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COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: PART TWENTY-FIVE

SERMON PRESENTED ON 03-11-17

       Last time we were together I ended the sermon on a sweet note by discussing Proverbs 24:13 and 25:16 which speaks of Solomon instructing that it is good to eat honey because it is good for us but not to eat too much of it or it can make you sick.  Today we will continue our journey through the book of Proverbs and pick up where we left off in Proverbs, chapter 24.

      Proverbs 24:17-18: Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.

       It is human nature to rejoice at the trouble and adversity experienced by our enemy. The attitude often expressed is characterized by the thought that “he had it coming to him” or “he got what he deserved.  Solomon is instructing that we should not have such thoughts about our enemy when he falls or experiences hardship.  We are not to revel in the adversity of others. 

       In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed that we love our enemies and do good to those that hate us.  Loving ones enemies is not a new idea that Jesus brought to the table.  It is at least as old as the establishment of the Old Covenant with Israel. 

       Exodus 23:4-5: "If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.

       In the book of the prophet Obadiah we see a prime example of how God is not at all pleased with rejoicing at the adversity of others, including our enemies. Obadiah reports God’s displeasure over the manner in which Edom behaved when God brought judgement against Judah.  Before we look at what is recorded in Obadiah regarding this issue, let’s consider a little background information as to how the people called the Edomites came to be.

       The descendants of Esau became the Edomites as recorded in Genesis 36:1.  They lived to the south of Judea in an area known as Idumea and became known as Idumeans but are also referred to as Edomites throughout the OT..  Herod the Great, who was King over Judea when Christ was born, was an Idumean/Edomite which means he was a descendant of Esau. In Mark 3:8 it is recorded that people came from Idumea to interact with Jesus during His ministry.  

       Historically, the Edomites and Israel were enemies.  It went all the way back to Esau selling his birthright to Jacob and Jacob receiving the blessing that Esau would have received. 

       You may recall that Rebecca, the wife of Isaac was barren and Isaac prayed to YHWH that she would become pregnant..  Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah and was sixty years old when his wife became pregnant.  It is apparent he and probably Rebekah were praying for many years to become pregnant and her prayer was finally answered. 

       Genesis 25:21: Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.

      As a side issue, there is a lesson to be learned here that we should never give up hope and stop praying about something we may be passionate about.  Jesus made this point in a parable he told to His disciples during His ministry. 

       Luke 18:1-7:  Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, `Grant me justice against my adversary.' "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, `Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?

       Jesus is instructing His disciples to not give up asking for justice. He uses the illustration of the widow’s persistence with an unjust judge to show that God will, in His time and according to his will, act on a request.  Jesus is saying that if an unjust judge can be persuaded to act on a request, how much more is this true of a just God

       Getting back to the subject at hand, Rebekah became pregnant with twins. Esau was born first and Jacob followed.  Yet it was foreseen that Jacob would rule over his brother Esau.

       Genesis 25:23:  The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger."

       Esau, by having been born first was older than Jacob.  The older Esau, however, is seen as serving His younger brother.  This doesn’t mean that God necessarily purposed or predestined that Esau serve Jacob.  As Tracy explained last week, foreseeing something doesn’t equate with predetermining that something.  God can see into the future how we will behave in a given circumstance.  This doesn’t mean He predestines that we behave in such manner.  

         As it turns out Esau behaved in a way that resulted in he giving up his birthright. He sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup. 

       Genesis 25:29-33: Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!" (That is why he was also called Edom.)  Jacob replied, "First sell me your birthright." "Look, I am about to die," Esau said. "What good is the birthright to me?" But Jacob said, "Swear to me first." So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

       After Esau had sold his birthright to Jacob, he schemed with his mother Rebekah to obtain the firstborn blessing from his father Isaac when his father was old, blind and about to die.  Isaac had instructed his first born son Esau to hunt for some wild game and prepare a meal for Isaac after which he would pronounce a blessing upon Esau before he died. 

       Rebekah had overheard Isaac’s instruction to Esau and prepared a meal she knew Isaac would like and she made Jacob to dress and appear as Esau before Isaac with the meal.  Jacob presented himself before his father as Esau and even through Isaac was skeptical, he ending up giving the first born blessing to the second born son Jacob.  

       I have often wondered how such a blessing could be considered valid as it was done under false pretences.  However, apparently under the rules of that day it was considered a valid blessing.  Needless to say, these interactions between Esau and Jacob had long lasting consequences. 

       While there was some reconciliation that took place between Esau and Jacob as seen in Genesis 33, the descendants of Esau had little love for the descendants of Jacob whose name had been changed to Israel and whose progeny became the twelve tribes of Israel.   

       For example, during the Exodus, the king of Edom refused to allow the Israelites to pass through Edom on their way to Canaan.  Because of a show of force on the part of the Edomites, the Israelites had to detour around the country of the Edomites as recorded in Numbers 20. 

       As we know, the Israelites failed to be obedient to God and God determined they would wonder in the wilderness for forty years before being allowed to enter the Promised Land.  Once they were given the green light to enter the Promised Land, they once again had to pass through the land of the Edomites.  It is instructive that God directed the Israelites to not go to war with the Edomites because God had given them the land they were living on and they were brothers in that the were the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob/Israel. 

       Deuteronomy 2:4-5:  Give the people these orders: `You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. They will be afraid of you, but be very careful. Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on. I have given Esau the hill country of Seir as his own.

       This being said, it is apparent that Israel did engage in war with Edom during the reign of David and Edom became for a time a vassal state to King David.  David placed Israelite governors over the Edomites and this governance appears to have continued during the reign of Solomon.  Later, when Israel split into two Kingdoms after the death of Solomon, Edom became a vassal state of the southern kingdom of Judah.  Old Testament history shows that Edom was in constant rebellion against Judah. There was no love lost between Edom and Israel.

       So when Judah was taken into captivity, it is apparent the descendants of Esau, the Edomites, gloated over this.  They did nothing to come to Judah’s aid and took advantage of the situation by helping themselves to some of the spoils left behind by the invaders.  Here is how God responded to Edom’s behavior toward Judah.

       Obadiah 1:11-13: On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his (Judah’s) wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble. You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor look down on them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster.

       God took a very dim view of the attitude and behavior of Edom toward Judah and Israel in general.  He pronounced destruction upon them as Scripture records.  Mount Seir is what the territory was called where the Edomites lived.

       Ezekiel 35:3-6, 15:  `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, Mount Seir, and I will stretch out my hand against you and make you a desolate waste. I will turn your towns into ruins and you will be desolate. Then you will know that I am the LORD. "`Because you harbored an ancient hostility and delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity, the time their punishment reached its climax, therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you. Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you. 

       Verse 15: Because you rejoiced when the inheritance of the house of Israel became desolate, that is how I will treat you. You will be desolate, O Mount Seir, you and all of Edom. Then they will know that I am the LORD.'"

       As can be seen, God was not pleased with the advantage the Edomites took of the descendants of their brother Jacob during Jacob’s time of calamity.  Even though there was no love lost between these two peoples and they were pretty much enemies, this was not justification for stomping all over ones enemy when they are down.  Let’s now return to with Solomon wrote.

      Proverbs 24:17-18: Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.

       Solomon wrote that if we rejoice over the misfortune of our enemy YHWH will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from our enemy.  Paul may have had this proverb in mind when he wrote to the Romans that we should not take it upon ourselves to avenge but allow God to do that.

       Romans 12:19-21: Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

       This is difficult for us humans, but it is the manner in which God wants us to behave toward our enemy.  Several weeks ago I sang for offertory the Naomi Judd song “Love Can Build a Bridge between your heart and mine.”   The perspective of this song is that even under adversarial conditions, the practice of the golden rule which is to love your neighbor as yourself, can and should be the way we approach each other even if such person is seen to be our enemy. 

       Jesus gave the parable of the “Good Samaritan” to clearly demonstrate this point.

       We know that historically, the Jews living in Judea and the Samaritan’s living to the north of Judea, were enemies.  These two groups had no use for each other.  The Samaritan’s were a hybrid group of people made up of some descendants of Israel who had become intermingled with Gentiles who had been placed in Northern Israel by the Assyrians when they had conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  These folks had developed a hybrid form of Judaism and had even constructed their own temple.  The Jews of Judea had come to despise these people and likewise the Samaritan’s had no use for the Jews.  

       In the Good Samaritan parable Jesus tells of a Jew who was traveling to Jericho and was beaten and robbed and left half dead.  A Jewish priest and a Levite passed by but crossed over to the other side of the street to avoid having to deal with the situation.  However, a Samaritan came across the situation and bandaged the man’s wounds, took him to an inn and paid the innkeeper to take care of him. 

       Now this Samaritan could have rejoiced over the plight of this Jew.  Samaritan’s didn’t like Jew’s anymore than Jew’s liked Samaritan’s.  Yet this Samaritan showed mercy and compassion even though this beaten up Jew was not someone he would normally associate with and vice versa.  The Jew’s hated the Samaritan’s.  They were enemies to the Samaritan’s.  Yet this Samaritan expressed love toward this Jew.  This is the template of behavior that Jesus consistently presented to his listeners.  We are his modern day listeners.  Do we hear what Jesus has to say? 

