June 29, 2017

"More hope for a fool"

The first eleven verses of Proverbs 26 have some strong words to say concerning fools – don’t honor a fool (vv.1,8); don’t trust a fool as your courier (v.6); don’t hire a fool (v.10); there is “a rod for the back of fools” (v.3); and other pointed statements as well! Indeed, ten of these first eleven verses of Proverbs 26 speak to the subject of fools … so that we have, in this portion of scripture, some very practical counsel for how to respond to them!

But then, in verse 12, comes this brief and fascinating little surprise:

“Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Wow! After all he has said about the folly of fools (and perhaps after we have nodded our heads, knowingly, at his description of the very sorts of people that we actually know), Solomon throws verse 12 in for a kicker … saying, in effect: ‘But, as bad as it is to be a fool, there is someone worse off, even, than that! For even a fool has more hope than “a man wise in his own eyes”!’

Now, first we must ask: What does Solomon mean by “wise in his own eyes”? What sort of person is he critiquing? Does he have in mind the person who thinks himself wise, but who actually isn’t as enlightened as he thinks? Or is he referring to the person who actually has accumulated some wisdom, but is all too aware of that fact, to the point of arrogance? I tend to think it is probably the former, rather than the latter (see vv. 5 and 16 for contextual clues). Neither position is a good one, of course! But I believe Solomon is probably referring, in verse 12, to the man who believes himself to be wise, but who isn’t nearly as sage as he thinks.

And Solomon’s statement, there in v.12, comparing this over-confident man with the fool … that statement would be quite striking, even if we just took it by itself. It would be a significant thing to say, even if it were said in a vacuum, that is better to be a fool than to over-estimate one’s own wisdom! But Proverbs 26:12 does not come to us by itself; it does not exist in a vacuum! We find it, rather, at the tail end of the eleven verses that precede it … ten of which portray for us the fool in all his folly!

And it’s quite the unflattering portrait, isn’t it … this portrait of a fool? Solomon’s brushstrokes reveal the character of a person who is untrustworthy; whose counsels are not worth heeding; who is not to be honored; who needs sometimes to be put in his place; and who (like an animal) requires stern discipline to keep him on track. He’s a sad clown of a man, the fool.

And yet even this man has “more hope” than “a man wise in his own eyes”! Because perhaps the fool will receive the rebuke “his folly deserves”, and at least allow himself to be put in his place (v.5). But “a man wise in his own eyes” will think he knows better, even when the rebuke has come! And nor will he seek out or listen to more gentle forms of counsel, either! He already has the answers!

Beware of this, brothers and sisters! Beware of over-estimating your own wisdom! Beware of being unteachable! Beware the folly by which we spurn the counsel of God and of others – or (maybe even more often) by which it just never occurs to us to ask for such counsel – because we have yet to learn (or perhaps to accept!) just how little wisdom we ourselves have actually obtained, and how much we still have to learn.

There is great wisdom in realizing that you are not as wise as you might be tempted to think … and in seeking wisdom from God and from wise fellow men and women! Have you come to realize that? Are there areas in which you need to humble yourself, and to admit that you need counsel, and to seek it out, and to heed the wisdom that God provides you through it? Is there counsel or rebuke that you have spurned, but need to revisit? Bad as it would be for you to be a Proverbs 26 fool, there is even less hope for the man, woman, girl, or boy who thinks he already has all the answers!

June 22, 2017


So said Jesus to a young man in the seventh chapter of Luke: “Young man, I say to you, arise!” But the most interesting thing about Jesus’ hearer, in this instance, is not that he is young, but that he is dead! Indeed, it is his funeral day. His widowed mother is there, walking along with the coffin. The funeral procession inches along to the graveside. And there is the young man, to whom Jesus spoke, being carried along by his pall-bearers. And what sort of person interrupts such a procession? What sort of person comes from the outside and stops a funeral party on the way to the graveside? What sort of person, indeed, not only interrupts a grieving funeral party, but actually begins speaking to the corpse, and expecting lifeless ears to hear? This had better work! The dead man had better be able to hear, and to arise, or the whole thing is going to be incredibly embarrassing … and quite impertinent, and hurtful to the grieving company.

But, of course, the voice is that of Jesus! And so it does work! The dead young man does indeed hear the Master’s voice; and he does indeed sit up in his coffin! Praise God! Praise the Son of God whose voice is so powerful, He can make even the dead to hear!

You’re probably familiar with the story. So familiar, in fact, that we know that it is inevitable that the dead man will hear Jesus’ voice and respond to it. That’s what happens in the New Testament, right? But does it occur to you to apply this same logic to that person in your family, or your workplace, or among your friends … that person who is spiritually dead, and seems like the last person on earth who would actually listen to the word of Christ, and heed it?

