgust towards others. This is the judgment of Him Who knows what is in man (Lk 18:9-14; Jn 2:24). He fully “searches the heart” of man (Jer 17:10) and knows that it is “more deceitful than all else” (Jer 17:9).
Our view on our way is limited, both in time and direction. God is eternal and controls everything and knows the purpose. Therefore it is good that we pray with David: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psa 139:23-24).
One of the things that may seem right in our own eyes (Pro 21:2), is offering a sacrifice, thinking that it is all right with our lives (Pro 21:3). We see a sacrifice as a compensation for the unrighteousness that we have done and the injustice that we commit, and then can continue to do so. We give some things to God and assume therefore that He will not punish us for our sins ‘in reward’.
Here it is not said that sacrifices are to be avoided, but that religious acts are worthless without a righteous life. God gives preference to doing “righteousness and justice” above religiosity (1Sam 15:22; Pro 15:8; Pro 21:27; Psa 40:6-8; Isa 1:11-17; Mk 12:33). Whoever does righteousness and justice, holds on to what God says in His Word, in His laws.
God rejected the sacrifice of Cain, because he did not do righteousness and justice, but on the contrary unrighteousness and injustice, which appeared when he murdered his brother (1Jn 3:12). Outward acts like baptism and the Lord’s Supper are important, because God speaks about it in His Word. But if baptism and the Lord’s supper are not more than outward acts and our heart is not involved in it, they are an abomination to God.
Haughtiness Is Sin
“Haughty eyes” reflect “a proud heart”. The first is the proof of the presence of the second. Both “is sin”. Outwardly (haughty eyes) and inwardly (a proud heart) is nothing more than sin. They belong to the existence of the wicked; these are what they produce. The soil of their lives doesn’t deliver anything else.
The second line of the verse can also be translated as “the newly developed land, is sin”. A wicked man cultivates his life as a new piece of land. When he starts a new project, when he develops a new land, “that newly developed land” will deliver nothing else but pride. His life produces only pride. Everything serves his own glory, while he despises others.
Diligence, Not Hasty
This verse exhorts us to be diligent and warns us at the same time for haste. Diligence is good when we work with consideration and systematically. Diligence and making plans go hand in hand. He who is diligent, but who is also patient with making plans, will have no lack, but it will lead him to “advantage”. We can use that advantage to invest in other or new projects or to help others who are poor.
Everyone who is too diligent, “who is hasty”, doesn’t allow himself to make plans. He is impulsive and wants as fast as he can, the most advantage or profit as he possibly can. But he “[comes] surely to poverty”, because he is reckless. Haste is good, but ‘more haste, less speed’. The text presents a calculated, quick, profitable act against an unproductive or even a loss-making haste.
Haste includes all cases of which we think that we should be in a hurry because we, according to our opinion, would otherwise miss an opportunity to have advantage. People are rushed to have themselves enlisted for something especially now, or to buy something now, or to click on something now, for over an hour or after a day or next week it will be too late. Then the opportunity will be over.
But let us consider that the time to think over something, or to plan something carefully, is not a waste of time. It is time that will recover with great profit and prevent great losses by stupid investments. Therefore we should go to the LORD with our plans first and ask His approval. If He approves, we can start diligently with the security of an optimal result.
A Lying Tongue and a Crooked Way
“By a lying tongue” (Pro 21:6) means in a fraudulent manner, by telling lies or, by what is also called a ‘chat trick’. It is for example someone who comes to the door of an older person and while telling him a nice story he steals the older person’s money or cash card and PIN code. He will notice that the treasures which he has gained in such a way, do not offer him any stability for this life. It will be as if they disappear and vanish. Additionally, he himself is like “those who pursue death”. They do not consciously pursue death, but because of what they do, they do pursue death automatically.
Gehazi is an example of such a man (2Kgs 5:20-27). Due to his lies he became rich, but also leprous, a disease that leads to death. Therefore he couldn’t enjoy the treasures that he acquired by his lying tongue, like he thought he would. Ananias and Sapphira had to pay their lies directly with death and in reality could not for one minute enjoy the money they stole from God (Acts 5:1-11).
