Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 28:9

Yesterday, I was reading the biography of a 18th century preacher, named John Kerr, who left the ministry to become a US. Congressman. According to the essay the man was a really good preacher; he could really move the hearts of men. And I am sure that was a part of his successful political campaign. He eventually came to his senses and returned to become pastor of the First Baptist church of Richmond, Virginia – an extremely large and important church in the South.
I don’t know if the man ever did this, but what might he have done with verse 9 in some political speech? “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” If he ever ran on a law and order ticket he might have said … “The man who ignores, rejects or refuses to respect the laws of the land, will have no defense at his trial.” For example, if the law says, “Thou shalt not steal,” but a man is an compulsive thief, and he has been arrested for theft before, his pleas for leniency or clemency should be rejected by the judge. Probably most honest citizens can see the sense contained in this verse when it is used socially. But Solomon wasn’t speaking as king, and he wasn’t thinking of these words in a social or political sense. “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the WORD of God, even his prayer to the LORD shall be abomination.”
Let’s examine this proverb by breaking it into its four component parts.
“He that TURNETH AWAY his ear from hearing THE LAW…..”
I believe that the word “law” in this verse refers to more than the Pentateuch – the five books of Moses. Technically, the Old Testament is divided into “the Law,” “the Prophets, “the Psalms” and the “Histories.” But essentially in Solomon’s day there was only the Pentateuch – “the law” and some of the early history. Essentially, “the law” was all the saint of God possessed, and to him it meant “the word of God.” I believe that today we can lawfully say, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing God’s Word, even his prayer shall be abomination.”
Now, what is the likelihood that any man of the Philistines “turned away” his ear from the word of God? The Philistines and the Canaanite tribes didn’t have God’s law from which to turn away. At that time it was only the Israelite who could hear “the law.” In other words the only person who could turn from it was someone who had it or had previously heard it. “Oh, oh, hear comes the prophet of God again, I’m don’t want to listen to anything he has to say.”
In today’s, American society, just about every quarrelsome Philistine, every worldly Egyptian, and every religious Pharisee has been exposed to the Word of God to some degree. Perhaps there is a growing minority, but the majority of Americans, are to be included in this verse. In our society just about anyone can “turn away his ear from hearing the law.” But – this verse applies more to the people who claim to be “Christians” – professing and actual Christians. Anyone can become a law-breaker – a thief – and when the 8th commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” is quoted, they turn away their ear. Oh, it may not be the 8th commandment, but it might be something taken from the Beatitudes. It could come from the exhortations of Paul or the writings of John. Speaking from the depths of my own heart, I am almost certain that there is not a person here who has not at some point in his Christian life “turned away his ear from hearing God’s Word.” The truth of Proverbs 28:9 should be laid as a warning at the feet of every one of us.
“He that turneth away his ear from HEARING the law…”
Obviously, the sin which is exposed in this statement is tied to our hearing. But the roots of that sin lay elsewhere, and the expression of that sin is seen in other ways. The problem begins in the heart, which for one reason or other does not want to hear what God has to say. “Men love darkness, rather than light, because their (hearts) are evil,” and the hearing of the law exposes that dark heart. So even in the nominal Christian there is a tendency to turn away. And when we do that, our fellowship with the Lord is broken – “even our prayer shall be abomination.”
But how often is it that only the ear is turned away? Most likely the heart has already made its turn, and the ear is merely following. And then come the hands and the feet – the actions of that professed Christian – following the ear & heart. “He who lives his life contrary to the Word of God – the law – even his prayer shall be abomination.” The Psalmist had his theology right when he said in Psalm 66:18 – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” But then he went on, “But verily God HATH heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.” We need to be able to add verse 19 to Psalm 66:18.
“He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his PRAYER shall be abomination.”
Let’s go back to that compulsive thief. When will he most likely plead for help or mercy? Before he is arrested Is he going to look for a Christian counselor to help him overcome his kleptomania? Is he going to establish a friendship with a local judge, because he knows that some day he’s going to need a friend in the court? 99% of the time, he is going to pray for help only after he’s been caught. And the same is true in the spiritual realm. The person in this scripture is usually only going to pray when he is in trouble. But just when he needs the Lord the most, God will refuse to be there for him – and justly so.
If you stop & think about it, “hearing the Word” & “prayer” are the two basic aspects of our communion with God. These things are at the root of our fellowship, they express the root elements of our spiritual communion. God speaks to us through His word, and we reply in our prayers. Have you ever been speaking to an acquaintance, when all of a sudden she walks away, ignoring you in mid-sentence. How does that make you feel? Why can’t we apply that sort of reaction to the Lord? He wants to speak to you, and perhaps He begins His conversation with I Thessalonians 5:16 – “Rejoice ever more. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks….” At that point you turn away. Why would you expect Him to listen the next time you want to speak to Him? It’s not logical, let alone scriptural.
But actually our fellowship with God isn’t just a tight little circle of Him speaking to us and our reply in prayer. There are a great many other parts to our circle of fellowship. “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his SACRIFICE & SERVICE are abominations.” Some of the same language of this verse is used in Proverbs 15:8 – “The sacrifice of the wicked in an abomination to the Lord” in contrast to – “the prayer of the upright is His delight.” There is nothing we can do; there is no work we can perform, which will negate our neglect of God’s communication with us. Our tithes and offerings cannot be large enough to placate God’s anger at us for refusing to listen to Him. Our faithful church attendance means nothing if we will not listening to what He is telling us in that church service.It’s not just our prayer which is an abomination to God, it is our hymn-singing, our hypocritical witness, even our casserole at the pot-luck. I’m not telling you not to bring your covered dish to the pot-luck, I’m saying let’s get our hearts right and give our hearts and ears to what the Lord is saying.
“He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be ABOMINATION.”
Notice, first of all that this verses doesn’t specify whether this man’s prayer is an abomination to the Lord to others listening to his prayer. I suppose both could be true. But obviously this is speaking about God.
Can it be said that the word “abomination” sometime means more to the lost man than it does to the Christian? You and I hear the word often enough that its rough edges have been worn away. We know that it refers to something bad, but sometimes we forget just how bad. The English word speaks of something which causes disgust; it is loathsome, nauseating; it makes someone throw-up – to vomit. The Lord Jesus told the church in Laodicea that He was so sick of them he was about ready to vomit them out of His mouth. Do we look at the word as describing something this reprehensible? “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is disgusting to God.”
Beyond this, something to remember is that this word is used to describe the idols of the heathen. The Bible speaks of “the abominations of the heathen.” “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, his prayer becomes essentially idolatrous.” Think about it – this man has no interest in the Lord during his day-to-day life. He doesn’t care what the Lord has to say about sin, righteousness or judgment. He is unconcerned about prophesy and the next event on the Lord’s calendar. He may be like the old deist, believing that God created all things but He has abdicated His throne. When this man gets into trouble he turns to the part-time god which his imagination has created. He is essentially an idolater with a make-believe deity. Is no wonder his prayer is loathsome to the one true and living God.
The result of this man’s idolatry is pretty scarey. Turn to Proverbs 1:24 – “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.”
In my study, I jotted down several scriptures just like that of Proverbs 1 – Isaiah 1:11-15; Zechariah 7:11-13; Luke 13:25-27. They are all essentially longer versions of Psalm 109:7– “When he shall be judged, let him be condemned; and let his prayer become sin.”
There is no hope for the man who turns away his ear from the revelation of God if he doesn’t humble in repentance.