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Naughty Nothing – Pursuing Illusion

Proverbs 11:6

“The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.”

Other Versions

As I did with the last verse, let’s look again at a couple of other versions of Proverbs 11:6. Let’s look at the New King James (NKJV)and the New International Version (NIV).

The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, But the unfaithful will be caught by their lust.” –  NKJV

The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.” –  NIV

It would seem that the part that is causing any confusion or needs any clarification is the word “naughtiness.” I wonder if that has anything to do with the phrase we hear around Christmas, “naughty or nice?”

Naughtiness

Whenever I hear this word it makes me think of strict elementary school teachers, paddles, grandmothers, and disobedient, candy-stealing, bratty children. Snotty-nosed little kids are “naughty.” So why was this word chosen in the translation of the Hebrew word havah?

Havah can be translated as words such as “desire,” “mischievous,” or “perverse.” As a matter of fact, both the NKJV and the NIV do a good job and conveying the appropriate message. Yet, when you dig into the word “naughty” there is something worth noting.

According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, the origin of the word “naughty” can be found in the word “naught,” which is an old, Middle English word for “nothing.”

Taking that into account, what is “naughtiness” but the perverse and lustful pursuit of what amounts to essentially nothing? The transgressor, the “unfaithful,” shall be caught and destroyed by what seems to him as “real” and “natural.” While he scoffs at faith and pursues wickedness, he is doing nothing more than chasing an illusion. What a fool.

The Upright

The “righteousness” of the believer is nothing more than faith, for without faith (in His Word; in His Son) it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). One cannot be righteous without it.

One cannot be “upright” without a foundation on which to stand, but get this! “Faith is the substance,” the foundation on which the righteous stand upright. Faith is what delivers!

The wicked says, “I don’t believe in God, only the things I can see and feel.” Then he pursues a “nothingness” that leads to destruction.

The righteous puts his faith in the unseen Hand of God, and is delivered from destruction.

Scripture is full of irony, isn’t it?

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Not That Complicated

Proverbs 11:5

“The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.”

“The godly are directed by honesty; the wicked fall beneath their load of sin.” – NLT

“The righteousness of the blameless clears his path, but the wicked person will fall because of his wickedness.” – HCSB

Straightforward, or Complicated

Some people love to live lives that are in constant turmoil. They love the drama. They thrive on making excuses for failure. They are the wicked. They live complicated lives.

Then there are others who love to live simple, ordinary lives. They deal with issues in a sensible fashion. When they don’t succeed, they try again, learning from their mistakes. They are the “perfect,” the godly. Their lives are pretty straightforward.

The difference between the ways of the blameless and the wicked can be seen in how complicated or straightforward they are. One is clear for travel, while the other is littered with obstacles.

9 to 5, or 90 to Life

Speaking of Prov. 11:5, one commentary says, “Righteous living results in a straight way (cf. 3:5-6), a life with fewer obstacles and troubles (cf. 11:8), but wickedness leads to a person’s downfall.”[1] It really all comes down to how a person lives his life.

Honest, hard-working people who go to work and provide for their families are not usually the partying type. And by virtue of their consistency, their lifestyle is usually free of trouble. But when you look at the lives of people who live to fulfill the desires of the flesh, they are constantly in and out of court, in and out of jobs, and in and out of jail.

The difference is that living right makes the road of life smoother, while living wickedly brings trouble. Sometimes I wonder why that truth is so hard to understand. Yet, there are many who would rather risk prison than live in a way that pleases God.


[1] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Pr 11:5). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.


Watching the Scales

Proverbs 11:1

“A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.”

True Weight

In the attempt to stay a lean, mean, fighting machine (oh, get real), I have found myself watching the numbers when I weigh myself. As a matter of fact, there is a small calendar in our bathroom where I have recorded the numbers over about three months.

One day I was so excited that I had seemingly lost several pounds. I told my wife, “See, I am losing weight!” Then, later that day, I went to the doctor’s office for a regular checkup. It was there that my inflated ego became a lead balloon, for the official scales told a different story.

What I had thought was my weight when I stood on the cheap scales at home did not square with the expensive, worthless-to-argue-with scales at the doctor’s office. Instead of losing weight, I had gained weight. The scales at home lied!

