A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.
Here is a wise man directly compared to a fool. Surely our souls can be instructed. We see both the character and actions of each, and we should learn the differences well. Job also taught the first half of this lesson with very similar words (Job 28:28).
A wise man has fear. He has reverent fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom and the whole duty of man (Pr 9:10; Eccl 12:13; Ps 111:10). He fears his own heart, for he knows how wicked it is (Ps 19:12-13; 51:10; 119:36; Jer 17:9). He fears authority, for God has put others over him (Pr 24:21; Eccl 8:1-5; Eph 6:1-3,5-8; I Pet 3:1-2; Heb 13:17).
But the fool has impetuous anger. He is angry against God, for not giving him all he wants and for restricting his life (Pr 19:3; Ps 2:1-3; Luke 19:14). He is angry against the righteous, for living a more holy life than his (Mark 15:10; Eccl 4:4; Acts 13:45). He is angry against authority, for he refuses to bow to others (Pr 21:9; II Pet 2:10-12; Deut 21:20).
Cain was a fool; he impetuously envied Abel, because God rejected his offering (Gen 4:4-8). Uzziah was a fool; he angrily entered the temple, though the priests warned him (II Chron 26:16-21). Herodias raged against John, for reproving her adulterous marriage to Herod (Mark 6:17-28). They all arrogantly opposed God and His servants in rage.
A wise man's fear causes him to depart from evil (Pr 3:7; 14:27; 16:6). He sees judgment coming, and he turns from his wickedness in godly repentance (Pr 16:17; 22:3). When he hears a warning from the Lord, he listens to it and obeys it (Pr 17:10; Ps 19:11; Ezek 3:21).
But the fool's impetuous anger causes him to be confident in doing evil. He believes he is right and nothing will happen to him (Pr 7:22; 14:12; 26:12). There is no glory in such confidence - it is a horrible sin based in scorn, pride, stubbornness, and rebellion.
When Nathan rebuked David, he repented (II Sam 12:13). When Jonah warned Nineveh, they repented (Jonah 3:5). Even Ahab repented, when warned by Elijah (I Kings 21:27-29). All these men received mercy for fearing and departing from evil. So a wise man examines himself by God's help to make sure there is no evil in his heart (Ps 139:23-24).
But when Moses warned Pharaoh, he hardened his heart (Ex 8:32); and when he warned Korah and company, they defied him (Num 16:1-19). When Hanani warned Asa, he angrily put him in prison (II Chron 16:7-14). And though our blessed Lord warned His generation repeatedly, they crucified Him in rage. All these men were judged severely.
Without God's mercy, no matter what a man does, he cannot help the fool (Pr 29:9). He opposes himself in foolish rage and false confidence, and only God can give him repentance to be saved from the devil (II Tim 2:24-26). What a horrible plight!
God is nigh to them that fear Him and have contrite hearts (Ps 34:18; Is 57:15; 66:2); but He is against the wicked and their proud arrogance (Pr 15:8,29; I Pet 3:12). "Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief" (Pr 28:14). The Lord will not be mocked. Those who confidently go on in sin will be crushed.
Dear reader, humble yourself before the Lord your God and tremble for your sins. Repent and turn to the Lord with a fearful heart. Do not presume any longer against Him in foolish rage and false confidence. Repent, and be saved from coming judgment.