Pastoral Letter 03 Jul 2022
My dear readers,
Have You Found Wisdom?
Proverbs 10:13: “In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.”
The Book of Proverbs is for believers, teaching them how to live a Christian life pleasing to God. It is not a book of “right things” to do so that one can become a child of God. It is the Book that helps children of God to live lives that are pleasing to Him and to make fewer mistakes in their Christian walk. And when a mistake is made, let it not be a major one that has mega disastrous consequences that will ruin his life and testimony for Christ that he spent his whole life building. Proverbs 10:13a sums up this purpose well when it reveals that “in the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found.”
Only children of God can be described as people “that hath understanding.” The object of the understanding is the Word of God. They have been given the mind of Christ to understand the Bible. This is the only way to understand the Bible. Without being born again in Christ no man can understand the Bible. It is not about the grammar and syntax of the languages God used to inspire His Word (biblical Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek) or the languages the Bible is translated into. One may remember and know the facts of the Bible but he will not understand the Bible if he is not born again.
For example, when God records for us the lives of many of the Bible characters (narratives), there are spiritual truths in these accounts of their lives that God wants us to know and apply to our own lives. The life of Balaam is a warning to every professing believer of the hypocritical sin of covetousness. His mind wanted to be known and seen as a man of God who hated covetousness, but his heart loved the carnal precious delicacies of the king of Moab. All Balaam was tasked by the Moab king to do was to curse Israel. He tried, but the LORD stopped him.
The believer who understands the Bible must share, teach and preach it. He has been saved by Christ and left behind by God to experience the sufficiency of God’s grace and mercies in his life through his service and holy witness for Christ. His lips will teach the Word of God with explanation. He is able to counsel and help others by applying the knowledge of God’s Word to all circumstances in life. He is able to evaluate people and their behaviour and words according to Holy Scriptures. This ability to apply God's Word rightly to the myriad of experiences in life is called God’s wisdom. It is priceless. The person who is helped to live in light of God's Word will reflect the image of Christ by his good works and godly life. He is able to glorify God and show forth the life of heaven on earth, albeit imperfectly. This means that the one who teaches and helps apply God's Word correctly is standing in the place of God teaching God’s children!
This means that all who open their mouths to counsel, teach, or preach God's Word must take careful heed to ensure that what they say is truly according to Holy Scriptures; they would sin a very serious sin against God otherwise. To say incorrectly that which is not what God’s Word says (i.e. what God says) would not only be lying to the poor soul or souls but also be misrepresenting God. To put words into God’s mouth when teaching or applying God’s Word wrongly will lead people astray and into sin, even causing them to think that they are doing God’s will. This is deception of the highest order.
That is why God gave a very stern warning in James 3:1-6: “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” [Emphasis added] The word “masters” means “teachers.”
The contrast is the one who is “void of understanding”. The word for “understanding” in the phrase “is void of understanding” is usually translated as “heart”; whereas the word understanding in verse 13a is “the mind.” This means that the focus in the man void of understanding is his heart. The heart is the seat of every motive. The person can have a mind that understands God’s Word like a teacher or a preacher or even a theologian in a Bible College or Seminary, even having strings of theological degrees, but his heart is empty. His head might be filled with God’s Word but God says his heart is void, i.e. as empty as “emptiness.”
What he will receive from the LORD is a rod for his back. This phrase means a beating. He will be chastised by the LORD. His counsel leads people astray as the advice may sound biblical but is wrong. The worst part is that he thinks he is right and all is well with his soul. However, the reality is that he is not even a believer. He is someone who does not apply God's Word to his own life. He teaches the Bible like one who teaches history, geography, literature or mathematics. His life is bankrupt of a spiritual heartbeat. His words outside the theological classroom are of the world. He thinks like the world, for his mind is constantly filled with the knowledge and burdens of the world. If he is very into real estate, he cannot but think of properties all the time. He measures his life by the properties he lives in and owns. If he is a teacher who is consumed by paper qualifications, then his life is measured by the accolades of the world. His confidence is earth bound. He leans upon the size of his bank account or carnal investments or the brilliance of his academic mind or what the world thinks of him. That is why the rod will be for his back.
Such a professed Christian life mocks the very heart of why Christ came to suffer and die. Christ suffered and died to transform believers, within and without. The false believer presents a false Christ by his life even though he teaches the Christ of the Bible. That is why the LORD says that his heart is void of understanding. His mind might be filled with the facts of the Bible so he thinks he is a Christian – until the day he dies in his sin and is cast into hell! The rod for his back is a phrase that describes God's displeasure of him and his offering, i.e. life of service. This is a beating that a master gives to a disobedient slave. At times those around him who care enough might also rebuke him or correct him. If he repents and changes, this is evidence that he is not void of understanding. But if he stubbornly remains unchanged, then the rod of the LORD awaits him.
The life of the professing believer is displeasing to God because his heart is not right with God. The saddest part is that he has God’s Word near his heart, but he has not believed. He may have confessed with his mouth but he has yet to believe in his heart. The Bible is adamantly clear on this doctrine of salvation in Romans 10:8-10: “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
The one who has found wisdom has lips that are filled with the knowledge of God in counselling, teaching or preaching, for his life mirrors what he says. Conversely, the one void of understanding is one whose heart is carnal and bankrupt of all things spiritual. What awaits him is punishment from the LORD. Those around him will know by what he says that he is not of God.
Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew