Proverbs 10:24, 20:24
Human Responsibility And Limits

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. As of chapter ten we enter into the second part of Proverbs. It goes up to chapter twenty-two and verse sixteen. The caption of "The Proverbs Of Solomon" is added at the very beginning to it. This section is the heart of all of The Book Of Proverbs.

2. According to the caption, this is a compilation of proverbs and sayings. In all it is made from three hundred and seventy-five proverbs in couplets. Today we'll take up only two of them. But, without fail, I would like to have us read through the whole book and not just these two. Either way, you'll find they are quite interesting. With some of the proverbs it is hard to keep a straight face with them because of their humorous expressions. With other proverbs you may feel agreement with them, "Yes, it's exactly like it says in that proverb." Some proverbs may really hit you where you live. Or when you read other proverbs you might wonder, "Is that really written in the Bible?" Again, either way, taking the opportunity as we enjoy and ponder around on various points, I would like to have us read the proverbs attributed to Solomon and touch on the way of life and the hearts of the believers in ancient times.

Human Responsibility

3. So, let's read chapter ten and verse twenty-four once more.

4.

He who goes against God is seized with fear
The wishes of the one who follows God are granted. (10:24).

5. It is a free translation to say "he who goes against God" and "he who follows God." The original text doesn't even have the word "God" in it there. Translated literally, it would be "the wicked" and "the righteous." A wicked person is a person who lives going against the world's order. The righteous person is a person who lives based on the world's order. That's how we've found it in the text so far. [The words] "the fools" and "the wise" mean essentially the same thing in content as ["the wicked" and "the righteous]." These two different modes of acting are not anything unique to Israel, but [this perspective] has been a commonly held view point in many ancient near eastern countries, and we could identify with it exactly as it is.

6. However, the Israelites did not just put their focus of attention on the world's order. They saw in the world's order the wisdom of the creator. They put the focus of their attention on the fact that behind the scenes to the world's order there was one and only one God, a living Lord God Creator of this world. Therefore, it isn't wrong to give it the free translation of "he who goes against God" and "he who follows God" and not [go only with the translation of] "the wicked" and "the righteous." Since the wicked go against the order that God has set up, they are going against God. Since the righteous follow the order that God has set up, they are following God. Since this world is a world that God created, people cannot live independent of and without a relationship to God. Whether consciously or not, in their minds and deeds people will live having something to do with God one way or the other, either as in "following" him or as in "going against" him.

7. So, "the person who goes against God," though he or she goes against God's cosmic order, he or she cannot leave that order. Thus, he or she will inevitably feel the consequences that the cosmos brings. Were somebody to drive a car into a huge concrete wall at ninety miles per hour, the person would expect the car to wreck and possibly die as a natural consequence. In that way, "feeling apprehension and worry" is possible as a consequence and may come in the mind of the person who practices evil. Those who keep sinning have unrest and fear tagging along after them like that.

8. So, this proverb teaches us that sinners will surely be "seized with fears." Where it says "seized" it is the word for "come." Rather than saying that God will bring a particular judgment against them, instead it states that those who keep sinning will automatically be visited with apprehension and worry coming upon them.

9. On the other hand, in regard to those who follow God, it speaks of the fulfillment of what they expect to happen. This is put into expression with "The wishes of the one who follows God are granted." Those obedient to God hold to a set of wishes that are based on God's order in the world. It's just like throwing a ball in line with the slope of the road and not against the slope. That ball will most likely bounce and roll on down to the bottom of the hill. Similarly, the obedient person's wishes that are in accordance with the will of God will be granted by God within the system God created.

10. This proverb is thus written in a form in which "the rebel" and "the follower" are given in direct contrast to each other. We call this style of writing where the first line of the couplet is contrasted with the second line "antithetical parallelism." A lot of the proverbs, which show this contrastive comparison, seem to especially be in the first half of this section [with the caption of] "Solomon's compilation of proverbs."

11. These contrastive two lines show that there are two alternatives before us. When we read Proverbs, we are confronted with that truth over and over again. We are not always left with no choice. We have choices to make. Going based on today's passage of scripture, a person can wait for his or her fears to come as "a person who goes against God," or a person can wait for his or her wishes to be granted as "a person who follows God." As long as these are the alternatives, we are held accountable and responsible for our choices because we're the one who makes the choices. Life is a series of choices. In that sense we must bear the responsibility for our own lives.

