The Literary Lamp-September 2016
Reflections on the Old Testament: Psalms and Proverbs
Reflections on the Old Testament: Psalms and Proverbs
“To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn, for His mercy endures forever; and brought out Israel from among them, for His mercy endures forever; with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who divided the Red Sea in two, for His mercy endures forever; and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for His mercy endures forever; but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who led His people through the wilderness, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who struck down great kings, for His mercy endures forever; and slew famous kings, for His mercy endures forever—Sihon king of the Amorites, for His mercy endures forever; and Og king of Bashan, for His mercy endures forever—and gave their land as a heritage, for His mercy endures forever; a heritage to Israel His servant, for His mercy endures forever. Who remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever; and rescued us from our enemies, for His mercy endures forever; who gives food to all flesh, for His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever,”—Psalm 136:10-26, NKJV.
Observe the multiple verses in Psalm 36 which praise God for His “mercy” as He destroys Israel’s enemies: “To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn…overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea…struck down great kings; and slew famous kings…for His mercy endures forever.” (Ps. 36:10, 15, 17-20.)
This is a perfect example of how the definitions of mercy, love, and the like, rely quite heavily on one’s perspective; God’s chastisement to one may be His mercy toward another. It is extremely important for us to view a matter from all sides before pronouncing a judgement. In many instances, it may seem that God is unreasonably afflicting us when His actions are actually sparing us from some more severe trial. Do not be too quick to pronounce God cruel or capricious, or even to search for some wrong for which He may be punishing you or a loved one—we do not see the greater picture. Know that God does, and be comforted by His everlasting mercy and omniscience.
The book of Proverbs is full of intricate allegories, perhaps the most recurrent being those of wisdom and “the adulteress.”
Wisdom is repeatedly depicted as a woman (see Prov. 1:20, 4:13, 7:4, 8:1, and (9:1), although in Proverbs 8:30, she refers to herself as “a master craftsman,” (emphasis added). In short, Solomon, presents numerous perspective on wisdom, but combines them all in the depiction of a woman—specifically a woman who directly opposes the other woman, i.e. the adulteress. Perhaps the most enlightening passage concerning wisdom is found in Proverbs chapter eight, especially verses 22:31, where wisdom reveals, essentially, her oneness with God (see verses 22-23). In this, we are not surprised, since wisdom is, in fact, an attribute of God; but in verses 30-31, it becomes a little deeper:
“Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in His inhabited world, and my delight was with the sons of men.”
Who fits this description? Who was “with God” at the beginning? Hint: compare to John 1:1-3. The wisdom spoken of in Proverbs represents the Word of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit—which, of course, are all one. Moreover, we, Christ’s servants saved by grace, are His temple, His church, and His bride—we are joined with Him. Thus wisdom is personified as a woman.
The adulteress (aka, the forbidden woman, the seductress, etc.) represents wickedness, or the world—the opponent of the church. She is the exact opposite of wisdom and life, but she tempts us with her “enticing speech” and great beauty. Beware of the deceptive flamboyant and glamor of sin—“Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death,” Prov. 7:27, NKJV. “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,” Prov. 7:25. We are the bride of Christ—beware, lest we become unfaithful to Him.
Understanding these allegories (you may even call them “the Parables of the Old Testament”), and others like them, bring a deeper and more applicable meaning to many Old Testament passages—the book of Proverbs is only a portion.
“The house of the wicked will be overthrown, but the tent of the upright will flourish,” Proverbs 14:11, NKJV. (See also Prov. 15:6.)
Note the contrast between house and tent. The basic message of this verse is that although the wicked may prosper for a time, living luxuriously and being praised by the world, they will be overthrown in the end; if not in this life, certainly in the next. On the other hand, the righteous, who fix their eyes upon eternity and do not cling to temporal things, may lead a humble life, but in the end, their tent will flourish, while the house of the wicked will fall.
With this knowledge, as Christians, we ought to praise God greatly for the righteousness with which He has clothed us, and rejoice in the fact that, though our present state may be humble, our eternity will be glorious. But beware! There are Christians who sadly misconstrue this knowledge. They gaze with jealousy upon the earthly success of wicked people, and then comfort themselves with phrases like: “Ha! They’ll get what’s coming to them.” Each one of us knows that we have had similar thoughts deep down inside at one time or another. Fickle humans that we are, we take a great deal of pride in the righteousness that God has given us, and actually believe that we somehow earned it by our own holiness. Abominable thought! It is by God’s unfathomable grace that we are saved, wretched worms that we are! Our wickedness is washed away by the blood of Christ alone. After this, we are commissioned to admonish those in the world who have not been saved—not to gloat upon their wickedness, or envy their earthly opulence, and then sit idly by, as Jonah, to await their impending destruction!In summary, knowing our final destination, we ought not to complain if we lead a humble life; and, knowing also the final destination of the unsaved, we ought to “speak the truth in love,” reminding the wicked that this world is passing away, and that, unless their house is founded upon the Rock, they will fall.