In reading the 11th chapter of Proverbs, I was struck by two simple questions: One, who are the Righteous that the Proverbs speak about and two, how do you become one?
Let me explain.
Proverbs 11 is basically a summary of the contrast between the wicked and the righteous (whatever that means). It shows, like Psalm 1, how each responds differently to situations or circumstances or experiences, good and bad, that are common to man. And the lesson learned is the righteous win and the wicked lose. Big time.
But the one promise that keeps repeating itself over and over again in this Proverb is that the righteous will be “delivered” from trouble, destruction, death or whatever calamity the wicked plunge headlong into.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.
The righteous is delivered from trouble,
But the wicked takes his place.
With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor,
But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.
Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished,
But the descendents of the righteous will be delivered. *
You know, there are some promises here that we would do well to hold on to. But they are conditional promises— made only to those who are righteous or blameless or upright in their integrity. Can we, in all honesty, claim these promises are for us today? Can we truly say that our righteousness and desire for holiness is as great as… say, the early church? How about Believers living during the time of the Great Awakening or during the revival movements of the last 150 years or so. Does our righteousness come close to that of the Spurgeon, Wesley, Finney or Edwards? How about our passion for the holiness of God? How do we compare to Watchman Nee or George Muller or Brother Andrew? How about our desire to see all men saved? Where do we rank in comparison to Hudson Taylor, William Carey or Gladys Aylward?
Can we look at the plight of Job and assume that, faced with the same horrific set of circumstances, we would hold on to our righteousness as he did? Would we, after the death of our children, the destruction of our security and the failure of our health, echo the words, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” *
Or would we crumble in despair, blaming and cursing God, shaking our fist at heaven, claiming that He failed to keep His promise to us— the promise of “Your Best Life Now!” Geez.
I don’t know.
But I do know that Jesus said, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees (the ones who later attributed Jesus’ miracles to Satan), you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” * Really? That’s sobering. Scary.
So what do we do? Where do we go from here? Because I’m sure that very few of us spend as much time trying to be as righteous as the Pharisees did? For most of us, it’s not even on our radar.
One last passage from Proverbs 11.
The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord,
But the blameless in their walk are His delight. *
Ah, that’s it. To be His delight.
Can you imagine? Can you wrap your mind around what it must feel like to know that you are the very delight of the Lord? That you are blameless in your walk with Him and others? How does that happen? How can someone become His delight? Or, the righteous? Or, as Jesus said, “the people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”? *
I think it begins with a conscious effort, a determined spirit, a fierce commitment to find out what pleases the Lord and then make it our single ambition in life to do it. Just Do It! Because in the great scheme of things and the brevity of life, what else matters than to please the One who created and saved us?
What? Fame? Money? Sex? Acceptance? Ease? Come on, compared with being the delight of the Lord— all the stuff the world offers is nothing more than chump change. Cheap shiny trinkets and pieces of cut glass. Nothing of real, lasting, eternal value.
After all, isn’t that what Paul said to the Corinthians?
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord- for we walk by faith, not by sight- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as (what) our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
Join with me, will all that is within us, to make it our ambition to please the Lord.
Adveho quis may. Come what may.
Will you join with me? Come what may.
Proverbs 11:4, 8-9, 21, 20; Job 1:21; Matthew 5:20; John 4:23; 2 Corinthians 5:6-9