Not because they ought to flee. In fact, often it feels like the wicked stand firm when the righteous stand against them. The wicked hold and even advance in the face of opposition. The wicked advance and seize grounds which ought not be theirs.
Why, then, would Solomon tell us that the wicked flee when no one is pursuing? Our experience suggests otherwise. Have the wicked improved over the years? Certainly not.
Here are some realities:
1. The wicked flee in the terror of their hearts. Many times, those who perpetrate great wickedness are actually greatly fearful. It is the fear that causes their violence and tormented actions. This is not an excuse. Rather, it is an explanation when you back up both steps: a wicked person is fearful, and their fear makes them act with greater depravity.
2. The wicked flee in terror to those who support them. This is clearly evident with the wicked that infest church life. They surround themselves with sycophants who will do their bidding. When you see ministers and preachers lawyered up or using attack dogs on social media and the Internet to pounce on critics, you see a fleeing, wicked man.
3. The wicked flee in terror from true challenges. This is the case of the schoolyard bully. Rarely does the bully pick on the strong kids. He picks on the ones who have a weakness. The wicked capitalize on ways to force their methods without real opposition. They refuse to engage intellectually or physically, depending on the situation. There is no willingness to take a challenge. Rather, the goal is to eliminate, by slices, opposition, for the strong man is less of a challenge isolated.
4. The wicked flee in terror from ghosts and whispers. Consider the infamous telegram, reportedly sent by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to twelve prominent gentleman of London: “All is discovered, flee at once.” The story tells that these were sent anonymously and to twelve men he knew of, but did not know personally. Within 24 hours, all dozen had left the country, never to return. While I cannot quite verify the veracity of that story, it illustrates the point: who was pursuing? No one—but they fled, because wickedness was hidden in their lives.
Now, what of the righteous?
Bold as a lion, Solomon says. Bold. Ferocious as needed. Unafraid, sometimes foolishly: there are reports of lions in Africa at the first arrivals of European hunters that stood their ground and were shot where they stood. Bold, but foolish.
Which is sometimes where the righteous are—bold even in the face of superior technology. Bold, even against those things where there is no chance of victory.
Because ultimately, the boldness of the righteous is locked into their relationship with the righteousness of the Lion of Judah, Jesus Himself. He is bold, for He is victorious.
That, my friends, is my take on Proverbs 28:1