Solomon, famous for his pithy proverbs, said some things we might rather overlook. Why on earth would he remind us of the unsavoury fact that a dog will return to its vomit? Why would the Apostle Peter repeat this proverb as though it held an important message? “Why” questions are helpful in leading us to examine difficult circumstances. If we are truly asking “Why” then we will search until we get the answer.
Proverbs chapter 26 majors on a theme in verses 1-12. Solomon takes the liberty of describing a fool. Using examples from nature, he suggests that snow in summer is as profitable as would be honouring a fool. They themselves are slaves of depravity, yet they promise freedom – what a picture of today where licentiousness is rampant. Even some of those who have a little knowledge of our Saviour’s mercy and grace, will sometimes fall back or as Solomon says, like a dog will return to its vomit.
Peter picks up this theme when he reflects on the problem of a person committed to following Jesus Christ and then changing his or her mind. Will they return to their old life-style with any sense of assurance that they will be welcomed in heaven? How many people have wanted to know they will go to heaven when they die, but have presumed upon the Saviour’s goodness and mercy by returning to their “vomit”?
According to Hebrews, it seems to be impossible for anyone having tasted of the heavenly gift [of faith] to be brought back to repentance, if they fall away (Hebrews 6:4-6). Are there no extenuating circumstances for those who backslide, or for those who choose to live carnal Christian lives? The problem is that people, taking for granted that a shallow declaration of faith will suffice, have not really tasted. “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8). They wouldn’t, couldn’t give up the great joy that comes from seeing the goodness of God working in their own lives, from knowing the freedom that comes from forgiveness of sin!
Not being rooted and grounded in the love of God, do people care if they shame the very One in whom they say they have put their trust? This vacillation brings Jesus’ loving sacrifice into public disgrace. We make Him a laughing-stock. Not only that but it is equal to putting Him to death on the cross all over again. (Hebrews 6:6)
This passage of scripture has been debated by many theologians because it reflects on the possibility of losing one’s salvation, which other scriptures assure us is not possible. (Philippians 1:6, John 10:28-29). Hebrews also tells us one cannot be saved a second time (12:6).
Strong words used in this chapter are also used in other places in the book. Believers are cautioned to remember the early days of faith when their passion for the “light” drove them to defend the faith, even in the face of suffering. This is what it means to be truly enlightened! (Hebrews 10:32).
Our Master was willing to taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9). Sharing in God’s holiness may require the Godly discipline exemplified by our Lord. Let’s remember there is a vast difference from yielding to temptation and choosing to live a life of sin. If we truly follow our Lord, we demonstrate that we receive enlightenment from the Holy Spirit on our daily journey. As a result we must be willing to learn, to be disciplined, maybe even to taste death. This may make us face some difficult choices.