Proverbs Thematic Sermon: The Deliverance of the Righteous, The Destruction of the Wicked (Erik Veer

Mar 31, 2024    Erik Veerman

Thank you to our instrumentalists and choir. Especially Oscar and David.

For the last few months, we’ve been studying the book of Proverbs. It’s one of the wisdom books in the Bible and it is full of wisdom for life. I think that’s a good summary of Proverbs – wisdom for life.

Some of you are joining us for the first time this morning, and so let me give a quick synopsis. Last fall, we considered the opening 9 chapters of Proverbs. Those contain 12 foundational lessons about wisdom. Those lessons answered the questions, What is wisdom? Why do we need wisdom? And Where do we find wisdom? We were also warned about folly and evil.

When we got to chapter 10, instead of taking the proverbs in order, we began considering the themes found in chapters 10-31. 

If you’ll take out the Proverbs insert in your bulletin, you’ll see those themes listed and the number of verses in each.

We’ve completed the ones with the check boxes. As you can see, we are about half-way through. Proverbs includes two major thematic contrasts. The first is wisdom versus foolishness. And the second is righteousness versus wickedness. We’ve made it through most of the categories related to wisdom and foolishness and today we are beginning the second major contrast.

Let me note that the differences between foolishness and wickedness are not always a hard line. However, there are a few important differences I want to highlight. 

•The two Hebrew words for folly indicate either an active or passive disregard for truth and morality. A fool, as Proverbs describes, is someone who doesn’t care about living with integrity or pursuing what is good and right and true according to God. The actions or inaction of a fool do affect others but more as a consequence of their foolishness.

•Wickedness, on the other hand, is hostile. The underlying Hebrew word for wickedness includes violence and evil perpetrated against someone. A wicked person as Proverbs describes is someone guilty of intentional injustice according to God’s standard.

Hopefully that helps as we now consider the contrast of wickedness and righteousness.

By the way, there are an overwhelming number of verses about righteousness and wickedness. Because of that we’ll consider them in 3 sermons.

Now, you may be thinking – an Easter Sermon about righteousness and wickedness? It’s true! As I’m reading the verses, I want you to be thinking about the resurrection and I think you’ll see how they relate.

That’s a long preamble but hopefully it orients you to these verses and theme.

If you’ll open up your Proverbs insert, let’s now consider God’s Word.


Reading od Selected Proverbs


(1) The heart of evil and righteousness

11:20 Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight.

12:26 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

13:5 The righteous hates falsehood, but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.

12:3 No one is established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved.

21:10 The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.

24:8 Whoever plans to do evil will be called a schemer.

29:7 A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.

29:10 Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright.

29:24 The partner of a thief hates his own life; he hears the curse, but discloses nothing.

(2) The way of evil and righteousness

10:6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

11:5 The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.

11:13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.

12:6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers them.

12:10 Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.

14:9 Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance.

15:8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.

15:26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD, but gracious words are pure.

15:28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

17:4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.

17:11 An evil man seeks only rebellion, and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.

21:3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

21:27 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.

21:29 A wicked man puts on a bold face, but the upright gives thought to his ways.

22:5 Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.

28:1 The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

(3) The (temporal) result (impact?) of evil and righteousness

10:3 The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

11:10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.

11:11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.

11:17 A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.

11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.

11:31 If the righteous is repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!

12:13 An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble.

12:21 No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble.

13:17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful envoy brings healing.

13:25 The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want.

14:19 The evil bow down before the good, the wicked at the gates of the righteous.

14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

15:6 In the house of the righteous there is much treasure, but trouble befalls the income of the wicked.

16:31 Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.

17:13 If anyone returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.

18:3 When wickedness comes, contempt comes also, and with dishonor comes disgrace.

25:26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.

28:10 Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit, but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.

28:12 When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.

28:17 If one is burdened with the blood of another, he will be a fugitive until death; let no one help him.

28:28 When the wicked rise, people hide themselves, but when they perish, the righteous increase.

29:2 When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.

29:6 An evil man is ensnared in his transgression, but a righteous man sings and rejoices.

