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COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: PART THREE

SERMON PRESENTED ON 12-26-15

       Today will be the third sermon in a series I began around six weeks ago on the book of Proverbs.  In the last sermon in this series, we covered the five “Do Not’s.” of Proverbs 3:27-31 and then discussed Solomon’s instruction relative to the issue of adultery with emphasis on Proverbs 5:3-6.

       Proverbs 5:3-6: For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.

       I discussed how the present infidelity rate in America is around 41% while at the same time the present divorce rate in America for a first marriage is also 41%. We discussed how infidelity is one of the most notable reasons divorce takes place.  Infidelity shatters trust between spouses and destroys the intimacy that sexual union between married couples is meant to achieve.

       Solomon proceeds in chapter five to show the devastating consequences that stream from adulteress relationships. 

       Proverbs 5:7-10: Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man's house.

       Solomon is emphatic here.  He exhorts his sons to listen to him and not turn aside from what he is saying.  You can image Solomon taking his sons by the shoulder and shaking them a little bit as he demands their attention to what he is saying. He is intent upon making them see the importance of what he is about to tell them.  He instructs his sons to not go near the door of an adulteress house.  He instructs his sons to stay clear of such women.  While Solomon’s instruction is to his sons to stay away from an adulteress women, such instruction could just as easily be directed to daughters to stay clear of an adulteress man.  Women are commonly enticed by men to cheat on their husbands and enter into an adulteress relationship. 

       Solomon warns about giving ones strength and years to someone other than your spouse and how an adulteress relationship results in loss of wealth. It often takes a lot of strength sapping work to maintain an adulteress relationship. Both individuals involved in such a relationship have to devise ways of keeping their relationship a secret from their spouse.  Not only do they commit the sin of adultery but they commit the sin of covetousness and lying as well.   

       The sin of covetousness is where it all begins.  A man or a woman covert what isn’t theirs.  They want what is off limits to them.  It is this covetousness that leads to adultery and sometimes even worse sins.  King David is an example of this.

       2 Samuel 11:2-4: One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, "Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.

       Let’s analyze what happened here.  David is walking around on the roof of his palace which must have been in close proximity to another dwelling. It’ either that or David had some sort of optical equipment which allowed him to focus on Bathsheba bathing herself.  At any rate, David essentially became a “Peeping Tom.”  In continuing to watch Bathsheba bathing herself his sexually juices began to flow and he began to sexually covet the woman he was looking at.

       In Proverbs 5, Solomon instructed his sons to maintain a path far from an adulteress woman and to not go near the door of her house.  Now while Bathsheba may not have been an adulteress woman at the moment she was seen bathing by David, you have to wonder why she was bathing in full view of David.  At any rate, David failed to maintain a path far away from her as Solomon instructed his sons.  David failed to avoid going near her door in so much that he continued to gaze at her and allow his desire for her to grow to the point of having her brought to his palace.

       As can be seen, this whole episode began with the sin of covetousness.  What does the commandment say?

       Exodus 20:17: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

       The commandment zero’s in on coveting what your neighbor has and specifically mentions your neighbor’s wife.  While neighbor is used here to denote anyone with whom you may associate, in the case of David, Bathsheba was literally a neighbor.  She apparently lived next door.  The sin of covetousness invariably precedes a number of other sins including that of adultery.

       David knew full well that Bathsheba was married to Uriah the Hittite when he slept with her. The man David had sent to inquire about her told David who she was, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.  What is often overlooked is that David also was married at the time. He actually had several wives.  First Samuel 25 shows David was married to a woman named Ahinoam and another woman named Abigail.  He had also been married to Saul’s daughter Michal but Saul had given Michal to another man when David and Saul had a falling out.  Culturally, things were a bit different back then from what we see in our own society relative to marriage.  Polygamy was common and parental involvement with a daughter’s marriage choices was extensive.  We discussed polygamy in the previous sermon in this series.

       While Bathsheba was as guilty of adultery as was David, in all fairness to Bathsheba, she was summoned by the king of Israel to have sex and when summoned by a king to do something regardless of what that something was, you didn’t general say no without risk of being put to death for disobeying your king.  So Bathsheba and David had sex and Bathsheba became pregnant.  Now the attempted cover-up began.  David initiated a plan to make it look as though Bathsheba became pregnant by her husband Uriah.

       Bathsheba’s husband Uriah was a soldier in Israel’s army and was presently on the battle field.  David sent word to his general Joab to send Uriah to David.  When Uriah arrived, David made small talk with him.  He asked him how Joab was doing, how the soldiers were and how the war was going.  David was apparently trying to make Uriah think he was doing an independent survey as to how things were going within the army ranks and the war. In all probability, David had Uriah believe he had been randomly chosen for this purpose  Now as a reward for his reporting to David, David told Uriah to go down to his house and spend some time with his wife.  David even gave Uriah a gift. But Uriah didn’t feel right about this.  He felt it would be disloyal to his army buddies to be sleeping with his wife while on active duty.  So he slept at the entrance to the palace with other of David’s servants.

