The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger, but He will reject the craving of the wicked
This proverb contains a very important clarification on some myths that exists in Christian circles. Many people will read this proverb and then draw direct applications to the lives of people they know or people they read about. If the person was truly righteous, they would not be hungry. If this person is going hungry, then they must not be righteous. If they are going hungry, then it is their fault and we do not need to be concerned with what God is justly doing to them. The problem is that this is not what this proverb actually says. The actual Hebrew sentence reads: The Lord will not allow the soul of the righteous to hunger, but He will thrust aside the cravings of the wicked. This proverb deals with how God responds to the internal needs and impulses of people.
This is the Hebrew word YHWH, the unspeakable name of God. It was the name that God gave to Moses at the burning bush. The Jews, in order to protect themselves from violating the Third Commandment and speaking the name of God in vain, outlawed speaking the name completely. Every time they see this term in the Hebrew text, they say Adonai which is the word for Lord in Hebrew. What is interesting is that this is the personal name of God. When God is acting in the most intimate caring ways, He gives Himself this name. The actual definition of this word is that it is a derivative of the verb to be or we understand it as God saying that He is the great I AM. He is the ever-present one. There is no past, present, and future to Him. He is outside our time domain and exists in the eternal now. It is this One who has no time constraints and who wants a personal relationship with His righteous worshipers.
will not allow
God does allow a lot to happen to people that is not His perfect will for them. He allows the individual to make choices that result in devastating consequences. He allows unjust governments to build evil, oppressive systems to treat people unjustly. He allows other people in your life to treat you poorly or even do evil to you. One of the problems that we, in the modern world, have with God is how much He allows to happen. How come He is not the overprotective grandparent keeping all the bad stuff from happening to us? This type of question would not have come from the Ancient World. They understood that their choices mattered; that the choices of their leaders mattered. They understood that God was looking for people who would choose wisdom and who would choose to honor Him. It was in the next life that God would remove the evil influences and sludge of sin.
There are some things that God will not allow, but they are not what we assume they would be. This verse contains one of those things. He will not allow the soul of the righteous to hunger.
As we have already stated, the actual Hebrew phrase is the soul of the righteous. God is promising, through the lips of Solomon the king, that He will not allow the person who is righteous to hunger or to be without what they basically need. The righteous in the book of Proverbs is contrasted with the wicked so that the definition of what it means to be righteous could be understood to be the person who stays within the boundaries of the Ten Commandments. However, we know that it is not possible for anyone to stay within this boundary perfectly (the only exception was Jesus). The Jewish sacrificial system was put in place to deal with the righteous who sinned. So righteousness is something deeper. The Old and New Testaments state that the righteous man shall live by faith or trusting in what God has said to do. In Abraham’s case it was trusting that a child would be born to his wife Sarah who was too old. In Rebekah’s case it was trusting and favoring that God wanted to bless and honor the younger son Jacob and not the older more manly son Esau. In the life of the Jewish believer it was bringing their offerings to atone for their sins because God said this would fix the problem. Therefore the righteous one is the one who trusts God and thereby acts in accordance with God’s commands and in the New Testament the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The proverb says that God will not allow the soul of the righteous to hunger—hunger being defined as actually going without the needed thing to the point that death occurs. The soul of the righteous needs different things than the body. The soul needs relationships and it requires connection to God, to others, and to emotional support. God says He watches and will make sure that those who trust Him will not suffer soul-hunger to the point of the death of their faith. Notice this proverb does not say that God will keep a righteous person from ever going hungry physically. I would suggest that I have heard and seen God do this in a number of different ways. I have read reports of those who were locked in concentration camps or prisons where God sends an angel to minister to them or even gives them a new level of vision of His presence. I have seen God send new friends to those who were cut off by those who should have been their support and encouragement. I have watched God draw a person deep into His presence in the midst of disastrous, emotional trauma happening to them or around them. I have read reports of God actually calling a person home to heaven because there was not an adequate way to meet the needs of that person’s soul here on earth.
We as a society have become fixated on the health of someone’s body and their physical well-being – in many cases as though that were the issue of supreme importance. The body is important, but it is only the tent that houses the soul. And the soul will enjoy at least one other house. I have begun to think about the soul as an operating system and the personal files on my computer that I can download and transfer to another computer when the computer that I am on begins to fail. I collect programs and files and information and the software gets bigger and bigger and defines MY computer. But my stuff is not the computer; that is just what runs my stuff. I have changed computers a number of times and all my stuff is still there running on a new computer. One of these days we are all headed for an upgrade in terms of our hardware. God is going to take our soul and cleanse it of the parts of our operating system that orients it to selfishness and sin and put it into a new body to enjoy a new life and in a new place with a new level of relationship with Him.
Just remember, it is more important what we put in our soul than what we put in our body. It is the soul that lasts for eternity. It is the soul that God will make sure does not hunger to destruction.
* This material is copyrighted © by Gil Stieglitz who retains all rights to the material. The verses quoted are taken from the NASB Bible 1995 edition.