The Upright And the Wicked
Dr. Joe Temple


You have learned, as we have pursued our study of the book of Proverbs, that the proverbs are not presented in any chronological order, nor or they presented in any topical sequence. For that reason we have followed the policy, during our study of this particular section, of selecting a principle and building around that principle all of the proverbs that are related to it. It seems to us this is the best approach to the study so that we might have an intelligent understanding of what the wise man is saying through the Holy Spirit concerning the needs of our everyday lives.

The principle that we are going to discuss with you is stated in more words than we usually use, but I know of no better way to say this. We want to think with you about the principle of the results of the integrity of the upright and the perverseness of the wicked. What are the results of the walk of the upright? What are the results of the walk of the perverse man? What is the result of the integrity of the upright man? What is the result of the perverseness of the wicked man?

The very principle that we have suggested to you brings to our attention the fact that in our consideration of these proverbs, we will be thinking with you about two classes of people. I think it would be wise for us to fix those two classes in our minds because you will be recognizing them as we consider these individual proverbs. There is the upright man contrasted with the wicked man. There is the perfect man contrasted to the wicked man, and there is the upright man contrasted with the sinner. These three class distinctions are the only ones which are made, even though we will be considering more than three proverbs, which will mean that the three classes of people will be repeated as far as identity is concerned.

Attitudes of People Involved

The thing that we will notice as we consider these proverbs is that the results to which we have made reference and in which we are interested are dependent upon attitudes of the classes of people involved. As there were two classes of people, then there were two attitudes which are possible on the part of these classes of people. There is the man who will walk uprightly. There is the man who will perverse his ways. There is the man who will walk in the midst of his integrity. There is the man who will walk in the midst of his perverseness. There is the man over whose life righteousness will have control. There is the man over whose life wickedness will have control.

When these individuals whom we have suggested for your consideration—the upright and the wicked—manifest the attitudes which we have suggested to you—righteousness and perversity—there are very definite results that are forthcoming. I believe the benefits and the blessings that we can expect to reap from our study will come only as you try to find yourself in one or the other of these classes. I believe the blessing will come only as you try to find yourself manifesting one or the other of the attitudes presented.

These classes of people are going to be manifested to us in several areas of truth, and their attitudes are going to be represented in several areas of truth. I call attention to that fact because though you may feel that you have passed the test in one area of truth because you can label yourselves righteous , you may not necessarily pass it in another area of truth because you may be walking perversely instead of righteously.

Guidance and Destruction

The first area of truth to which we would call your attention is in the area of guidance and destruction. The one contrasted with the other is indicated in chapter 11, verse 3, where we read:

Proverbs 11:

3 The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.

The reason for the selection of the title for this area of truth is found in the words guide and destroy , but to get the full impact of this proverb, I think it would be wise for us to examine the meaning of several words within the verse. For example, notice the word integrity . What is the integrity of the upright? The first thing we would mention to you is that the word integrity comes from the Hebrew word tummah , which means “complete truth”—no mental reservations at all. The individual who is walking in his integrity will be walking in complete truth.

Another interesting observation we might make is that this Hebrew word tummah comes from a root word thummim. The word thummim is the name of one of the articles the High Priest carried in a pocket in his breastplate when he wanted to discern the will of God. This was God's ordained method in the Old Testament for discerning His will—the urim and the thummim. The word thummim is the root word from which this Hebrew word tummah comes, and it means “complete truth.”

Speaking of it in relation to the holy object to which we have made reference, certainly we ought to be able to see that there is no room for any mental reservations of any description at all. So the individual who is completely truthful in his walk, the upright man who has no mental reservations can be expected to be guided by that complete truth.

Today we do not have the urim and the thummim because we do not need it. We have the complete revelation of God. I think there is a comparison of truth as the Old Testament man was able to depend on the complete truth revealed by the urim and thummim in the breastplate of the High Priest. We today, living in this dispensation, should be able to depend in complete faith upon the full truth of the Word of God for guidance. There is no guidance which we will need outside of the Word of God, so we do not need to look for special revelations. The Word of God is the source of our revelation today.

Perverseness Brings About Destruction

In contrast with the word integrity is the word perverseness. We read in the last part of verse 3:

Proverbs 11:

3 …but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.

