Are you focused this morning? Have you had your coffee and has it had a chance to begin working? Good.
Focused ambition and desire are powerful. Notice how focused the Apostle Paul was in these words:
Philippians 3:13–14 NASB95
13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
The focused man or woman pushes out all other thoughts, all other competing desires, all other weights or obstacles to achieving what he or she desires. This focus is part of life for everyone, although we all admit that some things in life don’t always capture our heart in the same ways.
In Proverbs 18:1-2, Solomon writes, “He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom. A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.” (NASB). Solomon speaks about the fool who is lead so strongly by his desire that he isolates himself from any sound counsel and only wants to talk about his own thoughts.
Sometimes we have to wonder what sparked these proverbs—what situation in life made them come to life in the words of the old man as he spoke them to his sons. Perhaps Solomon recalled the story of how David sinned with his mother Bathsheba, and how badly that had turned out as God’s hand was heavy upon him. David had been so focused on his desire that he put everything outside of his mind until he had sinned against the Lord.
Or maybe Solomon was thinking of his brother Amnon, who desired his sister Tamar, and shamed her because his desire was so strong that he wouldn’t let anything stop him. Desire is a powerful thing, and our proverb reminds us that a strong desire accompanied with some poor choices can end in disaster.
Let’s learn from the fool and what he did that was wrong so that we can avoid making the same mistakes that might lead to our own destruction.
1. Separation From Wise Counsel (v. 1)
Here is the first major mistake that the foolish person makes in regard to their desire. They pull away from wise counselors and those that might be a good influence and speak truth into their life. Notice two things about this intentional withdrawal from friends and counselors:
His Separation Is Self Imposed (v. 1)
This isn’t speaking about forced separation over long distances, or from circumstances. And it is’t speaking about counselors abandoning him. Rather it says that the foolish person has isolated himself on purpose! Why would he do that? Read on!
His Separation Is Self-Focused (v. 1)
The foolish person separates himself from wise counsel because he doesn’t want to hear what he is being told that would get in the way of his desire. Desire isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the fool has taken his desire and promoted it to the level of an idol. So many good gifts given to us by the Lord for us to enjoy in life are in danger of being elevated to an idol in our heart.
We aren’t told what the desire is in our proverb, which is best, because it allows us to watch out for these desires that take over our heart and begin to control us, even to the point that we begin to do nothing but seek after them.
“Quarrels Against All Sound Wisdom”
The word in the NASB translated “quarrels” means to expose or lay bare, and is probably speaking of what a dog does when it snarls. The NKJV says he “rages against” all wise judgment. And what is so offensive? Sound or Effective wisdom—a word that is often used in reference of God’s Word. The desire has grown into a monster in the heart of the foolish person. So much so that they are raging against good, sound counsel! They won’t hear it because “the heart wants what it wants”-which poet Emily Dickinson wrote in 1862. The heart may want what it wants, but it is foolishness to let the heart have everything it want. But when idolatrous desire has gripped a heart, all sense and logic and biblical wisdom is chucked out in favor of pursuing this thing lusted after.
What sorts of things could grip someone’s heart like this? Well I’ve already mentioned David and his son Amnon. So, relationships, and particularly sexual immorality can be included. But people make idols out of almost anything. Marriage, a good job, education, material possessions, fame, even ministry aspirations can all become so large in our heart that they take over and drive us so much that we stop listening to anyone that doesn’t agree with our plan, and we snarl and become angry at anyone who wants to counsel against what we want.
Added to the poor choice of separation can be…
2. Talking When We Should Be Listening (v. 2)
For the foolish person, there is no talking sense to him. He is certain that his path is the right one and no one can persuade him otherwise. This is evidenced in this verse.
Not Interested in Learning
The fool finds no pleasure in learning to discern. Have you ever noticed that some people’s pendulum swings in wide extremes when they want something badly? It’s either all or nothing! Discernment in the Bible often speaks of an appreciation for the appropriate application of wisdom for the circumstance. The old fashioned word “prudence” meant to exercise caution-not rushing madly into a situation with passions out of control. But we live in an age where prudence is prudish, and having a life filled with drama is seen as normal.
The fool doesn’t want a wise counselor to come alongside to help them consider the reality of their desires and where the desire has become inordinate and dangerous. I have counseled couples not to get married because of some major spiritual and moral issues they needed to deal with, but they often do not listen. My wife has counselled young women who are more interested in being married than who they marry—having made marriage–a beautiful thing, by the way when kept in its proper place—into an idol.
Instead he is…
Only Interested in Giving His Opinion
Jonathan Akin says, “The fool has a closed mind but an open mouth, a small mind and a big mouth. He does not listen, but he is quick to tell others what he thinks. Pride is alive and well in his soul. He is convinced that what he thinks is what everyone else ought to think. He is too clever and cute for his own good.” [Jonathan Akin, Exalting Jesus in Proverbs, ed. David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2017), Pr 18:2.]
I find that there is a sin that is most difficult to overcome by its nature—and that is the sin of being unteachable, a form of the sin of pride. The unteachable person is what the fool in vv. 1-2 has become. They have shut out the only possible help they have in favor of their own sinful counsel and the idol they are chasing after. Nothing can be said to them or done to them that will convince them unless they can come to see the way of their sin—and often times this only comes after they have been ruined by their sin and pride.
When David learned his lesson regarding his adultery with Bathsheba, he wrote two psalms. In Psalm 32:8-10 he wrote:
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. 9 Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you. 10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.
So how can we combat this danger and have properly focused desires that aren’t in danger of taking over and bringing us to ruin? Well, I think there is much to be considered in avoiding the separation referred to in v. 1.
God has given us a community of Christ called the Church. He has surrounded us with believers—some more mature whom we need, and some less mature, who need us. Listen as Paul describes this wonderful reality in Eph 4:11-16:
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
So much can be said from this passage, but for now, understand this: we need one another. We need each other to help us. We need the Word, we need the Spirit, we need Jesus and the Father, but we can never forget that there is no such thing as lone ranger Christians. We need one another.
And as we help guard one another, we will find that our desires will more easily find that they are properly focused for the glory of God and the blessing of one another.