God is Always on the Throne

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Last week, we covered a lot of ground. We started by looking at the parental relationship and the implications of being a bad child. Solomon spoke of being a virtuous king and the responsibility that comes when you’re the one determining punishment. We saw some important aspects of our relationship with the Lord. I encourage you to conduct a critical self-evaluation of your faith and also suggest you ask someone you love and trust to provide you with some feedback regarding your walk of faith. This morning, we’re going to look at who is ultimately in charge.

Our passage today comes from Pro. 21:1-9. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

throneSo, who’s in charge? That’s a great question that many people ask, particularly in times of national or international crisis. Solomon reminds us that, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” What’s that really mean? Are we all just puppets in a crazy game controlled by God? The answer lies in the very difficult concept of God’s sovereignty. I really believe that if you take God out of the equation, life would implode. It is God who keeps everything in motion. In Is. 46:10 God said, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”

Ultimately, God’s purpose will always be accomplished. Don’t confuse sovereignty with God’s will. When we consider the model prayer offered by Jesus in Matt. 6, He prayed that God’s, “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s will is not always accomplished here. One significant example is people dying without receiving the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 3:9 tells us that God is, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” So, what can be gained by people dying apart from Christ? I can honestly say I don’t know. God uses everything at His disposal to accomplish His ultimate goals. He often uses you and me to accomplish it. That is the privilege of free will. God wants us to choose to do His will just like you want your kids to choose to do what’s right instead of forcing them to. Sometimes you might use enticements or rewards for your kids to do what you want. You supervisors and managers will sometimes do the same thing – a bonus or time off. But it really does your heart good to see people do what’s right because it’s the right thing and they choose to do what is right. When you consider a higher plain, God will lead and guide people to do what will ultimately accomplish His plan. For us, it’s spending eternity with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I don’t know what lies beyond that and does it really matter?

 We saw God’s way, now look at man’s way. “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.” Back in Pro. 16:2 Solomon said, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.”  There’s not much difference in the two verses. Evaluating the motives of people can be very difficult. I confess that I sometimes am not a good discerner of people. I tend to believe what people say at face value, but I do learn to read them. When you consider motives, you can do the right thing for the right reason, the right thing for the wrong reason, and you can do the wrong thing for the right reason. Does that sound like gibberish? Let me give you some examples to help you understand. Here’s the right thing for the wrong reason. You financially support the work of the ministry because you can take a tax deduction. Your kids are good and obedient all day so they gain favor to go out that night. You volunteer to teach a class so everyone sees how smart you are.  What about the wrong thing for the right reason? You steal food to feed your family. You lie to someone to avoid hurting their feelings. You withhold the truth from someone so you don’t alienate them. The best and wisest thing to do is the right thing for the right reason. You give to the work of the ministry knowing that ministry costs money and God has blessed you with financial resources. You speak the truth in love regardless of the consequences knowing that truth sets people free. That’s where God wants us. If you’re not sure, pray like David when he said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Ps. 139:23-24)

This leads right into the next verse. “To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.” When I read this verse, I immediately thought about Samuel and Saul. In 1 Sam. 15, the prophet Samuel was sent to anoint Saul as king of Israel. Samuel gave Saul this command from the Lord: “Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Sam. 15:3) Those instructions are clear. So, Saul got together his troops and went to battle and defeated the Amalekites. The Bible says, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.” (1 Sam. 15:9) Saul is the king of Israel and blamed the people for his disobedience. The conclusion is found in 1 Sam. 15:22-28 that tells us by one act of disobedience, Saul is stripped of his throne. Obedience is the utmost and highest principle in the Bible. As I often say, everything we do can be placed securely under the umbrella of obedience. Giving, prayer, Bible reading and study, serving God and others, as well as a boatload of other commands and principles in Scripture.

Let’s review some principles already covered. “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin.” Don’t be proud or your torch will be snuffed out. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” The way to gain advantage in this world is to work hard. The word diligent means careful and conscientious in one’s work. The assumption is that the work is not sinful and the hard work puts you in a favorable position. If you’re hasty: that is, you cut corners, take the easy way instead of the right way – you’ll come to poverty. “The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death.” Dishonesty and fraud get you nowhere. Cheating is stealing whether it’s knowledge or material goods. “The violence of the wicked will drag them away, because they refuse to act with justice.” This verse is tied to the previous one. Solomon is talking about the violence that the wicked use against others. The violence they engage in will come right back to them. “The way of a guilty man is crooked, but as for the pure, his conduct is upright.” It’s a contrast between the guilty/wicked and the godly/pure. Evil people do evil things. Righteous people do righteous things. The only power in us to do what is good, right, holy, and pure comes because God has granted us the power of the Holy Spirit when we accept the gift of His one and only Son. When we go back to Genesis, we learn that. “The Lord said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.” (Gen. 7:1) Noah was righteous and that’s why he was spared.

Let’s spend some time on the next one. Solomon says, “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” He makes a comparison between two things. Living in a relatively uncomfortable place at peace or living in a comfortable place with an uncomfortable situation. No one lives on a roof, right? In biblical times, the roof of a dwelling was typically flat and often served many purposes. In 1 Sam. 9:25, “Samuel spoke with Saul on the roof.” In 2 Sam. 11:2, David walked around the roof where he saw a beautiful woman bathing. In Ps. 102:7, David was, “like a lonely bird on a housetop.” In Acts 10:9, “Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.” The roof was a great location for prayer, meditation, meetings, and was sometimes used as a place to sleep.

It’s better to be on that rooftop than it is with a contentious woman. Just what is a contentious woman? This woman is quarrelsome, prone to argue, disagreeable, and is no fun to be around. What does she argue about? Anything and everything. She fights against everything done. She is desperate to be the boss, to be in charge and to control everything that happens in the home. If the man tries to exercise his authority, she gets all the more contentious. He finds it more comfortable to retreat to the roof. As we have seen, Proverbs is a book of wisdom and perhaps this is the wisest thing for the man to do. Go to the roof where he won’t be tempted to engage in her contentions. Little is accomplished by arguing with someone that will not hear the other side, will not listen to reason, and will not accept what they consider defeat. I can imagine that it’s difficult living with some spouses. I know that some people come from dysfunctional homes where the love of God was not prevalent. I know it may be tough to be at home because of what you have to deal with. Wisdom dictates the best course of action. You still need to be the man that God has called you to be. Have you loved your wife unconditionally? Have you demonstrated it? A dedicated time of earnest prayer away from the fussing and fighting is better to do than quit. Too many people take the easier road and that’s to give up. I’ve heard a ton of reasons why not holding true to the marriage covenant is the only course of action. When you say, “I do,” that’s a very serious commitment that should only be broken by death.

