“[F]or the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.” Proverbs 24:16 [ESV]
I’ve been coming back to this verse a lot in the past couple of weeks. It’s helped me a lot in thinking about grace, sanctification, and the life of following Jesus. To fallen people living in a fallen world, this verse offers the balm of God’s grace by extols perseverance over perfection. There is no apparent inconsistency between being righteous and stumbling (see James 3:2). What distinguishes the righteous from the wicked is not perfection but rather perseverance. Righteousness is the refusal to stay down.
Further, if we – rightly I believe – understand “righteousness” to be a position granted by God’s grace rather than a status achieved by human effort, then this verse is one of the Bible’s great affirmations of God’s grace for fallen human beings. Righteousness is a status that human beings receive, not one that they achieve. Falling down does not negate one’s status before God.
As we receive our status as righteous, so also we receive the strength, the ability to get back up again. Further still, it is not just the ability to get back up that we receive from God, it is the desire to get back up that we also receive from God.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13 [ESV]
The getting back up again that marks out the righteous from the wicked is the wedding of the desire with the ability to get back up. This righteous perseverance is God’s gift of grace from start to finish.
© 2019 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.