Growing up I remember many times when my parents would be concerned with who my friends were. One time in particular, they basically forbid me from continuing to hang out with a couple of guys. I was not too happy with the situation, but knew that disobedience to such a strong prohibition came with very real consequences. Little did I know but it would only be a couple of months later that they were caught shoplifting. I’m not sure what would have happened to me if I had been there with them – but that was not an issue because of the wisdom of my father and mother.
My dad never quoted this proverb outright to me – but he must have read it. More than once my parents would remind me that the company I keep would have direct implications on the character I later would possess.
Today’s proverb speaks of these very things. It speaks of a “walk with wise men” versus a “shepherding by fools.” First let’s look at the walk with wise men. The one who walks with wise men will be wise. The word for “walk” here refers to a journey or a walk from one place to another. The company during this walk was a wise man, or wise men. Proverbs 2:20 refers to it as a walk with good men and a pathway of the righteous. When looking for companions and mentors – we do well to look for people who have walked with God (Who Himself is the wisest companion to have on the roads of life). These people are characterized by the fact that they know God. This they have acquired over a lifetime of pursuing a relationship with Him through reading and knowing His Word. They have learned that obedience to God is the wisest way to walk – and seeing life through His perspective and Word is how to obtain this. Look for such people and surround yourself with them and their counsel. They will counsel you to walk closely with God – and learn to apply His Word to every situation in life. Their lives will have the sweet smell of God’s favor upon them (even if the world deems them less than a success by their standards). Such people will be humble, gracious, loving, kind – and yet strong and wiling to stand on God’s principles no matter what. The blessing for being around such people is that you will become one of them. The one who walks with wise men – will himself become wise. One thing I would add to this is that a wise man or woman will look for at least one wise man or woman with some age on them. The Word makes one wise – but wisdom over time is a rare thing to find. When you do – befriend the one who has it – and – listen to them often!
This one who grows wise in the company of wise men is contrasted with the “companion of fools.” The word companion here is the Hebrew word “ra ah” which means to tend or feed sheep – i.e. a shepherd of another. Here is one who is being shepherded by fools. He is fed and tended by them – having them lead him into their ways and their paths. The fools he considers friends and mentors are mentioned in several ways in Scripture. The word for fool is “kesiyl” and it means a fool or one lacking in wisdom. In Ecclesiastes 4:5 the fool is lazy, folding his hands in inactivity as his life wastes away. In that same chapter verse 13 uses this word to describe a young man who knows everything and will not be instructed by anyone around him. He even mocks those who offer wisdom – preferring His own foolishness to any advice or instruction. Psalm 49:10 refers to this fool as one who thinks his stuff will last forever and lives for it rather than any kind of spiritual pursuit of God. Proverbs 1:32 speaks of the fool as one who loves wayward living and not only ignores the wisdom of God – but in verse 22 we see him hating both the wisdom and the God who gave it. Psalm 92:6-7 reminds us that he also mocks the whole concept of God’s justice and judgment. Proverbs 3:35 reminds us that he displays his godless dishonor like a trophy – and finally Ecclesiastes 10:2 says that his heart (that hates wisdom) is always turning the wrong direction in life.
What happens to the one who has such foolish companions and mentors? The language here is a very pointed. He will suffer harm as a result of these leaders and friends. The word used here is quite descriptive. It is the Hebrew word “rua” – which referred to the deafening shout or blast that took place right before your enemy came upon you in battle. Such a shout was called a shout of victory – and to those about to be vanquished – it was the most terrifying sound you can imagine. Often those who heard it were not prepared for the devastating defeat they were about to receive. But when the shout rang out – their cockiness would be soon replaced by terror and fear. Too often that is how the foolish awaken to their folly. They are full of self-confidence and self-congratulation until disaster awakens them to their true state. The result of their poor choice of companions and commanders is ruin.
Unfortunately some will read this and mock – saying that they are doing fine. They will even point to a life where everything seemed pretty good for their friends and mentors. But whether we live in relative comfort, ease, and man-oriented success is not the measure of a man. The true measure of a man and the way he lived happens in the twinkling of an eye – in the moment after he leaves this world. We are reminded in Hebrews 9:27 that we have an appointment with death. This happens only once, “It is appointed for man to die once, then comes the judgment.” There is no second chance – no reincarnation to have another shot. When we die – we will either be present with the Lord – or wholly absent from His favor forever. In that moment it truly will be seen how wise it was to walk with people who are wise. And ultimately the One Wise Man with whom we should walk is Jesus Christ. It is by His wisdom we will escape so great a peril – so great a judgment – and forever enjoy so great a salvation. Walk with Him – be wise – and be blessed far beyond your days on this earth!