The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is…The Lord

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is…The Lord

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Following the arc featuring the “story” of Lady Wisdom and Ms. Folly, we notice a stylistic change in the book of wisdom, ostensibly collected by King Solomon. Beginning in chapter ten, King Solomon wields a shotgun and pelts us with wisdom’s birdshot. Manufacturers make birdshot by packing numerous steel or tungsten balls into a cartridge. The steel balls scatter when fired. This design increases the likelihood of striking a flying bird and keeps game fowl from being completely obliterated by the shot.  

So, beginning with Proverbs 10, the reader is confronted with numerous truths that do not form a cohesive narrative like Lady Wisdom and Miss Folly but are practical words of wisdom that enrich life. As a result, it is often best to approach the rest of Proverbs as a topical study. “The fear of the Lord” is an excellent place to start our topical overview of Proverbs. Solomon defined fear of the Lord as the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1.7; 9.10). 

As with the word “fool,” the Biblical definition of “fear” is not what one typically associates with the term. I oft tout Webster’s original 1828 dictionary since it often frames words within a Biblical context. Here is Webster’s subentry for the word “fear.” 

“In scripture, fear is used to express a filial or a slavish passion. In good men, the fear of God is a holy awe or reverence of God and his laws, which springs from a just view and real love of the divine character, leading the subjects of it to hate and shun every thing that can offend such a holy being, and inclining them to aim at perfect obedience. This is filial fear 

I will put my fear in their hearts. Jeremiah 32.39. 

Slavish fear is the effect or consequence of guilt; it is the painful apprehension of merited punishment. Romans 8.15. 

The love of God casteth out fear 1 John 4.1.”  

(https://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/Fear)  

Regarding the beginning of knowledge and wisdom, we understand that this is because we respect and revere God. We acknowledge His authority and thus trust His knowledge and judgment. Beyond its role in enlightening us, the fear of the Lord will accomplish other positive things as well. 

We will hate evil. (Proverbs 8.13). 

One cannot truly despise evil without also cherishing good, and just as an aversion to wrongdoing motivates people to turn away from it, so does a desire to do what is right in God’s eyes. In this context, “fear of the Lord” refers to the essence of religious practice. 

We will prolong life. (Proverbs 10.27) 

Mature individuals can recall numerous cases of the wicked whose lives were cut short and ended due to their evil actions—fatalities caused by drunk drivers, robbers who police have shot, adulterers killed by cuckolded husbands, etc.            

We have strong confidence and a fountain of life. (Proverbs 14.26-27) 

The traps of death include not only the pitfalls and dangers of our current lives on Earth but also the unfathomable terrors of the “second death.” James Moffat translated the Scriptures in 1929 and rendered the passage: “Reverence for the Eternal is a fount of life; it shows how to avoid the nets of Death.” He capitalized the “d” in “death” to show that it was eternal condemnation. 

The fear of the Lord will prompt us to depart from evil. (Proverbs 16.6) 

No matter how well done, mercy and truth cannot save people from sin unless genuine repentance and a change of heart toward God’s will accompany them. People refrain from doing bad things because they are afraid of the Lord, and this fear affects them. Those with holy fear and reverence for God in their hearts will not sin against him. 

We will have a satisfying life, spared from much evil. (Proverbs 19.23) 

According to this verse, the only way to be “satisfied” is to fear and serve God. On the tomb of William Rockefeller in New York’s Tarrytown Cemetery, there is a quote from Augustine that reads, “Our souls, O God, were made for Thee, and never shall they rest until they rest in Thee.” Men will never find happiness elsewhere, no matter how hard they try. Only in Jesus Christ can we find the fullness of life that God provides. 

We will enjoy riches, honor, and life! (Proverbs 22.4) 

This verse, which discusses humility and reverence for God, sums up several of the principal lessons of Proverbs. In addition, it provides a concise overview of the fundamental requirements for human survival on this planet. 

True religion, as demonstrated by “the fear of the Lord.” is synonymous with humility. The signs of humility are being dependent on God, having a low opinion of oneself, surrendering one’s will, and convincing ourselves of sin. They are all summed up in the phrase “the fear of God,” which is the source of all virtues and blessings: riches, honor, and life. 

We deprive ourselves of God’s wisdom and knowledge treasures when we do not fear the Lord. We will tempt fate and let ourselves get corrupted by mingling with evil. Our refusal to listen to God’s word will likely shorten our lives (e.g., suffering sexually transmitted diseases if we do not heed His Word on sexual relationships). We will not come to know God’s love, which provides assurance and confidence in salvation. We are not motivated to repent or turn to God when we sin! We will not be inspired to “work out our salvation.” This outcome from lacking the fear of the Lord sounds dreadful.  

To be truly wise, we must first learn to fear the Lord. Let us understand this fear, appreciate it, and incorporate it into our lives as God’s children! 

Oh, Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go

Oh, Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go

Friday Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

We finally get a glimpse of Lady Folly. Granted, she is factually a person our author was aware of, but she is the embodiment of Lady Folly. Our author relates to his students something he witnessed with his eyes, the seduction of the simpleton. Indeed, Solomon seems preoccupied with sexual immorality, having discussed it several times. However, Solomon knows the damage caused by sexual sin. It is ruinous in multiple ways. And repetition is often a device used within instruction to ensure a pupil learns the material.  