Balances and Ducks

In order to really understand this proverb, we must understand what is meant by a “false balance.” As you can see by the illustration, things used to be weighed by placing one object on one side of a balance, and then a standard weight on the other.

A humorous example of false weights and false scales can be found in a scene from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In that scene a woman is accused of being a witch, so “logically” they decide that since wood burns the same as witches, and wood also floats, then something besides wood must be put in a scale to determine if the woman was actually a witch. They choose a duck, because ducks float in water like wood. Yeah, it’s crazy.

Once they take the accused witch to the scales, they place a duck on the opposite side. When they remove the blocks underneath, guess what? The scales did not move. Hmmm.

False Balances

But what God hates is a false balance. In other words, God hates scales that have been tampered with in order for a merchant (or a witch burner) to make a profit. God hates scales that do not tell the truth, but lead others to believe they do. God loves the truth, even if the scales tell us something we don’t want to admit.

In the book of Daniel we read of Belshazzar of Babylon seeing a message written by God on a wall. Among other things it said, “TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.“(Daniel 5:27). In Belshazzar’s mind his bathroom scale was just fine. But according to God’s scale, he was way, way off.

This proverb is primarily pointed at those who lie to make a profit. It is about those who tamper with what is a “true” weight to perpetuate a falsehood. In other words, hypocrisy.

But from a different perspective, we should remember that how we think of ourselves needs to measure up with God’s standard. The world’s scales are always a little unbalanced.


Consider Your Words

Proverbs 10:32

“The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.”

Think Before You Speak

The power of words and the language we use should never be under-estimated. Words can build up or words can destroy. A wise and righteous person thinks before speaking, and chooses his or her words carefully. A foolish or wicked person rarely stops to think, and words fall out of his or her mouth like tiny bombs that inflict all kinds of damage.

When I think back to my childhood I remember hearing words that shaped me. Call a child stupid enough times and he or she will grow up believing that they are stupid. My year four teacher at junior school made it clear that she didn’t like me, and that she thought that I was no good. I was eight years old. I knew I could never please this woman of harsh words, so I gave up trying. But I didn’t just give up trying in her class. I gave up trying for a long time, and never really enjoyed school again. I left school at sixteen.

Worse Than Profanities

Words spoken without thought, and especially those spoken with evil intent, are worse than profanities. Most children are brought up not to use profanities. My father would have punished me if he had heard me swear. But I have heard many words that are worse than profanities. Any word spoken with the intention of causing hurt, for instance. Why use words designed to cause pain, when words could be used instead to encourage family members, colleagues at work, friends in church, and friends outside the church? Sadly, it is all too easy to say the wrong thing.

The Bible teaches us to be encouragers, and provides many examples. These include Moses and Joshua, Samuel and David, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and His disciples, Paul and many of the early evangelists who accompanied him on his travels. Most of these relationships also contained a significant element of mentoring. These were intentional relationships in which one person sought to build up and encourage another, the aim being to help and enable the other person to fulfill their God-given potential.

Stop a moment and take a brief look at your own life. Consider the words spoken to you and the words you say to others. Who is encouraging you, who is an encouragement to you, and who are you encouraging? Could God be pointing you into a mentoring relationship?


Never Removed

Proverbs 10:30

“The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.”
It’s About Home

One of the hardest things a person can endure is the forced expulsion from one’s home. The pain and humiliation of being forced to leave the place where your ancestors lived, where your parents played, and where you planned for the future is a terrible thing. And it is especially hard when that home is not only taken away from you, but given to your enemies.

This verse is really all about having a home. It is about staying where one’s planted. It’s about security and peace. It’s about having a place where you belong.

It’s About a Promise

This verse also has to do with a promise that was made to the children of Israel. When Solomon penned (or quilled) these words, he was familiar with the promises and warnings God had given his forefathers. I am sure he knew of the final warnings of Joshua as the Israelites settled down in Canaan…

When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you. – Joshua 23:16

The promise was that if they kept the commandments of the Lord, they could stay in their homeland. But if they decided to act like the heathen and forget who brought them there, they would be evicted. That was a promise.

