The Seat of the Scornful (2021)
Robert Wurtz II
Now the house was full of men and women, and all the satraps of the allophyles were there, and on top of the house there were about three thousand men and women, watching Sampson being made fun of. (Judges 16:27 NETS/LXX)
Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalms 1:1–3 NKJV)
There are few things that have a negative emotional impact like when we’re mistreated, scorned, or made fun of. We have all experienced it at some point in our lives. Generally, scorning reaches its apex in junior high school. Kids use their tongues to cut one another to pieces. Adults treating people who work in public service type roles like animals and talk to them like they’re dogs. What I’m most concerned about is when professing believers act-out and behave like immature or vicious unbelievers. This type of cruelty is best described by Paul in Romans 3:13 when he quotes the Psalmist… They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; The poison of asps is under their lips. (Psalms 140:3 NKJV)
I have chosen to quote Judges 16:2 from the NETS translation of the LXX (Greek Old Testament). Here is a familiar story that reveals exactly what Samson experienced once he had been stripped of the Spirit’s power. We read that “… on top of the house there were about three thousand men and women, watching Sampson being made fun of.” These pagans enjoyed watching this mighty man who had carried off the gates of Gaza being treated like a circus act. Something in them craved the taste of “blood” (so to speak). He was a wounded man and the people gathered to make sport, mock, and ridicule him. I’m reminded of Solomon, who, at the end of his life, made this comment, “For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 7:6 NKJV) What laughter could be more foolish than to make fun of people when they are down?
Earlier in his life, Solomon spoke of God’s attitude towards “scorners.” Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. (Proverbs 3:34) Here we have a scorner being contrasted with a humble person. A scorner is one who expresses contempt and ridicule towards others. The implication is that scorners are proud people. We see this verified in the LXX (NETS translation of the verse). It reads, “The Lord resists the arrogant but gives grace to the humble.” It has the familiar ring of James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5. A scornful person is an arrogant person. They think of themselves better than others and treat them accordingly. Pride numbs the scorner to the shame they should feel when they mistreat or make sport of others.
Characteristics of a Scorner
The Hebrew word that is translated as scorn is lis or lason. There are characteristics of a scorner that are worth mentioning. Fools scorn and mock at sin (Proverbs 14:9) and judgment (Proverbs 19:28). The scorner (Qal participial form) himself may be described as proud and haughty (Proverbs 21:24), incorrigible or past reproof (Proverbs 9:7), resistant to all reproof (Proverbs 9:8; 15:12), and hating any rebuke (Proverbs 13:1). Wisdom and knowledge easily elude him (Proverbs 14:6). So despicable is the scorner that he/she may be labeled as repulsive to all men (Proverbs 24:9) and therefore must be avoided (Psalm 1:1). A good way to get rid of strife and contention in a group is to eject the scorner and strife and contention will cease (Proverbs 22:10). Judgment awaits them as they have delighted in their scorning (Proverbs 1:22. Isaiah 29:20). (TWOT 1113)
In Psalm 1:1f the Psalmist gives several things that characterize a blessed person who is fruitful. One of these characteristics is that they do not sit in the seat of the scornful. They are not the type of person who likes to sit around and criticize or make fun of people. They don’t mock God, at sin, or anything else in that regard. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law, he meditates day and night. In other words, he/she meditates and speaks aloud the word of God continually. They are careful that they don’t wrongly criticize, belittle, or make fun of the less fortunate. The benefits? He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalms 1:1–3 NKJV)
Lessons from the Hornworm
I once saw a picture of a large green hornworm that was making havoc on her tomato plants. The image made me realize that scorners are to churches what hornworms are to tomato plants. Is your church experiencing fruitlessness? In other words, does the assembly struggle to see real growth and fruit? If so, there may be a scorner or two in the midst. The pastor may be praying and preaching their heart out and unbeknownst to them, there is a scorner in the midst making fun of someone’s clothes, shoes, how they sing, or an infinite number of other things. There could be people around who are running the congregation off by making fun of them or ridiculing them. We don’t expect professing Christians to behave in this childish and cruel way and wonder how could someone act so unchristlike?
We should never judge people in the way described in this blog entry. Sometimes people are going through bad times and don’t need criticism. They need encouragement. Perhaps it’s time to ask the congregation, How do you treat one another? Do you make fun of your fellow brothers and sisters? Are you critical of things that don’t amount to anything? Do you judge people by their speech or their appearance? Do you judge them by how wealthy or poor they are? Are you critical of others when you should be having compassion for them? Or more pointedly, Are you sitting in the seat of the scornful?
Nobody is more spiritual than they are Christ-like. To be spiritual is to imitate Christ. If a professing Christian behaves like an unbeliever they are carnal and need correction. They need to repent and seek God for a refilling of His Holy Spirit that enables us to behave in a Christ-like way. When Christians behave like sinners it is a stain on the churches and a mockery of Christ. If the poison of asps is under the lips of a professing Christian, destruction, and misery are sure to follow.