Wicked people do not only speak with a lying tongue (Pro 21:6), but their actions are violent actions (Pro 21:7). They are dragged like powerless animals by their wickedness. They go from one destruction to another, they cannot do otherwise than cause only destruction wherever they go. That will finally lead to their own destruction, “for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Mt 26:52).
They are not the passive victims of their crimes or circumstances, people who cannot do anything about it. They act like that, “because they refuse to act with justice”. They can only blame themselves for that, because they choose not to do justice and thus to persevere in the evil.
In Pro 21:8 the father speaks about two kinds of people that exist. In the first line of the verse he speaks about “the way of a guilty man” which he has presented in Pro 21:6-7, the man who lives without God. In the second line of the verse he speaks about the work of someone who is related with God.
“The way of a guilty man” – which means of a man who refuses to go the right way of God – “is crooked”. The way of the natural man is full of bends, his whole conduct is full of pretexts. A crooked way goes against the truth, against the instructions of God’s Word about the right way. It is also a strange way, a way which is strange to the Scripture, for which not a single instruction is to be found in the Scripture. This way is walked by those who are strange to the life from and with God, who do not partake in it. Their whole life shows that they belong to “a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil 2:15).
In the second line of the verse it is said “way” opposite to “conduct”, “a pure” opposite “a guilty man” and “upright” opposite “crooked”. A pure man is somebody who has been purified by faith and in that way is related to God. He is pure of heart, which appears from his work (cf. Tit 1:15a). It is a just or right work because it is just and right to God and men.
Better Alone Than Together With Fight
This is another “better … than” proverb about living together with a contentious woman (Pro 21:19; cf. Pro 19:13). Everyone can imagine the situation that Solomon presents here and agree with what is better. Just imagine to be married to a contentious woman. When you are married, you are obliged to live together. You may have ordered everything to the smallest detail. The house may be provided with all convenience. You live in it, but then in all that space of all convenience you experience nothing but quarrels. The atmosphere in the house is poisoned.
Would Solomon speak from experience? After all he had a thousand wives. It is imaginable that among those many wives there were some who were continually quarrelling. Solomon was surrounded by all grandeur that a man could desire. But he realizes that simplicity and solitude with tranquility are better than all the luxury that is immersed in an atmosphere of quarrels.
You’d better be unmarried and live in a small room in simplicity and solitude somewhere in a corner of a roof (cf. 2Kgs 4:10). You then have a small house, but you have peace. It may be tight and lonely, you may possibly be exposed to wind and weather in the corner of the roof, but there is rest; you don’t have to deal with continuous conflicts that poison your life.
He who is not (yet) married, finds a counterpart of the thought that being married gives the highest enjoyment. To be married to a wife given by God is indeed a great gift and a continuous source of happiness. But when you are married to the wrong woman, the women you covet, then the marriage you’ve dreamt of may turn into a nightmare. The verse shows again how important it is to only marry the woman that God gives.
He Who Desires Evil, Has No Favor
“The wicked” seeks “evil” and not grace. He not only does evil, but his soul “desires” to do it. He is a sadist, a representative of satan, who finds pleasure in hurting others. The soul is the seat of desires. The wicked desires evil with all of his heart, because that only satisfies his deepest feelings.
The thought of showing favor to his neighbor is totally missing with him. In such a person not only the least bit of favor is missing for his enemy but also for his neighbor. If his neighbor would beg him for mercy, he would have pleasure in doing him the evil of which his neighbor begs him not to do.
The Scoffer and the Wise
Here again there is mention of the three persons, “the scoffer”, “the naive” and “the wise”. “The scoffer” is the stubborn person. He is punished for his mockery. The punishment can be applied by God or a judge or someone else who is above him. But it doesn’t change the attitude of the scoffer. He continues to scoff. The question is whether it is useful to punish him, if it doesn’t help.