29:16 When the wicked increase, transgression increases, but the righteous will look upon their downfall.


One of the things we’ve seen in Proverbs is how it deals with the breadth of the human condition. The joys and the sorrows – the height of virtue and wisdom and the depth of depravity and folly. We’ve seen that over and over.

Blaise Pascal, the famous 17th century mathematician and philosopher wrote about this contrast. He said of mankind’s condition that we represent “the glory and the garbage of the universe.” “Man’s greatness and wretchedness,” he wrote, “are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness!”

Those are true words, which Proverbs affirms over and over. Wisdom and foolishness, righteousness and wickedness, integrity and deceit, justice and injustice… and the list goes on.

It is a fool’s errand to argue that evil and good are only concepts made up in people’s minds. 

Some may say that evil and good don’t really exist, but I bet if you pressed them with specific examples, they would reluctantly agree.

Let me give you an example.

Earlier this month I was at a breakfast event here in Tucker. It was about human trafficking. The event was attended by several police officers, civil servants including city and county officials, as well as a few pastors. 

We heard first from a ministry called Street Grace that works with law enforcement seeking to end the exploitation of children. We also heard examples of victims rescued from trafficking. And then we heard from the main speaker - a man named Victor Marx. 

When he was a boy, Victor had been physically abused by his five different stepfathers – once almost to the point of death. It was traumatic and led him to want to help others. Today, he works with militaries all over the world to save children from slavery. In fact, his wife is also trained and they work together. They’ve been to Gaza twice since October 7 to rescue children enslaved by Hamas. 

He and his wife are battling against evil. They are battling against evil people who kidnap children to use them for their own and other’s perverted desires. I’m trying to be careful with my description, but I think you know what I mean by trafficking. It is outright wickedness. 

And what a contrast between that evil and the righteous pursuits of Victor, his wife, and those with whom they work. They are putting their own lives at risk to rescue the victims of this horrible industry. And when asked why he does it, Victor speaks about his faith in Christ and how he wants to rescue these children the way he had hoped to be rescued himself as a child. What a testimony of a life dedicated to righteousness and seeking to put an end to wickedness.

And that is one thing that we cannot escape in these verses. The reality of wickedness and the reality of righteousness. 29 times the word righteous or righteousness or upright is used. 31 times the word wicked or wickedness or evil is used. And this is only a portion of the Proverbs that speak to these realities. By the way, the reality of righteousness and wickedness is found throughout Scripture, including Jesus own teaching. Jesus called his own generation an evil and adulterous generation. 

What I’m saying is that wickedness and righteousness are not ideas that we come up with individually or even as a community. No, there are standards of right and wrong defined by God and given to us.

Now, you may have a lot of questions as to where the line is between righteousness and wickedness. Those are good questions. I would submit that Proverbs gives us that line. 

•Similar to our study of wisdom and foolishness, we began with the broad categories and then drilled into the details week by week. 

•Well, over the next 3-4 months, we’ll be working through the details of wickedness and righteousness. Proverbs gives us a clear line. I guess what I am saying is “stay tuned.”

But there’s a reason we’re starting with these verses. Unless we have the end in mind, we will not grasp the importance of these verses for our lives.

What is that end? Well, it’s life and deliverance for the righteous… death and destruction for the wicked.

I know that Proverbs is often thought of as a book of maxims by which we should live. Does it include principles to live by? Yes. Does it give us guidance in decisions and help us navigate life? Yes. But Proverb is way more than that. Proverbs is about God and his law and his promises. Remember, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A big part of Proverbs warns us of the eternal consequences of folly. And it, instead, directs us to the path of wisdom which leads to life. 

You see, the path of life and deliverance versus the path of death and destruction is not new. Proverbs has presented two paths over and over. And that’s what these verses expand on - where the path of righteousness and the path of wickedness lead.

So, let’s spend just a couple of minutes on where each path leads. And then we’ll come back and consider the critical question. Who is righteous and who is wicked?

