Rock-Solid Security.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. – Matthew 7:24-29 ESV

For most of us, when we read these verses, we automatically think of Jesus’ mention of “the rock” as being a reference to Himself. He is the rock. And we get that idea from the Scriptures. Paul would later refer to Jesus as being the foundation he laid and upon which others were to build.

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 ESV

Peter would quote from the book of Isaiah and the Psalms, describing Jesus as the stone:

For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” – 1 Peter 2:6-8 ESV

So, it would only be natural to assume that Jesus is referring to Himself as the rock. But it is important to look closely at what He says. He prefaces these closing lines of His sermon with the statement: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” His emphasis is on His words or His teaching. All throughout His sermon, Jesus has been giving commands regarding the lifestyle or behavior of those who are approved by God. They are to be salt and light. They are to pursue reconciliation with all men, not anger and hatred. They are to love and not lust. They are to remain faithful in their earthly commitments, most especially marriage. They are to be a people of their word. They are to live lives of willing sacrifice, rather than seeking revenge and retaliation. They are to love and pray for their enemies. Their acts of righteousness are to flow from the heart and are not to be done for recognition or reward, including the praise of men. They are to see their eternal reward as their greatest treasure, not the temporal things of this earth. Their lives should be marked by a calm and unwavering trust in God, knowing that He will provide for all their needs. They are to regularly examine their own lives, recognizing and repenting of their sinfulness before God. 

Over and over again, Jesus has given them clear indications of how an individual approved by God should live their life. And now, He is telling them that those who hear these words and obeys them will be seen as wise. They will be the ones whose lives are marked by a solid foundation. Obedience to the teachings of Jesus has always been a necessary part of the life of the believer. Obedience does not save us, but it marks the life of those who truly are saved. Not long before Jesus was to be betrayed and crucified, He told His disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). And then He told them how they were going to pull that off. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17 ESV). The Holy Spirit was going to be the key to them obeying the words and teachings of Jesus. But they were still expected to obey. And just to make sure that they didn’t forget anything He had taught them, Jesus let them know that the Holy Spirit would give them perfect memories.

These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” – John 14:25-26 ESV

One of the things we so easily lose sight of is Jesus’ statement to His disciples, found in the Great Commission.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

The disciples were to teach all that Jesus had commanded. His words were to be obeyed. And He was not just speaking of His claim to be the Messiah and His offer of salvation through faith in Him alone. Again, obedience to the words of Jesus do not save us, but it is to be the natural outflow of one who is saved. Repeatedly in Scripture, we are given the admonition to obey the commands of Jesus.

“When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” – John 15:10 NLT

The apostle John puts the non-optional nature of obedience to Jesus’ commands in very stark terms.

He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. – 1 John 2:2-6 NLT

So, Jesus says that whoever hears the words He has been teaching and does them, will find their life built on a solid, reliable foundation. Of course, as John makes clear in the passage above, the very first thing we must obey is God’s command to obey in the reality of His Son as the sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He makes this point even more clear a bit later on in the same letter.

…we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.

And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us. – 1 John 3:21-24 NLT

Our ability to obey the commands of Jesus begins with our obedience to the command of God to trust in His Son as our Savior. When we place our faith in Him, we receive the Spirit of God and the capacity to love God and to love others, which are the foundational truths behind all that Jesus has said in His sermon. Our faith in Christ is to be transformative. It is to change the way we think and behave. It is to have a revolutionary effect on the way we live our lives in this world. But for far too many today, obedience seems to be optional. They place their faith in Christ, and then continue to live as if nothing has happened. They give little or no evidence of the new nature they are supposed to have. Their lives show no signs of the Spirit’s presence within them. But that is not what Jesus expected. And that is not the outcome His sacrificial death on the cross was meant to provide. If we truly love Him, we will keep His commandments. We will be radically different in the way we conduct our lives. We will be salt and light. We will be agents of reconciliation, calling a lost and dying world back to God. We will love and not lust. We will give of ourselves selflessly, rather than always trying to selfishly focus our lives on getting. We will forgive, show mercy, turn the other cheek, worry less, rejoice more, pray intensely, trust God completely, and share the good news of the gospel regularly.

Jesus tells us that those who build their lives on His words, will find their lives marked by stability and resilience. They will have a firm foundation that can withstand the storms of this life and will survive the future judgment to come. There were those in the crowd that day who would hear Jesus’ words and ignore them. Many of them would hear of His death and resurrection and refuse to believe it. After His crucifixion, the word of His miraculous resurrection and ascension would spread, and the offer of salvation would be heard throughout all Judea, but most would refuse to accept it. And their lives would be like a house built on sand, unstable and insecure, completely susceptible to the storms of life and unavoidably destined for a great fall.

