31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God. 32 When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God. 33 Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning and even among fools she lets herself be known. 34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people. 35 A king delights in a wise servant, but a shameful servant arouses his fury. (Prov. 14:31-35 NIV)
31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honours God.
This proverb shows the strong link that there is between the two commandments that sum up the whole law of God: love the Lord your God and love your neighbour. It is not possible to claim to love God and then not love your neighbour. If we show contempt for people, we show contempt for God who is their maker. How a person treats the needy reveals the true condition of their heart towards God. When people in the name of religion abuse or exploit other people, they are not honouring the faith, they are dishonouring God. Sadly, there are those who in the name of Christianity have taken lives. The battles that we are called to fight are spiritual battles and our weapon is the Gospel. How can we know that a person honours God? They demonstrate this by being kind to the needy.
32 When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down,
but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God.
This proverb looks at the final state of the wicked and the righteous. The wicked will finally be brought down because of the course that they have followed in life. People rage against this today and despise the Gospel because they don’t believe that anyone has a right to judge them. But God is their Maker whether they accept that or not, and they will one day have to give an account for how they handled the gift of life that God has given them. Death comes upon all, both the wicked and the righteous. Even in death the righteous seek refuge in God. The doctrine of immortality is not so well developed in the OT as it is in the NT. BB Warfield said this of the OT, ‘The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before.’ We can see the seed of the doctrine of immortality in this proverb.
33 Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning
and even among fools she lets herself be known.
Wisdom is not out of place in the heart of the discerning. It readily finds a home. The second line of the proverb gives translators some problems because the idea that there might be some wisdom among fools is contrary to what the whole book of Proverbs teaches. The Septuagint (Greek version of the OT) even changes the second line to say that wisdom is not known among fools. It is best to stick with the Hebrew and take the meaning from the term, ‘reposes’ in the first line. Wisdom is not out of place in the heart of the discerning, but it is out of place in the heart of a fool. We then have to ask, ‘in what sense does wisdom make herself known to the fool?’ Every person wise or foolish is made in the image of God and God has written eternity into the being of each person. Calvin said that everyone was incurably religious. Even the fool from time to time will feel a sense of unrest that there is something wrong with their chosen pathway. This is the conviction of wisdom, though the fool will not heed her voice.
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin condemns any people.
A nation that conducts itself in righteousness exalts itself. Sadly, the UK has been debasing itself through all kinds of liberalising laws and agendas. What is being introduced is sinful, but they refuse to call it sinful, and they would pour intense opprobrium upon us for calling it sinful. In the end sin itself condemns the nation. When the consequences of the changes that are being introduced are fully realised, the very sin that they introduced will condemn the nation. Life is not a game!
35 A king delights in a wise servant,
but a shameful servant arouses his fury.
Any employer, leader or government official appreciates the wisdom of the people who work for them. Some leaders who are not very competent don’t like to employ anyone who is brighter. A wise leader will surround himself or herself with wise counsellors and the skill of leadership is to listen to the wise counsellors and reject the self-serving advice of foolish counsellors. The shameful servant arouses the fury of the leader because what is at stake is the leading of the people. If a leader is served by bad advisers, it is the people who suffer.
Lord God forgive our nation because we have not exalted ourselves with righteousness. The rulers have been badly advised and are planning to introduce new laws that will bring further harm to society. Lord, the rush to legislate is like a tidal wave that seems almost impossible to withstand. Lord the battle is Yours, and today we look to You to turn in mercy upon this nation before we sink further away from You, because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.