As we’ve worked our way through Proverbs, Solomon has introduced us to many different kinds of people. He’s taught us by teaching his son to stay away from certain kinds of folks, to be aware and on our guard against other kinds of folks, and to pursue wisdom, godly wisdom, as we live this life.
Today, Solomon goes in-depth in teaching us what is fitting for fools. When Solomon describes what is fitting and what is not fitting for the fool he has in mind a certain type of person. Before we take a look at our Scripture for today I want to go back to Proverbs 1 and take a look at our first introduction to the fool. I have to tell you that any time we get into a discussion of fools I get a little nervous since I have done some very foolish things in my life. I don’t want to live my life as a fool. I have a great desire to pursue godly wisdom, to implement God’s wisdom into my daily life, and to share that wisdom with other folks. Maybe you share the same desire and yet you find yourself making foolish decisions along the way. Is this the kind of person Solomon is describing for us, a person who desires to walk in wisdom but keeps messing up, or could he have in mind a different kind of person. Let’s go back for a minute and try to understand the kind of person Solomon has in mind. Read along with me from Proverbs 1:20-27.
20 Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; 21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: 22 “How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? 23 If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. 24 But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, 25 since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, 26 I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you– 27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. (Proverbs 1:20-27 NIV)
In this section of Scripture Solomon describes three different kinds of people: The simple-minded, the mocker, and the fool. I won’t take the time to describe all three of these kinds of people because you can go back and read the study, “The Voice” and learn about each of these people. I do want to take a minute to review the “fool.”
The Hebrew word that is used here in Proverbs 1:22, is the exact same word that is used in Proverbs 26:1-11. As a matter of fact, the word is used 10 times in the Scripture that we are studying today. The word translated, “fool,” כְּסִיל (keciyl) means, “fool, stupid fellow, dullard, or arrogant one.” The person Solomon is describing does not desire wisdom. He is foolish enough to believe that he can figure it all out. He lives randomly. He speaks whatever comes to mind regardless of whether it makes sense or not. A fool is the kind of person who makes the same mistake over and over again and yet he thinks that the next time he tries it he will get a different result. Wisdom counsels us to stay away from fools or we will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:19-20 offers us this advice.
19 A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil. 20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverbs 13:19-20 NIV)
Stay away from fools. Wisdom says, “Don’t allow a fool to influence you or you will go down with him.” Fools talk just to listen to themselves talk. They don’t weigh their words to see if they should be spoken or shelved. They just talk, and it is meaningless talk, crude talk, and hurtful talk. Proverbs 12:23 says,
23 A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly. (Proverbs 12:23 NIV)
Fools are angry. Of course they are angry. Because of the way they live their lives they constantly find themselves in strife and disagreement, they feel like the whole world is against them, and they have no restraint. Proverbs 29:11 says,
11 A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Proverbs 29:11 NIV)
How do these folks respond to Wisdom’s voice? They don’t. According to Proverbs 1:22-24 they “wallow in their ignorance,” they “feed upon their cynicism,” “they refuse to learn,” “they’ve turned a deaf ear,” “they’ve ignored” Wisdom, “they’ve laughed” at her counsel, and they’ve “made a joke of her advice.” Wisdom can’t teach a fool anything because the fool thinks he knows more than anybody.
Now that we’ve come to know the character of a fool, the way of the fool, let’s turn our attention to what is fitting for the fool. Turn with me to our Scripture for today found in Proverbs 26:1-11.
1 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool. 2 Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest. 3 A whip for the horse, a halter for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools! 4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. 6 Like cutting off one’s feet or drinking violence is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool. 7 Like a lame man’s legs that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. 8 Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool. 9 Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. 10 Like an archer who wounds at random is he who hires a fool or any passer-by. 11 As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. 12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 26:1-12 NIV)
In the first three verses of Proverbs 26 we find Solomon telling his son what is not fitting for the fool and what is fitting for the fool. What is not fitting for the fool? Honor. The word for “honor” is the Hebrew word, “כָּבוֹד” (kabowd) and it means, “glory, honor, heaviness, or reverence.” The word is used to describe God and the honor and glory that is His alone. The word is also used to describe people who have lived their lives with dignity, character, and integrity in the way they’ve conducted their lives and the way they’ve related to others. Let me give you an example of each.
In Genesis we read about the life of Joseph. He was despised by his brothers, sold as a slave in Egypt, and yet the Sovereign hand of God elevated Joseph to a prominent position of leadership in the land. Joseph was diligent in the way he conducted the affairs of the nation and Pharaoh put him in charge of his whole household. It is an amazing story! In Genesis 45:13 we see an example of the use of the word we are studying in Proverbs 26:1. Let’s begin reading in Genesis 45:8-13.