The word perverseness in this instance comes from the Hebrew word celeph , which speaks of willful contrariness, crookedness and dubiousness. What are we reading? We are reading that the willful contrariness of the wicked man will bring about his destruction. The dubiousness, the deceitfulness, the crookedness of the wicked man will bring about his destruction because if a man is too contrary to abide by the clear teaching of the Word of God, he has nothing to look forward to but destruction.

Destruction is evident as far as this meaning is concerned and needs no further comment, but I would like for you to look at the word guide in the verse. We have paraphrased the verse, “The Word of God shall guide the upright in heart…” The word guide comes from the Hebrew word nachah which literally means “to govern or to straighten.” I know of no better use for one to put the Word of God than that. The Word of God ought to be the rule of our life. It ought to govern us whenever any decision is made. We ought to make it on the basis of the Word of God. What sayeth the Word? If it is not found in the Word, then we have no reason for doing what we do.

Not only do we learn from this word that the Word of God is to guide in the sense of governing, but we learn that the Word of God is to straighten as well, to rectify the mistakes that we make. It is very possible that some of us, because of our lack of light, because of our lack of instruction, are living in a way that is displeasing to the Lord. It is very possible that we have been walking a mistaken pathway, but when we seek the mind of the Lord in the Word of God, then the Word of God will straighten out the crooked pathway we are traveling. It will rectify the mistakes that we are making. So the upright man can expect guidance and direction as the wicked man has nothing to which he might look forward, save ultimate destruction.

Security and Exposure

There is another area in which the attitude of the individual makes a difference. We expressed it the words security and exposure , as it is brought to our attention in Proverbs, chapter 10, verse 9:

Proverbs 10:

9 He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.

You will recognize the two kinds of people: the man who walks uprightly and the man who perverteth his ways. Those two phrases speak for themselves and need little, if any, comment, but there is a phrase that interests me very much in this verse. It is the phrase, “walketh surely.” Exactly what did the Spirit of God have in mind when He used that phrase? The phrase, “walketh surely,” comes primarily from a Hebrew word that conveys two things. It conveys a thought and a feeling. Sometimes we are prone to feel that there is no need or room for feeling in our relationship to God if we are depending upon the clear, practical, factual teaching of the Word of God; but when the Spirit of God is pleased to say that the one who walks upright will walk surely, He is saying that as a matter of fact we will be walking in absolute security, and he will sense it in the feeling that his trust is in the Lord. The fact is clear. The individual should express his reaction to the fact by believing what the facts very plainly declare. Trust in the Lord and do good; verily thou shalt be fed. Doing good is one thing; trusting in the Lord in that relationship is another.

The other phrase in the verse that perhaps needs a comment or two is the phrase, “shall be known.” We are told that the man who perverteth his ways shall be known, and we wonder exactly what the Spirit of God had in mind by the phrase, “shall be known.” We recognize that it comes from the Hebrew word yada , which means “to be discovered.” With the use of that word, immediately we recognize that the ways of the man in question are not honorable ways; they are devious ways, as indicated in the first use of our word pervert. They are ways that are not honest. They are ways that are hidden, but in due time they will be revealed.

We would not be doing justice to this verse if we did not recognize that the word pervert , which you find here, comes from an entirely different Hebrew word than the first pervert that we have already noticed in our discussion thus far. This particular word perverteth comes from the Hebrew word aqash , which means “to distort.” It pictures the man who, for whatever reason, in order to make it difficult for someone to tell exactly what he is doing, ties knots in a piece of string. The string is not straight. It is not smooth. It is full of knots. This individual distorts the truth.

When we gave you this first word perverse , it came from the Hebrew word celeph , which means “willful contrariness.” Here it speaks of a man who is knotting the plain teaching of the Word of God, who is distorting the truth in order that he might accomplish his own ends.

I am quite sure there have been times in all of our lives when we have felt somewhat frustrated because we have known certain individuals are not declaring the whole truth. Not only are they not declaring the whole truth, they are distorting the truth. They may have such a persuasive manner that people everywhere are following them. They are learning error much more rapidly than they are learning the truth. We become frustrated with that. We should remember the promise here in the book of Proverbs that in due season, God will see to it that these individuals who pervert the truth will be exposed and the truth will abide because God has promised that His Word will never return unto Him void.

