God Tries the Heart
We see early on in this chapter that while man has found weighs to refine precious metals, only God can refine and the hearts of men (v.3). While silver and gold are tried in the fires, God tries us with opportunity. Every day, we have the chance to grow closer to God by how we act and react to success and failure. We might get a raise at our job or we might get laid off from work. Each of these situations is an opportunity to grow closer to God, but they are both also plagued with temptations from the enemy and the world. Our actions and reactions to these situations will determine if we are labeled as wise, wicked or foolish. So what types of reaction are there and what are the results for choosing each of these three paths? Let's find out:
What We Say and How We Say It (v. 4-7)
Right off the mark, we are back into a topic we covered a few weeks ago. Our mouths can determine who we are a lot of the time. What we say and how we say it goes a long way to identifying who we are to others and to God. So how do the two inverse types operate?
Wicked: Lies and surrounds himself with liars (v.4) He is also cruel (v. 5)
Foolish: Isn't able to speak very well because he's too busy fulfilling his own pleasures (v.7)
From this we can determine that a wise person will be honest and surround himself with honesty. He is not cruel to those who are lowly or in need, but rather helps them and tries to bring them closer to God. He is focused on the things of God and thus has the words to speak when the opportunity to be a light to the world presents itself.
Own Your Mistakes (v. 9-12)
Next, we find that how we respond when we make mistakes matters. This shows that being wise doesn't make us perfect. Having wisdom does let us know what we can do to remedy our mistakes, though. Let's see what happens to the other two?
Wicked: Only concerned with his plan and path, which is against God. Dealt with harshly (v. 11)
Foolish: Tries to hide his mistakes (v. 9). This often leads to terrible outcomes (v. 12)
The wicked way is indifferent towards God's ways and only concerned with fulfilling himself. The fool is more concerned with God's ways, but only because he doesn't want to have to pay for his mistakes. His punishment tends to be more agonizing and elongated than that of the wicked, but both of their outcomes are harsh. The wise man, being honest, owns his mistakes as well as any reproof that is administered. This allows him to more quickly get back into the path God has for him and gives him greater incentive to transgress again.
Act With Good Judgment
The final half of this Psalm primarily focuses on how we treat others. The way in which we operate with people in society says a lot about our character and convictions. How doe these two do?
Wicked: Deliberately tries to twist things (v. 13, 15). He is doomed to be beset by evil.
Foolish: Makes terrible choices that lead him to trying times (v. 18)
The wicked man is seen as actively trying to reward evil for good and visa versa. This desire to twist God's will is a perversion and makes that person abominable-or disgusting-in the eyes of God. It is promised great punishment. Meanwhile, the fool gets himself into debts and terrible predicaments. It would almost seem funny if it weren't so sad and easy to see in society these days. How may people make obviously terrible choices and-even with the wisest people counseling them-continue on their path to destruction. The wise man operates with righteous actions, not letting someone who does bad get away with it and making sure that those who do good are rewarded. He is cautious in his decision making and makes sure that he doesn't end up in a debt filled situation, temporally or spiritually.
From this examination, we find that a wicked person is doomed to face terrible punishment for his active pursuits against God and His ways. The fool isn't much better off. Because he neglects instruction from God, he constantly finds himself in terrible situations not easily escaped. The wise man watches his mouth (v. 27), owns his problems and mistakes openly and makes sure to treat other with a righteous and God-centered hand. Which one of these groups do you fall into?
This week, record the following:
Compare your actions to the three types addressed in this devotion.
Do you fall into the camp of wickedness or foolishness, even just a little?
Use Proverbs 17 as a guiding post to remedy this.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.