Prov.29:22-27 The Justice of God and Fear of Man

This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on May 13, 2012.  To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Prov 29D.

GOD IS THE GIVER OF JUSTICE.

God’s Justice is Justice as it Should Be:  vs.26 “Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the LORD that one gets justice”.

God is the only one who can truly do justice.  Justice that is true justice must include compassion and true understanding of persons, who we are (the image of God, albeit fallen), our circumstances and what they mean to us, the motives of our hearts which only God can see.  Only God can truly know what would be good for us: fair, healthful, healing.  Only God can properly dispense justice, not only the physical consequences, but the conviction of the heart.   Only God is truly unselfish and yet involved in our lives.  Only God can make justice something that is lovely and good and proper.  Only God has the power to truly make things right with us and for us.

We Need the Justice of God:  We tend to be hesitant and fearful about justice because our view of justice has often been limited to the idea of retribution and punishment.  But how many of us live in situations where we are both harmed and causing harm through active sin – through neglect – through irresponsibility or passions or disinterest or fears?

We need justice to be done.  We need God to heal and make things right.  We need true consequences that bring about understanding and restoration and peace.  We need to be heard and understood and confronted  and shown compassionate truth about ourselves and others.

God Has Begun the Process of Justice Through Christ’s Death on the Cross:   We need to stop here for a moment and see that Jesus is God’s compassionate, loving healing response of justice and judgment on our sin.  God has done justice through the cross by addressing our wrong and broken sin – by addressing and remaking the motives of our hearts – by calling us to live justly and lovingly with others.

This justice, begun on the cross, is in process, and will culminate before the throne of God on the day of judgment, when all our souls will be bared before God.  God’s justice and compassion and understanding and healing that is taking place in our lives right now will be fully realized on that day.

How Does God’s Justice Change Our Behavior?  If we believe that God will do justice to all men – that the judge of all the earth will do right (Gen.18:25) and show justice with true understanding and compassion…  If we truly believe that God has begun to show us  this kind of compassionate, understanding, healing justice through Jesus… then we are humbled.  In a sense, once we have tasted true justice with mercy – we get an appetite for it and we want others to know about it and experience God’s good justice.   We see our own attempts at creating our own justice (retribution, anger, violence, envy, boasting, manipulation and deceit) for the corruptions they are.

BUT WE ARE OFTEN DRIVEN BY THE FEAR OF MAN TO CREATE OUR OWN JUSTICE.

Vs.25 “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe”.   We want to be people who are being changed by God’s transforming justice.  We want others to know the transforming love and justice of God.  We want to hear God’s word and learn to submit ourselves to God’s justice in relationships, in our actions and words and practices.  But the Fear of Man gets in the way of this?

There is a contrast between this trusting relationship in which God is at work in us and leading us towards just relationships and practices, vs. the fear that people might take advantage of us, might get and have the things we want, might get away with  things we could not get away with.

When we are caught up in the fear of man, that fear pulls us away from trusting in God to do justice for us and others and we become, in a sense, vigilantes, taking justice into our own hands to ensure that our version of right is done.  This passage gives three examples…

Fear of Man Leads to Self Protective Anger:  Vs.22 “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins”.

We become angry when we feel that we or someone is not being treated fairly – when we feel an injustice is being done – when we feel helpless.   Our anger is an attempt to address our fears of what others are doing and to bring about justice.  Instead of speaking truth and then entrusting situations to God, we take matters into our own hands through anger.   However, what we bring about through our anger is conflict and sin.   We cannot do justice through our anger (because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.James 1:20).

God is calling us to the wisdom that recognizes that our anger cannot produce justice – and to recognize the that our self-protective anger leads us away from the justice he wants to do in us and in others.

Fear of Man Leads to Self-Promoting Pride:  Vs.23 “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor”.

We were made to be glorious beings (the image of God).  On some level we know this and we long for acknowledgment.  Praise and recognition are, in that sense, very natural desires – and we are – in that same sense – out of sorts with ourselves and the world.  This is part of the life that God created us to live, and yet have never known.

In the justice of God, we will one day be revealed as the glorious and reclaimed beings that we were made to be (see Rom.8:20-23).  In the meantime, God has given us this  identity and is in the process of taking our lives and leading us into meaningful and glorious living.

However, we become insecure when we begin to feel that our lives lack importance or beauty or meaning, in comparison with other people.  Pride, the self-created, self-exalted, self-proclaimed opinion of our own importance – keeps us in competition with those around us.  The more we fear that others are somehow getting the kinds of recognition we should have – the more we become self-promoters.   But our pride is actually self-demeaning.  Pride reveals to others who hear our boasting, how insecure we are – and it creates in others a competitive, comparison – a reaction of rejection towards us.   More than that, pride causes us to exchange the glorious meaning God offers us for our own ridiculous self-promotion.

Fear of Man Leads to Self-Concealment and Dishonesty:   Vs.24 “The accomplices of thieves are their own enemies; they are put under oath and dare not testify”.

The accomplice of a thief takes the stolen possessions and hides them and/ or sells them for a share in the profit.  The point of the proverb is that the accomplice becomes his own enemy because he puts himself in the position of having to be dishonest, even under oath, to protect himself.

In the same way, we hide our sins from one another in the  hope of appearing to be innocent – something we are not – because we fear the accusations and the contempt of people.  Fear of man keeps us hiding, and puts us, increasingly in an awkward position as we conceal our sin.

But if we trust in the justice of God, then we become a part of the community of those who are seeking and receiving the good justice of God – compassion and mercy and justice for our sins – consequences that work together for our good.

CHOOSE TO LOVE THE JUSTICE OF GOD.

The Conflict Between Fear and Justice:  Vs.27 “The righteous detest the dishonest; the wicked detest the upright”.   Those who have chosen the fear of man reject and hate any thought that God would have a right to judge them.  The justice of God is not lovely to them but fearful and hateful and ridiculous.

But we are called to love God’s true justice and to detest the destructive dishonesty created by the fear of man.  We are called to hate the seeking and making of our own justice through anger.  We are called to hate the creation of our own meaning through pride.  We are called to be grieved by hiding sin and the self-blindness and deceit it causes.

This morning, hear the call to love God’s justice – to be honored by God’s declaration that we are his heirs and image – and to expose ourselves to God’s truth.

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