Pastoral Letter 22 May 2022
My dear readers,
“Listen More, Talk Less”
Proverbs 10:8: “The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.”
God gave us one mouth and two ears to teach us to listen twice and speak once. Sadly, the lesson is lost to almost all of us. We speak twice as much as we listen to our hurt, leading to ruined lives and relationships. “If only” is the most often heartfelt regretful phrase uttered by many of us who have experienced the pain of speaking or sending that email off too fast. If only I had waited and reread the email before sending it off, I might still have a job. If only I had been more careful and not posted that picture or those words, I would not be standing in the courtroom being sued or my best friend might still be my best friend. If only I had bitten my tongue and not said those words, I might still be married or my children might not have left home and met with that accident.
Regretful words are too common nowadays, with maximum damage as the consequence because of the internet world that we live in. The whole world is made aware of our regrets and blunders. Our character and reputation are ruined, even sometimes beyond repair, because of our careless words. No matter how we might apologize to the whole world it is futile. There is no forgiveness and restoration. The damage is too deep and wide. It might be easier to collect back the sack-full of feathers thrown into the typhoon wind on top of a hill than to take back words spoken or written in the virtual world.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of God's children to take great care to listen thrice and speak once as the blessed and holy Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is on the line! This is the only name under heaven that can save a soul from death and hell. If we malign it or bring it down even in the slightest, sinners who know us might reject Christ because they reject us who carry the name of Christ.
Proverbs 10:8 says that “the wise in heart will receive commandments.” Every believer is given a new heart in Christ when he accepts Christ as his Lord and Saviour. This occurs at the point of salvation and when Jesus Christ baptizes him with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He is also blessed with a new mind which is the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:15-16: “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” With the mind of Christ, he is able to have a spiritual understanding of the Bible, the Word of his Heavenly Father and of Christ. When he studies the Bible more and more, his mind will be filled more with the knowledge of God than worldly knowledge.
With spiritual understanding he can apply the relevant teaching of God’s Word to the right circumstances in life. For example, when at work he used to do everything his manager told him to do, including lying. He believed then that this was the only way he could keep his job and get his sought-after promotion. After salvation in Christ, he knows that he cannot lie because he believes in the God of the Bible who cannot lie. He also knows that his life is in God's sovereign hand and he must obey God’s Word all the time. He now seeks God's kingdom first and God’s righteousness, and to trust God to provide for his physical needs. Obeying the Word of God and bearing a godly and holy testimony for Christ are paramount in his mind, and these are now seen in his life. He helps his colleagues and sees them as friends in need of the Saviour rather than as competitors vying for the same promotion. He is also able to be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove and wants to avoid all the carnal places such as clubs, which were his usual past-time after work. These places that inflame the lusts of the flesh and eyes now bring no joy but only cast a strong distaste in his soul. In other words, only Christians can be the “wise in heart.” This is the work of God in Christ upon salvation!
The wise in heart will not only hear commandments by will also receive them. The word “commandments” is used here because it takes away the option of choice, unlike other words that describe the Bible such as laws and statutes that carry with them the option of choice. Man by his sinful nature hates “commandments.” Man will usually rebel against commandments. It leaves him without a choice to obey or disobey. However, the believer who is wise in heart will gladly receive and obey God’s commandments willingly and happily. He knows that these commandments are good for him. They help him to live a holy and righteous life according to God's Word which gives him the greatest joy. He does not see the commandments of God as onerous but precious jewels to be adorned gladly around his neck everywhere he goes. They protect him. They keep him from the wiles of the devil. The carnal seductive power of the devil will have no sway over his heart and life.
When he goes overseas for work and is coerced to drink during the welcome dinner hosted by the managers of the overseas company, and with his boss also urging him to accept with his glaring eyes, he can tactfully decline by telling them that as a Christian he practises total abstinence. He had signed a document on total abstinence so as to teach the Word of God. He remembers that he ought to keep his holy testimony for Jesus’ sake. After declining to drink, he shares the gospel with them. He remembers the teaching that as royal priests in God's kingdom, total abstinence has been commanded by God in Leviticus 10 and Proverbs 31.
But the “prating fool,” i.e. one who talks long with idle words, will not listen to God’s commandments. He thinks he is wise because of his much talking. The word “fool” is not the same word used in Psalm 14:1: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” The word “fool” in Psalm 14:1 refers to one who does foolish things, like Nabal the husband of Abigail. Nabal knew that David and his men protected his servants and flocks from evil men, and so he ought to have been grateful and to thank them by giving them the provisions they needed for their sustenance. Instead, he was ungrateful and insulted David. He incurred David’s anger at the risk of his life. If not for Abigail who wisely intervened, Nabal and his sons would have been killed. The word “fool” in Psalm 14:1 is “nabal.”
The word “fool” in Proverbs 10:8 refers to a perverse person who is characterised by sin and wickedness. He might be knowledgeable in God's Word, and might even appear to be a good teacher or preacher of God's truth, and he talks Bible talk. But he does not obey God's Word. He applies God's Word to others but not to himself. He will find excuses to disobey God’s Word. He will reject it totally like the seeds that fall by the way side and are devoured by the fowls. He mocks the truth. His ears are deaf and his eyes are blind because his heart is hardened. Even when he appears to give verbal agreement to God’s Word, he allows the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches to grip his heart, and he will ultimately not obey God's commandments. He covers up his perverseness by his incessant talking and making excuses and justifying his rejection of God's truth. He likes to live in sin and keeps deceiving himself. His life is ruined because he is a slave to his sins and refuses to repent when the gospel is given to him. That is why the end for him is that he will fall, i.e. be overthrown. Everything he builds on earth will be destroyed. He will die in his sins and will be cast into hell.
Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew