Proverbs 12:21

Proverbs 12:21 "There shall no evil happen to the just: but the wicked shall be filled with mischief."
Proverbs 12:21 Baptist Church Buffalo NY
The Bible is full of promises that are easily misinterpreted when read with minimal thought.  This proverb is one of those promises.  Man gets himself into trouble when he reads promises like this and hears what he wants to hear.  Is God promising a trouble-free life as long as he is morally-sound?  Is God ensuring a life free of evil tidings and evil doers to the just man?  Is God guaranteeing a life void of evil interference to the just woman?

Whatever this proverb means, it is at the very least a bold promise.  As is always the case with the Proverbs, the opposing side of the proverb helps us understand the other side of the proverb.  For that reason, it can safely be concluded that one's morality is directly connected to what happens to them.  For the wicked, their life is going to be full of mischief and their immorality is directly responsible for that evil chaos.  Given the wording of the proverb, it is essential to note that this mischief is what happens TO the wicked and not necessarily what happens IN the wicked.  Wickedness from within prompts mischief from without.  Inner wickedness attracts outer mischief.  On the flip side, justice from within prevents evil from without.  Inner justice repels outer evil.

Again, we must ask ourselves if this proverb is promising a trouble-free life to the just.  Is this proverb promising that no evil of any sort from any source will happen to the just?  Given the totality of Scripture, that can't be the true interpretation of the proverb.  Solomon himself observed and recognized that bad things happen to good people all the time, ultimately concluding in Ecclesiastes that everyone faces "evil days." He wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:1, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the EVIL DAYS come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them."  In Ecclesiastes 9:11, he wisely acknowledged that "time and chance happeneth to them all."  In Ecclesiastes 2:14-15, he bemoaned the fact that "one event happeneth to them all," writing, "as it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me."  But in the midst of acknowledging that no one is exempt from evil happenings in a cursed world, Solomon recorded the ultimate difference between the wicked and the just in Ecclesiastes 8:12, stating "Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God."

In our cursed world, evil days find their ways to the calendars of both the wicked and the just.  In a world governed by free-will, time and chance, some of which is evil, happens to both the wicked and the just.  In a world dominated by sin, just men have been and will continue to be victims of evil doers.  Paul the Apostle told Timothy that "Alexander the coppersmith did me MUCH EVIL" (2 Timothy 4:14).  In Mark 10, Jesus Christ, the "JUST ONE" (Acts 7:52), told His disciples that great evil would "happen unto Him" in Jerusalem where He would be betrayed by an EVIL man, delivered to the Romans by EVIL priests and brutally beaten and crucified by EVIL people.  Peter the Apostle spent a great deal of time telling his Christian audience that they shouldn't be surprised if they went through suffering, affliction or persecution, "as though some strange thing happened unto" them (1 Peter 4:12).  He would go on to encourage them to rejoice if they suffered for well-doing, counting it a privilege to suffer for Christ.

With all of this mind, how could God inspire Solomon to write this proverb in this way?  Clearly, the rest of the Bible paints the picture that plenty of evil happens to the just.  No one seems to escape evil happenings under Heaven.  Because there are no contradictions in Scripture, God must be teaching us something very specific about evil happenings from without in relation to moral conditions within.  This lesson is best viewed by comparing this proverb with another proverb - Proverbs 24:16, "For a JUST man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the WICKED shall fall into MISCHIEF."  This second proverb using the same parties and the same words adds an interesting moral detail to the just man - FAILURE.  A just man isn't perfect.  A just man isn't without evil for the Bibles tells us in Ecclesiastes again, "For there is not a JUST man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not" (7:20).  Just men, like wicked men, do evil but a just man is different than a wicked man in one major area - REPENTANCE.  When doing wrong, a just man does right and repents of his wrongdoing.  When doing wrong, a wicked man does more wrong and refuses to repent.  For this reason, God sends him evil to punish him for his refusal to repent.  But because the just man repents, God refuses to send evil to him and for this reason, no evil happens to him.

This proverb teaches a glorious truth; a far better truth than some unrealistic prosperity promise!  This proverb opens the Scriptural treasure chest of promises and reveals something far more wonderful than a trouble-free life!  This proverb teaches us that we have the power to turn off the spigot of God's wrath!  God gives us the ability to close the spigot of evil that is reserved for the punishment of sin and wickedness.  What an amazing promise!  The "evil" that this proverb is referring to is the consequence of sin that comes from an Almighty Holy God.  While there is no guarantee in a sin-soaked world that man's evil won't make its way to our doorstep, there is a promise that the consequence of our sin won't happen to us if we justly repent.  While there is no assurance in a cursed world that time and chance's evil days won't visit us, there is a promise that the consequence of our sin won't happen to us if we justly deal with it before a holy but merciful God.  Hallelujah!

1 Cor. 11:31, "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged."
1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Proverbs 28:13, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."

JUSTICE is the inner virtue that keeps the valve of God's wrath closed.  This proverb is the "Righty Tighty" rule when dealing with moral failure - repent and rise up in the power of His mercy!

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