Most people who have read much of the Bible know very well how it can act just like a mirror. It shows you who you really are - confronting you with your weaknesses and sins and exposing you before an all-knowing God. You can't hide from yourself as you read God's Word. This is a fearsome aspect to studying the Bible and ought to cause us to tremble. It isn't "safe" to look into those pages! But just as we might fear to see our reflections in God's judgments, we also crave to see our reflections in the stories of redemption. Any who have ever struggled with lust read David's story over and over again - as well as his confession and repentance in Psalm 51 - and delight to see how God actually forgives such heinous sin. If there was hope for David, there might just be hope for us! Those who struggle with outbursts of anger and regret over the same might read of Moses the murderer and rejoice that God decided to use him anyway.
So we look for reflections of ourselves for encouragement, even as we might also be fearful to see God's indictment of our sin in another reflection. But one of the places that we might never think to look for encouragement is in any place where God has used the word "fool".
Reading through the book of Proverbs, one comes quickly to the conclusion that a "fool" is about the worst thing you can possibly be. Even the Psalms declare that it is the fool who says in his heart that there is no God (Psalm 14:1). Fools are pictured almost everywhere as self-destructive unbelievers that are a plague upon everyone and generally make life miserable. Well, that makes sense and seems like a just declaration...until I look around at my life and discover with surprise and horror that I have been acting like a fool. Suddenly, those passages that describe and condemn the fool start to give me a sinking feeling in my gut.
There is hope in the Scriptures even for the believer that may feel like a fool, however! In Isaiah 35, the prophet tells us of a "highway of holiness" that God will build through the desert places. This "highway" is the way of salvation that Jesus Christ accomplished with His crucifixion and resurrection. And at first blush, this highway seems daunting for the one who feels himself a fool. We are told that "the unclean shall not pass over it" (v. 8), and suddenly our hearts sink again, because we rarely feel anything other than "unclean" when we look within ourselves. The next sentence of the same verse, though, brings sweet relief!
It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
I love that! If a fool gets on the highway, he can't foolishly stumble off of it again! This is very good news! Of course, it's all contingent on exactly how a person gets on this highway in the first place. There's nothing but more good news on that account, however. The end of verse 9 and the beginning of verse 10 tell us that the ones on the highway are the "redeemed" and the "ransomed". They are not "holy in themselves". They are not "the deserving ones". They are the ones that have been bought with the blood of Christ because they had no capital to purchase themselves. They were bankrupt and worthless, blind, deaf, lame, and mute (vv. 5-6), but Christ's death on their behalf has purchased them and made them clean, given them sight, restored their hearing, allowed them to walk, and put words in their mouths! He has done it, and as a result, His ransomed get to experience "everlasting joy" (v. 10)!
Most Christians are very much aware that they didn't secure their own salvation. We know that we couldn't have done anything and that Christ had to do it all, but many of us - myself very much included here - often feel like we are making a mess of things after we have been saved and we wonder how God can remain patient with our foolishness. Isaiah 35:8 should be a great encouragement when we feel like we are not worthy to remain on the "highway of holiness" that Christ has built. Even the fools can't go astray! But we also need to hear the correction that Paul levels at the Galatians in chapter 3 of that epistle:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Our life in Christ - our walk along the highway of holiness - did not begin with the works of our flesh, and our continued travel down that road does not depend on those works either. The present, as well as the past, depends on the completed work of Christ and the continuing work of the Holy Spirit. That's where we need to put our trust. That's where we need to find our feelings of acceptance: always in Him and never in ourselves.
Cheer up, fools! There's hope even for us in Jesus Christ!