Our proverb for today is closely tied to the previous verse. God sees what transpires on His earth and knows when we are actively denying justice to others by our actions. We too, even in our sinful human nature, would want to deny someone help when they have not offered us help in the past. It’s a truism of life, that when we act selfishly, when we are in need, others will be much more reluctant to help.
But the Lord looks at the heart. He hears the cry of the genuinely repentant. He is able to help anyone, regardless of their past mistakes. But when we harden our heart against God, choosing only our own selfish desire, we can see that God will not hold back his discipline. When God’s covenant people were rebelling against him, seeking their own will over the will of God, he sent the prophet Isiah to rebuke them,
“Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
and the writers who keep writing oppression,
to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
What will you do on the day of punishment,
in the ruin that will come from afar?
To whom will you flee for help,
and where will you leave your wealth?
Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners
or fall among the slain.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.” (Isaiah 10:1-4)
This is a pretty harsh lesson for God’s children. He will not let justice go on indefinitely, and can see when a people’s heart is turned against him. We can be tempted, knowing that God chooses to correct humanity in this way is his perfect will, to act the same way towards our fellow man when we feel they have wronged us. “You didn’t help me, now I’m not going to help you.” Seems fair, by our standards, but this is not the will of God.
Paul instructed the believers in Rome, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:16-20)
We are to show this mercy to others and allow God’s purpose to be done and not our own will. Not so. When Paul told them, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” He was quoting from the book of Proverbs himself! (Romans 25:-21-22)
This has always been and will always be the will of God for us. Not that we are to just be doormats and let everyone abuse us while enabling them to do so. When we are in a position to help someone who has been an enemy to us, we should do so. We don’t have to deny all the wrong they have done us. We can hold them accountable and let them know, “You’ve done me great harm in the past. You know this. But it is God’s will that I forgive you, and help you, and give you the opportunity to repent of your sins to God.”
While we know God’s justice will be done, we can’t deny that when the poor cry out, we need to respond, even if they are our enemies. If they repent, praise God, if not, as scripture tells us, it’s like we are shoveling hot coals on their heads. Either way, that’s not our place or any of our business, it’s God’s. We have to leave room for God’s justice, or we too can end up receiving his correction as well.
Prayer for Today
Father, forgive me when I turn a blind eye to the plight of the poor. Open my eyes and let me see ways I can do your will in my life. Jesus, help me to trust in your wisdom and in your justice. Help me to seek out the will of you, Father, and not my own. Encourage me by your Holy Spirit to rise above my own desires to avenge myself on others, but to step aside and let you be the judge in all things. Lord help me to submit to you. Hear my cries for mercy and bless me with our grace. Amen