Proverbs 16: The Providence of God and Treachery of the Wicked

The book of Proverbs begins and ends with blocks of connected material. Chapters 10-29, however, are what the title of the book suggests: assorted proverbs. Yet even within this wisdom casserole there are verses that are thematically connected.

Proverbs 16 is commonly a source for verses on the providence of God. There are several verse that speak to God’s complete control over all things: the words of man, the steps of man, the falling of the lot. Indeed the Lord has made everything for his purpose (16:1, 4, 9, 33).He is the great Sovereign King over all creation.

In Proverbs 16:27-30 there is an extended meditation on a particular type of person:

 A worthless man plots evil,
and his speech is like a scorching fire.

A dishonest man spreads strife,
and a whisperer separates close friends.

A man of violence entices his neighbor
and leads him in a way that is not good.

Whoever winks his eyes plans dishonest things;
he who purses his lips brings evil to pass.

The word that summarizes this meditation is treachery. The character of this man is worthless, dishonest, violent. His speech is destructive and divisive. But worst of all he is invasive and secretive.

Paul writes, “The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.” In sports, there is the “clubhouse cancer.” On the job there is “that guy.” There are some people who are loud and obnoxious in their sourness toward humanity.

Proverbs 16 is not talking about those people. Proverbs 16 it talking about someone accepted among us. He influential and trusted enough to separate close friends. He is trusted enough by his neighbor to be led astray. He is the most dangerous type of man because he is not what he appears to be. He is liar and deceiver, and like the father of lies, he transforms himself into a messenger of light.

What are the righteous to do when the treachery of the treacherous is revealed? I would suggest taking comfort the teaching of a verse already mentioned:

 The LORD has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble. (Proverbs 16:4)

The Lord has a purpose for all things: even the sin of the wicked. Treachery hurts. But Jesus knows its pain. God used the most sinister treachery imaginable to set in motion the event that would save humanity. Treachery is the bruising of the heel that reminds us that the crushing of the head is sure to follow.

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