God’s Word for You
Proverbs 23:17-21 a life after this one
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, February 23, 2019
17 Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but let it always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.
18 Surely there is a life after this one,
and your hope will not be cut off.
These two proverbs show the versatility of the combination of two Hebrew particles: ki-’im. In verse 17, ki-’im lifts the verb “envy, be zealous” from the first line and repeats it into the second part. It goes something like this: “Don’t do x for sinners, but (ki-’im) do x for the Lord.” If you’re going to crave or yearn for something, let it be the fear of the Lord. This is a lot like what Jeremiah says about boasting (and Paul, too): “Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows (the Lord)” (Jeremiah 9:24; 1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17).
In verse 18, ki-’im doesn’t pick up on what has already been said, but rather becomes an expression of certainty: “Surely.” Here, the phrase is “Surely there is a ‘now’ that comes after;” which is to say, there is a life after this one. What life is this? It is the eternal life in which our hearts hope; the eternal life that is granted to all who have the fear of the Lord, faith in the Lord, and who trust in Jesus for everlasting life.
The Hebrew term I have translated “life” is yesh, “being, existence.” It is a state of being which comes after this one, a life which is in the future. It is the life which matches God’s description of his own eternal existence: “who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). This is our hope, our future certainty, and no one with faith in Christ will be cut off.
19 Listen, my son, and be wise,
and keep your heart on the right path.
What is it we listen to that keeps our hearts on the right path? It is the word of God, both Law and Gospel. The will of God is there in the law, whether laid out in simple commands or explained more fully in so much of what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount. The law exposes our sins, highlights our failures to walk according to God’s will, and lays bare our need for rescue from our sad, sinful state.
The gospel reveals the Savior we need and whom the world could never guess at. The gospel uncovers God’s mysterious secret of forgiveness and full atonement through the blood of Jesus for our sins. Faith in Jesus is truly wise. Only those with this faith are able to use the law as a guide for living, which will keep your heart on the right path your whole life through.
20 Do not join those who drink too much wine
or gorge themselves on meat,
21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
and drowsiness will dress them in rags.
If we spend time with people who are bound to lose everything, we can expect that we will lose everything, too. We could apply this to the kind of friends we have when we’re young, the sort of people we spend time with when we mature, and even—perhaps especially—the church we attend. Does that Church properly apply God’s Law and Gospel? Is Jesus at the center of what they preach and teach? Do they focus on the importance of the Means of Grace, the Gospel in word and Sacrament? If they feed themselves with false doctrine, gluttons for worthless doctrine and drinking down heresies as if they just can’t get enough, then they will become spiritually bankrupt. They will be found in the rags of self-indulgence rather than our Savior’s robe of righteousness. Feast instead on the body and blood of Christ, and prefer the square meal of Law and Gospel, and you will be fed the bread of life, for eternal life.
Pastor Timothy Smith