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Rich, poor, evil, righteous, and more

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Read Proverbs 28:1-14

Had Solomon lived in this century, his editor would have sent the Proverbs back to him with a note that read “Arrange topically and resubmit.”

But for now, we take them in the order presented to us.

The wicked flee though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

You might say that those who live God’s way can sleep at night. Those up to no good are always looking over their shoulders. There is a built in peace in doing what God wants you to do.

Solomon next jumps to the national level and applies wisdom.

When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers,
but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.

A ruler who oppresses the poor
is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.

It seems that today we can hardly wait for the next election because we became upset at the last batch of people elected to govern before they even took office.

Once upon a time, a nation was considered blessed if it maintained continuity of leadership, especially if the leader was tuned into the needs of his country more than his own personal agenda.

Today, most western countries have some form of term limits, at least for their executives, so turnover is inevitable. Perhaps with shorter windows from which to rule, our modern day executives must be more discerning and knowledgeable to maintain good order.

If we take Solomon’s words to heart, governing has become a tougher job in the modern era.

The next few quips of wisdom basically talk about which side of the line you are on.

If you are pulling for the wicked, then you don’t give a hoot about God’s wisdom.

If you are doing evil then doing what is right seems stupid to you.

If you seek God's kingdom and his righteousness, it doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, you are better off for it. The wisest man in the world said it this way.

Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked,
but those who heed it resist them.

Evildoers do not understand what is right,
but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.

Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than the rich whose ways are perverse.

What makes a father truly happy? Seeing his kids living for God.

What makes a parent sad? A child that does not heed God’s wisdom.

A discerning son heeds instruction,
but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.

The Parable of the Lost Son surely hit home with most Jews. They knew that a father’s joy was in the obedience and learning of his children, especially sons in this day and age. While the parable is about a father’s love, those listening to it surely understood the disgrace that the father suffered as his son went and squandered everything he had on wild living.

Today, wanting the best for our children often equates to getting them the newest video game. Wisdom says that a child with a teachable spirit has received a gift and become a gift unto his parents.

Wealth and good standing are important in the Proverbs, but they come with some admonishments. Don’t take advantage of people, especially those worse off than you.

Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor
amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.

This might sound similar to an earlier proverb.

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children,
but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

Proverbs 13:22

If you take advantage of those less fortunate than you, don’t expect to enjoy your profits for long.

This next quip takes us back to the beginning.

If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction,
even their prayers are detestable.

Do you remember Proverbs 1:7?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

You can’t go down a path that God has told you to steer clear of and ask for his help to make it to the end. Well, you can ask, but he will not honor your request. It lacks reverence and sincerity.

It also may sound familiar to so many Christians. “Lord, I know that is not what I should be doing, but will you help me just this once so this all comes out right for me.”

How does God answer such a prayer?

I am not doing what you want me to do.

I am not repenting of my current ways.

I know you told me to plant tomatoes and I planted broccoli but would you please give me a bumper crop of broccoli?

God, I sure could use your help. Don’t want to live the way you told me to live, but I sure could use your help.

God, I have turned a deaf ear to your instruction but I sure could use your help.

How does God answer such a prayer?

He sends someone like John the Baptist to precede the Savior of the world. What did John say?

Repent!

We are spitting in the wind if we are asking God to bless something that he told us not to do. Turn around, listen to and follow God’s instructions, and then pray for help.

Next we see both provision and protection for those who do follow in God’s way.

Whoever leads the upright along an evil path
will fall into their own trap,
but the blameless will receive a good inheritance.

God is faithful to both protect us and provide for us when we are faithful to him. Those who are out to get us will fall victim to their own devices.

Things get a little tricky with this next verse.

The rich are wise in their own eyes;
one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are.

But I thought that if we followed in God’s ways we would prosper and this would be a good thing? This proverb makes being rich sound like riches blind us to God’s ways.

Consider the parable of the bigger barns or as some translations label it, the parable of the rich fool. The problem was not that the man was wealthy but that he placed his security in his wealth and was not rich towards God.

He did not use his riches for God’s purposes. He just wanted to kick back and play it safe. As it turned out in this parable this was hardly a safe choice.

When we see the words, “the rich” we should put them in the same context of “the fool” or the “sluggard.”

We might all be a little lazy every once in a while, but that doesn’t make us a sluggard.

We have all made foolish mistakes, but that doesn’t make us a fool.

Likewise, being wealthy and prosperous in itself does not place us in a labeled category that Solomon might call “the rich.” If you will recall, Solomon was not living day-to-day on food stamps.

For those who store up treasures in this world because all of their reward will come in this world, they can see nothing else.

Much like the counsel about fools, this proverb is not written to the people it describes. It is a caution to God’s own people not to get caught up in the cravings and trappings of this world that entice us away from God. Better to be poor and walking in God’s ways than rich and headed the other direction.

The next piece of wisdom reminds us that there are some real life consequences in life. When good men and women do what they are called to do, things go better.

When good men and women are outnumbered by those who subscribe to evil, times are tough.

God never promised us a rose garden, at least in this life. I’m pretty sure he could give a few acres of thorn-free roses in the life to come.

When the righteous triumph, there is great elation;
but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.

What does that mean to us—to those who live in the western world and enjoy the privilege of electing our own leaders?

We had better be diligent in the men and women we elect and select to serve our nation, state, communities, and other governing bodies.

There are consequences—good and bad—depending upon who comes to power during our lifetimes.

The next one illustrates that the grace of God has been around a long time.

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

We know something very similar from the Apostle John’s first letter.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us

The blood of Jesus has atoned for our sin. Our call is to confession. Our aim is to live a life that hits the target.

God’s grace is not just a New Testament blessing. It has been around from the beginning.

We wrap up this section once again with the fear of the Lord.

Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.

The person who lives in awe and reverence of God is blessed.

Those who turn away from him are not.

Even though God has called us friend, we live in reverence of him for all of the days of our life and through all eternity.

We do not fear punishment from him. Perfect love casts out that sort of fear. We simply never lose our awe and reverence of him.

Amen.

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