Then it appears that his punishment does have a beneficial effect, not to himself, but to “the naive” who observes it. The example that he sees has the result that he becomes wise. He sees what the consequences are of the mockery, which he wants to avoid. That is wisdom. A punishment that is being applied not only reaches the person that undergoes the punishment, but also others. He corrects the one and prevents others to make that mistake, which causes that they also prevent punishment (Pro 19:25; cf. Deu 19:20; 1Tim 5:20; Acts 5:11).
While the naive learns by an example, “the wise” learns by being “instructed”, which makes him to receive “knowledge”. The instructions that he receives, not only makes him to ‘know’ something, but it gives him understanding in the problems of life. The wise never stops to learn.
Turned to Ruin
“The righteous” doesn’t allow himself to be deceived by what he sees from the house of the wicked. He often sees the prosperity and welfare of it. However, he doesn’t watch it superficially, but he “considers the house”; he looks at it with the eyes of God. Then he sees that the prosperity of his house is temporal. When he looks with the eyes of faith, he sees the end of the prosperity of the present moment.
There will indeed be a moment that God turns “the wicked to ruin”. Everything they boasted in and wherein they found their rest, will then be changed into disaster and misery, which are not temporal, but eternal. That there will be a moment that the Judge of the whole earth will do justice, is an encouragement for the righteous to endure poverty and sufferings.
To Shut the Ear and Not to Be Answered
God’s judgment not only strikes people who do evil (Pro 21:12), but also those who refuse to do good. “The one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jam 4:17). “He who shuts his ear”, consciously does not want to hear (cf. Acts 7:57). It is an expression of cruelty and insensitivity. Here someone does so, that he cannot hear “the cry of the poor”. He shuts himself for a help request. He does hear it, but pretends not to hear it.
It is thereby about a help request which has been spoken. It can also be applied to an unspoken help request, to an observation of somebody who is poor, but avoid such person. He who does so, is insensitive; he closes his heart, his inner being (1Jn 3:17). He may even camouflage his deafness with pious words (Jam 2:16).
Those who do not show favor, will not receive mercy when they themselves shall ask for it (cf. Jam 2:13a). Poor Lazarus was laid at the gate of the rich man and was longing to be satisfied with what as falling from the rich man’s table. But the rich man overlooked him. He covered his ears and eyes to Lazarus and did not care about him. So when the rich man opens his eyes in the torment and begs for mercy to cool off his tongue, he finds no answer (Lk 16:19-31).
A Gift and a Bribe Bring Rest
“A gift in secret” is a gift which is not given loudly. It is a gift which is given from the one person to the other without others hearing about it. Such a gift has a calming effect on someone whom for whatever reason is angry. In that way he is made calmer. The second line of the verse says the same in other words.
In this verse it does not seem to be about a bribe, kickbacks or hush money, but about a means that causes a person to be calmed down. It often makes someone who is inflamed with anger, to calm down when someone approaches him with kindness. The gift or the bribe does not need to be given by the one whom he is angry about, but it can also be someone who has heard about it. Examples are the gifts that Jacob sends to Esau (Gen 32:1-20) and the gift that Abigail takes with her when she approaches David (1Sam 25:18; 35).
Joy and Terror
The nature of men becomes clear from their reaction to the exercise of justice. When doing justice “is joy” for someone, we are dealing with a righteous man. When doing justice “is terror” for people, we are dealing with those who are doing injustice. The righteous not only does justice because he is supposed to, but he does it with joy. He doesn’t do justice because he is afraid of the consequences when he does not, but he does justice because he loves justice. The Lord Jesus is the true Just. God testifies of Him: “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness” (Heb 1:9a).
“The workers of iniquity” are those whose life exists of doing injustice. Doing justice is doing God’s will. They hate that. Only the thought of it is already a terror for them. They are not able to do justice and they do not want that at all. But they will totally be overcome by terror when they will have to give account for their deeds before Him. Then they will be forced to do justice, in the sense of bowing down before Him, for Whom they never wanted to bow down. Hell will be full of people who have always hated justice. They will be under eternal terror because justice has been done to their injustice.
