Proverbs 13:12 ESV
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
God created man to desire. Primarily, He created man to desire Him, to love and adore Him; as a consequence of that love, though, He also ordained that we should love each other, should love the world He has given us, should treat it according to His law from the depths of our hearts (Conover). It should therefore be no surprise to us when the Proverbs reminds us of the joy of desire fulfilled.
The delight this proverb promises is only for the fulfillment of a righteous desire. Why? Can’t we enjoy something immoral? Sure, we oughtn’t, but don’t we? The answer, of course, is yes, we do enjoy sin. The promise of this proverb, however, is that ‘desire fulfilled is a tree of life’. The ‘tree of life’ calls back to Genesis, to the eternal life of the second tree, the tree which God prevented Adam from partaking of for his sake. Sinful desires are not the path God gives to an eternal reward.
Revelation 2:7 provides further context to this verse. In that verse, John writes to the church in Ephesus, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). This should guide us to understand what the ultimate desire Proverbs 13:12 speaks of is: the desire for God, to honor Him and glorify Him in truth and in love.
This should not surprise us. Is this desire not the greatest desire possible (Matthew 22:36-40)? Should not the greatest desire culminate in the greatest delight? That eternal life should be the ending of the eternal love which God grants to His people is only meet. This delight is, in reality, the unification of the two purposes of man, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (as per the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 1).
Having offered all this good news, my next words will doubtless seem a cruel change, but they are true nevertheless: no man will ever of his own heart desire God in this way. After all, Paul tells us in Romans 3 that there are none who seek God (9-11). What then is the point of this proverb, if it cannot be fulfilled? Why offer a hope that can only be deferred?
This is the glory of the Gospel, that while man was still fallen, Christ died for him, died for every one of His chosen people. Furthermore, He not only died for us but rose again, gave us atonement, a perfect record in the eye of the Judge, and in His resurrection He gave new life, not only sinlessness but superlative virtue in the sight of God. Yet further, as Romans 8:30 promises, this vindication He gave us is the prelude to glorification, that man may after his physical death be made wholly new, a process begun with his spiritual death (Romans 6:5). This gift is not a gift which man chooses; this is a gift of God, which no man He offers it to can refuse. God does not let those whom He would save cast themselves headlong into the Pit (Romans 3:16-25, 8:30, 8:37-39).
Let the sinner heed and repent, for His judgement is great. The man who spurns Him, who does not love Him as he ought, that man turns himself stubbornly towards eternal death, for he denies the hope of the Gospel.
Let us praise Him for His mighty mercy, that He has saved us from sin and the power of the flesh to live new lives to Him, lives whose crowning moment shall be the words, “Good and faithful servant,” when at last the greatest desire is fulfilled, the desire for God.
Conover, Zachary. “Sermon: Like A Good Neighbor, Wisdom Is There.” Apologia Studios, Youtube.com, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2uCdPSIsgo>. Accessed 22 September 2022.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.