Solomon begins by directing students to God’s Law. What does God say about this? Indeed, God has prohibited sexual immorality within the Law. Therefore, the student need only properly esteem that Law, making it the apple of his eye. Furthermore, unlike the gaudy phylacteries worn by later Pharisees, the young man needs to write God’s Law on his heart. Those fortunate enough to live under the New Covenant already realize that God changed the nature of His Law so that the follower of the New Covenant can write God’s Law on his heart rather than a stone (Hebrews 10.15-17). It enables the disciple to carry God’s Word with him always.  

After writing God’s Law on one’s heart, he seeks Lady Wisdom. She is here pictured as a sister. Think of the relationship many brothers have with their sisters. Do they not tend to be protective of them? Even Jacob’s brood did something drastic to protect the honor of their sister Dinah (cf. Genesis 34). So, the sister figure stands in stark contrast to Lady Folly, the seductress. With Wisdom, there is life, but Folly brings death. And this analogy of brothers and sisters continues under the New Covenant within the Body of Christ (cf. 1 Timothy 5.1-3).  

These first five verses set the stage for the subsequent confrontation and seduction of the youth. As Solomon looks out his window, he sees the “simple ones” (KJV) gathered in the streets. But as is typically the case when the Bible uses words like a fool or simple, it is not about a lack of intelligence. Instead, such words denote a disdain for or a lack of instruction. Typically, it is because simple ones pursue carnal things rather than those spiritual experiences that bring wisdom. Hence, we have those who, if pure of heart, would have sought the safety of their homes. Instead, these men preferred hanging out in the dangerous streets.  

One of the young men broke away from the pack to go towards “her” house (i.e., Lady Folly). Here, Solomon uses the poetry of the lengthening shadows to demonstrate the impending doom befalling the young man he is watching. The seductress is already out in the streets, making her way toward our simpleton. Though dressed as a harlot, this woman was someone’s wife. She took advantage of her husband’s absence to satiate her carnal desires. It seems that this was something she often did.  

The seductress’ words obfuscate the evil deed by couching it similarly to the thanksgiving peace offering in which the priests sat down on the same day to consume their portion of the sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 7.15). Thus, she has a lot of food that they must eat together. It may be that the “harlot” is aware of the adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Or it may be that this hints at her likewise being pagan on top of sexually immoral. Is she an Israelite? We don’t know. Her talk of paying vows might refer to the proceeds earned through sacred prostitution (i.e., prostitution in service to a fertility goddess like Astarte).  

If so, Lady Folly poses more than the risks discussed in Proverbs 6. She is also a threat to his spiritual life. Solomon says the young man is like an ox to the slaughter. In other words, he is oblivious to what is about to happen. The adulteress has laid a successful trap. But unfortunately, this young man does not realize the cost his actions will ultimately cost. Sadly, many breaking God’s Law is unaware of the long-term consequences. 

To such threats, Solomon offers three forms of defense. First, keep your mind safe. When a man’s thoughts wander in the direction of Lady Folly, he is in danger. Second, keep your distance, avoiding all contact, physically and mentally. Third, keep your eyes on her scorecard. In so doing, you will see the countless slain and her chambers of death. God does not shy away from telling us about men who were victims of illicit love or how they suffered afterward. Samson. David. Solomon. Each of those men sowed to the wind and reaped a whirlwind because of a woman.   

Everyone should flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6.18), but let the young men not have the same tragedy befall him as the wicked Abimelech. When Abimelech attacked Thebez, a woman cast down a millstone that struck Abimelech’s head, crushing his skull. He asked his armor-bearer to run him through with his sword so no one could say of him, “A woman slew him” (Judges 7.50-57). So may it also never be said of a man, spiritually, that a woman slew him. Stay away from Lady Folly.    

Do You Want A Fireproof Life?

Do You Want A Fireproof Life?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

In Proverbs 6, Solomon offers five items of advice. These five protective measures encompass everything from financial decisions to sexual purity. 

In verses 1-5, Solomon advises his sons not to take on someone else’s debt. Please remember that this is not a reference to the compassion God expects from His people. This guidance isn’t even about assisting a family member in need. The crucial distinction occurs in the second verse. According to Solomon, this is an example of speaking before thinking. The victim fell into a trap he created with his own words. One can only speculate why someone would make such a hasty pledge. It could be for appearances or because you believe the other person will do something good for you in the future. 

This warning makes me think of what Paul told the young preacher Timothy. “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin”  (1 Timothy 5.22 NASB1995). We should remember that if we praise someone before we know what kind of person they are, they may hurt our reputation if they turn out to be less than good. “Guilt by association” is something that a lot of people think is true. Think about the damage that someone else’s debt can cause. If they don’t pay, you’ll be on the hook for a debt you never owed in the first place! The person who doesn’t do what he needs to do could ruin your finances. 

Solomon says to go immediately and ask the other party to remove you from the pledge. It would be best if you didn’t go to sleep until the other person lets you out of the promise. Solomon even says that if you have to, you should beg. Then, even though it’s unpleasant, you deliver yourself like a prey escaping the hunter. (This part of Proverbs 6 makes me want to talk about the “entitlement mentality” and how helping others isn’t always best for their personal growth, and how they should live within their means, but I’ll be good and stay on task.) 

In verses 6 through 11, we are told not to be lazy. In this passage, Solomon tells us to look at the ant. Solomon praises the ant’s tenacity in the absence of a leader. Even though ants have a queen and use pheromones to talk to each other, this doesn’t change Solomon’s point. If you’ve ever watched ants, you know that they don’t need taskmasters to watch over them all the time. The ants take charge. Whatever the queen tells them to do, they do it right away. The bigger ant doesn’t crack his whip to make the smaller ones work harder. Even the Greek Aesop noticed this, using an ant as the main character in one of his stories. The ant worked hard to prepare for winter, while the grasshopper (originally a cicada) preferred to play. When winter came, the ants were happy, but the grasshopper came to ask for food. (It’s important to note that the ant showed no kindness in the early versions of the story. The grasshopper, or cicada, got to “reap what he had sown.”) 