Wandering Leads to the Dead
“A man who wanders from the way of understanding”, is someone who has known the right way, but has left it. The way of understanding is the way of God. He who leaves it, turns his back to God and His Word and His people. First he walked in the way that God in His Word presents to man as the right way, which is the way of blessing. Whoever leaves that way, will be someone who continually wanders and always goes a wrong way (2Pet 2:15).
The tragedy is that such a person thinks that in the way that he wanders, he is going the way of understanding. It is actually true, but it is then the way of his own dark understanding. It is impossible that someone who lives in full spiritual darkness, finds and goes the right way. Only the grace of God can make someone discover that he is wandering.
He who is wandering, is on the way of the “assembly of the dead” to “rest” there, which means to dwell or stay there. It refers to the wrong way that he goes. That way is full of spiritually dead people, those who live as dead ones without God. It also refers to the place where he will eventually end up when he dies physically.
He Who Loves Pleasure, Wine and Oil
The love for “pleasure” and “wine and oil” is a love for these things in itself, without a relation with God. It is about someone who belongs to the group of people of whom Paul says that they “are more lovers of their own pleasures than of God” (2Tim 3:4). We may surely enjoy all kinds of earthly blessings that God has given us. But if we forget that we owe everything to Him and it means everything to us, lack will appear in our spiritual life and we will miss spiritual wealth. Pleasure in the sense of plain amusement, having fun every day, is an empty form of life. This life is seen as the highest aim by the world around us.
‘Enjoy’ is the key word. You come across it in numerous advertisements. Delicious food and drink, music, sports and amusement in all varieties have to give a feeling of pleasure. But it is like the crackling of thorns that cause warmth for just a little while when they are being burnt, but this fire is quenched within a moment. Then the warmth is over and gone.
Wine and oil are symbolic here for the luxury life and as stand-alone causes of joy (Amos 6:6). When these things are being pursued, they will lead to a life of complacent pleasure, which in its turn leads to spiritual poverty. Whoever focuses on life in luxury, will seek fellowship with God less and less in Bible reading and praying. He will become spiritually poor. He who pursues luxury, will also neglect other responsibilities, such as attention and care for wife and children.
It also has something to say to us as Christians. We can be so focused on the joy of faith, that we forget the Source of it. It becomes being happy because of and in the happiness. Pleasure, however, is never an abstract phenomenon, but comes forth from the Source out of Whom we can draw. You find this in certain churches where joy and the ‘Spirit’, of Whom oil is a picture, have an excessive place. Therefore the consequence is always the poverty that is mentioned here.
A Wicked Man as a Ransom
When God brings His judgment over the wicked, we can see that as a ransom for the righteous (cf. Isa 43:3-4). In that way the righteous is being released from the oppression by the wicked. Ransom is the price that is paid to release a prisoner. God brings the evil over the wicked that he has done to the righteous (cf. Pro 11:8). Also the unfaithful comes under the judgment of God. He deserves and receives that judgment because he himself has oppressed the righteous.
There comes a time that God will reverse the roles. That will be at the coming of the Lord Jesus to the earth to judge and to reign. He will judge the oppressors of His people and lead His people that have been oppressed to rest (2Thes 1:6-7). He will let the wicked perish, so that the righteous may be liberated.
Better … Than
Like Pro 21:9 this proverb is a “better … than” proverb about living with a contentious woman. From the corner of a roof where the man in Pro 21:9 would have had a better place than in the communal house, he has now moved to “a desert land”. It is better for him to be living there than “with a contentious and vexing woman”. In that place he is far away from the hearing of this woman.
In the corner of the roof he could hear her still, but there he was also able to have social contacts. In a desert land he dwells totally by himself and almost without any social contacts. It is sparsely populated there and very peaceful, but also dangerous because of wild animals. Still, that dwelling area and that environment are preferable to being constantly confronted with ‘domestic strife’. The woman is not only contentious, constantly looking for conflicts, but in addition to that she is also ’vexing’, a woman who frustrates her husband and makes him sad. The marriage with such a woman is a continuous source of problems instead of joy.
