Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Reflection on Proverb 16:4

This proverb must be understood 1) as a proverb and 2) in conjunction with the context of the surrounding verses. It is also significant to consider the fact that presuppositions that exist for a wide variety of reasons influence our comprehension of further truth. We will tend to build upon previously established, basic, foundational premises. That a mild or blatant determinism highly influences popular Christian thinking in our generation is very obvious. Therefore, isolated and taken out of context, we conclude that God ordained wickedness and evil for a purpose. I submit that this is an errant conclusion. Please read the following with this passage open in front of you, comparing the brief explanation I offer for each of these proverbial verses with the Biblical text.

In Context of Surrounding Verses:

Verse 1 – In it’s simplest meaning we are informed that both man and God have a role in the unfolding of the way things go. To take it to another level it seems to indicate (in proverbial fashion) that man is, indeed, responsible for deciding what he is going to do. In doing so, he will not necessarily choose wisely but truth and reality are always what God reveals.

Verse 2 – Humans will tend to be ready to view what they do as acceptable but God investigates the issue more deeply to find out what is at the bottom of it.

Verse 3 – When we seek to approach life through the guidance of God, we are on solid ground.

Proverbs 16:4 – In light of what the previous verses reveal, not contrary to it, we are being told that each path chosen (and there are only ultimately two) will produce a definite and particular outcome. Even the wicked will produce results; evil, disaster, destruction. It is not intended to communicate that God has purposed them to be wicked but He has purposed what will result of their wickedness. Whether one is wicked and experiences that established end result of his wickedness or whether one commits his works to the Lord is another issue altogether.

Verse 5 – This verse affirms what has been stated above. There is a particular approach which God must take His stand against and the one who chooses this approach is being informed that he, assuredly, will not go unpunished; he will suffer the consequences appropriate and consistent with this unacceptable path.

Verses 6-9 – These verses reveal the positive results of trusting, following, obeying and cooperating with God; committing our works to the Lord.

Verse 6 – It is possible to cross over from iniquity to a right approach toward life. This involves and requires mercy and truth (lovingkindness, loyalty, faithfulness, etc.). In order to stay away from evil, one must fear God; have the highest regard for Him.

Verse 7 – When we are pleasing to God, even unexpected, extraordinary consequences can transpire.

Verse 8 – A life based on this righteousness is of greater value then all the material possessions we might otherwise accumulate. This would seem to relate to the idea that there might be a tendency and temptation to operate on the path that leads to evil when captivated by the effort to gain worldly success.

Verse 9 – You will still be involved in the process when in right relationship with God but as you approach life from this proper foundation, God will give direction and guidance that leads in a more appropriate and valuable direction.

I will close with a wonderful passage found in Psalm 145.

17 The Lord is righteous in all His ways,
And kind in all His deeds.
18 The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He will also hear their cry and will save them.
20 The Lord keeps all who love Him;
But all the wicked, He will destroy.

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