The Blessings of Righteousness (Proverbs 10)

Is it possible to know genuine peace and security?  That’s a big question at a time of increased uncertainty and fear.There’s the fear of terrorist attacks like we’ve seen in Paris and Nice this past year or even of a lone, troubled gunman or knifeman on the rampage.

There’s the fear and uncertainty of continued economic worries.  How will Britain respond to Brexit? Will there be another credit crunch etc?

There’s the unknowns of a too close to call and deeply divisive American Presidential election.

Proverbs 10:30 says

“The godly will never be disturbed but the wicked will be removed from the land.”[1]

  1. A promise for the Righteous

Actually, the word translated “godly” here is the Hebrew word for “righteousness.”  Here is twofold promise

First that the righteous will enjoy settled, protected life.  We are told that they will be happy (v 28) and that as they obey the refrain throughout Proverbs to “Fear the Lord” they will enjoy long life. These promises of long life in the land echo the promise accompanying the 5th commandment to “Honour your father and your mother.”[2]

For Solomon and the first readers of Proverbs, it was a promise that God would protect them in the promised land. They would enjoy peace, security and prosperity within the borders of Israel, the land given to them,

It’s also a warning. Disobey God, break his laws, follow idols and judgement will come. The penalty for sin is death but one aspect of death, seen right back in Genesis 3 was exile and banishment. One day, it would mean exile for the whole of God’s people as they were banished from the land and taken into captivity by the Babylonians

  1. Who are the righteous?

Proverbs 10 describes the qualities of a righteous person They are obedient children (v 1), [3] hard working, not idle or lazy (v 4-5), have integrity (v 10-11), truth tellers (v 18-19), giving wise advice (v31) and helpful (v32).

The evidence of the Old Testament and the verdict of the New Testament is that we cannot achieve righteousness through good works. Sin means that

No one is righteous— not even one. 11 No one is truly wise;     no one is seeking God.[4]

And so, we need God to do something to make us righteous. This is the wonder of the Gospel.

Paul in Romans goes on to tell us that

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”[5]

This means that we are righteous, or justified, not by the good works we do. Rather it is a status given to us by God’s grace. We are “justified through faith.”

In our next article in this little series in Proverbs, we’ll explore what it means to be righteous in more detail.  In the meantime, the important thing to know here is that Christians are those who are declared righteous. So this promise of peace, security and safety is for us.

  1. How does the promise become real?

Given our starting point, you might not feel that the promise is being kept.  There’s no guarantee of a long life, peace, happiness, security and despite the wilder promises of TV evangelists certainly not prosperity for most of us.

So what does the Proverb mean?  Well there are two things to help us here. First of all a reminder that Proverbs are general truths not predictions. So, it remains generally true that those who do right, who show integrity and faithfulness will make friends, be relied upon and so enjoy good things in life.

But secondly, it helps us -as we will see again in the next part to get to grips with the imagery here.  Security in the land is specifically about life in the promised land.  Solomon is talking about

God’s People

Living in God’s land

Under God’s rule and reign

This old testament situation becomes a paradigm for God’s people throughout history and into eternity. For Israel it meant the literal land and the city of Jerusalem.

For Christians we are God’s people living under God’s rule and reign and we trust Christ and allow him to be Lord and reign in our lives through the Holy Spirit. We don’t look for a literal land to live in at the moment rather, the place of blessing, protection and provision is in Christ. We know that we are eternally secure in him because he has saved us. We know that the enemy (Satan) cannot snatch us away and that Jesus will never abandon not banish us from his loving presence.

However, there’s something else to delight in. Remember how we’ve been talking a lot about Future Grace? The Bible points us forward in Revelation 22 to a new heavens and a new earth. Jesus promised in the Sermon on the Mount that his followers -the meek, humble, poor in spirt would be blessed in God’s kingdom and inherit the earth.

For Israel, the place of God’s provision and protection was one small piece of land in the Middle East. For God’s people in eternity, it is the whole new creation.  Proverbs 10 points us forward to that wonderful inheritance.

Conclusion

Jesus is the truly righteous one and so as the first born Son is the heir to the whole of creation. In him we are righteous and in him we share in that inheritance.

We look forward to that day when we will be with him in his new creation. In the meantime, we rejoice to know that we are safe in him.

[1] New Living Translation

[2] Exodus 20:12

[3] It looks like this chapter -indeed much of Proverbs offers reflections and meditation on the 5th commandment

[4] Romans 3:11-12

[5] Romans 3:23-26

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