Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 21:18
"The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the treacherous is in the place of the upright"
Solomon brings up, in a different way, God's form of justice: Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. What the evil person plans for others will return to himself.
This is the Hebrew word rasha, which means wicked or criminal. These are the ones who are so far outside the boundaries of morality and decency that they are defined by harm to others. They try and get what they want through any and all means at their disposal. This is the life of those who live outside the boundaries of the Ten Commandments: stealing, lying, deceiving, blaspheming, perversion, murder, etc.
This is the Hebrew word kpher, which means ransom or price of a life, bribe. The idea is that one's life is worth something, and it is being exchanged for that thing. The wicked are the ones who are punished and this allows the righteous to be unpunished. If, on the other hand, the wicked are praised and rewarded rather than dealt with justly for the harm they do, then the society is beginning the implosion process. The stable and righteous society is where the wicked are ransomed so that the righteous can have a just society. Those who chose the wicked way must be dealt with or it will destabilize the society.
We live right now in a society that is trying to praise the wicked and reward the unrighteous. The selfish person is being exalted and the selfless person is being portrayed as a dupe and spineless do-gooder. This does not bode well for our society in the years ahead. We have unleashed the whirlwind and will pay for it.
Solomon is saying that the justice of God will fall on society, and it will fall on the wicked – those who live outside the boundaries of the Ten Commandments. Those who give into lying, stealing, violence, adultery, murder, greed will have justice fall on them.
This is the Hebrew word Sedaqa, which means justice or righteousness. Now it is important to realize that righteousness is not what a person refrains from doing. A person is righteous who meets the needs of others around them while they stay within the boundaries of the Ten Commandments. The person who is righteous makes a positive contribution to the society and to the people in their life. This person is not selfish but a giving person in terms of meeting real needs.
Too many times Christian people have believed that they are deserving of some higher place or significant praise for what they do not do. This is pride and arrogance. "We are better than you because we don't take drugs or smoke or commit adultery, etc." Righteous people seek to meet the real needs of the people around them. It is their positive love that marks them as righteous, not what they do not do. If you want to have the power of this verse start working in your life, then you must make the positive contribution of a loving person.
This is the Hebrew word bagad, which means to act or deal treacherously, deceitfully. The idea here is that the person who deceives or betrays the person who is righteous will become deceived and betrayed themselves. The thing that they planned and/or executed for the righteous person will come back on them. God has a divine symmetry: "Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap." You will not get away with it. As Haman was hung on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai, so will the treacherous receive the penalty that they planned for the righteous.
Solomon is saying that the wicked and the treacherous want to exploit, abuse, and oppress the righteous; but they did not factor in the justice of God who knows what they are up to. God will act to destroy the wicked – internally or externally. Those who stay on the righteous side of the moral equation will, in a sense, be ransomed by the punishment meted out by God on the wicked. Yes, it looks at times like the wicked and treacherous are getting ahead; but they are being set into a group that will bear the penalty of their deeds.
This is the Hebrew word tachath, which means underneath, instead of, below.
This word helps give a much better sense of the idea of this proverb than the word place. The idea is that the treacherous will be substituted for the upright or instead of the upright. Treacherous people will receive their just-desserts either in this life or in the one to come.
This is the word yashar, which means right, upright, righteous, straight. It has a meaning similar to righteous above. The person who is upright is the one who does the right thing; the one who acts in ways that please God and man.
The wicked are wicked because they seek to exploit the righteous and other wicked people for their own gain. They do not think win-win-win. They think: “I win and everybody else loses or fends for themselves as best they can after I get what I want.” It is this use and abuse of the righteous that will be reversed over time. The plans and difficulties that they have planned for others will be their own. The wicked will be allowed a certain level of progress with their plan, but then what they planned for others happens to them. A supreme example would be Hitler and the Nazi rule of Germany. They came to power in 1933 and were able to impose their evil will on others for a time. They killed, gassed, burned, shot, destroyed, and imprisoned many. Then a short twelve years into their 1,000 year reign, the very same things happened to them. They were killed, burned, imprisoned, and destroyed. They were ransomed for the righteous. In the midst of your darkest nights and most difficult times, remember that there is a divine symmetry. You want to be righteous. An English proverb says that what goes around, comes around.