“Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.” Proverbs 17:12 NKJV.
A few years ago we were visiting the home of a friend and noticed a most interesting poster on the wall depicting the truth that is expressed in this verse. As you can imagine, it caught the attention of our young children; and they stood for some time studying it. We discussed it at the time. As time passed, however, I did not think much more about it.
In our family worship, we often read the chapter from Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the month. Some time later, when in our worship we again read this verse, events that we had recently experienced had so shaped our thinking that the verse took on new meaning for us; and we were reminded of the poster that we had seen some time before. As we reflected on the significance of the wise man’s words, we began to realize that they have a depth of meaning beyond what words can adequately express. This text of Scripture has caused me to ask the Lord to deliver me from the folly of the fool! Before we can be delivered from the folly of fools, we must, of course, have first had folly taken out of our own hearts.
The events that prepared us to better appreciate the meaning of this warning began during a visit to Yellowstone Park a few months ago. While looking for a book to buy the children, I became interested in one about bears. We bought the book and began reading it during our evening worships. We prefaced our reading with Proverbs 17:12. The children, of course, wanted to know what a “fool in his folly” is.
Before they could fully understand the danger involved in the situation, they needed to more fully understand the significance of the term, a bear robbed of her cubs. One story entitled, “A Mother’s Revenge” particularly caught my attention. Although this was not necessarily the most thrilling of the bear stories, it did make the point; and I would like to briefly share it with you.
In 1907, in the virgin forest of northwest Montana, a mother bear and her cub were preparing for winter. Unbeknownst to them, a small government survey team, accompanied by some adventurous tourists, was packing into this uninhabited region. The area was a section of high and rugged mountain peaks, snowfields, and living glaciers, wholly uninhabited except by the wild animals and well-nigh inaccessible save in the dead of winter. Soon after the party arrived, bad weather set in, making survey work impossible. The inactivity soon prompted the suggestion of a hunt, but only two hardy souls were interested. These two men, both experienced hunters, set out from camp with their horses and guns, little dreaming of the adventure that awaited them.
The men traveled some distance by horseback to a glacier, where they left their horses at the head of the basis. At this point, they separated, Mr. Stiles going one direction and Dr. Penrose another. Mr. Stiles soon spotted a buck dear and began stalking it when he heard three shots in rapid succession. Paying no special attention to the reports which came from the other side of the ridge, he was about to shoot the deer when he heard two more shots, rapidly followed by a third. Immediately becoming alarmed, he ran back in the direction of the shots. Within a few minutes he came around a mass of broken boulders and saw Dr. Penrose wandering aimlessly around in the canyon bed without his gun. His hat was gone, his coat torn off, and his trousers rent. Blood poured from his head and neck, and he gripped his left arm in his crimson right hand, presenting a horrible sight. As Mr. Stiles approached him, he murmured piteously, “Water, water.” As he tried to drink the water, part of it ran out through a gash in his cheek. He then said: “Stiles, I am all in; I have had a fight with a bear.”
As the story unfolded, it revealed that Dr. Penrose had come upon a young grizzly cub. Being late in the year, the cub was large enough that it appeared full-grown, to all but the careful observer. Dr. Penrose’s first three shots had killed the cub; and in his excitement, he failed to note that it was a cub that he had killed. Having laid his gun aside, he was bending over the young bear that he had so recently killed when suddenly, not more than sixty feet behind him, the doctor heard a cry of anger as the grief-stricken and enraged mother bear rushed forward to avenge the death of her offspring.
Turning, with almost superhuman presence of mind, Dr. Penrose caught up his rifle again and fired two shots into the enraged beast. Rapidly removing his last cartridge from his pocket, he worked it into the rifle and sent a third steel-jacketed bullet into the on-rushing bear. Swift and sure as were the little bullets, the bear continued her charge, her fury unchecked. With one stroke of her paw she sent him into the gulch, eight feet below. Springing down after him, she caught him in her mouth and shook him as a cat might shake a mouse, before dropping him. Again she caught him up, this time by his face, narrowly missing his eyes but tearing his cheek and throat wide open. There were five gaping wounds in his chest. His thigh was torn, the flesh handing in ragged pieces, and his left wrist was twisted and broken. Before she could again shake her half-dead victim, the mother bear staggered, and falling dead at his feet. In spite of the terrible beating that he had taken, Dr. Penrose did survive, though he spent several months recuperating from the attack.
The purpose of recounting this event is to bring home the point that, as terrible as is the wrath of a mother bear who has been robbed of her cubs, it is not so much to be feared as is a fool in his deceit.
Solomon also tells us “the folly of fools is deceit.” Proverbs 14:8. As severely as Dr. Penrose was mauled by the enraged mother bear, he did live; but those who are taken with a fool in his folly, do not fare so well. The Lord has warned us, “A companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20. As you are confidently passing along the road of life, you need to be aware that lurking not far from you, possibly just around the next corner, is a secret and hidden enemy, far more dangerous than an angered mother bear, and that enemy is deceit.
False Friends More to be Feared than Open Enemies
In all of the stories of angry bears, we found them to be an aggressive and open enemy. Far less to be feared is an enemy who openly seeks to destroy you than one who professes friendship, flattering with his lips, but in whose heart is hatred. The Bible describes what this secret enemy is like. “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.” Proverbs 20:19. “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross. He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him; when he speaketh fair, believe him not; for there are seven abominations in his heart. Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shown before the whole congregation. Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him. A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.” Proverbs 26:22–28.
Friend, a direct command from God cannot be disobeyed without terrible results, and the command is “meddle not with him.”
“It is not the open and avowed enemies of the cause of God that are most to be feared. Those who . . . come with smooth words and fair speeches, apparently seeking for friendly alliance with God’s children, have greater power to deceive. Against such every soul should be on the alert, lest some carefully concealed and masterly snare take him unaware.” Prophets and Kings, 570, 571.
“Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.” “Speak not in the ears of a fool.” Proverbs 14:7; 23:9.
In our family worship, we made a list of the texts that were descriptive of a fool in his folly, describing his deceit. It would be well for all of us to keep these words of wisdom in mind. Here is a partial list from the book of Proverbs:
- Fools despise wisdom and instruction. 1:7
- Fools hate knowledge. 1:22
- He that hides hatred with lying lips, and who utters slander is a fool. 10:18.
- It is a sport to a fool to do mischief. 10:23.
- The way of a fool is right in his own eyes. 12:15.
- A fool’s wrath is presently known. 12:16.
- A fool lays open, or reveals, his folly. 13:16.
- A foolish woman plucketh down her house with her hands. 14:1.
- In the mouth of the fool is a rod of pride. 14:3.
- The folly of fools is deceit. 14:8.
- Fools make a mock at sin. 14:9.
- The fool rageth and is confident. 14:16.
- A fool despiseth his father’s instruction. 15:5.
- A foolish man despiseth his mother. 15:20.
- A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool. 17:10.
- The eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth. 17:24.
- A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. 18:6.
- A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. 18:7.
- He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him. 18:13.
- Every fool will be starting a quarrel. 20:3.
- A foolish man spends up the treasure. 21:20.
- A fool returns to his folly as a dog returns to his vomit. 26:11.
- A fool uttereth all his mind, but a wise man keepeth it till afterward. 29:11.
After you have thoughtfully considered the traits of a fool, as the Lord has identified them for us, remember the seriousness of the matter. The wise man was not given to making an exaggerated statement when he warned us that a furious mother bear was less to be feared than the deceit of a fool. It is well summed up in this verse. “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” Proverbs 14:15.
We need to keep ever before our minds that the One Who counseled us to be harmless as doves also admonished us to be as wise as serpents. (See Matthew 10:16.) We would do well to remember that “those in the synagogue of Satan will profess to be converted, and unless God’s servants have keen eyesight, they will not discern the working of the power of darkness.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, 281. How said it is that so often “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” Luke 16:8.
Friends, if we are simple minded we are liable to be destroyed, because someone will come to you with fair words, concealing the hatred that is hidden in the heart. That, friends, is deceit and is more dangerous than an open enemy. That which appears to be a comparatively small snake is, in reality, worse than a dragon.
“Infidelity in many specious forms will have to be met. Satan works under disguise, and it will require a well-trained mind, sharpened by divine enlightenment, to meet his wily devices.” Signs of the Times, October 24, 1900. We can be so thankful that the Lord has not left us to our own demise. He has promised to help the simple minded. Proverbs 1:4 tells us that if we listen to His words, they will “give subtlety to the simple.” What a fabulous promise. Even fools can become wise. “O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.” Proverbs 8:5.
The terrible truth of the power of deceitful subtlety is found in the history of Adam and Eve.
“If he [Satan] should come boldly upon Adam and Eve and make complaints of God’s own Son, they would not listen to him for a moment but would be prepared for such an attack. Should he seek to intimidate them because of his power, so recently an angel in high authority, he could accomplish nothing. He decided that cunning and deceit would do what might, or force, could not.” The Story of Redemption, 29.
In the passage of time, Satan has lost none of his cunning and deceitfulness. Those of God’s people whom he can not destroy through an open, frontal attack he is often successful in overthrowing by deceitfulness. As you study the book of Proverbs, you can readily see that there are several tell-tale signs that deceit may be being used.
Twelve Ways to Know a Fool
In closing, I would like to summarize twelve character traits that quickly reveal to us, regardless of profession, that a person is a fool.
- He indulges in flattery.
- A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct.
- He has a quick, or uncontrolled temper.
- He mocks at making amends for sin.
- He refuses to listen to his parents.
- He is talkative, speaking all of his mind.
- He does not listen to reproof.
- He is contentious and quarrelsome.
- He is arrogant.
- He spends all that he has, often living beyond his means.
- He is quick to answer, without pausing to give a thought-out reply.
- He is a talebearer, or gossip.
Trials Alone Will not Save Us
We all face many trials; but trials, in and of themselves, will not save us; otherwise, the whole world would be saved. “Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.” Proverbs 27:22. NKJV. Though we may lack wisdom, our condition does not have to remain such, for we have been promised, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5. We must, however, submit our wills to God’s will in every matter of life; for “all who do not earnestly search the Scriptures and submit every desire and purpose of life to that unerring test, all who do not seek God in prayer for a knowledge of His will, will surely wander from the right path and fall under the deception of Satan.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 192.
If we do this, determining to do nothing that will dishonor our Lord, He will gently reprove our wrongs and change us into His image. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” II Corinthians 5:17.
The time in which we are living is a momentous one, weighed with eternal consequences. The rapidly unfolding events in the world speak eloquently to the shortness of time. Now is the time that we must remedy the defects of our character, becoming wise in the wisdom of the Lord, lest we stumble and fall amidst the trials and temptations of the last days. “At the time of the Loud Cry of the Third Angel, those who have been in any measure blinded by the enemy, who have not fully recovered themselves from the snare of Satan, will be in peril, because it will be difficult for them to discern the light from heaven, and they will be inclined to accept falsehood. Their erroneous experience will color their thoughts, their decisions, their propositions, their counsels. The evidences that God has given will be no evidence to those who have blinded their eyes by choosing darkness. After rejecting light, they will originate theories which they will call ‘light,’ but which the Lord calls, ‘Sparks of their own kindling,’ by which they will direct their steps.” Review and Herald, December 13, 1892.