Both verses that deal with living together with a contentious woman, are a warning to the unmarried man. They do not imply advice for a married man to search for another place to live when his wife shows characteristics of contentiousness and irritation. They underline how important it is to be careful at choosing a marital partner. It is also a warning to the married man to make efforts not to allow contentiousness and irritation to dominate the marriage, but that the marriage is characterized by a serving love. That is first of all his responsibility.
The Wise Is Saving and Lives
“The wise” (Pro 21:20), while living day by day, lives by focusing on the future. There is “precious treasure and oil in his dwelling place”, which he uses daily, while he knows that whatever he has is also enough in times of lack. That is because he looks further and more importantly higher than these means. He sees that he receives them from God’s hand.
The wise may be a poor man who lives in a hut. The precious treasure is not so much a lot of gold or silver, but may be a little bit of bread, with the confidence in God that He will give him daily the amount of the bread that he needs for that day (Mt 6:11). The oil does not refer to a great supply of oil which he can sell later, but to a little bit of which he trusts that it is enough for that day and which he will also need later. In short, the wise trusts in God.
The widow of Zarephath was such a wise woman (1Kgs 17:11-15). She had a little bit of flour and a little bit of oil, but she also had the man of God. He made sure that the flour and the oil did not exhaust, because the woman believed what he said. We also have that precious treasure and oil in our home if we surrender everything of our house to the Lord Jesus. He shall then make sure that we shall have no lack.
The fool doesn’t think about the future. He also has the precious treasure and oil but no confidence in God. He therefore wastes everything that he has. The wise live in the here and now, but with his eyes focused on the future; the fool lives only for the here and now. The fool spends his money like sand is slipping through his fingers. He doesn’t see his property in the light of the future and therefore he wastes it. His motto is ‘no worries about the future’, but he does not consider that he ‘then’ will meet God and will have to give account to Him for all he has done with his property.
He who “pursues” (Pro 21:21) something, is convinced about its value and that it is worthy to do everything to get it. The wise is convinced about the value of “righteousness and loyalty”. Righteousness is giving to God what He is entitled to and to people what they are entitled to. It is according to justice. “Loyalty” refers to a mind of kindness. They go together in a perfectly balanced way in God. They should also go together in the righteous.
He who pursues these two characteristics, shall find and experience the real “life”, in both now and forever. The real life is life in fellowship with God, as which Christ had known when He was on earth. In addition he also finds “righteousness”. He is totally sure about him being accepted by God. It is not about receiving a position for God here, for that is not to be earned. It is about the awareness of the blessing to be able to be in God’s presence. The basis of it is the work of Christ. Finally he also finds “honor”. God honors him for his effort (cf. Jn 12:26).
This ‘pursuing’ cannot happen in one’s own power. It can only happen through the Holy Spirit Who works this pursuing in the new life. It is also said to Timothy that he should pursue righteousness and also a number of other features. When he does that, he will seize the real, eternal life (1Tim 6:11-12). Timothy was a believer, but it is also about the new life which is being lived by him. That is also what Solomon means here.
The Wise Conquers and Guards Himself
“A city of the mighty” thinks that it is invincible (Pro 21:22). It trusts in the power of its mighty men. But “wisdom is better than power” (Ecc 9:16). It is more effective to use wisdom than to trust in power (Ecc 7:19). Due to his wisdom a wise man is able to scale that city, despite the mighty men that are in it and to bring down the stronghold, which was not considered to be brought down (Ecc 9:14-15).
The stronghold is brought down because people have trusted in it. That’s what makes the difference with wisdom. Wisdom is stronger than self-confidence, because wisdom leans on God. Fearing God is after all the beginning of wisdom. Only by the power of God which goes together with wisdom, the wise is able to scale a city of mighty men.
A careful strategy and a wise application of courage will win from pure muscle power and skillful use of weapons. In that way Joshua conquered Ai (Jos 8:3-22) and Gideon defeated the great army of the Midianites with a small army (Jdg 7:7). The power of the enemy is broken by those who trust in God. That also goes for the spiritual warfare. Each stronghold of human, each mind that contrasts God is pulled down and taken down by him who allows himself to be led by the Spirit of God and the Word of God (2Cor 10:3-5).
