Like a madman who throws Firebrands, arrows and death, So is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, "Was I not joking?" Proverbs 26:18-19
I like to call this the, "Practical Jokes" proverb. That is because it describes what can happen when practical joking gets out of hand. Unfortunately, I've watched a few of these in my day and they can get ugly in a hurry.
The proverb speaks to us of a certain madman. This guy is out of control. He is throwing three things in his insanity. The first is firebrands - which are akin to something like a flaming arrow. This crazy guy is also shooting regular arrows. The third thing he is dealing in is death. The first two are easy to understand, but this last one is a little more cryptic. I see the final thing in light of what happens due to the deception. He is throwing around these things that hurt physically - but he is also throwing something that hurts emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. He is throwing "death" - he is killing relationships and injuring people so that they are dead to him emotionally. His actions are hurting things and killing someone's ability to be around him - interact with him - and receive anything from him. So we see three pretty rough things going on here. All three are destructive and can cause great harm. The interesting thing is that since he is a madman - his aim may not be the best. From how this is stated, it seems as if a rather random pattern is being followed in how these things are being shot and thrown. Thus he will not hit everyone, but when he does, it is going to hurt badly. It might even kill someone. What could this be describing? Let's look, because the answer is given in verse 19.
Verse 19 tells us that the comparison is to a man who deceives his neighbor - then tells him he was only joking. First of all we need to see that this man does these things to his neighbor. The term here implies more than just a casual relationship. Some passages imply a relationship as close as a close friend or even a lover. What he is doing to his neighbor is that he is "deceiving" him. The word here is "ramah" and it means to intentionally deal craftily with someone. Other ways it is used is to indicate lies, betrayal, crass jokes, and even pulling a trick on someone. That is definitely the case here in Proverbs 26:18-19. What is going on is that a trick or a crass joke is being played on a person by his neighbor, which is pretty much the definition of a practical joke.
If we did not know the nature of this proverb through the word "ramah" - things become much clearer as we see that after this man deceives his neighbor - he eventually lets him know about it by saying, "Was I not joking?" There it is - a practical joke, pure and simple. But why is this such a strong statement? Is God adamantly opposed to all practical jokes? From what I read here I cannot say one way or the other. This is just a warning about consequences.
A day is coming when the practical joker is going to play a joke on someone and it is going to blow up in his face. He is like that madman randomly shooting arrows. Most will fall relatively harmless to the ground. They won't hit any real target. But every once in a while he will strike something - actually someone. When that happens - problems are coming. In some cases real harm comes to someone in a practical joke. Somebody gets physically hurt - and at times it is a bad injury. In other situations the pain is much worse - because it is emotional and relational. I've actually watched relationships broken forever or for a long time because of a practical joke gone bad. These are very sad things to watch because the joke was meant to be funny (at least to the one doing it - and to everyone watching the person humiliated). But at times the humiliation breeds anger. That is why God warns us about it.
In all honesty - when I consider that most practical jokes are done to humiliate someone - or at least to laugh at their expense - I think that a wise man should probably avoid them. He knows that such an action may result in an offended brother. And from other proverbs he knows that if this happens that brother will be very hard to win back. That is why the wise man decides against such actions. But before you think I am a 'stick in the mud' on this issue - you should know that I have been the mark of many practical jokes. How do I respond them? I laugh with those who did them . . . sometimes threaten retaliation . . . and usually end up forgetting them and thinking, "You got me good!" It is good to have a sense of humor - and an ability to laugh at yourself. Just remember that some won't - and when that happens - it's going to be bad - very bad.
It is a trap for a man to say rashly, “It is holy!” And after the vows to make inquiry. Proverbs 20:25
A wise man is one who when he makes a vow to the Lord keeps it. That is what is spoken of in today's proverb of the day. When the man in this proverb makes the statement, "It is holy!" he is stating that what he mentions is separated unto God. This was what the Bible refers to as making a vow to God. This may be a vow to give something to the Lord or it may be to dedicate a certain amount of time or even some relationship to God. Of course included in this situation is the vow of marriage as well.
Once a vow is made before God - it stands. We read of this warning in the book of Ecclesiastes, "When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God." (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7) Once the vow is made before God - all that is left to the one making it is to fulfill it.
Too often people make vows rashly. They make them in the midst of an emotional moment - with no thought to what it will take to fulfill the vows they made. I've watched in some youth meetings a speaker work up a group of youth into an emotional moment where he then asks them to make a vow. The classic that I've seen is to preach a message against dating - and then get all the youth present to make a vow not to date - unless it is the person they are going to marry. As I've watched - I wanted to scream, "Stop!" I wanted to get on stage and read this passage from Ecclesiastes as well as this one from Proverbs. Someone needs to warn these kids against making vows - especially when they are made either emotionally or rashly. When I do pre-marital counselling prior to a wedding I do everything I can to get the couple to realize the extreme intensity and solemnity with which they need to make their marriage vows to their spouse. Vows should NEVER be made lightly - or in all honesty - emotionally or quickly.