Again, the New Testament has a cousin to our text. Paul tells the people of Thessalonica that people who don’t work shouldn’t be allowed to eat (2 Thessalonians 3.10). Laziness creates poverty. Solomon says that if one is “twiddling his thumbs,” poverty appears as a “vagabond.” As an American, I prefer to use the term “hobo” rather than “vagabond” because it conjures a more familiar image for my fellow citizens. I don’t know if hobos still exist today, but there were many of them during the Great Depression. Trains took these (mostly) men all over the country. They would never “hit a straight lick with a crooked stick.” They even made a hieroglyphic language that they left for other hobos. These symbols told you which houses would give you food, which would share food in exchange for work, and which places would give you food if you talked about religion. (In some respects, I cannot help but compare this to the recent “Great Resignation. The hobos decided to take advantage of the economic downturn to abandon society. In some ways, the same is true of those who choose not to report to work after COVID-19 disruptions.) 

In verses 12–15, Solomon tells us to look out for bad people. Solomon says you can find “tells” about these people if you look for them. Most of the time, we use the word “tell” in the context of poker. If someone gets a good hand, he might make a specific face. In the same way, other players know when he has a good hand. The same is true for his facial expressions or body language when he gets a bad hand. The wicked’s body language may show they want to do bad things. Their offensive language can also show who they are. As another implication, tells can also be used to talk to a partner. For example, a bad guy might communicate to a partner how to best ambush you. Solomon has already said we should avoid these situations at all costs.  

Now we get to the part of Proverbs 6 that most of us know: the seven things that God hates (6.16-19). These sins are interesting because they start in the heart and take over the sinner’s actions. A haughty expression means more than just arrogance. It means that a person thinks he or she is better than others. And if he is better than other people, his will comes first. Even his whims are more important than what you need. So, his pride, shown by his eyes, comes out in his lying tongue. People who lie do it to get the upper hand in a situation or avoid getting in trouble if caught. See how arrogance leads to lying! Because people often tell lies to save their necks, the sinner shows that he cares more about himself than his neighbors. So, if he has to shed the blood of innocent people to help his cause, he will.

Once a sinner gets to this point, he plans to do bad things and is willing to put in whatever effort is needed to make them happen. After that, he will tell any lie, even if it means lying about someone else. Lastly, this sinner is ready to ruin other people’s relationships to get what he wants. You’ve probably heard that all seven of these sins were done by those betraying Christ, giving Him to the Romans. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Can you think of Caiaphas? He said that Jesus should die instead of the entire nation of Israel (John 11.47-53; 18.14). Caiaphas, Judas, and the religious leaders of the Jews all do things that are on the list of seven things that God hates. It may take more thought to put the pieces together, but I’m sure other sins will follow the same pattern (e.g., abortion). 

The remainder of Proverbs 6 is devoted to sexual immorality. We’ve already said that young men like the thrill of new experiences that a “strange woman,” like a prostitute or an adulteress, can give them. Solomon spends some time here explaining why adultery is the more expensive of the two encounters. Although he does not condone illicit relationships with prostitutes, adultery is worse than those relationships. Adultery is a sin against God, the lawful spouse, the adulterous woman, and oneself. Prostitution is a sin against God, the prostitute, and oneself. (Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6.18-19 that sexual immorality is a sin against oneself. We don’t always think of ourselves as people who could be hurt.) “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?” (6.27). Of course, this is not true. Any sexual sin will hurt him. 

But the young man pays a different price for his extramarital sex. Most English translations use awkward language in verse 26, making it hard to understand what Solomon meant. “…for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life,” says the English Standard Version. In other words, a meeting with a prostitute is a transaction, meaning one exchanges goods or money for “services.” Solomon says that the prostitute will only cost you a loaf of bread, by comparison. But how can you make things up to the man whose wife you slept with? Sadly, the answer is that you cannot. The Law said that if the young man stole property, he had to pay back the total amount. But he can’t compensate for what he stole by sleeping with another man’s wife. Maybe this is why God made adultery a crime punishable by death in the Law. 

In chapter seven, Solomon warns his sons about “Lady Folly.” We’ll look at this chapter again next time, Lord willing. 

Illustration from Aesop’s “Ant And The Grasshopper”
You Should Drink From Your Own Well

You Should Drink From Your Own Well

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Proverbs 5 provides several insights. First and foremost, be prudent. In the first 14 verses, Solomon warns against satisfying base desires. The rest of the chapter is about lustful people and the trouble they get themselves into. Solomon warns young men to resist carnal desires as if they were his sons. Yes, it is about the seventh commandment, which is not to commit adultery. Adulterous women (referred to as “strange women” in the King James Version) may also facilitate spiritual infidelity to God. God portrays the broken covenant in the Old Testament as spiritual adultery. As a result, the adulteress can be a real woman or any other sin provocateur. Do you recall who misled Solomon? His spouses (1 Kings 11.4). 

 Men are especially vulnerable to women’s wiles. I believe Satan tempted Eve because he knew he could get Adam to sin through her rather than through a direct approach. But take note of Satan’s promise of reward in words as smooth as oil. Honey drips from the adulterer’s lips as well. (The KJV makes use of honeycomb.) Keil and Delitzsch define it as “virgin honey” from intact comb cells. This translation, I believe, should not be overlooked. A prostitute or a repeat adulteress is not virginal in the literal sense, but she is a new experience for the young man. And new experiences motivate men who seek the flesh. 

