The Wicked And the Just
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

The principle that I want to discuss with you in the book of Proverbs is a simple one—the contrast between the wicked and the righteous. The simplest thing we can say about it is that one group is wicked and one group is righteous, and you have all the contrasts summed up. Yet, in this section of the book of Proverbs there are over sixty-three verses dealing with the contrast between the wicked and the righteous, emphasizing these various contrasts to draw to our attention the privilege of the righteous and the heartache that should be borne by every sincere believer because of the sad condition of the wicked.

Expectation of the Wicked and the Righteous

You might assemble these truths which are found in this particular portion of the Word in any way that you might desire, and I don't think that you would be doing any violence to the Scripture because there is no certain method, there is no certain continuity, as I have already suggested to you, that could be followed; but I am going to suggest that we first examine the expectation of the wicked and the righteous. To what do the wicked and the righteous have to look forward? What is the ultimate end? To what do they have to look forward as they pursue their lives here upon the earth? Notice chapter 11, verses 17-18:

Proverbs 11:

17 The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.
18 The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.

You see in these two verses of Scripture the difference between what the wicked and the righteous may expect in a general fashion. The merciful man—that is, the righteous man—doeth good to his own soul. That is, he will be building eternally; but the wicked man, the cruel man as he is described in this passage, troubleth his own flesh. He is making trouble for the life that he has to live.

The wicked worketh a deceitful work. That is, his life is bound up in deceit, and that is all that he is capable of doing; but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward. The wicked has an uncertain future, and the righteous has a sure reward.

Contrast Between Strength and Destruction

When we think more specifically, we ask you to turn to Proverbs, chapter 10, verse 29, and notice the difference between the wicked and the righteous as is suggested:

Proverbs 10:

29 The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.

We recognize that there is strength versus destruction presented for our consideration. The individual who is born again, the righteous, will find a source of strength in the Lord; but the worker of iniquity will find at the end of his figurative day's work nothing but destruction awaiting him.

Contrast Between Fear and Desire

We call to your attention next a consideration between the fear and the desire—fear as it is opposed to desire in the life of the unbeliever and the believer. Notice verses 24-25:

Proverbs 10:

24 The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.
25 As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.

I think this is an excellent illustration of fear. Fear is mentioned in verse 24; the illustration is presented in verse 25. The whirlwind of the Bible time could be illustrated very well by the tornado or the cyclone or the hurricane of our day. You will notice that as the whirlwind passeth, so the wicked is no more. There is nothing left for the unsaved man when the whirlwind passes through his life, and he lives in constant fear. The thing that he fears very likely will happen to him. But the believer has his desires granted to him and, by way of contrast, when the whirlwind passes through the life of the believer, he is still standing, according to the last portion of verse 25, because he is built upon an everlasting foundation.

You see, our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ is not only a heavenly one, not only an eternal one in the sense that we think about eternity and not about everyday living; our relationship to Jesus Christ is vitally concerned with the affairs of this earth, and no book in the Bible makes it any plainer than this book of Proverbs because it is an earthly book related to earthly things, and all Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for our learning.

Contrast Between Care and Neglect

Much can be learned as to God's care of the believer in this day in which we live by pursuing the study that is represented in this book. Speaking of care, we draw to your attention a contrast between care and neglect. Notice in verse 3:

Proverbs 10:

3 The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.

You know the meaning of the word famish , by using an expression that you use very often, many days of your life, when you come in perhaps at the close of the day and say, “I'm famished. What have you got to eat?” You may not be as near starvation as you appear, but that is the way that you feel. This passage of Scripture says that the Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish, and I believe it may be interpreted both physically and spiritually, but He has no concern in this area for the wicked: “He casteth away the substance of the wicked.”

We would emphasize, though some of you may on the surface disagree, that God has no obligation to the unsaved person. Whatever God does for the unsaved person, He does purely and simply out of His mercy and out of His grace. There is a sense in which He deals with us as believers on the same basis, the basis of grace. Yet, we must recognize that God has a responsibility to every believer, just as I as a father have a responsibility to my children. No one has the right to call God Father save him who has received the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. Anyone who thinks he can call God Father without that experience is not facing the truth of the Word of God. God has no obligation to the unsaved any more than I have children who are not my own children. Now I may do much for children who are not my own children, but I am not obligated to. I am obligated to care for my children, and as a believer, I have a right to come to God as my Father and tell Him of my needs and expect Him to do something about it.

