Sending a Message by a Fool
He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool
cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.
1. This is a proverb about sending messages… about communication and various means of communication.
2. Solomon didn’t have a cell phone. He didn’t have a land line. He didn’t even have a Morse code… or a beeper. In his day, he couldn’t tweet, email, fax, Facebook each other, or text.
3. They had to rely on sending messages the real old fashioned way: writing it down and giving it to a messenger to deliver it for you.
4. Communication was a problem in Solomon’s day. Not all messengers were faithful or loyal.
5. Therefore, HOW you sent a message was critical, because communication is critical in all human relationships, business endeavors, and social contact.
He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool…
a. In this passage, the word means to send out; to send away; to send; to let go; to send on an errand.
b. It has a few other shades of meaning that are not applicable in this verse.
c. The term is used elsewhere in the very same way – of sending someone away with a message to deliver.
d. Esther 3:13 – “And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces.”
a. Defined: A matter; a word; speech; something said; a report; a cause; advice; business; legal matter; lawsuit.
b. It is used of a royal edict in Esther 1:19.
c. It was used of the report the Queen of Sheba had heard about Solomon (I Kings 10:6).
d. Proverbs 18:13 – it is used of “answering a matter.”
e. Gen. 37:14 – Messages had to be delivered by human beings. He was sent to bring a “word” (message – report).
3. Solomon had a kingdom to run.
a. He had to have constant communication with the wealthy land owners in the country, with the large farmers, with the business owners, with the military, as well as with the kings of bordering nations.
b. Certainly some of his messages would have been personal and of relatively little significance.
c. But some of his messages could have a great impact on his whole country. It could affect the prosperity of their business. It could affect their national security. It could affect huge business contracts and deals. It could affect the capture of murderers, rapists, and thieves.
d. Sending messages has always been vital to any people in any age.
4. By the hand of a fool…
a. The expression “by the hand of” spoke of actually handing a manuscript or a message into the hand of a messenger.
• Sometimes it was used figuratively. A message may be delivered orally so that no “paper trail” was left in case the messenger was captured.
• The expression basically meant “by means of” a messenger.
b. The word “fool” is not a new word in the book of Proverbs.
• The fool is a rebellious fool; an immoral fool; a mischievous fool; an insolent fool; a stupid fool who refuses to be corrected.
• The fool is characterized by a lack of understanding, but not simply because of a lack of intellect. The fool is a fool by choice.
• His choice involves morals. He chooses the path of folly rather than the pathway of the wise… usually because he thinks he’s smarter than everyone else.
c. In this proverb, Solomon speaks about the results of sending off an important message by the hand of a fool.
• It may involve giving him a written record of an important message to deliver… and expecting the written record be delivered to the intended recipient only… and on time.
• It may involve whispering information into his ear and expecting him to deliver it verbatim… without any changes or variations.
• It may have involved sending a message in a code so that even the messenger could not know the information being delivered.
5. As a king, Solomon probably sent out many messages by posts every single day… all over the kingdom and beyond.
a. He more than anyone knew the value of a good, faithful, loyal messenger.
b. Others might look on his position as a mere messenger boy… a delivery boy.
c. Solomon realized what vital link the messenger was from the throne throughout the whole realm and beyond.
d. In the book of Proverbs Solomon wrote several times about the value of a faithful messenger.
• If you are going to send a message, you want to be sure that the one you send with that message is on your side and has your best interest in mind.
• If you are going to send a message, you want to be sure that the message you “hand off” to your messenger is going to be delivered to the intended recipient and that person only.
• If you are going to send out a message, be SURE that the message is not going to get into the wrong hands.
• A message in the wrong hands can be disastrous for a country… a business…
• If the message got into the wrong hands (say, the Philistines!) it could do irreparable harm to the nation.
e. Solomon learned (probably the hard way) of the danger and damage of a messenger who was not loyal and reliable—a fool!
f. Solomon shares what he thinks about a foolish messenger.
Cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.
A. Cutting off the feet
1. Sending a message by a fool is like cutting off your own feet.
a. Much of the route of a messenger was on foot. They walked—like a mailman… only much greater distances.
b. Thus, having a faithful messenger was like having an extra set of feet – someone to do the walking and delivering for you.
c. By employing a foolish and unfaithful messenger, not only do you not have an extra set of feet, you cut off the ones you do have!
d. Try walking a great distance to deliver an important message after you have cut off both of your feet.
e. The point of this illustration is that the message will not get delivered. It is useless and pointless to send a man with no feet on a long walk to deliver a message.
