************ Sermon on Proverbs 12:28 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 8, 2017
"Life and Death"
If the doctor, governor, police, weatherman, or health officials say something is a matter of life and death, people tend to pay attention. For instance, the doctor says your heart condition is a matter of life and death. The governor declares an earthquake is a matter of life and death. The police issue an amber alert when they believe it is a matter of life and death for the child involved. The weatherman warns a tornado or hurricane is a matter of life and death. Health officials declare an epidemic to be so dangerous it becomes a matter of life and death. It is foolish and dumb to ignore such warnings so, of course, you pay attention. The book of Proverbs also has a message that is a matter of life and death. Yet, most people ignore the message and discover too late that they should have paid attention.
Life and death are a major theme in the book of Proverbs. The words "life" and "live" occur 56 times in this book, and the words "death" and "die" occur 20 times.
Life and death is something we face every single day. Think of it this way. You have a birthday. You know that day. It is on our church's Birthday Calendar; in fact, Steve and Doug and myself are listed for this week Thursday. You also have a death day. None of us know that day. It isn't on our calendar, but it is on God's calendar. Sometime in the future -- unless the Lord Jesus returns first -- you and I have an appointment with death.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday I want to look at what Proverbs says about life and death. The wisdom of Proverbs helps us all to realize life -- real life -- is more than having a pulse and death is more than not having a pulse. Connected to this, Proverbs loves using the word "way." There is the way of death and there is the way of life. Instead of way, we can also say path, end, road, journey, destination. Everyone is on a journey. The question is, where are we going with our lives?
Our text for today focuses on answering this question. Where are you going with your life?
(Prov 12:28) In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.Most other translations use the word death:
(Prov 12:28) In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is no death.There is the way of life. And, there is the way of death.
I The Way of Death
A What is the way of death according to Proverbs? Wisdom tells us that death is more than what happens when our heart stops its beating; rather, death is a whole realm, a whole way of existence.
We sinners stray, and are tempted to stay, into the territory of death every single day. So, in the book of Proverbs God is counseling us, alerting us, to where death lurks.
So, where does death lurk? What is her way, her path, her road, her journey? Listen to what these verses say:
(Prov 2:18) For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead.Where does death lurk according to these verses? In each of these verses the way of death is the way of the adulteress. People don't think about that as they consider adultery. Instead, they think about the pleasures of the flesh that a fling will bring. They don't think of the death and destruction it will bring to the family, to the children, to the marriage, to the soul.
(Prov 5:5) Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.
(Prov 7:27) Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.
Now, don't forget Solomon is the author of Proverbs. With his 700 wives and 300 concubines, Solomon speaks from experience. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been (1 Ki 11:4).
That's what happens with the way of death: it leads us to idolatry, it leads us to worship other gods, it leads us astray from God.
B Where else do we find death? Listen to what is said by these verses:
(Prov 9:18) But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.
(Prov 10:21) The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.
(Prov 14:12) There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
(Cf Prov 16:25)
(Prov 15:10) Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die.
(Cf Prov 19:16; 21:16)
In each of these verses, the way of death is the way of the fool. The fool in Proverbs is many things. One thing that stands out is that the fool cannot take instruction. He does not accept advice and counsel. He thinks he is always right. He is contemptuous of others. He does not listen to what his elders, pastors, parents, or marriage partner says. Especially, he does not listen to God. He follows his own way, the way to death. It is like what we read in Judges:
(Judg 21:25) In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.That's the way of the fool. That's the way of death.
Parents and grandparents are guilty of going down this way of death if they never correct or discipline or admonish their child (Prov 23:13). A child without loving discipline and godly instruction is headed down the wrong path. Do you really want this kind of accusation hanging over your head? Do you really want to be known as someone who sent a child down the way of death?
C So what is this death Proverbs speaks of? It is two things. First, it is a sentence of physical death because of sin. As we know from Genesis, and elsewhere, death surrounds us and casts a shadow on us today in a thousand different ways: sickness, aging, suffering, fear, guilt, anxiety, confusion, boredom, and above all, sin.
Second, it is also a sentence of eternal death because of sin. We all lie under eternal condemnation. We all deserve to perish everlastingly in the fires of hell. We all deserve the judgment of God.
So, death is more than the loss of one's pulse. Death is a way, a trip, a journey.
II The Way of Life
A There is also a way of life. On this Lord's Supper Sunday, wisdom tells us that real life is more than a beating heart; rather, real life is the vitality only God gives through the work of Christ on the cross, in the grave, and at the right hand of God. Our text from Proverbs speaks to this:
(Prov 12:28) In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is no death.Life is found in righteousness.
What is righteousness? Go back to the fool. He does what is right in his own eyes. He doesn't listen. The righteous are a different story. They know there is an ultimate standard. They know it is Christ Who ultimately says what is right and wrong.
Our world has a big problem with this entire concept of an ultimate moral authority. In today's world we are taught that we are our own moral authority, that as we move through life we can make decisions on the fly in terms of what is in it for me. And, the world whispers in our hearts that this kind of approach to life makes us free. Free to follow our desires, whims, impulses. Free to do what we want. Free to go where we want. Free. Free. Free. WRONG. Because all this does is make us a slave to sin. And, as I already said, this pathway leads to death.
Righteousness means living according to the standard of Christ. Righteousness means becoming more and more like Christ. Righteousness means becoming truer to Christ. We want to do this because in His path is life.
B "In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is no death" (Prov 12:28). If we follow the way of righteousness, then we experience life. If we live up to righteousness, then we will never die. Proverbs is merely restating the promise God gave to Adam and Eve in the Garden. The promise was that if they obeyed God by not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would have life, eternal life, life with God (cf Gen 2:17). That promise continues to be in effect. If you are righteous, you will live. "In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is no death" (Prov 12:28). In fact, this is the only way to have life. There is no life, real life, apart from righteousness.
Now, I am sure you realize none of us live up to this. None of us are righteous. None of us measure up to God's standard. None of us mirror the life of Christ.
C We need righteousness in order to live. But none of us can live righteous lives. What are we to do?
(Rom 3:21-22) But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. (22) This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.Christ is our righteousness. In an act of amazing grace, He give us His righteousness and He takes on our sin.
What do we need to do? Proverbs speaks to us of a fountain of life
(Prov 14:27) The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.We need to drink, we need to drink deeply, from the fountain of life. The fountain is Christ (Jn 7:37). This means we need to come to Christ. We need to believe. As Romans puts it, we need to have faith. Why? Because it is a matter of life and death:
(Prov 12:28) In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is no death.
As we eat and drink from the Lord's Table we rejoice that in Christ we find life and not the death we deserve. So come, knowing your sin. Come, knowing your Savior. Come and drink deeply from Jesus the fountain of life.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page