Contrast Between Labor and Fruit

You will notice a contrast between labor and fruit in verse 16:

Proverbs 10:

16 The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin.

Notice the first statement: “The labour of the righteous tendeth to life.” The word tendeth is in italics, which indicates that it is not in the original text. If you were to read it from the original Hebrew, you would find a disjointed and rough phrase because it would read: “The labor of the righteous,” with a pause, “life.” The labor of the righteous is to create life in the sense of sowing the seed that will bring about redemption, but what do we read here in this second portion of the statement? Notice:

Proverbs 10:

16 …the fruit of the wicked to sin.

Contrast Between Rejection and Obedience

There is no pause because God has ordained a principle in relation to the wicked which primarily is that whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. There is no way to escape it. This is emphasized very clearly in the last two things that I want to suggest to you by way of contrast with the righteous and the wicked, using the terms rejection and obedience to describe what we have in mind. Notice chapter 21, verse 27:

Proverbs 21:

27 The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?

Here is a strange, unusual passage of Scripture indeed. Notice again:

Proverbs 21:

27 The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination…

Of course, we are speaking in Old Testament terms, you will remember, and the sacrifice would refer to the sacrifice that is brought by the individual to the place of worship as an offering of worship to the Lord. What does God say about that sacrifice? He says that it is an abomination in itself. For an individual who has not bowed his will to the will of God to bring a sacrifice to God while he yet had a wicked or a rejective mind is an abomination in the sight of God.

This would be a good text to emphasize in our day when men have a form of religion, a form of godliness, but deny the very truth of it. Individuals today who, by their so-called church attendance, feel that they have some special claim upon God, that they are making a special effort to please Him and therefore God is obligated to do something for them, should remember the words of this text: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination.”

Influence of a Righteous Life and a Wicked Life

Another area of discussion contrasting the righteous with the wicked that is presented here in this portion of the book of Proverbs that I think will be helpful to us I have described as the influence of a righteous and a wicked life. Every life does not have the same influence on itself or on those who are about it, and there is a contrast that ought to be considered when we think about this particular truth. Notice, Proverbs, chapter 11, verse 31:

Proverbs 11:

31 Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.

This verse of Scripture emphasizes the responsibility of which all of us should be aware concerning our influence. God says, “The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth.” The word recompensed involves the idea of God's dealing with the righteous for the manner of testimony for men and this manner of testimony in the earth.

God said that the righteous shall be recompensed in the fashion to which I have just referred. How much more shall the wicked and the sinner have to answer for the influence which they bear before men?. I never read this particular portion of the Word without being reminded what the Spirit of God recorded through the pen of the Apostle Peter when He said, “The time has come that judgment must begin at the house of God, and if it is to begin with us as believers, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” He goes on to emphasize, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

The phrase, “scarcely be saved,” does not refer to the idea that some people have that you will barely make it home to Heaven. A better translation is, “If the righteous be saved with discipline, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

Every believer ought to recognize that he is responsible for the influence that he bears. I describe it as my testimony. I often make the statement that I am concerned about my testimony. I don't do certain things that I might feel perfectly free to do because I am afraid that it will hurt my testimony, and I will be held responsible for the man who stumbles because I do not guard my testimony as I should. The Bible says that it is necessary that offenses come, but woe to him by whom they come. You will notice there is nothing said about the condition of the man who was offended. The emphasis is placed upon the individual who is the cause of offense.

Contrast Between Life and Death

Thinking of the influence of the righteous and the wicked life, we call to your attention a contrast between life and death as it is brought to our attention in chapter 12, verse 28. Notice:

Proverbs 12:

28 In the way of righteousness is life: and in the pathway thereof there is no death.

The individual who is born again is born again to live eternally, and there is no death in his pathway at all. He is living in the midst of abundant life, and living in the midst of abundant life has an influence for life instead of death upon every person with whom he comes in contact. The wicked are not so. They are faced with physical death. They are faced with the second death described in the book of Revelation.

Contrast Between Favor and Condemnation

Notice a contrast between favor and condemnation as it is brought to your attention in chapter 12, verse 2:

Proverbs 12:

2 A good man obtaineth favour of the LORD: but a man of wicked devices will he condemn.

A good man can expect to be smiled upon by God, but a wicked man, a man of wicked devices, God will condemn. The man who is righteous can be smiled upon by God and his life and influence favorably accepted by the world.

Contrast Between Direction and Failure

Notice the difference between direction and failure in the life of the righteous and the wicked. Turn back to chapter 11, verse 3:

Proverbs 11:

3 The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.
5 The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.

You recognize the influence of righteousness and wickedness in your own life as it is indicated in these two verses. “The integrity (that is another word for righteousness ) of the upright shall guide them.” If you are familiar with the Word of God, if you become increasingly familiar with the Word of God, you will find within the Word of God that which will guide your every footstep so that you do not need to be wandering about in the dark, questioning the way that you take. God will guide.

On the other hand, the very perverseness (that is the rebellious heart) of the transgressor shall destroy them, because they will not be following the clear leading of the Lord as the believer does. They will be following whatever wicked instinct may happen to control their mind at the moment.

Notice verse 5, again:

Proverbs 11:

5 The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.

We are not talking about things eternal; we are talking about earthly living. Righteous men, men who have trusted Christ as Savior, can expect direction. Wicked men will fall by their own wickedness. Wicked men have often been destroyed by the very monsters which they themselves have created.

Turn, please, to chapter 18, and notice verse 6, for added emphasis:

Proverbs 18:

6 A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.

A fool in the book of Proverbs is the wicked man, the rebellious man, the man who will not surrender his will to God's will. You see what the wise man is saying here. Notice again:

Proverbs 18:

6 A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.

He enters into contention with God and his mouth is calling for punishment. How many times have we used the expression when we hear of something that has happened to an individual that has been unfortunate, “Well, he asked for it. He has been asking for it for a long time, and he got it.” This is what God is saying about wicked men: They are asking for it. One day the patience of God wears out and when the patience of God wears out, then trouble really begins.

Contrast Between Kindness and Cruelty

We would suggest to you another thing that influences the life of the righteous and the life of the wicked, as is contrasted between the subject of kindness and cruelty. Notice chapter 12, verse 18:

Proverbs 12:

18 There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.

“There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword…” That is the wicked man. When he opens his mouth, when he speaks, it is like a sword piercing to the very heart; but the righteous man is the man who is able to speak wisely, and his lips are able to provide a healing balm for that which is needed in the lives of those to whom he comes in contact. Do you realize today that much of the cruelty that we face is related to wicked men whose lives are made unkind by their very wickedness, and believers are not available to do what needs to be done to eliminate the cruelty about them.

Contrast Between Safety and Mischief

Notice another difference which I have referred to it as safety versus mischief. Look at chapter 12, verse 21:

Proverbs 12:

21 There shall no evil happen to the just: but the wicked shall be filled with mischief.

This word mischief is not the same thing as we think of today. When we use the word mischief today, we think of some little prank that some child gets into. We say, “He got into a lot of mischief today.” That is not the meaning of this particular word. This particular word mischief has the meaning of punishment which is eternal. You will notice what is emphasized in verse 21: “…no evil can happen to the just, but the wicked shall ultimately be filled with eternal destruction.” That is what it means, and that is the difference.

As you hear me say that no evil shall happen to the just, you may be wondering, “Is that true?” Several people in the last few days have said to me, “It seems as if the Devil is attacking the saints at Abilene Bible Church in the last few months in a way that he hasn't in a long, long time.”

My answer has been, “The Devil is either attacking or the Lord is testing and training because there is no question things have been happening.” Then I read a text like this, that nothing evil is going to happen to the just. Am I contradicting? No, because when we are in the center of the will of God, in the center of the heart and plan of God, nothing evil can happen to us, for He is able to take that which is evil and turn it to our good.

You remember well the story of Joseph, I am sure. His brothers sold him as a prisoner into Egypt and long years were spent until finally the brothers had to come and bow at the knees of Joseph. They did so with trepidation because they knew they had done a great evil against him years ago. They recognized their condition, and he said, “You don't need to be alarmed. I haven't forgotten that you sold me into slavery, but you meant that for evil. God meant it for good.”

You see, there is no evil that can happen to the just because if Satan would mean it for evil, God is able to turn it about and make it for good. “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Contrast Between Righteous and Wicked Lives in God's Sight

Let's look together at the contrast between the efforts of a righteous and a wicked life in God's sight. Notice our last suggestion: “…in God's sight”—the difference in the efforts that men make in God's sight.

