Proverbs 28:26

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool:
but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.

~ Proverbs 28:26

Certainly, a uniquely wise man, like Solomon, is qualified to identify a fool. In the verse before us, he calls such a one as trusts in his own heart, a fool. The Hebrew word batach, here rendered “trusteth,” means “to be reliant, trust, be unsuspecting.” The word implies a great confidence even to the point of blind trust. It seems to have the sense of being careless or thoughtless. The idea is of one who without question follows the tendency of his own heart. Maybe you could say, “He flies by the seat of his pants.” You might also say of one, “He follows his gut instinct.” Either way, he follows his own instincts without deliberation or contemplation of the Word of God. He lives a carefree, spontaneous life. However, this man is a fool. “The prudent man looketh well to his going” (Proverbs 14:15). Let us now consider this great folly.

In the first place, the heart is not a good guide. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The heart of a saved man, while he continues on this earth, has not been glorified. He still has the flesh with which to contend. We should never look within ourselves for guidance. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).

Only God knows the depth of depravity to which the human heart can descend. The flesh is still sinful and therefore cannot be trusted. Paul said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). The flesh is to be mortified not trusted. The blessed man of God “walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,” even if that counsel issues from his own heart.

Secondly, our emotions are bound up in our hearts. I fear that far too many Christians live according to their feelings. I had a conversation once with a certain saved woman. We were in disagreement about a subject. I quoted plain scriptures. She responded with, “I understand that, but I feel… Yes, but I feel… Well, I feel… etc.” If we base the interpretation of scripture upon our feelings, we have a very fluid theology that more resembles the shifting sands than the solid rock that Christ claimed wise servants to be building upon.

Christianity does not preclude all emotions, but it is not founded upon our feelings. A saved man that is sick does not feel very good. Does this mean his religion is vain? In the mind of some charismatic heretic, maybe it is, but not according to God’s Word. True religion is based solely upon “Thus saith the Lord,” and not our feelings. Our emotions swell and rescind like the tides, but God’s Word is forever settled in Heaven. How I feel does not change God or His Word in the least. Lazarus did not feel very good laying at the gate, competing with stray dogs for dinner, yet “now he is comforted,” and that rich man that felt so good faring sumptuously every day is “tormented.”

In the last place, we see the man that walks wisely. Our verse says, “But whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” The fool trusted his own heart and the wise man placed his trust elsewhere. He heeds the admonition found in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” He forsakes the dubious counsel of his heart for the “sure word of prophecy.” “But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). He looks well to his own goings. He considers his path in the light of God’s Word. He declares confidently, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). It is not his intelligence, experience, reason, or feelings that he depends on, but rather the infallible “counsel of God.”

The wise man walks “not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). In regeneration, we receive the Spirit, the divine principle of life within us. To walk after the Spirit, we must deny the lusts of the flesh. If we are walking satisfying the flesh, we are not walking after the Spirit. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25).

The wise man will not trust his flesh to be his guide. Neither will he glory in the flesh if he walks a path that is right. He well ascribes all the glory to God knowing, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13). Let us put our full trust in Christ and sing the old song.

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know “Thus saith the Lord.”
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more!

Ascending to Wisdom

Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary gives a simple definition of wisdom.

the right use or exercise of knowledge

This agrees with the scriptural use of wisdom as discernment and application. Knowledge is necessary to wisdom. There cannot be much wisdom without knowledge, but there can be much knowledge without wisdom.

The Bible often pits wisdom in contrast to folly. The self-professed wise men in Romans 1 are in reality great fools. You will note that they have a tremendous amount of knowledge, but they do not make the right use of it. Consequently, they deny God the Creator, worship the creation, and practice all forms of abominable ungodliness. Despite their high IQ’s and mental stockpiles of information, they are fools.

So then, what is a wise Christian? James addressed those who lack wisdom. Does that mean that they do not know about God or His Word? That is not the case; rather, they are not able to make right use of what they know, or they are not able to make practical application of the knowledge they have.

The lack of wisdom is addressed in Hebrews 5:11-6:2. It is interesting that the knowledge of doctrine—“the first principles of the oracles of God” and “the principles of the doctrine of Christ”—is there termed “milk.” Also, those that have progressed no further are called babes. For many the knowledge of doctrine is the pinnacle of Christianity. To have knowledge of some deep doctrine means that one has arrived and to wax eloquent about abstract doctrine from some obscure passage is nearly idolized among some.

However, the passage in Hebrews makes it plain that knowledge is not the summit, but a necessary climb on the ascension to the peak of wisdom. That wisdom is called “strong meat” and is the practical application of Scripture knowledge: “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). This wisdom is considered adorning the “doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:10-14).

The babes with all their coveted knowledge are either unwilling or unable to discern “both good and evil.” In other words, they do not make practical application of what they know. Their lives are not impacted and shaped by the application of doctrine. They may speak a long while on the doctrine of Christ’s Lordship, but they know nothing of personal submission to Christ’s reign (Luke 6:46) and forsaking all for the sake of His kingdom. Consequently, they live lives of antinomianism (though they may deny the doctrine), worldliness, and ungodliness, bringing a reproach on the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:27).

The ascension to wisdom is on this wise. The beginning of knowledge is to know the stories and facts of the Bible. We progress from there to gain knowledge of doctrine. We begin to understand the big picture of the Bible and the flow or progression of the stories. We begin to understand the spiritual significance of the Scripture. Climbing yet higher, we begin to make use of this knowledge and discern good and evil. So, we ascend to wisdom and we cannot skip the steps on the way up. If wisdom is like a tall ladder, we cannot get from the bottom rungs to the top rungs if we are missing the rungs in the middle.

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