Joy is what the Doctor Ordered

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Last week Solomon said that if wisdom could be bought, the fool doesn’t have enough sense to make the purchase. The fool has no capacity for wisdom. We talked about real friendship – don’t confuse friendship with acquaintances. Real friends are hard to come by; developing true friendship takes time and effort. Fools are also bad with money. They don’t understand how financial issues can come between people. Someone that loves sin loves to argue. Know when to remain silent and don’t start arguments for the sake of arguments. You can’t choose how your children will turn out so do the best to raise your kids in a godly home because no parent likes to have a fool for a child. This morning, Solomon starts out with a very familiar passage of Scripture.

Pro. 17:22-25 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice. Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him.”

We have all experienced this first verse. This Scripture is often written on the walls in hospitals, even in this day and age. “A joyful heart is good medicine.” KJV translates it, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” I think it’s a verse that is frequently taken out of context. Some have taken it to mean that if you are sick, laughter is the best medicine. If you’ve ever been sick, you can see how that’s kind of a dumb thing to say. I can just see the mom as the child is throwing up, “Come on, just laugh and you’ll feel better.” Solomon is not saying laugh yourself to happiness. He’s not saying if you just laugh about it, everything will be all right. This verse has nothing to do with illness. If you’re sick, go to a doctor. They can give you medicine if appropriate. Solomon is not suggesting laughing off an illness under some veiled idea of spirituality. This is a metaphor and you know Solomon loves using metaphors. There is only one way to get the joy of the Lord. Paul said in Eph. 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” These gifts are from the Spirit of God.  You don’t have to pray for them or work for them; they’re a gift from God because of your relationship with Christ. If you have a genuine faith in Christ, you have these gifts. We have made joy and happiness synonymous in today’s language, but they really are different and that’s what Solomon is talking about. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances. It was way easier to be happy before my wife Kari was diagnosed with cancer. It’s way easier to be happy when people are not criticizing me. It’s way easier to be happy when everyone follows Scripture, listens to every word I say, and then actually lives it out in life. It’s way easier to be happy when everything is going great. Solomon is talking about something way deeper than that.

Joy comes from knowing who Jesus is. I’m not talking about a head knowledge, but knowing Jesus personally and intimately. It means a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that results in a transformed heart, soul, and mind. Rom. 6:6 says, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” That is the joy of the Lord. Your heart is not addicted to sin. There have been drugs developed to help kick drug habits. We have methods to assist in quitting smoking – you put a patch on your arm and it weens you off of nicotine. That’s not quite what Paul is talking about though. There is no tapering off from sin. You don’t ween yourself from sin. God transforms your heart in a manner that you aren’t a slave to sin – you don’t have to do what it says. The joy of the Lord gives you the ability to focus on God and not on circumstances. Yes, that can be difficult to do, but not impossible. That joy is soul healing just like the medicine prescribed by the doctor provides healing to your physical body. Pro. 15:13 says, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” A different, healthier perspective is that everything going on in the world today that leads to heart sickness can be cured by knowing who is on charge. I think we need to continually remind ourselves that God’s got this. This world is not our home, so don’t think too highly of it. One day this will all pass away. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” What can break your spirit? Think about guilt, fear, doubt, resentment, bitterness. A broken spirit dries up the bones. This is still a metaphor for the body. If you remove the moisture from your bones, they become brittle and are susceptible to breaking. The bone marrow that produces blood cells dries up. When your bones dry up, life is destroyed. To tidy it all up, having a cheerful disposition can positively impact your overall health while having a depressed spirit will do just the opposite. In 1988, a singer named Bobby McFerrin won the song of the year Grammy. The lyrics for that song included a verse that goes like this: “In your life, expect some trouble, when you worry you make it double, don’t worry, be happy, be happy now.”