First, where does the path of the wicked lead? There are so many words and phrases here that describe the end of the wicked. Let me highlight just a few.:

•What the wicked dreads will come upon him (10:24)

•An evil person will not go unpunished (11:21)

•The lamp of the wicked will be put out (13:9)

•Here’s another one, the house of the wicked will be destroyed (14:11)

•The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing (14:32)

•Proverbs 21:7 says, “The violence of the wicked will sweep them away, because they refuse to do what is just.” 

•The LORD is far from the wicked (15:29). 

Again, that’s only a few of them. Other verses speak of the wrath and ruin that will come upon them.

One thing that is apparent all throughout these verses is that the wicked will endure condemnation and ruin by the Lord himself. There is an active judgment on the wicked by God. In fear and dread, they will endure his wrath because of their wickedness.

That’s the where the path of wickedness leads.

Let’s now turn to the result of righteousness. And it’s similar in intensity. There are so many words and phrases that capture amazing promises for the righteous. Let me highlight a few.

Consider these:

•The wages of the righteous leads to life (10:7)

•The righteous is established forever (10:25)

•10:30 The righteous will never be removed

•The righteous is delivered from trouble (11:8)

•the house of the righteous will stand (12:7) – that’s a contrast to the one I read about the house of the wicked being destroyed.

Again, those are just a few of the descriptions. There are others like being rewarded with good and not visited by harm, and how the good will meet steadfast love and faithfulness.

Life and joy and blessing and refuge... these are the rewards of being righteous. Who would not want these blessings and future promises?

The contrast is so stark. The wicked will be defeated. Their judgment will be thorough and complete. And the righteous will inherit life forever.

Did you notice, there is no third path. Every one of us is either considered righteous or considered wicked. Let me point something out in these verses. About 80% of the descriptions are nouns - “The righteous” and “the wicked.” Proverbs describes righteousness and wickedness as a state of being… We are either righteous or we are wicked.

It’s easy to look outside of ourselves and say, “oh, you see that human trafficker. He is wicked or she is wicked.” But what happens if you look at your own heart? Would you consider yourself righteous? Do you think of yourself as a good person deserving of these promises?

In the Bible, do you recall which group of people considered themselves righteous? It was the Pharisees. Yet they are the ones who Jesus condemned for their self-righteousness. When speaking about the evil and adulterous generation, Jesus was talking about them. They thought they were righteous, but in reality, they were counted among the wicked. 

I was thinking about King Solomon. Solomon was the one who authored and compiled the Proverbs. Who would he regard as righteous and wicked? Did he consider his father, King David, as righteous? David was an adulterer and murderer. Are these verses then condemning David? Is Solomon condemning himself, with his own violation of God’s law in the worship of false God’s and his many wives? Is Proverbs condemning us because of our own foolishness and wickedness? The answer to all those questions is “yes.”

Solomon also wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s another book of Wisdom. In chapter 7 of Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes, “there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” Not one. In the book of Romans, that verses is alluded to by the apostle Paul. “None is righteous… no one understands, no one seeks God… no one does good, not even one.”

Do you see what I am saying? We have a big problem. Every single one of us should be counted among the wicked. The destruction and condemnation of the wicked, which Proverbs describes here, is destruction and condemnation of our wickedness.

There’s a gap we cannot cross. We, in and of ourselves, are not righteous. And we cannot become righteous, in and of ourselves. That does not mean that the promise in these verses are not true. Righteousness does save. That is true! But it cannot be our righteousness. No, we need a righteousness that comes from outside of ourselves. Look down at Proverbs 21 verse 12. “The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; he throws the wicked down to ruin.” Proverbs describes one who is righteous and who in his righteousness is the ultimate judge of wickedness.

And you probably noticed that it’s capital “R” righteous and capital “O” one. In the Hebrew, there are no capital letters, but the translators clearly ascribe this reference to Christ. First, because he is the only perfectly Righteous One. All the descriptions of righteousness in proverbs describe him. But second, Jesus Christ is also described over and over in the Scriptures as the judge. He will come to judge the living and the dead.

The righteousness that we should be seeking is not a righteousness in ourselves. No, in order to be “righteous” …to be part of the group here called “the righteous” we need a righteousness outside of ourselves. And that righteousness comes from the Righteous One.

