Proverbs 13:15 tells us that good understanding produces favor, but the way of the treacherous is hard. This is one of those proverbs that we often respond to by saying “Yeah, but…” and then fill in the situation we know that’s an exception.
Doing so demonstrates that we don’t quite grasp the perspective of the Proverbs. We have to come to this text with the perspective of the Kingdom of God.
First, the temporal kingdom in which Proverbs was first written. A kingdom ruled by God’s anointed king, where every aspect of life was to be directed by God’s Law, given by God’s own hand. In a community like this, there should be no doubt that walking with good sense, living with understanding, is rewarded. Treachery has no place in the kingdom that honors God.
That the kingdom of Israel failed to hold that standard together does not make the Proverb out to be false. It simply illustrates that we are not capable of living in respect of God’s presence without the intervention of the power of God. After all, if you cannot successfully live for God when everything runs in your favor, how are you going to hold out when it falls apart? You can’t. It takes the indwelling Spirit of God to empower that.
Second, though, let us consider the Proverbs as written into the context of the Kingdom of God that is eternal. This is not to discount the importance of Israel throughout the Word of God, but to look wider at the application. After all, not all of us are Israelites, are we?
Let us consider eternity and the idea here. Good sense, or understanding, as the verse refers to requires walking with God. This is where the Proverbs and the theme of living skillfully in fear of YHWH come around to inform our clarity. If we walk in understanding of the whole idea, we find favor from God going from here to there. Not favor enough unless we start from a place of grace, as we see in all of Scripture. But favor to work that out in life.
The contrast is that being treacherous leads to ruin. It may occur in our initial life, or it may come around in eternity. Do not let the delay persuade you that it will not come—treachery leads to ruin. Flee from it.
And walk with understanding and good sense, that you may find life a tad easier than it might have been.