Another victory is that over the tongue (Pro 21:23). He who can control his tongue, prevents himself to get into troubles. The wise knows when to be silent (Ecc 3:7). The talkative gets into troubles quickly. He had said things which were supposed to be kept secret or was too quick in speaking out a judgment about someone. That causes him resistance and sometimes even hostility. He is being blamed for what he has said.
People who control their mouth and tongue, think first before they say something. They will not get into social or legal troubles quickly because of a wrong remark that they have made (cf. Pro 13:3). It is therefore good to consider things that are true, honorable, right, pure, loving and of good repute (Phil 4:8) and also say those things, while we avoid everything that is dishonest, painful and damaging to others.
The Scoffer and His Insolent Pride
“Haughtiness” and “pride” are the characteristics by which the scoffer is recognized. A person who is haughty and proud, bears the name “scoffer”. He goes his way arrogantly, with contempt for every form of authority. In his haughtiness he refuses to bow down to God. In his pride he exalts himself above others. With him there is no desire for wisdom at all, for that means that he should have respect for God.
There is a total lack of modesty with the scoffer. In his arrogance he “acts with insolent pride”. He thinks that he is able to control everything and that he can order whoever he wants, to help him. He does not accept contradiction. The antichrist is the scoffer par excellence. Pharaoh and Sennacherib said things about God in their arrogance and they both were killed by God’s judgment (Exo 5:2; Exo 14:23-30; Isa 36:16-20; Isa 37:38). In such a way the antichrist will also get killed and everyone with him who are recognized by his spirit of mockery.
The Sluggard and the Righteous
“A sluggard” has a powerfully working “desire”, but his “hands refuse to work” (Pro 21:25). That combination “puts him to death”. A sluggard is day dreaming about food and drink, about everything that others have and what he also wants. But he does not want his hands to work. That demands too much energy from him. It is not a question of not being able to, but a question of not wanting to. He chooses not to work.
Additionally, the sluggard is also ignorant or foolish, for he does not realize that his laziness is leading him to death. He is so occupied with his desires, his world is such a lie, it is a world of ‘wishful thinking’, that this life becomes fatal to him and that he dies of lack.
Pro 21:26 is directly connected to Pro 21:25 and continues the theme of the sluggard and his desires. A sluggard is totally locked up in his own world of life. He is all day long totally filled with feelings of lust, which seek to be satisfied. It may regard nice food and drink, or buying things that make life pleasant or exciting. Those are “cravings” for him. He has surrounded himself with those things in his fantasy. But he rejects the thought of buying these things with money earned by himself.
“A righteous man” is no sluggard, but a diligent worker. That he is righteous, appears also from his generosity. The Bible teaches us that a righteous person is a giving person. The righteous is not only diligent and he not only has enough for himself, but has so much, that he gives also to the poor. The sluggard covets continually, but the righteous gives continuously, without restraint (cf. Acts 20:34-35). The sluggard wants to receive continuously without working for it. The righteous works hard and gives away abundantly to whom is poor.
The Hypocrite Will Perish
God hates “the sacrifice” or the worship “of the wicked” because they come to God without confessing their sins and therefore they are without righteousness before God (Pro 21:27; Jer 6:20; Amos 5:21-24). The sacrifice or the worship with which such a person comes to God is not only unacceptable to God, but it is an abomination to Him. God first of all, demands from the worshipper a true conversion and the intention to live right. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psa 51:17).
Hypocritical worship is bad enough; worship “with evil intent” is fully abominable. God doesn’t want acts of worship without contrition, but it is fully abominable when it comes from someone who thinks that he can bribe God with his sacrifice, so that He will give him what he desires. ‘You do not get something for nothing. I bring a sacrifice – I give for example money to the church or once in a while I visit a sick person – so, He should give me whatever I want or anyway make sure that nothing bad happens to me.’ Evil intents are a great abomination to God.
