Last week our devotional came from the first part of a larger paragraph. We looked at Wisdom’s invitation to a meal which she offered to the simple. She was sending out her servants, her maidens, with certain instructions. We looked at only those positive instructions.
This evening we shall consider what those servants were to do with those who scorned the invitation. We have a description of those who will not listen to Wisdom; those who are not hungry for truth. Verses 7 through 9 are such a contrast to the first verses that they almost seem out of place.
Let’s begin at the end and finish the words which wisdom wants to share with those who are receptive.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” Here is one of the many Proverbs which deserves to be memorized – MUST be memorized. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” So many people think that fear of North Korea or the fear of ISIS is the beginning of wisdom. There are thousands of professing Christians who make a fear of the Tribulation a key ingredient to their outlook on life. I fear that those people lack a proper understanding of the sovereign, omnipotent God. Nothing which shall befall the earth will come without the directing hand of Jehovah – so FEAR HIM. There is no terrorist in the world who can touch a single saint of God without the permission of God. Ultimately, the blessing of the Lord commences with salvation – deliverance from sin. There must be a humbled repentance before Jehovah rooted in a heaven-sent fear, before we are in the least way fit to face the world.
From there Wisdom goes a step farther – “In the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” In a knowledge of holiness? In the ability to define what it is to be holy? No, that is nothing more than the knowledge that the trembling devils possess. This is a practical and Spirit-sent knowledge which begins in the Holy God. If it proceeds from there into the Holy Word of God that is an added blessing. But like the thief on the cross, if there was nothing more than a knowledge of Christ, that is an excellent start.
And then as she has told us, Wisdom brings with her, or Wisdom feeds us with indescribable blessings. “For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.” But it isn’t just length of days that are important; it is the quality of those days under the sunshine of God. Our Wisdom has said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Sadly, as Wisdom’s maidens go out with their glorious invitation, they often run into out -and-out scorn.
The word “scorners” is quite complicated and translated in several ways, including “derision” and “mockery.” But it basically boils down wicked lips expressing what lays in the scorner’s hearts. With his common poetic parallelism, Solomon describes the scorner as “wicked” in verse 7. This scorner is obviously someone who doesn’t fear the Lord, and he has no understanding of the holy.
The whole context takes me forward to II Timothy 4:2, where Paul is talking to one of the Lord’s servants. “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” Notice that verse 8 has two of same words that Paul uses, but they are spoken negatively. “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.” And isn’t “give understanding” in the next verse is the same thing as Paul’s “exhort”? The general ministry of the gospel minister is to “Preach the word. .. to; reprove, rebuke and exhort.” In obeying his commission, he will be preaching to believers and simple folk and also to scorners. They are often found mixed together in the same audience, even in a small congregation like ours. To some ears the preacher will be a blessing, to some he will be an interesting surprise and to others he is a fool.
With that in mind, Wisdom’s maidens should “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee.” This must not be considered a blanket statement forbidding the instruction of the hard-headed fool. Because as I say, they can’t be completely avoided. But Wisdom’s maidens must not be surprised or hurt when their invitations and words of blessing are spit back into their faces. Because his already mind is made up, the scorner has no intention of listening to you, he will hate you. At some point, further reply and exhortation becomes a waste of time. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
“He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.” Oh, this blot will not be found in the eternal journals of Wisdom; it is not a blemish that the loving God recognizes. It is the scorner who is attempting to shame that servant of God. He thinks he sees ugliness on the face of Wisdom’s maidens.
But let’s not forget who is casting these aspersions. Fools, mockers and scoffers – men already condemned. What do God’s servants have to fear from such people? Shame, blots? “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee.” Is the hatred of a man whom God hateth anything to fear? “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” Even if the king orders the servant’s head to be brought to him on a charger, the Baptist has nothing to fear.
In contrast to the ministry among the scorners, there are a few simpletons who receive the gift of grace.
“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” Throughout history there have periods of spiritual poverty and spiritual wealth. There have been years of unbelievable revival with many people swept into Wisdom’s home. Kentucky for a while; the East Coast during the Great Awakening; Wales a generation before that. Up and down history and here and there across Europe wise men have become yet wiser. God’s people must pray that such blessing return. I know how impossible the prospects are, when not even God’s people seem to grow in learning. But the possibility still exists because God is still on His throne.
“Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee” Timothy. That shouldn’t be your motive, but it can be your reward.
Solomon concludes his thoughts in this paragraph with verse 12.
“If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it.” As Wisdom’s maidens go out into the highways and hedges, compelling and inviting, they will experience two kinds of response – one from the fools and another from the hearers. Even though there is some benefit to general society when a fool is converted, the only sure effect will be on that one who has been given wisdom by God’s grace. Certainly, no one can become a child of God on behalf of another. Hopefully the convert’s testimony will be added to that of the evangelistic maidens, like the Samaritan’s woman’s words added to those of the Saviour. But perhaps she will be the only convert.
Similarly, the unbeliever, the trouble-maker, the scorner, despite spreading his hatred and unbelief…. His judgment will ultimately be his alone. His words, like those of Satan to Eve, may spread his unbelief, yet it doesn’t lessen, it only enhances his own wickedness. “If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it.”