Is It Really That Simple?

12. But, we're quite likely to stop in our tracks on this and wonder. Because I can't help but wonder: Is life really all that simple? Has the history of the world been all that simple? I wonder about that.

13. Isn't it also true that there are people who do wrong who are not gripped by fear and apprehension? Isn't it also true that there are people who follow God who are gripped by disasters that don't even exist but they are worried about them? In the same Old Testament part of the Bible, a man named Job cried out, "Why do those who go against God live for so long, accumulate the years and even gain in strength? Their descendants surround them and they will certainly continue, and they can see their end before their eyes. Their homes are at peace, they have no fears, and God's rod never comes down upon them. ... They live their lives happily, and they proceed into the grave gently," (Job 21:7-13). Isn't the case he makes valid?

14. But, I would like for us to think about the meaning of this overly simplified proverb that has been surprisingly stored up in the Bible at that.

15. As we read past chapter ten of Proverbs, everybody will take note that these are a hodgepodge collection of many sayings. The order of them is not evenly sorted out as you can tell, and neither are they assigned within the text by design as you already know. There is no corresponding mutual context between one or the other of them. They say that these compilations go way back to ancient times. They go back to the time of Solomon or even way before that. These ancient collections of sayings, in a word, are not even sorted, are not even re-set in any particular design, but have been left untouched, just as miscellaneous collections without threads from one to the other.

16. In the mean time, the Israelites had experienced a nation in collapse. They experienced captivity. Then, they experienced release. They experienced the rebuilding of their nation. They experienced changeovers in leaders. From order to disorder. Disorder to order. The people of Israel went through violent changes. But yet, they preserved the proverb collection of Solomon. They kept these simple, almost foolish sounding proverbs, around unchanged. They didn't leave this book of proverbs such as it is behind because they were such simple people. As a people who had experienced the complexities of life and the complexities of history to such extremes, they had left these proverbs as is without even questioning, "Is life really that simple? Is history really all as simple as that?"

17. The bottom line to what I mean is that they lived with a bold trust that God's unchanging order still existed even if the order before their eyes collapsed, or a new order was built, or if the world changed so complicatedly. They would continue to have their simple trust. Someone described the God to whom they turned as "the hidden security for world order, the unseen guarantor of order in the world." Rather than saying will it turn out like it simply says in the proverb, it is more important to say there is a Security and a Guarantor for sure in whom we should trust.

Human Limits And Trusting In God

18. So after that, some words from the other passage which we read before, some words that look like they are contradictory at first glance, are placed quite fittingly into this same collection.

19.

It is the Lord who sets each step of each person.
What does anyone really understand about his path? (20:24).

20. As we saw earlier, the main thing we are to do is to make the right choices. The main thing is that we keep on going according to our choices as planned. We shouldn't say no matter the choice you've made it's all the same, no matter how you lived, it's just the same. Because this world is not chaos without any order. [It does matter how you have lived.]

21. So, we need wisdom in order to go on and make the right choices. The many proverbs which are given here in the text have the purpose of telling us this wisdom. People have got to acquire this obtainable wisdom and know that they can know about God's order for this world, that they might be able to go on and make choices that conform to the will of God. That is the responsibility of human beings. People shouldn't be ignorant in regard to God's rule over the world.

22. But, on the other hand, we shouldn't think that we can know everything about God's rule over the world. We humans certainly are the ones who make choices. People must take the responsibility for them. But humans do not get their hands on the whole path that we go on. God's rule over this world always goes way beyond our human knowledge. God's [rule over us] has plans and guidance which people cannot understand. Each step of each person does not lie within the hands of the individual but lies in the hands of the Lord, and we take it from there. Thus, on the one hand, The Book Of Proverbs urges us to obtain wisdom, to make the right choices, to be responsibly involved in our walk, but on the other hand, it says, "What does a person really understand about his ways?"

23. As we continually seek for wisdom, we must humble ourselves before God's rule, which ultimately we can't know in full. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" applies here too. Whether we live responsibly in our choices, whether we humble ourselves and admit that we cannot see into our own ways, the thing required of us is simple trust in Him who is "the hidden security for world order, the unseen guarantor of order in the world."

 
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