Proverbs 6:12-19 Sermon Perverted Hearts and Wicked Plans (Rev. Erik Veerman)
We’re back in our study of Proverbs this morning. I want to say thank you to our mission’s team for last Sunday’s missions focused Sunday. It always heart-stirring to be reminded of God’s call to participate in His work throughout the world.
You’ll see in your bulletin that we are focusing on Proverbs 6:12-19 this morning. You can find that on page 630.
Two weeks ago, we covered chapter 5. For now, we’re going to skip chapter 6 verses 1-11 and come back to them in our thematic study after chapter 9.
So, we’ll just cover verses 12-19 this morning. These are about evil and wickedness and God’s judgement and his hatred of it. One question for us to consider is how that relates to wisdom. Be thinking about that as I read.
Let’s now turn our attention to God’s Word.
Reading of Proverbs 6:12-19.
A few years ago, we took a family trip to Alaska. We actually drove there. As you can imagine, it took us very long time to get there. So, on the way, we read a book about the Yukon Gold Rush of the late 19th century. It’s a very sad story in many ways. People sold everything they had to try and strike it rich. Many died on the journey or found themselves in poverty …or they were scammed out of their money and property.
The most famous con man was a guy name Jefferson Smith – his nick name was Soapy Smith. He was actually born here in Georgia, south of Atlanta.
In the mid-1890s, Smith moved up to Skagway, Alaska. The town was one of the main entrance points to the Yukon. In fact, when we were there, Amy and I took a little hike up the famous Chilkoot trail. It heads up to one of the main mountain passes on the journey to the Yukon.
Well, Soapy Smith set up shop in Skagway. He quickly became a leading businessman in the city. On the outside he appeared to be a stand-up man. His business partner was a reverend. He donated to noble causes. But they ran dozens of scams and had dozens of accomplices in their activities. They opened a fake telegraph office where gold rushers thought they were sending notes back home. They ran a corrupt gambling scheme. They sold fake lottery tickets. On the Chilkoot trail his accomplices worked together to rip people off – they would stage distractions so that a third accomplice could steal their gear and later resell it. Allegedly, they killed several people. I say allegedly because some of those who figured out what was going on just disappeared.
Smith was given the title “king of the frontier con men.” His gang was known as the Soap Gang.
In many ways, Soapy Smith was the personification of Proverbs 6:12-19 - Perverted speech… Winks with his eyes… Devises plans… Sheds innocent blood… All from a perverted heart.
You see that word there in verse 12. “worthless.” The English translation doesn’t nearly capture the Hebrew meaning. It means someone vile and corrupt beyond measure. It’s a word for someone who is detestable and who brings destruction. It denotes the embodiment of wickedness. There’s an equivalent New Testament Greek word… and in 2 Corinthians 6, the word is used to describe Satan himself. That’s how intense this description is. And we can see the severity in how the Lord hates such evil.
Now, before you think that this evil is just something out there… just something to be aware of. Let me say, you and I are not exempt from this description. We’re going to come back to that, but have that in mind as we navigate these verses. This is not just talking about someone out there, but it’s also about our own hearts.
Well, we’ll consider this in 4 parts.
1. First, we’ll start with a quick analysis of the pattern that’s described here… The Pattern of Wickedness
2. Second, the idea of the Lord hating such things – I’m calling that point The Hatred of Wickedness
3. Third, a consideration of where this fits in the search for wisdom. This third point is The Understanding of Wickedness.
4. And fourth, right in the middle of these verses is that God will judge such evil. The Judgment of the Wickedness.
So, the Pattern, the Hatred, the Understanding, and the Judgment of Wickedness.
The Pattern of Wickedness
To begin, the pattern.
You may have noticed that there are two sentences here. The first runs from verses 12 through 15. The second from 16-19.
The first is about the worthless or wicked individual and what he does. The second is more specifically about wickedness itself. Several things connect these two sentences, but at the heart of the connection is the heart. Literally
Verse 14 – the worthless person “with perverted heart devises evil.”
Very similarly, verse 18 – “a heart that devises wicked plans.”
We’re talking “heart” here meaning the whole of one’s being. Heart is the underlying motivation in one’s life that drives every decision and action. And here, the worthless and wickedness person is driven by a heart bent upon evil. So much so that he plans it out. It’s not something that he’s reacting to in the moment. No, his perverted heart drives him to all these things listed here.
Did you notice all the language connected to the physical parts of his body. His heart animates his mouth to lie… causes his feet to run to evil… his eyes arrogantly look down on everyone else (that’s what haughty means). His hands shed innocent blood. In other words, it’s an internal wickedness that works itself out in every aspect of his being. It’s all pre-meditated from an evil heart.
And all of it sows discord. That’s there both in verse 14 and down in 19. The wickedness here is sin and evil against other people. He breaks relationships between people. He causes conflict and he stirs up strife.
Many of you will be familiar with Jesus’ beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount. The beatitudes describe who are blessed. Well, this list in Proverbs 6 is like the mirror opposite.
