Sometimes Unity Isn’t Enough

Proverbs 11:21

“Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.”
Not Enough Space

Honestly, there is not enough space allowed in this entry to adequately cover all the things that could be gleaned from this proverb. Because we desire that these posts be published one day, if every “thought” was a thousand words, the final book would look like the Encyclopedia Britannica.

At the time of this writing, it is a Sunday evening, and I just preached a forty-five minute sermon on this very text. It was such a blessing, and the result was that a young lady came forward tonight and asked if I could show her how to be saved.  If I were to go into all that I preached, I don’t know how long this post would be.

So, what I am going to do is share some highlights. I would encourage you to take the time, as with all these verses in Proverbs, to study them for yourself.

“We are the World”

Do you remember that Michael Jackson classic, We are the World? Have you seen all the different organizations and activist groups that use pictures of people holding hands to send a message of unity? Have you ever played the game where kids stood in a line with their arms locked together and said, “Red rover, red rover, send some idiot right over?”

Well, the wicked of this world have the idea that if they stand together in a united front against the True God of the universe, all will go their way. You can see it plastered across all the news networks. Flames are rising around the planet as followers of a false god rise up against the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and against Christianity.

They are united. They are hand in hand. They are the world.

Won’t Make a Difference

But even though the wicked stand hand in hand, it won’t make the outcome any different. The whole world joined together in one voice before the Deluge, yet they still drowned. Their unity couldn’t hold back the judgment of God.

Even now, militants are rising up, seeking the destruction of the righteous, but, “The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming” (Psa. 37:13).

The Promise

Many look at history and ask, “If God’s word is true, then why do the righteous die as martyrs? Why are Christians persecuted and killed? Why does it look like the ‘wicked’ are getting their way?”

Here’s the answer: it ain’t over, yet.

Isa 27:13 ESV – “And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.”

Deliverance may not come in the way we think it should, but it will come. It may not even be in this life, but it will come. And one day, when that “great trumpet will be blown,” the righteous will all worship on His holy mountain in Jerusalem.

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Don’t Be Abominable

Proverbs 11:20

They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the Lord: but such as are upright in their way are his delight.

Froward Abomination

Any person with a froward heart, a heart that is turned away from God, is seen as an abomination, something detestable to God.

These people do their own thing. They avoid responsibility for their sin and/or justify their sin. They assume their rightness, even if the evidence shows otherwise.

The NIV starts this verse “The Lord detests men of perverse heart“. Remember what was said on verse three, that we all have perverse hearts and minds and are in need of a Savior.

Upright and Blameless

The NIV finishes this verse “but he delights in those whose ways are blameless.” Remember what has been said many times in these devotionals as well as in the Bible, that Jesus of Nazareth is the only one who is truly upright and blameless.

Fortunately for us perverse and froward people, Jesus’ death and resurrection provided a way for us to be seen as upright and blameless. All we must do is continue to believe in the Gospel and allow God to change us (Colossians 1:21-23, Hebrews 9:14).

When Christ is the center of our lives, we are seen as blameless and upright in God’s sight.

Gracious Father, thank You for making a way for us. Help us in our faith. Help us overcome our sinfulness and live upright lives in Your sight.


Warning Signs

Proverbs 11:19
As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.

Multiple Warnings

As a child, one of the things that I learned very quickly was that if my parents told me “To Do” or “Not To Do” something over and over again, I knew that it must be important, and I either better do it or not do it. In the same way as my parents, Solomon is giving us multiple warnings about which path we should choose – righteousness or evil. Here are just a few of the examples:

  • Proverbs 10:6 – “Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.”
  • Proverbs 12:2 – “A good man obtaineth favour of the Lord: but a man of wicked devices will he condemn”
  • Proverbs 14:11 – “The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.”

The warnings are out there and we must heed them with all our heart!

It’s Our Choice

Even if we can clearly see the warning signs that are out there, it is still our choice to live a righteous life or to “pursue evil”. We can see in this verse that “he” made a choice to go after evil. The word “pursue” has several meanings:

  1. To follow in order to catch or attack
  2. Seek to attain or accomplish
  3. Continue or proceed along a path
  4. Engage in

In each one of these definitions there is one constant – there is a choice that must be made! We must make the choice daily to run in the opposite direction of sin and run into the arms of a loving and gracious God. We need to remember the words of James 1:15 that says, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” If we continue down the path toward evil, it will eventually lead us to death!