       When David was told that Uriah didn’t go home," he asked him why.  Uriah explained that he felt uncomfortable eating, and drinking and having sex with his wife when Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and Joab and the other soldiers were camped in the open fields.  He made it plan to the king that he had no intention of doing this. So now what was David going to do?  He could have ordered Uriah to spend time with his wife, but that might have raised a red flag.

       Well, David tried another ploy.  David had Uriah stay a few more days, wined and dined him, and got him drunk.   Well apparently Uriah didn’t get drunk enough or he got two drunk.  At any rate, he once again slept with David’s servants and didn’t go home to see his wife.

       So now David added to his sins of covetousness and adultery the sin of deceit. He tried to con Uriah into sleeping with his wife in order to pin her pregnancy on Uriah rather than on himself. He also sinned in that he facilitated the drunkenness of Uriah.  But when nothing worked, David took the desperate step of having Uriah killed. He probably though he could then say Uriah must have sneaked off to have sex with his wife and that’s how she became pregnant.  Uriah, of course, would not be around to deny this.

      2 Samuel 11:14-15: In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, "Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die."

       For all good intents and purposes, this was an act of premeditated murder.  David murdered Uriah.  He purposely placed him in harms way to facilitate his death. The account of this event shows that some other of David’s soldiers were also killed in this battle.  As the story goes, Joab would not have normally committed any of his soldiers to this battle because of the dangers involved.  But because David wanted Uriah killed, Joab couldn’t just send Uriah to the battle alone as that would have looked rather fishy. So Joab sacrificed a group of soldiers that accompanied Uriah and this resulted in a number being killed.  So in essence David was not only responsible for the death of Uriah but also for the death of other of his solders, deaths that would not have necessarily occurred if it wasn’t for these men being intentionally placed in a dangerous situation.  There now was collateral damage for which David was responsible.

       To cover up his tracts further, David makes light of the fact Uriah and the other soldiers were killed. When a report comes to him from the battle field showing that his soldiers got to close to the enemy which suggested a lack of judgement on the part of General Joab, David brushes the incident off as a time and chance situation.

       2 Samuel 11:25: David told the messenger, "Say this to Joab: `Don't let this upset you; the sword devours one as well as another. Press the attack against the city and destroy it.' Say this to encourage Joab."

       So here is what we have to this point.  David covets another mans wife and commits adultery with her. The woman becomes pregnant and David tries to cover up the affair by framing Uriah. When that doesn’t work, he has Uriah killed and creates collateral damage when other of his soldiers are unnecessarily killed as well.  Then to save face, he excuses the deaths of Uriah and other of his soldiers as simply the time and chance of battle.

       David had effectively committed five sins; covetousness, adultery, deceit, murder and more deceit.   Isn’t that the way all adulteress relationships are.  It is not just adultery but a number of other sins that are committed as well.  An adulteress relationship always begins with covetousness.  Someone covets the spouse of another person.  Then flirting begins and before long a relationship begins to develop which leads to intimacy and more often than not a sexual relationship. All the while this is happening, there is cover-up taking place. There are lies being told to spouses to account for time away from them.  Sometimes elaborate schemes are developed to arrange for getaways without ones spouse knowing what is going on.

       And yes, sometimes murder takes place.  We are all familiar with the stories of a married man or woman having an adulteress relationship with an unmarried or divorced person where the married person stages a happening where their spouse is killed so now they can be free to marry their lover.  Usually they get found out and end up in prison, the consequences of their adulteress escapade.

       Look what happened to David after it was found out what he had done.  After Uriah was killed, David took Bathsheba for his wife.  However the baby died.  David was ridiculed by his people and he had conflict in his family over this matter throughout his life.  David had to deal with war because of this matter for the duration of his kingship.  

       2 Samuel 12:9-14: Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'  "This is what the LORD says: `Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'" Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD."   Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die."

       It is apparent from this passage that God directly intervened in David’s life to punish him for his sin. In most cases God doesn’t have to intervene to bring about a punishment for the sin of adultery.  Punishment is a natural consequence of most adulteress relationships.  When an adulteress relationship is exposed, divorces usually follow.  Families are broken up and the children often end up in single parent homes or in homes where there are a mix of children from different families which often leads to sibling rivalries.  Then there is the financial impact. Income is lost and standard of living takes a hit.  Alimony and child support payments take a toll on all involved.  All of the above creates great emotional and physical stress which often leads to health problems and the additional consequences associated with such problems.  In short, an adulteress relationship can and most often do lead to nothing but trouble.

       Proverbs 5:8-11: Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man's house. At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent.

       Solomon points out the trouble an adulteress relationship can bring. He compares it to giving your strength to others and having your wealth and toil enrich someone else. This is exactly what happens.  Rather than a man or a women giving of their strength, wealth and toil to strengthen, enrich and grow their own marriage, they end up giving these things to someone else at the expense of their own marriage degenerating.  Adulteress relationships often result in ones strength being spent with the end result being a life full of conflict and trauma. Solomon goes on to say this:

       Proverbs 5:15-20: Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.  Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares?  Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.  May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer-- may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?

       Here Solomon appears to be using metaphor to express the thought that your love and sexuality should be under your control and not shared with those to whom it does not belong. By saying it is not to be shared with strangers, he is saying ones sexuality should be kept within the confines of marriage and not given to those outside the marriage relationship.  Solomon goes on to express how sexual activity should be restricted to ones spouse and not be shared with an adulteress. Solomon then concludes his instruction pertaining to adultery by saying the following:

       Proverbs 5:21-23: For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.

       Solomon concludes his thoughts on the issue of adultery by showing that God is not oblivious to our behavior.  He sees and takes note of how we conduct ourselves. While He may not personally intervene to punish us as He apparently did with David, He really doesn’t have to.  There are natural consequences that result from our behavior.  Good behavior generally produces good consequences whereas bad behavior usually produces bad consequences whether we recognize them as bad or not.

       Unfortunately the bad consequences of adultery and other sexual sins such as fornication are often not recognized as bad.  We humans often fail to put two and two together when it comes to the consequences of our behavior.  When we see our youth engaged in criminal activity and experiencing social development issues we often fail to consider that maybe, just maybe, the divorce of their parents or seeing their parents engaging in sexual sins may have a bearing on their dysfunctional behavior.   We create social and economic hardship on our selves by the choices we make, choices that often involve a lack of discipline over the pulls of the flesh.  

       Within the context of his discussion of the issue of adultery, Solomon says that the evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him.  Wickedness is any behavior that runs contrary to the will of God, any conduct contrary to God’s law.  When David committed the sins of covetousness, adultery, deceit and murder, he was acting wickedly and that wicked behavior ensnared him.  His behavior caused great harm for him and his family.  David did repent of his actions and God did forgive him.  His subjects’ forgiving him was a different matter.

       While God will forgive us when we come to him in repentance for sins committed, God does not necessarily remove the temporal consequences of our sinful behavior.  In forgiving us, God removes the eternal spiritual death penalty not the temporal physical penalty that we may have incurred.  In his mercy God will at times remove a physical penalty as well.

       For example, a person may smoke cigarettes for twenty years and then come down with lung cancer.  Such a person may cry out to God for forgiveness for abusing his body all those years and God may have mercy upon him and heal him of the lung cancer.  Under the Old Covenant one was to be physically put to death for committing adultery and murder.  David was under the Old Covenant but was not put to death because he greatly repented of his sin and God had mercy upon him.  Psalm 51 shows David’s heartfelt repentance and recognition of his failure to obey the will of God.

       Psalm 51:1-3:   Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

       Verse 7-12:  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

       While God did forgive David and allowed him to not be subject to the Old Covenant physical death penalty for adultery and murder, David still had to suffer the consequences of the reaction to his sins from his family, his subjects and the nations surrounding Israel.  In his prayer to God he says his transgressions and sins were always before him.  Yes they were always before him because he had to live with the temporal consequences of his sins for the rest of his physical life.

       God wants us to avoid sin because sin always produces negative consequences. Unfortunately people become so hardened to the consequences of sin that its negative consequences are not recognized as such and people and entire societies become mired in seemingly unsolvable moral, social, governmental, economic, political and even religious problems.  Our own nation is experiencing this phenomenon as I speak.

       Our nation is experiencing a significant decline in ethical behavior; respect for authority, rampant criminality and in general a lack of having a moral compass.  Unless and until we as a nation recognize the behavioral laws of God as binding upon human conduct, our demise as a nation will continue.     

       Apparently the White House referred to Christmas Trees as Holiday Trees for the first time this year which prompted CBS news man, Steven Levy, to respond with a commentary on the CBS show, “Sunday Morning Commentary.”  I will share with you a edited version of what Steven said.

       "I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.

       In light of recent events such as terrorists attacks, school shootings, etc. we need to take a deep look at what is happening to our country.  I think it started when atheist Madeleine Murray O'Hare complained she didn't want prayer in our schools and we said OK and so we eliminated prayer in our schools. Incidentally, Madeleine Murray was murdered a few years ago.  Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. But we said OK we won’t allow Bible reading in schools.

       Then Dr. Steven Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem.  We said an expert should know what he's talking about.  So we said okay to that and made it virtually a crime to spank your child.  Incidentally, Dr. Spock's son committed suicide.

       Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.  Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'

       Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace."

       I thought this was an insightful commentary from a news person.  Many of our national and personal problems are more often than not the result of our failure to recognize cause and effect and the fact that we do reap what we sow.

       Next week we ill continue to discuss the wisdom of Solomon as reveled in the Proverbs.

PART FOUR