· Instead of the poor in spirit and the meek… it’s the haughty, arrogant, and deceiver
· Instead of those who morn… it’s those who love death
· Instead of a hunger and thirst for righteousness… it’s a hunger and thirst for wickedness
· Instead of the merciful… it’s an utter lack of mercy and a preying upon the innocent
· Instead of the pure in heart… it’s a heart of evil that breathes out lies.
· And instead of the peacemaker… it’s one who sows discord and disunity
This is the pattern of the worthless and wicked. Nothing in him is in line with God or his will.
Instead of being blessed as Jesus emphasized in the beatitudes, the wicked man of Proverbs 6 will be cursed. That word cursed is not used, but what is used is the word “hate” there in verse 16. The LORD hates the wicked and wickedness.
The Hatred of Wickedness
That is point number 2. The Hated of Wickedness.
Now, you may be thinking, “Hate! That’s an awfully strong word. I’m not sure if I believe God can hate something or someone.”
It’s reasonable to think that. But let’s work his out.
And let me first note how Solomon’s language is actually stronger than the word hate. He’s employing a Hebrew poetic device called a numerical escalation. In verse 16, he begins, there are six things that the Lord hates… no, there are seven! The pattern of starting with a number and then increasing it by one emphasizes the point. It’s sort of like saying today “I like chocolate… no, really, I love chocolate.”
Not only does it emphasize God’s hatred of wickedness, but it escalates it with the word “abomination.”
Solomon is telling his sons, “God hates the worthless person and his wicked sin that stirs up discord.” That’s hard for us to wrap our minds around. Can God hate? Isn’t hatred sin? And if so, doesn’t that mean that God is sinning?
Well, actually, it’s the opposite. If God does not hate evil and wickedness, he would be violating his very nature. What I mean is that God’s nature is righteous and pure and holy – infinitely and exhaustively so. All throughout the Scriptures we’re told of God’s uprightness, his justice, and his holiness. We also learn of God’s righteous character through the commands he gives us – They speak to what is good and right versus what is evil and sin.
Anything that goes against God’s character is an abomination to him. Now, stay with me because we’re going to get to the good news. But we have to first recognize God’s utter hatred of sin and evil as described here.
But you say, “ok, I can see that concept of hate here and I know that God said, ‘Jacob I loved but Esau I hated.’ But don’t you think that is just an Old Testament concept. We’re in New Testament times, now. It’s all about love and grace.”
Well, I would respond. Actually, the New Testament very consistently decries sin and evil.
· Romans 1 puts it this way: “…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
· Or consider Ephesians 5 - “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”
· Hebrews 10 says "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God"
· 2 Thessalonians 1 speaks about God’s vengeance on those who do not know him and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
· There are many others.
You say, “ok, fine… but that’s not Jesus’ ethic. He loved people and accepted people.” As one Atlanta area pastor recently said, “Jesus drew circles and not lines.” Circles to accept people, and not lines which divide people.
· Well, actually, Jesus was pretty clear about sin. Have you considered Jesus’s description of the sheep and the goats? Jesus said to those without true faith, “depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire.”
· Or in Luke 13 Jesus said, “unless you repent, you too will perish.” That is repent from your sin.
· Or in Matthew 13, speaking about himself, Jesus said. “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all lawbreakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
· In fact, Jesus spoke of hell many times.
To be sure, Jesus received and he receives anyone who turns from their sin to him. The woman caught in adultery, Nicodemus the Pharisee, Zacchaeus the tax-collector (by the way a tax-collector at that time had similarities to the Proverbs 6 description). And there were others like the woman at the well.
My point is this. The Scriptures are very consistent from beginning to end about God’s hatred of evil, of wickedness, and really of any sin. And it’s because of his perfectly righteous character.
Now, to be sure, these verses in Proverbs 6 focus on sin and wickedness that destroys relationships and people. It’s all an abomination to him just like any sin. The Hatred of Wickedness.
The Understanding of Wickedness
So first, the Pattern of Wickedness – it comes from a heart that devises evil and it works itself out in a life devoted to wickedness. Second, The Hatred of Wickedness – this wickedness is abhorrent to God. And that bring us now to number three, The Understanding of Wickedness.
You see, one of the things we need to ask is this: why are these verses here in Proverbs?
Not only that, but why are they in the middle of Solomon’s opening lessons on wisdom? The word “wisdom” is not even mentioned in these verses.
But yet it’s important enough to be included in the middle of Solomons wisdom lessons.
Well, we’ve been talking all along (in our Proverbs study) about the moral component of wisdom. Pursuing wisdom involves pursuing God’s righteousness in life. And besides directing us to peace and purity, Proverbs also has directed us away from sin and evil.
Chapter 1 for example, included avoiding the enticement of the sinner. Chapter 4 directed us away from the path of the wicked. Chapter 5 warned against adultery. And in chapter 6, we’re given the reason to avoid those things. Why? Because God hates them – they are contrary to his nature.
