John J. Stubbs, Scotland
It is most interesting and significant to see how many times the righteous man is mentioned in the book of Proverbs. The references are even more frequent in their occurrences than in the Psalms! It appears that the need of practical righteousness being displayed by the righteous is one of the important messages found in this great book of wisdom. Solomon's words about the righteous are as much needed today as in his times. Every believer has been made righteous. We see this in the plain and positive language of the apostle John, "he that doeth righteousness is righteous even as He is righteous (1 John 3:7). Here then is a sign and evidence of being truly righteous positionally in God's sight. Are we as believers showing in our lives the healthy marks of those who are righteous before God? Let us look at some of these characteristics.
HIS TENDERNESS - (Ch. 12:10)
"A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast." He is not hard and cruel. There is no such streak in his makeup. His tenderness will be seen in his attitude toward and treatment of the animal kingdom. It would be a sad sight to see a true believer ill-treating an animal be it a dog, a cat or whatever. The believer who has been made righteous will show this in everyday life. The way the believer treats even an animal could well speak to others. If a child of God is not kind to animals then it could be asked what is he like in the home? Or, how does he behave towards other people? In the great revival in Wales back in 1905, even the pit ponies knew the difference. Many of the miners got saved and for a while afterwards the ponies were bewildered. They did not understand the meaning of kind and gentle words. Most of these miners were given to profanity and cruelty towards these beasts. What a change grace had wrought. What about us? Has there been a manifest change in our lives since getting saved? Yes, even to the way I behave towards those beneath me in the scale of God's creation. Remember Balaam's cruelty to the ass, smiting it three times. Its mouth was open to rebuke him. He was not righteous, of course.
HIS TRUTHFULNESS - (Ch. 13:5)
"A righteous man hateth lying." Note here the accuracy of Scripture. It does not say that he DOES NOT lie! Alas, even some of the great men of the Bible like Abraham have stooped to deception. Indeed, instead of learning from his deception in Egypt in regard to Sarah, he repeats the very same later in Genesis 20 while in Gerar. Proverbs has much to say regarding telling lies. "A lying tongue is but for a moment" (ch. 12:19). Even God's people have always found their momentary escape from trouble to be followed by shame and confusion. No matter how difficult or embarrassing the situation, no believer should ever resort to lies. A lie may even be given in prim and proper language, but a lie is still a statement calculated to deceive. The believer made righteous in God's sight will seek to be marked by sincere, honest and reliable speech. One more telling reference from Proverbs on this should be enough to speak to us, "he that speaketh lies shall not escape" (ch. 19:5).
HIS TREASURE - (Ch. 15:6)
"In the house of the righteous is much treasure." The treasure here cannot mean furniture or possessions. No, there is something different about the house of the righteous. A believer's house, for example, may have nothing of what the world calls the finer things of life, but the fear of the Lord is there and this is treasure indeed. "Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith" (ch. 16: 8). What do we count as treasure in the home? The piece of antique furniture, the costly grandfather clock or the family heirloom? What are these in comparison with godly Simplicity, the fear of the Lord, Scripture texts, the reading of the word of God and prayer? Above all, to have a sense of the Lord's presence in our homes is a rich treasure that can be enjoyed by those who are rich toward God.
HIS TEMPER - (Ch. 15:28)
'The heart of the righteous studieth to answer." The person who has received the free gift of imputed righteousness from God will be watchful of his thinking, his tongue and his temper. The grace of God touches not only our souls, but our temper as well. it teaches us to live soberly (Titus 2: 12). This means that it will give us self-restraint and curb the possible risings of anger within us. The God-justified one will not be given to outbursts of bad temper. Are we showing in our disposition that we are controlled by divine grace? Solomon says 'a soft answer turneth away wrath" (ch. 15: 1). This has been called "Solomon's defence system." We could well do with practising it daily in our lives. Should a believer in a fit of temper give another a telling-off or give a piece of his mind? It may be good to speak your mind, but it is far better to mind what you speak. Let us remember that "he that is slow to anger is better than the mighty" (ch. 16:32).
HIS TESTIMONY - (Ch. 25:26)
"A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring." How tragic when a righteous man fails and loses his testimony for God. Our lives should refresh others and not be like a troubled fountain. Our lives should also be clean and not be like a corrupt spring. Do we have a good testimony as those who have been made righteous in God's sight? It is Peter that describes Lot as a "righteous man" and yet very sadly he is found at a worldly terminus with a withered and worthless testimony. Look at him sitting in the gate of Sodom (Gen. 19: 1) merging completely into the life of that wicked place. When he seeks to warn his family of the impending judgement upon Sodom he was as one that mocked to his sons-in-law. His conduct belied his words. The man had lost his testimony and his words carried no weight. How easily and sometimes very quickly, through one wrong action and associating with a wrong place, the testimony that we have built up can collapse. The importance of keeping a healthy testimony should be of great concern to us.
HIS TRIUMPH - (Ch. 29:16)
"When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth: but the righteous shall see their fall." Throughout all the word of God we see the struggle between good and evil and wickedness and righteousness. The final outcome in God's great program will be the overthrow of all evil. After the thousand year reign of Christ, Satan will muster his forces in the final rebellion against God. When that ungodly host gathers, God and the righteous will look upon men in whom there will be concentrated all the evil that is in the human race (Rev. 20:9). The unrighteous may flourish through the long night of earth's history, but a wonderful perennial day will yet dawn. Psalm 49:14 tells of such a time when "the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning " i.e. over poor mortal man without God. The final victory of the righteous is assured. In the light of this knowledge let us seek all the more to show in our lives that practical righteousness which is an evidence that we are positionally righteous before God.
The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew 13:41-43).