Hebrew culture recognized that not all opposition to God’s leading is the same. All opposition is foolishness, but the Old Testament sages diagnosed the different root causes of spiritual stupidity and addressed them accordingly. Yesterday, we examined simple foolishness, the opposition of those who simply have not learned, of people who have not been trained. Today, we consider a more severe form of spiritual foolishness, a condition that might be called “stupid opposition.” The best English term for this person is fool.
The Hebrew language has two primary terms for this kind of fool: nabal and kasal. Both have the basic meaning “to be stupid, dull.” Arabic has a term similar to kasal that means “to be sluggish, thick, coarse.” Don’t misunderstand. The fool has the capacity to reason; he simply applies logic incorrectly. Fools are absolutely convinced they can get along quite well without God. Fools fashion for themselves a rationale that creates the appearance of honest logic. In truth, however, they begin with their desired conclusions and then support them with rationalizations.
A good example of kasal might be a man who suffers a terrible, tragic loss, becomes intensely angry with God, and then decides the Creator doesn’t exist. He then spends his life building a logical case against the existence of God using what appears to be credible reasoning. To further convince himself and others as well, he proposes alternate theories of how and why the universe exists in order to replace a biblical worldview.
In truth, atheism is simply a modern form of idolatry—a willful rejection of God in favor of a man-made cosmos. Perhaps this is why the Bible uses kasal most often for idolaters: these people create for themselves an idol and then convince themselves it has supernatural power. The prophet Isaiah illustrated this absurdity in the tale of a man who cut down a tree:
Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.” (Isaiah 44:16–17)
In similar fashion, a nabal decides what kind of sinful behavior he most enjoys and then rationalizes it. A woman preparing to leave her family for the sake of an affair will, for instance, spend many weeks mentally preparing herself for the break. She’ll convince herself that her husband and family are better off without her, that she has served others long enough and now it’s her time to enjoy life, or that the other man is her true soul mate and that God would want her to be happy.
Do you see the correlation? Most modern people don’t create statues to venerate as gods. Instead, people today decide what they want to believe and then rationalize their decision with no consideration for the fact they have placed their trust in lies of their own making! Scripture rebukes this kind of opposition in the sharpest of terms and offers wise people a specific response to the folly of fools.
Leave the presence of a fool,
Or you will not discern words of knowledge.
The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way,
But the foolishness of fools is deceit. (14:7–8)
The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge,
But the mouth of fools feeds on folly. (15:14)
A fool does not delight in understanding,
But only in revealing his own mind. (18:2)
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But he who walks wisely will be delivered. (28:26)
From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
In Embraced by the Spirit, we step away from the heat of theological battle that analyzes and criticizes and move quietly and closely to the One who has been sent alongside to help.