People of God, we are going to continue our look through Proverbs. I hope this study has been refreshing and challenging to you as it has been to me in my preparation.
We are going to look through verses 5-11 this morning. We can summarize these verses with the following statement: “A community is blessed through righteousness.”
Once again Solomon emphasizes the great distinction between those who exercise a life of faithfulness–which in context implies humility—and the treacherous—the prideful. Remember that the treacherous is the one who takes advantage of the innocent. He abuses others with his specialized knowledge. He deceives them. But their end is catastrophic.
Solomon says in verses 5 & 6:
The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
These are parallel verses stressing the same basic idea that the righteous will find a safe shelter and the wicked will be temporarily covered until they are overcome with the flood of God’s wrath. The very thing used to shelter will collapse under the weight of sin. On the other hand, when someone asks you “Who are you are? You are to be identified as a Christian, and a Christian is a person of integrity, according to King Solomon. Kingly wisdom means integrity in a community. Again, the theme of this section is: “A community is blessed through righteousness.”
The lust and the greed to possess certain things will eventually swallow up the wicked. But the righteous sacrifices for others. He does this by living ethically and by giving of himself and his possessions for the sake of another. The atheist philosopher Ayn Rand once wrote: “I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” This attitude is precisely the one Solomon is condemning.
What is it worth the possession of the world and the loss of your own soul?
Verse seven says: “When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too.”
We are called to not place our hope in wealth. Hope in wealth perishes. When death comes all the escape money provided will no longer suffice. Matthew Henry writes:
Even wicked men, while they live, may keep up a confident expectation of a happiness when they die, or at least a happiness in this world. The hypocrite has his hope, in which he wraps himself as the spider in her web.
The wicked appears to have the upper-hand. He persuades himself that his deceit will never be found out, but as verse eight says: “He walks into trouble.” By taking a shortcut here and there, by refusing to obey the standard that God has placed, he ends up at the place of ruin.
This is why Solomon calls Christians to be knowledgeable of God’s standard. The king is saying that the first part of training to be kings is a good dose of common sense. Invest wisely. Do not spend what you do not have. Give to others out of your abundance. Do not allow greed to characterize you in the Church. Those who lack charity lack wisdom.
This is what Solomon says in verse nine: “With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.” This passage has a couple of different implications:
First, the word “neighbor” in the Hebrew can refer to a friend, a companion, or a fellow-citizen. So, the words of a godless man, a manipulative businessman, an unethical seller can destroy people of all sorts. The “godless” here also translated “hypocrite, profane, or irreligious” really is not looking out for your best interest. He is not seeking to esteem others better than themselves, he is seeking his own good to the detriment of his neighbor.
Second, this verse teaches that knowledge keeps us out of trouble. This also applies to our topic of friendship we covered some weeks ago. Knowledge is not just facts, it is the ability to not fall for dirty tricks. It is the ability to use common sense to stay away from those people who are not so interested in right living or walking the straight paths. Knowledge is selective. Knowledge delivers you from deceivers.
A community is blessed through righteousness, and righteousness is appropriated by living faithfully, wisely, and alert to your surroundings. The Christian faith is a faith for the wise and those who are pursuing wisdom. In some ways, the Christian faith is the journey from infancy to maturity. It is learning to take those first steps on your own, and then going from maturity to maturity. It is like looking both ways before crossing the street. We teach this to our children, and kingly wisdom means learning it ourselves. This is why there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.
But this wisdom affects our communities, and it has the effect of also changing our city. We see this in verses 10-11:
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.
The series of contrasts between righteous and wicked come to a culmination here in these two verses. “The life of the city is affected for better or worse by the character of its citizens.” The city is blessed by the righteousness of the people; the city is cursed by the unrighteousness of the people. “The destructive talk of the wicked does widespread damage.” Now this is not the typical Sunday School lesson you heard growing up. I doubt your Sunday School teacher was encouraging you to memorize Proverbs 11: 10: “When the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.” This is where our evangelical sensitivities are really challenged. We want good and bad to work side by side. We are content to see a little evil here and there. But God is not, and He says neither should we. Practically, this means we need to pray that God would convert sinners, turn their greed into charity, their deceit into honesty, their wickedness into deeds of kindness, but when they perish Solomon says: “There is less darkness around.” The city, our city, needs to succeed not through the deeds of wicked men with their vile policies and unethical behavior, the city needs to thrive with the work of the righteous. Even when we are surrounded by a culture that despises our God, we are still called—in the words of Jeremiah 29—to bring the shalom of God to the city. Listen to the words of N.T. Wright:
God is going to put the whole world to rights… But the advance plan for that is to put human beings to rights in advance. The gospel isn’t just Phew! I’m okay now so I’m going to heaven! It’s I’m actually being put right, in order that I can be a part of that ongoing purpose…”
This is a battle of ideas, of causes, of visions, of education, of words, of symbols and rites, of marriage, of sexuality, of world-views, and more. Whose ideas will the city imbibe? Will the city be overwhelmed by a fountain of blessing or curse? If blessing, will we as a Church be at the forefront of that? Will we be righteous in our dealings? Will we bless the city with our lives? Will we bring peace to the city? This idea of peace-to underlie the quote from N.T. Wright-is not solitude and passivity. It is actually volunteering to be at the forefront of what God has called the Church to do. Peace is not the absence of war, it is the consequence of a war well-fought.