First, something about thoughts and words as it is brought to our attention here in chapter 15, verse 26:

Proverbs 15:

26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words.

What is this that I am reading? “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination…” Sometimes you talk with people who are not born again, people who have not had an experience of regeneration, and they say, “Oh, I think about God all of the time.” Maybe they tell you about some of the things they think, and they appear to us to be good thoughts, but God says that they are an abomination. They are an abomination to Him. He can't stand the thoughts of the wicked because it is utter mockery for the unsaved man to think about God and yet flaunt the plain teaching of the Word of God in relation to responsibility.

The last statement in that verse is: “…the words of the pure are pleasant words.” The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination, and He can't stand them; but how He loves to hear the righteous, the born again, the pure; how He loves to hear them talk. Oftentimes in the Scripture we are told that the voice of the believer lifted in praise and prayer is so significant to God that He takes note of it. In the book of Malachi we are told the He orders such times of meditation on the part of the believer to be written down in His holy book to be commemorated eternally. Notice verse 9:

Proverbs 15:

9 The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.

You see, whether you and I make a difference between the wicked and the righteous or not, God does. Whether you and I make a difference between the efforts put forth by the two classes, God does. The way of the wicked—that is, the manner of life—is an abomination to the Lord. Yes, even if the wicked includes church attendance in that way, it is an abomination to Him. Even if it includes reading the Bible in that way, it is an abomination to the Lord. But the individual who has received Christ as his Savior, the individual who is born again, He loves the one who follows after righteousness.

Worship of the Wicked

We bring to your attention a word about the worship of the wicked. This is an interesting verse. It has caused controversy when we have used it in dealing with people. Notice verse 8:

Proverbs 15:

8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.

Any act of worship that the wicked does is an abomination to the Lord. I think that is the reason believers should be very careful taking money from unbelievers for the cause of Christ, because the unbeliever thinks he is doing something good for God and he has a sense of good feeling about it, which may be misleading to him. God says, “It is an abomination in His sight.” It is not acceptable to God and if it is not acceptable to God, why should it be acceptable to us? There is not one thing that the wicked does that can be pleasing to God.

Did you notice the last part of that statement: “…the prayer of the upright is his delight.” Have you ever thought about your prayer life in that fashion, that your praying to the Lord is a very precious delight to Him?

If I were to ask you if a man's plowing his field was a sin, I wonder what your answer would be. Would you come back and say to me, “If he plowed it on Sunday, it would be a sin.” You know, you cannot find in the Bible that plowing your field on Sunday is a sin. There is nowhere in the Bible that it says anything like that. Of course, by a lot of secondary reasoning, a lot of emphasis upon other truths in the Word, you might arrive at the conclusion that the believer who does leave God out of his life to the extent that he doesn't take any time for worship and thus spends his time plowing his field, is sinning against God; but there is no direct statement that to plow your field on Sunday is sin.

There is a direct statement that the wicked's plowing his field is sinning and anything else that he does is sinning. Why? Because there is a principle that is emphasized in God's Word, and that principle is that the individual is not guilty of sin because he sins, but rather, he sins because he is a sinner.

There is no better illustration of that principle than what I have just quoted to you. The plowing of the wicked is sin. The sowing of the wicked is sin. Anything the wicked does is sin because the wicked is a sinner. We should not strive to please God by our deeds. We should rather recognize in which class we find ourselves—the wicked or the righteous—and then begin.

Conclusion

If you find yourself in the wicked class, don't spend your time trying to please God. Don't spend your time trying to placate God. Don't spend your time trying to butter Him up. Recognize that you are a sinner, that you need the Savior. Nothing you do will please Him until you have received Him as your Savior, and of course, the process is a very simple one. You recognize that the Bible very plainly teaches that God sent His Son into the world to die in your place on account of your sin. Recognize that as a truth from God's Word, believing it. You tell God in your own words and in your own way that you know that it is true and that you are the sinner for whom Christ died and you receive Christ as your Savior, depending solely upon what He did as a guarantee for eternal life for you. Stop trying to gain favor with God by doing something good. It won't work.

If you consider yourself among the righteous because you have received the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, then make every effort you can to do that which is well pleasing in His sight, knowing that we shall someday stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.

There is a difference, there is a contrast, between the wicked and the righteous. In which class are you?


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