by Sam E. Stone
This is our last lesson from the book of Proverbs in this quarter’s study. (We will look at two other books by Solomon in the coming weeks—Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.) The contrast between the righteous and the wicked is again emphasized in chapter 29. The opening and closing verses of today’s text serve as bookends for the principles discussed in between.
Introductory Proverb/Proverbs 29:16
When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall. This repeats Solomon’s earlier warning (v. 2). When evil increases among a people or a community, a falling away into wicked thoughts and wicked action is sure to follow. This principle holds true in today’s world as surely as it did in ancient Israel.
Principles for an Ordered Life/Proverbs 29:17-26
A properly disciplined child brings both peace and delight to the parent. Appropriate discipline is encouraged throughout Proverbs (see v. 15). Obedient children bring joy to their parents (Colossians 3:20). In the home and in the nation, God’s message must be followed, or else trouble is certain. One of the most familiar proverbs is found in 29:18: Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint. The word translated “cast off restraint” is also used to describe what happened with the golden calf (Exodus 32:25). That experience illustrates the warning contained here. Revelation refers to a prophetic message sent from God (see Isaiah 1:1). Spiritual enlightenment and insight are essential for the Lord’s people (see 1 Samuel 3:1).
Discipline is important for
servants as well as sons (Proverbs 29:19). Hasty speech is dangerous (see 10:19; 17:27, 28; James 1:19). Angry words cause dissension (Proverbs 29:22). The master must take care when training a servant so as not to pamper him. Doing that will bring grief in the end (v. 21). Such a spoiled servant will eventually claim the privilege, even the inheritance, belonging to a son.
A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor (v. 23). The NIV reflects the play on words found in the Hebrew—low and lowly. The Scripture is filled with warnings against pride (see Proverbs 16:18). Jesus taught that it is the meek who will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). The book of Esther contrasts what happened to Haman and Mordecai respectively. Earlier Solomon declared, “Humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 15:33; see also Matthew 23:12; 1 Peter 5:6). Humility brings wisdom as well (see Proverbs 11:2).
Solomon next offers a revealing insight into how the wicked think and act. The accomplice of a thief is his own enemy; he is put under oath and dare not testify. The driver of the getaway car and the dishonest sidekick will be ordered to testify when the gang leader is brought to trial, but they will be afraid to. In addition to fearing for their very lives, they will also fear self-incrimination. The accomplice is in trouble if he fails to testify about what he has seen and done (see Leviticus 5:1).
The person who is always fearful of what others may think or say is in a dangerous spot. Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe (Proverbs 29:25). Jesus clearly outlined our choice: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). While some count on rulers and riches to get them through whatever comes, it is only whoever trusts in the Lord that will be kept safe. The person who fears God need not fear man. The one who fears man does not fear God as he should.
Final Proverb/Proverbs 29:27
The righteous detest the dishonest; the wicked detest the upright. With these words the section of Proverbs compiled by the men of Hezekiah comes to an end. C. F. Keil writes, “It closes, in accordance with its intention announced at the beginning, with a proverb concerning the king, and a proverb of the great moral contrasts which are found in all circles of society up to the very throne itself.”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.