Of course, Satan never fulfills his promises. Instead, the seductress’ honey tastes like wormwood. Wormwood is a bitter shrub used to produce absinthe, a deworming medicine. Wormwood is used apocalyptically by John in Revelation to describe the sorrow that befalls the earth’s rivers and fountains. The seduction eventually kills. That is the price of indulgence. “Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay,” Ravi Zacharias says. We want to stay away from Hell’s Highway. Unlawful and promiscuous sex causes social, financial, moral, and physical devastation. This behavior harms society, family, the body, the church, and God. 

Solomon discusses the difficulties a young man’s lust can cause in verse ten. Strangers will fill themselves with their wealth, according to the KJV. In contrast to the NASB1995’s “strength,” this is worth considering. Consider a few scenarios in which sexual immorality can lead to financial ruin. First, there is the risk of blackmail from the person with whom you had an immoral relationship or a third party who discovered the tryst. What about having to make amends to the affected parties? For example, an adulterer in ancient Greece could face a hefty fine. (While this was preferable to execution or public humiliation, it was still expensive.) 

 However, sexual immorality causes physical harm (5.11). It is a sin that has resulted in terrible diseases both then and now. Many sexually transmitted diseases were fatal before the discovery of penicillin. Syphilis was particularly dreadful. In addition to blindness in infants and insanity in adults, it may occasionally attack a specific part of the body, such as the spine. Doctors call the latter condition tabes dorsalis. It effectively renders one unable to walk and move around without a wheelchair. The prevalence of tabes dorsalis is increasing among HIV-positive people.1

The issue with those young men who fall into this trap is not a lack of teachers but rather a dislike for instruction and correction. As a result, when their advisers warn them of the folly, the prodigal chooses to disregard their advice. Unfortunately, this vice appears to open the door to many other sins one desires to commit. Do you remember David, Solomon’s father? What did he do due to his adultery? (2 Samuel 11.1ff) When Bathsheba became pregnant, David attempted to conceal his sin by bringing her husband home from the war. He believed that Uriah the Hittite would undoubtedly “know” his wife while on leave. However, Uriah did not. As a result, David killed him by withdrawing his soldiers from Uriah, leaving him to fight alone on the battlefield. 

 God gives us a proper way to satisfy our sexual desires. Marriage. Solomon praises and encourages young men to pursue conjugal love. Solomon discusses a fulfilling marriage in the Song of Solomon-like language. These verses are in direct contrast to the first. Solomon describes marital love as “exhilarating.” (Contrast this verse with those at the start of the chapter, where we noted that young men seek experiences for the thrill of novelty.) Indeed, God created sexuality for us to enjoy with our spouses, but He forbids sexual relations outside of the union of a man and a woman in holy matrimony. It is worth noting that God forbids adultery in both the Old and New Testaments. However, we also require consistency in this regard. Some may be quick to point out the illicit nature of a homosexual relationship and condemn it as sexual immorality. Still, they ignore heterosexuals who have marital relations outside of wedlock. God’s word forbids either type of relationship. 

 Solomon reminds his sons that God is keeping an eye on them. Ultimately, the issue is less about sex and more about a person’s love for God. We read about Joseph, the young man approached by Potiphar’s wife. She attempted to seduce Joseph. But Joseph maintained his integrity. As he turned down Potiphar’s wife’s advances, Joseph referred to Potiphar’s trust in him but said his decision was ultimately a matter of faith. “There is no one greater in this house than I, and he (Potiphar) has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God? (Genesis 39.9 NASB1995) 

So, let the young man drink from his cisterns and wells, not the polluted waters of the streets. 

Sources Cited 

1 “Tabes Dorsalis.” Brain&Life, American Academy of Neurology, www.brainandlife.org/disorders-a-z/disorders/tabes-dorsalis

Wisdom Calls, Can You Hear?

Wisdom Calls, Can You Hear?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

 

Brent Pollard

Last week we noted that one has two reliable sources of wisdom: God and one’s parents. However, we might alter this slightly to include the adjective “godly” to describe our parents. If one’s parents are not godly, then they cannot offer much in the way of wisdom. Everything else is a tertiary source of wisdom. This truth invites harmful consequences for the one listening to the wrong source of wisdom. Solomon warns that sinners seek to seduce you with their words (Proverbs 1.10-19). 

But what do we mean by “sinner”? We have in mind those who habitually sin, not just those who have yet to enter a covenant relationship with God. In other words, these individuals make no pretense of doing good or being righteous. Solomon’s example seems extreme to us since we have a blood-thirsty gang willing to kill to plunder others’ property. How could anyone be seduced into committing an act God hates (Proverbs 6.16-19)? Unfortunately, it is not as difficult as you might think. 

Adolph Hitler remains an easy illustrative target because he is so infamous. However, during an economic depression, Hitler rose to power, promising a return to prosperity. Hitler convinced the Germans that only the Jews stood between them and their restoration. Hitler was charismatic, and he had helpers like Joseph Goebbels, able to package his message for easy consumption. How many otherwise “good” Germans turned a blind eye to atrocities committed under the pretense of creating the thousand-year reign of the Third Reich?  

When Patton discovered the atrocities committed at Buchenwald, he brought the locals into the concentration camp to see what had happened there. Some still feigned ignorance, but one eyewitness at the time declared that one could smell death in the air even outside the camp. “Death” has an unmistakable smell. Visitors to the concentration camps of Europe have told me that the scent lingers today. It is inconceivable that they didn’t know that something nefarious happened behind the locked gates of Buchenwald.   

