Updated: 3 days ago
Proverbs is best known as a book of wisdom. If a person reads the Proverb that corresponds with the day of the month, as I often recommend, he cannot miss the many direct references to wisdom. However, there are many byproducts of wisdom mentioned in the book of Proverbs. That is, wisdom is practically worked out in a variety of ways. One part of life in which a person accumulating wisdom will grow is in what Scripture calls judgment. This concept of judgment is a key to understanding the truths presented in Proverbs 21. For this reason, I’ve entitled Proverbs 21 “Wisdom’s Judgment.”
After having been entrusted with so much wisdom from the book of Proverbs, it should then cultivate within us an understanding of judgment that flows from that wisdom. After all, we now understand more thoroughly the dangers of the strange woman, the scornful man, and the fool‘s path. If a person has carefully studied and taken to heart the first 20 chapters of Proverbs, his heart has been significantly informed by the Word of God. Therefore, his judgments can be more thoroughly guided by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit-enabled judgment is the first principle Proverbs 21 teaches us.
Judgment More Acceptable
In considering this idea of right judgments in Proverbs 21, we should first notice verse 3: “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” This verse reminds me of Mark 12:33. The unnamed scribe was correct when he said that “to love [God] with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Biblically informed, righteous judgments in real-life situations are more acceptable to the Lord than making a sacrifice. And since a clear, biblically informed judgment is always the correct judgment, we must ensure that we are biblically informed Christians. God’s own testimony concerning His Word is that in it He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). In other words, Scripture is sufficient to help God’s people make the decision that honors Him for every kind of circumstance we will face.
Despite justice and judgment being acceptable to the Lord, not everyone—not even every believer—is willing to follow biblical instruction. There are those who “refuse to do judgment,” as verse 7 says. However, consequences follow every decision that we make. Verse 7 also proclaims what will happen to those who reject the principles of Scripture. “The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment.”
Verse 7 mentions robber, but it is not the only kind of wickedness in Proverbs 21. The chapter is full of examples of people who refuse to have and do righteous judgment. Certainly stealing represents a refusal to embrace righteous judgments; but this may be an un-relatable scenario to you. If so, consider verse 4. This verse provides three examples we have all been guilty of: “a high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked.” The “plowing of the wicked” is activity done for the sake of sin. Each of these actions or attitudes stems from an unrighteous judgment about one’s self. What does God think of them? The text says “it’s sin.”
God is not impressed with snobs. He’s not impressed with the self-righteous. In fact, Proverbs 6 reminds us that He hates the “proud look.” Even a basic activity like plowing the ground, when done with a heart full of arrogant judgments about oneself, is displeasing to the Lord.
Proverbs 21 addresses our hearts and exposes our sin, but it also provides some encouraging truth about God’s sovereignty. We certainly need to address righteous judgments being refused in our own hearts, but verse 1 provides comfort when you live in a land ruled by a king who refuses righteous judgments. Verse 1 reminds us that “the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Although the behavior of our leaders is certainly beyond our control and often beyond our influence, I encourage you to pray every day that God will turn the hearts of our legislators towards righteous judgments. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 commands us to pray for our leaders. We pray because, as Proverbs 21 says, God can direct their hearts toward righteousness.
A third aspect of judgment in Proverbs 21 is found in verse 15: “It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.” When we make right decisions— biblically informed judgments—it brings joy. However, the law of sowing and reaping works in both directions. Those who live in sin will reap ruin and destruction.
Proverbs 21 lists many habits that, if sown, will reap a harvest of ruin: a proud heart (v. 4); the lying tongue (v. 6); robbery (v. 7); the froward way (v. 8); the brawling woman (vv. 9, 19); scornful ness (vv. 11, 24); slothfulness (v. 25); greed (v. 26); false witness (v. 28); each of them is part of the same path that leads to ruin and destruction. Each behavior represents a lack of right judgment and has consequences of destruction. There’s no lasting joy in a life like that!
If you want joy, you should pursue God’s wisdom in the book of Proverbs. However, there is also an entire book of the Bible dedicated to joy and rejoicing—the book of Philippians. If you lack joy in your life, I encourage you to dive into the book of Philippians. It will help you to understand wisdom‘s judgment, which is the mind of Christ. Ultimately, Philippians will foster Holy Spirit-enabled joy in your heart, no matter your earthly circumstance.
Joy and judgment are not opposites. Rather, Proverbs 21 teaches us that we cannot have one without the other. Making biblically informed decisions about specific circumstances is the only way to live a live free from the consequences of sin and full of the blessing of the Lord. May we live today with Holy Spirit-guided wise judgments, all for His glory!
The above article was written by James C. Johnson. He is the pastor of NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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