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. “The desire of the righteous is only good, but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.” (Prov 11:23)
Those who are “righteous” pursue God’s truth (Prov 1:7), and those who are wicked seek their own preferences (Prov 5:22). This leads to both earthly and eternal consequences. Worldly results are not guaranteed (Ps 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 (Prov 11:7).
As we all fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), we have no hope to be righteous before God without faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23) So it is Jesus’s righteousness that covers over our sin before God, and that is only a gift of grace to those who believe.
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 (Prov 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 (Prov 1:7), and rejecting God leads to ruin (Prov 11:6).
Those who sincerely seek after God will find Him (Matt 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. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (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 (Ps 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 will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.” (Ps 23:6)
Believers in Christ have a firm hope of future blessing. Paul refers to it as “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). Later Paul writes, “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col 3:4). The wicked can only anticipate God’s judgment and destruction.
So what shall we do from our hearts filled with gladness that only Christ can give? “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom 12:1-2)