Proverbs 11:23

ESV The desire of the righteous ends only in good, the expectation of the wicked in wrath.
NIV The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath.
NASB The desire of the righteous is only good, But the expectation of the wicked is wrath.
CSB The desire of the righteous turns out well, but the hope of the wicked leads to wrath.
NLT The godly can look forward to a reward, while the wicked can expect only judgment.
KJV The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.

What does Proverbs 11:23 mean?

Proverbs are concise, common sense remarks that teach a general truth. They can also be poetic or have layered depth. In this case, there seems to be a double meaning: regarding both the intentions and the consequences of man's morality. Those who are "righteous" pursue God's truth (Proverbs 1:7), and those who are wicked seek their own preferences (Proverbs 5:22). This leads to both earthly and eternal consequences. Worldly results are not guaranteed (Psalm 73:1–3), though it's more common for immoral people to suffer due to their choices. Eternal ends, however, are absolute: those who reject God have no hope after death (Proverbs 11:7).

The first implication of this verse is earthly. A righteous person's efforts create goodness in the world. This corresponds to the typical reputation of good people: they are celebrated and appreciated for improving the lives of others (Proverbs 11:10). The opposite is true of evil people, whose greed and malice generate misery. As a result, their death is often celebrated by the world. Seeking God produces good results, for oneself and for others (Proverbs 1:7), and rejecting God leads to ruin (Proverbs 11:6).

The second implication is eternal. Those who sincerely seek after God will find Him (Matthew 7:7–8), which means finding eternal life (John 3:16–18). Those who reject God, embracing their own sin, will find themselves subject to the wrath of God (John 3:36).

In Psalm 23 David describes his personal relationship with the Lord as that of a sheep with its shepherd. Like a sheep that follows its shepherd's leading, David followed the Lord and enjoyed green pastures and quiet waters (Psalm 23:2). He anticipated the Lord's blessing throughout life: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Psalm 23:6). Believers in Christ have a firm hope of future blessing. Paul refers to it in Colossians 1:27 as "Christ in you, the hope of glory." In Colossians 3:4 he writes, "When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory." The wicked can only anticipate God's judgment and destruction.
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