I’ve watched enough documentaries to note how many older Germans living during that time say that Hitler had them under a spell. And some of the Hitler youth have struggled to adjust to the post-war world. But today, it is common for Germans to refer to the events of the Second World War as the liberation of Germany by the Allied Forces. In other words, contemporary Germans see the period of Nazi rule as an occupation even though the citizenry widely supported Hitler at that time. 

But what of a “softer” despotism? We have U.S. politicians parroting the Marxist ideology of redistribution. (“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”) And younger generations are quick to point out the disparity between the salary of the CEO and the employee, even though the CEO may have blood and sweat equity invested in his business and that no job would exist for the employer without him. And there is this disconnect between those desiring that we plunder the “rich” and redistribute to the “poor” and the “foot soldiers” willing to “Occupy Wall Street.” The latter may be ready to commit violence to achieve revolutionary goals, but those sympathetic are likewise content to stay silent as the rabble fights. Lest we forget, the failed economic ideology of Karl Marx has never worked anywhere it has been tried. Furthermore, it has given us men like Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong, who have killed far more of their citizens than even Hitler did of the Jews.  

It is much easier to follow a multitude to do evil than we care to admit. Thus, Moses warned against such (Exodus 23.2). It is a matter of companionship. As Paul warns, if we surround ourselves with evil people, it will corrupt our good morals (1 Corinthians 15.33). On the other hand, if we tolerate the presence of evil, we will discover its shared nature with yeast that permeates the dough into which one introduces it (1 Corinthians 5.6). This cascading effect is one of the reasons a church must practice discipline when needed (1 Corinthians 5.1ff).  

Lady Wisdom’s call stands in stark contrast (Proverbs 1.20-33). But, like the effort required to enter the narrow way (Matthew 7.13-14), one must be determined to hear her voice over the noisy crowds (1.21). Lady Wisdom is especially desirous to grab the attention of three groups: simpletons, mockers, and fools. Simpleton sounds derogatory but means that one is gullible. Aren’t the gullible especially vulnerable to the misinformation supplied by the tertiary sources of earthly wisdom? Indeed. And it is not necessarily a matter of ignorance, but lack of experience making them simpletons.  

Mockers, also called scoffers, are those flouting God’s authority. As with the simpleton, this does not mean one is stupid. Instead, a mocker chooses to be such by his disposition. Like the pharaoh to whom Moses spoke, mockers ask, “Who is God that I should hear His voice?” (Exodus 5.2) Finally, we have the fool. As we have said previously, “fool” has nothing to do with intellectual capacity. A biblical fool is a morally deficient person despising wisdom and discipline. Thus, the fool is “happier” living without the intrusive “advice” of a Creator God. 

But as Lady Wisdom warns, her unheard pleas will become a calamity for those refusing her counsel. And on that day, not only will she not be an advocate at one’s side, but she will join the chorus of laughter at their downfall (1.26). Lady Wisdom sounds cruel, but truthfully, she is just a strict teacher. She knows that one eats the fruit of his own way (1.31, cf. Galatians 6.7-8). Thus, she leaves you to your own devices. And the isolation one feels when facing the consequences of his actions is not even abated by the knowledge that God’s grace is available to forgive. The fallen one wishes he could call on Lady Wisdom but realizes that all she can tell him now is, “I tried to tell you.” 

David illustrates this feeling of loneliness in facing the consequences well in Psalm 51. Do you recall his misery? He could feel the separation between himself and God. He cried out to God to restore the joy of his salvation (Psalm 51.12). As recompense, David would then teach others (Psalm 51.13). We might add that bargaining is a noted process of grief. David was grieving. It mattered not that David knew God could forgive him because he still felt that loneliness that began when Nathan pointed the finger at him and said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12.7). Lady Wisdom was absent from David. Even if present, all she could have done was remind him of what he had done wrong. 

Today, Lady Wisdom still calls. Can you hear her? You may have to strain to listen to her over the world’s noise. But do not spurn her invitation lest you share the fate of the simpleton, mocker, and fool. Instead, hear her offer of security and peace of mind (1.33) and accept her counsel.   

Reliable Sources That Boost Your Wisdom

Reliable Sources That Boost Your Wisdom

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Last week, we looked at our syllabus for Wisdom 101. Professor Solomon has outlined the aims of our course. And now, Solomon will introduce us to the “texts” we will be studying. The primary “text” will come as no surprise to the believer. That source is God (Proverbs 1.7). But there is also a secondary “text’ that Solomon encourages us to study. We will examine this more in a moment. 

Wisdom begins with the “fear of the Lord” (1.7). That fear is the primary text. But what do we have in mind when we say “fear?” It cannot mean that God causes an unpleasant emotion making us apprehensive to approach Him. If God were scary, how could we entice another to listen? In their commentary, Old Testament scholars Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch give a superb definition. Fear is a “reverential subordination” to God.1 In other words, when you recognize the superiority of God, you stand in awe of Him. Who better to learn wisdom from than the One you admire? You should desire to hang on His every word. God, for His part, is glad to impart His wisdom to us. As James reminds us, if we ask Him, He will generously give us wisdom (James 1.5). 

Yet we know not everyone esteems God highly. Those disrespecting God are called “fools” (1.7). But by calling them fools, we are not suggesting that such people lack the intellectual capacity for growth. Rather “fool” demonstrates their disposition. In the original Hebrew, the word translated as “fool’ is “evil.” No, not our English word, evil, but a word transliterated as such from the Hebrew language. Hebrew scholars Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Bridge observe that the word always denotes one is “morally bad.”2 Confirming this interpretation is the Septuagint version of the Scriptures. The 70 or so Jewish scholars translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek used the word “asebēs” for “fool.” That Greek word means “impious.”3 Thus, one who is impious (i.e., morally bad) despises wisdom and instruction. Such foolish persons might echo the pharaoh who asked, “Who is God that I should listen to Him?” (Exodus 5.2). So, if we were to cite a secular maxim to explain this part of our proverb, it might well be that “you can lead a horse to water but cannot make him drink.”   

Yes, God can boost your wisdom, but you must desire to sit at His feet, develop a relationship with Him, and learn from Him those words leading to eternal life (John 6.68). But since I used the plural form of source in our title, you know there must be at least one other source. Indeed. You have probably heard of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is essentially an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It is supposed to be an unbiased source of information, but a quick perusal of hot-button topics often reveals the bias of Wikipedia editors and publishers. At best, though, Wikipedia is a tertiary source of information. The word “tertiary” is from the Latin tertiariesmeaning “of or containing a third.”4 So tertiary is a fancy way to say that Wikipedia provides third-party information (i.e., information twice removed from its source). But what sources come before the tertiary one? The educational field gives us a clue by using the terms “primary” and “secondary” when describing its schooling. Primary is the category coming first and takes youth through to the age of 12, or 14, depending on the country. Following primary education, a child enters secondary education. Secondary schools will see the child through graduation from high school, the highest level of compulsory education. From there, a young person may elect to pay for “post-secondary” education in college or university.  

So, for the believer, God is the primary source of wisdom. And though we can learn wisdom elsewhere, before listening to those tertiary sources of wisdom, Solomon reminds us of our secondary source of wisdom in Proverbs 1.8. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Note that God makes parents the secondary source of wisdom. Hence, parents become the secondary “text” for Wisdom 101. Recall the first institution created by God in Genesis 2.18-24. That institution was the home, the family.  

Despite causing great harm to the family by signing the so-called Great Society Legislation, Lyndon Baines Johnson nevertheless stated that “the family is the cornerstone of our society.”5 Indeed, Johnson’s “reforms” helped break the home. He bolstered single-parent households and turned birthing children out of wedlock into a cottage industry. The State stepped in to fill the vacancy left by the absent parent, and education became the responsibility of the public-school educator. This innovation was never the intention of God.  

Solomon was aware of the Law given to Moses. Fathers were to instruct their children at every opportunity (Deuteronomy 6.1-8). What we observe today in our society is that which played out countless times in Old Testament history. First, you would have a faithful generation that failed to impart wisdom to the next generation. God’s people would then enter a decline, followed by apostasy. God would then punish them using the military might of their pagan neighbors until they repented and cried out for mercy. Finally, God would bring a deliverer who would lead the people into a new righteous era. This period would persist until a new untaught generation arose, and the cycle would begin again. 

Though we are not a theocracy, righteousness still exalts a nation (Proverbs 14.34). And this democratic republic is buoyed by the faith of its citizenry. As a result, we have noted prosperity resulting from periods of “goodness” (e.g., the post-WWII boom). And times of difficulty that seem to result from times of “excess” (e.g., the “Roaring Twenties” and the Great Depression). One wonders where we are within our cycle of apostasy and renewal when he hears news stories of public-school teachers confusing children about being oppositely gendered or talking openly about their perverted lifestyles. There is a significant disconnect between what parents would teach their young and what some teachers teach in schools. That was, at least, one blessing from the COVID pandemic shutdown. Parents overheard what teachers were teaching their children and would have none of it.  

So, what happens when you have children who do not have a trustworthy secondary source of wisdom (i.e., parents)? Tertiary sources step in and instill man’s wisdom, which arises from man’s dark heart (Romans 1.21ff). The children worship the creature rather than the Creator. And these progenies ignore all authority: God, parents, and even the civil government (Romans 13.1ff). There can be no substitute for the wisdom mom and dad are to instill. You cannot even delegate instruction over to the faithful brethren of the church. The Bible school teacher can be a trusted tertiary source, it is true, but he or she does not have the amount of time with the child given by God to parents. Christian parents must stop abdicating God’s role in their children’s lives.  

And the result from having the proper primary and secondary source for wisdom? Wisdom becomes one’s attractive accessory, like a graceful wreath upon one’s head or a necklace around their neck (Proverbs 1.9). We observe this in Peter and John. We trust the secondary wisdom imparted to them by their parents was adequate but take note of the primary wisdom they received spending time with Jesus. As they stood before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders noted the confidence with which they spoke. They concluded these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4.13).  

So, what are the reliable sources you have that boost your wisdom? First and foremost, it is the fear of God. The second source is the godly instruction you receive from your parents. But wherever you are in your journey to find Lady Wisdom, whether one who is still learning from his parents or who may soon be the secondary source of wisdom for a child or grandchild, remember the words of our Lord to those feeling deficient. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7.7-8 NASB1995).   

Sources Cited 

1          Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. “Commentary on Proverbs 1”. Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/proverbs-1.html. 1854-1889.   

2          “Strong’s Hebrew; 191.” Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Unabridged, 2006, biblehub.com/hebrew/191.htm.   

3          “Strong’s Greek; 765.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, 2011, biblehub.com/greek/765.htm 

4          “Tertiary English Definition and Meaning.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries,www.lexico.com/en/definition/tertiary.  

