Book of Scoundrels
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Proverbs, that portion of the Word of God that we are studying together. We are in the division that we have designated The Gleanings Of Hezekiah's Men , beginning with chapter 25, verse 1, from which the division takes it's name, and going on through chapter 29, verse 27. We discovered that this particular section describes a number of things. In chapter 25 there are some unrelated comparisons. In chapter 2653 there are illustrations of fools, sluggards, and scoundrels. In chapter 27 there are presented right attitudes and right relationships. In chapter 28 there is presented practical righteousness. In chapter 29 there is presented the power of righteousness.

For the past several lessons we have been discussing with you this second division in the section, Illustrations of Fools and Sluggards , and we have added the word scoundrel . In verses 1-12 we considered together what was said about fools and in verses 13-16 a very brief section dealt with sluggards. We now want to begin to notice what is said about scoundrels in verses 17-28:

Proverbs 26:

17 He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.
18 As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?
20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
23 Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.
24 He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;
25 When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart.
26 Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.
27 Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.
28 A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.

We have suggested to you that this particular section is dealing with the subject of scoundrels. You may wonder why I have used that word since you do not find it anywhere within the text itself, but the reason that I use it is it is a good illustration of everybody that is mentioned in this particular paragraph, and it is a word that may fix itself in your memory. Webster's definition of a scoundrel is “a person without principle,” and that is exactly what we find in this particular section. An analysis of the paragraph that I have just read will reveal that there is described for us a meddler in verse 17. In verses 18-19 there is described for you the practical joker. In verses 20-22 there is described for you the contentious talebearer, and in verses 23-28 there is described for you the hypocrite.

I suspect that you will find yourself in one or the other of these divisions before we are through at least some time or other in your life. Of course, when you are walking in the Spirit, when you are in fellowship, these things ought not to be true in your life, but I daresay that they have been true at some time or other. Perchance they are true without your realizing it because it has not been perfectly clear in your mind exactly what a scoundrel is in the sense of the text. Look at verse 17 again:

The Meddler

Proverbs 26:

17 He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.

The first person we want to consider is the meddler, and I would like for you to do some serious thinking and perhaps decide in your own heart and in your own mind whether you are a meddler or not. It will help you to know whether or not you are a meddler to consider the metaphor which is used in the text. A meddler is compared to a dog with whom certain action is carried on, and that action is described by the yanking of the ear.

If I were to ask you for the intent of a person who pulls a dog's ear, I wonder what you would say. Actually, the reason that people yank dogs by the ear is to provoke them. That brings to our attention what a meddler actually is. The word meddleth comes from the Hebrew word abar , which means “to provoke to anger.” The very word provoke has a translation of the Hebrew word abar . It is used in Proverbs, chapter 20, verse 2:

Proverbs 20:

2 The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul.

You will notice the word provoketh . It is the translation of this Hebrew word abar . If we were to read this in the original text, we would find the action of the verb such that it could actually refer to provoking oneself. As a matter of fact, the New American Standard translation uses the words infuriates oneself .

Go back to chapter 26, and you will notice again in verse 17: “He that passeth by and involves himself with strife belonging to another and thus provokes the people involved in the strife is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.” An individual who passes by and involves himself with strife that is none of his business and gets infuriated thereby is like an individual who yanks a dog by the ears.

I don't know whether any of you have been involved in anything such as this or not, but surely you have read or seen in the movies or on television how one person starts a fight—a free-for-all—and somebody else gets in it and pretty soon everybody is mixed up in it. The people involved in it are infuriated. They are mad, and they are slugging it out right and left; and when the whole thing is over, they don't really know why they did it and no real good is accomplished. Don't meddle with things with which you have no connection.

Surely I should not have to emphasize that I am not suggesting that you not get involved. We are living in a generation, as you well know, that does not want to get involved in things. You read in your newspapers of people who have had automobile wrecks and stand along the highway and try to wave somebody down for help, and when the thing is all over, people report that yes, they saw the person, “but I didn't want to get involved. I didn't want to get in trouble.”

We are not talking about that. We are talking about meddling in a fight that is already going on which is none of your business, which infuriates the people involved and causes you yourself to lose your temper and consequently lose your testimony. You might discover whether you are a meddler or not in the light of the Word of God.