When Jesus finished His sermon, the crowds were amazed. They were astonished at His teachings. They had never heard anything like this before. He taught with authority. Over and over again in His message, Jesus had said, “But I say….” He referred to the Old Testament Scriptures, but then added His own words. He did not refer to the teachings of the patriarchs or refer to other rabbinic scholars. He spoke as if His words were on a par with the Word of God itself, because they were. He was the Son of God speaking on behalf of God the Father. He was the Word incarnate. John describes Him as such.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:1-5 ESV

He is the Word, and we are to obey Him, not just believe in Him. Those who are approved by God because they place their faith in the Son of God will find themselves capable of living in obedience to everything Jesus said in His sermon. And they will discover the rock-solid security of a life founded on the sure foundation of Christ’s words.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
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Why Wisdom is Worth It.

He who digs a pit will fall into it,
    and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall.
He who quarries stones is hurt by them,
    and he who splits logs is endangered by them.
10 If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge,
    he must use more strength,
    but wisdom helps one to succeed.
11 If the serpent bites before it is charmed,
    there is no advantage to the charmer.

12 The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor,
    but the lips of a fool consume him.
13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness,
    and the end of his talk is evil madness.
14 A fool multiplies words,
    though no man knows what is to be,
    and who can tell him what will be after him?
15 The toil of a fool wearies him,
    for he does not know the way to the city.

16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
    and your princes feast in the morning!
17 Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility,
    and your princes feast at the proper time,
    for strength, and not for drunkenness!
18 Through sloth the roof sinks in,
    and through indolence the house leaks.
19 Bread is made for laughter,
    and wine gladdens life,
    and money answers everything.
20 Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king,
    nor in your bedroom curse the rich,
for a bird of the air will carry your voice,
    or some winged creature tell the matter. Ecclesiastes 10:8-20 ESV

 

Solomon continues his discussion about wisdom that began in the opening verses of this chapter, but now, he does so in a more proverbial form. In verses 8-10, he contrasts the positive influence of wisdom: it helps one to succeed. And he uses several scenarios where wisdom won’t necessarily prove to be an asset. It may help, but it cannot prevent the unforeseen or unexpected. In the process of digging a pit, there is always the risk that the one digging falls into the very hole he has created. A wise man will be cautious, but it is no guarantee that an accident still might happen. When doing demolition work on an old wall, and removing the rocks or bricks by hand, you might get bitten by a snake. Again, wisdom advises discernment and caution, but it can’t control the actions of a snake. Working in a quarry can be a profitable and potentially harmful occupation. The very stones you seek to gather can end up crushing you. And while the wise will work carefully and cautiously, they may still find themselves in harm’s way, because they can’t control nature. The same thing could be true for someone who splits logs. It’s a potentially dangerous occupation that can end up harming even the wisest of men. And if wisdom is not used in, and applied to, the everyday affairs of life, things can turn out even worse. Solomon gives us a for-instance, stating that a log-splitter who attempts to do his job with an unsharpened ax, will find himself having to expend more energy than necessary, creating undue exhaustion and, therefore, increasing his chances of harming himself. But wisdom, when applied properly to life, can help one succeed. It can also help protect against unnecessary risk. But it is not a cure-all or preventative to any and all dangers associated with life lived under the sun.

The sad reality is that there are situations and scenarios in life that cannot be prevented by wisdom. A snake charmer who gets bitten by a snake before he has had the opportunity to train it, is the victim of bad timing. His fate has little to do with his abilities as a snake charmer, but speaks volumes about the risk associated with his profession. Snake bites are a common hazard for snake charmers. It comes with the territory.

While verses 8-11 have dealt with wisdom as it pertains to man’s occupation or work life, verses 12-15 take on the tongue, or how wisdom can influence our speech. The wise man’s words win him favor. They positively impact his life because they leave a good impression on all those around him. But a foolish man tends to say things that do more harm than good. And he is the one who suffers the most, speaking self-destructive words that cause rejection and animosity from others. From the minute a thought comes into his head, to the moment he puts those thoughts into audible words, the fool’s fate is sealed. His speech is foolish because his thinking is foolish. And as Solomon wrote in one of his proverbs, the real issue is the heart.

