Proverbs 2:21-22 "For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it."
The final two verses of Proverbs 2 reveal the heart of a Hebrew father and cap off a chapter dedicated to the long-term success of his son. Spiritual preservation is the theme of this chapter. In its early verses, Solomon points his son to God, referring to Him as a buckler, or a protective shield. In verse 8, he tells his son that God “keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.” He was directing Rehoboam to God because of the wisdom that God could give him. Wisdom gives a man discretion, which preserves a man and it also gives a man understanding, which “keeps” a man (verse 11). Solomon told his son that these virtues deliver good men from evil men (verse 12) as well as from wicked women (verse 16). He finishes the chapter with the contrast between remaining in the land and being rooted out of it, obviously suggesting that his son succeed by remaining in the land.
These final two verses of Proverbs 2 reveal the heart of a Hebrew father because the Jewish people place a high value on home and country. In general, we all have a sense of loyalty and affection for the land of our birth – for the land of our heritage. Most of us cherish our country – our land – our home. That being said, it’s not uncommon today for people to leave their hometown with no desire to return. Having lived in Western New York all my young life, I’ve heard plenty of people express their earnest desire to leave this area. For many Buffalonians, warmer temperatures are more important than community roots. For many Western New Yorkers, lower taxes and a better economy are more appealing than their hometown roots. This phenomenon is not unique to our area of the country as there are thousands who willingly and enthusiastically leave their native country every year in order to start over in an entirely different part of the world. I’m not referring to people fleeing their homeland in order to find refuge or asylum – I’m referring to people leaving their homeland because they have little to no sentimental attachment to it. This was not the case for the ancient Hebrew and is still rarely the case for Jewish people today. Jewish people place a high value on home and country.
The nation of Israel was born with the promise of a homeland. When God called Abraham out of the land of his nativity, he was told to go to a land that God would show him. When he came to the land of Canaan, God gave him a promise saying, “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.” From that moment on, the descendants of Abraham waited for the day when they would permanently occupy their new home – their new land, Canaan. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be there for decades until a regional famine drove them to Egypt, where they would then spend the next four centuries yearning for their homeland. After the miraculous exodus out of Egypt, the Israelites would spend forty years in the wilderness longing for their homeland. Finally, after crossing the Jordan River, they entered the Promised Land and fought with the help of God to make it “home sweet home.” Eventually, the monarchy would fail and they would be led captive out of their homeland on multiple occasions. Any time the Jewish people have been driven from their homeland, they yearn and long to return because of the sacred place it holds in the heart of the Jewish people. Jewish people place a high value on home and country.
Although they forgot it in times of idolatry and rebellion, the Hebrew people knew that their residence in their homeland hinged on their allegiance to their God. The Mosaic Law references this relationship often and the history of Israel consistently proves this relationship to be true. Within Jewish writings, references to the land have everything to do with heritage and morality. Consider the 5th Commandment in Exodus 20:12 as an example, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon THE LAND which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” Failure to obey God’s law would result in a removal of the people from the land - something they dreaded because of their sacred attachment to it. Removal from their sacred homeland meant living among and beneath neighboring heathen. Removal from their sacred homeland meant living among and beneath cruel Gentiles. Four centuries of hard bondage under the Egyptian thumb taught them the value of dwelling safely in the land that God gave them. The Jewish people cherish their homeland more than any other people. Having been to Israel four thousand years after the promise was given to Abraham, I was amazed at the amount of Jewish patriotism and devotion for the land of Israel.
This intense Jewish devotion for the homeland is why the final two verses of Proverbs 2 reveal the heart of a Hebrew father. He desperately wanted his son, the man who would eventually be the king of Israel, to become and remain upright so that he would “dwell in the land.” Solomon wanted his beloved Rehoboam to become and remain perfect so that he would “remain in the land.” He reminded his son in the final verse that wickedness uproots a man from the land. To avoid being punished and banished by God from the homeland, Rehoboam needed wisdom and the preserving qualities that came with it. These final verses emphasize the purpose for this father’s counsel – wisdom preserves a Jewish man; wisdom preserves a Jewish king; wisdom keeps a king and his nation in their sacred homeland.
For the New Testament Christian with a different homeland, these verses still carry important application. Wisdom is a spiritual preservative for all people of all nations. Wisdom and its companions – discernment and understanding – keep us all from evil people and from our own evil pursuits. Wisdom keeps a person from wrongdoing so he or she can follow God’s word. Wisdom in the heart of a believer allows for a believer’s spiritual roots to dig deeper and grow wider. Wisdom keeps an upright man upright. Like deep roots in a long-standing and wide-reaching oak tree, wisdom keeps a man standing upright over the course of time. Like deep roots in an ancient oak over the course of Nature’s powerful storms, wisdom preserves a man during moral adversity and intense temptation. Wisdom is what brings a person spiritual stability. It is what keeps a person in the place of God’s blessings.
On the contrary, a person without wisdom is like a spruce tree with very shallow roots which, when storms rage, tumbles to the ground. A foolish person is easily uprooted and removed from the place of God’s blessings. Foolishness comes easy for mankind. Unfortunately, it makes us susceptible to deception and temptation which then leads to immorality. Immorality summons the judgment of God – the wind of God’s justice and the axe of God’s wrath. Foolishness weakens us at the base – at the core. It leads to instability and eventually to our demise. Wisdom, however keeps us from falling prey to deception and temptation, keeping us upright. This preservation of one’s uprightness is the gift of spiritual stability and the key to long-term spiritual success. It is the upright man or woman who gets to dwell in the place of God’s blessings, in their spiritual homeland. It is the perfect man or woman who gets to remain in this sacred place.