The Practical Joker

We hurry on and suggest to you that you notice the next type of person who is presented to us. I have called him a practical joker for want of a better word. Perhaps that is not as good a designation as you could think of, but if you can think of a better one, jot it down there in your Bibles as we read verse 18:

Proverbs 26:

18 As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?

The last statement there is what suggests to me the title of this particular section—a practical joker. Here is an individual who deceives his neighbor, and when real damage is done, he says, “Well, didn't you know. I didn't mean that. I was only fooling.” The seriousness, the consequence of a practical joker's act is illustrated in the metaphor that was chosen. If you notice that the Bible compares the practical joker to the mad man. Look at it there again:

Proverbs 26:

18 As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?

This word mad comes from the Hebrew word lahahh , which may be translated by the word rabid . We have heard of rabid dogs, rabid skunks, etc. It may be translated by the phrase, “exhausted to a frenzy.” A person exhausted and bored with living becomes a practical joker, and he is exhausted to the point of frenzy where he can provide no thing of interest for himself unless he plays a practical joke on somebody else.

This playing of a practical joke is described in the words, “…casteth firebrands, arrows, and death.” The sense of the entire passage is the senseless, irresponsible habit of creating danger for other people. The word casteth , here, comes from the Hebrew word yarah , which describes an archer, and that is the reason for the use of the words arrows and firebrands . A practical joker is like a mad man who puts an arrow to the bow and just shoots it without caring where it is going to light. Making it even more serious, he used firebrands.

Firebrands comes from the Hebrew word ziyqah , which describes a flaming arrow . The description is of the practical joker, a mad man who is shooting arrows and arrows with fire attached to them without regard to where they are going to light and without regard to the damage they will do. That is the reason the Spirit of God added the word death along with the arrows and the firebrands because often that which is meant to be nothing more than a practical joke, that which would cause the individual to say, “I was just teasing you,” can be a source of death. Not always physical, but sometimes spiritual, and it can be death as far as our testimony is concerned.

This leads us to consider with you the intent of the practical joker. What is his intent, whether he thinks so or not? Look at verse 19, where we read:

Proverbs 26:

19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour…

What does this mad man do? He may not shoot the flaming arrows, but he deceives his neighbor. There are a number of words for deceive in the Hebrew. This one is ramah, which describes an act which is betraying an individual as if causing that individual to fall. It is the idea of doing something that will ruin him and the idea of deceiving him in such a way that he will fall as a result of what is done.

Of course in our day there have been such things as practical jokes played upon some people who have injured individuals for life physically in the form of initiations and what have you. The statement always is, “Am I not in sport? Don't you know I was just teasing you?”

I think it would be wise for us to emphasize that and suggest that you notice the word sport , as I remind you that it comes from the Hebrew word sachaq which means literally “to play.” A practical joker comes along and he sees the individual involved. He does some real damage, and when the individual concerned is remonstrating with him, telling him about the horrible thing he has done, he says, “Don't you know that I was just playing with you?”

The Hebrew word sachaq , translated in our English by the word play, is found in the book of Job, chapter 41, verses 1-5, where God is speaking to Job to cause him to recognize his own insufficiency, and God says:

Job 41:

1 Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?
2 Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?
3 Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?
4 Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever?
5 Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?

You might play with a bird, but you will not play with leviathan, a sea creature that has never been properly identified. The practical joker God condemns in His Word.

Before you get too involved playing too many practical jokes on people which you excuse with a little chuckle and say, “Oh, don't you know I was just playing with you?”, you remember that such a person is frowned on by God. We as believers are warned against such individuals.

Talebearers

The third kind of people that are mentioned as scoundrels, as people having no principles, we have designated in verses 20-22 as talebearers —the contentious talebearer who is always creating problems by the things which he whispers. Look at verses 20-22, where we read:

Proverbs 26:

20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

These three verses describing the talebearer present the metaphor which is presented in each case at which we have looked in triplicate because there is a triple metaphor brought to our attention. First, woodis used as an illustration: “Where no wood is, the fire goeth out…” Then the word coals is used as a metaphor. Coal is mentioned twice in the English text. Notice again:

Proverbs 26:

21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.

The first word, coals , comes from one Hebrew word which means “coals that are coal.” The words burning coals come from one Hebrew word which, as the English text indicates, speaks of coals that are on fire. What do you do? You put the coals that are on fire against the coals that have no fire and the first thing you know, you've got a fire.

The third metaphor that is brought to your attention is the word wounds . If we follow our English text, verse 22, we see:

Proverbs 26:

22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

We have indicated to you that you find this same verse, word for word, in chapter 18, verse 8. If you recall when we looked at that verse, we offered you a translation that we believed to be more accurate. We read: “The words of a talebearer are as dainty morsels which are eaten with great relish.” That translation, I think, is more in keeping with the text itself and that is the reason we used the word morsels .

