Proverbs 24:17

Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:

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Here is a hard test of character. Here is strong evidence if you are a child of God. Here is a real measure of godliness and wisdom. Here is a challenge for your faith, whether you want one or not. Think now. Are you happy when bad things happen to your enemies?

God commands you to love your personal enemies, and it is one of the chief measures of a true Christian. Such love includes being grieved when your enemy falls or stumbles in life. If you are glad or rejoice when he is hit by adversity, you have sinned. In this proverb, the Lord God offers a simple rule for spiritual victory in your life. Read on.

The proverb is not complete by itself, for the next verse explains the consequences of rejoicing at his troubles, “Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him” (Pr 24:18). God may switch from your side to your enemy’s side, if He detects you gloating about pain or trouble in your enemy’s life. Beware!

If you are happy when bad things happen to your enemy, the Lord will see your selfish and vengeful glee; He will be angry at your wicked attitude; and He may lift His punishment of your enemy (Pr 24:18). You will have stooped lower than your enemy, all the way to murderous thoughts of the heart. A holy and righteous God cannot stand by.

Revenge is sin; vengeance is God’s (Rom 12:17-21). But the proverb is not that simple. The Preacher will not let you escape just because you have not actively sought to injure an enemy. The wisdom of God is broader than that (Ps 119:96). Solomon is after your secret malignant thoughts that enjoy seeing your enemies in pain or trouble (Pr 24:9).

Do you rejoice – in your thoughts – when your enemy falls? Are you glad – in your secret heart – when your enemy stumbles? Do you feel a sense of vindication and pleasure at hearing of his or her misfortune? These are the sins Solomon condemned. Ah, dear reader, the glorious light of God’s word shines deep – all the way to your inner feelings.

How do enemies fall and stumble? They can fall and stumble into sin, which gives you no right to joy, because love “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (I Cor 13:6). If you care about someone, even in the least degree, you would not be glad to hear of their involvement in sin, for you should have the desire for all men to live righteously.

Enemies can fall and stumble into earthly troubles. They may lose a job, get a divorce, have problems with their children, contract a disease, have an automobile accident, lose their dog, or catch a cold. Wicked men secretly smile in their malicious hearts, for there are few things sweeter to the depraved soul of man than to see his enemy having troubles.

There is a right way to exact holy revenge or retribution on your enemy. Are you ready for the secret of inspired wisdom? Treat your enemy with love and kindness, even in your thoughts, and let the Lord deal with him (Pr 25:20-21; 20:22). You prove a righteous heart; the Lord is pleased by your actions; and your enemy will face your angry Father.

You must rightly divide the word of truth (II Tim 2:15). You must not effeminately apply this proverb to God’s enemies. The enemy here is a personal enemy that has offended you or sought your harm. Notice carefully that it is thine enemy. These are those people that have offended or hurt you in the past or have an evil agenda for you in the present.

Saints do not love God’s enemies; they know by divine order and example to hate His enemies (Pr 11:10; 29:27; Ex 15:1-21; II Chr 19:2; Job 22:19; Ps 15:4; 31:6; 58:10; 139:19-22; Rev 6:9-11; 18:20; 19:1-6). Loving God’s enemies is sin, and God will judge you for favors or friendliness to those He hates (II Chron 19:2; Jas 4:4; Rev 2:6,15).

Men naturally hate their enemies. You instinctively resent anyone who wrongs, slights, or bests you; revenge is your desire. The Pharisees twisted God’s law in an attempt to justify this kind of hatred. But the Lord Jesus corrected their heresy by requiring kindness toward personal enemies, in order to identify the true children of God (Matt 5:43-48).

The Pharisees also perverted the “eye for an eye” provision of God’s law to apply to personal offences. Though God wrote it for civil government only, they used it to justify revenge against personal enemies. Jesus again corrected them by teaching the wisdom of simply turning the other cheek if an enemy hits you (Matt 5:38-42). Let God be true!

Job, a perfect man, who rejected evil, whom God boasted of to Satan, was very discreet regarding his enemies. He said he was worthy of God’s judgment, “If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him: neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul” (Job 31:29-30). What a man!

David, a man after God’s own heart, wrote of his enemies, “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother” (Ps 35:13-14; II Sam 1:11-12,17). Yet they showed great evil by rejoicing at his adversity (Ps 35:15-16).

Even the best of saints have enemies, for your family, neighbors, colleagues, and church members are all sinners, and this world is no friend to the righteous. Consider your life. Who are your enemies? Your spouse might even be your enemy in this sense sometimes.

Does someone at work provoke you? Is there a church member who seems to hate you? Does a family member ignore and slight you? Is there a schoolmate who teases you? Has a neighbor encroached on your property line? Does an employee show disrespect to you? Has a former friend slandered you without cause? Search carefully. Identify them all.

How will you respond? Though they hate you without a cause, you should love them anyway. They may slander and backbite, but you should bless and praise them. They may ignore and slight you, but you should greet and commend them. They may hurt you, but you should do them good. If they do evil against you, overcome their evil with good (Pr 25:21-22; Ex 23:4-5; Matt 5:43-48; Rom 12:14,17-21; I Thess 5:15; I Pet 3:9).

If you want spiritual victory today, to please your Father and be perfect like Him, pray for your enemies. Praying for them will keep you from violating this holy proverb. If you do it sincerely, you will be blessed with peace and joy, and the Spirit will be freed in your life to give strength and fruit through your new man. You grieve and quench Him by your hateful or hard thoughts toward personal enemies (Eph 4:30; I Thess 5:19; Jas 3:14-17).

Dear elect reader, what if your Father had not loved you through Jesus Christ, even while you were His enemy (Rom 5:6-10)? What if He had restrained His love only to those that loved Him? You would be lost. Can you follow His example? He will bless you for it.

Jesus Christ showed kindness to His personal enemies and had human compassion on them regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and its children (Luke 19:41-44). He also displayed a merciful spirit by praying for His Father to forgive the soldiers gambling for his garments at the foot of the cross (Luke 23:34). What a holy example to follow!

The noble deacon Stephen, with stones thudding off his body, and the Lord Jesus in His sight, prayed for God to forgive the Jews for stoning him to death (Acts 7:55-60). Here was a deacon full of the Holy Ghost and living like it under the most severe test possible. These are your holy examples: think, pray, speak, and act like them today.