Read Proverbs 29:1-14
A skilled orator will talk to one group for a little and then seamlessly transition to the next major segment of his audience, and then to the next, and back again to the first group.
As we consider this chapter, visualize Solomon sitting in front of such a diverse group teaching to all, some more than others at times, mixing general and specific, and bringing up familiar quips of wisdom in slightly different words.
Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes
will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.
There is some interesting syntax here that involves something beyond being destroyed. It is being destroyed and that destruction being beyond remedy.
It seems that we have all hit lows once in our lives that we might call the bottom. Some may seem more drastic than others. Not everyone has lost everything and everyone due to drugs, crime, hate or other vices and devices; but we all have experienced a time when we felt we were at the end of our rope.
Yet here we are today seeking God and worshiping God and lifting on high the name of Jesus.
We were rescued.
We were saved.
We were redeemed.
But Solomon says the person who keeps kicking against the goads may find their life at an end before they come to repentance.
The second verse is familiar to us.
When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
when the wicked rule, the people groan.
There are consequences for the governed based on the righteousness of the governors. This perhaps is of greater significance to those of us who are privileged to live by representative government.
Solomon continues by once again reminding us that the intrinsic reward of a parent is a child who walks in God’s ways.
A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father,
but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.
The coffee shop conversation should not hover around people talking about their kids who are doctors or lawyers or soldiers or sailors or who are making money or doing time.
The conversation stopper should be the proud father who says, “My son walks in the way of God.”
Now back to those who govern us.
By justice a king gives a country stability,
but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down.
Will Rogers once said, “I was born on Nov. 4, which is Election Day. My birthday has made more men and sent more back to honest work than any other days in the year.”
If we elect men and women committed to justice and service instead of to themselves, our entire nation is rewarded.
Now back to a some generalization.
Those who flatter their neighbors
are spreading nets for their feet.
Well intended compliments are just fine. Flattery normally comes with some expectations. The wise should watch their step when people are paying them too many compliments.
Solomon continues with generalized wisdom using contrasting pairings once again.
Evildoers are snared by their own sin,
but the righteous shout for joy and are glad.
There is a little self-fulfilling prophecy in this one. If you set out to do evil to others, then expect evil as your own destination. If you are on the path of righteousness then you will enjoy this righteous path.
If we can truly know people by their fruit, then try this fruit inspecting standard.
The righteous care about justice for the poor,
but the wicked have no such concern.
Those living God’s way care about justice for all, including those without the means to obtain it in the systems of the world. Those who have rejected God and his wisdom don’t give a hoot about anyone but themselves.
How do you get from Palm Sunday to Jesus being nailed to a cross? How do you get from shouts of “Hosanna” to a mob crying out, “Crucify him?”
Perhaps this next quip of wisdom offers a little insight.
Mockers stir up a city,
but the wise turn away anger.
It doesn’t take much to turn a crowd into an angry mob. People not governed by wisdom, are subject to mob rule.
Wise people will not engage the firebrand of discontent; yet, they will find a way not to let him become a mob leader either.
We should in fact disengage from mocker, scoffers, fools, and firebrands at every opportunity. Let others know that we are about the business of our Master and not interested in the quests of a fool.
Solomon reminds us that this applies to dealings in court as well.
If a wise person goes to court with a fool,
the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.
A fool is looking for an audience where his ranting and raving have ears to hear. A government court can be such a place. Remember that the fool doesn’t have to win the case to win in his own mind. He just needs to stir up controversy.
The bloodthirsty hate a person of integrity
and seek to kill the upright.
The statesman Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Men of integrity must act with integrity, even and especially when such actions come with risk to their own lives.
Just because you pursue a path of justice and righteousness does not mean that others will not violently oppose you.
Back to fools and the wise in familiar counsel.
Fools give full vent to their rage,
but the wise bring calm in the end.
Note the contrasts.
Fools – Wise
Rage – Calm
Give in to – bring about
This last pairing marks the wise person. They do not give into the cravings of the worldly self but choose to act in accordance with their divine self.
The wise are proactive. They act upon their environment instead of being victims of it and making foolish choices.
If a ruler listens to lies,
all his officials become wicked.
What does the president, governor, or mayor reward?
If it is honesty, then his advisers will bring him genuine counsel.
If he values being told what he wants to hear, then that is what most of his people will bring him.
If the ruler gives no quarter to garbage, he will have none. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A leader receives in accordance with the expectations he sets in word and deed.
As we read the Proverbs, it might seem that Solomon puts people into categories or labels them. That is the case to some extent, but then he reminds us that the Lord is the Lord of all.
The poor and the oppressor have this in common:
The Lord gives sight to the eyes of both.
Jesus when he was teaching to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so you can truly be children of God, reminded his followers and reminds us that God causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on the evil and the good, the righteous and the unrighteous alike.
The final piece of wisdom in this selection has practical as well as Messianic implications. A good ruler as we just recently discussed can expect stability and here we see a long line of succession as well.
If a king judges the poor with fairness,
his throne will be established forever.
But we must also be mindful, that only one royal line would be established forever. That one went from David to Jesus.
How do we wrap up this section? Let’s go with liberty, justice, and wisdom for all and a royal line of David forever.