“It is good to listen to the rebuke of the wise in contrast to the man who listens to the song of the fools. For as the sound of thorns under a pot, so is the sound of the laughter of fools. And this also is vanity.”
How often it is that people surround themselves with those who will laugh with them but not with those who will cry with them. And the latter is so much more valuable. People who will tell you what you want to hear bolster the ego but they rarely bolster wisdom. How valuable it is when we have people in our midst who will tell us the difficult things we need to hear and who will tell those things to us in love and grace.
The illustration that Solomon uses to make his contrast is that of placing a pot on the fire (presumably to prepare dinner). Those of us who have made fires, whether in the hearth or out at a campsite, know that while you might use some briars and softwoods to get the fire started, but that to sustain a good fire and have hot coals, one needs solid and dried out hardwoods. Furthermore, briars and other things like that pop and crack as they burn. They are noisy and unstable, producing light but no good heat. And in addition to that, they also put off a lot of soot, which, if you are cooking on an open pot, will go into your soup and can ruin the dish.
Those that would offer simple-minded laughter and agreement to anything that you say ought to be like the pops and cracks of thorns in the fire. One here or there is fine, but if that is the dominant sound, you need to change the makeup of the people you are spending time with and whom you have hired to work with you. Their voices should pop and crackle, whereas the voice of the wise (like good, seasoned, hardwood) should be welcomed. The wise will not always rebuke you and sometimes they will tell you what you want to hear (if you are right); at the same time, the rebuke of the wise, unpleasant in the moment as it might be, is far better and more productive than the songs of praise that come from the sycophantic fools.