23 Guard your heart above all else,
    for it determines the course of your life.

24 Avoid all perverse talk;
    stay away from corrupt speech. – Proverbs 4:23-24 NLT

And it was Jesus who said, “whatever is in your heart determines what you say” (Matthew 12:34 NLT). A foolish heart speaks foolish words. It’s unavoidable and inevitable. And fools tend to speak of things they don’t know, droning on and on about matters beyond their level of comprehension or regarding the future, of which they have no knowledge. They speak because they can, not because they should. And it’s ridiculous to listen to the words of someone predicting the future who can’t even find his way into town. Their so-called and self–professed wisdom is of no practical value. It can’t even prevent them from getting lost. But the sad truth is that our world is filled with foolish individuals who constantly spout their opinions and spew their foolish rhetoric for all to hear. And far too often, the world listens. We have rocks stars and celebrities who use their fame as a platform to share their words of wisdom on virtually any and every topic under the sun, and the world gathers around them like they’re the Oracle of Delphi. We treat them as if they’re sages or some kind of prescient diviners of all truth, when in reality they are nothing more than fools. And fools have a bad habit of attracting fools. As the old saying goes: Birds of a feather flock together. And because that statement is true, you end up with the sad scene that Jesus once described: The blind leading the blind. And the end result of that little parade will never be positive.

In verses 16-19, Solomon now turns his attention to wisdom as it relates to leadership. He starts out by describing a nation ruled by a child-king and a collection of princes who lack self-control. In Proverbs 22:15, Solomon makes the observation: “A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness.” Children make lousy leaders because they lack wisdom. And if you gather a group of children together, you multiply the foolishness exponentially. Young princes who love to feast in the morning will end up making bad decisions all day long. Of course, Solomon may be speaking of a king who simply acts like a child. We all know what that looks like. In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul made a personal statement regarding his attitude toward maturity and spiritual growth: “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NLT). Adults are to act like adults. But sadly, far too many grownups still behave like children, lacking self-control and exhibiting simplistic thinking that can destroy marriages, families, cities and nations.

But when a leader approaches his responsibilities wisely and nobly, those under his leadership prosper. They find themselves joyful and at peace because they have someone leading them effectively and justly. Leaders who feast in order to gain strength are dramatically different than those who feast to get drunk. Wise leaders understand the seriousness of their role and do everything with forethought and careful consideration of how their actions will influence the well-being of those under their care. But foolish leaders end up making unwise decisions. In some cases, they put off making decisions at all, procrastinating or simply postponing their responsibilities. And Solomon compares this kind of leadership to the slothful individual who puts off fixing his roof, only to watch it leak and eventually cave in on him. You can put off your responsibilities, but not the consequences for doing so. Wisdom is what helps us make use of the gifts given to us by God. Bread is of great value and can produce much joy and laughter when used wisely. Wine is a wonderful gift from God and can make life more enjoyable, if used wisely. Money can be a powerful tool to solve all kinds of problem, if used wisely. But all of these things can be abused and misused. A fool can take what God has given and use it to self-destruct. He can over-indulge. He can drink to get drunk. And he can make money his god. And a fool, sitting in the privacy of his own home, may think it is safe for him to speak ill of the king, but what he doesn’t realize is that even words spoken in private have a way of going public. His foolish criticism of those in authority over him may become back to haunt him.

 

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Fool On the Hill.

Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding himself on the hill of Hachilah, which is on the east of Jeshimon?” So Saul arose and went down to the wilderness of Ziph with three thousand chosen men of Israel to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is beside the road on the east of Jeshimon. But David remained in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness, David sent out spies and learned that Saul had indeed come. Then David rose and came to the place where Saul had encamped. And David saw the place where Saul lay, with Abner the son of Ner, the commander of his army. Saul was lying within the encampment, while the army was encamped around him.

Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab’s brother Abishai the son of Zeruiah, “Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?” And Abishai said, “I will go down with you.” So David and Abishai went to the army by night. And there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner and the army lay around him. Then Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.” So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul’s head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them. – 1 Samuel 26:1-12 ESV

Chapter 25 provided us with a brief respite from the ongoing conflict between Saul and David. But chapter 26 picks up where chapter 24 left off. When we last left Saul, he was headed home after his near-death encounter with David. He had unknowingly walked right into an ambush, choosing to relieve himself in a cave where David and his men had been hiding. But David had spared Saul’s life, choosing instead to confront him face-to-face and assure Saul that he posed no threat to his kingdom. He was not going to lift his hand against Saul. And we’re told that “Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold” (1 Samuel 24:22 ESV).

Chapter 25 introduced us to a new character, Nabal, who displayed all the classic characteristics of a biblical fool and whose unwise actions almost caused the unnecessary deaths of everyone associated with him. But Abigail, his wife, had intervened and prevented David from doing something he would long regret. Nabal’s rashness and ungodliness were going to be the death of him – literally. This fool would die a fool’s death. But while David had been able to walk away from Nabal with his integrity intact, he would soon discover that there another fool in his life who had not gone anywhere. Saul may have gone home, but he wouldn’t stay there for long. While he had shown signs of remorse in his last encounter with David, he had not given up his quest to see David put to death. And when the Ziphites betrayed David to Saul a second time (1 Samuel 23:19), informing Saul of his whereabouts, he mustered 3,000 soldiers to hunt him down.

Verse three tells us, “Saul encamped on the hill of Hachilah, which is beside the road on the east of Jeshimon.” Saul’s stubborn refusal to give up the hunt is truly remarkable. His remorse-filled words, spoken to David during their conversation outside the cave had sounded so sincere.

“You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil.  Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the Lord put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the Lord reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule.” – 1 Samuel 24:17-20 NLT

But Saul was a fool. It’s interesting to note that the name of the fool in the last chapter, Nabal, actually meant “fool”. It refers to a particular type of fool, one who is overly self-confident and particularly close-minded. He tends to act as his own god and freely gratifies his own sin nature. This type of fool is the worst kind and can only be reproved by God Himself. The prophet Isaiah describes this type of fool (nabal):

For fools speak foolishness
    and make evil plans.
They practice ungodliness
    and spread false teachings about the Lord.
They deprive the hungry of food
    and give no water to the thirsty. – Isaiah 32:6 NLT

This kind of fool is typically godless in nature. It is not that they don’t believe in God, but that they act as if God does not exist. This was Saul’s problem. He kept pursuing David in spite of the fact that God had clearly ordained him to be Saul’s replacement. Saul refused to accept God’s will and was willing to risk anything and everything in his attempt to circumvent God’s divine authority. He was so busy chasing David, that he had no time to meet the needs of his nation or its citizens. David had become much more than a distraction, he was an obsession.

So, Saul and his troops set up camp on the hill of Hachilah. He foolishly thought he was in the right. He foolishly considered himself safe, falling asleep that night, surrounded by his 3,000 well-trained soldiers. But David and Abishai, his nephew, snuck into the camp that night and crept right up to Saul as he and his crack troops lay fast asleep. Samuel goes on to qualify that their heavy sleep was God’s doing: “a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them” (1 Samuel 26:12 ESV). Once again, David found himself in a tempting situation where his arch-enemy was seemingly handed to him on a silver platter. Even Abishai recognized a golden opportunity when he saw one, begging for permission to put Saul to death right then and there. But David’s response was firm and and crystal clear:

“No!” David said. “Don’t kill him. For who can remain innocent after attacking the Lord’s anointed one? Surely the Lord will strike Saul down someday, or he will die of old age or in battle. The Lord forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed! But take his spear and that jug of water beside his head, and then let’s get out of here!” – 1 Samuel 26:9-11 NLT

David had learned a lot from his encounter with Nabal and Abigail. While the timing seemed perfect and his justification for killing Saul seemed plausible, he knew that he had been given no green light from God to take the life of the king. If vengeance was necessary, that was up to God. If Saul was meant to die an untimely death, that too was up to God. David refused to make evil plans or practice ungodliness. In other words, he refused to act like a fool. He wasn’t going to lower himself to the same level as Nabal or Saul. He chose to do the godly thing. He determined to leave his own destiny and the fate of his enemies in God’s hands. We find in the Proverbs a number of verses that provide apt descriptions of David’s actions:

One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil,
    but a fool is reckless and careless. – Proverbs 14:16 ESV

The anger of the king is a deadly threat;
    the wise will try to appease it. – Proverbs 16:14 NLT

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
    Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. – Proverbs 3:7 NLT

But the Scriptures also provide us with insights into the nature of Saul’s perplexing behavior.

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
    There is more hope for a fool than for him. – Proverbs 26:12 ESV

Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. For the wise can see where they are going, but fools walk in the dark. – Ecclesiastes 2:13-14 NLT

Two men stood on a hill. One was a fool, the other was wise. Both knew God. Both had been appointed and anointed by God. But one was living his life as if God didn’t exist, the quintessential trademark of a fool. As this chapter unfolds, we will continue to see a stark contrast between these two men. Their lives were inseparably linked, but the outcome of their lives would prove to be radically divergent. Wisdom and folly. Two ways of life that lead to two very different outcomes.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Fear Foolishness.

When David’s young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited. And Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” So David’s young men turned away and came back and told him all this. And David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword!” And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.

But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.” – 1 Samuel 25:9-17 ESV

We discover in these verses that Nabal was a man who lived up to his name, which happened to mean “fool”. He had all the classic characteristics of a biblical fool.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    but a wise man listens to advice. – Proverbs 12:15 ESV

The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge,
    but fools broadcast their foolishness. – Proverbs 12:23 NLT

Short-tempered people do foolish things… – Proverbs 14:17 NLT

He was arrogant, full of himself, quick-tempered, resistant to counsel, and ignorant of the consequences of his behavior. He treated David, a mighty warrior, as if he were a nobody. He showed him no honor or respect. He looked down his nose at him, foolishly saying, “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?” (1 Samuel 25:10-11 NLT). He knew exactly who David was. Even the Philistines had heard about David’s reputation as a mighty warrior. But Nabal, knowing that David was a man on the run, made a very foolish decision to treat David with disrespect and disdain. 