A Stepping Stone or a Stumbling Block

Another area in which the attitudes of these individuals are manifested, we have designated by the phrase, “a stepping stone and a stumbling block.” Perhaps because we are speaking of contrast, it might be better to use the word or than and , but either way there is a contrast between the two individuals in question in chapter 11, verse 5. Notice, please, the words:

Proverbs 11:

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

Here we have our two classes to which attention has already been called—the perfect and the wicked. This needs no detailed explanation. I think it is reasonably clear in all of our minds to whom we are referring when we refer to the wicked; but the word perfect presents somewhat of a problem because as we look over our own lives, we do not see perfection. We see much imperfection, and when we examine the lives of other believers, we fail to find perfection, yet here we are told that the righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way. We say to ourselves that we are not perfect, so there is not much assurance in this verse for us; but when we examine what the Word of God had in mind by the word perfect , we feel differently about it. The word perfect comes from the Hebrew word tamiym , which is translated other places in the Word by the word complete . “The righteousness of the complete man shall direct his way…” Of course, the New Testament relies on the Old Testament, as you know, so we are told that we have been made complete in our Lord Jesus Christ. Having been made accepted in the Beloved, we are complete in Him, and there is nothing more that we need.

I did not say that there is no more grace that we need, but we don't need anything but Christ, for we are complete in Him. It is of this complete man that the Word of God is teaching. We are told that the righteousness of the complete man—the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ—shall direct his way.

Here we are speaking of direction again, but we have a little different thought in relation to the word direct because it comes from a different Hebrew word. It comes from the Hebrew word yashar , which means “to make straight (notice this carefully) and keep straight.” The guidance that the believer is promised in this verse is the way being made straight, and the way being kept straight. That is the reason we use the words stepping stones . Our individual Christian growth ought to be made up of stepping stones which lead in the right direction. They are not out of place.

You well know that if you are traveling down a pathway and there are certain stones upon which you are to step, if some of those stones are out of place, you may take a misstep which could cause a catastrophe; but you who are perfect, you who are complete in Christ, can be sure that the stones will all be in the right place because the righteousness of the complete man has seen to it that his direction shall always be straight and never other than straight. There is no such thing as a crooked turn in the life that was planned for the believer by God.

If you will look again at the verse under consideration, we have something to say to you about the wicked: “…the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.” The word fall needs some comment. It comes from the Hebrew word naphal , which means “to be cast down.” The implication is that the individual is cast down with quite a jolt, as though some heavy item had been thrown at him.

Look at the text again: “…the wicked shall be cast down by his own wickedness.” You see the reason for the wise use of this Hebrew word for fall . It isn't a gentle slipping down like an individual does when he maybe slips to his knees, and then finally is prostate on the ground. Rather, it is a sudden fall because the weight cannot be borne any longer.

One of the renderings of this particular verse of Scripture says, “The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way, but the wicked shall fall beneath the weight of his sin.” I rather like that because unbelievers have discovered that the weight of sin is a troublesome weight indeed and becomes too much for the average person to carry. He is glad to be able to roll the weight of his sin upon the Lord Jesus Christ on the promise of the Word that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself hath borne our sin.

Life and Death

There is another area that we call to your attention and very little needs to be said about it. It is self-explanatory. It is the area of life and death in which the attitude of the individual's heart will certainly make a difference. Look at chapter 11, verse 19:

Proverbs 11:

19 As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.

You will recognize in the text that the word tendeth and the word pursueth are in italics, which indicates they are not in the original text. They were put there by the editors of our King James translation to aid in reading. They make for smoothness of reading, and there is nothing wrong with them, for they do convey the sense of the verse; but sometimes the addition of these italicized words take away from the emphatic pronouncement that is found in the original text. Actually, what is read here is: “Righteousness—life; pursuit of evil—death.” There is no room for discussion. There is no comparison suggested because there are no comparisons that can be made. Righteousness brings forth life. The pursuit of evil brings forth death.

As you are well aware, there are two kinds of death mentioned in the Word of God: one physical and one spiritual. Sometimes believers become careless in their walk and they pursue evil consistently, uninterruptedly, until God says, “This is enough.” Then they face physical death and disgrace at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The unbeliever faces not only physical death, but he faces what the Bible refers to as the second death, as well, when the individual is separated from God for all eternity.

The Attitude of Righteousness

Another suggestion of another area in which attitudes make a difference we have labeled Victory and Defeat . We would call to your attention chapter 13, verse 6:

Proverbs 13:

6 Righteousness keepeth him that is upright in the way: but wickedness overthroweth the sinner.

Here are our two classes again—the upright and the wicked, the attitude of righteousness and the attitude of wickedness. What is the result? Notice the word keep eth because it is a very interesting word. The word keepeth comes from the Hebrew word natsar , which elsewhere and more often than not is translated by the word guard .