The warning signs are all around us, but it is still up to us to make the right choice as to which path our lives will lead. Will we take the path of righteousness or will we pursue evil? I hope each one of us can live out the words that Joshua said in Joshua 24:15,

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Lord, help us to pursue YOU with all our heart! No matter what may come our way, help us to choose YOU! Help us to stand firm on our Word and make you our refuge until that glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior!


A Sure Reward

Proverbs 11:18

“The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.”

Criminal Justice

National and international systems of justice and punishment exist to deter citizens from engaging in criminal behavior. Yet despite the threat of fines, imprisonment, or even death, there are those who believe that they can escape justice and live their lives at odds with society. On the basis that not all criminals are caught and punished it could be argued that the first part of the above proverb is not true.

Temporary Benefit

Where this proverb is correct is in its assessment of the rewards that criminals can expect. Take the case of Mr Eddie Maher. Mr Maher used to drive an armored vehicle in the UK. He disappeared along with more than £1.3 million back in 1993, but was later arrested in the USA (February 2012) and ultimately sentenced to five years jail time in the UK after a plea deal (March 2013). It seems that Mr Maher (or Fast Eddie as the press calls him) had not been living a life of luxury while hiding from justice. When arrested by the FBI he was working as a broadband cable technician. It appears that Fast Eddie had spent the last nineteen years moving from one small US town to another, constantly looking over his shoulder. I wonder what happened to the money? Did it all get blown in the first year?

Eternity

Despite his conviction, all is not lost for Fast Eddie. Being found guilty, he will have to accept the punishment handed down by the judge, but there is still hope. It says so in the second part of Proverbs 11:18, which speaks of a reward that none of us deserve. Because when God looks at our hearts, none of us score any higher than Fast Eddie. But God loves us so much, that he sent His Son to take our punishment.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)

There is a sure reward. It is not like the reward that Fast Eddie’s daughter-in-law is trying to claim for turning him in (£100,000). It is a reward that none of us deserve. It is a reward of forgiveness. It is the reward of eternal life. But, we have to consider what we are sowing:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:7-10 (NIV)


Strong Mercy

Proverbs 11:17

“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”

“I Pardon You”

As I thought about this verse, a scene from a movie came to mind. In Schindler’s List, the 1993 masterpiece by Steven Spielburg, two characters, Oskar Schindler and Amon Goeth, discuss what should be done with Jewish prisoners.

Seeing that Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) was a cruel and sadistic concentration camp commander, Schindler (Liam Neeson) tries to convince him that the greatest exhibition of power is not in killing people, but pardoning them.

Schindler:  They fear us because we have the power to kill arbitrarily. A man commits a crime, he should know better. We have him killed and we feel pretty good about it. Or we kill him ourselves and we feel even better. That’s not power, though, that’s justice. That’s different than power. Power is when we have every justification to kill – and we don’t.

Goeth: You think that’s power.

Schindler: That’s what the emperors had. A man stole something, he’s brought in before the emperor, he throws himself down on the ground, he begs for mercy, he knows he’s going to die. And the emperor pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go.

Goeth: I think you are drunk.

Schindler: That’s power, Amon. That is power. (Schindler gestures toward Goeth as a merciful emperor) Amon, the Good.

Later in the film, Goeth almost decides to not punish a young boy for not cleaning his bath tub well enough. Instead of beating him, he looks at the boy (remembering Schindler’s words), and says, “I pardon you.” The boy then runs outside as Goeth begings to stare into the mirror, pointing to himself like a Michelangelo painting, and repeating the words, “I pardon you.”

It was only a moment later that Goeth notices a stain on the bath tub. His anger boiled as he picked up his rifle and shot the boy who was now walking to his barracks.

Mercy is Medicine

Just the other day, even though I was broke, I gave the last $20 I had to a man and his wife who had nothing. I am not writing this in order to get a pat on the back, but in order to make a point. The point is that I had no problem sleeping that night. My kindness was a small sacrifice.

However, to show mercy to someone who has wronged you, to someone who has hurt you, can be a tremendous sacrifice. Showing mercy means you give up something, like justice, payback, and revenge. But, there is no greater salve to the soul than showing mercy to the one who least deserves it.

