Mar 21, 2023 12:21 PM
Is it possible to go so deep into folly that repentance is no longer possible? Read this excerpt from Chapter 15, “Terminal Folly."
There is, however, one more tragic stop on this journey, and it is indeed the heart of darkness. It is the terminal stage of Character Deficiency Syndrome, the Scornful Fool. Fortunately, it will not take much time to come to grips with this subject. The Scripture itself deals with him tersely, but not dismissively. Its description of him is both pointed and powerful.
The Hebrew word is luts (rhymes with ‘boots’). It is translated “scorner” in the King James Version, also “scoffer” and “mocker.” It refers to a contemptuous person who scorns spiritual truth and openly flouts godliness, moral righteousness, and whatever is sacred. He is an evangelist for folly. “Scorner” may be an archaic word that has all but fallen out of our language, but I prefer it. "Scoffer" suggests skepticism mingled with pride, and a "mocker" may be little more than a cynic with a penchant for sarcasm. The character of this stage of folly certainly includes these attitudes, but they revolve primarily around a strong element of contempt for the truth. The word “scorner” to me highlights that contempt better than other translations.
The lines between the committed fool and the scorner may seem blurred. One way to look at it is that the scorner is that committed fool who has passed the point of no return. For this person, folly and the rejection of moral absolutes is more than a personal choice or a lifestyle. It is a worldview, and even a mission in life. He or she has not merely rejected God’s standards but has decided that God is the Enemy, the Great Satan who must be opposed in this world.
Relatively few individuals adopt this viewpoint with regard to the whole of life. Most scorners seem be so in a limited sense, usually toward some specific issue or relationship. The main thing to understand is that they are rooted in bitterness and hatred toward God. At some point in their lives, God disappointed or angered them. Now they want to get back at Him. In order to understand the nature of character deficiency in the scorner, we are going to examine the extreme case as it is depicted in the scriptures.
The Unrepentant Scorner
What shall we say about the character of the scorner? In the battle between good vs. evil, the scorner has placed himself squarely against God and His standards of right and wrong.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor stands in the path of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of the scornful.[i]
Clearly anyone who wants to abide in the pleasure of God will have nothing to do with the scorner. Notice who forms a team with the scorner: the “ungodly” and “sinners.” There is a progressive, stair step parallelism in the poem, indicating that the scorner is the most egregious offender of the three.
“Ungodly” is rasha’ (rah-shah), usually translated “wicked.” If you follow the way this word is used in the Old Testament, this person is ungodly and wicked not only in terms of subjective, personal unrighteousness and immorality. This person engages in moral turpitude and criminal behavior that ranges from dishonesty in business and corruption in politics all the way to premeditated murder. We have seen before that this same word—whether translated “wicked” or “ungodly"—is synonymous with the most aggravated behavior of the committed fool. If this fellow is bad, the next one is even worse.
Sinner" is chatta' (khat-tah). Even though chatta' is derived from the principal word for sin (meaning "missing the mark"), it is not used as a general word for everyone who commits a sin (i.e., all of us). It specifically refers to notorious sinners, people who are marked by a prolonged series of sinful deeds, or by a particular act that has outraged the community. These "sinners" are people who are recognized on the street as (to grossly understate the matter) very bad role models. Among their number we would probably find the nabal of the previous chapter.
The scorner fits into this company and, in the context of this psalm, is regarded as the worst of the bunch. Why? Because the scorner is an implacable enemy of righteousness. He is someone who will use the rules of law in order to overturn the rule of law.
For this reason the scorner is a dangerous foe in a court of law. As the prophet Isaiah observed, these are the scoundrels:
Who make a man an offender for a word,
And lay a snare for him who upholds justice in the public gate,
And turn aside the just with empty arguments.[ii]
In the context of this passage, the prophet assures the world that God will judge the tyrant and the scorner. His point is that the scorner’s clever manipulation of the law will see its comeuppance at the judgment seat of the Almighty.
Isaiah observes that the scorner may be quite sophisticated in the use of the court system. The use of legal technicalities and disingenuous rhetoric to ensnare the innocent and set free the guilty did not originate in the modern era, but is as ancient as law itself. The scorner is both willing and able to use and abuse the court system unscrupulously in order to prevent justice from being done, and especially in order to hinder the people of God and the work of God. Why? Others may do so primarily (or entirely) for personal gain. The scorner will do it as a way to get back at God.
[i] Psalm 1:1
[ii] Isaiah 29:21. The scorner (luts) is specifically mentioned in verse 20, and is the subject of this verse.
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