22 The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, without painful toil for it. 23 A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes, but a person of understanding delights in wisdom. 24 What the wicked dread will overtake them; what the righteous desire will be granted. 25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever. 26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so are sluggards to those who send them. 27 The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. 28 The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing. 29 The way of the LORD is a refuge for the blameless, but it is the ruin of those who do evil. 30 The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land. 31 From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced. 32 The lips of the righteous know what finds favour, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse. (Prov. 10:22-32 NIV)
V22 does not have contrasting lines. The blessing of the Lord provides true wealth. We can have all the wealth in the world but if we lack the blessing of God it is ultimately of no value. There is no toil or sorrow added to the blessing that the Lord gives.
23 A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes,
but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.
The word translated wicked here is only used one other time in the OT. It is a word reserved for the most heinous of sins like adultery, rape or idolatry. The world openly espouses the sins of adultery and sex outside of marriage. Not only does the world find pleasure in these wicked ways they criticise and condemn anyone who doesn’t agree with their views. The vast majority of society are fools and they take pleasure in promoting unbiblical practices. A fool never recognises his foolishness. A person of understanding delights in the wisdom that comes from the Lord. Biblical wisdom and the Lord’s commands are seen as bigotry and intolerance by society. Sin has become recreational in society today. The person of understanding does have pleasure, but it is wholesome pleasure.
24 What the wicked dread will overtake them;
what the righteous desire will be granted.
The Teacher contrasts the anticipations of the wicked and the righteous. The Teacher assures both the wicked and the righteous that what they anticipate will come upon them in the end. For the wicked their anticipation is with a sense of dread. They persuade themselves that there is no God, but they still dread appearing before Him. When Adam and Eve first sinned, they experienced fear. There is a terrifying expectation of judgement whether in this life or the life to come. The righteous desire to be remade in the likeness of Christ, God will grant us that desire. In the presence of God there is fulness of joy.
25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone,
but the righteous stand firm forever.
Christ said something similar about the foolish man building his house upon the sand and the wise man building his house upon the rock. When the storm came the house of the sand fell and was swept away. When God’s wrath is finally released it will be sudden and overwhelming. Whatever a person sows he will one day reap. There is no firm foundation for the wicked, they will have no place to stand before God. They may take a stand for their sinful lifestyles here and now, but neither their arguments or their lifestyle is secure.
The righteous have a firm foundation because that has been secured for us by God in Jesus Christ.
26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so are sluggards to those who send them.
This proverb is a comparison rather than a contrast. Because of the love that the British have for fish and chips smothered in vinegar, it might be difficult at first look to grasp the simile that the Teacher uses, but a glass of vinegar taken without the fish and chips might enhance the understanding. The acidic nature of vinegar makes it unpleasant to drink on its own. The second simile is easier, we probably have all suffered with smoke in our eyes. This reaction described how we might feel when someone sends a sluggard to us, that is, sends a lazy person to us. This is the kind of dishonesty of sending something that is broken or faulty.
27 The fear of the LORD adds length to life,
but the years of the wicked are cut short.
The way of righteousness produces length of life. This is a general rule. Wise living is safe living. Sinful behaviour can shorten a person’s life. It is because of this general observation that made the Psalmist question the prosperity of the wicked in Psalm 73.
28 The prospect of the righteous is joy,
but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.
The righteous have life and quality of life because there is joy in the Lord. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Any aspirations that the wicked have will not be realised.
29 The way of the LORD is a refuge for the blameless,
but it is the ruin of those who do evil.
The Lord’s way is a place of refuge. We can think of the way of the Lord in two ways. The way of the Lord can be the teachings and commandments of the Lord or it can be the path down which the Lord guides the whole of history. In either meaning this is a place of refuge for the righteous. The Gospel message is a refuge for those who believe but for the unbelieving it is a message of judgement and damnation.
30 The righteous will never be uprooted,
but the wicked will not remain in the land.
The land and living in the land was the promise to those who are faithful. It is not possible to establish the exact borders of the Promised Land. As we move through the OT the land concept broadens to speak of the land beyond the rivers. In the NT the land concept becomes the whole earth with the disciples going into all the land. The faithful will inherit the land (the whole earth in the New Heavens and the New Earth). China, Russia, America, Europe, India and every nation will give up their land. There will only be one Empire and one Kingdom with one King, the Lord Jesus Christ. The righteous will never be uprooted but the wicked will have no place in the new Heavens and the New Earth.
31 From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom,
but a perverse tongue will be silenced.
The Teacher returns to his familiar theme about the use of words. The wisdom that has been hidden in the heart of the righteous bears fruit in the words that are spoken. These words are fruitful to the one who speaks them, and they are fruitful for those who hear them. A perverse tongue may find a ready platform to promote their wicked ways, but a time will come when that tongue will be silenced. We have all listened to angry people eloquently deny the existence of God, blaming God for all the ills in the world, even though they say they don’t believe He exists. If you are famous enough you might have your perverse words broadcast across the world or you might even write a book denying the existence of God, but these voices will be silenced.
32 The lips of the righteous know what finds favour,
but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.
The way of wisdom has taught the righteous to know what finds favour with God and man. The wicked knows only what is perverse. Their words and their ways are perverse.
This is a call for us to reject wickedness and to love righteousness.
Heavenly Father, we are thankful for everything that You have revealed to us in the Gospel. As we walk in Your way, we thank You that You have shown us grace and mercy. We thank You for every answered prayer and every gift of heavenly kindness. Lord help us to guard our words and forgive us for acts, words and attitudes that have been perverse. Help us to walk in a way that find favour in Your presence because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.