We need to be delivered from our wickedness and made righteousness.

Did you notice the deliverance theme in a few of these verses? 

Twice we read that “righteousness delivers from death.”. We’re also told that “the righteous is delivered from trouble” (11:8) …and you are promised that if you “wait for the LORD… he will deliver you” (20:22).

A couple of us have been reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to one of the 5th grade classes here. It’s one of CS Lewis’s classic novels about the land of Narnia. There’s a point in the book, when Edmund betrays his brother and sisters. He in a sense sells them out to the White Witch. Little did he know but his betrayal required death at the stone table. He was to be killed. As the witch put it, “his life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.”

Edmund needed to be delivered from the consequences of his betrayal. He was a traitor and the law of the land called for his blood. And so Aslan, the lion (who is the Christ figure) offers his life to save Edmund’s. Aslan delivers Edmund from his status as a traitor. To use the words of the proverbs, his status among the wicked. To do that, Aslan he had to be delivered over to the witch to die in Edmund’s place.

You see, that language of deliverance goes two ways. In order for us to be delivered from our wickedness and made righteousness, Jesus, the Righteous One, had to be delivered over to evil and take on the consequences of our wickedness. That is the language used in the New Testament. Jesus was delivered into the hands of sinful, evil, and lawless men to be killed. That exchange needed to happen for deliverance to be accomplished.

Back to Aslan. The witch and her evil creatures shaved Aslan’s great mane. They muzzled him and dragged him to the stone table… and tied him to it. The White witch then whet her knife and killed the great lion. Aslan was dead but Edmund delivered – no longer a traitor.

These particular Proverbs speak about deliverance from the consequences of being wicked. To use some of the words here - deliverance from the dread of destruction, from violence and evildoing, and from the punishment and wrath of the Lord.

But that is only half of the promise. It’s one thing to be delivered from the condemnation. But the promise here also includes receiving the eternal blessings of the righteous. 

I’ve already highlighted a few verses about these eternal promises - how the righteous will be established forever, and how the righteous will never be removed. But look at Proverbs 14:32. It says, “The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing, but the righteous finds refuge in his death.” Proverbs promises life beyond death for the righteous.

But how is that accomplished?

Right before Aslan’s death, the witch leaned over and whispered to him “you fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you instead of him as our pact was and so the deep magic will be satisfied. But when you are dead, who will prevent me from killing him as well?” And when the witch finished him off, they immediately set off to attack Edmund and his siblings.

You see, it’s a great thing to be delivered from our wickedness through the Righteous One, Christ… and to be righteous in him. But in order to receive the promises of life… in order to find refuge in death… in order to be established forever, as the Proverbs put it, Jesus needed not only to be delivered over to receive the consequences of our wicked ways, but he needed to defeat wickedness and death itself.

And he did that through the resurrection. He overcame death and overcame wickedness to give you the full promises being righteous in him. Deliverance and life.

To use the language of Narnia, there was a deeper magic from before the dawn of time. That if a innocent victim was killed in the place of a traitor, the stone table would crack and death itself would work backwards. Aslan would come back to life and would soon defeat the witch forever.

Let me tie this all together. Proverbs is wisdom for life - life now and life forever. There is not a single Proverb that describes an end for the righteous when his or her days on earth are done. Not a single one. Do you find that amazing as I do? The Righteous will be established forever and find refuge in death. 

But there is only one path to be counted among the righteous and have the promises of life forever. And that path is through Jesus. He was delivered over to the wicked to deliver us from our wickedness to make us righteous. He endured all the consequences described here in Proverbs. But that was not the end. He is risen. Death and dread have been defeated. Through the resurrection, Jesus paved the way of life for the righteous. 

And that path – the path of the righteous is offered to you. But it is not a path that you can earn. It is only a path you can receive from the Righteous One. To use some of the words here, he calls you to fear him. That means to recognize your wickedness, to see him as the Righteous One, and to revere and trust him as the one who can make you righteous. And when you fear him in this way… his righteousness will be yours and you will find refuge in death.