The reason why such people seem so unlikely to respond is because they are, indeed, dead! Dead to God. Dead to spiritual realities. Dead to the life that is in the Son. And so of course he or she is uninterested in your gospel, and in your Savior, and in coming to church with you. He or she really is, spiritually, dead! And, perceiving that to be so, we may sometimes hold out very little hope that they will ever listen, or that they will ever believe. And we are right in ascertaining their deadness to our message! But let us not forget that the voice of Jesus is so powerful that, whenever He chooses, He can speak to dead ears (and hearts, and minds) and cause them to hear, and to arise! As it was with the young man being carried by the pallbearers in the ancient city of Nain, so it is with young and old in your city, and in your family. Yes, they really are spiritually dead! But that is no impediment if Jesus deems that they should hear His voice and live! So keep giving them His word! Keep speaking to them His gospel! Keep warning them of their sin, and of hell. And keep attempting to woo them to the Savior, and to His heaven. Time may come when He will interrupt their slow march to an eternal grave, and bid them arise from the dead … to the rejoicing of mothers, friends, and the crowds round about!

June 19, 2017

“All my desire is before You”

So says David in Psalm 38:9 –

“Lord, all my desire is before You;
And my sighing is not hidden from You”

Now, as the second line of that couplet seems to reveal, David’s desire in Psalm 38 was, it would appear, an as-yet unfulfilled desire. For notice that his desire (v.9a) and his sighing (v.9b) run parallel to one another … as two halves of the same sentence; as two motions of David’s soul, walking hand-in-hand. It would appear that his sighing, then, was related to the status of his desire. He sighed because his desire had not yet been fulfilled; because he was longing for fruit that had not yet appeared upon the tree. And most of us know what that is like – a promotion that doesn’t come; a pregnancy that doesn’t happen; a relationship that doesn’t pan out; a prayer that goes a long time (seemingly) unanswered. We have desires, too, don’t we? And often we sigh.

Probably the unfulfilled desire, in David’s life, was related to his sin (see vv.1-8, 18). It may have been a desire to overcome sin; or perhaps the “desire” in v.9 was some hope or dream that had gone unfulfilled because he hadn’t overcome it. Or the desire may, perhaps, have been for healing of the bodily infirmity that his sin had brought upon him (vv.1-8). But in any case, David spends long enough talking about his sin and its repercussions that it seems likely that he had pinpointed sin as at least part of the roadblock in his life; at least part of the reason for his unfulfilled desire. That’s not to say that sin is necessarily the culprit in your unfulfilled hopes and dreams! It may be. Or it may not. But for David, anyway, it seems likely that sin was at least one ingredient in the bitter soup of unfilled desires that David was tasting.

It could also be that David’s unmet desire (v.9) was related to the strained relationships he mentions in v.11, or the opposition he faced from certain enemies (vv.12-15). Or perhaps it was some overlap or correlation between some or all of these things – strained relationships, opposition, and sin. It could also be, of course, that there was some other (unknown or unmentioned) reason, added to the mix, why David’s desire had gone, thus far, unfulfilled. We don’t know for sure how all the ingredients mixed together, and in what proportions … just like it’s hard, many times, to figure out why it is that our desires may seem to go unsatisfied. Is it my sin that’s holding me back? Or roadblocks thrown up by other people? Or is it something else? Or a combination of things? It’s often very hard to tell for sure. For God doesn’t always reveal to us all the various strands that He weaves into the web of His providence.

But one thing we do know is that – whatever our desire; and whatever our sighing over its failure, as yet, to take wings – our heavenly Father knows our desires and our sighings! “Lord, all my desire is before You” David exclaims. “And my sighing is not hidden from You.” Our Father knows our hopes, our dreams, our longings, our prayers. And He knows the tears, sighs, and groans that wring out of us when those desires are unmet. He knows! If ever an earthly father knew his child’s most earnest Christmas wish, then surely this Father knows the desire of His children … and their sighing, too. And He is kind and gracious enough that, even when sin is the culprit in our unmet desires (and even if we require His discipline for it), He still cares about His children’s hopes, and sent His Son to die for His children’s sins … and always does us, His children, ultimate good, even in spite of ourselves!

Can I guarantee that God will grant you exactly what you’re dreaming of? I cannot. He may have reasons for not doing so. But I can tell you that a Father who knows the desires of His children, and who hears their groanings, and who loves them enough to have given His only begotten Son for them … this God will not let His children down (remember Romans 8:32!). This God, whether or not He fulfills your every dream, will surely satisfy your soul, if you are His child. And sometimes He will fulfill your dreams, too! So cry out to Him, as David does in Psalm 38, and in so many other psalms. And believe that He hears, that He knows, that He cares, and that He will surely “give what is good” (Matt 7:11) to His children.