5          Johnson, Lyndon B. “Lyndon B. Johnson Quote: ‘the Family Is the Corner Stone of Our Society.”.” Quotefancy, Quotefancy, quotefancy.com/quote/1017793/Lyndon-B-Johnson-The-family-is-the-corner-stone-of-our-society

Wisdom 101’s Syllabus

Wisdom 101’s Syllabus

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

I doubt I’ve ever fully appreciated the book of Proverbs more than now as I’ve undertaken the task of teaching it in a Bible class. The reason for this, I suppose, is that I always viewed Proverbs as a group of wise sayings that one could visit and choose from as you might items on a buffet. “Yes, I will take a side of the ‘virtuous woman’ with ‘train up the child,’ please.” But it is an anthology about wisdom whose contributors include Solomon, Agur (Proverbs 30.1), and King Lemuel (Proverbs 31.1). Moreover, we know scribes during the reign of King Hezekiah took proverbs attributed to Solomon and added them at that later date (Proverbs 25.1). So, the book of Proverbs came together over an extended period. Yet, we know that by the time scholars translated Proverbs into Greek for its inclusion within the Septuagint, it was in its present form.  

Despite being an anthology, the compilers have done a marvelous job fleshing out two “characters.” One character, whom we must pursue, is “Lady Wisdom.” The other character we are to shun, “Lady Folly.” (Is she Lady Wisdom’s doppelgänger in the original sense of that word? An evil counterpart?) The ultimate form of “Lady Wisdom” is King Lemuel’s mother, the woman of virtue. However, there is a question about whether this woman is real, like Bathsheba, if Lemuel is a pseudonym for Solomon or a metaphor for the woman who embodies all Lady Wisdom’s traits. Solomon’s section treats his audience as a son, so we get the idea that Lady Wisdom is like that ideal woman for whom a young man should pine. How much more thrilling, then, when one catches a glimpse of the beautiful Lady Wisdom as she calls out in the streets or lifts her voice in the square (Proverbs 1.20). It is evident that the authors don’t anthropomorphize wisdom with every usage of that virtue, but enough to conceptualize wisdom as God’s companion, His daughter, perhaps, with whom we must also associate ourselves.  

Given this elaborate backdrop, the first six verses of Proverbs 1 strike me like a collegiate syllabus. Professor Solomon enters the classroom and passes out his plan for the material he will cover during his course. Wisdom 101. It is a level one class since it is  “To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion” (1.4 NASB1995). So, there are no prerequisites for this “class.” Even so, enlightenment is granted even to the more learned by the assistance of the one giving them wise counsel (1.5). But the authors outline their intentions. Their “purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, help them understand the insights of the wise…teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, and to help them do what is right, just, and fair” (Proverbs 1.2-3 NLT). After one has learned the basics, he will “receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles” (Proverbs 1.5-6 NLT). 

I will be honest with you. I didn’t always pay attention to the syllabus when I was a student earning my degree. I’d hear my classmates talking about a due research paper. When I protested that the professor had said nothing in class about a term paper, my friends pointed me back to the syllabus, where the professor had given details of the assignment in black and white. My previous problem of not appreciating the book of Proverbs likewise extended from my failure to read Solomon’s syllabus in the first chapter. It is not just a collection of pithy sayings. God introduced me to the most remarkable woman whom I could ever hope to meet. And if I play my cards right, I will make her my companion also. Along the journey, I will become a better person and, subsequently, a better person to others. Eventually, I will even stand in a position to help guide others through life. Not bad for a book of poetry.    

12 Truths You Can Hang Your Hat On

12 Truths You Can Hang Your Hat On

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

In every chapter of Ecclesiastes you can expect at least two kinds of verses. At least one verse will make you wonder what Solomon is talking about and one verse will hit you in a profound way. As it turns out, humans haven’t changed that much over the years and our current experience of life share many similarities. Here are twelve amazing truths found in this book. 

1.4-8 

Some things never change. 

2.24-25 

Pleasing God will bring you more joy than chasing the things that bring momentary pleasure. 

3.9-11 

God has given us a desire to know the future. Because of this, we understand that while we don’t know the future we’re better off serving a God who does. 

4.9-12

It’s by design that we can accomplish more with help. God can do more with us when we are team players. 

5.19-20 

There’s joy to be found in hard work and that too is by design. Satisfaction is a natural feeling produced by the work of our hands. 

6.6

If you don’t find joy in life then life will drag on and feel slower. 

7.13-15 

When life is good, enjoy it. When life is hard— remember that it’s like that for everybody. Ups and downs are part of living. 

8.16-18 

This world is not just but don’t let that fool you into thinking that God isn’t just. We can’t understand how God’s mind operates in every circumstance. 

9.11-12 

Not everything happens for a reason! God might have a hand in any event, Satan may have something to do with it— or maybe it’s all a coincidence.

10.8-15 

Every job has it’s dangers but wisdom can make a job run smoother just as a sharp knife can make a task easier. 

11.7-8

It’s good to be alive! It’s nice to see the light from the sun. You should enjoy the life you live with eternity on your mind. 

12.11 

You can put your trust in any wisdom and teaching that comes from God. 

Each chapter of Ecclesiastes is filled with wisdom and life changing words. Our world needs to spend more time studying this inspired collection of truth. 

Dead Sea Scroll 109 (Ecclesiastes, commons image)
Where Vanity Leads

Where Vanity Leads

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

When my father and I travel in the car together, we listen to one of three SiriusXM stations: 40s Junction, Bluegrass Junction, or Willie’s Roadhouse. Today, we tuned the radio dial to Willie’s Roadhouse as I made my way to a gastroenterology appointment. On the way home, Tom T. Hall’s tune, “Faster Horses (The Cowboy and the Poet),” played as we started back up the mountain towards Blairsville, Georgia. I have heard this song by “The Storyteller” before. “Faster Horses” never fails to remind me of King Solomon. 