The cruel person feels justified for his actions. But cruelty, no matter how it is rationalized, whether it be towards man or beast, is an acid that eats away at the soul.

Are you suffering from the effects of bitterness? Are you troubled by your anger? There is a cure. It’s called mercy.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8 (NKJV)

Maybe some of those demanding “justice” should think about this.


Liked, or Liked Less

Proverbs 11:16

“A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches.”

To over-simplify things, there are two kind of people in this world: those whom are liked and those not liked as much. (To be fair, there tends to be a third group: the rest of us, we who seem to get by with little notice from most other people. We have our friends and co-workers, and that is about it.)

Gracious

The first person most people in our world think about when asked to name a person full of grace is Mother Teresa.

Many consider Mother Teresa to be one of the greatest women in history. She confessed hurts, pains, depressions, doubts, and weak faith.

Yet people still loved her … still love her to this day, even though she died in 1997.

Why?

She loved. She showed grace. She was devoted to serving others.

Rich

The first person most people in our world think about when asked to name a person who is rich is someone mentioned a couple of weeks ago: Donald Trump.

Many consider Donald Trump one of the wealthiest and most arrogant men in history. He has built a financial empire, built impressive buildings, hosted his own reality television series, and made a lot of money.

And many people can barely stand the guy.

Why?

He is blunt to a fault. He alienates others for the sake of profit. He is devoted to the bottom line.

Us

As mentioned above, most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

The downside is that we can fall into the trap of chasing something so hard that we alienate others and miss God. We end up with … nothing.

The plus side is that we can be like Mother Teresa. If we pursue God wholeheartedly, if we are desperate for His glory, we, too, can be known as people of grace remembered for our love.

The choice is ours.

The choice is yours.

Great God, give us Your grace. Fill us with Your love. Create in us a passion for Your glory, that we may not finish this race empty-handed and hated.


Just Say “NO!”

Proverbs 11:15

“He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.”

Proverbs 11:15, 16, & 17 are connected in that each involves someone who acts with kindness, but with varied results.  In tonight’s verse, we consider a kindness that brings injury; in tomorrow’s, a kindness that brings honor; and in the third instance, a kindness that brings benefit.

A KINDNESS THAT BRINGS INJURY

In the first half of verse 15, we read, “He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it,” or as the ESV reads, “Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm.”  Solomon returns here to a theme he has already elaborated upon at length in Proverbs 6:1-5.  The idea is fairly straightforward in both texts.  So, somebody asks you to lend him a hand by cosigning on a loan… what is the “Christian” thing to do?  The problem is that you like to be liked. You want to come across as a decent and generous person.  You want to be helpful.  So you cosign on the automobile, or mortgage, or student loan, or credit card offer.  And now, my friend, you have obligated yourself in regard to the other’s ability to earn, budget, and spend income.  Unless you are that individual’s mother, that’s an awkward spot to be in.  No, I take that back.  Even if you are that individual’s mother, that’s an awkward spot to be in.  You have absolutely no leverage in the situation.

NOW GUESS WHAT?

You’re on the hook if and when the person defaults on repayment.  If your name is signed on the bottom line, the creditor can and will come after you.  The FTC tells us that in as many as 3 out of 4 loans that go into default, the cosigners are asked to repay the loans.  Think about it.  When you cosign a loan, you are taking a risk which the professional lenders have refused to take.  If the borrower could meet the lender’s criteria, there would be no need for a cosigner in the first place.  http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre06.shtm

NEWSFLASH

Jesus didn’t die to make you “nice.” No, he died to make you His!  Sometimes the “Christian” thing to do is to ask, “Have you totally lost your mind?  You can’t afford that car, or house, or new TV!  Save some money for it and pay cash!”

A FIRM, WISE “NO”

In the second half of the verse we read, “And he that hateth suretiship is sure.”  Oh, the security and peace of mind enjoyed by the one who has not entered hastily into business agreements!  Years ago, First Lady Nancy Reagan, as she spearheaded a campaign against drug abuse, popularized the slogan, “Just Say No.”  The same firm “No!” might well be in order the next time someone approaches you about helping him with a loan.

Father God, thank you that when you see us, you see the righteousness of your own dear Son.  Thank you that our security and identity are in Christ.  Free us, Father, from the need to be people-pleasers to our own harm. Through Christ our Lord: Amen.