John T. Willis

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Proverbs 11:18-23

Except for verse 22, whose form is emblematic parallelism [using a simile], Proverbs 11:18-23 follow the antithetic parallelism of most of Proverbs 10-15. The theme of Proverbs 11:18-23 is the destiny of the righteous and the wicked.

Verse 18: "The wicked earn no real gain,
but those who sow righteousness get a true reward."

Verse 19: "Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
but whoever pursues evil will die."

Verse 20: "Crooked minds are an abomination to the Lord,
but those of blameless ways are his delight."

Verse 21: "Be assured, the wicked will not go unpunished,
but those who are righteous will escape."

Verse 22: "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout
is a beautiful woman without good sense."

Verse 23: "The desire of the righteous ends only in good;
the expectation of the wicked in wrath."

What are some of the major practical lessons a person can learn from these maxims for daily godly living?

1. There are essentially two lifestyles, each going down a separate road leading to very different destinations. The lifestyle of one who lives for God leads to "a true reward," "life," "escape from punishment," and "good" or God's blessing. The lifestyle of the other leads to "no real gain," "death," "punishment," and God's "wrath."

2. God does not measure uncharacteristic things we do every now and then, but looks at our overall way of life. His interest is in those who constantly "sow righteousness" in the hearts of others, are "steadfast in righteousness" even though they may and do sin occasionally, and whose "ways" are "blameless." Psalm 103:14 says that:
"[God] knows how we are made;
he remembers that we are dust."
So he knows that we are frail and people who, at best, make mistakes and sin. But he is concerned with our overall commitment [or lack to commitment] to him and his ways, and by his amazing grace overlooks our human weaknesses.

3. Verse 22 emphasizes the nature of real beauty. One may try to make a pig look beautiful by putting a ring on its nose, a picture which is intentionally comical. Likewise, human beings attempt various means to make others think they are beautiful. But true beauty is inner religious and moral commitment to God and others. The admonition to women in 1 Peter 3:3-4 comes to mind:
"Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the INNER SELF with the LASTING BEAUTY of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God's sight."

John Willis