"Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly."
Some proverbs use comparisons to teach a truth. This proverb paints a very disgusting picture that teaches us some very important lessons. Who knew barf eating dogs could teach us some weighty theology; a theology that is not understood by many people--even some Christians? So, please read on.
Dogs were dirty, dangerous, and disgusting animals in ancient Israel. They were not the cute, friendly, and loyal dogs we know today. Israelite dogs were not man's best friend. This understanding makes the proverb a little more repulsive. Dogs often get sick in the stomach. This is understandable considering the disgusting things that dogs can eat. So in order to relieve his sore stomach, he vomits out the food. Fido now feels better. So what does he do? Find some thing better to eat? No! He eats up his vomit even though it was the cause of his sore stomach. How bizarre and gross! Yet this is similar to when a fool goes back to his sin.
The sinner eats sin like bread. The sin causes his conscience to be troubled. Or he suffers the painful consequences of his sin. As a results he leaves off his sin for a while. He resolves to be a better person. He may attend church, start reading the Bible or take up prayer. Yet after the bad effects of his sin wear off, he desires again to be satisfied with that sin. So he returns to a sinful life again. This is as strange and disgusting as the picture painted above with the dog returning to his vomit.
Why do sinners return to their sin and the dog return to its vomit? It is what they do by nature. Dogs eat their vomit by instinct. It is part of their nature as a dog. Change the dog into a man and he will not eat his barf, we can be sure of that. So it is with the sinner. He sins because he has a sin nature. He loves sin. Sin in reality is even more vile than vomit. Sin is a horrible and hideous act. It is a deepest darkness. Sin is a disease that destroys us. Yet sinners love to sin even though it wounds their conscience and wrecks their lives. Think of the alcoholic who continues in his drunkenness or the gambler in the casino. While many try to reform themselves in various ways, yet they cannot change their nature. Peter in 2 Peter 2:22 quotes this proverb as an illustration of false teachers who turn away from the truth and from godliness. These people were apostates. They knew the truth. They had been influenced by the truth. But they were not converted by the truth and so, since their nature did not change, they rejected the truth and returned to their vomit of sin. They were still sinners who wanted to sin. We see this apostasy described in John 15:6 and Hebrews 6 and 10.
We need God to change us. We need God to give us a new heart that has a different attitude toward sin. We need God to cause us to be born again. When He does this, we will begin to hate our sin. We will begin to see sin as God sees it. We will consider it like vomit. Now this doesn't mean a Christian will not sin or return to commit some awful sin. We still have our flesh that desires to do evil. But the Christian won't continue in sin. He will repent and turn from his sin. He may jump in the mud and mire like a pig for a time, but since he isn't a pig, he won't stay in the pigsty. Thanks be to God who doesn't leave us in the mud of sin, but brings us out of it. Thanks be to God whose grace and love in Christ Jesus is so great towards us who often find ourselves back in the mire of our sin.