You see, the moral imperatives are not some arbitrary standard that God set. God is not drawing a line and saying this is what’s good and this is what’s bad. No, it’s much deeper than that. God is the line. His nature is the dividing line between what is good and right and true (which he loves) and what is evil and unjust and sinful (which he hates). That understanding is very important in discerning God’s wisdom.
In other words, what these verses in Proverbs 6 help answer is the “why?” Why is wickedness wicked? Why is evil evil? And why is sin sinful? Why? Because it is all contrary to God’s character and he hates it. Now, when we get to chapter 8, we’re going to see the beautiful flip side of that – the glory of God in his infinite wisdom. He IS wisdom. Stay tuned for that.
ow we live andBut before we get there, God needed to first establish the truth about wickedness. The Understanding of Wickedness.
The Judgment of Wickedness
And that brings us to the last point. The Judgment of Wickedness. Verse 15 says, “calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.”
There are two aspects of judgment in that. There’s the temporal aspect and the eternal aspect. In other words, the judgment in this life and the eternal judgment of God. There has to be two. We know at times the wicked prosper. Their wickedness may last a long time, but ultimately they will not escape the judgment of God.
Oftentimes, though, their wickedness does not persist. The wicked often eat their own or their wicked ways catch up to them.
Let’s go back to Skagway. Soapy Smith’s criminal reign only lasted a year or perhaps a year and a half. Anger grew at the ways that he exploited the gold prospectors. After a while, a vigilante group rose up in an effort to clean up the town. Tensions rose to a boiling point and then gunfire erupted. Smith was mortally wounded. To use the words of Proverbs 6, “in a moment he was broken beyond healing.” He died the next day and he would meet his maker and his judge. To be sure, his ultimate judgment will come when the Lord returns to judge the living and the dead. Evil, and sin, and wickedness will be judged.
Well, let’s now come back to something I said earlier. Our tendency is to point to evil and wickedness out there. We’re like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable on prayer. The Pharisee went to the temple and prayed: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get." But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" Jesus said this: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.'"
When we look at this list here in Proverbs 6, perhaps we can recognize God’s mercy in our life – mercy for not allowing the full extent of sin to reign in us. But we should also recognize that this list in part describes each of us. Sowing discord, pridefully looking down on others, lying to ourselves or God or others.
You know, I was thinking, maybe there someone here who knows you really well. A spouse, a sibling, a parent, a friend. Someone who’s seen you angry or witnessed you being deceptive or telling a white lie.
Kids, if you have a brother or sister or cousin, what would they say about you and these verses?
I was thinking about that because one of my sisters is here visiting today. And not just one of my sisters, but my twin sister. Let’s just say we spent a lot of time together growing up. If you were to ask her how I match up with this Proverbs 6 description, I’m sure she would have stories about me saying mean things, rolling my eyes, getting mad, and causing tension in the family. Now, I said “if” you were to ask her… because I don’t really want you to ask! I know I’m guilty.
And what does that mean?
· It means the pattern of wickedness described in these verses is the wickedness that is in my heart. In each of our hearts.
· The hatred that God has for the wicked is the hatred he had for me and my sin (apart from Christ – we’ll come to that in a minute).
· The judgment that God has against the wicked and wickedness is the judgment that I deserve.
You see, we should read these words in Proverbs 6, and we should feel the weight of our sin, our wickedness, God’s hatred of it, and his judgment against it.
And! We should read these words in Proverbs 6 and rejoice for what God has offered to us or accomplished for us in Christ.
What I’m saying is that these verses in Proverbs 6 give us a profound understanding of and gratefulness for the Gospel…. how Christ took all the wickedness of our hearts… he carried all our sin to the cross. And what happened on the cross is that all God’s hatred and abomination against us and our evil sinful hearts, God instead directed at his son. The judgment that we deserved, he received.
In other words, when we see God in all his glory and holiness and understand God’s hatred for sin and wickedness, that’s when we more fully realize the extent of his love - a love beyond all measure. You may have heard me say this before: we can’t understand the fullness of God’s love in Christ unless we understand the fullness of God’s hatred for our sin (2x?).
When we minimize God’s nature as holy or we dismiss his wrath against sin and the sinner or we push back against the idea that God can hate or judge anything… when we do any of those things, we diminish the power of the Gospel and the need for the Gospel. And we lose the amazing love that God offers or gives through his son.
You see, these verses are critical to understand wisdom. We can’t have the wisdom of God unless we see God for who he is in these verses and how Christ fulfills them.
But when we do. When we see our sin and wickedness for what it is – an abomination to God almighty and when we listen to what Jesus said (which we considered earlier), “unless you repent,” he said, “you too will perish.” When you come to him by faith – his love will be yours. No longer will the hatred of God fall upon you, but you will be swept up in his grace and mercy forever.
This is the wisdom of these verses, the wisdom of God and the wisdom found in his son. Amen.