Today's proverb ranks as one of the most vivid, if not gross, proverbs that are in the book. But, it also ranks as one of the most important in that its vivid, gross picture sticks with us reminding us to turn from sin, rather than turn back to it.
I will try my best not to revel in the grotesqueness of today's proverb. That being said, we have to grasp what is said here. I've had a number of dogs - and one of the things that truly grosses me out is the fact that every one of them would vomit - and return and lick up the mess they just regurgitated. It is something that is very graphic to me - and something I can promise you I do not intend ever to mimic. Just the thought of doing what a dog does turns my stomach - and honestly - makes me want to vomit. But isn't that the purpose of the writer - and God. He is placing before us something so disgusting that we all unanimously chime in that we would never want to do something so sick. Then the Lord blows our mind with the second part of the proverb.
This dog imagery is there to compare how disgusting it is for a fool to repeat his folly. This is a proverb about our sin - and the foolishness we engage in when we sin against God. But even more, it is about when we sin, repent (hopefully) and then return to the same folly a second, third, fourth time. That picture, when we first encounter it, we don't see as disgusting. We have terms we would rather use for such a situation. Let me mention a few for our instruction.
I slipped up. Here is a common one. It doesn't really confront the sin and the foolishness at all. In too many ways it down plays the seriousness of sin. This was not a "slip-up" - it was a choice to sin and rebel against God's commandments. No one ever "slips" into sin - they walk into it - or at least are deceived into thinking it is not as heinous as it is.
I'm struggling with a problem - or with sin. Here is another common cop-out on sin. If we were struggling, shouldn't we be fighting against the sin, having yet to do it? I know that when I say that I'm "struggling with some things," what I honestly should be saying is, "I'm sinning against God - and I'm struggling with surrender and submission to His will." My struggle - as I put it - is with whether I WANT to obey God - or whether I WANT to do what my flesh says instead. A more forthright way of phrasing this would be to say, "I'm struggling with whether I want to submit to Jesus as Lord of my life. I would rather be Lord and do what I want right now."
I'm having a hard time right now. This one mistakes a hard time due to circumstances that are beyond my control - with circumstances that are absolutely under my control - because whether I choose to sin or not IS something I can do in Christ. This one is in my arsenal of stupid excuses because it often elicits a merciful response from others. I would much rather have that merciful response rather than face the truth. The truth is my sins are what have caused my circumstances 99% of the time - at least the ones with which I am having a hard time. Scripture tells me the way of the transgressor is HARD! Sin leads to God's discipline - and God's discipline often leads to HARD or DIFFICULT times as He seeks to get me to stop returning to my own vomit.
Please understand that I know that the things I am writing today are hard to hear. I say that because it is hard to write them. That difficulty is because I've heard them from the Lord as He seeks to get me to stop dealing with my sin with kid gloves. THIS PROVERB IS MEANT TO SHOCK US! God wants us to look at the fact that we return to folly and sin as something utterly disgusting a gross. He is hoping that such a shocking picture will make us not just gross out at the dog - but hopefully we gross out at our own foolishness. The Lord is not doing this to be mean to us. He does it out of love and a desire to deliver us from sin. Sometimes that means putting an example before us that shakes things up in our thinking - and hopefully in our hearts.
Grossed out at the picture of a dog returning to eat his own vomit? Then use that shock value to also address any return to sin and foolishness in your life. And . . . may that picture force its way into your mind's eye every time you are about to make a decision that will return you to any former sin of your past. Do this - and this proverb will have accomplished what God intended for it to do. He did not intend for it to be a joke as much of our "potty" humor today is. He meant it to be a picture and a spiritual knee-jerk reaction to keep us from sin.