One of Nabal’s shepherds, when he had witnessed what his foolish master had done, ran and told Abigail, Nabal’s wife. Even his words reveal the depth of Nabal’s problem: “he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him” (1 Samuel 25:17 ESV). Nabal’s foolishness ran so deep that he could not even recognize the folly and danger of his own actions. And he was totally resistant to the wise counsel of those around him who might have been able to protect him had he only listened.

What would have possessed Nabal to act so foolishly and risk the wrath of someone as powerful as David? We have to remember that, according to the Bible, foolishness is not a mental or psychological problem, it is spiritual. At the heart of Nabal’s folly was lack of respect for and fear of God. He had placed himself at the center of his own life, making himself his own god and arbiter of his own fate. Ultimately, foolishness is the lack of wisdom. And Psalm 111 tells us:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding. – Psalm 111:19 ESV

Scripture repeatedly warns us that a person who denies, ignores, or neglects God lacks wisdom and inevitably displays the characteristics of a fool.

  • He acts thoughtlessly: He gives little or no thought to God; refusing to consider the truth about God. His treatment of others is simply a byproduct of his lack of thought regarding God’s holiness and judgment.
  • He becomes dull-minded:  When a man fails to consider God, his mind becomes dulled by the things of this world. He begins to lose the ability to see clearly, having his spiritual vision clouded by materialism, success, comfort, and pleasure. not being sharp in his thoughts about God. His mind becomes intoxicated with the things of this world and he sluggish toward God.
  • He becomes senseless: A man who neglects God finds himself lacking in wisdom and acting contrary to good common sense. Because he is deficient in his thoughts about God, he becomes in his ability to think clearly and sensibly. He may be smart and successful, but he will be plagued by senseless decision-making and the harmful outcomes it brings.
  • He will be without understanding: Because he fails to grasp or comprehend God; he will end up with wrong conclusions or thoughts about God. He will wrongly assume that God is not there or that God does not care about what he is doing. He will make godless decisions because he is essentially living a God-less life.
  • He will exhibit an ignorance of God: He won’t truly know God. Because he has left God out of his thought processes, he will display behavior that reveals his faulty understand of God. He won’t fear God’s holiness. He won’t worry about God’s judgment. He won’t seek God’s wisdom. He won’t see a need for God’s forgiveness.
  • He will be unwise: Without God in his life, he will lack wisdom. If fact, regardless of what he tries to do, he will act contrary to wisdom. His behavior will make sense to him, but it will actually lead to dangerous and foolish outcomes.

These characteristics, while true of the lost, should be especially scary to the believer, because any of us can exhibit these same qualities at any time. All it takes is for us to neglect God in our lives, to fail to fear Him and treat Him with the honor, respect and worship He is due. When we leave God out of our lives, we open up the door to foolishness. Foolishness if nothing more than a lack of wisdom and, as the psalmist said, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Nabal was a fool because Nabal was ungodly. If he didn’t fear God, why in the world would he fear David? If he was willing to treat God with disrespect, what would prevent him from treating David the same way?

It is interesting to note that, in the Proverbs, there are five different types of fools mentioned. They seem to run on a continuum, moving from bad to worse. There is the simple fool, the silly fool, the sensual fool, the scornful fool and the stubborn fool. Each is characterized by a different Hebrew word. The last one, the stubborn fool, is the word, “nâbâl”, which just happens to be the name of the character in our story.

According to the Proverbs, this is the most dangerous type of fool. A stubborn fool rejects God and His ways. He is self-confident and close-minded. He is his own god, freely gratifying his own sin nature. It is his goal to draw as many others as possible into following his ways. His actions tend to impact all those around him, just as Nabal’s actions were going to result in the deaths of all those around him. The Proverbs make it clear that only God can reprove a stubborn fool. And we will see in the story that, while David had a heart for God, he ran the risk of acting foolishly himself. He was going to let the foolish actions of Nabal cause him to respond in a godless, foolish way. But wiser heads would prevail.

 

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Suffering Fools Not-So-Gladly.

Now Samuel died. And all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him in his house at Ramah.

