Monday, May 22, 2017

Proverbs 14:3 --- Preserved and Protected

Proverbs 14:3 
In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride,
   but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
                                       
The word "rod" in line one, is a rare word in the Hebrew Bible.  The only other occurrence of this word occurs in Isaiah 11:1, where the same Hebrew word is translated as "shoot":
                                                                  
            There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
                and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
                                                        
The idea in this first line, then, is that the words that come out of a fool's mouth express his inner life.  Just like the branch or shoot of a tree can only express what the tree is, so also a fool's words will invariably express what a fool is. 

Fools by nature are proud.  They have rejected the fear of the Lord in their pride.  Therefore, the words of a fool are likened to a shoot of pride that springs up from an arrogant heart.  Since the fool's heart is proud, so also are his words.

There is also the connotation of punishment in the first line of our proverb.  A shoot from a tree can be used as a whip.  It can be used as an instrument to inflict pain.  The words of the proud can harm others.  Throughout the Proverbs, the wicked are seen as dangerous,[1] for their words reflect foolish philosophies, which reject the foundation of the fear of the Lord.  Their words, knowingly or unknowingly, contradict the words of the true God, and thus, endanger the souls of men, women, and children.  Since the words of the wicked grow out of a heart that rejects the Lord, so their words lead others to also reject the Lord.

Thus, the second line uses the word "preserve," showing us that people need to be protected from the words of the foolishly proud.  Foolish words must be counteracted with wise words.  Just like certain medicines can counteract poisons or infections, so the lips of the wise can preserve and protect us from the diseases that endanger the souls of men. 

We have already looked at Isaiah 11:1, and the shoot that comes forth from the stump of Jesse.  This, of course, refers to Jesus Christ our Lord, who was the true David who grew up out of the fallen house of David.  Isaiah refers to David's fallen dynasty as "the stump of Jesse" (Jesse was David's father), because David's kingdom had been cut down by the ax of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who conquered Israel and sent them into exile.  No Jewish king had reigned since the exile in 586 B.C.  But God had not forgotten his promise to raise one David's descendants, who would reign forever.

When our Lord came to this earth in fulfillment of this prophecy in Isaiah 11:1, notice how the next verse describes Jesus Christ in wisdom terms:

            And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
                the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
                the Spirit of counsel and might,
                the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  (Isaiah 11:2)

Our Lord Jesus was prophesied to be the embodiment of wisdom.  And, thus he was.  "Where did this man get this wisdom?" (Matthew 13:54) the people asked when he came. 

Another place where people were astounded at Jesus' wisdom was when he went to the temple as a young boy of twelve, and met with the Jewish teachers.  There we read, "And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers" (Luke 2:47).  Then a bit later we read again of his wisdom:  "And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).  Here is Jesus growing up as the shoot from the stump of Jesse, filled with wisdom, just as Isaiah prophesied 700 years before his coming.

One other place where we see a reference to Jesus as the shoot is in Isaiah 53.  Here our Lord is described figuratively like a "young plant" or tender shoot as some translations (for example the NIV or NASB) have it:

            For he grew up before him like a young plant,
                and like a root out of dry ground; (Isaiah 53:2)

What would happen with this shoot from the dry ground of Israel's desolate kingdom?  Would he be a rod, to whip us?  Would he be a shoot used to inflict pain on us?  No, look at what he did for us: 

            Surely he has borne our griefs
                and carried our sorrows;
            yet we esteemed him stricken,
                smitten by God, and afflicted.
            But he was pierced for our transgressions;
                he was crushed for our iniquities;
            upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
                and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

The shoot bore the whip in our place.  The rod bore the strokes of punishment that should have been ours.  The eternal destruction that should have been ours, our Lord Jesus Christ came to bear for us on the cross.  By his wounds we are healed.  By being smitten and stricken Jesus  protects his people from God's righteous anger.  Because of his substitutionary death and resurrection from the dead, the words of the gospel preserve us from the righteous wrath of God.  We do not have to be eternally destroyed because of our sinful pride, which rejects the fear of the Lord.  Salvation has come to us in the wonderful words of the gospel. 

The words of our proverb are wonderfully true: the lips of the wise that proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, will preserve his penitent and believing people from the eternal destruction we foolish sinners deserve.


                                             

                                                                                                 
















[1] Fox, Proverbs, vol. 2, 534.

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