A Righteous Man Falls
1. In this proverb, Solomon speaks to a sad issue that has been with us since the Garden of Eden and will be until the Lord returns.
2. This proverb is about a testimony that is ruined and its effect on others.
3. Unfortunately, we all know exactly what he is talking about.
4. This proverb has many applications, but for one, it ought to make us scared to death of becoming yet another sad statistic of the fallen.
5. Fear can be good for us.
1. First of all we should note that it happens: righteous men DO fall.
a. The Bible is full of sad stories of godly men who fell into sin and ruined their testimonies.
b. And it happens in the church age just as much—and in the tail end of the church age, we should only expect it to increase.
a. It all started with godly Adam falling into sin.
b. Noah—got drunk.
c. Abraham—went in unto his handmaiden; lied.
d. Moses—righteous anger got out of control and he broke the tablets containing the Ten Commandments.
e. David’s sin with Bathsheba—his counting of the army.
f. Jehoshaphat compromised with Ahab and helped the ungodly.
g. The apostles—Peter denied the Lord three times; they fought to see who would be the greatest among them; they fled like cowards when Christ was taken.
3. The Bible is painfully open and honest concerning the lives of its heroes.
a. It does not candy-coat the life story of any of them.
b. The Bible gives us the record of these men—the good and the bad… the heroic moments and their moments of cowardice… the victories and their failures.
c. Hebrews chapter eleven gives us a list of the heroes of the faith. We could also write another chapter outlining the failures of those same men.
d. The point is that righteous men DO fail. They are human; they have sin natures; and at times sin gets the best of them.
e. And we are made of the same stuff. We are no different.
f. That means that at any given moment you or I could fail and fall also.
1. Consider the Hebrew word translated “fall”
a. Defined: To totter; shake; slip; to stagger; to waver; wobble; to be moved, be overthrown; to dislodge.
b. This term is a bit different from the term to stumble or trip. It seems to imply more of an unsteady, wobbly, staggering along.
c. I Chron. 16:30 – “…The world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.” Here the term is translated “moved” and is seen here as the opposite of being “stable.”
2. “Falling down before the wicked” – This could be understood in two ways:
a. It could refer to the TESTIMONY of a righteous man who falls into sin before the eyes of the on looking wicked men in the world.
• The word “before” might cause us to lean towards this view.
• “Before” means “face” or “in the face of” or “before the eyes of.”
• This would lead us to believe that Solomon is speaking about the testimony of the righteous man before the eyes of the world.
b. It could refer to faltering or wavering by COMPROMISING before the wicked and their ungodly ways.
• The word translated “fall” might lead us to believe that Solomon had in mind a “giving in to” or “wavering” by compromising with the wicked… since it is not the word for stumble or fall.
c. Both views make powerful statements of important truths.
• The question is, what did Solomon mean when he wrote this?
• Or, did he intentionally leave it vague enough to be understood in both ways, as is the case in many proverbs?
• We might not be able to settle this with certainty until glory. Thus, let’s consider both possibilities.
1. A troubled fountain; a corrupt spring.
a. In the dry regions of the Middle East, a fountain, well, or spring was particularly prized.
b. This was so especially to travelers. Traveling under the sun in an arid desert caused a man to long for a cool drink.
c. They would often know where the next fountain, well, or spring was.
d. It was greatly anticipated and longed for.
e. However, sometimes, for various reasons, an enemy might poison a well or fountain.
f. When a traveler arrived at the well—expecting a cool, refreshing drink, it was disappointing to the extreme to discover that it had been poisoned or polluted.
g. Solomon uses this to illustrate a righteous man who falls down before the wicked.
h. Prov. 10:11 – A righteous man should be a “well of life”—refreshing to others.
i. But if the well is polluted, he is no longer refreshing, but deeply disappointing.
2. “A righteous man who falls down before the wicked” could refer to the TESTIMONY of a righteous man who falls into sin before the eyes of the on looking wicked men in the world.
a. Believers stand BEFORE (before the face of) the world’s critical eyes every day.
b. They are watching.
• In fact, both men and angels are watching us.
• There are some ungodly men who though they are really not interested in our faith, are interested in our lifestyle, our standards, our integrity, and our families.
