|The Canterbury Tales|
Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, April 3, 2011
Psalm 14:1-7, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call on the LORD? There they are in great fear, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You shame the counsel of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge. Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD brings back the captivity of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.
Psalm 36:1-12, “An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes, when he finds out his iniquity and when he hates. The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. He devises wickedness on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not abhor evil. Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, You preserve man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light. Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart. Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the workers of iniquity have fallen; they have been cast down and are not able to rise.
How many of you this past week had a friend or acquaintance tell you something that sounded interesting, a bit amazing, yes, but certainly believable; and after having you thinking for a minute or two that what he or she said was true, your friend exclaims, ‘Got ya! April fools!’?
I did a little research into the origin of the term and the marking of what we call, ‘April Fools Day,’ and I discovered that a 15th century English poet by the name of Geoffrey Chaucer was the first one to mention this concept, as he penned his famous Canterbury Tales.
Well, I have to tell you that, though I’m not much of a literary expert, I do enjoy a riddle, good clean joke and a heart laugh. But, listen, I have to tell you – something for you to think about also – I don’t want to be an April fool! In fact, I don’t want to be a May, June or July one either!
The passage of Scripture we opened with a moment ago makes this very interesting and startling statement: listen to it one more time as I read it, will you? Psalm 14:1, the Word of God says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” As we begin this month, the month of April, the month when we who belong to Christ mark the most important events of all history: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ; as we move steadily toward our celebration of the empty tomb and our risen Lord and Savior, I don’t want to be classified as a fool! Whether we are looking at it from this Old Testament point of view - these passages from the psalms that supply the background – or, whether we are over at the other end of the Bible, examining such texts as 1 Corinthians chapters one through four, I don’t want you to be a fool! I don’t ever want you to think, believe, say or act upon the thought, “there is no God! There is no God.”
Now, before we go any further with this discussion, allow me to point out to you some basic information about fools and foolishness as provided here in God’s Book.
First of all, please note that the concept – the idea of folly – Biblically-speaking, is not simply an academic or intellectual concept. Rather, God’s Word always presents the idea of foolishness in practical and, I must say, behavioral terms. In other words, folly is not merely something to look up and study in a dictionary. Instead, sadly, it is something that is readily observable in many people’s day-to-day lives!
Secondly, if you are unsure, unclear or maybe even uninformed, from a Biblical stand-point, on the subject of fools and foolishness, there is really no better place to go for information – crisp, concise, clear, even convicting information – on the subject than to the Wisdom Books. The Wisdom Books of the Old Testament and New Testament. That makes sense, doesn’t it? To learn about foolishness, as it stands apart from and in contrast to wisdom – God – the ultimate Source of all true wisdom has provided us with a wealth of information on these subjects in His Word, His Book. By the way, which Books in the Book are the ‘Wisdom Books’? That’s right, in the Old Testament, we often call them the ‘Books of Poetry’: Jobe, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, those five books are the OLD Testament books of wisdom. But what about the New Testament? Is there a book or group of books that would be labeled the ‘New Testament Wisdom Books’?
Perhaps the best answer to that question is that, though there are elements of similarity to the Old Testament books found in several New Testament books, the one New Testament book that seems to have the most in common with Jobe, Psalms, Proverbs, etc., is the book of James. If you want to begin to grasp God’s perspective on wisdom and foolishness, read the wisdom books. Study, memorize and meditate upon the great truths God has set forth for you in those six books.
One more thing that I must let you in on before we go any further in our study. As I said, I enjoy a good riddle, or a good, clean joke that doesn’t belittle sacred things like marriage, but I don’t want to be, nor do I want you to be, a fool! And why is that? Well, before I answer that question, allow me to point out to you that – in the Bible – there are actually four different words translated ‘fool’, each of them with slightly different shade of meaning. To summarize what I mean here, just know this: when it comes to folly, God’s Word covers the entirety of the landscape, from the simply-minded, naïve, usually young person who is teachable – that’s good – but who is also easily deceived and seduced – that’s not good – all the way around to the know-it-all, whose lack of godly humility if it isn’t repented of and forsake, eventually will lead him or her to say in his heart, ‘I know MORE than God knows and ‘there is no God’ as far as I’m concerned!’
As I said a few moments ago, whether we’re talking about April or August or any other month or day, for that matter, I don’t want to be a fool. I don’t want God, my ultimate Judge, to label me or any of you, a fool! Now, why is that? I mean, David, what’s the big deal about wisdom and foolishness? Is it really that important?
