1 The wicked flee when no one pursues,
but the righteous are bold as a lion.
2 When a land transgresses, it has many rulers,
but with a man of understanding and knowledge,
its stability will long continue.
3 A poor man who oppresses the poor
is a beating rain that leaves no food.
4 Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
but those who keep the law strive against them.
5 Evil men do not understand justice,
but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.
6 Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
7 The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding,
but a companion of gluttons shames his father.
8 Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit
gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
9 If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,
even his prayer is an abomination.
10 Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way
will fall into his own pit,
but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.
11 A rich man is wise in his own eyes,
but a poor man who has understanding will find him out.
12 When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,
but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.
13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
14 Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always,
but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity. – Proverbs 28:1-14 ESV
This Proverb, while a collection of independent wise sayings, does have somewhat of a theme. Most of the verses can be tied right back to the Ten Commandments, the original Law of God given on Mount Sinai to Moses during the days of the Exodus. Here they are:
- You must not have any other god but me.
- You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens of on the earth or in the sea.
- You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
- Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
- Honor your father and mother.
- You must not murder.
- You must not commit adultery.
- You must not steal.
- You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
- You must not covet.
If you notice, the first four regulate our relationship with God, while the last six deal with our human relationships. Now if you go back to Proverbs 28, you will see that most, if not all, of these verses have to do with our outlook on the law of God and its impact on our relationships with others.
Throughout this Proverb, virtually every verse contrasts the wicked and the righteous. One group rejects the law of God while the other embraces and obeys it. But verse nine contains a sobering warning.
God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law. – Proverbs 28:9 NLT
This wisdom saying should grab our attention and make us question what it means to ignore the law. But what law is he talking about, and what does it mean to ignore it? You and I certainly don’t want to find ourselves in the position where God detests our prayers. We don’t want to find ourselves crying out to God only to have Him refuse to hear or answer our prayers because of the fact that we have ignored His law.
To reject the law is to praise the wicked;
to obey the law is to fight them. – Proverbs 28:4 NLT
God’s law is the standard for all life on this planet. The rules that govern how we are relate to Him and how we should treat one another are contained in the law. It gives us the basis for all our interactions. Without a standard, everyone does what is in their own best interests and according to their own set of self-centered rules. It leads to corruption, graft, greed, abuse, neglect of the poor, and justification of all kinds of harmful actions.
We are warned, “Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe” (Proverbs 28:26 NLT). To walk in wisdom is to live your life according to God’s terms, in obedience to His law or standards for life. God cares deeply about our human relationships. He wants us to treat one another with care, concern, respect, dignity, love, and honor – because all mankind is made in His image. But when we reject God’s law and disrespect our parents, murder out of hatred or for personal gain, take another man’s wife, steal what belongs to someone else, discredit another human being, or desire what they have more than we desire a relationship with them, we are fools. We lack wisdom because we are rejecting the conditions for life given to us by God Himself. It results in “moral rot” as described in verse 2. It leads to abuse and oppression. It becomes contagious, leading even good people to do bad things. It causes men to justify their actions and reject accountability for the wrongs they commit.
The Ten Commandments begin with four statements about honoring God. We are to treat Him with respect, dignity, and honor at all times. As Proverbs 1:7 says, “Start with God – the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning” (Proverbs 1:7 MSG).
Our relationships with men are all based on and dependent upon our relationship with God. Wise rulers are those who know God and honor Him with their lives. They live according to His law and don’t rule based on their own set of subjective standards. Wise parents are those whose households are God-honoring, where He is lifted up and held as the standard for life. Wise young people obey the law because they love God. Wise vendors don’t try to take advantage of their customers in order to make a buck, because they love God and know that dishonesty is dishonoring to Him.
The wise commit sins, but immediately confess them to God because they know He sees all and they value their relationship with Him more than any pleasure their sin may provide.
Loving the law is simply loving God. It is obeying His Word because you trust Him. It is doing what He says because You recognize that He knows best. And when you love God and keep His law, you end up doing what is just and right.
Evil people don’t understand justice,
but those who follow the Lord understand completely. – Proverbs 28:5 NLT
The opening line of the United State’s pledge of allegiance contains the four simple words: “And justice for all.” Many of us remember reciting them each day in the classroom. But what do they mean? What would justice for all look like and does it ever really happen? Verse give tells us that justice is understood only by those who follow the Lord. Those who are wicked or simply choose to reject the way of the Lord have no concept of godly justice. They tend to see it from their own perspective and define it for their own good. But according to the NET Study Bible, the Hebrew word for justice used in this verse (mishpat) refers to the legal rights of people, to decisions that are equitable in the community. It has a communal aspect to it.
Justice is not just about MY rights, but the rights of all. And those who follow the Lord will understand justice from that perspective because God is concerned about justice for all. He is concerned for the rights and welfare of the poor, needy, disenfranchised, neglected, abused, and all those who lack representation and protection. God cares about the alien and foreigner, the widow and the orphan, the slave and the servant, the falsely accused, and the unfairly treated.
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus simply said, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind,’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT).
Love God. Love others. There it is. We are just as obligated to love others as we are to love God because to fail to express love to those made in the likeness and image of God is a slap to the face of their creator.
One of the most effective ways of expressing love to others is by assuring that they receive justice. It is making sure that their rights are protected and their status as one of God’s creatures is maintained. Justice is not just an arbitrary requirement placed on man by God. It is part of His very nature, His character. God is just and righteous and always does what is right – every time, all the time. So, God expects His people to love justice just as much as He does. He requires them, as His representatives, to make sure that all men receive justice. One way we do this is by ensuring that just and righteous men and women are elected to high offices in our nation. Otherwise, we will experience exactly what Proverbs 28 warns us about.
A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor
as a roaring lion or an attacking bear. – Proverbs 28:15 NLT
A ruler with no understanding will oppress his people,
but one who hates corruption will have a long life. – Proverbs 28:16 NLT
When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding. – Proverbs 28:12 NLT
Justice is an expression of God’s character, while injustice is anti-God. Ignoring the needs, rights, and concerns of others is selfish and, ultimately, sinful. It is ungodly, unrighteous, unloving, un-Christlike, and unacceptable in the life of a believer. To love others as we love ourselves is to do whatever we can to protect them, provide for them, and speak up for them when necessary.
Injustice is all around us because sin and Satan thrive on it. The enemy preys on the weak, pitting the strong against them. His objective is to divide and conquer. He strives to create disunity rather than community. He breeds selfishness and self-centeredness. He thrives in an atmosphere filled with narcissism and self-gratification. He lulls mankind into a self-centered stupor that becomes insensitive and, eventually, oblivious to the injustice taking place all around us.
But God calls for justice. He demands love expressed in actions. He calls us to love others as much as we love Him, as an expression of our love for Him. That’s quite a calling. And it’s one we have ignored for far too long.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.