Don’t take the road that Adam took when he blamed Eve. Take responsibility for the relationship as the one that is in authority. And don’t what if: what if she won’t follow? What if she leaves me? I assure you that God understands what you’re going through and He understands the seriousness of the marriage covenant. We just saw in 21:1: “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” When God told Abraham that Sarah was to have a baby and she overheard and then laughed, God asked, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14) It really comes down to a matter of trust and no one ever said it was easy, fun, or would change overnight, but don’t exclude the power of God from the equation. Waiting on God to move and work in people’s lives is tough, especially when they’re in your own home or family.

We are privileged to play a part in God’s plan for humanity. Whatever that role may be, we’re part of getting accomplished what God wants to accomplish. Our motives should be pure and holy as we seek to fulfill the purpose He has for our lives. Do right in all facets of life because it’s the right thing to do. Be obedient to His leading, but line His leading up with Scripture. God’s not wishy washy, so don’t you be either. We quickly covered a number of principles for daily living that we’ve seen before in Proverbs. It’s best to be honest always. We closed out with a very difficult relationship. If the woman in your life is contentious, show her the unconditional love of Christ. If you’re the contentious woman, I pray that you would allow the power of God to transform your life because He is always on the throne.

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Domestic Disharmony

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Last week we did some review about money and learned that God doesn’t care how much you have. God’s position on wealth hasn’t changed and it shouldn’t impress us if people have a lot of money. It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury. It just doesn’t make sense and even if somehow they enter into a luxurious lifestyle, it won’t last long. We saw the importance of self-control. It is one of the bench marks of salvation. We went through the 4th Chapter of Ephesians and I encouraged you to review it from time to time. Forgetting a wrong-doing does not mean there will not be consequences. As an authentic believer, you are positionally secure in Jesus Christ. Because of this, you need to walk in a manner worthy of your calling. This morning, we take a different look at some relationships.

I hope you’ll take the time and read our passage found in Pro. 19:12-17.

Solomon shifts from fury to wrath. He spoke about the king’s fury back in 16:14 and said that the king can bring about life or death in 16:15. The same general idea is presented here again. “The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.” Probably no student likes to get sent to the principal’s office. There’s probably no worker that wants to get summoned to the supervisor’s office. If and when you do, do you get this sick feeling in the pit of your stomach? If you’ve done nothing wrong, you shouldn’t worry. Solomon is saying if you’ve done wrong, the king’s wrath is like that of a roaring lion. Substitute supervisor, manager, principle, or boss and you get the idea. If you hear the roar, you’re on the receiving end of his wrath. But if you’re doing good and right, “His favor is like dew on the grass.” It’s refreshing, it’s delightful, it’s the sign of a new day. It’s a good place to be. Paul said it like this in Rom. 13:3, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same.”

Let’s shift over to some household issues. Many people grow up and dream of getting out on their own, getting married, and starting a family. It’s a normal part of life. The opposite is true: if you have grown children that never want to leave the house, that’s abnormal. I’m not talking about arrangements of convenience or mutual benefit. I’m talking about no plans, no ambition, and no desire that can lead to issues. We start with the parent son relationship. “A foolish son is destruction to his father.” We saw the foolish son causing grief to his mother in 10:1 and to his father in 17:25. We saw the foolish man despising his mother in 15:20. In 17:21 we saw there’s no joy in being the father of a fool. Now he’s causing destruction to his father. Have you ever wished you never had children? Do you wish that they could be shipped off somewhere? Children were meant to be a joy and a blessing. Do you wonder if and when they will stop causing such sorrow in your life? All of these feelings fall under the umbrella of what Solomon is talking about. Even after they move out of the house and began life on their own, they can cause problems. No matter how old you get or they get, you’ll always be a parent.

Have you ever thought about the importance of relationships? Well, Solomon has and he shifts over to the second most important relationship in this world. Outside of the relationship with Jesus Christ, the husband wife relationship is the most important relationship you’ll be engaged in. As equally troubling, Solomon says, “The contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.” You may have heard this verse quoted before. It seems like a departure from the last thing he said about wives: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” (Pro. 18:22) We’re talking about a contentious wife here. Contentions are quarrels, arguments, disagreements, or controversies. Solomon’s talking about bickering and fighting between husband and wife and he’s not talking once in a while. There are certain things that are not up for discussion in the home. How you hang the toilet paper or paper towels. What type of peanut butter or coffee to buy. The relationship Solomon refers to is a continuous struggle and it seems he’s directing this at the woman. No matter the time or day of the week, this woman makes it unsettling and uneasy to be around her.

It’s a, “constant dripping.” Have you ever tried to think or sleep with a dripping faucet? The longer you are in silence, the louder it gets? Not long ago, our ice maker began making a knocking sound. That refrigerator is about as far away from our bedroom as it can be. With our door shut, it sounded like a hammer against concrete and it got louder and louder and louder until I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got out of bed and disassembled it until the noise stopped. It was irritating, it got under my skin, I couldn’t think about anything else except how annoying the noise was. That’s what Solomon is talking about. Continual strife in the home. Bickering, arguing, snarky comments, purposeful antagonizing make that an unpleasant place to be. So what’s the solution? It’s the same one you’ve heard before. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” (Eph. 5:25) All of us need to get out of the business of trying to change other people. You be the person God is transforming you to be and pray that you’ll be able to demonstrate the same love, grace, and mercy that has been bestowed upon you. Impossible? No. Easy? Doubtful, but it should get easier as you grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God. Solomon talks more about problematic wives in Chapters 21 and 27.

