Proverbs 21 is another chapter packed with wisdom. Two connected themes – one grand doctrine and one smaller principle for application – have resonated in my heart and mind every time I’ve read this chapter over the last few years. Let’s start with a look at verses 1-3 and 31:The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
he turns it wherever he will.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the heart.
To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice…. The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the Lord.
Our God is sovereign. He reigns over the entire universe he created, and “in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1.17). He not only knows the heart, motivations, and plans of every person, he also directs every person’s heart to accomplish his will. Not even national leaders have the power to override God’s authority and thwart his purposes. We can prepare “the horse for the day of battle” (or set about whatever plans we want to pursue) with all the right motives, but if the victory – or goal – comes to fruition, it is by God’s providence and for his glory. This truth would be terrifying if God were wicked or capricious, but he is good, just, and righteous, so all his ways are right, even when we don’t understand them or our own plans fail. And isn’t it comforting to know that when wicked people devise evil plans he is still in control?
Micah 6.8 is a popular verse that echoes the theme of Proverbs 21.3: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” How does acting with righteousness and justice please God? When we act righteously and justly, we are reflecting God’s own character, which pleases and glorifies him.
Many of the verses in Proverbs 21 are applications of the majestic doctrine of God’s sovereignty and his pleasure in our righteous and just behavior, which can only come from a wise heart that fears the Lord (Prov. 1.7).The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
because they refuse to do what is just. (v. 7) Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself call out and not be answered. (v. 13) Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
will find life, righteousness, and honor. (v. 21)
The application verses that always grab my attention, though, are verses nine and nineteen:It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife…. It is better to live in a desert land
than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
In ancient Israel, housetops could often serve as extended living space. The man who wrote these verses must have encountered a contentious woman at some point, and in his henpecked opinion, he would rather confine himself to the corner of the roof or wander around in the barren desert, exposed to the elements and without a companion, than to share the more spacious accommodations of the house below with a nag. Ladies, take note. This isn’t just some ancient dude’s comments on the battle of the sexes. God has included this wisdom in his holy Word for a purpose, and it fits with the doctrine and principles we looked at earlier. A woman who is contentious, full of strife, vexing, irritating, and provoking is not acting in righteousness and justice but is mostly concerned with having her way, although it comes at others’ expense. The Lord weighs her heart, too (v. 2), and her speech and attitudes trend toward wickedness rather than righteousness.
We all know a woman like this. We might even be like this woman sometimes. After all, we are not yet free from the presence of sin. Our attitudes affect the comfort of our living spaces, whether our homes or workplaces or wherever we go. No matter how appealing your living space is to the senses, no furniture, recipe, or scented candle can disguise the garbage of a demeanor that lacks graciousness and kindness. A wise woman acting with righteousness and justice honors God and is concerned for others.
Heavenly Father, when we find these characteristics creeping out of our hearts and into our speech and actions, please bring these proverbs to our minds and turn our hearts as you will, toward the righteousness and justice that reflect your character and are pleasing to you.