Life and Death
Proverbs notes numerous aspects of life and death. Remember, wisdom offers not merely knowledge but understanding and clarity across the important issues of life. We’re embracing and believing, and trusting in the person and work of Christ. His word is this primary means of maturity and growth through His Spirit as we study and immerse ourselves in His scriptures. And that, in God’s great kindness, can affect our minds, hearts, outlooks, and attitudes.
Proverbs teach a promise of life and a warning of death. Wisdom may well prolong your days; wickedness may shorten them. Proverbs 4:10 says, “Hear my son and accept my sayings And the years of your life will be many.” When we read these things, we need to think qualitatively, not just quantitatively.
The following proverb is parallel. Proverbs 9:10-11 goes on to say, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you.” The word of God says it is appointed for man to die. God knows our days; He knows the hairs on our heads.
Proverbs 3:21-22 says, “My son, let them not vanish from your sight; Keep sound wisdom and discretion, So they will be life to your soul And adornment to your neck.” The neck is visible to the naked eye. Adornment is a Hebrew word oft rendered favor or grace. We might read it, so they will be life to your soul and an ornament to grace your neck as in some English versions. It is likely, Solomon has physical or literal as well as psychological safety in mind. Both soul and neck round out the whole of a person and the literal vulnerability.
Proverbs 14:30 delights the reader to know a tranquil heart is a life to the body. The body is quite literal in its usage here; skin, flesh, even meat; and adversely, passion is rottenness to the bone. Passion is used in a visceral sense of zeal, jealousy, and envy. Rottenness is, without question, literal, that of decay. We can “see” the body, not the bone. A tranquil heart is life to the body. Have you ever prayed for a tranquil heart? Don Cole said, “Discouragement never accomplished a thing.”
Life can also mean our relationship or fellowship with God. Proverbs 10:16 says, “The wages of the righteous is life, The income of the wicked, Punishment.” Again, there is a clear contrast. Wages or work of the righteous is life, a common term meaning being alive or living. The antithesis is found in the second line; the wicked’s income is punishment—a clever turn in language but a devastating contrast. Income here is the produce, the yield, the harvest of something in contrast to the wages, labor, or work.
Those Who Hate God, Love Death
It may help to think of it this way: The righteous work and live. The wicked produce their punishment. So Proverbs 8:35-36 says, “For he who finds me finds life me And obtains favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death.”
Whereas wisdom, like love, never forces itself on a person, wickedness succumbs the fool. So Proverbs 14:32 says, “The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing, But the righteous has a refuge when he dies.” There are many words for refuge in the Old Testament; almost all are vertical elevation.
So the proverb says the wicked are thrust down by their wrongdoing and sinful choices, but the righteous have a refuge. The rock is the refuge. The refuge is God. We hide in the cleft of the rock. Jesus Christ becomes the rock of our salvation. It couldn’t be a more vivid depiction of those under the weight of their sin versus those who will have an escape route to safety in God.
Death is talked about in one way or another 30 times in Proverbs. We have to be careful calling Sheol the place of death. Abaddon, or the pit, is another reference to death and destruction. Rephaim is also used in reference to that which is beyond physical death. Derek Kidner said, “Death is a whole realm in conflict with life, rather than a single and merely physical event.” We can’t just think of a physical, literal death from our time on earth.
When someone who knows Christ goes across that threshold, they are alive like never before. Your soul was made in the image of God. You, as a person, are the image of God. Nobody can annihilate the image of God. The image of God and God’s great mercy can’t be erased.
Psalm 18:4-6 parallels the wisdom literature along with Jonah 2 and Psalm 116:3-4. And Jesus Christ, of course, will refer to Jonah 2 specifically as the only miracle He will give a certain group of critics. Proverbs 5:23 says, “He will die for lack of instruction, And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.” So the wicked are not lost or annihilated. They will die and go to a place of eternal torment.
Don’t Miss Eternal Life
The wicked will miss true life. Instead, they will have chosen a life of pride, self-created religion, and ideologies. When you make up a religion to suit yourself, you have now gone from man worshiping God to man worshiping self. God made man in His image, and man’s been making God in his image ever since.
Every one of us will be a central figure in a funeral service someday. And the day to come to terms with it is not that day, but today. Do you know that you know, that you know, that you know where you’re going to spend eternity? This is, in no small part, one of the discomforts of talking about this subject.
You need to know Jesus Christ and know Him personally. You must put your faith and trust in Christ and Christ alone for your salvation. There is no other. He lived, died, was buried, and returned from the dead. He offers eternal life to all who believe in Him.
The Romans did not kill Jesus on the cross. They brutally beat Him and nailed Him to a crucifix. But He gave up His life on His terms and raised himself on His terms. You must understand His love for you. Come to Christ.
Catch up on the rest of the Proverbs series here.
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