A Strange Description of Righteousness

“A righteous person may fall seven times, but he gets up again…”  Proverbs 24:16

What is your definition of a righteous person?  Stop for a moment and consider it.  Now be honest…did your definition include the words “…someone who fails a lot”?  Interestingly, Proverbs 24 says that a righteous person may fall…a lot!  In Hebrew culture the phrase “seven times” was not always an exact number.  It was frequently used to indicate a whole lot or an extreme amount.  
Today we may say “I’ve asked you to do something 100 times”.  We don’t literally mean 99 + 1, but rather we have asked an excessive number of times.  The Hebrews used the phrase ‘seven times’ in the same manor.  For example:  in Daniel chapter 3 King  Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter for Shadrach, Meshach and Adednego.  In Psalms 119:164, David said to the Lord “seven times a day I will praise you…”  He wasn’t telling God that he would only praise Him 7 times per day…not 6 or 8.  Rather he was saying that he would praise God excessively.   So, for Proverbs to say that a righteous person may blow it a lot seems strange to me.  I think the key is in the second part of that sentence.  “…but he gets up again.”  You see, the righteous man is defined not by his failing, but by his rising.  
God is not counting the number of times you fall, but rather the number of times you get back up to finish the race.   Better still, He is the one pulling you to your feet and holding you steady when your legs are unsure.  And when you do fall, He holds on tight to keep you from face planting.
“The steps of a (righteous) man are established by the Lord and he delights in his ways.  And when he falls he will not be hurled head long because the Lord is the one who holds his hand”.  Psalm 37:23
Let this truth not become your license to stop trying, but the grace to know that God rejoices each time you get back up and start again. 
Pastor Jonathan