It’s an Awesome Truth

But stop and think about something. Notice what is said about the righteous: they shall “never be removed.” Never being removed from somewhere tells me that you’re already there. How is that possible? It is only possible through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ by grace through faith.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ … But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)  and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” – Ephesians 1:3; 2:4-6

The ESV translates Proverbs 10:30 this way: “The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not dwell in the land.”

If we are in Christ, then we are as good as there. But those without His righteousness will never have a place to call their own. They will always be strangers without a home.


Got Rope?

Proverbs 10:28

“The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.”
Hope

All men have a hope of some kind. Men and women without hope are surely to be pitied, for they have no reason to go on, no reason to live.

Hope is what keeps people going even in the worst of times. The hope of freedom keeps prisoners alive. The hope of walking again urges the crippled to keep trying. The hope of seeing one’s family again makes a child’s summer camp experience bearable. Hope is what we hold on to when don’t know what else to do.

Rope

Rope is something we hold on to, also. When people are in deep pits they yell out, “Throw me a rope!” When people want to repel down mountains, or clean the windows of skyscrapers, they put their trust in ropes.

When you think about it, what makes a rope useful? If you are not tying something up, but trying to climb, anchor a boat, or swing from a tree, what makes a rope useful is what it is tied to. In other words, you can’t climb up a rope that isn’t attached to anything. Throwing a rope to someone in a well is only helpful if someone on the other end attaches it to something.

Dopes

According to one prominent lexicon*, the original Hebrew word translated “expectation” came from a word that meant “rope”. A rope is something tangible, something you can see; not a hope that is based on the unseen.

But do you know what a “dope” is? A “dope” is someone who has been “duped;” a person who has fallen for a trick. That is what we could call the wicked in Proverbs 10:28. They have put their hope in a rope that is attached to nothing.

Do you see the irony? The righteous put their trust in a hope that is unseen and based on faith. But the wicked say there is no God, they have no use for faith, and trust in something they can feel, something they can get their hands around. The only problem is when the wicked fall, they will discover a rope tied to nothing will not save. They’ve been duped by the evil one.

Conclusion

The hope of the righteous is grounded in faith, while the expectation of the wicked is tied to nothing. The atheist claims that there is nothing beyond this life, and holds to that rope with tenacity. The righteous hold to the Unseen Hand and follow a voice only heard through the Spirit.

One day the floor will fall out from under both the righteous and the wicked. He who says, “let me fall into the hand of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 21:13) will have his hope fulfilled. But he who holds to the “rope” of unbelief will surely be disappointed.

*Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (872). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

A Prolonging Fear

Proverbs 10:27

“The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.”

How Long?

The statements in this verse appear to be fairly straightforward. Fear the Lord and you will have a long life: choose to be wicked and you will probably die young. It is easy to challenge both statements. How many God-fearing men and women have died while relatively young, including those engaged in full-time ministry? Jim Elliot is a good example. Jim was martyred in 1956 while serving God on mission in Ecuador. He was twenty-eight years old. While Jim Elliot died young we can all think of wicked people who have lived well beyond the promised three score years and ten. Why?

Eternity

The Geneva Study Bible suggests that while some wicked people appear to live long lives, the time of their prosperity will be short. In terms of eternity this has to be true. When Jim Elliot died he had no reason to fear eternity. But while Jim Elliot’s time on earth seems to have been cut short, the legacy he left when he lost his earthly life made a difference to many for eternity.

Legacies

This verse challenges the reader to consider the legacy of his or her days on earth. What Jim Elliot achieved in twenty-eight years is insignificant when we consider the foundations he laid before he died. His death opened a door for many. Does that sound familiar? Jesus lived on Earth for thirty-three years, and only engaged in ministry for three years. But when Jesus died he opened the door to eternity for us all. We just have to choose to step through it. Once we do the challenge of our legacy then confronts us. What legacy will you leave?

Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. (Job 14:5 NIV)

Check Out:

End of the Spear – The legacy of Jim Elliot

Who Was This Man? – Ten Minutes of teaching from John Ortberg

Who Is This Man – One minute taster and other information