Under my third heading I want to consider the teaching and lessons we may gain from the verses (you can also listen to or download my message on Bin Laden from our church’s web site). I think it will be best to do this in reverse order. We will consider, first, Proverbs 24:17 and then, Proverbs 11:10.
What practical conclusions should we draw from Proverbs 24:17?
Proverbs 24:17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles
(1) Proverbs 24:17 warns us never to be guilty of rejoicing out of a vengeful, vindictive, and bitter spirit toward our enemies.
I am convinced that there is a lot of imbalanced thinking with regard to the issue of forgiveness in our day. On the basis of some of this imbalanced thinking we should even have had to feel obligated to forgive Osama Bin Laden while he was in the very process of planning further assaults on our country. I believe the Bible requires no such thing and that repentance is the necessary condition of forgiveness both in our relation with God and with other human beings.
This does not mean, however, that we are ever allowed to entertain bitter and vengeful feelings toward our enemies. Vengeance in any hands but God’s and His ministers is hard-hearted sadism. While we cannot actually forgive our enemies, we must stand ready to forgive our enemies and love them just as God loves His enemies. In this way we must be perfect as our Father in heaven.
This is what Paul so clearly commands in Romans 12:19-21.
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This is, in fact, the secret to dealing with the deep hurts the sins of others can cause us in this life and with the indignation those hurts provoke in us. My brother or sister, leave room for the wrath of God. Here is what you do with your hurt and anger. Take it in your spiritual hands and place it in the hands of God. Every in justice will receive from Him a just recompense. God will judge those sins either at the day of judgment, or He has judged those sins at the cross of Christ. Either way the vengeance taken should be more than enough to turn your feelings vengeance into feelings of pity that will enable you to love your enemy.
(2) Proverbs 24:17 warns us never to be guilty of rejoicing out of a self-righteous or self-sufficient attitude toward our enemies.
We do not rejoice and we must never rejoice out of any sense that we are better than the wicked. We are not better in wisdom, or in righteousness, or in power than those upon whose God’s judgments have fallen. This is what is properly called “gloating,” and we must never be guilty of it. Rather, we must admit that we might have been guilty—perhaps we have been guilty of the very folly, ungodliness, and weakness for which God has now judged the wicked. We cannot but rejoice that we are freed from their danger and oppression, but we must never rejoice as if we were better than they.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.