God’s Word for You
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, May 15, 2019
11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death,
and those who are staggering to the slaughter—hold them back!
Perhaps this verse was meant to accompany verse 10, but we cannot assume this had to have been the case. It this verse stands alone, then it seems best to take it as describing the innocent who are being led away to death without cause. Solomon knows that not all rulers are wise, not benevolent, nor always keeping the good of the people at heart. Some rulers do nothing but seek to further their own ambitions. There are times when a man must point out a ruler’s flaws to him. There are times when a ruler who is wicked must be removed from his office. This was something David agonized over, because the only means he knew of to remove a wicked king was through death, and David again and again refused to raise his hand against God’s anointed (1 Samuel 24:6; 2 Samuel 2:16).
Here in the Proverb, it is not an end to the ruler that is being espoused, but an end to a ruler’s wicked death sentence. If something can be done to prevent the innocent from dying, something that does not involve murdering others who are innocent, then may the Holy Spirit guide the Christian into a course of action which will give glory to God—even though this is often very difficult, and sometimes nearly impossible. One such God-pleasing act was the Underground Railroad before and during the American Civil War. Another was the way many German citizens did what they could to help Jews and others who were persecuted by the Nazis during the Second World War.
But we could also apply this verse to something beyond the first death. We have the task of sharing the gospel with those who are condemned to die the second death. This is often the case of trying to help someone who is “staggering to the slaughter” and yet may fight against you. But the opportunity must nevertheless be taken, if possible.
12 If you say, “No, we did not know about this,”
does he who weighs the heart not perceive it?
Does he who watches over your soul not know it,
and will he not repay man according to what he has done?
God follows Solomon’s good counsel with a warning. The motives of a man’s heart are known to God. If I choose not to help someone who is in mortal danger of the first death or of the second death, God will weigh my thoughts. I might have the greater good of his kingdom at heart, but I might also simply be a coward, or too lazy with the task given to me by God. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Our task is to do the work given to us, not to wish for something else.
It is entirely possible that you and I, in our fallen and sinful state, may miss some opportunities before us because we are blind to them. Unlike Jonah, who ran away from the task given to him directly by the Lord, we might be pardoned for this. Jonah was guilty of a grave and damning sin. “Jonah should not merely have accepted the divine will, but he should also have been most happy to carry it out. He should rather have suffered a hundred deaths than to become disobedient to God’s Word” (Luther, LW 19). If it were not for his faith in the Savior (Jonah 2:9) his soul would have been lost forever. Judas lost his faith, and as the early Church Father Papias said, “Judas was a terrible example of impiety walking in the world” (Papias 18).
But God’s will is sometimes obscured by our human frailty and fatigue, or by the worries and cares of this life, or simply because we have not searched the Scriptures so faithfully as to have the words of God in our hearts and on our lips so as to see when a moment rises up where we might serve. These things are forgiven by the grace of God to all who believe in Christ (Mark 3:28). But it is precisely because we have been forgiven our sins that we want to walk with Jesus and do the will of the Father. “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother,” Jesus said (Mark 3:35). Pursue the will of God, and never forget that the will of God is only revealed to us in his holy Word. Search the Scriptures and heed the voice of your saving God.
Pastor Timothy Smith