He continues the domestic angle in the next verse. “House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” Notice the wifely contrast from the previous verse. This verse refers to the ancient practice of arranged marriages. Believe it or not, arranged marriages are still common in India, Pakistan, Japan, China, and in Israel among orthodox Jewish communities. In order to make it more attractive to potential husbands, dowries were offered. The bigger the dowry, the better quality husband to be attracted for marriage. No matter how big the estate or dowry, “A prudent wife is from the Lord.” Prudent means acting with care and concern for the future. The prudent wife makes the best of everything. Have you ever heard of the phrase, “A marriage made in heaven?” A prudent wife is more valuable than a big house and great wealth. The most important factor in marriage is dedication to God and His Son. Show me a wife that earnestly follows Christ, and I’ll show you a woman that will stick it out in difficult situations, that will demonstrate love and respect for her husband, that will not nag him to death, that will not drive him out of the house. Show me a prudent wife, and I’ll show you a husband that is blessed beyond measure. Show me a prudent wife, and I’ll show you a husband that should praise the Lord and thank Him for His goodness. If we would be more patient and trusting, the Lord would provide that person in our life.

Verse 15 is nothing new. “Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger.” Solomon has little patience for laziness. “How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” (Pro. 6:9) “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.” (Pro. 6:10) and that exact verse is repeated in Pro. 24:33. Laziness seems to be rampant these days. Idleness seems to be rewarded. That’s totally contrary to the work ethic mandated for followers of Christ. “Laziness casts into a deep sleep.” When you’re lazy, you fall asleep and dream. You accomplish nothing. When you’re idle, you’re not working. If you’re not working, you’re not earning money. If you’re not earning money, you can’t buy food. If you can’t buy food, you will be hungry. It is as simple as that. I always scratch my head at people that are unemployed and when you tell them about a job, they say they don’t want to do that kind of work. If you’re able to work and you’re too lazy to work, shame on you.

Obedience is a good thing. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (Jo. 14:15) I don’t know of any better way to demonstrate your love and commitment to Christ than to be obedient to His teachings. Solomon knew this and that’s why he says, “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul.” Keeping God’s commands is a really good thing to do. We don’t do it to earn our way to heaven; we’re obedient because we defer to God’s plan and to His will. Back in Pro. 13:13, we saw, “The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, but the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” In Luke 11, Jesus had cast out a demon from a mute man and after the demon was gone, the mute man was able to speak. The Pharisees told the people that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub. Jesus explained about demons and about a divided house and the teaching was so incredible that, “One of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Lu. 11:27-28) This woman was praising Jesus’ mother for giving birth to Him, and Jesus turns it around into obedience. It’s not good enough just to listen to the Word of God. You can hear the Word day in and day out, but if you don’t take it to heart and follow what the Word says, are you really hearing it?

Don’t misunderstand what Solomon is saying. “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul.” This is not a works based faith. Apart from Christ, you’re not able to keep the commandments of God. Solomon is talking about walking the walk that you talk. He’s talking about walking the path of righteousness. When you follow the commands of God, the principles found in Scripture, the teachings of Jesus, and the teachings of the prophets, you will keep your soul. The opposite is also true. If you ignore the teachings of the Bible, you will die. Make no mistake about it, everyone has eternal life. That eternal life is either present with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit or separated from the Trinity for eternity.

Our last verse for today: “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed.” This goes hand in hand with Jesus’ words when He said, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matt. 25:40) Essentially, if you want to help someone in the name of Jesus, God will bless you in whatever way He deems appropriate.

It is not good to be on the receiving end of a lion’s roar. If you consistently do what is pleasing to the Lord, you’ll find yourself as refreshed as the morning dew. Solomon moved over and talked about domestic relations. It’s tough to have a foolish son – in fact it can destroy a father. Constant wifely nagging is like a dripping faucet: it can drive you out of your mind. Having a wife is a good thing, but finding a prudent woman is a gift from God. Don’t be lazy – it can lead to hunger. We finished by talking about keeping the commands of God. It is probably the primary indicator of an authentic relationship with God. If you do a good deed in the name of Jesus to help someone, God will reward your actions; we don’t know if it will happen here, but it will definitely happen in eternity.

The Good Wife

MarriageListen to the podcast here.

Last week, Solomon reminded us that there’s always hope. Prayer is one key to seeing hearts changed, but the heart that is changed might not be the one that you’re praying for. Understand where we are in the scope of eternity. We’re in the last days where people are turning away from absolute truth. Everything that happens is part of God’s eternal plan, but we’re not briefed on the specifics of that plan. We saw some important qualities from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that we must put into practice on a regular basis. The screams for tolerance today is not the same tolerance Paul talks about in Scripture. Sometimes people are unwilling to acknowledge their sin choosing instead to blame others and sometimes even blame God. Contentions between people can cause you to feel like your trapped in a prison. Love God, love others, do what you can to spread the hope that is found in Christ and you might just find that the immovable object that was in your path will move out of the way by the power of God. This morning, we look at some speech metaphors and we’ll close by seeing the value of a wife.

Pro. 18:20-22 says, “With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”

Solomon might just be the most prolific painter of the word picture. He begins by saying, “With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips.” It may not be obvious, but Solomon is talking about a man’s speech. Words have the power to encourage or discourage. They have the power to build up or tear down. Don’t underestimate the power of your words. As always, the caution remains to be careful about what you say. This really is quite a curious verse. At first glance, it seems like this is an edification type of statement. You eat fruit, it tastes good, and your tummy is happy, but that’s not the meaning here. The meaning here is that there are people that really enjoy hearing themselves speak. These are the people that have something to say about every topic. These are the people that will gladly provide their viewpoint on an issue whether they are asked or not. These are the people that have the answer to the question, but haven’t read the book. These are the people that hijack the Bible study, but didn’t do the homework. These are the people that have a lot to say, but there is no substance. These are the people that really just like to hear themselves talk.

