God’s Word for You
Proverbs 24:13-16 Eat honey, for it is good
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, May 16, 2019
13 My son, eat honey, for it is good,
and honey from the honeycomb is sweet to your taste.
14 Understand that wisdom is like this to your soul.
If you find it, there hope for your future,
and your hope will not be cut off.
Sugar cane, sugar beets, and chocolate were not part of the agriculture of Israel. Sweet things were found locally. Wine was one sweet thing that could be made, and honey was one of the easiest to find because it occurs naturally; bees like a hot climate as long as the flowers are thriving. So just as honey brings sweetness and delight to the tastebuds, so also godly wisdom brings delight to the soul. Godly wisdom is not just general knowledge of God, but knowledge of the promise of salvation in God’s word. It is an understanding of the gospel of the forgiveness of sins.
The point of this proverb is that godly wisdom, knowledge of the gospel, is something to be desired and pursued. If a man goes to a banquet because there is a good chance of getting some honey there and being fed, he should treat the banquet of worship in the same way. We want to keep the Third Commandment, remembering the Sabbath Day (Exodus 20:8) not just because God commands it, but because on the day of worship we hear about Christ and what Christ has done for us, which delights us. Knowing the will of God and the forgiveness of sins is delightful to us. Without it, we can’t live to please God. This is why it provides hope for our future. The future here is not merely a long life or posterity, but eternal life and our everlasting posterity in heaven. When Jesus changed water into wine at Cana, his very first miraculous sign (John 2:1-11), the master of the banquet was amazed because it was the best wine he had tasted. So it is with the gospel from Jesus’ own lips. It is good to hear the word of God from anyone, but it is best to hear it from Jesus himself: “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst,” he said. “Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
15 Do not lie in wait against a righteous man’s house
the way a wicked man does,
do not raid his home,
16 for a righteous man falls seven times and rises again,
but the wicked are brought down by disaster.
This is a proverb about the Ninth Commandment, which teaches us not to covet our neighbor’s house and possessions (Exodus 20:17a), and it is also about the Seventh, which commands us not to steal (Exodus 20:15). Here the commandments are given in a negative form only, as a warning of what the end result will be. Whenever I consider these commandments, I ponder the many examples in Scripture of thieves like Ahab and Jezebel who forced Naboth out of his vineyard and set him up to be executed for nothing other than owning a pleasant piece of land (1 Kings 21:1-16). There was the petty thief Achan whose sin was also against the First Commandment (Joshua 7:1), there was Rachel who stole her father’s false gods and lied about them (Genesis 31:34-35), and there was Judas Iscariot, who stole from the Lord’s own treasury (John 12:6). But petty thievery is not the worst problem in our world. There are many who steal pennies and nickels, while the men who steal millions are held in awe for what they have swindled us into thinking is their great business strategy. Luther said:
“Thievery is the most common craft and the largest guild on earth. If we look at mankind in all its conditions, it is nothing but a vast, wide, stable full of great thieves. These men are called gentlemen swindlers or big operators. Far from being picklocks and sneak-thieves who loot a cash box, they sit in office chairs and are called great lords and honorable, good citizens, and yet with a great show of legality they rob and steal. Yes, we might well keep quiet here about various petty thieves in order to launch and attack against the great, powerful arch-thieves who consort with lords and princes and daily plunder not only a city or two, but the whole country.” (Large Catechism, par. 228-230).
In verse 16, Solomon warns ungodly gentlemen and ladies that the righteous man “falls seven times and rises again.” This can be understood in two ways, and both are godly, spiritual interpretations. The first is that God will rescue his people in this world when they are oppressed by the wicked. The Holy Spirit says: “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24). And again: “You are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head” (Psalm 3:3). And David prayed: “O Lord, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death” (Psalm 9:13).
The second understanding is the superior one: God forgives the godly their sins over and over again, but he will not forgive anyone even a petty crime if they have no faith. When Peter asked the Lord, “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?”, he was talking about a brother in faith, not just his physical brother Andrew. But when Peter offered the generous amount, “Up to seven times?”, Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but as many as seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). The forgiveness of sins of those with faith is infinite. It is not until someone tries to use this forgiveness as an excuse to sin more and cast aside his faith that he remains unforgiven. Only unbelief damns, just as it is only faith that saves (Mark 16:16).
It doesn’t matter what disaster the Lord has in mind for the wicked. Some are ruined in this lifetime by their own crimes. Others are ruined by their own mistakes and ineptitude. But everyone without faith will be forever ruined in the punishment of hellfire. The good things the godly may have desired but did not have in this life will come in the next. Remember the words Abraham spoke across the chasm to the rich man in hell: “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted and you are in agony” (Luke 16:25). God wants us to know that we have the priceless pearl of faith, and the oppression and thievery that may surround us and press down on us in this lifetime will be salved and healed in heaven. We will receive our good things hereafter. We have God’s word on it.
Pastor Timothy Smith