There are the metaphors: Wood—if you don't have any wood, the fire is going to go out. If you don't have any coals, you will never get a fire started. If you don't have any morsels to chew on, the gossip won't continue. We pointed out to you that in connection with each one of these metaphors, there is action involved and we have it here—“adding wood to the fire,” as the first metaphor mentioned. We use the expression more often, I think, “adding fuel to the fire.” When there is trouble going on—discussions, arguments, fusses—how many times when somebody says something do you or I say, “Well, don't add any more fuel to the fire. Let it die out.”? If we could learn to control our tongues, there would not be the need of adding fuel to the fire, nor of touching dead coals with live coals, nor eating the dainty morsels with great relish.

When talebearers practice this sort of thing, you can see the immense amount of trouble that is caused and you see the intent of these talebearers. You know what a talebearer is, don't you? You may say, “He is somebody who just repeats what he has heard.” The word for talebearer in the text is a much more serious word than that. It describes an individual who grinds to pieces the person about whom he is speaking. It is not just repeating a story that you have heard, but it is repeated with intent to destroy the person involved.

In light of the metaphors which were brought to your attention, adding fuel to the fire , we might speak of spreading gossip. There is not time to go into detail in the discussion, but have you been guilty of that? When you speak of putting coal against flaming coals, what is the intent? Reviving the gossip? The gossip has already burned itself out. Nobody has thought anything about it, then somebody's name comes up and you feel called upon to be the defender of the saints, and you revive the gossip. God frowns on it, Beloved; and of course, if there is one thing that is worse than any of the three that are mentioned here, it is this last—enjoying the gossip. Oh, what a dainty morsel that thing becomes in your mouth when you have the opportunity of telling somebody something you have heard.

I have said this before, but I repeat it again. I hope I will not be misunderstood, but I would like for you to be on your guard, Beloved, that you don't use a prayer meeting as a gossip session. I am not speaking out against prayer meetings. We need them. Be careful that you do not confuse the need for requesting prayer with a gossip-sharing program. So often we do, you know. Again, I do not want to discourage you. I don't want anybody to ever feel that they shouldn't call me and ask me to pray about somebody or some thing, but I do want you to see that we all need to be on our guard, lest we find ourselves guilty of enjoying that dainty morsel that we just heard. We just can't wait to tell it to somebody else. Sometime the only way that we can tell it is by prefacing it with the words, “This is a prayer request.” Isn't it amazing how much detail we have to go into when we give the prayer request? I know that sometimes there is a need for it, so do not confuse what I am saying, but just be on your guard. Satan is going about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, and he would love to get us all involved in this terrible habit of gossip which God condemns in this portion of the Word.

Hypocrites

The last group of people that we would think with you about I have termed hypocrites . I don't know of a better word to describe them, but you might think of a better word. Read with me the paragraph that describes them and I think that you will see that the paragraph is describing insincere people, people who are not what they claim to be at all, people who are hypocrites. Notice verse 23:

Proverbs 26:

23 Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.
24 He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;
25 When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart.
26 Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.
27 Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.
28 A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.

I never read this paragraph without remembering James, chapter 3, verse 2. If any of you are a bit inflated, let me stick a pin in you now. Notice James, chapter 3, verse 2:

James 3:

2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.

What is this passage of Scripture saying? We all offend in some way or other, but if there is anybody who has learned not to offend with his lips, with his mouth and with his tongue, he has gained a victory that will give him good training to take care of his whole body.

It is interesting to notice in this paragraph the lips are mentioned. Young people can perk up at the moment. In verse 23 passionate lips are brought to our attention. In verses 24-25 dissembling lips and in verse 28 a lying tongue, and again in verse 28 a flattering mouth, so you see everything that James had to say in James, chapter 3, is dealt with here in Proverbs, chapter 26.

So that there will not be any misunderstanding, I suspect that it would be good for us to notice a little bit about the kind of lips that are mentioned. There were two kinds, you know. One of them we described as passionate lips , and the reason that we described them as passionate lips is because they were meant to deceive. The metaphor for that deception is a potsherd covered with silver dross. I don't know how many of you know what a potsherd is. If I were to ask you I wonder what kind of an answer I would get. A potsherd is a little piece of pottery. Here is a broken piece of pottery and somebody takes that little piece of pottery and covers it with silver dross so that it looks like silver but it really isn't. The silver dross is the dross that is skimmed off the silver after the refining. Naturally, it would have a little of the silver in it. It would be impossible not to, and folk used that to cover a little piece of clay and call it an ornament.