• The ungodly watch every move we make. We are curious items to them. We are peculiar people.
c. And while the world may mock us publically, often privately, there is a good amount of respect for the God-fearing saint of God.
d. It is especially disappointing when those who have great respect for a believer’s testimony discover that his life is faltering… stumbling… not as stable as you thought.
• Some in the world observe believers and admire their stand, respect their standards; and look up to their faithful, consistent convictions.
• But when they see a believer whom they admired fall into sin, it is a big letdown… a disappointment… disillusioned.
• And it is extremely damaging today to the cause of Christ.
• That is especially so for a Christian leader—a pastor, evangelist, deacon, elder, etc. The world is watching and they hold us to a higher standard—and so they should.
• That kind of a moral fall casts a dark shadow on Christianity as a whole. It shouldn’t, but it does.
e. It is like a man who goes to a fountain or a spring, expecting a drink of cool, healthy, refreshing water, and instead finds it polluted and corrupted.
• That man used to go to that well (the word for fountain is a well).
• Previously he valued that well. He always used to get good, refreshing water there.
• But now that it has been polluted, he no longer values it. He stays away. It is no longer a special place.
• Now, every time he thinks of that well he is disappointed.
• So is the righteous man who stumbles and ruins his testimony.
• He who had been known for honor, honesty, and integrity, and who had spent a lifetime building up a godly testimony, can RUIN it all in a moment of time… one tragic fall… one moment for the flesh—and it all goes up in flames.
• His testimony is gone—and those who had been looking up to him are greatly disillusioned.
f. Such falls can have a rippling effect.
• Flavel wrote: “The scandalous falls of good men are like a bag of poison cast by Satan into the spring, from whence the whole town is supplied with water.”
3. It could refer to faltering or wavering by COMPROMISING before the wicked.
a. This is the second way to understand the expression “falling before the wicked.”
b. If the term “fall” is understood as a “wavering” in the sense of “giving in to” the wicked… or compromising with the wicked, then the application is slightly different.
c. With that understanding of the expression, Solomon is saying that the righteous man who caves in on his stand for righteousness is like a troubled fountain or a corrupt spring.
• For example, there is the righteous man who previously refused to take bribes, wavers when enticed and takes a bribe.
• There could be a man who was morally pure, who in a moment of weakness, wobbles morally, and gives in to the temptation of the seductress.
• Or the politician who has been a national figure who has given his career to the removal of corruption from the government, who is later caught in a moral scandal of his own.
d. The point the proverb emphasizes is the disappointment involved.
• It is discouraging to see a righteous man cave in to peer pressure.
• It is discouraging to see a righteous man compromise his faith… his standards… his convictions.
• But it happens every day.
e. We see this in politics all the time.
• We elect candidates who promised to stand up for certain principles that are important to us… only to discover that they cave in to the pressure and change once in office.
• We vote in a reformer who promises to change the way we do business, only to discover that once in office, it is more of the same.
f. We see this in the ministry constantly.
• Pastors are caving in to the pressure to not mention alcohol, or dancing, or other hot button issues.
• Pastors also are giving in to the immense pressure to allow contemporary Christian music in the church.
• Pastors are also caving in to the pressure today to discard dispensational theology—Reformed is the doctrine of the hour.
• It is extremely disappointing and discouraging… like going to a well expecting a drink of refreshing water and finding it polluted.
g. And this is seen not only in pastors and churches, but in individual believers too.
• We see believers who once opposed new evangelicalism who now embrace it.
• We see individual believers who once took a good stand against contemporary Christian music and now listen to it… or have gone to a rock and roll church.
• As the songwriter put it, “Change and decay in all around I see; O Lord who changest not abide in me.”
• And sadly, like a polluted well, the damage done may be permanent. Polluted or poisoned waters (or radioactive waters!) may remain polluted.
• You can pour poison in a well in a moment and ruin it. It may take years for the water to be cleansed and pure again—if ever.
• A believer’s power to do good may be lost indefinitely, like a corrupt spring.
h. What a pity for a believer to cave in to the pressure of the world or of wicked men. There is no need to cave in and compromise. We have been promised VICTORY over the world and wicked men. There is no need to capitulate to them today.