Proverbs and Promises

The fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short. Proverbs 10:27


Is this an absolute promise?  Obviously not as we know of young persons who have loved and obeyed God who have been cut down by accident or illness while wicked persons have long and seemingly carefree lives.  Is this Proverb then false?


It must be remembered that Proverbs are not promises.  What then are they?  Some call them “probabilities,” which touches on the truth, but still doesn’t quite explain it.  D.A. Carson offers a helpful explanation that a proverb is “not an unqualified promise.”


“A proverb is a wise saying, an aphorism.  Most of the proverbs…provide wise, generalizing conclusions about how the world works under God’s providential rule.  The fear of the Lord really does add years to one’s life:  on the whole, a life lived in this way will adopt fewer bad habits, will learn to trust and therefore reduce stress, will honor hard work offered up to the Lord, will cherish family and friends, and so forth—and in God’s universe all of these things have effects.  None of this means that a godly person cannot die younger than an ungodly person.  It does mean that … on the whole those who fear the Lord will live longer than those who do not.  This is the blessing of God; the Lord has constructed the universe this way and continues his providential rule over it.” (from D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Volume 2, March 23)


As you read the Proverbs you will find many of these generalized truths that will result in a much better life as you apply them, but that do not guarantee believers a trouble free life.  Yet no matter what happens in your experience, you can count on the absolute promise of God’s sovereign care for your ultimate good.  


And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30, English Standard Version


That is not a Proverb; that is a Promise!


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