Here we are being called to make war with those who want to overthrow the city. The city is ours! The world belongs to Jesus, and Pensacola belongs to Jesus. And at the front of this city is the people whom God has chosen. We need to seek the salvation and the renewal of this city. We may be a small part of that transformation, but our vision needs to be a magnificent vision. So, the question is, “Will our city rejoice because of our actions?”
How Now Shall We Then Live?
Here we are at the end of our fiscal year. We have been very blessed as a Church. We have obviously grown. We are going to see new members added to our numbers soon, but what do we do then? How do we bless the city as we have been blessed? One clear way of doing that is by bringing the city into the Church. We rejoice because we have been transformed by the God of all joy. Worship summons the assembly to enact itself publicly for the sake of the world. Let them get a taste of joy before they can bring joy to the city. No city will be transformed without joyful worship. If the city sees a somber Church, she will have no desire or enthusiasm to celebrate the God of the city.
I also want to emphasize the importance of localizing our concerns. Sometimes we are so prepared to offer a national solution to our problem that we overlook where our basic problem lies: locally. Our vision to change the world needs to begin in our Jerusalem. This is where life affects us the most. The local policies, the local abortion industry, the local corrupt leaders, and the poverty that afflicts our communities. What can we do that is lasting and transformative? It is encouraging to see groups like Micah 6:8 offering a robust Christian faith to this community. The labors of Trinitas offering a profound commitment to Biblical truth in the realm of education, some of you using your work to do Bible studies during lunch time with other co-workers, the labors of Waterfront Rescue Mission, the home-schooling efforts, Christians offering a distinctly Christian ethic in business and where else they may be. This is fundamental to the changing of this community. We must offer an alternative society to this decaying society; an alternative polis/city to this city.
I offered recently a few suggestions for being a better localist. Here are a few:
A) Pray for your city. Pray for the peace of your city. For justice to be known among her people. Pray for her shalom and its well-being as you drive through it daily.
B) Give to the city by being a part of its affairs. Participate in local activities when possible.
C) Read about the city. Instead of turning to CNN, turn to your local news or newspaper. Be informed about the matters of your city, for the sake of better praying for her.
D) Biblicize your city. Start Bible studies. Equip others to love the city by discipling her. After all, this is the call of the Great Commission.
E) Vote and Elect godly leaders of the city. Before considering national politics, do not forsake your responsibility before your fellow city-dwellers. Seek to be informed about local politics. Comment on local on-line news about those decisions made by politicians that are blatantly against biblical principles and priorities, and always offer alternatives. We need practical solutions, not more theorizing.
F) Unite with other churches. Despise the divisive sentiment that is so prevalent. Know the local pastor’s names and meet with them. Pray for them when possible. Build relationships with others from other traditions who also seek the good of the city.
G) Imprecate against those who do not seek the well-being of the city. The psalms provide a perfect platform for such prayers. There is no neutrality. You either seek the good of the city through the blessings of the Trinitarian God, or you despise it.
H) Minister to the City through giving. Contribute to local charities either through the Church tithe or through personal gifts.
I) Teach others about your city. When I visited the Pacific Northwest once I was surprised how little and misinformed people were about Florida, and in particular the Panhandle. Inform people about the good, the bad, and the ugly while emphasizing the good a lot more.
I) Love the city by loving the Church. Congregate. Worship. Adore the Only-True God by worshipping the One who is King of the City, Jesus Christ.
We cannot bless the city by sitting idle. Our goal is nothing more and nothing less than seeing the imprint of King Jesus in every square inch of this town, and may we be loyal to this vision.
In The Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Quote. There are some valuable contributions from Rand, but her broad atheistic worldview offers nothing beneficial to the Christian.
 Henry, ON-line commentary.
 Paul Koptak, commentary on Proverbs, 319.
 Quoted in notes from Rich Lusk on Jeremiah 29.
 Aidan Kanavaugh. Quoted in Lusk’s notes.