The next verse is a continuation when Solomon says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” This is confirmation that Solomon is talking about the power of speech. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me came onto the scene way back in 1862. Back then it was probably true, but times have changed drastically since then. When you think about what can happen because of our speech, it should slow us down and encourage caution. If Peter had paid attention to what Jesus told him, maybe he would not have denied knowing Christ. If Ananias and Sapphira hadn’t lied about the money they made from selling their property, they wouldn’t have been struck dead.

Ps. 141:3: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Matt. 15:11: “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
Ja. 1:26: “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”
Matt. 12:36: “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” There are a boatload of other examples in Scripture about how to use the power of our speech for good and not evil.

There’s life and death in our words in the world we live in too. Think about telling lies about people. You can get people fired from their job because of what you say about them. You could get fired for something you say. Your testimony can get someone locked up or sent to prison. Don’t underestimate the power of your words. You can’t talk to everyone in the same way. Don’t talk to your boss the way you talk to your kids. Don’t talk to your parents like you talk to your friends. Take Paul’s guidance very seriously: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

Let’s shift gears. Solomon changes subjects and talks about marriage. He says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” After God created man, he said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18) After Adam gave all the animals names, the Bible says, “But for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.” What’s really interesting about this is the word suitable is that it means corresponding to. There was nothing in the garden that looked like Adam. Mankind was created to have fellowship with the Creator and with one another. 1 Cor. 11:9 says, “For indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.” Before you get all freaked out, it is true that we were not meant to be alone, but this is not a misogynistic, barbarian, caveman type of relationship. Solomon is going back to the type of woman that was created by God for Adam.

The wife was and is to be a helper for the man. I know this probably isn’t popular teaching today, but it’s the design God intended. That does not mean women are inferior to men. It doesn’t mean women are not valuable. It doesn’t mean women are not smart or capable. It doesn’t mean women are not important. Solomon is saying if you find a wife, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean you must be married, but, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.” (Pro. 12:4) You’ll hear wives referred to as the better half. If you’re here and you’re not married, I don’t believe you’re out of the will of God, I don’t believe you’re sinning, I don’t believe you’re inferior or somehow don’t measure up to God’s desires or standards. The best plan for marriage is to allow God to bring someone into your life. You’ll likely hear people say they have the key to success in marriage and I actually do have it. Marriage is not easy. There will be disagreements, unfulfilled expectations, hurt, sorrow, misunderstandings, laundry, chores, cooking, and cleaning. But there is also great joy and happiness, companionship, fellowship, communication, and intimacy. Before I tell you the secret to a successful marriage, you might be thinking you’re already a failure and there’s no hope for you. Don’t believe that for one minute. Marriage is hard, but you successfully navigate through hard things all the time. Don’t tell me it’s hard, I know it is. If you’re married to someone that does not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, it’s even harder. I will even acknowledge that marriage can be challenging between two people that are committed Christians.

I will offer one assumption and that is that we are talking about followers of Christ so here’s the secret: the most important thing in a marriage outside of Jesus is commitment to one another. This commitment comes out in the marriage vows. I ask the groom: Groom, in taking this woman to be your wife, do you promise to honor, to love, and to cherish her in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, in good times and in bad, as long as you both shall live? Then I ask the bride that same thing. In all the ceremonies I’ve done over the years, not one time has anyone responded “I don’t” to that question. Do you see the commitment? No matter the circumstances, you’re committed to one another. There’s never talk of divorce. I don’t care how great a communicator you are or how much money you have or make, how awesome your house is or how great your job is, if you’re not committed to one another, your marriage will fail. Too many people today treat marriage as a dating relationship. If you’re committed to one another, you will do whatever it takes to work through issues to make your marriage stronger.

Finding a wife is a good thing and I want to encourage you to review the biblical standards for husbands and for wives. Every guy can quote Eph. 5:22: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” If there’s one verse that every guy has memorized it’s this one. They may not know that God loved the world, but they can spout off the submission verse in their sleep. Often though, the guy that quotes that verse in an attempt to force his wife into doing something, but has neglected the previous verse that tells us to, “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” A more important principle is one that you’ve heard me quote on numerous occasions and is found in Eph. 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Nowhere is that love dependent on what your wife does or does not do. The comparative love is that of Christ. No matter what we do, He still loves us.

Let’s take a look at a very important passage directed at wives found in 1 Pet. 3:1-6. I encourage you to check it out yourself. Nowhere does Peter limit this mandate to men that are wonderful, loving, godly, caring, and wholesome men. Women, it’s a whole lot easier to love a man that is awesome and wonderfully supportive of everything you want to accomplish in life. Look at what God holds precious in v. 4. Hold on now men, Peter hasn’t forgotten about you. 1 Pet. 3:7 gives us this incredible command: “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” Are your prayers consistently not answered and you feel like God doesn’t even hear you? Maybe it’s because you’re not the man God wants you to be. Peter finishes this passage by saying, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:8-9) Finding a wife is a good thing.

We began today talking about speech. Our words are powerful tools that can cause great harm and great joy. Be very careful in your speech and don’t be the guy that talks all the time. You do not get extra jewels in your crown for being verbose. Don’t talk just to hear yourself talk. We spent a lot of time on marriage and we will spend more time later in Proverbs. Finding a wife is a good thing and finding a wife whose ultimate goal is to live an authentic, passionate, and zealous life for Christ is something of immeasurable value.

Women’s Rights

WomanYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that God relentlessly pursues sinners. We saw that labels can sometimes be viewed as divisive. This pervasive division in America is nothing new as we were reminded of Paul’s warning to Timothy when he said there will come a time when people wouldn’t put up with sound doctrine. There is judgment for wrong doing, but there is also hope, forgiveness, and power to be found in the person of Jesus Christ. The parent that disciplines his kids is really demonstrating his love. This morning, we’ll see Solomon use his rapid fire tactic for issuing principles that are generally applicable.

Pro. 14:1-4 says, The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him. In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will protect them. Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.”