Well, to answer that question, allow me to remind you of something I mentioned a moment ago; wisdom, is it really that big a deal? 6 books, 6 books of 66. If numbers of books are any indication, the sheer number of books that address those subjects of wisdom and foolishness, indicates how important these subjects are to God! Secondly, throughout the Scriptures what do we read about the nature and character of God? 6 books are specifically oriented this direction, and other 60 that are more generally focused this way also, what do they teach us about God? They teach us that HE is wise, infinitely wise and that He is, that His Word, as the expression of His nature and character, is the Source of all true wisdom!
Thirdly, is wisdom and foolishness really that significant? Consider this: in Colossians 2:2-3 we read that in Christ - who is Christ? He is our Savior, right? Our Lord, right? Our Example and Guide, right? Is wisdom and folly really that big a deal? The Scripture answers that with this powerful declaration, Colossians 2:2-3, “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden, stored away, to be found, in Jesus Christ! I don’t want to be, nor do I want any of you to be an April, August or December fool – why? Because of al of what this Book says about the importance of wisdom! Because I want to be, yearn for you to be, like God and like Jesus Christ! But, listen – there are other reasons also: go back to our first passages of Scripture with me, will you please?
Why don’t I want to be, or, anyone else to be, a fool?
The first thing, indeed, a very startling thing to learn about the ultimate direction to which folly leads, is that it leads to rejection of God! Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1, the same, identical verses. In both places God’s Word says of the fool, that he arrogantly declares in his puffed up heart, “[as far as I’m concerned] there is no God!”
Hold your place right there for a moment, and go to Psalm 10:3-4, and pay attention to the connection between these two different passages of Scripture.
Psalm 10:3-4, “For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire; he blesses the greedy and renounces the LORD. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.”
What’s the connection between the verses here in Psalm 10, and the first verse of Psalm 14? You see it, don’t you? In both places the psalmist describes people who, as far as their arrogant hearts and their prideful minds are concerned, they have rejected God! But, look further, will you? In the one passage, the person who rejects God is described as a fool; but, in the other passage, the Psalm 10 passage, how is he or she labeled? He is labeled, she is described ‘wicked’. Wicked!
I don’t want God to view me as a fool because, simply because I don’t want God to judge and reject me as wicked! How about you?
Now, move across to the other Psalm passage we read from at the beginning – Psalm 36. Take a look: the theme as introduced in the very first verse is similar, isn’t it? David, the psalmist, tells us: God has given me a song, a word to share, an oracle, and it has to do with the sinful ways of the wicked. There’s that word again! What is it that marks a man, a woman, a young person, as wicked?
The starting point for wickedness, isn’t it interesting - yes, convicting - to know that the jumping-off point for wickedness is the very same starting point for wisdom. You remember the verse, don’t you? Proverbs 9:10. Listen as I read it, and compare it to Psalm 36:1.
Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Wickedness and wisdom begin at the very same place, though they end up at very different destinations. The fear of God is the crux of the matter!
Psalm 36:2-4 – Take a look at these verses and ask yourself, “Do I want these verses to be true of me? Do I want them to be true of my children, my grandchildren or anyone else I love and care about?”
Folly, rejection of God, and wickedness; it’s all related. Do you see it, my Loved Ones?
Having chosen not to fear God, having removed God from his thoughts - in New Testament terms, having seared his conscience - after repeatedly hardening it and hardening it and hardening it; what is it that fills the mind of the foolish, wicked man, woman or young person?
Verse two: HIMSELF! Himself! “There is no fear of God before his eyes…” So, what is before his eyes? Verse two: himself. “He flatters HIMSELF in his own eyes…”
His eyes, then what about his mouth? Verse 3, “The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit…” And his mind and feet, where do they go? “He devises wickedness on his bed, sets himself in a way that is not good, and chooses not to hate what God hates…” How come? I mean, how did he get this way? We skipped over it, in verse three; but zero in on it now, and notice how it all comes back around to where we started this morning. The man, the woman, the young person whose eyes have rejected the fear of God; the man, the woman, the young person who sets HIMSELF, and only himself, before his eyes; the man, the woman, the young person whose mouth, mind and motivations are all on one path: the path of wickedness, how did he or she get that way? Psalm 36:3 - He got that way, she got that way by ceasing to think and act wisely and righteously!
I’ve got two questions for you and me this morning: “Is that where we are?” And, “do we want to be, to continue to be April fools?”
One more time, Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’”
You see it, don’t you? The change, the transformation from wickedness and folly to wisdom, is a matter of the heart…
Well, listen, I’ve got good news for you: that’s what April, Good Friday month, Resurrection month, is all about! That’s what Jesus, God’s Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption – incarnate – is all about! Amen. Praise God!