8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. 9 Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me, you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’” 12 ‘You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. 13 Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.’ (Genesis 45:8-13 NIV)
The honor that Joseph knew when he spoke to his brother was far different than the reality Joseph knew when he arrived in Egypt. With every responsibility Joseph was given he executed his responsibilities with excellence. As a result of the way Joseph lived his life he was promoted again and again. Joseph earned honor as he lived and led wisely while he was working in Egypt under Pharaoh.
In Exodus 24:15-17 we see another example of the usage of the word for “honor” or “glory.” This time it is used to describe God. Let’s read together about the time when Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.
15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. (Exodus 24:15-17 NIV)
The “glory” of God on Mt. Sinai caused the Hebrews to shudder. His glory looked like a consuming fire to those who were looking on the mountain that day. The word we are looking at is filled with dignity, weight, and great respect. It is not fitting to bestow honor on a fool anymore than rains are fitting for harvest time or snow for the summer months. Bruce Waltke says,
The Lord’s inspired sages reveal in Proverbs the eternal and life-producing social standard. The fool despises this wisdom, and giving him honor both strengthens him in his folly and encourages the gullible to follow him. Elevating him to a position of leadership and/or holding him up as a role model signals a topsy-turvy and damned society. (Waltke, pg. 346.)
Dr. Waltke is telling us that trouble comes when fools are promoted and placed in positions of leadership. How often do we see this take place in our society? Remember, a fool isn’t necessarily a person who lacks gray matter–a fool is a person who is not teachable, a person who does what they want rather than God’s will. You may be a very intelligent person and yet be a fool. How many CEOs of corporations, supervisors in businesses all over Oklahoma City, coaches who lead young boys and girls, deacons and elders in churches, and mothers and fathers have proven themselves to be fools because they destroyed that which God placed into their care?
I’ve watched churches destroyed because of the promotion of people who should have never been promoted or honored with the responsibility of leadership. Each year churches all over the world entrust people in their churches with the responsibility to choose new elders and deacons. This is a very important happening in the life of a church and yet this is the typical conversation that takes place in many of those meetings: “Well, we need 10 new deacons this year. What do yall think? Who would make a good deacon?” The group goes on to list some names and the criterion that is most often used as a standard for the new leaders in the church is “he’s a good guy” or “she’s here most every Sunday.” The person is never examined through the lens of 1 Timothy 3 or Titus 2.
People are placed in leadership who may be sharp business people or charismatic personalities, but they are spiritual pygmies and clueless about what godly leadership entails. As a result, Board meetings are contentious and mean-spirited when disagreements arise. Board attendance drops through the floor because nobody wants to be part of fussing and fuming when things don’t go the fool’s way. And who do we have to blame? Ourselves! God has warned us, “It is not fitting to honor a fool.”
We have example after example of what foolish leadership can do in God’s Word. In 1 Kings 12 we see one example of this type of leadership. Rehoboam was made king after his father, Solomon, died. Evidently Rehoboam didn’t follow the advice of Proverbs because we read in verses 1-11.
1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. 3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.” 5 Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away. 6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked. 7 They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.” 8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 9 He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?” 10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “Tell these people who have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter’ tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’” (1 Kings 12:1-11 NIV)
Foolishness. That’s what Rehoboam’s decision was, utter foolishness. He didn’t listen to the elders, he listened to his buddies. As a result of his foolish decision there was a huge uprising, the Northern tribes revolted, and they made Jeroboam their king. Rehoboam was left with only two of the twelve tribes, Judah and Benjamin. Do you see what foolish leadership will do to a nation? A business? A home?
What is fitting for a fool? That’s a good question. We are not to honor or promote a fool. In verse 6 we are told not to send a message with a fool. In verse 7 we are told not to offer proverbs to a fool because he or she won’t listen. In verse 10 we are told not to hire a fool because it will bring ruin to your company. We learn a lot from this section of Proverbs about what is not fitting for a fool, but what is fitting for a fool? Take a look at verse 3 with me. Solomon writes, “A whip for the horse, a halter for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools!” Bruce Waltke writes in his commentary on this passage.
The introduction now turns from what is not fitting for fools to what is fitting, but again by comparing two things in the created order with the social order. As a whip prods a warhorse and a bit restrains and controls a donkey, so a rod restrains fools from their folly and prods them to conform their lives to wisdom. (Bruce Waltke, pg. 348.)