Within Hall’s song, a poet asks a cowboy for words of inspiration. Instead, the cowboy tells the poet that the best things in life are “faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money.”1 The poet balks at the idea, but the cowboy calls him a liar. The poet desires to punch the cowboy, but the cowboy draws a weapon, and the poet backs off. Eventually, the poet drops his philosophical pursuits, settling on the “wisdom” imparted to him. He supposes the “wisdom” sage enough to share with his offspring. I would venture to guess that alcohol, at least, figured prominently in Hall’s life as he also wrote the songs “I Like Beer” and “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.” Even my favorite of Tom T. Hall’s discography, “I Love,” contained the lyrics “bourbon in a glass and grass.” (As an aside, there was a radio edit that substituted those lines with “old TV shows and snow.”)  

In Ecclesiastes 2.1-3,8, Solomon admits, “I said to myself, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.’ And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, ‘It is madness,’ and of pleasure, ‘What does it accomplish?’ I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives…Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men—many concubines” (all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated).  

Yes, Solomon said it was futility (vanity—KJV and ESV). Solomon tried the cowboy’s life and found it wanting. It may well be that the late Tom T. Hall found out the same thing. On August 20, 2021, Tom T. Hall took his life. He was 85 years old.2 Though I do not wish to debate the wisdom of Chilon of Sparta, who in circa 600 BC was the first recorded speaker of the aphorism, “Do not speak ill of the dead,”3 I will add that many suicides stem from a sense of hopelessness. Depression is typically the common factor among those choosing to end their life. If this was Hall’s motivation, and only God knows, we note how the vanity of “faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money” can create a downward spiral. 

Vanity is an unhealthy type of narcissism. One is preoccupied with best satiating his desires, as Solomon well documented. In Ecclesiastes 6.7, Solomon says of his pursuits, “All a man’s labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied.” Thus, Solomon assures us that he found his pursuits futile despite trying everything he could. So why didn’t Solomon’s dissatisfaction cause him to lose hope or become depressed? Because he still had enough wisdom to draw the proper conclusion: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12.13-14). 

If we are to develop the mind of Christ (Philippians 2.3-8), our focus must be outward. Rather than following one’s vanity to inevitable destruction, one must look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2.4). Therefore, whether said initially by Benjamin Franklin, John Ruskin, or Henry Emerson Fosdick, we note the truth in the expression, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” Embiggen yourself by obeying the law of Christ (cf. Galatians 6.2,10). Don’t follow vanity where it leads.    

Sources Cited 

1  “Tom T. Hall – Faster Horses Lyrics.” AZLyrics.com, AZLyrics.com, www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/tomthall/fasterhorses.html.  

2   Leimkuehler, Matthew, and Cole Villena. “Country Music’ Storyteller’ Tom T. Hall Died by Suicide, Medical Examiner Says.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 6 Jan. 2022, www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/music/2022/01/06/tom-t-hall-died-suicide-medical-examiner-autopsy/9120690002/

3 “De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bonum.” The Free Dictionary, Farlex, encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/De+Mortuis+Nil+Nisi+Bonum

Courtesy: Max pixel
Rehoboam’s Folly

Rehoboam’s Folly

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

One of the facts I remember and retained from elementary school is that the purchase of the Alaska Territory by the United States from the Russian Empire was known as “Seward’s Folly.” $7 million for a frozen wasteland thousands of miles from Washington, D.C., right after the Civil War surely must have seemed bizarre (at the time, it was also called [President Andrew] “Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden” and “Walrussia,” among other things)(a few details from History.com).  History has long since vindicated the wisdom of Seward’s vision.

Rehoboam’s folly was folly from beginning to end. Though God’s foreknowledge and providence caused Him to work through these events to keep His promise of bringing the Messiah, Rehoboam was no willing accomplice. Instead, he committed an inexcusable blunder that proved him to be an apple falling light years from his father’s tree. How could he be so foolish?

First, let’s quickly review what happened. Jeroboam hears about Solomon’s death, and he leaves his exile in Egypt to return to Israel. The nation had high regard for the son of Nebat and summoned him to go with a delegation of them to ask Rehoboam to lighten the yoke of taxation his father, Solomon, had levied on them in order to fund the building projects the chief of which were his own house and the temple (cf. 9:15). Rehoboam asked for three days to consider their request. When they return in three days, he not only refused their request but answered them harshly (10). 

So what contributed to his foolhardy decision at the start of his reign? There are several implications. Cronyism appears to have played a part. He favored the flatterers from among his own friends and associates, “who grew up with him” (10).

Ego likewise factors in. Their flattering suggestion was to tell the people, “My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions” (10-11).

Akin to cronyism was his bias against the older, wiser counselors who served his father. It’s certainly not unique to Rehoboam to consider the counsel of the aged to be out of touch and irrelevant (cf. Job 12:12).

Then, there was a lack of empathy. Leadership is doomed where leaders fail to hear and grasp the plight of the people.

Finally, there was divine foreknowledge. God knew the arrogance and pride of Rehoboam and He used it to fulfill His divine will. The writer ends the paragraph, saying, “So the king did not listen to the people; for it was a turn of events from the Lord, that He might establish His word, which the Lord spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (15). 

God’s people today do well to revisit the folly of Rehoboam in order to be reminded of the wisdom of impartiality, humility, empathy, and compassion. Failure to do so is foolish indeed!