Chapter 29

Lectures on the Book of Proverbs
Ralph Wardlaw

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Proverbs 29:1

"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."

This opening verse is one of many solemn admonitions in the divine word which require more of impression than of illustration.

Is there an individual here who has been counseled and warned by his parent's expostulating, entreating, encouraging, correcting, and rebuking; who has heard many a kind admonition from the friends of his youth and from the ministers of God's word; who has been visited and alarmed by the corrective afflictions of divine providence; who has been wooed by mercies and awed by judgments, but who still goes on in his trespasses--in his wicked, worldly, careless, ungodly course? Oh, let such a one listen now to this solemn and emphatic declaration: "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."

Will you "harden your neck," scorner? Will you refuse to bend to the yoke of divine authority? Will you resist divine commands and divine invitations? Do you "despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance" (Rom. 2:4)?

Remember, there is a limit. You have not, it is true, resolved that in the future you will never give a serious thought to the interests of your soul. Yet you flatter yourself by saying there is time enough, you will take it to heart by and by. But every day and hour you are becoming more callous. Every repetition of your refusal to submit to God's authority is settling you the more firmly in your habits of careless and worldly neglect. It is very likely that some of you here may recollect a time when you thought more about God, when you felt more interest in his word than you do now. And yet in spite of this, do you cherish the delusive idea that your current habit of neglect will be reversed as time passes?--that rather than thinking and feeling still less than you do now, you will actually think and feel more?--that when the hardening effects of sin and the world have steeled your hearts more thoroughly against the influence of what is good, you will actually soften yourselves to serious reflection?

May not God in the end, after such a course, give you up to your own heart's lusts as its merited reward? May He not justly say of you, "Leave him alone?" May He not in righteous retribution leave you to a reprobate mind? Since you have hated truth, may He not suffer you to be the dupe of lies? And having willfully turned away from Him and His invitations, may He not allow delusions strong as hell to bind you fast, letting you sink to the grave and perdition with a lie in your right hand?

And then, when "sudden destruction comes upon you" (appalling thought!), it is "without remedy." Then warnings, reproofs, invitations, and entreaties will be forever at an end. Nothing will remain but the unavailing anguish of regretted opportunities that can never return.

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Proverbs 29:13

"The poor man and the deceitful man meet together;
Yahweh gives light to the eyes of both."

The word translated "the deceitful man" is used nowhere else in Scripture. Some understand it of the creditor and some of the usurer. The latter is probably near the truth. He is the man who takes advantage of the needs of the poor in order to exercise extortion. The two "meet together" in the converse of life and in the transactions of business--the one in need and the other taking advantage of that need.

The situation was addressed in the Mosaic law (Ex. 22:25,26), and the conduct commanded by that law is enforced by the consideration in the verse before us: "Yahweh gives light to the eyes of both." In all our ordinary speaking regarding life and death, there is frequent reference to the eyes. The dimming and darkening of the eyes is one of the indications of life being on the wane, and a very remarkable feature in the dying scene. We speak of the shades of death coming over the eyes, of the fixing and glazing of the eyes in that solemn hour, and of their being closed in death.

The sentiment, then, I believe is that "the poor and the usurer" alike have their every moment's existence and every moment's enjoyment from God. The next question of course is, what is the lesson that is here taught? The answer is,

1. There is a motive or inducement to the poor to put their trust in Him who gives them life and length of days. In His providence He has assigned them a humble lot. But they have their life from Him, and their times are in His hand. The life He has given He does not overlook. He notes and sustains it.

2. There is also a lesson for the unfeeling oppressor of the poor, a motive given as to why he should consider what he is doing. The poor man whom he is using so selfishly and cruelly is the creature of the same God as himself, and he is sustained moment by moment by the same power and goodness. And there is something very shocking in the thought of rendering that poor man's life miserable, that life which the blessed God has given and which He is every instant maintaining, in the thought that the eyes to which God is ever giving light should be dimmed with the tears of bitterness.

While God is giving "the light of life" to the poor, it surely becomes us to do what lies in our power to make the possession of that life worth keeping, to supply their need and to comfort their hearts instead of quenching that light and making life wretched.

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Proverbs 29:24

"Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own soul;
he swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing."

"Hates his own soul" means in this, as in other instances, "acts to the certain injury and ruin of his soul, as if he hated and desired evil to it. He is his own enemy in fact, if not in feeling.

The depravity of theft as a sin against the principle and the express precept of the divine law is here assumed. It requires no proof. The "partner" in any fraud is the man who is privy to it, winks at it, secretly approves it, and profits by it, although he may not himself actually engage in the direct perpetration of it. But he is as bad as the doer. He may screen his conscience under the pretense of not actually doing the deed, but such a screen is a mere cobweb; it will not stand a breath.

He may possibly be even worse. If he flatters himself that he is getting the profit without partaking of the sin, and all the while coolly and deliberately allowing another to damn his own soul, he must indeed be under the power of a strong delusion. The receiver of stolen goods is at least as guilty as the thief. I say at least, for in one obvious respect he is worse. His is a general business that gives encouragement to many thieves by holding out the means of disposing of their stolen property and evading the law. He is thus in fact a partaker in the guilt of all. One thief cannot set up and maintain a resetter [fence], but one resetter may keep many thieves at their nefarious trade.

In addition, when the thief is brought to court and swears falsely, the partner is tempted to allow the perjury to pass undetected so as to avoid exposing himself as well as the thief. By this means he covers the guilt of the thief in a twofold way--in the theft and in the perjury. And if he himself is summoned as a witness and similarly perjures himself, he brings additional guilt more directly upon his own soul and draws down the wrath of God.

Thus every kind and degree of participation in evil and connivance at its perpetration is a snare to a man's soul. What, then, my brethren, is the general lesson? It is, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" (Eph. 5:11).

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