Proverbs 11:23 ESV
The desire of the righteous ends only in good, the expectation of the wicked in wrath.
At first blush this verse seems to teach ideas many would rightly consider heresy, ideas like “anything a Christian wants is good” and “God gives Christian what they want all the time, every time”. This misinterpretation lies in a misunderstanding of the word ‘desire’.
This word for desire shows up only a few times in the Bible, most prominently in Psalms 10, as well as a singular appearance in Isaiah 26:8. In both cases, ‘desire’ refers not to a passing passion or a carnal lust but to an abiding want, to a motive or supplication essential to the person’s character and life. Psalms 10:3 uses it for the wicked, who boasts of the ‘desires of his soul’, in parallel to verses speaking of his hatred of God and his seemingly successful scheme. Psalms 10:17 says, “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted….” Here the psalmist speaks not of the temporary wants or lusts of men but of the deep and abiding desire the afflicted have for deliverance. Similarly, Isaiah says in 26:8, “Your [God’s] name and remembrance are the desire of our (the righteous’s) soul,” using the same word as Proverbs 11:23 for ‘desire’ when he speaks of the longing God’s people have for their God.
This verse, Proverbs 11:23, therefore speaks not of the whims of the righteous, which will never be perfect on this earth, but of the desires he instills in them to pursue- to, as Micah says, “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you God.”
In contrast, the wicked end only in wrath. Their desire is for evil things and for rebellion against God, and hell is their rightful end. How great is the mercy of God that he does not purpose this end for all men, but instead sent His Son that He might lead some towards just desires and a heavenly home.
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