Proverbs 23:10-11

“Do not move an ancient landmark

    or enter the fields of the fatherless,

11 for their Redeemer is strong;

    he will plead their cause against you.”

Proverbs 23:10-11 ESV

Verse 10 is a clear-cut prohibition about doing wrong to the fatherless. This echoes the many other places in Scripture where God reveals his heart toward the vulnerable. Here, the warning not to move a landmark speaks to the effort to cheat another out of his land. The prohibition doesn’t stop there, for it prohibits the very entry into an orphan’s field. The implication seems to be that by entering the fields of the vulnerable one is showing an indication of intent to harm.

Beware of breaking the prohibition in verse 10 because “God in his holy habitation” is “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows” (Psalm 68:5). This kinda reminds me of the playground threat, “My dad can beat up your dad.” Except, this warning may be closer to “My dad will beat up you.”

When I was about 6 years old, a 17 or 18 year-old from the next neighborhood thought he would try his hand at roughing me up. When my dad – who was neither a brawler nor a big man – caught wind of it, he took up my cause in a very serious way. I didn’t see it all, but I do have a clear memory of my dad lying on top of the tough guy with his shirt collar tightly wound in my dad’s hand to prevent escape. My dad quietly but convincingly warned him of the serious consequence of ever coming near me again. “Don’t even think about coming near my son!” dad warned as he released him. The bully scampered off to his own neighborhood.

Verse 11 warns the reader of how God will respond to those who seek to harm the orphan, “he will plead their cause against you.” Some may ask, what does it mean that the Redeemer will “plead their cause against you”? Psalm 149:6 answers that question, “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”

The command in Exodus 22:22-24 is a bit more explicit: “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.” In other words, if you mistreat orphans, I will make your kids orphans.

What is your heart toward the orphan?

Proverbs 23:24-25

“The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.”

Proverbs 23:24-25

This proverb points to the multi-directional relationship of a parent and child. Often we think only in terms of what parents provide for their children, including, among other things, food and shelter and guidance for life. In fact, the scriptures make much of this obligation.

Here, though, the scriptures implore the children to make their parents glad … by being righteous and wise. The best gift children can give to their parents is not a good report card, a prestigious college degree on scholarship, or even grandchildren. All those would make most parents rejoice, but growing in wisdom and righteousness is more important and valuable.

This isn’t only about children, though. As parents, we have a tremendous obligation to influence our children in this direction.

Whether you are a child or a parent, how are you doing in this regard? Are you giving your parents joy by growing in righteousness and wisdom? As a parent, are you guiding your children toward righteousness and wisdom?

Proverbs 23:4-5

“Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.

When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”

Proverbs 23:4-5 ESV

The warning here is not to avoid wealth. Neither is it to not work hard. The warning is to not make wealth our goal in life; gaining wisdom should be our life goal.

There are at least two reasons for this priority:

  1. Wisdom is greater than wealth. (Proverbs 8:11, 22:1)
  2. Wealth is fleeting. (Proverbs 23:5)

Remember: A fool with great wealth, is still a fool.

Proverbs 23:17

Note the contrast between envy/jealousy and fear of the Lord in this proverb. “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day” (Proverbs 23:17 ESV).

This verse is a gut punch in the battle between the seen and unseen. For our envy (or jealousy) is driven by that which we perceive about others, whether it be their status or possessions or whatever. “I sure wish I had their [fill in the blank].” Or “I’m more deserving of [fill in the blank] than they are.” Why do sinners seemingly get all the good stuff? Admittedly, it is hard at times, to see others apparently prosper in whatever way we may define prosper, especially if we are walking in godliness and seemingly not prospering.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. (Hebrews 11:1-2 ESV)

Hebrews 11 addresses this challenge in a helpful way as the writer reviews the stories of some of the great saints of the Old Testament, who walked by faith, yet seemingly didn’t receive their promise. In fact, their heavenly (or eternal) reward is greater; they traded the lesser for the better. And this, is exactly what Proverbs 23:17 encourages us to do, as well.

Lord, help me to cling to you in faith, keeping my heart focused toward the better, which “neither moth nor rust destroys” nor what thieves can break in and steal (Matthew 6:20).

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