Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"Do not surround yourself with fools … be wise in the Lord!"

Day #195

Scripture Reading:  Proverbs 26 - 27 …

The lips of a fool speak from his heart and reveal the folly of his ways.  He speaks of what he knows - lies and foolishness.  What he doesn't know, he makes up:  "Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart" (26:23).  The glaze temporarily covers the defects and weaknesses that will ultimately bring the fool to ruin.  As Solomon warns against the adulteress, so he warns against the deceptive call of a world that offers only empty promises of a supposed "wisdom" that will lead to "success."  "Here is a formula for life!" But the formula is man-made and leaves the fool searching for something more, something new, something different.  In our world filled with advertisements, the fool is easily led astray!

"Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (27:17).  How important it is to surround yourself with people who truly have your best interest at heart; who will be honest with you, who will walk beside you as you serve the Lord and not pull you away to other things.  "As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man" (27:19).  People are either focused on knowing, loving and serving the Lord Jesus Christ, or they are focused on serving themselves in one way or another.  All of the supposed wisdom of those today who desire to "make life better for themselves and other people" isn't working because they are ignoring the very God who created them and who says, "Come to ME!"  In the end they will all likewise perish.

Whom will you listen to?  "Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses" (27:5-6).  God calls His people to love one another enough to be honest, not to tear down, but to sharpen, to build up, to encourage.  Those who are wise listen to the rebuke and counsel of those who are walking with the Lord … not so the fool.  Proverbs 26 pictures the fool and the sluggard and the gossip as masters of deception, but it is themselves who are deceived. They think they are wise, they claim to be wise, but their words and their actions lead only away from true wisdom that is found in knowing and serving the One Who sees their folly for what it really is:  DEATH!  "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him" (26:12).

In the opening verses of Chapter 26, we read several warnings for dealing with fools.  Verse 4 warns against debating with a fool, and verse 5 commands believers to answer a fool … to put him in his place, lest he convince himself and others that he is right!  Dealing with those who think themselves to be wise, apart from the wisdom God gives through His Word and Spirit, is fruitless.  "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly" (26:11).  Beware of people who return over and over and over again to their old ways after confessing Jesus Christ.  All of us will stumble at times, but if the direction of life does not change, there is no spiritual life!  True humility that is produced by the Spirit of God changes the heart and opens the ears to listen to counsel and rebuke and instruction.

The other two "qualities" that often go together in the life of the fool are laziness and quarreling, along with lies and deception.  It is a deadly combination that repeats itself over and over.  The sluggard is a fool, as is the one who enters into foolish quarrels and who gossips and lies with his lips.  As you read this description make sure these verses are not describing YOU!  The sluggard will use any excuse to get out of work and yet be "wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly" (26:16).  In other words, the fool and the sluggard and the quarrelsome man all have one thing in common:  they have big mouths!!  "Oh, I was only joking!”  (26:18). People with such an attitude find everything funny … everything except their own folly!

Those with the Spirit of God are called to be discerning and that's what so much of Proverbs is about.  Solomon is saying, "Here is how you recognize wisdom and folly, and here is how you distinguish between the two."  It is often surprising how easily some people are misled.  "A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit.  Though his speech is charming, do not believe him … his malice may be concealed by deception … a lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin" (26:24-28).  Honesty comes from a man or woman who can be honest with themselves!  "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips" (27:2).

Bragging, talking loudly just to be heard, rejecting counsel, repeating foolish and harmful behavior, working harder to avoid work than simply doing the work that needs to be done, endless debating that leads to gossip and strife … all of these are the marks of a fool.  Stay away from them!!!  Surround yourself with those who will be honest with you and allow you to be honest with them.  Thus, "iron sharpens iron," and those who are wise will find a bond that the foolish will never understand.  "Though you grind a fool in a mortar, … you will not remove his folly from him" (27:22).  That is a sad indictment of many who reject the loving rebuke of God's Word and of His people.

Paul wrote to Timothy that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17).  The source of wisdom is the Word of God and those with the Spirit of God will LISTEN to what He has to say through His servants and will surround themselves with other like-minded servants of the Lord.  If you look around you, the lives of those closest to you will tell you something about yourself.  Be wise in the Lord and do not surround yourself with fools or you will find yourself to be part of their folly.

"O LORD, it is to You that I come for wisdom and to Your Spirit for discernment.  Apart from Your work within me I would surely be a fool, thinking more of myself than I ought, desiring the praise of my own lips more than the rebuke of a friend.  Thank You for Your grace, for Your Word, for Your discipline in my life, my Savior and my God.  Continue Your work in me and help me to surround myself with those who will 'sharpen' me … then use me to help sharpen them … that our praise may be from You, O LORD, our God, as our lives reflect Your glory, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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