B. Drinking Damage
1. Damage: To do wrong; to do violence; to be violated; injure; destruction; plunder as a thief; lawlessness; lack of moral restraint and terror. (Interestingly, the ancient Hebrew word is hamas.)
a. Prov. 8:36 – The word translated “damage” in Prov. 26:6 is translated “wrongs” in this proverb. The one who sins against Lady Wisdom “wrongs” his own soul. (Does damage to himself; self-inflicted injury and harm.)
2. Drink: The Hebrew term means to drink—either literally or figuratively.
a. It is used of a literal drinking of beverages at a feast.
b. It is used figuratively of drinking in God’s wrath from a cup of judgment. (Prov. 4:17 – they drink the wine of violence.)
c. It is used in a figurative sense of experiencing something – taking it in… drinking it up…
d. Obviously, Solomon is using it in a figurative sense here: damage is not a liquid.
3. Solomon likens trusting a fool with an important message to drinking in damage, violence, injury, terror, and plunder.
a. Who in their right mind would drink in a cup of violence, damage, injury, and harm?
b. No one would KNOWINGLY do such a thing.
c. Thus, no one should knowingly send a message by means of a messenger who is not loyal and trustworthy.
d. If there is any chance that that messenger is going to turn on you, be disloyal to you, or deliver that message to someone other than the one to whom it was being sent, then do NOT use that foolish, immoral, rebellious, and unreliable messenger!
e. That’s the meaning of this proverb.
f. It is similar in meaning to Proverbs 25:19 – Confidence in an unfaithful man is like a broken tooth or a foot out of joint.
• Trusting a message to a messenger who is a fool is also putting confidence in an unfaithful man.
• It too will end up hurting you and not helping you.
g. Far better is it to use a RELIABLE messenger (Proverbs 25:13).
• This messenger “refresheth the soul of his masters” like cool refreshing snow or cool water in time of harvest.
• A reliable messenger was priceless in Solomon’s day and in ours.
Application to today:
1. Communication is just as important today as in Solomon’s day. In fact, it is far more important.
2. Yet the problem Solomon faced in his day is no different in kind that what we face today: messengers who may not have our best interest in mind… messengers who may turn on us… messengers who may deliver our message to someone other than the one for whom it was intended.
3. And like Solomon’s day, there could be serious consequences of a messenger like that: it could be damaging and come back to BITE you.
4. Today our messengers are primarily electronic: email; texts; faxes; Facebook postings; Twitter; etc.
5. We may not be engaged in running a kingdom, but we send out a lot of messages… and most of them go out on the WORLD WIDE web.
6. That means that we need to be extra careful about what we send on those messengers.
7. Before you send a message, a document, a picture, or a text, ask yourself this question:
a. What if this message or picture got into the wrong hands inadvertently?
b. What if this message/picture which we think is so funny and cute today showed up a Google search a potential employer does on me in 10 years from now? You might think it is funny at 18 or 20, but it could come back to BITE you one day.
c. What if you sent out a message in anger and once you cooled off you wanted to retract it. Could you do that? Or isn’t it too late?
8. In some ways, the problems that Solomon faced were similar to ours. But in other ways, we live in a very different world.
a. The problem of unreliable “messengers” has always been around.
b. But today, we are almost locked in to an internet and other devices that send out millions of messages a minute worldwide.
c. One you place information, requests, orders, pictures, or letters into the hands of these messengers… it is irreversible and it could easily get into the hands of OTHER messengers.
d. Be aware that the electronic messengers that we have to use today do NOT have your best interest in mind.
e. These messengers don’t have a mind or a conscience; they are not loyal to you; they do not faithfully keep your secret documents secret.
f. Therefore, we should use great caution in using such instant messengers.
g. Careless use of these messengers could be like cutting off your feet… or drinking in damage… injury… hurt… destruction.
h. Mark 4:22 – “For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was anything kept secret, but that it should come abroad.”
• The disciples were to be lights for the Lord – shining out truth and righteousness for all to see.
• We should have nothing to hide.
• Thus, whatever we write in an email, or post on Facebook, or send in a text or as a picture, should also be LIGHT… something we would not be ashamed of if it were “made manifest” = because it might just be!
i. Don’t trust any messenger that is so foolish and unreliable as to cause you and others harm.