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COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: PART NINE

SERMON PRESENTED ON 04-02-16

       This will be the ninth sermon in a series I began four months ago on the book of Proverbs.  In the last five sermons in this series we considered in depth Solomon’s list of the seven things God hates as recorded in Proverbs 6:16-19. 

       In sermon number three in this series we addressed Solomon’s warnings to his son’s about the consequences of hooking up with an adulteress woman and the consequences of adultery in general.  We used the adulteress relationship between David and Bathsheba as our primary example of the dynamics involved in such a relationship.

       We discussed how the sin of adultery isn’t just the sin of adultery but always involves the sins of covetousness and deceit as well and sometimes, as we saw with David, the sin of murder.  Returning to chapter six of Proverbs we see Solomon again addressing the sin of adultery.  Beginning in verse 24 of Proverbs 6, Solomon warns against lusting after the beauty of a wayward wife.  He becomes rather picturesque in his discussion of the sin of adultery.

        Proverbs 6:26-29: For the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?  Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man's wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.

       Solomon compares adultery with taking a scoop full of some kind of burning material and dumping it into your lap.  Now how stupid would that be?  No one with any sense would do something like that.  Solomon shows adultery to be just as stupid, just as senseless.  If you dump some burning material on your clothes your going to burn you clothes.  Likewise, it you commit adultery you are going to be physically and spiritually burned.  That’s his point.

       Solomon asks if a man can walk on hot coals without his feet getting burned. Now I have seen so-called fire walkers who walk on hot coals and don’t appear to be burned. But such people have conditioned their feet to withstand the heat of the coals and they have also developed techniques to skim across hot coals without making much contact with the coals.  The average person walking on hot coals is going to get burned just as most people who commit adultery will suffer psychological, spiritual and even physical scars from an adulterous relationship.

       After Solomon makes these analogies as to sleeping with another man’s wife, he makes an interesting comparison between a man who steals to satisfy his hunger and a man who commits adultery.   

       Proverbs 6:30-33.  Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.  Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away,

       Solomon appears to be saying that even though a thief caught stealing to satisfy hunger must pay back what he stole and then some, this is nothing compared to a man who commits adultery.  A man stealing to put food in his mouth because he is starving is not to be despised.  But for a man who commits adultery, his shame is never wiped away.  Solomon is suggesting that he will always be despised.  We certainly saw this in our discussion of the adultery committed by David and Bathsheba. Scripture shows that David’s constituents despised him for the rest of his life.

       This pretty much wraps up our discussion of Proverbs chapter 6.  In Proverbs 7, Solomon returns to extolling the virtues of knowledge understanding and wisdom.  As I have covered in past sermons, knowledge is simple to know something.  This comes first. Understanding is to comprehend the significance of the knowledge one has and wisdom is the proper application of ones understanding of knowledge.  As one writer I read puts it: “Wisdom is finishing what knowledge started.”

      Proverbs 7:1-5: My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call understanding your kinsman; they will keep you from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words.

       The commands and teachings Solomon is offering to his son and by extension to us is knowledge. Once given knowledge, Solomon instructs we are to seek to understand such knowledge and apply wisdom to such understanding.  We are to treat wisdom and understanding as though they were a sibling or a kinsman.  Solomon makes these statements within the context of his continuing polemic against adultery. He is saying that if you embrace the knowledge I am sharing with you and you make every effort to understand what I am telling you and then exercise wise application of such understanding, you will avoid adultery.

       It is very probable that Solomon had reflected on the adultery his own father David had committed and was aware of the lifelong trauma this caused David. This may be why Solomon is so vocal about the evils of an adulterous relationship.

       Now some may look at Solomon and question his creditability in speaking out against adultery when Solomon is reported to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines.  Technically Solomon wasn’t committing adultery with the 700 wives as he was married to them.  Concubines were female slaves.  They were indentured servants and were acquired primarily for sexual purposes.  Solomon owned them as property.  In sermon two of this series I discussed in detail the issue of Solomon’s 700 wives and 300 concubines and we won’t repeat that material here.

       We don’t know when Solomon wrote the Proverbs.  There are indications in his book of Ecclesiastes that he wrote the proverbs in his latter years after he had tried everything and conclude it was all vanity.  On the other hand, he may have written the Proverbs before he accumulated wives and concubines.   Suffice it to say, Solomon realized that the sin of adultery led to nothing but trouble for the parties involved and he waxed eloquent in his polemic against this sin.  