This passage in Proverbs states that the one who made these rash vows feels a regret for making them. But that regret comes at the wrong time. They "make inquiry" only after they have made the vow. They do not think before they make it - only afterward when the have to pay the price of their foolish vow. For many it is only afterward, when the emotions wear off, that they begin to see the cost of what they vowed. Unfortunately this is true in marriages as well. When things are sweet and romantic they make the vow. When things get rough and they learn that marraige is indeed for life - they ask their questions and want out. How many divorces could have been avoided if only the couple had of considered the LONG TERM aspect of getting married?
The wise man thinks and considers what he is about to do when entering into a vow. Solomon warns that in many words and dreams there is emptiness. All our emotion and strong religious words "in the mmoment" are honestly nothing more than empty promises. We are so prone to promise something in the heat of a moment that will not ever be carried out in the end. God is seeking to keep us from such foolishness here. He wants us to "fear God." What God is saying to us is that in that moment of power and emotion - be quiet! Get before God and humble yourself - seeking His face and listening. We want to pour out words - when it would be better to be silent and listen to what He is saying. Our response should be humble worship - not boastful vows. Humble worship and submission will do far more to bless us in the end. Vows tend toward pride and the thought we can do something for God. Humility and worship express the kind of dependence on God that will be blessed in that moment - and for a whole lifetime to come.
So they will be life to your soul And adornment to your neck. Proverbs 3:22
If this is not enough to bless us for a lifetime - we also see that the life of God is being poured not just into our minds and wills - but also our emotions. This is a twofold blessing to us. First, we are protected from having our emotions lead us. Too often we find that we are far more emotionally driven than Scripture and Holy Spirit led. We feel a certain way emotionally and we allow that "feeling" to be what leads us. This can be dangerous because I can speak personally of how often I just didn't "feel" like being a Christian in my attitude or actions. This did not come to me in that particular package, because I think it would be far easier to reject. It came to me in a variety of packages. I just don't feel like getting up and having my quiet time. I just don't feel like reading the Bible right now. I just don't feel like witnessing to that person. Then there are the feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness, and a host of other negative emotions that come in dealing with people. One area I don't want to forget in sharing these things is times when desires rise up within me calling for fulfillment. At times those desires run contrary to Scripture, yet if I walk only in my emotional state, I will find myself following those emotions into something that is sin. But there is another way. That way is learning to examine emotions with the Word - and to reject emoitons that will lead to sin and to choices that I will regret later.
When we speak of emotions there is a picture that is very instructive. That picture is the one where we see the difference between being driven by emotion versus being led by the Spirit of God. When sheep are being driven - the one driving them is the butcher. He is driving them to the slaughter house - and ultimately to their death. The one who leads the sheep is the shepherd. When we are driven by our emotions - the world, the flesh, or the devil is most likely in control. They want to drive us through moment by moment feelings that we have rather than by the life of God, which would instruct us in what is right. The difference here is that one will drive us by whatever feeling is dominant in the moment, while the other will help us to discern between actions that are good or bad. We will discern that even though we may have positive emotions immediately by doing something - the long term effects will be much worse. In the same way we may be led by God to choose something that may not bring immediate gratification, yet in the long run will bring great blessing into our lives. Without the Spirit of God using the Word of God to lead us in the way of the life of God, we may make many foolish choices simply because we were emotionally driven at the moment to make them.
There is also a wonderful way that God grants us emotions as well. As we learn to embrace the work of God in our emotions we will have times when we can release ourselves to wonderful emotions as well. Jesus experienced great joy as well as weeping and sorrow in the time He was on the earth. His was a wonderful example of how God works in us, even using our emotions as He does that work within us. Worship is a place where this can happen - having strong emotions toward God as we sing to Him and praise Him. Obedience can yield incredible emotion as we do the will of God and are rewarded for it with a sense that things are good. God may move us to great emotion in prayer - where we have seen in Scripture that people often weep and grieve before God as they intercede before God and let their emotions out before Him. All these are beautiful ways that God works in our emotions. As we are taught by His Spirit of His ways and know Him - these things can be embraced and even help us as we learn to live our lives for His purposes.
How important it is to experience the life of God in our souls - and by that to experience Him in our emotions. We can choose to be driven by our emotional state of mind in what we do. To be driven in this way is a horrible way to live, for our feelings may swing from one extreme to another. To be led by the Spirit involves setting ourselves in a direction according to God's Word - and to submit our emotions to Him. He will help us to know over the course of our lives how to reject certain emotions that would lead us astray, and how to embrace others which will come as He guides us through life.
Proverb a Day
Each day, we'll take a look at a verse from the chapter of Proverbs for the day. Our hope is to gain wisdom each day - and from that wisdom - to have understanding to make godly decisions in the throes of everyday life.
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