Summary: These next proverbs deal explicitly with the heart.
In each of the two sections of proverbs we’ve noted how important the heart is. It is the heart that controls the tongue, the heart that makes one wise, the heart that determines if one will follow the right or the wicked way. These next proverbs deal explicitly with the heart. Let’s us see what we can learn about our own hearts through them.
11 Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD— how much more the hearts of men!
The actual Hebrew terms translated Death and Destruction are Sheol and Abaddon. Studying these terms would make for an interesting study, because they reflect the understanding of the Jews about the afterlife, which in the Old Testament is not as clearly revealed as in the New. But the proverb lists these terms not because they enlighten us as to what happens after death, but precisely because they convey mystery. Consider them as names for the other world beyond this life, a life that is shrouded from view, a shadowy world in which the living disappear into. Before the Lord, this world of dark shadows is like a world clearly lighted in which everyone is fully accounted for. Now, if that world is laid bare before the Lord, how much more our hearts.
Our heart is the one thing we think we can keep secret. We might say our thoughts as well, but the proverb regards the thoughts as coming from the heart. Yes, we believe that we can play whatever part is expected of us, but keep what is really in our heart a secret. If people only knew what we really were thinking. What if some really knew how we felt about…well, what? What is it that if they knew they would be devastated or furious? What do we hide that would bring disgrace?
God knows. Yes, he knows everything – every bitter feeling, every arrogant posture, every…well, I’m making myself too uncomfortable! And consider that he knows even when we do not that we are being false. The times that we think we are being humble before him, he knows the pride that really stirred our action. The times when we think he should be proud of us for our sacrifice, he knows the self-serving motive. That is what scares me. Whenever we think about the warning that at judgment everything done in secret will be made known, I do tremble about what I am ashamed of, but what really makes me uncomfortable is knowing the will be surprises. I have this uneasy feeling of God saying to me, “Remember when you thought you being so wise? Well, the truth is…” God knows our hearts.
12 A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise.
This is our first encounter with the mocker. Other translations have scorner and scoffer. I suppose the ancient mocker was no different from the modern one. The full-blooded mocker cannot help but find something negative to say about everyone and everything. There is the parent mocker: compliment her child and she retorts with some shortcoming of his she thinks we ought to know. There is the sarcastic mocker: everything must be discussed as a joke. There is the mocker who goes on a rampage about anything that doesn’t suit. There are the taunters who egg others on and on. There are even the nice mockers who after making a complement add the little comment, “it’s a shame” or “too bad.” “He’s such a thoughtful man; too bad… They are the tough ones! After talking with them, there is nothing you can point out, but for some reason you come away feeling down or negative.
But since none of us fit those categories (!), let’s consider our “milder” forms of mockery. We may not berate our children in public, but do we tend to continuously letting our kids know how we feel about their appearance, their music, their habits, their…well, it is easy to go and on with shortcomings to mildly joke about and needle them with. Do we not find it easy to mock people who don’t live up to our beliefs and expectations? By mocking I don’t mean necessarily making fun of someone, just needless criticism.
I’ll confess one I am guilty of. When I go on vacation and visit a church, often I am guilty of mockery. The preacher doesn’t preach like I preach. He’s not staying with the text! That is mockery. It is irrelevant how he preaches. I’ve come to church to worship, not to be a critic, and God is not interested in the least in my reviews. That is needless criticism which benefits no one and damages my worship.
Now, I bring this up to focus on what is said about the mocker: he resents correction; he will not consult the wise. We all know the exasperating truth of this proverb. It is an exasperating truth because the person who could most benefit from correction is least willing to receive it. On the other hand, those who seem to least need it are the ones who receive correction well. As Proverbs 9:7-9 expresses so well: