Solomon looks at God’s hand at work in man’s lives. He brings about true justice. His plans are sure and right. And He WILL repay evil.
My bible helps puts these verses together on the theme of God is the judge and avenger. “He detests all willful distortions of human judgment…emphasizes the mystery of divine sovereignty” (ESV Note on Proverbs 20:22-25). I can see their point after rereading these four proverbs. But I want to know what the Holy Spirit has in them for me today. Want to come along? Good!
We have seen this first proverb in scripture before. We listened as God spoke them to Israel in Deuteronomy 32:35 and where Paul quoted God words to the Romans in Romans 12:19-21. Jesus also called us to restrain from vengeance in His Sermon on the Mount when He said to turn the other cheek. Our flesh knows well how hard this is. Most people have a natural desire for justice. They desire to “get even” when wronged. But we are to leave vengeance to the Lord. HE knows what is in the hearts of all men. He knows the appropriate time, place, and form of “vengeance” to mete out.
God also knows the concept of forgiveness. When WE seek revenge we destroy our testimony. We are no better than the world. Jesus calls us to rise above revenge and leave it in God’s hands. We can stand up to our abusers with words, as Jesus did when slapped the first time by the guard. We can also speak the truth of the matter to those who ridicule us. But we are NOT to seek revenge for what has been done to us or on behalf of others. There ARE times when God’s plans actually walk us into hurtful circumstances for a greater good. If in doubt, think back to Joseph’s story, or Paul’s, or even Jesus Himself. They ALL underwent evil circumstances that were a part of the plans of God. They all endured the wrong but kept vengeance out of their hearts and actions.
Which brings us to the parable in verse 24. We do NOT know where God will have us walk in our lives. We don’t know His full purposes for our lives. And often we don’t understand the reasons while in the midst of the hard places. But when we trust in Him we KNOW that He will see us through EVERY storm and use it for good.
Some of our ‘storms’ are to bring about change in us and others are to bring about change around us. Some of our storms are also self-made. We get ourselves in trouble when we don’t listen and require a ‘course correction’ and even consequences for our actions. God can still use these times for our good.
One of the AMAZING things about the Bible are the stories where people not of God are used for His purposes and plan. GOD directed even their steps, though they didn’t know it. God told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that His hand could be clearly seen. God didn’t MAKE Pharaoh say “No” to all of Moses’ pleas for the people. Pharaoh made these decisions himself but God knew he was going to make them LONG before Pharaoh himself did. God KNEW Pharaoh’s character and what would make him mad. He knew just how hard and what ‘buttons’ to push to get the result that fit His plan. He used Pharaoh’s own nature against him and for His advantage. God doesn’t “write the script” for our lives. He just knows how those lives are going to go because He has an ‘advanced copy’.
The parable for verse 23 has been given to us several times in multiple ways. As much as possible between men, God wants us to be truthful in our dealings. Whether using a scale and weights, the rule of law, or even making a promise. Which brings us to verse 25 and that parable.
God wants us to consider carefully the promises we make. The “I’ll follow You forever if You will just ____” prayer is a one done rashly. Sometimes decisions NEED to be made on the spot but “vows” should be carefully considered. The words out of your mouth matter. If you verbally bind yourself to do something, DO IT. If you utter a promise NOT to do something, then STICK WITH IT. A person’s character soundly rests on the truthfulness of his words. This goes for promises made to men AND God.
When my children were young and I had to discipline them for something I told them not to do, I would remind them that I was keeping my word. They ‘paid’ for their punishment because of the promise I had made. I would be ‘stealing from them’ if I didn’t follow through. I was careful with the word “promise” because I KNEW I was bound by, even if the other person broke their part. There were occasional exceptions but those always came with conversation regarding why the agreement had to be broken or modified.
I believe I have truthful children. We had issues with being “shrewd”, as Samuel was with Saul. They wouldn’t lie to me but they also wouldn’t volunteer any facts that weren’t directly asked for. I was pretty good at reading their emotional actions and figured out what they needed to say but didn’t want to or know how to. It often took the pressure off of them and then we were able to discuss the issue without fear.
Bottom line is; don’t make a promise to ANYONE you are not willing to keep. And consider carefully BEFOREHAND the promises you intend to make. Use your words with care.
Father God, THANK YOU for Your faithfulness. Thank You for choosing me as Your child and for planting that seed in my heart as a child. You already knew the ‘fruit’ it would bear. You knew me before I even came to be. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And I need to care for all You have given me. For teaching me over the years the importance of being truthful. It took a while for that lesson to sink in fully. There were areas where I tried to ‘inflate’ the story a little to make myself look better.
Thank You that You stand up for me against all evil. Keep my heart from grabbing onto offenses and wanting to avenge myself. That kind of thinking creates bitterness and blocks our relationship. I want NOTHING between us but love!