Msgr. Charles Pope: A Proverb About the Glory and Safety of God’s Word

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By Msgr. Charles Pope • September 27, 2018

There is always much to ponder in the Book of Proverbs, from which we have been reading at daily Mass this week (25th Week of the Year). Consider the following proverb, which speaks to the glory of the Word of God and of our need to preserve its purity.

Every word of God is tested; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you, and you will be exposed as a deceiver (Proverbs 30:5-6).

From this we can discern four aspects of the Word of God.

Pure  The text says, Every word of God is tested. The Hebrew word used here is צָרַף (tsaraph), which means to smelt, refine, purge, or test.

There are many today who are dismissive of the Word of God as something ancient, irrelevant to modern times, and unenlightened. However, it is precisely its ancient quality that speaks to its enduring truth. It has been tested by time and found to be a true and wonderful guide. Were it foolish or useless it would have been discarded long ago.

The Word of God remains, while empires have come and gone, nations have risen and fallen, trends have arisen and then become passé. Yet here, still reading this text, still judging things by it, still finding it wise, still marveling in its enduring purity. It has been refined by God in the crucible of time. It alone has endured as pure. All else has been burned away, refined, smelted, and purged. Yes, the Word of God alone remains.

Protective – The text says, he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Yes, through His Word, God shields us from the errors and foolishness of our times. By the Word of God, we can test all things, all ideas, and see if they conform to God’s ways or not. This protects us not only from errors of our time, but from the sinful wounds and addictions that proceed from them.

There are many who propose ever-stranger ways to freedom and dignity. By God’s Word in the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church, we can see that these paths are dead ends. We are protected from going down many rabbit holes and from adopting misguided notions that seem wise to the world but are disclosed as foolishness by God.

God’s Word and His Law are like the defending walls of a city. Within, we are protected from worldly and devilish errors and from wolves masquerading as sheep.

Plenary  The text says, Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you. There are many who believe that they can improve on God’s revelation. Some think that perhaps God forgot to reveal something or to make necessary distinctions. They believe that perhaps He was too harsh at some points or too lenient at others. Some seek to subtract from God’s word or to explain it in such a way that its plain meaning as set forth by the text and the Magisterium is obscured.

The text says that God will reprove those who do this. It is never a good thing to be accused by God of distorting His Word. The Lord seldom expressed more anger than when He referred to those who might mislead His disciples. He warned that they would be better off being cast into the sea with a millstone around their neck (e.g., Mark 9:42). Be careful, do not distort God’s Word. He will avenge such things!

Proving  The text says, and you will be exposed as a deceiver. The Hebrew text is more blunt, using the word “liar” כָּזַב (Kazab). If the Word of God is true, then those who deform it are liars, plain and simple.

The word deceiver is important as well. To deceive literally means “to carry off.” Thus, deceivers are like wolves who stalk their prey and carry them off hanging limply from their mouth. Jesus warned of such wolves (see John 7:15) as did St. Paul (see Acts 20:29). Scoffers, deceivers, and adulterators of the Word of God might gain audiences for a time, but soon they will answer to God. Do not admire them; do not be like them. Humbly accept the Word of God as faithfully preached and delivered by the saints and codified in the magisterial teachings of the Church.

Stay safe in the protection of God’s pure Word!