Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord,
how much more human hearts!
My translation: Sheol and Abaddon are before the Lord, how much more are the hearts of the sons of Adam
This is the final justification for the past four proverbs. If God knows the mysteries of the places beyond death, then, it can be inferred, that God knows about all facets of life. This is the reason God knows the disposition of people’s hearts, actions, and worship.
8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
9 The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but he loves the one who pursues righteousness.
10 There is severe discipline for one who forsakes the way,
but one who hates a rebuke will die.
11 Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord,
how much more human hearts!
If you read through these, they are naturally building a line of logic. A) God knows the dispositions of people as the people seek God in worship. B) God knows the dispositions of people overall in life. C) God not only knows, but judges the dispositions of people. D) This is because God knows all the mysteries of creation.
This whole series of proverbs is humbling. The proverb assumes, without stating outright, God’s position as creator and originator of life. That is why God knows the ways of life and death (sheol). God ordered all creation, including the cycle of life and death. Who are we to assume we can trick God? Who are we to assume that we can deceive and manipulate God’s favor? Are we more complex than the entire created order? Are we shrouded in more mystery than the order of the heavens or the mystery of death?
There are three reactions to this line of logic. A) Acceptance and adherence. We know that it is true that God (or a god/gods/something far more intelligent and wise than us) understands and orders creation, and thus we will be judicious and diligent learners of that order. B) Apathy. Yes, it is true that God knows and orders all things, who am I against that? We either believe that God intended all evil actions, and thus find our actions unavoidable, or we dismiss the fact that God even takes notice, and go about our business in spite of God. Finally, C) rejection. There is no God, and thus there is no judgment beyond human judgment.
When it comes to wisdom, faith, belief, and ethical structuring of a person’s life, we are ultimately faced with this decision. It determines whether we will commit ourselves to the disciplines of faith (no matter what system, including the secular humanist belief that there is some great ideal of humanity that we must achieve on our own), or we will commit ourselves to our own purposes, desires, and machinations without care to a greater order.
The first is the simple student, seeking wisdom and attempting to discern folly. The second is the fool and scoffer who rejects all wisdom but their own. The second is foolishness by any natural observation, for the human mind can discern its own smallness in relation to the patterns and movements of the cosmos. The first may lead to either wisdom or foolishness, but at least the person is willing to seek beyond themselves.
It is this disposition of “beyond myself” that opens one to the ways of grace, compassion, and kindness. If I am humble, like all other people, then I should share in my humbleness with all others. It is this reality of humanity that is encapsulated in the human side of the incarnation of Jesus. God shares in the humility of humanity, and shares freely with all people.
We can hear the Gospel speak back to these proverbs. It affirms the fact that God knows and judges the disposition of people. But it affirms this truth in this truth: Yes, God knows the mystery of Sheol, but God also can bring life out of the place of death. God is not a passive observer, but an active participant and continual creator, even after death. How much more does God know and work with the hearts of the sons and daughters of Adam?