Solomon takes the time to clarify bribery. In Pro. 17:8 Solomon told us a bribe works like magic. Here he says, “A wicked man received a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice.” We know from the previous verse about bribes that they are biblically wrong and they are illegal, so this is an easy one. The wicked man here likely refers to a judge or someone that has been called to testify in a legal case. Ex. 23:8 says, “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.” When someone lies to officials and especially in a court of law, the wheels of justice grind to a halt. Court cases rely on the oath administered to people that testify and those witnesses swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help them God. Justice becomes perverted when that does not happen. Justice moves away from what is right and true and so it is not justice. There are so many things we deal with every day that rely on our basic ability to be truthful. What time we get to work in the morning or when we leave at the end of the day. Did you properly cite the sources for that paper you wrote or that project you worked on. That maintenance item you were required to do at the job. When the officer stops you for speeding and asks you, “Do you know how fast you were going?” and you reply that you don’t know. If you can be influenced to shade the truth or not tell the whole story, or be vague in an answer – this is what Solomon is saying. He mentions a, “bribe from the bosom.” This refers to where the bribe comes from. The bribe is prepared and hidden away in a place not normally used for holding money. Back in Solomon’s day, money was typically kept in a money pouch or bag. Judges generally were not paid so men that lacked integrity could sometimes be influenced to rule in less than honorable ways. This perverts the whole system of justice and it can still happen today.

I love this next verse. Solomon knows no bounds when it comes to describing the fool. He says, “Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.” Understanding and wisdom go hand in hand. You can’t have wisdom without understanding. You can’t have understanding without knowledge. Here’s the idea. The man who has understanding looks toward wisdom. The source of wisdom is God. The wise person knows and understands that it’s all from God. Without God, there is folly and foolishness. Without God, there is emptiness. Without God, there is nothing. “The eyes of the fool are on the ends of the earth.” There’s no focus, no direction, no ambition, no goals. Whatever will be, will be. He pursues meaningless endeavors and misses out on the most important thing in eternity. He lacks the fundamental capacity to follow God. Please understand, God has not chosen people for eternal foolishness. 2 Pet. 3:8-10 says, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” Peter is talking to believers being impatient toward the second coming. God doesn’t want anyone to die separated from Him and that includes fools. The fool thinks there’s a tomorrow; the fool thinks that he has time; the fool says it doesn’t matter; the fool says it’s no big deal; the fool says if there is a hell, it’s going to be a big party and I can’t wait to be there with all my friends. That’s all absolute nonsense. If the fool would just open his ears and open his heart and fear God for who He is, then and only then can the foolishness be driven from him. Apart from an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, foolishness will always be a part of a fool.

From fathers to mothers. We just saw in Pro. 17:21 that having a fool for a son brings no joy for the father. It’s bad for the mom too. Solomon says, “A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him.” So a dad has no joy when it comes to a foolish son, and now you can add grief. According to 10:1, the mom already has grief and she can add bitterness to that. What’s curious about this verse is that bitterness toward other Christians is condemned throughout the New Testament. One of the passages that probably comes to mind is found in Eph. 4:31-32 where Paul says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Paul is talking to the church at Ephesus so he’s talking to believers interacting with other believers. So what is Solomon saying about a mom that has a fool for a son? That’s a great question that I will answer from Matt. 26. During the last supper, Jesus was telling His disciples that one of them would betray Him. I am sure this caused some very heated and confused conversations among them and Peter concluded, “Even though many will fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” (Matt. 26:33) Perhaps you know the Master’s response when He told Peter, “Truly I say to you that this very night before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times . . . [Peter responds by saying] even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You. All the disciples said the same thing too.” (Matt. 26:35-36) I give you this background because it happened just as Jesus said. When you read the end of Chapter 26, you find Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. The very instant Peter denied Christ the third time, a rooster crowed. Matt. 26:75, “And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” This is the bitterness that the mom of a fool feels. It is a desperate sorrow, pain, and despondency. That’s the heartache felt collectively by the parents of fools.

Joy and laughter are not necessarily joined together. Joy can’t be bought; it is delivered at the moment of our spiritual birth, but we do need to develop that joy which serves as life giving spiritual medicine for our soul. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances; joy is from Jesus and knowing who He is. Solomon clarified bribery and it’s still wrong and undermines the foundation of justice. Wise people have understanding which serves to help keep them focused. Fools are driven by the shifting winds of whatever suits their fancy. Finally, we saw that having a fool for a child is vexing for the father and the mother. No parent wants to raise a fool and the only way to minimize that chance is to continue to Deuteronomy 6 your kids.

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