Solomon tells us the value of a woman. He’s mentioned women a bunch of times to this point and it is mostly unflattering. There was the honey lipped harlot in 5:3. There was the exhilarating adulteress in 5:20. There was the beautiful yet evil adulterous woman in 6:24. There was the cunning, rebellious woman of harlotry in 7:10. There was the boisterous, naïve woman of folly in 9:13. There was the morally ugly woman of 11:22. There was the excellent wife in 12:4. Up to this point, except for the excellent wife, the women portrayed by Solomon are not morally good. Now we come to the construction wife. “The wise woman builds her house.” This is not a proof text that women should work outside the home. This is not justification to have your wife do all the hard, labor intensive work at the homestead. Build here does not mean construct in a manufacturing way. It means establish, it means put in order, it means make the house into a home. You can build a house and have all the proper things in it, but it takes a woman’s touch to transform it into a home.

The wise woman makes a house a home, “But the foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” All the structure and organization can be undone by foolishness. As easy as wisdom builds the house, it can come crashing down by the destructiveness of folly when there is no order, no discipline, no structure, and no rules. Don’t misunderstand this verse. In order of authority, the man still comes first. All the good intentions of the husband can be destroyed by the foolish wife. The husband can do an awful lot to turn the home upside down too. Both husband and wife must be all in.

Next Solomon tells us that it really does matters how you walk. Much has been said in Scripture of walking. Solomon says, “He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him.” I want to make sure you understand that many times walking in the Bible is not associated with transportation. Paul in particular, more than any other writer of Scripture talks a lot about walking. He used the word or a form of the word at least 27 times and all but two refer to a manner or pattern of life. In Rom. 6:4, he talks about walking in newness of life. In 2 Cor. 5:7, he says we walk by faith and not by sight. In Gal. 5:16 he tells us to walk by the Spirit so we won’t carry out the desires of the flesh. In Eph. 4:1 he tells us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. It is this same type of walking Solomon is talking about. Being an authentic child of the King requires more than simply declaring it. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jo. 14:15) Solomon says the same thing. If you fear the Lord, your life will reflect it. What happens on the outside of your body is a reflection of what is on the inside. The principle of how you act in life occurs throughout Scripture because God knew this would be an issue. Don’t fall into the traps of Satan we talked about a couple of weeks ago. You cannot have an authentic, viable relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and there be no evidence in your life to support it. So who are the devious Solomon mentions in the second part of the verse? Back in chapter 2, Solomon told us who these people are. Look at 2:10-15. These people despise God. How can that be? Isn’t it ironic how the people that talk about how loving God is hate the standards first given in Scripture?

Not only does it matter how you walk, it matters how you talk. “In the mouth of the fool is a rod for his back.” This is not the same word Solomon used for rod in 13:24. This verse is a metaphor. The things the foolish say will come back to hurt them. Rod here means a branch or a shoot and the idea is that pride grows out of the heart. Matt. 12:34 gives us the sobering thought, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” If you are prideful of speech, prideful in attitude, prideful in thought, or prideful in action, it’s going to come back on you. When the heart is full of pride and there is no wisdom in your brain to suppress it, the words of David ring loud and clear. “So they will make him stumble; their own tongue is against them; all who see them will shake the head.” (Ps. 64:8) “The lips of the wise will protect them,” Solomon says. Wisdom dictates when to speak and when to stay silent. Wisdom knows when a word of encouragement or a word of correction is needed. Words matter and they’re a great indication of who you belong to. Paul told the church at Ephesus, “and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (Eph. 5:4) Remember a couple of weeks ago when I said if you want to be smart, hang with smart people? If you want to walk more like Christ, hang with people that walk with Christ? If you hang with people that do not control what they say, that say things that they shouldn’t say, that use horrible or profane language, you will tend to do the same. That’s the natural thing to do, but wait . . . you have something supernatural living inside of you so you don’t fulfill those ungodly things. A huge detractor to people of the world looking at us as professing believers is the way we act. Be different for Christ.

We’ve talked about walking and talking, but what about our work? Hard work matters. Here again Solomon gives us an example that makes such good sense, but has become very uncommon. “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.” This verse might not make sense to us who do not live in an agricultural community or don’t have any farming background. The ox is known as a beast of burden able to carry heavy loads and perform other hard work. If you don’t have an ox, you don’t have to worry about keeping the barn clean. No worries about feeding him, or taking care of him. So for the lazy person, having an ox just isn’t worth the trouble. Let’s put this into a modern context. Having a car isn’t worth the trouble because they break down and gas has gotten expensive. Having a house isn’t worth the trouble because you have to do repairs, clean it, have insurance, cut the grass, pay taxes on it, and pay for electricity. It just isn’t worth it. The ox was the early form of the tractor trailer and is still used in many cultures to work the land. In fact, the ox is making a comeback on small farms in America. You can pick up one cheap, they’re easy to train, they don’t need spare parts, they’re cheap to feed, and when they break down you can eat them. The fool looks at the mess the ox makes and ignores the benefits that come because of the ox.

The same thing happens today, but it’s not about farming. This attitude is prevalent among all facets of life. We do a lot of foolish things and we have lots of foolish thoughts. There are things that are hard and take time, but in the end, the payoff is huge. In our house, we maintain all of our finances in Quicken. It takes time to enter all our expenses and categorize them. It takes only minutes at the end of the month to balance the accounts. At the end of the year, it takes me about an hour to categorize all income and expenses for tax purposes. We know where the money goes and are able to catch fraudulent purchases – something that is becoming more and more prevalent. I change the oil and transmission fluid in all our vehicles. That takes time and effort. Many of you do these same things. Over the years in Bible study, we’ve seen people come to the first session and never come back because it’s too hard or takes too much time and they fail to see the eternal benefit. The fool thinks he can get everything needed to walk a life of authenticity without doing the hard work of studying, meditating, and memorizing God’s Word.

Living a life for Christ is hard work, but the benefits are huge. Confident and courageous living. Having a hope that is fixed on Christ. Having a contagious and engaging spirit that points people to the answer all men are seeking. These things make the hard work worth it. Even if you don’t see any profit or payoff, living a life that is pleasing to God is still the greatest testimony of a life that belongs to Him.

Lipstick on a Pig

lipstick-on-a-pigYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us that our lifestyle does impact the community we live in. As the behavior and thinking of people move away from God, the impact in the community or society is evident. God does not declare that it’s progressive thinking or tolerance, it is simply ungodly. We combat this with a lifestyle that demonstrates the power of God in our lives that is evident by our love for one another and for others. This morning, Solomon provides us some vivid word pictures as he continues telling us how to live for God.

