Posted: 06 Apr 2011 12:00 AM PDT
MANY OF THE VERSES IN PROVERBS 24 seem to be set in a time of danger when evil is strong and the outcome uncertain:
(1) "If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!" (Prov. 24:10). That may be an uncomfortable thought, but it needs saying. Anyone can bulldoze ahead when the course is downhill. And of course, our strength often really is small. How often Christians discover, with Paul, that God's strength is perfected in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:1–10).
(2) As I write this a horrible case has come to light. A university student peeked over the wall in a public lavatory and saw his friend abusing and beating a very young girl, and he walked away and did nothing. Later the friend told him that he had killed the girl, who was found the next morning stuffed in the toilet. Still the university student did nothing. This is a microcosm of those who glimpsed something of the horrors of the holocaust and did nothing. So hear the word of the Lord: "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?" (Prov. 24:11–12).
(3) "Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out" (Prov. 24:19–20). The believer must take the long view. If we judge everything by who wins and who loses in the short span of our own lives, we will often be frustrated. But God the Judge has the last word.
(4) Suppose, then, that the wicked, or at least your enemy whom you take to be wicked, faces horrible reverses, even in this life. Here too there is a right way and a wrong way of proceeding. "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice" (Prov. 24:17). Why not? Because you have descended to his level, and "the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him" (Prov. 24:18)—and quite possibly toward you. As "the wise" put it, "Do not say, 'I'll do to him as he has done to me; I'll pay that man back for what he did' " (Prov. 24:29). Christians cannot fail to hear in these words an anticipation of the "golden rule," an utterance by the Lord Jesus himself: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 7:12).
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