We are no match for the things that are constantly opposing us. We are no match for the enemy of our souls. Satan would bring about our defeat, and if you have not already learned, you might as well recognize that he can bring about our defeat very quickly, oftentimes before we even realize that we are no match for him. But thank God, there is victory possible for every believer. Notice wherein that victory lies—in the righteousness at which we have already looked that is imputed to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Devil is no match for those of us who are enveloped in the righteousness of Christ because Satan would have to break down that righteousness before he could get to us, and this would be an absolute impossibility. The righteousness is our guard, and it guarantees our victory.

The Attitude of Wickedness

On the other hand, the sinner who is manifesting the attitude of wickedness is overthrown. This word overthroweth is an interesting word. It comes from the Hebrew word calaph , which very literally means, “to wrench.” You see, it is not a matter of the Holy Spirit's giving the individual a gentle nudge that throws him over. Rather, it is a sudden cataclysmic thing, as though he were ripped from his position and cast down to the ground.

We make mention of that because there are many folks who are manifesting the attitude of wickedness as a manner of life. Nothing has happened to them and they feel somehow that God is overlooking them. If God is not overlooking them, He really is not going to do what the Bible says He will do, or they feel that perhaps God cannot do it. They are in for a very enlightening surprise because God, one day, will rip them from this supposed security they have, and as we have already learned in our study of the book of Proverbs, “He who being often reproved and hardeneth his neck shall suddenly be cut off and that without remedy.”

Reverence and Blasphemy

Because the saved man and the unsaved man feel differently about God, it would be sensible to conclude that the wise man would not finish his discussion in the book of Proverbs along the line we are thinking without having something to say about reverence and blasphemy . He does have something to say about it in Proverbs, chapter 14, verse 2:

Proverbs 14:

2 He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.

Here we have our two classes of people: one that walketh in his uprightness and the other who is perverse in his ways. We have here an attitude which indicates condition, for you will notice the attitude of walking in uprightness means “fearing the Lord.” He that is perverse in his ways means “despising the Lord.” We recognize that this is a good way to determine one's attitude toward the Lord.

Let us notice the word feareth, as we call to your attention that it comes from the Hebrew word yare. It does not speak of a fear of God that causes you to run and hide in the corner somewhere for fear that judgment might fall. Rather, it speaks of a deep reverence for God. It causes you to recognize God as the authority in your life and His Word as the final say on everything that is brought to your attention. It is a word that describes a reverence for God that indicates that you will not speak lightly of God nor of God's ways. There will be an attitude of reverence in the presence of God.

He Who Scorns and Blasphemes

The word despiseth is an interesting word. It comes from the Hebrew word bazah , which means “to scorn or to blaspheme,” so we learn that the perverse man, in this particular passage of Scripture, will scorn the Lord. He will scorn the Word of God. He will not only scorn God and His Word, but there will be occasions when he will even blaspheme the name of the Lord.

When you find an individual who is living reverently in the fear of God, you find an individual who in all probability is rightly related to God; but when you find an individual who is scorning and blaspheming, you can rest assured that his relationship with God is not right. You can say on the authority of the Word of God that he is not walking in his uprightness.

We suggested to you in earlier studies of the book of Proverbs that Solomon wrote the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. You will recall that when he came to the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, he said:

Ecclesiastes 12:

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.


We have discovered that the end of these various principles that we have brought to your attention is usually a proverb in which Solomon voices his conclusions of the whole matter under discussion, and such is the case in this lesson. The conclusion in this instance is found in Proverbs, chapter 21, verse 21. This is the conclusion of everything about which we have been speaking. Notice:

Proverbs 21:

21 He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.

The Spirit of God has brought to our attention a simple equation. On one side of the equation are righteousness and mercy, the individual who follows a life that is marked by righteousness and mercy. What kind of life is that? An individual who has received the righteousness of Christ and manifests the mercy of God will find on the other side of the equation life, righteousness and honor—an equation that has never failed. A always equals B in this equation, and if you want a life that is marked by eternal life, by righteousness and honor before men and God, then we suggest that you are living with the attitude of righteousness and mercy. This is the conclusion of the whole matter.

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