In Pro. 11:22-27 Solomon says, As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.  The desire of the righteous is only good, but the expectation of the wicked is wrath. There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it. He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.”

Solomon kicks this passage off with our first and perhaps most vivid word picture. “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a woman who lacks discretion.” I love this verse because it’s so true. Solomon is talking about beauty and this is another way of saying that beauty is more than skin deep. It’s much more important to have inner beauty, but that’s not what the world says. That’s why you see so many beauty enhancing products. That’s why you see products that claim to be age defying. Our society is so desperate to look good on the outside that we forget what God looks at. 1 Pet. 3:3, “Your adornment must not be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses.” Are you thinking this is a crazy analogy? Gen. 24 tells us the story of Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant prayed a very specific prayer so that he would know that God had sent just the right girl for Isaac. He ends up in Mesopotamia and comes upon a spring where he could water his camels and see his very specific prayer played out. A beautiful young girl named Rebekah walks up and Abraham’s servant says to her, “‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him’; and I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her wrists.” (Gen. 24:47) This was a practice in the days of the patriarchs to signify a marriage or a wife.

Think of putting a ring on a pig’s snout. Pigs represented what was unclean, dirty, forbidden, they represented a threat to agriculture, they were overall useless. Dogs and pigs are often considered along the same lines. The behavior of these two animals reveals who they really are. 2 Pet. 2:2 says, “It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” It is nonsensical to put a ring on a pig’s snout. It’s equally nonsensical to look only at the external beauty of a woman and that’s what Solomon is saying here. You can dress up a pig and put lipstick on it, but it’s still a pig. A woman can be gorgeous on the outside and look horrible on the inside. In this context discretion means moral perception. So put it all together, a beautiful woman that lacks discretion is ethically bankrupt, is valueless, and morally ugly. Now, that is a word picture.

Here’s another comparison. Verse 23 reminds us, “The desire of the righteous is only good, but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.” Again, Solomon paints with a broad brush. All of us can have unrighteous desires from time to time, but Solomon is telling us that the overall desires of the righteous are good. You want good things for people; you want them to get that new car, that promotion, that new house, to have children or adopt a child, or to find the spouse they long for. You don’t want them to endure pain or suffering and your heart breaks when theirs breaks. That is the thought pattern of the righteous. You don’t have the attitude of judgment; they can’t afford that car or house. They wouldn’t be very good parents. That’s the way the wicked think. The righteous want what’s good for people, the wicked want what is bad and they really want wrath. Wrath is generally attributed to God’s judgment and that’s accurate here too. They don’t want God’s discipline which is designed for our growth and demonstrates God’s love for us; they want God to exercise judgment to satisfy their own twisted desires, they want God to remove those that stand in the way of what they want.

Here is something I want you to think about. Have you noticed how divisive it is has gotten today, even among believers? Have you ever heard anyone affiliated with the church at large say that as Christians we just need to love everyone like God does and we need to accept people where they are? The church, at least the American church, is no longer doctrinally and theologically sound, but is bent toward feeling and emotion. Ravi Zacharias said it this way,

“We manufacture feelings in our churches. We manufacture emotions in our churches. Feelings have come unhinged from the mind and unbelief. Feelings are a powerful thing, but they should follow belief, not create belief. In our churches this whole move towards this emotional celebratory stunts that was born in doctrinal vacuum where the person knows less and less of why they believe what they believe but more and more of how ecstatic they are because of it has been a dangerous amputation that has taken place.” (The Truth Project)

The real issue that divides people is the Word of God. Are we going to believe what the Word says, or are we going to allow people that claim a relationship with God to define the Bible as outdated, irrelevant, intolerant, and simply not essential for life? Everyone here can likely think of a divisive issue that is in the news today and probably has had a conversation about it this week. This all plays nicely into Satan’s schemes to shift the focus away from the truth that will set people free and that will lead authentic believers into a passionate, zealous pursuit of Christ where there is no giving up or giving in.

Solomon now makes some direct comparisons with two character traits that are in direct opposition to one another. Vs. 26-27 tells us, “He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it. He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.” There has been much talk regarding finances and there will be much more before we finish this study. One of the predominate reasons Solomon brings it up is that money is necessary. God promises to provide for us and for most people, working at a job to earn wages is the process by which is happens. Even when we go way back, although actual currency may not have be exchanged, bartering of goods and services were necessary to ensure people had what was needed to sustain life. We do have examples of God supernaturally providing for the physical needs of people. In Ex. 16, God provided manna and quail for the Israelites as they wandered. 1 Ki. 17 tell us of Elijah and the cruse of oil and jar of flour that did not run out. In Matt. 15, we see Jesus feeding 4000 with just seven loaves a few fish. We see the principle of working all the way back to the garden when God gave the mandate to Adam and Eve to take care of it in Gen. 2. I have given you this background to help you understand the importance of working in order to be generous, but it is not a prerequisite. In God’s economy, you will not be able to out give God, but it’s not a competition. People who think if they give, then they will lack have not tested God. Solomon says when you give, you increase all the more. When generosity is demonstrated, more will be given.

Look at the disclaimer in v. 24, “Withholds what is justly due.” The issue here really revolves around hoarding. When you refuse to give or even sell what you have, v. 26 says, “The people will curse him.” I think of fictional characters like Mr. Scrooge and Mr. Potter. They had lots of wealth, but they were hated by the people. They were hated because they refused to share their abundant wealth. These folks were known for their shady business dealings, but let me be clear. I’m not in favor of Robin Hood tactics. We’re talking about generosity from a godly perspective. God expects us to share when we have bounty to those in need and when we’re in need, God will provide through the generosity of others. Sometimes though, the opposite happens. People who have relied on the generosity of others often fail to exercise the same generosity when they have more than they need. Those who are generous tend to continue to have more than they need and they continue to give it away. Most of us are born with a sense of self-preservation – it’s our sin nature. Generosity comes supernaturally and those that exercise this Christ like characteristic will be prosperous according to v. 26. It means to be successful or flourish, especially financially. The more generous you are, the more prosperous you will be. Again, we’re talking generally.

