More and more I find myself reading the last 21 chapters of Proverbs increasingly like the Sermon on the Mount rather than as just a checklist to make sure I’m on the right track. To be sure, the plethora of “to do’s” and “to be’s” in the latter chapters of Proverbs are virtal coaching towards skillful living now and eternal reward in a day yet to come. However, if meeting the standard set by these many exhortations is the basis for my confidence as to God’s acceptance then, to quote a famous prophet speaking in King James language, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” (Isa. 6:5a)
Case in point, something I’m chewing on this morning.
Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are His delight.
(Proverbs 11:20 ESV)
Okay, bottom line? I wanna be the LORD’s delight. Just sayin’ . . .
And at first, at the most macro processing of this verse, I don’t think I’m an abomination. I don’t think my heart is crooked aka, twisted, distorted, perverse, or perverted — especially if I’ve been given a new heart through conversion (Ezek. 36:26). So, at least initially, feeling pretty good about being on the “His delight” side of the ledger.
But then I start noodling on “blameless ways.” Hmm . . .
Is that some of my ways? Most of my ways? Some of my ways most of the time? Most of my ways some of the time? Most of my ways most of the time? Or, shudder, all of my ways all of the time?
Come on! Whose gonna clear that bar? Not this guy!
And then, James’ words come to mind:
For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
(James 2:10 ESV)
Did I mention the woe is me part?
So, while I need to read Proverbs as exhortations to keep on the right path, to stay away from the fool’s path and walk in ways that are blameless ways, if I’m being honest with myself, I know how often the old man compromises the new heart, and how the flesh frequently leads me to walk in some old ways. So then, am I not His delight because all my ways are not blameless ways? Or do I fall in and out of delight when I waver in my ways? I don’t think so. I think, just like the Sermon on the Mount, the standards set by the Proverbs for flourishing in life are also meant to lead us to the cross.
Like the Law, the Proverbs can be seen as a “guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24 ESV). Or, as Peterson captures so well the Greek nuances in his paraphrase, the Proverbs are “like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for” (Gal. 3:24 MSG).
I’m thinking that the Proverbs, beyond practical advice on how to live as kingdom people, are ultimately tasked with bringing us (again and again and again) to the finished work of the cross as our only basis for being the LORD’s delight. They ready us for justification by faith. They calm us as we rest in justification by faith. The spur us on to obedience in response to justification by faith. And they assure us we are the LORD’s delight only through justification by faith.
We ARE blameless, because Jesus is blameless — and we are in Him. We ARE the LORD’s delight, for the Son is the Father’s delight — and we are in Him.
Rest and rejoice, oh my heart. You are blameless even as you seek to walk in ways that are blameless. For You are in Christ.
And in Him, you are the LORD’s delight.
Because of His grace. Only for His glory.