Posted: 11 Apr 2011 12:00 AM PDT
FROM PROVERBS 29 I SHALL pick up four themes:
(1) "An evil man is snared by his own sin, but a righteous one can sing and be glad" (Prov. 29:6). This is profoundly insightful. The results of sin include distortions to your own personality, falling afoul of your own evil, fear of being exposed, subjective guilt, and much more: you are ensnared by your own sin. By contrast, the person committed to righteousness not only avoids such snares, but is in consequence relatively carefree. He or she "can sing and be glad."
(2) "Bloodthirsty men hate a man of integrity and seek to kill the upright" (Prov. 29:10; cf. Prov. 29:27). Although this is a general truth, it is supremely manifested in Jesus. He could tell some of his opponents, "As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God" (John 8:40). It is precisely because Jesus tells the truth that they do not believe him (John 8:45). By contrast, "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own" (John 7:17). "Bloodthirsty men hate a man of integrity and seek to kill the upright"; it is not surprising therefore that the most upright man who ever lived, with the greatest integrity, was hung on a cross to die.
(3) Corruption may run from the bottom up or from the top down. When it starts at the bottom, it is pretty repulsive, and it may take a lot of work on the part of those above to root it out, or at least to bring it under control. But when it runs from the top down, it is both repulsive and impossible to reform piecemeal; drastic change is required. If the people at the top are corrupt, or even if they merely tolerate corruption with a wink and a nod, the situation is desperate. One form of this top-down corruption, superficially more benign, is the ruler who is soothed by lies, who surrounds himself or herself with underlings who will say only what he wants to hear. The wise understand: "If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked" (Prov. 29:12).
(4) Older English versions rendered the first line of Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (KJV), or the like, which became a call for visionary leadership. But the NIV has it right, and the issue is even more important: "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law." Where there is no revelation from God, grasped and obeyed, people "cast off restraint"—an apt and terrifying description of contemporary Western culture (cf. Judg. 21:25).
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