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Last week Solomon told us to be afraid in an awesome reverent manner when it comes to God. We know it’s the beginning of knowledge which leads to wisdom. People who are quick tempered are foolish, but the one that is slow to anger reflects great understanding. Envy and jealousy will rot you from the inside out. Extend grace to the poor because that honors God. This morning, Solomon gives us some more comparisons between the wicked and the righteous.
Pro. 14:32-35 says, “The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing, but the righteous has a refuge when he dies. Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding, but in the hearts of fools it is made known. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, but his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.”
Here’s a sure thing. In our first verse, Solomon tells us with certainty that, “The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing.” There is something important here that I don’t want you to miss. Solomon has firmly established that there is no good in wicked people. You can be good by the world’s standards and wicked by God’s standards. The wicked do what the wicked do because they are unregenerate human beings. Sin sticks to them so closely that you cannot separate it. However, the Bible provides us with the formula to become unwicked. That process begins with the Gospel. Even though the vast majority of people in America believe in God or believe that God exists, it does not mean that they have a relationship with God. Everyone has a father, but you may not have a relationship with him. The relationship develops as you spend time with one another and relate to one another. The father can pursue the son all day long, but if the son refuses, there can be no relationship.
“The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing, but the righteous has a refuge when he dies.” We’ve established that the righteous are righteous because of Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20) The righteousness of God is given to us through our faith in Jesus Christ. We are not righteous in and of ourselves, but because of Christ. This is called imputed righteousness. Because of this, we have a refuge, a safe haven, a safe place called heaven. We look forward to it, but it’s not to be viewed as an escape. It’s not that we are excited about being dead. Assisted suicide, euthanasia, and suicide are not to be used as a means to get to heaven quicker in order to avoid the heartache of living in a fallen world. Sometimes you hear this veiled when people say that you have a right to die with dignity. That kind of teaching is not consistent with Scripture. Job 14:5 says, “Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with You; and his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.” Heaven is a refuge to those that trust in Christ, but there is work to be done while here. You have a mission to complete and you cannot bypass the responsibility God has given to you. Notice Solomon didn’t say anything about a refuge while alive. Paul declared, “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)
Do you have to let everyone know how smart you are? In the next verse Solomon says, “Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding, but in the hearts of fools it is made known.” There is a difference in knowing it all and being a know it all. I admit I sometimes have trouble not answering questions when in a group setting. “Wisdom rests in the heart” is a great phrase. Remember when referring to the heart in Scripture, the Bible rarely means the organ. Rest means cease work or movement in order to relax or recover strength. I may have over analyzed this, but here’s the way I’m thinking. Knowledge is good and when it shifts from simply knowing something to applying it and living it out, it transforms into wisdom. The heart is where that wisdom grows and gets stronger. Some people want to get smarter and smarter and more knowledgeable, but for Solomon, that’s not the goal. I encourage you to read 2 Tim. 3:1-9. The goal of knowledge is to increase in wisdom and that takes place in the heart. All that to say that when you are biblically wise, you don’t need to tell people about it. It will be obvious to those who come into contact with you. He says this because, “in the heart of fools it is made known.” In order for a fool to recognize wisdom, you must thrust it upon them. The wise man doesn’t need to tell everyone how wise he is; people will see it. For the fool, even when wisdom stares him in the face, he doesn’t recognize it.
What was obvious in the past is now uncommon. When we evaluate the history of the Unites States, I think the next verse has been very applicable to us as a nation. “Righteousness exalts a nation.” In the grand scheme of the world, America is young. At 239 years old, we think we have always been around. Compared with South Sudan (July 2011), the newest country in the world, we are old. Since righteousness exalts a nation, we have to ask the question, what is right? Greek poet Hesiod (800 B.C.) said, “A nation’s real greatness consists not in its conquests, magnificence, military or artistic skill, but in its observance of the requirements of justice and religion.” When you evaluate the reasons countries are actually formed, that statement really rings true. The country of Sudan had been embroiled in a 22 year civil war where people in the south were oppressed and marginalized by the government. The people of the south are largely non-Arab and Christian people while people in the north are mainly Arab and Muslim. So the southern people fought for years to break free and finally liberated themselves and became South Sudan. The history of the world is truly fascinating.
When you evaluate the rightness of a nation, we have to evaluate it by the rightness of God. You have likely heard at some point America referred to as a city on a hill. While this is a warm and fuzzy sentiment, that’s not what Jesus was referring to in Matt. 5:14 in His Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was speaking to Israelites that had gathered outside of Jerusalem. The geographic location for the Sermon on the Mount is a literal hill on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. God had chosen this nation of people to be His people. He gave them an incredible promise in Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3) God told Moses, “You shall be My own possession among all the peoples.” (Ex. 19:5) To Isaiah God said, “I will make you a light of the nations so that my salvation will reach to the end of the earth.” (Is. 49:6) The rightness of a nation is in the people that are in the nation. You see this in the good deeds a nation does. In fact, in that same city on a hill message Jesus gave, He said to the people assembled, “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matt. 5:13) We don’t do good works for the sake of good works, but to point people to God. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
A nation exalts God when it does what is right in God’s eyes. The opposite is also true. “But sin is a disgrace to any people.” I think many people recognize the atrocities committed in the name of power. Hitler massacred 17 million people including 6 million Jews and 250,000 gypsies. Saddam Hussein massacred 2 million of his countrymen. While there might not be any modern day leaders like Hitler, there are ongoing atrocities in countries like Sudan, Eritrea, North Korea, Nigeria, as well as numerous others. That is an appropriate application, but Solomon is talking about Israel. Ps. 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” Israel’s history is filled with trouble a plenty. Following their departure from Egypt, Israel had some issues. I encourage you to read what they were doing as Paul relates it in 1 Cor. 10:6-11.
Solomon closes out the chapter in v. 35, “The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, but his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.” Remember Solomon is king of Israel as he writes so he’s speaking from a personal perspective. There is no shame in serving another. Many people are in the serving business. From police, firefighters, and emergency responders to all medical professionals. From the hospitality industry to utilities. It’s hard to think of a single occupation that does not provide a service. Each of us is in a position to serve. Being low on the totem pole of responsibility does not diminish a person’s worth. Just because a person is not in a leadership position, doesn’t mean he’s not valuable. When you have a servant or putting it in a modern context – employee – that acts in a responsible, respectful, proper manner, the leader or supervisor is pleased. When you have someone that acts in the opposite manner, the boss gets upset.
The wicked of the world will get what’s coming to them by a just and perfect God. God is our refuge and our safe haven. That doesn’t guarantee that we will be free from harm, suffering, or hardship, but it does mean that God is always there right beside us. As Christ followers, we have a responsibility to act righteously and that brings glory to God. Be an excellent servant – employee – because that also brings God glory. Jesus even modeled this for us, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Matt. 10:45)