The hypocrite in Pro 21:27 stands opposite to God. The hypocrite in Pro 21:28 stands opposite to men. “A false witness” is someone who deliberately testifies falsely against someone else. He will get killed. God will judge him. When it appears to men that his testimony is false, he will be convicted by the judge on earth.
The opposite of the false witness is written in the second line of the verse: “he who listens”. Such a person is a true, reliable witness. He who always listens first to what is being said about a matter in which he has to witness, someone who says nothing more than what he has heard or seen, will speak forever. He is faithful; he will again and again speak in cases that have occurred. Because he knows and understands what the truth is, he doesn’t have to keep silent. Nobody will be able to rebuke or refute him.
Stephen was such a witness. He listened to God’s voice by His Word. The wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke, were not to be refuted (Acts 6:10). Also Abel, after he died, he still speaks (cf. Heb 11:4). Above all, the Lord Jesus is the faithful and truthful Witness. He has always listened to God and He therefore will always speak. He is the truth and speaks the truth.
“A wicked man” gives the impression to be convinced (Pro 21:29). He displays a bold face. He is ashamed about nothing and does not know how to blush (Jer 6:15; Jer 8:12). The bold face reflects a hardened, unrepentant heart (Isa 48:4; Jer 5:3; Eze 3:7). With a straight face he tells the harshest lies and commits the most horrible crimes. From the second line of the verse it seems that a wicked man goes a way that has no security at all, how powerful he pretends to be. He will sink away in immeasurably deep troubles when he will be judged by God.
“The upright makes his way sure” because he looks up, to God, and asks Him for guidance. He seems to be dependable and weak, but that makes him strong, for God gives him strength. God’s joy rests upon him. The Lord Jesus is also the perfect example here. In following Him, we also see Paul as an example. He was upright (2Cor 1:17) and admitted that he was dependent on grace: “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor 12:10).
Unconquerable and Victorious
The chapter ends with which it began: the absolute sovereignty and majesty of God. Everything that He intends to do, will happen. There is nothing and nobody, who can hinder Him to carry out His plans (Pro 21:30). He laughs at everything that man does to hinder Him in His plans (Psa 2:1-4).
Human “wisdom”, “understanding” and “counsel” are nothing more than foolishness in the light of wisdom, understanding and the counsel of God. It shows total blindness and powerlessness. By using the word “no” three times, it is emphasized that there is really absolutely nothing that can be said against the LORD. All His plans and acts are perfect and inviolable for whatever power.
We see that in everything that was planned against the Lord Jesus, in order to kill Him. Still, everything has happened the way that God had determined (Acts 2:23). If they for instance had planned to place His grave with the wicked, then still He is with the rich in His death, because God has determined it that way (Isa 53:9; Mt 27:57-60). God proclaims the end from the beginning and man cannot change anything about that. On the contrary, God uses him in spite of himself, for the fulfillment of His plans.
A man may be wise in certain views and have insight and therefore give wise advice. He may have been highly educated and have experience. But if he has no fear of the LORD, he lacks the real wisdom and the real insight and his advice will appear to be foolishness. It comes down to insulting God if we want to compare human wisdom, understanding and advice with His wisdom, understanding and counsel.
Man is of “yesterday and knows nothing” (Job 8:9). “Jesus Christ is the Same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8). He Who is God, overlooks the past, the present and the future. Man cannot look into the future. He can make predictions based on experience and assumptions, but he cannot offer any guarantees. God determines what happens. Man does well to agree with that and not to turn against Him. The so-called wise people have no foresight and have no control over the future. They claim that they do, by presenting goals for the future with pompous words, but all their claims will be shipwrecked by the LORD, for He alone has wisdom, understanding and counsel.
The ultimate success of an act or the victory in a battle comes from God and not by human efforts (Pro 21:31). The contrast here is between the plans and troubles for the battle on the one hand, “the horse is prepared for the day of battle”, and on the other hand the recognition of the real source of the victory, “the LORD” (Psa 20:8; Psa 33:17). Means may be used to achieve something, but we must never forget that if we have success we owe it to God. We are allowed to use means, but never to make an idol out of it.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 21". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13