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Proverbs for Young Pilgrims: Hope for a Fool

Proverbs 26:12 “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.”

At first glance, young pilgrim, this Proverb could be somewhat baffling to us. Is not “a man wise in his own conceit” a fool? The fool, as Jesus presents him at the conclusion of the sermon on the mount, is one who, wise in his own conceit, builds his house upon the sand, (cf Matt. 7:26, 27) However, in this Proverb there is a distinction made between one who is ‘‘wise in his own conceit,” and ‘‘a fool.” Moreover, the fool has hope. Are you puzzled, young pilgrim?

It is not difficult to identify the conceited one. One who is wise in his own conceit is without God. He is independent of God, or so he claims. A creature, not dependent on the Creator, is his attitude toward life. He is not one to obey the Law of God. His ungodly life is a following of the wisdom of this world. He is given to reason apart from faith; and his wisdom, he claims, is wiser than God.

Not infrequently Scripture presents an exemplification of ‘‘a man wise in his own conceit.” One clear example is the self-centeredness of Pharoah. Ex. 5:2 “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.” Clearly, in his own wisdom, Pharoah would establish his kingdom above the kingdom of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Another unmistakable example given in Scripture is that of the pride of Nebuchadnezzar. Dan. 4:30 “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the house of my majesty?” Once again it is clear that, in his own conceit, Nebuchadnezzar would exalt his kingdom above the kingdom of our God and of His Christ.

Such then, is the one who is “wise in his own conceit.” He pays no homage to the Law of God. The commands of our Lord Jesus Christ are below his self-esteem. He finds the various exhortations and admonitions of Scripture to be unworthy of his attention. Would we not call him a fool?

However, in this Proverb, young pilgrim, the “fool” is to be distinguished from the one who is “wise in his own conceit.” For the fool presented in this Proverb has hope.

Who, then, is this fool?

We receive a glimpse of who this fool is from the prayer of Jesus in Matt. 11:25 and Lk. 10:21. “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.”

The prayer of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew follows his rebuke of Chorazin,

Bethsaida and Capernaum. In Luke, on the other hand, this prayer of Jesus follows the joyful return of the seventy disciples whom the Lord had sent out, two and two, into every city and place, (cf. Lk. 10:1) Included in the commission of the seventy, by Jesus, is the rebuke of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum.

Now, I do not wish to become too involved with these Gospel narratives. However, one thing is important for us to understand. That is the preaching! The “woe” which Christ pronounced was His preaching! The mission of the seventy was to proclaim the Day of the Lord. Again, preaching! And the understanding of this is given by revelation unto the babes. The same revelation comes to us by means of the preaching.

Paul, in I Corinthians 1, connects the preaching with the foolish. Unto the saved, the preaching is the power of God; unto the lost, the preaching is foolishness, (cf. vs. 18) God is pleased to use the foolishness of the preaching, (cf. vs. 21) The preaching of the cross is the wisdom of God (cf. vs. 24) More wise than men is the foolishness of God. (cf. vs. 25) “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” (vs. 27)

Who, then, is this fool?

He is the fool, who claims depen­dence upon God. He follows not the wisdom of the world, but he follows the foolishness of the preaching. He, who heeds the Law of God, is the fool. The fool is subject to the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the fool, who pays close attention to the various exhortations and admonitions of Scripture. Such is the fool presented in this Proverb!

Notice, in this connection, how the “man wise in his own conceit” would distort, displace, and thereby destroy the preaching! Preaching has a smaller and smaller place in worship. Preaching is distorted when false doctrine is presented. Preaching is displaced when many gim­micks are introduced into the worship service leaving scarcely enough time for even a brief exposition of Scripture. In fact, a quick glance at Saturday’s paper, which lists all the schedules for various churches, reveals how preaching is being replaced by choir performances and guest speakers and even “Dobson Films.”

I am reminded, too, of the elders of Israel coming to Samuel in Ramah, I Sam. 8:4, 5. Israel wanted a king. Why? So they could be like all the other nations. And, I feel, that attitude is all too often among us! “We want a king,” chanted Israel. I am afraid to listen, for the distant echo in our church community seems to be “We want a seminar!” or “Give us a lecture with an eye-catching title to be presented by a dynamic speaker!”

I am not saying that seminars are bad. Neither am I saying that lectures are evil. No! But the trend seems to be that these types of things are much more enthusiastically received than the preach­ing! If so, then the preaching is being displaced. Beware, lest the foolishness of the preaching is destroyed and the “man wise in his own conceit” is allowed to replace it!

The fool has hope. O yes, in each of us there dwells the old man of sin. By nature we all are wise in our own conceits.

Nevertheless, the fool has hope. I Peter 1:3 teaches “. . .begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection. . .”

Notice here especially two things.

First, that we have a lively hope instilled within us by virtue of the fact that we have been given a new birth. We, who by nature are wise in our own conceits, have hope!

Secondly, that this is possible by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection is the good news of the gospel! No resurrection, no gospel; it is that simple. But this good news of the resurrection is preached! I Peter 1 concludes with these significant words: “And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”