“The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted” (Proverbs 10:24).
On Saturday, we looked at part one, the Fear of the Wicked. Today, I’d like to look briefly at the second half of the verse, and at how badly this and some similar verses are sometimes misused.
The Desire of the Righteous — What it Doesn’t Mean
This is one of a number of Proverbs that has caused some people to avoid the Proverbs. Some take a surface reading and view Proverbs as being almost unspiritual, that it teaches a “vending machine” view of God. If you do righteous things, He will grant you your desires. Drop in your coin of prayer, or reading your Bible, or doing good deeds, and out pops the thing you want — God will give you your desires.
This is poetry, and with any poetry, it serves us well to stop and think about what it is actually saying. It is also Scripture, and with any Scripture, we do well to make sure we’re getting it right. One could come up with other verses, outside of Proverbs, that could be mis-read to say the same thing. For example, Hebrews 11:6 tells us that God rewards those who diligently seek Him, so you could foolishly read that to say that all you need to do to get God to reward you with what you want is to diligently seek Him.
The most obvious case of murdering the intent of Scripture is what people do with Jesus’ statement in John 14:13-14:
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
This means that if you ask anything you want, and then tack on the end, “In Jesus’ name, Amen,” then ka-ching, the machine works, and you get what you wanted, right?
This is proud, selfish, and foolish thinking. “In Jesus’ name” is not a magic formula to which a genie in a bottle must respond. Such teaching is blasphemy, teaching believers to take God’s name in vain by using it like a superstitious potion.
To ask in Jesus’ name is to ask on Jesus’ behalf, as His representative, asking that which He would ask. Verse 12, which comes just before, says that we are His servants doing His works. This isn’t talking about getting what we want, it is talking about the fact that the same Almighty power that He used to do His works is ours when we are doing, not our works, but His. If you aren’t asking for the things Jesus would ask, you aren’t asking in His name, no matter how many times you insert those words in your greedy “prayer.”
Someone might say, “Well, ok Jon, I see your point, but what does all that have to do with this Proverb?”
The Desire of the Righteous — What it Does Mean
This is not a trick question. What kind of desires do you expect a righteous person to have when he is doing and thinking righteously? Will they be selfish and wicked desires, or will they be righteous and good desires? If you struggle to figure it out :), this verse tells us those desires are going to be granted. Which kinds of desires do you think God is likely to grant, selfish and wicked ones or righteous and good ones?
Those acting and thinking righteously will have righteous desires that a righteous God will delight in granting. Thus, the connection to Jesus’ statement in John 14 — He is simply expanding on the truth described in this Proverb. When we desire and ask for that which is good, that which pleases God, that which Jesus Himself would request, that will be granted.
You might say, “Well, no kidding. I could have figured that out. That’s not my problem. My problem is I have all these other desires, too. Some of them are for good things that I’m not getting. I can’t tell you that they are the things that Jesus would ask for if He were here right now, but they are good things that God says are good — and I’m not getting them. And then there are other things, I have to admit, other desires that aren’t for good things.”
Perhaps it helps us to remember that this statement is in parallel with the first half of the verse, which talked about the fear of the wicked. God sends fear to those who do wickedness — fear comes upon them. In parallel, God grants desires to the righteous — He gives them the right desires. Those who seek Him, He receives, and begins to change. It isn’t just behaviour that begins to change when we follow Him, and begin to pursue holiness, desires begin to change, too. It doesn’t happen all at once, but it happens.
God begins purging away the desires that shouldn’t be there. We can feed them and keep them hanging on alive for a while, to our cost, or we can pursue righteousness, and see those bad desires drop away. The more deeply they were embedded in our lives and hearts, the longer it may take, but they begin to go.
He also begins refining our desires for things which are good. We still may want them, but not in the same way. We begin to see them in their proper place in the grand scheme of all of His goodness. Good desires which may have been idols in our eyes become just pointers to the One Who is Good, pointers which we may not even need as we grow to know His goodness more fully. He grants us the ability to desire right desires rightly.
This verse is not primarily about whether or not we are “gonna get it” (to go back to the last post). The primary emphasis is not on what God gives us, but on what He does in us. He puts fear on the wicked, and He gives righteous desires to those who love and seek Him.