In the presence of God

 

[Proverbs 25:1-7]

 

One of the important life mottos that dominated the life of Calvin, the Reformer in Geneva, Switzerland, was the word “Coram Deo”.  Coram Deo is a Latin word for ‘Coram’ or ‘before’ and ‘Deo’ or ‘God’.  In English, it means 'in front of God, before the face of God'.  This means that we don’t see well 'before men (coram hominibus)' and live honorably and well 'before the world (coram mundo)', but rather to live only 'before God (Coram Deo)' seeking the good and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2).  This is a summary of the way the Reformers lived under God's authority, in God, in God's name, and glorifying God in the 16th century, when corruption was at its peak.  This word was the basis of the five slogans that we put forward by Martin Luther and other reformers: Sola Scriptura (only by word) Sola Fide (only by faith) Sola Gratia (only by grace) Solus Christus (only Christ) Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God) (Internet).  ‘For us living today, the true 'Coram Deo life of faith' is keeping the same faith  of 'God-centered' - from God's point of view, fearing God who is always in front of me, trusting in God who is always with me, and keeping the same faith not only in front of the Lord but also in front of people (Internet).

 

In Proverbs 25:5, 6, King Solomon repeats the word “the king’s presence” twice.  In the meantime, he is teaching the Israelites what to do before the king.  When I think about how to apply the word of this instruction to us, I have come to think that we should apply and put into practice the instruction we received “in front of God,” the King of kingsThe reason why it is reasonable to think this way is that King Solomon is comparing God and the kings in verse 2: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”  What does it mean?  First of all, King Solomon said, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter.”  What does it mean?  It means God, who has a knowledge that is superior to the knowledge of all, the knowledge that we humans cannot fathom (Ps. 92:5; Eccle. 3:11), whose wonders that we cannot fathom (Job 5:9; Ps. 145:3), and who doesn’t need to be counseled by anyone (MacArthur).  For example, look at Job 5:9 – “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.”  Can we fully understand the will of God why God allowed Job to suffer all those things?  Can we fully understand God's heart?  So the apostle Paul said in Romans 11:33-34: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”  This reminds me the hymn “Gathered here, within this place” verse 2: “We will live as God has planned, Though at times we may not understand.  Many things we may not see, But our faith will help us believe.”

 

Who can know (find) the heart of God?  No one can measure God's judgment.  No one can measure the vastness of God, whose understanding is limitless (Ps. 145:3; Isa. 40:28).  Therefore, God hides work.  In other words, God has things to Himself.  That is God's glory (Prov. 25:2).  But what about the king?  Why did King Solomon say in the second half of Proverbs 25:2, “…  to search out a matter is the glory of kings”?  The reason is because the king isn’t God but a man, and as a king established by God, in order to properly rule a nation (Israel, God's people), we must search to know what we need to know (MacArthur).  An example is King David and his son Solomon.  In 1 Chronicles 22:12, King David says to his son Solomon: “May the LORD give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God.”  Why did the father King David pray that God would give his son Solomon discretion and understanding that is wisdom?  This is because he wanted Solomon to succeed him and rule over the nation of Israel.  So, after Solomon succeeded his father David as king, at night God appeared to King Solomon and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (2 Chron. 1:7).  What was the reason?  Why did King Solomon ask God for “wisdom and knowledge” instead of wealth, wealth, riches or honor, for the death of his enemies or long life (v. 11)?  The reason was because King Solomon wanted to lead the Israelites, God's people, whom God had entrusted to him to rule (v. 11).  In the end, the Lord was please that Solomon had asked for wisdom and knowledge (1 Kgs. 3:10), and God gave him wisdom and discerning heart (v. 12).  And King Solomon carefully judged the judgment of the two women with the wisdom God gave him, and the Israelites feared him when they saw that God's wisdom was with King Solomon (v. 28).  In this way, King Solomon asked God for wisdom in order to judge God's people well and rule well.  In this way, searching out the matter is the glory of kings (Prov. 25:2).  King Solomon says, “As the heavens are high and the earth is deep, so the hearts of kings are unsearchable” (v.3).  What does it mean?  Just as God, the King of kings, doesn’t reveal (show) all his knowledge to the king, but hides some, the king hides some knowledge from his people to be unsearchable (Walvoord).

 

What, then, is King Solomon telling us to do before such a king?  I want to learn two lessons.  I hope and pray that we will receive these two lessons humbly and will be worthy of God's sight before God, the King of kings.

 

First, we must remove evil before God.

 

Look at Proverbs 25:4-5: “Remove the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith; remove the wicked from the king's presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness.”  Do you roughly know how to get rid of the dross from silver?  We can remove the dross, which are impurities, by putting silver in the furnace and applying high heat.  However, it is said that impurities aren’t easily removed.  Therefore, in order to obtain pure silver, it must be smelted several times with high heat.  However, it is said that blacksmiths don’t hesitate to do this in order to obtain the pure silver they want (Internet).  The Bible Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.”  What does it mean?  Just as a blacksmith smelts silver with high heat many times to obtain pure silver, God lets us pass through the “furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10) to refine our hearts.  In other words, God allows us to go through trials and hardships that are the furnace of affliction in order to remove these things from us when there are impurities that remain in the flesh and earth like the dross (Internet).  A good example is Job from the Old Testament Book of Job.  Look at Job 23:10 – “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”  So why does God let us go through the furnace of affliction to remove the dross from the silver?  Look at Proverbs 25:4b – “…  out comes material for the silversmith.”  What does it mean?  It means that the silver is subtracting the dross to make it a usable vessel.  In this way, God wants us to pass through the furnace of affliction so that we may eventually come out like pure gold.  What is the purpose?  Why is God making us like pure gold?  Look at 2 Timothy 2:21 – “If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”  The reason is because the Lord cleanses us and prepares us worthy of His use so that we may become vessels that the Lord uses preciously.

 

In Proverbs 25:5, King Solomon commanded, “remove the wicked from the king's presence ….”  What’s the purpose?  The purpose is to establish his throne through righteousness” (v. 5).  Think about it.  What if the evil ones among the king's servants were infested with?  Can his throne stand firm?  When I watch Korean historical dramas, I often see that the servants are divided into two under a king who seems weak and powerless.  In order words, some of them are faithful servants, but there are evil servants who act cunningly to maximize power and control even to restrain the king from governing the country right away.  It is said that Confucius has divided the types of disloyal subjects into five categories (Internet): ‘The insidious person who has the opposite mind, the person who is professed with a strong deceptiveness in words, the person whose behavior is one-sided and stubborn, the person who is fool in his will and only has a lot of knowledge, and the person who commits corruption and enjoys only benefits.’  What would happen to the dynasty if these different types of the disloyal people were infested?  The king’s power will be cajoled by the old and cunning group of the disloyal people, and corruption will eventually prevail.  That’s why King Solomon says “remove the wicked from the king’s presence” (v. 5).  And Proverbs 16:12 says, “Kings detest wrongdoing, ….”  In other words, a wise king hates evil because he fears God (8:13).  Therefore, he listens to and obeys God's word without departing from His word in order to guard against his own doing evil.  Not only that, but he doesn't just watch his servants do evil.  He removes the evil servants.  In particular, he removes the wicked and sneaky among his servants.  The reason is because he knows that if he doesn’t remove those wicked men, they will be harm to him.  And because what is harmful to the king will harm the country, the wise king will firmly root out the wicked ones.  Thus, he makes his throne stand firm through justice (16:12).   Not only that, the wise king puts his loyal servants next to him to keep his throne strong.  And he takes their advice very well.  Look at Proverbs 16:13 – “Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth.”  Here, “a man who speaks the truth” or “honest lips” refers to the loyalty.  And the loyal servants speak honestly to the king.  This means that the wise king puts these loyalists next to him.  And he takes their advice.  The reason is because the lips of these faithful are “honest lips,” and they speak the truth (v. 13).

 

When I thought about how this lesson could be applied to us, I thought, ‘We must get rid of evil before God.’  What evil must we remove before God?  One of the evils that we must remove before God is idols.  As if in the time of Samuel the Israelites removed their Baals and Ashtaroth and served the Lord only (1 Sam 7:4), we must remove all things we love more than God, whether riches or other things, and serve only God.  Also, the evil we must remove before God is the “heart of stone”.  In Ezekiel 36:26, God promised, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ref.: Eze 11:19).  We must hold on to the word of this promise, pray, and guard against hardening our hearts.  In order to do that, we must diligently cultivate our hearts (36:34).  We must break our harden hearts with the word of God that is like a hammer and change them into soft hearts.  Effort is not easy.  Just as we have to water, cut, and pay attention to our lawn, we must strive to wrestle with the word of God in order to break our heart.  We must do all this in prayer (32:37).  In prayer, we must be ashamed of the sins of our hearts, rely on the blood of Jesus, and keep tender hearts by diligently breaking our hearts like a desolate land.  Not only that, we must remove our all our sins before God (Hos. 14:2).  With our Lord there is no injustice (2 Chron. 19:7).  Therefore, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord must turn away from injustice (2 Tim. 2:19).

 

            Second and last, we must not exalt ourselves in the presence of God.

 

Look at Proverbs 25:6 – “Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among great men.”  Have you ever seen someone exalting himself in front of you?  If so, how would you feel when he does so?  When I read an Internet article, it says: ‘I’m very tired when I’m next to someone who exalts himself.  Listening to the endless self-praise brings fatigue and sometimes annoyance.  ‘Please stop.  The desire to tell him to go back to his own island, where he is proud of himself, comes up over my throat’ (Internet).  Why do we exalt ourselves in front of other people?  Maybe it’s because even though he seems to have a lot of confidence when he exalts himself before people, in reality, he is more timid than anyone, and has no confidence, and has inferiority complex.  And maybe it is because he is uneasy and wants to get confirmation and recognition through the mouth of others (Internet).  And maybe the reason he exalts himself is because he has lived under pressure without being recognized by people that much (Internet).  So why do we exalt ourselves before others?  If we look at Proverbs 12:9, this is what the Bible says: “Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food.”  Here, the word “Better to be a nobody” refers to the attitude of a life that is not conscious of others' attention, puts oneself in a humble position and never tries to exalt oneself (1 Sam. 18:23, Delitzsch).  To say that he who is regarded as such a low spirit manages a servant means that he has the position and capacity to manage a servant who serves him (Delitzsch).  This means that although this person exalts himself, he is better than those who are in need of food, that is, those who are in absolute poverty.  Here, exalting himself refers to a person who asserts himself with a proud heart (Fleisher).  By looking at these words, we can see the reason why we exalt ourselves in front of others.  The reason is the pride of wanting to put oneself in front of others.  Wouldn't it be a little funny to want to show other people something as if you own something while you are in absolute poverty without having anything?  Although there is not much content, it isn’t only impractical to decorate the appearance too much as if there is a lot of something for people to see, and it isn’t edifying to them.  This is what Proverbs 30:32 says: “If you have played the fool and exalted yourself, or if you have planned evil, clap your hand over your mouth!”  The Bible clearly says that those who exalt themselves are fools.  Why are they fools?  Look at Psalms 14:1a – “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”  The reason why exalt themselves is fool is because they think that there is no God in their hearts.  As a result, they don’t humble themselves before God, but prefer to exalt themselves before people.  Look at Psalms 10:4 – “In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”  After all, it is said that those who exalt themselves before others aren’t only fools, but also proud.

 

In Proverbs 25:6, King Solomon says, “Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among great men.”  As I meditated on this word, I remembered two things that I experienced when I was learning ministry in Korea.  One was when I followed the senior pastor and assistant pastors to visit a couple to the house.  When the senior pastor sat on the sofa, I saw the top assistant pastor sitting next to him and then other assistant pastors in order.  Fortunately, I sat on the kitchen table chair at that time.  Another thing was while taking pictures of the church pastoral staffs at the main entrance of the church, the senior pastor suddenly told the educational pastor intern who was standing next to him to go over there.  Probably, when we were taking pictures, I thought we were standing according to rank.  Why is King Solomon saying in Proverbs 25:6, “Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among great men”?  Look at verse 7: “it is better for him to say to you, "Come up here," than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman. What you have seen with your eyes.”  Can you imagine?  How much would it be if we were sitting high beside high politicians, and one of those politicians told us, 'This is not your seat, go down there and sit down over there'.  Wouldn’t you be embarrassed?  Rather, it is better to sit down in a lower place by humbling ourselves in front of those politicians, and one of those politicians comes down to us and says, ‘Come up here and sit down over here.’  A similar lesson in the New Testament is found in Luke 14:8-10: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.  If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.  But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.”  What do you think?

 

Among the Korean gospel songs, there is a song “Stand In Awe” and I read the lyrics: ‘I stand before the Lord my God, I worship you, my holy Lord.  When I kneel before the Lord and seek His face, the Lord who came before me touches me.  When I kneel before You and ask for mercy, the Lord who came before me renews me.  Your unchanging love, You wash away all my pain and tears.  Your hand has held me, and now I rise and worship you’ (Internet).  On the day of the Lord's return, He will completely remove all our sins, put on us the glorious spiritual body, and lead us to the eternal kingdom of heaven.  At that time, we will humbly fall down in front of the throne of the Lord's kingdom and praise God's salvation and victory.

 

“At the throne of our God we gather And join to praise His holy name Because

of His great love, God gave His only son Jesus Christ has redeemed us from our

sins.  On the cross, God poured out His love so freely A stream that flows

forevermore to every tribe and tongue All nations join the song Endless praise

to salvation’s one true Lord To the Lord of all, who’s seated on the throne

And to the Lamb of God This saving grace belongs To the Lord of all, who’s

 seated on the throne And to the Lamb of God We cry aloud forevermore”