Proverbs 21:13-16

In Proverbs 21:13-16 Solomon begins by reminding us that we don’t live in a bubble by ourselves.  We need to pay attention to those in our patch and be sensitive to their needs. Though many proverbs tell of poverty caused by bad conduct, other proverbs express God’s compassion towards the poor. God cares about the poor and He commands us to have a compassionate heart towards them. “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.”  We will reap what we have sown. It will be measured to us as we have measured to others. If we are silent to those in need, God may arrange it so we will not be heard in our time of need.

Solomon next talks about the effectiveness of a gift or bribe. The secret nature of this gift shows that it isn’t entirely proper, yet it may work to calm anger in an official or leader. He doesn’t condemn it, but in his day, it was used to pave the way to reconciliation or relationship. These often opened doors of communication so nations could speak, often in secret, and work to resolve issues at hand. “A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.” This verse doesn’t condemn or condone the practice, but we know that in today’s society it is usually frowned upon and can be illegal.

Solomon reminds us that being just is a characteristic that brings a different response from people depending where they are in their own lives. When a person is just (righteous, godly) in the inner man or woman, it gives them joy to do justice. Their good works flow out of who they are. For us to really walk in the way God wants us to walk, we need to be transformed on the inside and live justly on the outside. “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” Those who live in evil also show what is in their heart, and it should make them tremble under the judgment of God. Instead of the joy of the just, they will experience destruction.

God gives us the freedom to choose how we will live. He doesn’t dictate the road we follow. There are two paths or ways a man or woman can walk. It is dangerous to begin on the way of understanding but not to continue on it. To some extent this became tragically true of Solomon. The departure from the way of understanding doesn’t have to be calculated and deliberate; it may feel like wandering. We may in fact be lost or without direction. “One who wanders from the way of good sense will rest in the assembly of the dead.” If one wanders from the way of understanding, they may well end up in the assembly of the dead. The path we walk on – and remain on – matters.  As I often say and write – how we live matters each and every moment!

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