Passionate Lips

What is the Spirit of God saying here in Proverbs, chapter 26? He is saying that an individual who has burning lips is an individual who is like a potsherd covered with silver dross because the word burning here comes from the Hebrew word dalaq, which may be translated by the words passionate lips . It is amazing how many pitfalls we are warned against in the Word of God. Young people, notice verse 23 again:

Proverbs 26:

23 Burning lips [passionate lips] and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.

How many of you old folk remember when you used to judge how good a date was on the basis of the way they could kiss? I ask the old folk how many can remember that. With the young folk, this is still fresh on their lips or in their minds one. I have heard it repeated: “Oh, a nice date, but he sure doesn't know how to kiss,” or “Nice date. Sure does know how to kiss.” Let me suggest that you watch those passionate lips, especially if there is a wicked heart involved because a man with a wicked heart will kiss with burning lips for one purpose alone, and that is to take advantage of you. That is why it is wise not to make provision for the flesh by getting involved in passionate embraces.

Dissembling Lips

In Proverbs, chapter 26, we mention another kind of lips. Notice verse 24:

Proverbs 26:

24 He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;

What in the world does it mean to dissemble with your lips? The word dissembleth comes from the Hebrew word nakar , which very literally translated means “to be someone else.” If you are a dissembler you are using your lips to dissemble, and you are pretending to be something that you are not. How many times have young people married because one or the other of the parties involved were good dissemblers? They wouldn't have used that word, but that is what they were. One or the other involved was sold a bill of goods because the individual was a good talker. He knew exactly the right words to say. May I remind you that one of the most insecure foundations for a marriage is a good talker. Think about that before you get too involved.

The Flattering Mouth

We mention not only the dissembling lips, but the flattering mouth, and the word flattering here comes from the Hebrew word chalaq , which means “to devise.” When you have time you might turn to the book of Daniel, chapter 11, verse 39. You will read there that the Antichrist will come to the earth, and one of the things that the Antichrist is going to do when he comes is with the flattering mouth divide the whole land of Palestine so that he will have the opportunity of having full control of it.

We are not bringing a message on prophecy at the moment, but we want to remind you that this is what a flattering mouth will accomplish. The idea is to flatter with the idea of dividing with the idea of conquering. You know, a flatterer can convince you young people that everything that your parents have ever taught you is not true, and a flatterer can divide parent and child. I have counseled with husbands and wives where a flatterer flattered a tired woman who ought to have been flattered by her husband, and it broke up a marriage. Ask God to deliver you from a flattering mouth.

The Results of Hypocrisy

I want to suggest what is revealed in this paragraph concerning the results of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, you know, is like a disease. It damages, and you are never the same once you have been hypocritical for any length of time. In verse 24 it becomes almost an unbreakable habit, for you are told:

Proverbs 26:

24 He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;

It almost becomes a way of life to flatter with your mouth and to make people think that you are something that you are not. The sad thing about it is that believers are not always delivered from it when they are born again. They can be because you can live controlled by the Spirit, but some believers are saved with the old habit of lies still with them, and until they learn to walk in the Spirit, they lie before they think because they have done it so much. That is the reason I am not greatly impressed if somebody says to me, “Oh, he is a Christian. He wouldn't lie.” I don't know about that. I wish he wouldn't, but I don't know that he wouldn't.

In verse 26 one of the results of hypocrisy is the embarrassing moment that will occur because, as I have expressed it, truth will out. Notice verse 26:

Proverbs 26:

26 Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.

You hate somebody. That is the deceit in question, and you have covered it up pretty well, but your hypocrisy sooner or later will be revealed. Then, of course, the result of all hypocrisy, in verse 27, is that which I have termed divine retribution . Notice:

Proverbs 26:

27 Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.

This is talking about your actions in relation to somebody else. You dig a pit; you will fall into it. You roll a stone with the idea of crushing somebody; it will roll back on you before it is over with. God's plans of retribution have never been altered by man.

Hypocrisy Hates

Then you will notice, hypocrisy hates. It breeds hate, and it crushes the object of the same, for in verse 28, we read:

Proverbs 26:

28 A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted [“crushed by it” is the literal translation] by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.

Conclusion

I won't ask you if you are hypocrites, meddlers, or contentious talebearers, but I simply suggest that you heed the Word of God, walk in the Spirit that you might not fulfill the activities of the flesh.


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