Then David rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran. And there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel. Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite. David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep. So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name. And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.’” – 1 Samuel 25:1-8 ESV

This chapter is going to serve as the centerpiece between chapters 24 and 26, linking the two stories they contain. In chapter 24, we saw David pass on what appeared to be a God-given opportunity to take the life of King Saul. He would not raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed. Chapter 26 will present us with a very similar story in which David is presented with another tempting and seemingly divine opportunity to get rid of Saul once and for all. Sandwiched in-between these two chapters is the story of David’s encounter with Abigail and Nabal. The central figure in the story is Abigail. Her relationship with her rich, but foolish husband, Nabal, will provide a timely comparison to that of David and Saul. We will find intentional hints dropped along the way that reveal how much Saul is like the character of Nabal. And Abigail will provide a hard-to-miss illustration of how someone is to handle the “fools” in their lives.

But before we address David’s encounter with Abigail and Nabal, we have to deal with David’s loss. The chapter opens with the announcement of the death of Samuel. This would have been a shocking blow to David. Samuel, the prophet and the last of the judges of Israel, had played an integral role in the nation’s transformation into a monarchy. He had witnessed and overseen the establishment of Saul as the very first king over the nation of Israel. He had done so somewhat reluctantly, seeing their demand for a king as an indictment against him as their judge. But there was more to the story. We’re told in 1 Samuel 8 that Samuel had two sons, Joel and Abijah, who both served as judges, but they didn’t exactly have sterling reputations.

Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice. – 1 Samuel 8:3 ESV

It was the thought of these two men judging over them that moved the people to demand a king. But Samuel took offense. He had been the one to rule over and guide them. He had served as God’s mouthpiece, dispensing judgment and providing direction for the people. But with the appointment of Saul as king, Samuel’s role changed dramatically. He became a counselor to the king and a prophet to the people. He still had a vital role to play, presenting Saul with the difficult news that his kingdom was coming to an end and that God had already chosen his replacement. He was the one to anoint David to be the next king. But now, as the nation stood on the brink of a major change, as the transfer of power from one man to another grew closer, Samuel died. The last judge of Israel passed off the scene. A new era was beginning. The period of the kings was about to begin in earnest and it would represent one of the most volatile and unstable periods in the history of the nation of Israel. David and Saul would end up representing the two diametrically  opposite extremes of kingly conduct and character. Israel would know what it was like to have godly kings and godless, foolish, immoral kings.

And that is where the story of Abigail and Nabal comes in. David and Saul had parted ways after their encounter outside the cave in the wilderness of Engedi. Saul had shown remorse over his treatment of David and acknowledged his realization of the fact that David was going to replace him. It was God-ordained. But David did not return with Saul. He continued to live in the wilderness with his men, knowing that not much had changed. The transfer of power from Saul to himself was up to God and according to His timing. He would have to continue to wait until God decided the timing was right. And that brought him into the wilderness of Paran, where he had a “chance” encounter with Nabal.

We’re told that Nabal was rich, having 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats. He also had a wife named Abigail. And the text tells us, “The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite” (1 Samuel 25:3 ESV). We are immediately presented with the contrasting characters of these two individuals. They have been joined together in marriage, but they could not be more dissimilar in their natures and behaviors. Later on in the story, Abigail will rather bluntly share with David, “I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t pay any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests” (1 Samuel 25:25 NLT). His very name meant “fool.” Somewhat of an odd name for any parents to name their child, but the name obviously fit. Nabal was a surly, egotistical, arrogant and unwise individual who had made a name for himself in the world and enjoyed a life of relative wealth. In the Bible, the designation, “fool” had nothing to do with intelligence. It is more of a spiritually-oriented label. David would one day write in one of his psalms, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” (Psalm 14:1 NLT).

In Psalm 10, we are given an even more descriptive assessment of the fool, but in terms of their wickedness:

4 The wicked are too proud to seek God.
    They seem to think that God is dead.
Yet they succeed in everything they do.
    They do not see your punishment awaiting them.
    They sneer at all their enemies.
They think, “Nothing bad will ever happen to us!
    We will be free of trouble forever!” – Psalm 10:4-6 NLT

It seems that David and his men had encountered the shepherds of Nabal while they were hiding out in the area of Paran. Because of their presence there, David’s men had made the area safe from Amalakites and Philistines. They had served as a kind of military presence in Paran, ensuring the safety of its residence, and this had included Nabal’s shepherds and his sheep. So David determined to seek aid from Nabal, expecting him to gladly extend courtesy out of gratitude. He sent his men with a message for Nabal.