       Matthew 5:44-48: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

       Just as the Father causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, so are we expected to do good to not only those who are good to us and love us but also to those who may do us harm and don’t love us.  You notice that Jesus places the matter of loving and not loving in the context of receiving reward.  

       Several sermons ago I briefly discussed the matter of receiving reward or the lack thereof at the time of judgement.  I showed that salvation to eternal life is a free gift from God facilitated through the sacrifice of Christ.  I then show from the writings of Apostle Paul that reward appears to be associated with how well we practice the Law of Love during our physical sojourn on this earth.  Here in Matthew five, Jesus appears to also be showing this to be the case and is probably where Paul got his insights from regarding the matter of reward. 

       The bottom line on this issue is that as followers of Christ and servants of God, we are to practice the Law of Love in all we do and that practice includes loving our enemies’ which means not reveling in their misfortunes as Solomon points out and in also coming to their aid as Jesus points out.

Proverb #2

       Proverbs 24:27: Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.

       This proverb makes a very interesting point.  It speaks to the importance of insuring that the basic necessities of life are taken care of before one goes ahead and builds their house.  While one may conclude that a house is a basic necessity as it will provide shelter from the outside world, the point Solomon appears to be making is that one should be sure one has make appropriate preparations so that while a house is being built there is food, clothing and maybe a temporary shelter provided while the house is being built. 

       The principle being established here is that one should not put the cart before the horse as the saying goes.  In planning anything, it is wise to insure you have the wherewithal to accomplish what you set out to do.

       We know from OT Scripture that David wanted to build a house for God, a temple wherein God could dwell.  God prohibited David from doing this and instructed that the temple would be built by David’s son Solomon.  David knew, however, that building a temple for God would require the finest of materials and workmanship.  So even though he would not be the one to build the temple, before his death, he assembled much material and skilled workmen in preparation for the building of the temple.   

       1 Chronicles 22:5: David said, "My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the LORD should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it." So David made extensive preparations before his death.

       It is clear that David wanted to insure that the wherewithal was there to build the temple and that proper preparations were made before the actual building was begun.  I am sure there was a great deal of food shelter and other necessities that had to be prepared for the thousands of workman that were involved in this project.  It is recorded in 1 Kings, chapter five, that Solomon had   seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workmen.  This was a massive project that could not have been pulled off without proper preparation. 

       Proper preparation is often ignored and people simple jump into doing things without proper planning.  How many marriages have been entered into where there was little thought given to how the bills are going to be paid and where it was just assumed that everything would work out?   Without proper planning things often don’t work out and suddenly reality sets in putting great strain on a marriage.  Financial difficulties remain one of the leading stressors in the breakup of a marriage. 

       Jesus applied the principle of proper preparation to our being His disciples. He made it clear that if we are not prepared to bite the bullet and do what is necessary and endure what is necessary in relation to following him, we can’t be His disciple. 

       Luke 14:27-33:  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.  "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.   In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

       Jesus was not teaching we are to give up all out physical possessions in order to follow Him and join some sort of commune.  Jesus was showing that we must be prepared to make the necessary changes in our behavior that will place us in harmony with the righteousness that He came to reveal. 

       One has to wonder how many have walked down the sawdust trail to commit their lives to Christ and didn’t have a clue as to what such commitment involves.  It is estimated that Billy Graham preached to more than 200 million people over the years. In a 1990 interview with PBS, Mr. Graham stated his belief that only about 25% of those who come forward at one of his events actually became a Christian. In recent years, studies have shown that only 6% of people who “come forward” at an evangelistic crusade are any different in their beliefs or behavior one year later.

       In a parable in Matthew 13, Jesus speaks of a farmer who went out to sow seed.  Some fell along the path and birds came and ate the seed.  Some fell on rocky places where there was little soil.  This seed produced plants that sprang up quickly but because the soil was shallow they did not take root and they quickly died.  Some seed fell among thorns which choked the young plants. Other seed fell on good soil where it produced a crop yielding in some cases a hundred times what was sown and in other cases sixty and thirty times what was sown.

       This parable illustrates what happens when one isn’t prepared to deal with the roadblocks that can occur in living a live committed to Christ.  Solomon instructed we get the fields ready before building the house.  Jesus shows this principle applies to being a Christian in that we need to count the cost and be prepared for what may come at us in our Christian walk.

PART TWENTY-SIX