Moving the Boundaries
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
The Lord tears down the house of the proud
but maintains the widow’s boundaries.
You hear news report like this once in a while. An unscrupulous wheeler dealer cons a widow to pay big money for fictitious repairs. It makes your blood boil—and it stirs the wrath of God: “The Lord tears down the house of the proud but maintains the widow’s boundaries.” Indeed He often does so swiftly and remarkable, here and now. The law or a bad reputation catches up to the con man, and the community rallies behind the widow.
But there’s more to Solomon’s story here than an egregious act of injustice. The Bible has strong words for those who move boundaries, and not just because it amounts to theft. God apportioned the land to Israel—to the tribes (Josh. 14.1-3), then to families within the tribes (Josh. 17.1-3). If a family fell on hard times and had to sell their allotted land, the law made provision to recover it in the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25.10). For the Jewish people, property was not just an asset to be bought and sold for fun and profit. It was (and is) the sign of God’s covenant faithfulness—the return of the Jews to the land of Israel in the last generation is more evidence (Is. 11.11-14). So to move a boundary was to thumb your nose at God (Deut. 19.14)—it belonged to the “curses” of Mt. Ebal, taking its place with the likes of idolatry, incest, and bestiality (Deut 27.11-26). A person’s land was literally sacred and serious business to God—just read the story of Naboth’s vineyard (1 Ki. 21)!
So look at this proverb through a wide-angle lens. The underlying principle is that God will not excuse those who trample on the faithful. At a macro level, think of an atheistic Soviet empire sending Christians to Siberia. God tore down the “house of the proud!” At the level of everyday, think of the “war on Christmas,” assaults on religious freedom in public schools, or public policy that forces Christian charities to close rather than compromise on something so basic as marriage. As I write, I am still processing the latest—a 6th grader forbidden to pass out invitations to a Christmas party (as students were routinely allowed to do) . . . because it was at her church.
Tis the season for moving widows’ boundaries. God give us grace to hate what God hates, and love what God loves.
“Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked; do not further their evil plot, or they will be exalted!” (Ps. 140.8).
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