A rascally witness makes a mockery of justice, And the mouth of the wicked spreads iniquity. Proverbs 19:28
Justice is a major concept throughout the book of Proverbs. It should also be a major concern of any society that wants to endure. When a people know that there is justice, there is peace and stability. When people begin to suspect that justice is lost - there is unrest, discontent, and even rioting. Therefore, the process of justice, which always involves witnesses, is vitally important.
The "rascally witness" is actually a worthless man who has no qualms about distorting his testimony or lying on the witness stand. The word here is "belial" and it refers to someone who is wothrless because they have no moral fiber. They are good for nothing, are often seen as perjerers, and are among those who live in constant rebellion to the king or the government. This makes them unfit to serve as a witness to anything other than their own wickedness and sin. When this kind of man is on the stand - there is a complete mockery of justice. This godless man mocks and derides the entire idea of justice. He will make his own justice and his own judgments - often with no reference to justice or true righteousness.
We are also told that the mouth of the wicked spreads iniquity. The actual word for "spreads" here means to swallow something or engulf it. What the wicked man does is swallow iniquity. He enjoys sin and iniquity like the average person does delicious dish made for him. He considers sin and evil something to be consumed - not something to be avoided. when there is wickedness to swallow down - he swallows it wholeheartedly.
One other thing about this lying, false witness is his name throughout history. Here we have the phrase "a witness of belial," meaning a worthless witness - but it also means a witness of the devil. World history has had many of the "sons of belial" and many of his witnesses as well. Muhammed, Joseph Smith, Karl Marrx, and Adoph Hitler are only a few of these sons of belial. They have borne false witness of God - and have led many thousands into religious and political error. But there is one last son of Belial that will top all the others. In Revelation 13
we see the ultimate "false witness" rise up looking like a lamb - yet speaking like a dragon. He speaks powerful lies and deceives the world promoting the Beast and the Antichrist in the last days. He is the ultimate liar - will mock justice in a way that none have done in all history - and will spread iniquity, sin, misery, and death like no other. This is why a title like "witness of belial" is one we should shrink back in horror at receiving. It is also why we want to be known as people of truth - and ultimately people of THE truth of the gospel. Then we will not be known for spreading iniquity, but rather spreading righteousness. We will spread the ultimate story of God's justice at the cross - and the life that it gives to those who receive it.
A truthful witness saves lives, But he who utters lies is treacherous. Proverbs 14:25
Here is a proverb that at first glance deals with being truthful or a liar. But as we look at what God is truly saying in this proverb, we see that this goes farther into what we are sharing with others - and whether we are sharing a saving message or a treacherous one that will cost people everything when that day comes upon all the living and the dead.
I am going to comment on this proverb from the last phrase first. The one who utters lies is treacherous. There are those who share things that are not truth on a mere earthly level. This is called lying - and the Bible says that we are not to bear false witness to our neighbor. This simply means we are not to lie to others. So on a mere earthly level it is sinful to speak lies to others. It hurts relationships and betrays trust, which is so important to the very bedrock upon which they are built. But there is a greater sin - and that is being one who speaks lies about things that are beyond the earthly. They lie about heaven - about eternity - about God.
There are those who do this very blatently. Atheists like Richard Dawkins and his fellow mockers write quite voluminously about their opposition to God, His Word, and His salvation. They offer no honest alternative except a life lived for self as God. Thus they bring a very "treacherous" message. They mocking turns people from the things of God - as their flesh desires - and they put God and His gospel out of their minds. They see this as freeing because they no longer think themselves under His law - no longer bridled by His moral restraints. But truly their message is treacherous - because they still must stand at the judgment seat of the One whom they deny. Like the fool who stands in the street denying the existance of the bus barreling down the road toward them - they will find that denying God's existance does nothing to stop the inevitability of His sure and exactlng judgment. On that day how they will be ashamed at their false and damning beliefs - but that day will be too late. The treachery complete - they will join Dawkins and all his mates in hell where they will be tormented for their foolishness and unbelief.
This is not how it has to be though. God speaks a blessing on those who are truthful witnesses. We are told that a truthful witness saves lives. Here is where we see this proverb transcend the physical. True, speaking the truth to someone can save their life physically - as the one who confronts the drug user or alcoholic that there is a horrible demise awaiting them at the end of the road of their lifestyle. But what we are dealing with is a salvation dealing with more than just our physical lives. The truthful witness shares the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ with those who need to hear it. They speak the truth regardless of whether it makes them popular or not. They consider popularity with God infinitely superior to the familiarity of those on earth whose opinion of each other changes as often as the wind changes directions. They know that there is a God and that we must stand before Him on that fateful, yet glorious day. They know that there is nothing that will stand on that day but perfection - the absolute righteousness that God demands when He says, "Therefore be perfect, as God is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) There is no way we can achieve this standing for our righteousness is as filthy rags before the perfect God of this universe. Thus we must turn to His provision - which is the only way and the only hope for us for eternity. He made Him who knew no sin, to become sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20) This is the answer - and it is the only answer acceptable in that day.