“Peace and prosperity to you, your family, and everything you own! I am told that it is sheep-shearing time. While your shepherds stayed among us near Carmel, we never harmed them, and nothing was ever stolen from them. Ask your own men, and they will tell you this is true. So would you be kind to us, since we have come at a time of celebration? Please share any provisions you might have on hand with us and with your friend David.” – 1 Samuel 25:6-8 NLT

But David was in for a rude surprise. His kind words were going to be met with stubborn defiance. This encounter was going to push David to the limits. He was already struggling with his ongoing feud with Saul. He had been hiding and running for some time now. And he had just heard the devastating news that his mentor, Samuel, had died. He was not in a good mood. He was not a man to be trifled with. And yet, at this low point in his life, David found himself coming face-to-face with Nabal, the fool.

David was going to receive an invaluable lesson on how to handle the fools in his life, and it would come from an unlikely source, the wife of Nabal. And this lesson would serve David well in his ongoing relationship with Saul.

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Stubborn Streak.

And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord take vengeance on David’s enemies.” And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul.

Then Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty. On the third day go down quickly to the place where you hid yourself when the matter was in hand, and remain beside the stone heap. And I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark. And behold, I will send the boy, saying, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you, take them,’ then you are to come, for, as the Lord lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger. But if I say to the youth, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then go, for the Lord has sent you away. And as for the matter of which you and I have spoken, behold, the Lord is between you and me forever.”

So David hid himself in the field. And when the new moon came, the king sat down to eat food. The king sat on his seat, as at other times, on the seat by the wall. Jonathan sat opposite, and Abner sat by Saul’s side, but David’s place was empty.

Yet Saul did not say anything that day, for he thought, “Something has happened to him. He is not clean; surely he is not clean.” But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David’s place was empty. And Saul said to Jonathan his son, “Why has not the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?” Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Let me go, for our clan holds a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away and see my brothers.’ For this reason he has not come to the king’s table.”

Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.” Then Jonathan answered Saul his father, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. So Jonathan knew that his father was determined to put David to death. And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him. – 1 Samuel 20:16-34 ESV

David and Jonathan had come up with a plan. David would miss the feast of the new moon, knowing that his absence would be noticed by Saul. When Saul inquired of Jonathan where David was, David had instructed Jonathan to tell his father that David had gone home to Bethlehem. If Saul accepted this news without incident, then David would know it was safe to return home. But if Saul became angry and lost his mind like usual, then Jonathan was to secretly let David know so that he could escape. When the fateful day came and David was not at his place for the feast, Saul did miss him, but just assumed that something had come up. But by the third day, Saul became suspicious and asked Jonathan for an explanation, which he did not receive well. He became furious with his son, seeing through his ruse, and recognizing that he and David had conspired against him. Feeling betrayed by Jonathan, Saul lashed out in anger, using very coarse language to express his sentiments.

Saul, now incensed and enraged over Jonathan’s liaison with David, is actually hurling very coarse and emotionally charged words at his son. The translation of this phrase suggested by Koehler and Baumgartner is “bastard of a wayward woman” (HALOT 796 s.v. עוה), but this is not an expression commonly used in English. A better English approximation of the sentiments expressed here by the Hebrew phrase would be “You stupid son of a bitch!” – NET Bible study notes

Saul is beside himself with rage. His own son has taken sides with someone he sees as an enemy and a real threat to his throne. Saul even reminds Jonathan that his actions are going to end up keeping him from inheriting the kingship. “As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!” (1 Samuel 20:31 NLT).

What is amazing in all of this is that Saul had been clearly told by the prophet Samuel that his reign was coming to an end. He was going to be replaced.

And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” – 1 Samuel 13:13-14 ESV

And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” – 1 Samuel 15:26 ESV

But Saul stubbornly refused to accept the prophet’s words and God’s will. He somehow believed that he could hold onto his throne in spite of God’s statements to the contrary. There is inherent in sin a stubborn streak that seems to reveal itself in a refusal to repent and accept responsibility for God’s just and righteous punishment. Saul had a habit of shifting blame and denying culpability.

When Saul had been confronted by Samuel for offering a burnt offering on his own, rather than waiting on the prophet as he had been instructed, Saul simply offered up excuses: “Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering” (1 Samuel 13:12 ESV). He forced himself. He knew what he was doing was wrong. Only a priest was to offer sacrifices to God, but Saul, impatient and impulsive, took matters into his own hands and decided to do things his way.

On another occasion, when Saul had been instructed by God to wipe out all the Amalakites, he once again chose to do thing his own way. The text tells us, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction” (1 Samuel 15:9 ESV). When the prophet, Samuel, confronted Saul about his disobedience, his only response was, the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction” (1 Samuel 15:15 ESV). He blamed the people. Once again, it was not his fault.

Saul was never one who found repentance easy. He could not bring himself to accept responsibility for his own sinfulness. And he also had a difficult time accepting God’s decision to remove him from the throne for his repeated disobedience. It was as if he truly believed he could somehow get around God’s plan to replace him and remain on the throne by sheer will power. Saul was a fool. He had all the attributes of the fool outlined in the book of Proverbs.

