When righteous men do rejoice, there is great glory: but when the wicked rise, a man is hidden.
Here is a proverb for students of political science. Why are good men sometimes called the “silent majority”? What causes certain elements of society to be joyful and outspoken at times and to almost disappear at other times? The key is the ruling government! If an upright government is in power, good men rejoice with great glory for the blessing of a free and noble state. But when the wicked are in power, righteous men hide themselves.
Remember, the book of Proverbs was partially a training manual for Solomon’s son, who was to be the next king of Israel. Therefore, there are several proverbs dealing with Solomon’s observations about civil government and public policy. A wise ruler will cause the righteous people in his realm to rejoice with great glory, but a wicked ruler will cause these same citizens to withdraw and hide themselves from the threat of danger.
As with many of Solomon’s proverbs, two clauses are contrasted here. By comparing and contrasting the two clauses, you can fill out the sense of each. Proverbs are not express declarations of wisdom, but rather dark sayings requiring interpretation (Pr 1:6; John 16:29). It is the obscure meaning that makes them challenging, intriguing, and powerful!
The key to the proverb is “when the wicked rise,” in the second clause, which describes the political gains and popularity of ungodly rulers (Pr 11:10; 28:28; 29:2). During such perilous times, “a man is hidden.” What kind of a man is hidden? The righteous men of the first clause, who had been rejoicing with great glory under a benevolent government. How do they hide? They move away or withdraw from public view for protection.
When a nation has a godly ruler and defends and promotes righteousness, it is a great glory to that nation (Pr 14:34; Ps 33:12; 144:15). Consider King Ahasuerus decreeing protection and revenge for the Jews in the Persian Empire (Esther 8:17). And no nation has had so much joy and glory as Israel under David and Solomon (I Kings 4:20; I Chron 12:38-40; II Chr 7:8-11), Hezekiah (II Chr 30:21-23), and Nehemiah (Neh 8:1-18). And after Saul of Tarsus was converted, Christians had great rest and prosperity (Acts 9:31).
But when a government promotes wicked men, the opposite is true – the nation is doomed (Ps 9:17). When Ahasuerus promoted Haman and signed his plan for genocide, the “city Shushan was perplexed” (Esther 3:15). Godly men make the prudent choice to move or withdraw from public view to avoid the rage of the wicked against righteousness and truth (Ps 9:17; Judges 6:11; I Kgs 18:3-4; Mat 2:13-15). Though they are forced to hide themselves, the Lord says the world is not worthy of their presence (Heb 11:38).
The Roman Empire, and then the Roman Catholic Church, combined to persecute the churches and saints of Jesus Christ. Millions were tortured and killed by this beastly kingdom that was, that was not, and yet was. (Rome was, Rome was destroyed, and Rome revived as the RCC.) God’s saints found safety by hiding in wilderness places in Asia, North Africa, Italy, France, Bohemia, and Wales (Dan 7:15-28; Rev 12:13-17; 13:1-18; 17:1-18). Consider how even Paul hid his warning about the Caesars and popes under veiled language about the man of sin and the restraining power (II Thess 2:1-12).
Because you cannot see very many righteous men when wicked rulers are in authority does not mean there are not any. They have chosen to hide from, rather than expose themselves to, the risk of persecution and the prevailing political winds. Elijah once thought he was the only righteous man left in Israel under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel, but God assured him that He still had 7000 righteous men there (I Kgs 19:18; Rom 11:4).
The world is pushing legislation and popular opinion against Bible Christianity. Laws are being drafted to classify Bible preaching as a hate crime. The Koran is allowed, but not the Bible or Christian prayer. Christians are hiding by schooling their children at home or in Christian schools, avoiding public discussion of Bible morality and righteousness, seeking to move to the country, isolating themselves from community interaction, and/or not running for public offices. The political trends are costing the nation its best citizens.
The only place God’s people can truly rejoice is in Mount Sion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22-24). There saints can put their trust in David their king, Who is the blessed and only Potentate, and Who will save them from all their enemies with an everlasting salvation (Jer 30:9; Hos 3:5). You can participate now in that kingdom in one of His churches (Heb 10:23-25; 12:28-29). Rejoice with great glory!