Rejoice that Osama Bin Laden Is Dead—Or Not? (Part 2 of 5)

by | May 11, 2011 | Current Events, Sermons

In this blog series we are looking to provide a balanced, biblical response to Bin Laden’s death (you can also listen to or download my message on Bin Laden from our church’s web site). I want to introduce the verses under my first heading:

I. The Verses Contemplated

Here are the two verses. I want you simply to contemplate or look at them for a few moments. Here they are in the NASB

Proverbs 11:10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, And when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.
Proverbs 24:17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles

Here they are in the New English Translation

Proverbs 11:10 When the righteous do well, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there is joy.
Proverbs 24:17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and when he stumbles do not let your heart rejoice

Here they are in the ESV:

Proverbs 11:10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
Proverbs 24:17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles

Finally, here they are in the Waldron Literal Translation:

Proverbs 11:10 In good of righteous ones rejoices a city and in destroying of wicked ones shouts (of joy)
Proverbs 24:17 In fall of your enemy not shall you rejoice; and in his overthrow not shall your heart shout with joy

As you can see, there is no difficulty with the translation with these verses. Each of the above translations render them so as to produce the same thoughts. The problem is not with the translation of these verses, but with the meaning of them. It is especially with how both verses can be true. The problem is how the Bible can affirm both these things.

There is one possibility which may occur to some of you and which might appear to remove the difficulty. The first verse (Proverbs 11:10) is simply descriptive. That is, it directly commands nothing. It simply states what is the case. Someone might argue conceivably that the text is merely descriptive and not normative. They might say that it simply affirms what is and not what should be. They might interpret the verse like this: …when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting, but there should not be…

This would provide a satisfying resolution of the tension we feel as we look at the two verses together—if it were true. I am convinced, however, that it is not. Here is why. I have three reasons.

First, Proverbs 11:10 itself suggests that it not merely descriptive. Look at it again. The first half of the verse says: When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices… Should we understand this to mean similarly, When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, but they should not! I don not think so.

Second, the following verse suggests that this rejoicing is properly motivated and thus not to be reproached.

Proverbs 11:11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, But by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down.

Third, other texts in the Bible teach us to rejoice when the wicked are judged.

Psalm 52:5-7 But God will break you down forever; He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent, And uproot you from the land of the living. Selah. The righteous will see and fear, And will laugh at him, saying, “Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, But trusted in the abundance of his riches And was strong in his evil desire.”
Psalm 58:9-11 Before your pots can feel the fire of thorns He will sweep them away with a whirlwind, the green and the burning alike. The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. And men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; Surely there is a God who judges on earth!”
Revelation 18:19-20 “And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!’ Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.”
Revelation 19:1-3 After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; BECAUSE HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and HE HAS AVENGED THE BLOOD OF HIS BOND-SERVANTS ON HER.” And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! HER SMOKE RISES UP FOREVER AND EVER.”

There is no relief from the tension and difficulty we feel between these two verses in this way. Though Proverbs 11:10 is descriptive, it is not merely descriptive. It tells us what the righteous will do—what in some sense the righteous must do when the wicked are judged.

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