Verses 1-7 deals directly with being in the presence of a King.
Verses 8-13 could be inferred to represent courtroom proceedings
Verses16-28 is the various ups and downs of life in the marketplace
God created a perfect world- it was GOOD. Part of the goodness was real freedom- the creatures did have autonomy of choice- and real freedom provides an environment for real love. Love that has initiative and self attachment.
But for freedom to be real- the alternate choice must be real as well- we see this on a smaller scale with our first amendment- as soon as you begin to limit speech, it is no longer free. So, there is a lot of unpleasant, unhealthy speech that is protected by our 'freedom of speech'.
Man's freedom was allowed, and man's sin was not prevented. Why? I have often felt that God allowed evil to protect love and to demonstrate love. If man had never sinned, we would know God's power and authority- evil allows us to see God's mercy and justice. When we get to heaven- why will we not choose evil or rebellion? Because we will be in full view of the Lamb who was slain- how can you reject that kind of love?
But evil exists- and God has seen fit that man has developed a set-up that mirrors (in a very accommodating way) the organization of God. We have to have laws to restrain evil- punishment to correct evil- and procedures which make the everyday affairs of man manageable.
Government/Law/Criminal Justice is nothing to play with. Once you are out of the marketplace and in the presence of the Magistrate...everything becomes a little more serious. In my new role as Dean of Students- I am trying to give constructive advice and consequences to students as a precursor to real life. As serious as a suspension seems- that is nothing like standing before a judge. My prayer is that the consequences, given in love, will teach them how to choose more wisely and discern where trouble lurks. A big mistake at age 16 is one thing- those mistakes at 21 or 31 can be life destroying.
I had a chance a few months ago to ride around one evening with the Nashville Metro police- their cruisers are fast- armed to the hilt- and loaded with laptops, radar, gps, and radio communication. A person is crazy to resist that or fight that- you can't outrun a radio.
So let's take the settings in reverse and see how it gets more serious with each change:
DAILY LIFE ON THE STREETS: There are those out there without self-control (vs 28) and they are headed to trouble. There are selfish people out there (vs 27). There are weak people, who know what is right, but never stand up or speak up in fear (vs 26). In the midst of this, there is good news and good things- we long for them. God does allow His common grace to give us breaks from the grime (vs 25). There are homes full of strife- boiling- mix in alcohol or drugs and you might be calling 911 to report a domestic disturbance (vs 24). There are dishonest people and mean people who say mean things (vs 23). And again, there are God's people out there- inconsistent- sometimes part of the problem, sometimes part of the cure. They are either being wise to learn how to navigate through these streets or foolishly ignorant or participatory or co-dependent in many of these situations. I love vs 21- Believers are to serve their enemies- and let God take care of the rest. The rest of the passage is advice- good advice- be disciplined (vs 16)- don't wear out your welcome (vs 17)- don't trust those with faulty character (vs 19) and speak the truth in a world of lies (vs 18).
IN COURT: This is where it gets serious. I get sad when I see court proceedings at times- it seems it is more about winning the checkers game of loopholes and not finding the truth- but mans' systems will always be flawed in this life.
Exhibit A: Don't be hasty to go to court- avoid it if possible. Do your confrontations privately, man to man, and don't lawyer up if at all possible.
Exhibit B: If you end up in court- pray that the testimony will be just and be tough enough to take harsh attacks.
THE KING: An even higher point is the King. He is the ultimate Lord of the court and his presence is super serious. There is a 'glory' about him- a heaviness- He can do as he wills- He likely will destroy/remove all the evil he can so things will run better. Don't put yourself in front of him- let him summon you.
Now, pause a bit, and see the reality of what this pace of proverbs points to:
This is our course- we are scheduled to meet our Maker:
Hebrews 9: 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment....our only hope is Christ:
Hebrews 9:28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
And the tough part is- no one knows when their 'appointment is'... to see THE KING!