We will consider two proverbial exhortations concerning the wicked expressed in two couplet thoughts—Proverbs 24:17-18 and Proverbs 24:19-20.
Proverbs 24:17-18 – “Rejoice not [do not cheer or be glad] when thine enemy falleth [cast down; overthrown; shall fall], and let not thine heart [mind; understanding] be glad [delight; rejoice] when he stumbleth [falls; staggers]: 18 Lest the LORD see it [beholds; inspects it], and it displease [provoke] Him, and He [the Lord] turn away [withdraw] His wrath [anger; face] from him [your enemy].”
It is a natural response for the citizens of a nation to celebrate a victory over a national enemy with parades and bestowing honors upon its military. However, God’s people are admonished to not delight in the fall and suffering of a personal, private foe.
Indeed, God is so opposed to a spirit of vengeance among His people that He warns, should a saint fail to evidence mercy and compassion for a suffering foe, He may turn away His wrath from the wicked.
Let us take a moment and do an attitude check concerning our spirit and attitude toward our foes before we consider the next proverb. In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught His disciples that His followers were to love their enemies.
Matthew 5:43-44 – “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
Paul, in his letter to Christians in Rome, challenged the saints to not bear a vengeful spirit toward their enemies.
Romans 12:17-21 – “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Continuing our study regarding our spirit and attitude toward sinners, Solomon exhorted his son to not fret or entertain an impression that the wicked sin with impunity.
Proverbs 24:19-20 – “Fret not [do not become angry or burn with jealousy] thyself because of evil men [evil doers; wicked; bad men], neither be thou envious [jealous or zealous] at the wicked [ungodly; guilty of crime]; 20 For there shall be no reward [outcome; posterity; future] to the evil man [wicked; bad]; the candle [lampstand, i.e. light] of the wicked shall be put out [quenched; extinguished].”
Moses, the Old Testament patriarch, recognized what many Christians in our day fail to accept: It is far better to suffer temporal hardships with the promise of eternal rewards than to set our affection on the fleeting, temporal pleasures of sin that invite God’s wrath and judgment.
Hebrews 11:24-27 – “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”