If the fool is unwilling to learn the easy way, the way God desires for us to learn, then the fool must learn the hard way–by discipline and consequences. God desires to teach us, He yearns to teach us His ways so that we can experience the goodness of life that He desires for us. Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about. God taught Moses so that he could teach the people God’s will for their lives. In Deuteronomy 11:13-21 we read,
13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today “to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. 16 Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. 17 Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you. 18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:13-21 NIV)
Did you notice the consequences of the choices the Lord set before the people? If they will learn God’s will and follow in His ways, then not only they will be blessed but their children will reap the benefits of their decision. If they turn away from the lessons God has for them they will suffer the consequences of their choices. We see this type of teaching throughout God’s Word. God invites His people to come to Him so that He can teach us and we can benefit from His wisdom, His godly counsel. If we refuse to be taught then we will suffer the consequences of our foolishness. In the New Testament Jesus told His followers,
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)
Jesus said, “Learn from me.” We are without excuse. We have God’s Word at our disposal 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We live in a land where we are free to study God’s Word and learn of His ways, but if we say, “The Bible is old and out-dated. It doesn’t have anything to teach me about life. I’m not going to let anyone tell me what to do. I’m calling the shots for my own life” –then we will pay a heavy price for our decision. Josh Billings once said, “The best way to convince a fool that he is wrong is to let him have his own way.”
By allowing a fool to suffer the consequences of his decision he will learn by pain rather than instruction. I’ve learned this way, I’ve known others who have learned this way as well, and I can tell you that I don’t ever want to have to learn by way of pain again. I see this same type of lesson being learned among God’s people in the Bible.
In the book of Jeremiah the most well known verse is Jeremiah 29:11. The Lord says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” What an awesome verse and yet this verse is set in the context of the exile of God’s people. They had chosen to turn away from God and do what they wanted to do. As a result of their choice God disciplined them. Let’s read the whole Scripture together beginning in Jeremiah 29:11.
11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV)
Did you notice where the people were when these words were spoken to them? They were in exile. They had been forced out of their homes, they were living in captivity, suffering under Babylonian rule. Their freedom had been taken away. As they sat under the heavy burden of the Babylonians they began to think about what they once had, the freedoms they once enjoyed, and they came to their senses.
A modern-day equivalent of the Jew’s experience would be a person who has had an opportunity to learn God’s ways and walk in wisdom, but he or she decided to turn away from wisdom and do what they wanted to do. I get to go to the county jail from time to time to visit friends of mine who are suffering because of the decisions they have made. There is something about being in an 8X10 foot cell that will cause you to think.
I got a letter from a friend of mine who went to jail some time ago. Shortly after she went to jail I was talking with her mother on the phone. Her mom wanted more than anything to get her daughter out of jail, but I encouraged her to leave her daughter right where God had her. I went to the county jail shortly after our conversation and talked with the young lady. I told her, “God has you in a classroom and He wants your undivided attention so that He can teach you some very important lessons about life. Please let Him teach you while you are here, it will change the rest of your life if you will let Him teach you.” As difficult as it was, her mother didn’t bail her out, she let God teach her daughter.
This young friend of mine eventually got out of jail and went to rehab. I want to read to you an excerpt from a letter I got from her.
Mike, how are you? Good I hope. I just wanted to write you and say thanks for being there for me. I got to thinking about how you told my mom to leave me in here in February and at the time I wasn’t happy about it and didn’t think it was the right thing to do. But now I’m so glad you told her that because I know I wasn’t strong enough then to come home and stay clean and go to rehab. Even though I could not stand 1st Step and I cannot stand jail, I’ve learned a lot from being in both places. I’m a healthier, happier person who is at peace now and I have started a wonderful relationship with God.
God loves you and me so much that He will teach us one way or another. You can either sit at His feet and learn from His Word or He can teach you through the painful consequences you will suffer because of your foolish decisions.
The most foolish thing you or I can do today is to dismiss this lesson the Lord has just offered to us. Some of us here this morning are not walking with God. We’ve never surrendered our hearts to Jesus as Lord and King of our life because we want to do what we want to do. Can you see some of the consequences that you’ve suffered nudging you to think about your life this morning? The pain you’ve suffered has a purpose and that purpose is to get you to think about God. He has a plan for your life my friend. Don’t be a fool. You are simply presiding over your own destruction by turning away from the Lord. Won’t you confess your foolish ways this morning, cry out to God to forgive you of your sin, and accept Jesus into your heart?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
December 18, 2012