Finally Solomon says, “He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.” Just by trying to find good, by searching to do what is good for others and for yourself will find favor with God. Nothing is said of achieving it, but God takes pleasure in you looking for good. On the other hand, if you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.

If you are righteous, you’re going to want what’s good for everyone. You’ll go looking for it and that is pleasing to God. If you withhold what is rightly due someone, the people will not be happy. We’re to be generous, not greedy. We’ll check this topic of generosity in greater detail next time.

A Tale of Two Women

Dame Folly - ProverbsYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw the creative genius of God and learned that wisdom was needed when the world with all its complexity was formed. Wisdom and God cannot be separated from one another because wisdom is an inherent characteristic of God. Since God needs wisdom, we certainly need wisdom. Over and over Solomon reminds us to listen and follow his instructions. This morning, we check out a tale of two women in striking contrast to one another.

Take the time and read all of Proverbs 9. It won’t take long and it’s really important to see where Solomon goes with these two women.

Our first woman is wisdom. We’ve seen wisdom personified in previous passages. Here she has built her house and it has seven pillars. The exact meaning of that is difficult to determine. Some think it refers to Solomon’s temple and others think it refers to seven days of creation that Solomon talked about in 8:22-31. Woman wisdom invites you to join her for a wonderful banquet. She wants people to attend so much that she sends out her maidens to bring people in. This is reminiscent of the account of the wedding feast in Lu. 14:15-24. I encourage you to read that passage. Lady Wisdom says that you’re invited to a special occasion that serves sumptuous food without end. Are we talking about a physical buffet? Spiritual food is a theme presented in numerous passages of the Bible. Ps. 119:103, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (Jo. 6:48-51) Only when we partake in spiritual food, is our hunger satisfied.

Have you ever had anyone tell you they have left a church because they weren’t getting fed? “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14) Of course the church has a responsibility to provide spiritual food for you, but let’s be realistic. At most, a person spends about 4-5 hours involved in church related services or activities if involved in Sunday School, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening, and some type of mid-week service. Many churches, including C4 don’t offer Sunday School or Sunday evening because people were not taking advantage of those opportunities. The average, run of the mill Christian typically participates only in the Sunday morning service. No matter how well studied or dynamic the pastor or preacher is, no one can possibly conclude they are not getting fed at church because that’s not our job! Where is the personal responsibility? How can I possibly provide what is needed to sustain you for a week in just one or two hours? Even if you did participate in everything a church offers, you will still be lacking spiritual nourishment because the design is that we feed ourselves! The statement that one is not being fed at church is simply an example of shifting responsibility to someone else. It’s like complaining to the school that the lunch served isn’t enough to keep a kid from getting hungry after they get home.

Look who wisdom really wants at the table: “Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!” The table has been set and wisdom says, “Come eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed.” The food is prepared and available to you if only you’ll accept the invitation. Remember wisdom wants you to attend so she is proactive with her invitation. Like the wedding feast we read about in Luke 14, people have all the excuses in the world to decline the invitation that will change their lives forever. Even eating a meal that is prepared for you takes effort on your part. You have to pick up a fork and put it to your mouth, chew, and swallow. So even when the food is out there for you, there is something you must to do to take advantage of the nourishment. When your kids were babies, you physically fed them. As they grew and matured, you taught them to feed themselves and sometimes it was really messy, but you knew the importance of teaching them how to eat. If your kids didn’t want to eat, you likely covered it up and put it up for them. When they got hungry enough, you knew they’d eat whatever was put in front of them. The parallel to spiritual food is identical. There it is: the elephant in the room; some  people never grow hungry enough for God’s Word and that’s a huge problem. John 6:27 says, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” I cannot comprehend professing believers that do not grow hungry for God’s Word.  “Forsake your folly and live and proceed in the way of understanding.” Notice the intentionality of the invitation. It involves recognition of one’s folly which is defined as a disdain for God’s truth and discipline. It not only takes forsaking folly, but a turn to the way of understanding. There it is again – understanding.

Solomon tells us something kind of harsh: don’t waste time on a scoffer. Remember back in Pro. 1:22 when he said, “Scoffers delight themselves in scoffing.” Well, nothing has changed. Wisdom doesn’t even bother to invite the scoffer to the banquet. What’s the point? The theme for Proverbs can be found in 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Scoffers don’t want to hear it so only the simple are invited. Accepting the invitation may mean leaving your friends. The fools and the scoffers will try and talk the simple out of going. You don’t need that, it’s for the weak. You won’t have any fun. You’ve met these types of people. They don’t want to listen to the truth, they want to do it their way, they don’t want to be told they’re wrong, don’t want to accept the truth to become wiser and that makes it very difficult to love them. You just keep on loving them and praying for opportunities to demonstrate Christ to them. The gap between the wise and the fool continues to widen. Primarily because the wise continue doing what increases wisdom while the fool continues doing what is foolish.  It’s found in v. 9-10. Wise people do not wake up one day and say, I’m wise enough. The result is that days are multiplied, and years of life are added when you seek wisdom. The opposite is also true. “If you scoff, you alone will bear it.”If you seek wisdom, you will find it.    If you want to be a scoffer, you will reap the consequences.

And on to the woman of folly. “The woman of folly is boisterous, she is naive and knows nothing.” Tell me what you really think. Folly and wisdom are in direct opposition. Wisdom represents the way of God. Folly represents all that is ungodly. Solomon describes her three ways. She is boisterous just like the adulteress he warned us about. Naive here means ignorant or thoughtless. She is without safeguard or restraint. She doesn’t know boundaries. She has no filter. She, “knows nothing” means she doesn’t know what she ought to know. Have you ever heard or said they phrase, “They know better.” She should know better, but she doesn’t because she doesn’t want to know better. Benjamin Franklin said, “Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” That’s folly right there. She invites others to come and dine, but there will be no feast like at the banquet prepared by wisdom. If you’re naive, come on in, you’re welcome here she says. For reasons that are unexplainable, more people flock to lady folly then to lady wisdom. In the short run it’s easier, and the long run is not even considered. Lady folly promises, “Stolen water is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” Your mind might be drawn to that wonderful banquet set out by woman wisdom. Remember in 5:15 when Solomon said, “Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well?” Contextually, I think the same idea is presented here. Don’t take what isn’t yours. Don’t be lured by the idea of easy money or the idea that a life of crime is the way to go.

