Read Proverbs 28:15-28
Solomon pairs some pairings in this section with a clear cut theme or in some cases one that is a little more conceptual or remote.
Let’s begin with government.
Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked ruler over a helpless people.
A tyrannical ruler practices extortion,
but one who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long reign.
Bad rulers are bad. Good rulers are good. That about sums it up, except that this proverb goes on to say that only the unselfish ruler will enjoy a long reign.
In a time where even our western representative governments have become so tainted with self-serving greed, here is a principle to instill in the generation to come.
If you truly want to serve the people you must take on a servant’s heart and abandon the desire for personal gain. Perhaps our lesson here is in the raising of our next generation of leaders.
The next pairing again appears simplistic at first.
Anyone tormented by the guilt of murder
will seek refuge in the grave;
let no one hold them back.
The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe,
but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit.
God takes care of good people and lets the bad ones get what’s coming to them. That might be close enough, but consider that the first of these two does not say that murderers will kill themselves.
Some will be tormented by what they did and the grave is their only refuge. That does not mean that the grave is the only refuge.
Consider the proverbs that we have explored about confession and mercy. The outcome for the sinner—even the vilest of sinners—is directed by the heart. The avenue for repentance has not been blocked by God but only by the heart of the sinner.
Next we come to four proverbs loosely tied together under what we might call the get rich quick mentality.
Those who work their land will have abundant food,
but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.
A faithful person will be richly blessed,
but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.
To show partiality is not good—
yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread.
The stingy are eager to get rich
and are unaware that poverty awaits them.
God’s model is work hard, manage well, and live long in the land with more than enough to meet your needs and even leave an inheritance to your grandchildren.
People see what others of wealth have and want it all now.
Dave Ramsey uses an interesting analogy when talking about financial peace and security. He says that everything discussed involves cooking with a crock pot not a microwave.
People who are too hungry for money and riches will come up with grand schemes but not have the work ethic to do anything with them. They will covet what is not theirs. They will do wrong and break the law because in their frivolous quests they end up broke and hungry.
Wisdom says that those who work hard and are faithful will be blessed and have an abundance. Those who seek God and his kingdom and his righteousness will be given more than adequate provision.
Those who faithfully follow God’s wisdom will reap the built-in rewards.
Solomon comes back once again to the quality of a true friend or a valued counselor.
Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor
rather than one who has a flattering tongue.
We are not talking about fault-finders. “You don’t need that extra piece of pie. You misspelled the word misspelled again. You need to wash your car.”
The world has enough of those and profits very little from them.
We are talking about the wise friend or advisor who sees something in us that will harm us if not addressed.
We are talking about the wise friend or advisor who sees a quality in us that is not being used to the full.
It is a person who will set aside comfort to be a true friend or a valued advisor. For in matters of real value and concern, the easy thing to do is to say nothing. The counsel may not be well received at first, but in the end this person who took a considered risk to challenge us will be valued.
Solomon continues with what I might call the dichototudes. I know that not a real word but it has a better ring to it than a series of dichotomies in proverbial prose.
Whoever robs their father or mother
and says, “It’s not wrong,”
is partner to one who destroys.
Right is right and wrong is wrong. You can’t disguise it. This kid is going to grow up to embezzle his own company if someone doesn’t straighten him out soon.
The greedy stir up conflict,
but those who trust in the Lord will prosper.
Those who trust God in everything will have the provision they need. Those who don’t trust him are to be labeled firebrands of discontent. They cannot be satisfied with what is right and fair and pleasing to God.
Those who trust in themselves are fools,
but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.
This is a corollary of Proverbs 3:5-6 with a different presentation. We who trust in the Lord know that he will make our path straight. He will get us to that exact place where we need to go.
But one who does lean on his own understanding is called a fool. They trust in themselves.
This proverb does not degrade self-confidence. Self confidence is good stuff. God has well equipped us to do his work. We should be confident in God’s investment in us and the trust that he gives us with gifts, talents, and resources.
But our confidence in ourselves comes from knowing that we are God’s trusted servants. We never lose sight of this relationship. Even being called a friend does not cause us to lose sight of who our Master is.
Next we look at how we treat the poor.
Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.
This isn’t about us being rich or being poor. It is about us being generous and merciful, and about not turning a blind eye to the place and time that God has commissioned us in to do his work.
That is to say, that we don’t accidentally happen upon a person or family in need. We are there to help in some way.
We like to say that we meet people where they are but we don’t leave them there. Sometimes the best we can do in the moment is provide a little food.
My hope and what I believe to be one of my callings is to help lead people out of poverty—to help them with the lifelong solution not just something for the moment.
In any case, we as God’s people do not turn a blind eye to people in need.
We end where we began this pericope, with power and the people.
When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding;
but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.
It seems that people long ago were just at the mercy of the king and hoped that they got a good one. This might have just been a statement of fact in Solomon’s day, but it could be a challenge to diligence to those of us who enjoy the freedom of our representative governments.
Thomas Paine once said.
“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”
Back in Solomon’s day, you got who you got. Today, some would think it is the same way, but only if we are not diligent in seeking righteous people to govern us.
Today, we are responsible for whether the righteous or the wicked come to power in our land.
Today, words from about 27 centuries ago may mean more to us than they did to the original audience.
How do we tie all of this together?
Let’s mix some metaphors.
Life may be like a box of chocolates but God’s wisdom is like cooking in a Crock-pot not a microwave, you don’t know what you are going to get but that it will be good if you stay the course that he has set for you.