There is an artery that carries the blood from our hearts to the rest of our bodies. We know it as the aorta. The passage for today from proverbs uses a phrase, "fountain of life" which is "mekor chaiyim" in the Hebrew. This was the phrase used often as an allusion to this artery which carries the blood from the heart to distribute it to all the extremities of our bodies. It is used here though in reference to the one who has "understanding." As the aorta is the life-giving channel to the whole body phsyically - so understanding is the life-giving vehicle to our moral and spiritual well-being. Therefore it is pretty important that we know what it means to have understanding in our lives.
The word "understanding" here is the Hebrew word "sekel." This word means, "having intelligence and good sense." But the intelligence mentioned here is more than just book learning about various subjects. It means to have understanding and insight into things that comes from more than just mere educational learning. The Bible says in 1 Chronicles 22:12 that only the Lord can give us insight and understanding. This is given so that we can obey God and please Him - which is the greatest understanding of things in light of eternity. Job 17:14 reminds us that God can give this understanding and insight - or - take it away whenever He so chooses. The result of having this kind of godly, God-given insight and understanding is that it helps us to be patient and forgiving (Proverbs 19:11). Those who have such insight will be praised - and will turn from perversity in their lives (Proverbs 12:8). You come away from the definition of this word seeing that God grants this insight as we get into His Word - understand it - and gain insight into both His character and the character of mankind. The knowledge of both of these things is what grants us patience to deal with the failings of others patiently. We grasp the power of forgiveness as we experience it from God at levels that will infinitely dwarf any forgiveness that we will ever have to give others for their trangressions against us. We will also find that such biblical insight gained from our heavenly Father will turn us to godly, holy lives - and turn us from lies, deceit, and anything which perverts and twists our path from God's ways and plans. In this end - this is a conduit for life - God's life in its fullness.
The discipline of fools is folly. The general agreement on the scholars is that "musar" which is the word here for "discipline" has the idea of instruction. It is how we use the word discipline when refering to a field of study. We are in the discipline of Mathmatics. That means that we are studying this field - and intentionally harnessing ourselves to a disciplined practice of doing math every day - so that we learn the field of study - or in this cast the discipline of Mathmatics. The passage says that the learning or instruction of the fool is folly. This is why a fool is such a pathetic figure in Proverbs. He remains a fool because that is all he disciplines himself to be - a fool. He so delights in his folly that is it all that he ever learns and pursues. In the end - he only becomes a bigger and bigger fool. Since folly is his life-blood, the flow of his choices, attitudes, and actions only solidify the result that he will be a bigger fool tomorrow than he is today. His only real hope is that the grace of God rescues him from his foolishness - and brings him to the place where he values wisdom and understanding. There must be a heart change for him to begin to experience an "aortic-change" in what flows through him as his life-blood. Honestly - this is the gospel - God reaching into the hearts of fools - changing them by His grace. Taking out their heart of stone (the heart of a fool). Granting them by His mercy and infinte kindness a new heart of flesh. This heart values wisdom and understading . . . and then, seeing the change as this new heart values understanding - which then becomes the new life-blood that flows throughout him. Only that kind of change - changes the hearts of fools. Otherwise, their discipline of study remains folly - which confirms them as lifelong fools. Their end is the ultimate place of all fools - next to the ultimate fool of all eternity - in a lake of fire that is wholly popluated by all the fools who said in their hearts, "There is no God."
Better to have life - and to have a heart that because of grace and the gospel pumps out understanding - insight - biblical knowledge - and discretion. Thanks be to God for the "aortic-change" that brings life to us - and causes life to flow into every apsect of our entire moral and spiritual being!