by Pastor Mark Hudson
I have been referring to Bruce Waltke’s commentary on Proverbs since he thinks the author or inspired editor placed the proverbs together for specific reasons. He rejects the idea that the placement of the Proverbs is haphazard. See below for this section.
B. Collection IIb: The Lord and His King (15:30-22:22). There are 11 subheadings under this rubric. The next big section is III. The thirty sayings of the wise (22:17-24:22). Back to chapter 21, which is our focus today. Chapter 21 is the 10th of his 11 categories under the Lord and His king.
10. Doing righteousness and justice (20:29-21:31)
a. Twofold introduction (20:29-21:2)
1. Introduction: Education (20:29-31
2. The framing introduction: the Lord’s sovereignty (21:1-2)
b. Body: on doing righteousness and justice (21:3-29)
c. Conclusion: the Lord’s sovereignty over people and kingdom (21:30-31)
Since the bulk of this passage, according to Waltke, concerns doing
righteousness and justice, we will focus our attention on these verses. The first verse of this section is found throughout Scripture or at least some version of it. This verse is a bridge or janus to this next section. “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” This is important because it reminds us of what God values. He always values doing what is right to others and God over giving up something. He always values justice, which is treating people fairly, holding to God’s standards rather than what some call religion, i.e., doing some of what God says like giving, sacrificing things, refraining from doing things we think are wrong, but doing those things with an eye on some return. To a certain extent, we like sacrifice over doing what is right. Doing what is right does not come naturally. Doing the right thing may be right in the long term but my sinful mind wants what it wants now. So, throw a little money God’s way, give up something which are all things I control, and all is good.
While this is often how we reason, God does not. Yes, God commands sacrifice. Giving and sacrificing will always be a central aspect of genuine faith. But not at the expense of or in place of living out that genuine relationship with God by faith in God and obedience. One of the classic sections in the Bible is I Sam 15, esp. vs. 22. In Matt 23:23, Jesus castigates the Pharisees who were the biggest offenders of this principle.
So, if you read vs. 4-29 this way, you will see those proverbs fall under that general heading. So, if there is anything that is clear in the Bible is that God hates pride. The raised eyes denotes a looking down on others. Better to be lowly which is often a synonym for the poor. But a proud heart is what God especially hates. James clearly calls out pride saying, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Pride is a tell-tale sign of the unrighteous while humility is an indicator of righteousness. Pride can be distinguished from confidence but pride in a believer’s life masquerades or hides attempting to conceal its presence. And we love to be beguiled by its so called “non-existence” or better yet, the presence of pride but in our lives, we reason, pride is justified.
Another notable outward expression of the godly is generosity (v. 13). The godly are hospitable, give to the poor, fair to their employees, support the temple or church ministry, and are attentive to the widows, orphans, and the poor in general. However the ungodly turn a deaf ear. The ungodly know and hear their cries but resolve not to help. How we spend our money is a clear indicator of your heart. God’s people are generous but the unrighteous are not and while some of them may be wealthy there is no joy with that kind of life. When the heart is hard, the ear is deaf (Waltke Vol. 2. P. 178).
Notice v. 20, “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” The wise man is prudent and cautious regarding how much of his wealth, including food and oil, he should consume and how much he should save. The wise man saves and is slow to spend. This wise person can still be found but not many live in the U.S. A report on CNBC’s website posted November 15, 2022, states that household debt has increased in the 3rd quarter at the fastest pace in 15 years. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/11/15/household-debt-soars-at-fastest-pace-in-15-years-as-credit-card-use-surges-fed-report-says.html. In other words, we want what we want and we want it now. Unsurprisingly, this is not how righteous people live. There is a trust in God and a lack of greed in the godly.
Finally notice v. 27, “The sacrifice of the wicked in an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent?” God is particular about how we worship Him and who worships Him. He does not hear the prayers of the ungodly (Ps 66:18; Prov 28:9; Is. 1:15; Jer. 11:11-14). God is not obligated to anyone and He is certainly not going to listen to those who spurn His name, reject His laws, and parade their wickedness in front of others mocking God. This is a warning to all of us. Just like the call to righteousness and justice is. We are under the King’s orders.
Father, I think of preachers during the years when slavery cursed our land. Did pastors preach about justice and righteousness? Now, do we care for the poor, the helpless, the widows and orphans? Do we support those who are caring for a child who could have been aborted? Do we see and hear others who cry out for help? Transform our lives so we are generous but also save our resources. Thank You that You provide clarity for how we are to live. We pray in the strong name of Jesus. Amen.