Fools think their own way is right… – Proverbs 12:15 NLT

The words of the godly are like sterling silver;
    the heart of a fool is worthless. – Proverbs 10:20 NLT

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
   fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:7 ESV

For the simple are killed by their turning away,
    and the complacency of fools destroys them.
– Proverbs 1:32 ESV

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    but a wise man listens to advice. – Proverbs. 12:15 ESV

A prudent man conceals knowledge,
    but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
 – Proverbs 12:23 ESV

Saul was foolish to think he could escape the inevitable judgment of God. He was foolish to think he could defeat the man who had been chosen by God as his replacement. He was foolish to believe that his disobedience to God would not have consequences or that the divine will of God could somehow be circumvented. In fact, Saul lived as if there was no God, a hallmark of the foolish lifestyle. It would be David himself, who would later write, “Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” (Psalm 14:1 NLT). Saul’s actions revealed his foolish assumption that God was either impotent or irrelevant. Saul was going to do what Saul wanted to do, as if God didn’t even exist. His stubbornness would ultimately be the end of him. But not before he spent the next years of his life foolishly shaking his fist in the face of the Almighty, somehow believing that his wisdom was greater than that of God’s. But he would be proven wrong, as fools always are.

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 26

The Lazy Lying Fool.

“A proverb in the mouth of a fool is as useless as a paralyzed leg.” – Proverbs 26:7 NLT

When I think of the Proverbs I can’t help but think about the fool. This collection of wise sayings from the pen of Solomon contains a large number of references to the fool and foolish behavior. It also mentions other behavior closely associated with the fool, such as laziness, lying, dishonesty, unreliability, and an uncontrolled tongue. Some of the things Solomon has to say about fools seem humorous when you read them, but they are meant to be taken seriously. “Honoring a fool is as foolish as tying a stone to a slingshot” (Proverbs 26:8 NLT). The image this Proverb conjures up is meant to be ridiculous and ludicrous. Nobody in their right mind would do something as silly as tying a stone to a sling. It makes no sense. It would serve no purpose. It would be a waste of time. And that’s exactly Solomon’s point. Showering honor on a fool is a useless exercise that will produce no beneficial results. As The Message paraphrases this verse, honoring a fool would be “like setting a mud brick on a marble column.” Absolutely ridiculous.

So why does Solomon have it out for fools? Why does he have such strong words of warning against foolish people and foolish behavior? Because he understands the danger they pose to themselves and to society. In Solomon’s mind, fools are the epitome of the person who lives their life as if there is no God. David, Solomon’s father, had warned him early on in life, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good” (Psalm 53:1 NLT). In the minds of David and Solomon, the fool was not some innocent, bumbling buffoon who just happened to be a few bricks short of a full load. No, the fool was a danger to society because they failed to honor God with their lives. Fools were pariahs, a drain on society, because of their refusal to work and their tendency to excuse their laziness with lies. They didn’t carry their load. Fools were not to be trusted or tolerated. Their words were worthless because they refused to listen to the wisdom of God.

Fools are just as prevalent today as they were in Solomon’s day. But we have become so much more tolerant of them. We have fools in places of power and influence. We watch fools entertain us on TV and in the movies, then listen intently as they share their words of wisdom with us on everything from marriage to politics and religion. We idolize and envy them for their lifestyles of excess and hedonism. Our government is well-stocked with fools who use clever words and inspiring speeches to win over constituents and solidify their power base. Yet as Solomon warns, “Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils. While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public” (Proverbs 26:23-25 NLT). And fools populate the body of Christ as well. Yes, you can be a believer in Jesus Christ and still live like a fool. A fool is simply someone who actively spurns the ways and overtures of God. He lives his life as if there were no God in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And the fool is one who hears God’s call but refuses to listen. The Christian fool is the man or woman who is spiritually lazy, avoiding the effort demanded to live according to God’s standards. They refuse to spend time in God’s Word, making up all kinds of excuses. They want the benefits of godliness without putting in any effort. They learn to cover what is really in their hearts with “smooth words.” They pretend to be something they’re not. And they are a danger to the body of Christ. Foolishness is the opposite of wisdom. It is the natural and unavoidable consequence of a life lived apart from the life-changing wisdom of God found in His Word. Avoid the fool at all costs. Avoid foolishness at all costs.

Father, open my eyes to the presence of fools around me, including in my own home. But never let me assume that I am not fully capable of being a fool myself. Keep me in Your Word. Teach me the value of Your wisdom. Never let me live as if You don’t exist and when I attempt to be my own god, knock me off my pedestal quickly. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org