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God’s Word for You

Proverbs 24:8-10

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, May 14, 2019

8 He who plans to do evil
  will be called Baal of wickedness.

Our culture is fascinated by grifters and conmen. We flock to movies about them, from The Sting to Oceans 11. We admire their ingenuity and their genius. However, the basic flaw with the grifter is different from that of the ordinary thief or thug. The thief might be a person who can’t feed his family who seizes an opportunity. A thug uses the one gift he has (his fists) to make a living. They will struggle with their conscience. But the schemer, the grifter, the mastermind who “plans evil”—this is a person who has set aside God’s will and God’s laws and decided that he or she will be the one whose will matters.

Solomon tosses out a remarkable title here. Elsewhere he has described the “crafty man” (Proverbs 12:2, 14:17), which in Hebrew is “man of wickedness.” Here he calls a grifter “Baal of wickedness.” Baal was of course a Phoenician and Canaanite god, a storm god who threw lightning bolts. The word Baal can also simply mean “husband” or “master.” While it might be correct to translate “master of wickedness” or “of craftiness” here, I wanted the reader to understand the full flavor of the word.

It is not a sign of progress that our culture thinks highly of such sinful people. They should not be idolized. They are the worst kind of white-collar criminals. They are usually businessmen. They use someone else’s money to get leverage on the rest of the world, and then use this kind of power for their own sinful agendas. They should not be praised or indulged in any way. They should be locked away, and they should pay whatever penalty the nation requires for their abominations.

9 To plan to do folly is sin,
  and a mocker is an abomination to men.

Luther said, “In Proverbs and Ecclesiastes folly is to savor earthly and transitory and carnal things, when spiritual and eternal things have been lost. To savor the latter constitutes wisdom. Hence also they are everywhere called foolish and without wisdom” (LW Vol. 11). Since the one in this verse is someone planning folly, he is planning to violate God’s will and God’s commands. He is walking in a sin; this is why he is an abomination to men. It goes without saying that he is also an abomination to God. The Lord warned: “They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations, so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring upon them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight and chose what displeased me” (Isaiah 66:3-4).

Jesus endured mockery as part of his suffering as he atoned for our sins. The men who were guarding him before he was nailed to the cross “began mocking and beating him” (Luke 22:63). There is no honor or dignity or usefulness in such an act. But Jesus bore it for our sakes, because he loves us. Because he forgave us.

10 If you faint in the day of trouble,
  you have little strength.

In Hebrew, this passage is not written in the conditional, “if, then,” form. Sometimes poetry avoids this, and poetry is notoriously the most difficult form of speech to translate in any language. Without the “if” introduction, this is a simple statement with no value as a proverb. With the conditional “if,” it becomes a warning: If a day of trouble comes and you faint or become helpless, then you have little or no strength; you are no help to yourself and you only become a burden to others.

While this is a natural warning about one’s physical life, it is also a warning about our spiritual lives. How can we avoid becoming spiritually frail?

To answer this, let’s go back to the foundation of our faith and notice the way that this building or tower is built, so that we don’t try to put spiritual spires on top of fragile railings, or lay bricks on top of cardboard. No good works are possible apart from faith in Christ. Without faith, there is only fear, such as the fear that makes God’s former people put to flight by nothing more than a windblown leaf (Leviticus 26:36). But once sins have been washed away and Christ has been preached and there is a good foundation of sure, saving faith, good works will naturally follow as a thank you after the giving of a gift.

In his 1568 Catechism, Pastor David Chytraeus groups good works into the following categories or hierarchies:

  1, The true knowledge of God according to the Gospel (this is faith that wants to grow and learn more about Christ).
  2, The true fear of God (this is what Luther divided into fear of God’s wrath over sin on the one hand, and respect and honor due to God for his divine power and majesty on the other).
  3, True confidence in the mercy promised because of Christ, the Mediator.
  4, The love of God (that is, the love we show to God).
  5, The hope of eternal life.
  6, Patience
  7, Humility
  8, The invocation of God made in the Spirit and in truth (using God’s name to pray, praise, and give thanks)
  9, Universal righteousness (we would call this “civic righteousness”) which Chytraeus describes under the Fourth Commandment:
    a, Obedience to the laws and public officials
    b, Devotion to our parents
  10, Particular righteousness (we would call this personal righteousness or simply “Christian virtue”) which Chytraeus describes under Commandments 5-10:
    a, kindness (Fifth Commandment)
    b, mercy (Fifth Commandment)
    c, chastity (Sixth Commandment)
    d, truthfulness (Eighth Commandment)
    e, the zeal which diligently and faithfully does the duties of one’s calling, etc. (Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Commandments)

Solomon’s Proverb (24:10) is a warning that without the foundation of true spiritual strength, the other Christian virtues such as being strong on the day of trouble will be lacking. Take courage. “The Lord is good, a refuge in a day of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7). Don’t boast or laugh when someone else has a day of trouble (Obadiah 12,14). Offer a hand out of love and mercy. “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (Proverbs 25:21). In doing so you will show your faith and perhaps open a door to the gospel. There is no greater command than to “Preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Do it with your whole life; do it because you love your Savior. Never grow tired of sharing him.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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