“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again:
but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”
~ Proverbs 24:16
Probably nothing manifests the fact of our frail frame more than the stumblings we suffer. This is no teaching that we ought to fall, but we do sometimes. It is a mark of the righteous that when they fall, they rise up again. This remarkable resilience confounds the wicked. “They lie in wait” for the righteous and rejoice when they fall, thinking that it is the end. The righteous “riseth up again.” It is not so with the wicked, they “fall into mischief.” Their stumbling and fall is ultimately their destruction. They are never recovered out of the snare. In truth, both are susceptible to falling, but it is the righteous that “riseth up again.”
Now the wicked may be glad at the fall of the righteous but the word to the righteous concerning the fall of the wicked is, “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth” (Proverbs 24:17). Never let just men assume the posture of the ungodly. Never let them sing the same songs of mirth over one that is fallen. Yes, the standard is higher for the child of God. We are not to rejoice at the fall of the wicked, and we should not rejoice at the fall of our brother. Let us have the “spirit of meekness” and restore one who is “overtaken in a fault.” Now let us turn to our text and consider the falling of the righteous and their subsequent rising again.
Firstly, we observe that the saints do fall. The narrow way is not without its difficulties. Though we sometimes walk with joy, we many times tread in sadness. We believe in the absolute sovereignty of God, which affords us comfort. We might be perplexed if not for the good providence of our Father. Paul knew that “bonds and afflictions” were abiding for him wherever he went. We also know “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Suffering is the peculiar lot of God’s people in the earth. However, these sufferings are temporal, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (I Corinthians 4:17). Often through trials and perils we stumble and fall. But the good man of God will rise up again.
Many times our greatest occasion of stumbling is the flesh. No matter how hard we strive, we have not escaped the body of sin just yet. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8). Only the Holy Lord Jesus lived a life completely without sin. No one of us can match His impeccability. We have not reached the mark. When sin has laid us low we must go to the Father, confessing our guilt for “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
We have not fallen to where the Lord cannot reach us. He told Israel that His arm was not shortened. Have faith. He can reach all the way. Sometimes we have confessed and felt God’s forgiveness, but the fall lingers in our memories. Our own frailty and inadequacy mock us. They seem as a great weight that holds us down. Christian, “Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?” (Numbers 32:6). How long shall you wallow in the mire of self-pity and use your past failure as an excuse for your present inactivity? We have an advocate with the Father. Do not question His ability to forgive sins. In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up! Simon Peter stumbled, as did John Mark, to name a couple. But they were restored to greater service. Our verse says, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.”
Secondly, we see that the righteous fall “seven times.” Our first trial is sure not to be our last. Having begun on the way, let us hold on without wavering. We can be certain that trials wait, so long as we tabernacle in this body. There is warfare within and the battle shall not be over until we leave this world. There is hope in our verse. No matter how oft we stumble, the righteous “riseth up again.” We sing the glad song of the righteous:
They may on the main of temptation be toss’d,
Their sorrow may swell as the sea;
But none of the ransomed shall ever be lost;
The righteous shall hold on his way.
Surrounded with sorrows, temptations and cares,
This truth with delight we survey;
And sing, as we pass thru this valley of tears;
The righteous shall hold on his way.