       The next twenty verses of Proverbs 7 are dedicated to recording an event Solomon saw that involved an adulterous women enticing a youth into having an adulterous relationship. He goes into some detail in describing her enticement of this young man.  She tells the youth her husband is not at home and that he has gone on a long journey and taken his purse filled with money and will not be home till the full moon arrives. Solomon uses very picturesque language to show how this young boy followed this women like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose.  Solomon then concludes this story by again exhorting his sons to listen to the conclusion of the matter.

       Proverbs 7:24-27: Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say.  Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.

       Solomon uses very graphic language to get his point across.  A highway to the grave and leading to the chambers of death shows how insidious is an enticement to engage in an adulterous relationship.  Solomon speaks out very strongly against entering into an adulterous relationship.

       Proverbs 8 is all about the personification of wisdom and understanding.  Solomon begins by asking, “Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?  In verse 10-11 he writes, “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.  Solomon goes on to show wisdom and understanding were in evidence before the creation of the world and how God used understanding and wisdom to create. Solomon concludes this chapter by saying the following:

       Proverbs 8:35-36: For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD. But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death."

       Knowledge, understanding and wisdom are discussed repeatedly in Proverbs. In sermon one of this series I discussed in some detail the dynamics of knowledge, understanding and wisdom so we won’t go there again.  Eventually this series will be on my website for anyone who desires to review this material.

       Moving on to Proverbs 9 we continue to see Solomon personifying wisdom.  Here he pictures wisdom as a house built at the highest point of a city from where she calls out to the people to leave their simple ways and walk in the way of understanding.  Solomon then shifts to discussing the difference in response between rebuking a wicked man and rebuking a wise man.

       Proverbs 9:7-9:  Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.

       Solomon is pointing out that a wise and righteous man will welcome rebuke and correction because he will learn from it and thus increase his wisdom and learning. Accepting rebuke and correction is challenging to our egos. We humans generally don’t like to be corrected let alone rebuked.  Correction and especially rebuke will often get our ire up and we find ourselves wanting to retaliate in some way.  The wise thing to do in the face of rebuke and correction is to objectively evaluate it and if the rebuke or correction has merit we should embrace it and thank the person who rebuked or corrected us.  Even if a rebuke or correction isn’t valid, it is best we respond to such rebuke or correction in a measured and mature way and not in a retaliatory manner.

       We humans are quick to retaliate when we feel we have been wrongly accused, rebuked or corrected. We are seeing this in the current political campaigns as we always do in such campaigns.  It would truly be refreshing to see candidates for political office acknowledge valid criticism and respond to falsehoods with maturity. I don’t expect that we will see that anytime soon.

       Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

       Solomon makes this statement or some variation of it several times in the Proverbs. It all begins with fearing God.  To fear God is to stand in awe of God and recognize His sovereignty.  It is to be totally submissive to His will which means to be totally obedient to his commands.  This is the beginning of wisdom knowledge and understanding. All knowledge, understanding and wisdom should be based on fearing God.  It is when man stays from fearing God that knowledge, understanding and wisdom become corrupted.

       Someone recently posted to face book a performance by county music star Carrie Underwood singing the classic Christian hymn How Great Thou Art.  She was accompanied on guitar by county legend Vince Gill.  It was a magnificent performance and much of the audience stood up, some with tears in their eyes, during the final chorus of How Great Thou Art.   Among those standing were a number of country music stars who were in the audience such as Martina Mc Bride, Jennifer Nettles, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton. While I am sure they were standing in recognition of the powerful heartfelt performance of Carrie and Vince, I have to wonder if they were also standing in recognition of the person Carrie was singing about.  I hope they were!

O LORD (YHWH), my God (Elohim),

       The precise meaning of YHWH is much debated.  It appears to be taken from the Hebrew root word hayah which has the meaning of “be” or “become.”  YHWH came to signify self existent one or eternal one.  The OT Scriptures clearly identify the name of God as being YHWH.

       Exodus 3:15:  God (Elohim) also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, `The LORD, (YHWH) the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob--has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation. 

       Isaiah 42:8: I am the LORD; (YHWH) that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.

       Elohim is a plural word in the Hebrew language and is often used in Hebrew to denote “plenitude of might,” the strong one or plural of majesty.  