The conclusion is found in v. 18 where Solomon says, “But does he not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” The banquet wisdom prepares leads to life. The banquet folly prepares leads to death. Don’t be deceived: folly leads to death.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Memory LaneCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that there are six things the Lord hates and the seventh that is an abomination to Him. The qualities Solomon listed are ones that should obviously be avoided and with the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s not only possible, it’s expected. This morning, Solomon wraps up the instructions regarding sexual purity and provides the benefits of following the principles taught.

To set up Solomon’s message, take the time to read Pro. 6:20-35.

Here are some great reminders. Who doesn’t need to be reminded of important truths? Solomon takes the times to reiterate what he has already said. Anytime Scripture is repeated, we really need to pay attention to what is being said. The reminders here are no exception. Instead of going through them one at a time, let me paint with a broad brush. In context, the understanding in these instructions come from the vantage point that they are being given by loving, godly, passionate, authentic believers in Christ. They’re not instructions to be taught only, but followed. Solomon personifies his instructions by the using the words guide, watch, and talk. This confirms the idea that the instructions are not just helpful hints, but essential elements in the walk of faith. The principles apply even for those that do not walk with Christ. He also uses the words lamp and way to indicate that the instructions will guide you into doing the right thing. If you’re not sure what is right or wrong, follow Solomon’s instructions. Allow biblical instructions to light the path that you walk on so you won’t trip and fall on the rocky path of life and so you don’t blindly walk through life. When you’re driving and visibility is reduced due to rain or fog, you slow down. When it’s dark, you turn on the lights so you can see. This is the principle Solomon is telling us. He’s giving us the tools needed to remain pure and holy in relationships.

Here’s Solomon’s reasoning. If you follow the instruction he provides, something magical happens. It’s found in v. 24, “To keep you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.” Keep here means avoid. These principles are designed to help you avoid, “the evil woman” and, “the smooth tongue of the adulteress.” It looks like these are two separate women that are dangerous for different reasons. “Do not desire her beauty in your heart nor let her capture you with her eyelids.” This woman is not ugly. It’s no secret that men are drawn to the visuals of a woman. You’ve heard the phrase coined by English poet Sir Thomas Overbury in his poem entitled “A Wife” in 1613 that beauty is only skin deep and that is absolutely true. If all you want is beauty, you’re going to find yourself wanting as the beauty fades. Don’t get trapped by her beauty, by her flattery, or her honey dripping lips. Once you’re trapped, escape is difficult. It seems pretty clear not to get yourself trapped by the honey lipped harlot, but look at v. 26 for something not so clear. Exact translation from the Hebrew is difficult and I am not a Hebrew scholar, but experts seem to conclude the best translation is, “Although the price of a prostitute may be as much as a loaf of bread, another man’s wife hunts the precious life.” The key in understanding this verse is with the phrase, “the precious life.” A prostitute expects a small payment in return for a service, but the adulteress wants the man’s life. Neither is acceptable and it goes to show us the ridiculousness of engaging in activities outside of marriage. One commentator remarked, “Going to the immoral woman is the quintessential act of self-degradation.” Listen to Solomon’s reasoning and incredible word picture in vs. 27-28, “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” These are rhetorical questions. The answer is of course not. If you play with fire, you will get burned. Just to be clear, Solomon says, “So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her will not go unpunished.”

It looks like Solomon is shifting gears I the next verses, but he’s not. Verse 30 says, “Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry.” Hunger is the motivator to steal, not greed. Most people have compassion for people that are hungry and would understand why one would steal food. Just because you understand something doesn’t mean it’s right. Look at what happens to this guy in v. 31. Not only does he have to pay back what he stole, he has to repay it sevenfold. In other words, if you steal a loaf of bread, seven loaves must be paid back. So even though there’s compassion, there must be restitution. According to the Law, if you couldn’t pay the restitution the thief would be sold. The rest of the verse says the thief will also forfeit the wealth of this house. Solomon brings it back to adultery. It is nonsensical to think that someone would do such a thing of folly and v 32 confirms that, “The one who commit adultery with a woman is lacking sense; he would destroy himself does it.” Happiness and joy will not be found, but look what will. “Wounds and disgrace and his reproach will not be blotted out.” This most likely refers to the injuries sustained at the hands of the husband that finds out you’ve been carrying on with his wife. There is a certain stigma associated with adultery. No sin is too great for God and this is true for adultery. You have probably figured out by now that people are not as forgiving as God. When trust is broken, it’s very difficult to get back, not impossible, but very difficult. Forgiveness is given and often I hear complaints from the one that committed the adultery that the other spouse doesn’t trust them. I typically respond, “Too bad!” That’s the consequences for your actions.

Verses 34-35 are in response to the adultery. The assumption is this response is from the angry husband of the woman that engaged in adultery. Jealous means fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions. We don’t think of a spouse as a possession, but even in a marriage ceremony, I ask, “Who gives this woman to this man?” The standard response is, “Her mother and I.” There is a sense of belonging in marriage, an exclusiveness that is reserved for a man and a woman. We must think of marriage as God thinks of it: the union of one man and one woman that become one flesh. That’s why adultery is so damaging. You’re ripping apart the flesh. That’s why, “Jealously enrages a man.” It’s understandable and the rage the husband feels is an unstoppable force that cannot be satisfied. There is no possibility of restitution for what was taken cannot be returned. No amount of money will make it right. Song 8:6, “Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.”

Adultery may seem like a deal breaker, may seem like an end to a relationship. It doesn’t have to be. Men, be very wary of a woman that approaches you in a way that would jeopardize the relationship with your wife. If you’re carrying on with someone you’re not married to, stop! There is a chance for reconciliation if you’ll allow the Lord to be a part of it.