The world may hate this, but it is true nevertheless. We have a choice therefore as His children and His ambassadors. Are we going to be treacherous to our friends, neighbors, and associates - or truthful? Do not take this choice lightly - for the difference between obedience and rebellion on this point will often be the difference between others seeing you as a true friend or a treacherous one. It is the difference beteween life and death. Speak the truth saints - whether it is popular or not - whether it is socially acceptable or the word by which you are made a social outcast. There is nothing more important than being a truthful witness who saves lives!
Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters. Proverbs 25:13
How reliable and faithful are you when someone sends you with a message to deliver? Today's proverb encourages us to be faithful messengers. That means when our leaders or a friend - or even God sends us with a message, we need to deliver that message exactly as it was given to us. The problems that come from people misunderstanding one another are myriad. These misunderstandings can be the result of someone not grasping what has been said - but too many times it is because the original message has been changed in some way by the messenger. The end of these misunderstandings can be small - but there are other situations that can mean the difference between life and death itself.
Our proverb today involves a practice that was distinct to the region of the middle east. That practice was taking snow from the higher mountainous elevations and packing it very tightly to bring it to the lower, much hotter regions for the purpose of cooling water and other drinks. This was done, according to this proverb, during the time of harvest - which was a time which was very warm in that region of the world. Not only was the temperature hot, but this time of life involved very strenuous labor. That is why having someone bring snow to cool water was such a wonderful thing. It allowed someone to have a cold drink when they were very hot.
This wonderful cool drink is compared to someone who is a faithful messenger for his master. He faithfully communicates what his master wants to be said - and therefore refreshes his soul. The refreshing comes because the master knows that what he has said will not be misinterpreted or misunderstood because of a failure to speak the truth about what he has said. It is easy to understand why this is important in business because proper communication in that area can mean the difference between a job done well vesus a job that is completely messed up - and which costs the company anywhere from hundreds to thousands to even millions of dollars. Think about the recent recall of Toyotas that had defective brakes. That cost the company millions of dollars in repairs - and additonal millions of dollars in lawsuits. This happened because somewhere along the line someone did not pass the correct information along - and the brakes were defective because of it.
Now consider for a moment the damage that comes when the gospel is not faithfully communicated for our ultimate Master, God. Whether the error is because of a failure to understand the gospel, or because someone has added something they think is important to it, or because of a cult leader who twists the gospel for his own ends - all these scenarios are disastrous . . . eternally! The gospel is the power of God unto salvation - and if communicated so that anything other than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is our hope - that power is short-circuited. How devastating it will be for those who have believed a false gospel that has only offered to them a false hope. Yet on the other hand how refreshing and delightful it is to God to know that the message of His salvation through Jesus Christ has been communicated faithfully. What a blessing it is to know that salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ has truly transformed another heart and life! It blesses the heart of God (not to mention the heart of the one who has been saved) to know that the gospel has been shared faithfully and truly.
Precious saints of God, we need to be faithful messengers with whatever has been communicated to us. We need to be those who take what has been entrusted to us - whether it is something small and seemingly insignificant or something as monumental as the gospel of God itself - and share it just as it has been given to us. By doing this we will be a wonderful drink of cool water on a hot day to those who have sent us.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him. 5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes. Proverbs 26:4-5
This particular verse and the next one have caused a stir among some who would like to think the Bible contradicts itself here. As usual though, when you actually study the text (rather than knee-jerk react to it) you will find no contradiction. You will find wisdom in dealing with fools - even those who have knee-jerk reactions hoping to discredit the Scriptures!
The wisdom given here in verse 4 is that we are not to answer a fool according to his folly because when we do so, we become just like the fool. The fool would ask whether the infinite God can create a rock bigger than he can pick up. If we answer him according to his folly, we will become like him. The unwise man will answer, "No," to this question. He thus falls into the trap set by the fool, who then jumps on the answer saying that then God is not infinite - because God cannot make the rock. The problem with this question is that it is foolish in its very presupposition. If God is infinite (which He is according to His self-revelation in Scripture) then by this very definition He is without limits in every way. The question presupposes God is either less than infinite in power to make the rock - or less than infinite in power to pick up the rock He makes. If God is infinite - any language that presupposes anything but infinite power and ability is by its very nature foolish. Don't answer the fool according to his folly - for in doing so you will become like him. You will make the same foolish presupposition that God can in any way be limited. You answered the fool within the scope of his foolish thinking. When a fool speaks this way - he proves he is a fool. These kind of questions do not seek knowledge or answer - they seek an opportunity to pounce on anyone who answers them. Therefore to answer them at all is to place yourself on the level of the fool - to make yourself just like him - a fool. Jesus spoke of not casting our pearls before swine - because they will trample them and then turn on us. To answer a fool in his folly is to cast pearls before swine.
There are times when Christians need to remain silent. Our lives and our faith should speak for us. Our wisdom at times is better revealed by saying nothing than it is by wanting to have an answer for everything. But there are times to answer a fool according to his folly. A better way to state this for our understanding is that we are to answer a fool as his folly deserves. So let's take a look also at verse 5 today - because it offers wisdom from the other way we need to deal with fools.
Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes. When we answer fools it often does not need to be as they have questioned us. We don't need to get into the slop with them in their statements. But often we need to answer not their questions, but their spirit and their intent. Oh, how we need to watch Jesus on this one (actually we should watch Him all the time - but on this one He offers such great interactions with fools).
When I read the gospels I am always fascinated that Jesus answers some people's questions - and others He does not. He offers answers to his disciples when they question Him about certain things - but when he is asked questions by the foolish Pharisees and Saducees - He often answers their questions with questions - or with statements that reveal their heart. Here is how to answer a fool as his folly deserves. When Jesus asks a question to answer a question - He puts the responsibility to answer back into the court of the fool. Almost every time He did this - it revealed the wicked, foolish heart of the questioner. He answered as they deserved - and answered in such a way as to reveal the motives and heart of the one who wanted to trap Him. Here is true wisdom dear saints. He took the time to see past words to the intent of their heart. We err when we think our purpose is to simply answer the words of those who questioin us. What we need to do is to answer their heart. But the question naturally arises, "How can we answer the intent of someone's heart? How can we know this?"
Let me answer your question with a question. How well do you know the Word of God? How often do you discern what someone says using the Word of God? The reason I ask this question is because Hebrews 4:12-13 says, "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Do you see the highlighted part of this verse? It says that the Word of God can judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. This means when we look at all things (including what a fool says to us) through the lens of God's Word, we will be able to see thoughts and intentions of the heart that are behind the words we hear. You ability to answer fools as they deserve to be answered will rest on your ability to see what they are saying through God's Word - and avoid the traps that your own ego or your own desire to put them in their place afford.
Why should a fool be answered? It is because he needs to experience God - and God's wisdom. If your desire to speak, as I said above, is because "you" want to put him in his place - well - then we have two fools speaking to each other. That kind of motivation comes from pride and a misplaced zeal that has little or nothing to do with God's honor and glory. Note in the gospels how many times the words of Jesus left men blown away with the wisdom with which He spoke. His answers left them with a touch of God. Do our answers do as much? You see, this is what we should covet. We should desire that whatever answer God has us give leaves them with a sense of God's wisdom.
Amazing isn't it that when we take the time to examine the full intent of God's Word - that seeming contradictions become some of the most wonderful truths. There is a large contingent of fools out there in the world. Our purpose needs to be to walk with God so that whether we are silent or speak - they do not run into us being God's vigilante - but rather they run into God Himself. In the end He will be the One who answers all their questions and statements. But He will do so bringing them to His desired humility for their lives - but also bringing them to Himself - and to His grace that can change their hearts from foolishness to wisdom - from their sinfulness to His righteousness - from being children of wrath to being children of grace. Honestly . . . isn't that what He wants in the end? He's not after some kind of prideful display where He puts them in their place - unless the place of which we speak is His salvation through grace.
A trustworthy witness will not lie, But a false witness utters lies. Proverbs 14:5 The trustworthy man is the witness who does not lie or bend the truth. He is dependable and reliable. What he says he will do. There is also the reliability of what he says - when he says it - it is the truth. In Jesus' day some religious hypocrites would say that it was fine to bend or misrepresent the truth - unless you were swearing to tell the truth - or basing your statement on some oath you made to speak the truth. To Jesus this was totally unacceptable. He said, "Let your yes be yes and your no, no." Your word is your bond. This is the attitude of the trusthworthy witness. Jesus said that anything beyond your word being your bond is of the evil one. This may sound a little harsh - but to couch anything in lies - and to make your word something other than the truth is satanic. The trusthworthy man WILL NOT LIE! It seems simple - but the false witness utters lies. We are not used to such blunt talk in our day of bending and stretching the truth. We are used to things like spin and qualified statements. Such is the world we live in where truth lies fallen in the streets - especially in the streets of Washington D. C. There is much that the Bible says about a culture that has tossed truth to the side. It will be a difficult world to live in - one fraught with troubles. That is why speaking the truth is important. That is why God put this one in the 10 Commandments - "Thou shall not bear false witness." This becomes even more important when sharing the way of salvation. When we become witnesses to the gospel - we need to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Too often in our day we have genius' who have decided that we can package the gospel in a way that is less offensive and that will garner greater receptivity. There is a word for those who practice this kind of foolishness - false witnesses. We need to share the gospel just as it is - as good news! But we cannot hide the sinfulness of man - or the work of the law in condemning sinners before a holy God and still be a truthful witness. We cannot take the Lordship of Jesus Christ and repentance and lay them aside because they lower our success rates - and still call ourselves God's witnesses. These things are nothing more than lies. One thing we should remember when sharing the gospel - and honestly - when sharing anything. Truth may hurt - it may offend - but it is the only thing that will set men free. To share anything else is simply putting ourselves in the camp of those who are false witnesses. Some may say that if we do this - we won't see as many people saved. My answer to them is that it is the ONLY way to see people saved. Salvation is God's work - not ours. If we do not speak His truth - and trust Him to open a man's heart, granting repentance and faith in Jesus Christ - no one will be saved. Be a truthful witness. Refuse to lie - no matter the issue. In time men will come to know you as one who speaks the truth . . . and they will trust you. The other option here is out of the question.