 O LORD (YHWH), my God (Elohim),

when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

       Our soul should daily recognize God’s greatness.  We daily should take time to recognize how great God is.  We daily should consider the worlds His hands have made.  We should daily acknowledge his power throughout the universe displayed.  To fear God is to acknowledge His greatness. To acknowledge his greatness is to stand before Him in reverence and awe.  To revere God is to be subject to His will and being subject to His will is to have knowledge of the Holy One which facilitates understanding as Solomon wrote.

       In contrast to Solomon’s personification of wisdom and understanding, Solomon, beginning in 9:11, personifies Folly and shows how it is the opposite of knowledge.

       Proverbs 9:13-18:  The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way.  "Let all who are simple come in here!" she says to those who lack judgment. "Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!"  But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave. Proverbs of Solomon.

       We see folly crying out and being loud all the time.  We hear people pontificate about all sorts of things that in reality have no basis in fact or are a mixture of some truth and a lot of error. We are seeing a great deal of this in the present political campaigns.  I enjoy reading the Politi-Fact column in the Journal/Sentinel where the writers investigate the truth or falsehood of statements made by politicians. Then they rate their statements on the “truth-o-meter” as to whether such statements are true, mostly true, half true, mostly false, false or “pants on fire” which means totally false.  It is amazing how many statements are rated as mostly false or as “pants on Fire.” 

       Yet countless millions of people are taken in by folly crying out in the streets and enticing those who fail to do their homework into believing a lie or at best a half-truth.  Solomon graphically describes the end result of listening to folly in saying “But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.”

       Proverbs, chapter 10 is very eclectic in that Solomon hits on a number of issues and makes short to the point statements regarding such issues. In the time remaining, let’s look at just a few of these statements for discussion.

       Proverbs 10:4-5: Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.  He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.

       This statement is pretty much self evident.  A person unwilling to work or willing to work only under the most ideal of conditions will often not get very far in life and often ends up living off of Public support, relatives or turning to crime as a means of survival.  While diligent hands may not always bring great wealth, they will produce enough wealth to be self sufficient and not dependent on others for survival.  Paul said in one of his letters that if a man is unwilling to work he should not eat.

       While there will always be those who can’t work because of disability or some other unfortunate situation in life, it is quite clear from Scripture that God intends for us to provide for ourselves and our families which means having diligent hands which is a metaphor Solomon uses for work.  Solomon apparently felt strongly about this issue as he addresses it several times the Proverbs.

       Proverbs 6:10-11: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest--and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

       Proverbs 24:33-34:  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-- and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. More Proverbs of Solomon.

       Continuing now in Proverbs 10, Solomon makes an interesting statement in verse 16.

       Proverbs 10:16: The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment.

       We have probably all known people who are making or did make good money and yet have very little to show for it while we see others make much less money but appear to be doing just find and always able to adequately provide for themselves and their families.  Solomon appears here to be distinguishing between those who judiciously use the money they make and those who squander their income by uncontrolled indiscriminate spending.   

       We have all heard of pro athletes who while making millions during their playing days end up in poverty not long after they retire from the game.  I read an interesting analysis by a NFL agent.  Here is part of what he wrote.

       The cost of vanity: “I tell my friends that if I opened a specialized rim shop serving pro athletes, instead of being an agent, I would be a rich man. The same goes for custom jewelry. Unfortunately, I noticed that many athletes associate wealth with material possession. So they feel like the more they have, the richer they are. I would say 90% of all athletes are getting ripped off on auto and jewelry purchases. I had one client have a watch appraised that he thought was worth over the $20,000 that he paid for it. The appraiser valued it at $1,500. The diamonds he thought he had on the watch weren’t real. I did it to teach him a lesson. The obsession to have the latest and greatest toys, the biggest house, the newest car(s) and most expensive clothes is probably  the number one wealth  for professional athletes. As I always say, “rich people have things, wealthy people have investments”.

       An interesting analysis of why at least some pro athletes end up in poverty.  They simply fail to handle their wealth in a manner that would sustain them in years to come after their retirement from their sport.  We have all heard of people winning the lottery and in a few years they find themselves in debt.  They literally bring punishment upon themselves by mishandling the wealth that was thrust upon them. 

       Next week we will get into the issue of taming the tongue. 

PART TEN