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COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: PART TWENTY-FOUR

SERMON PRESENTED ON 02-11-17

        Last week we discussed Proverbs 22:13 where we saw Solomon discoursing about the lion in the street mentality.  We then discussed Proverbs 22:24-25 where Solomon instructs us to guard against making friends with a hot-tempered man, an issue we discussed in the context of being influenced by those we associate with. 

       In reading through the remainder of Proverbs 22 and most of Proverbs 23, I found these proverbs fairly self explanatory or dealing with issues we have already dealt with in examining earlier proverbs.  As I have noted before, Solomon repeats some proverbs almost verbatim or provides other proverbs that deal with the same issue he dealt with in an earlier proverb.   

       This being said, I have prepared to discuss three different proverbs for today’s sermon. We will see how far we get. I want to begin today by reading a set of sayings at the end Proverbs 23 that address an issue we dealt with on October 8, of last year when we looked at Proverbs 20:1.  In Proverbs 20:1, Solomon speaks of wine being a mocker and beer being a brawler and that whoever is led astray by them is not wise.  In addressing this proverb I briefly discussed how drunkenness is strongly condemned in Scripture but spent a greater amount of time showing that the drinking of alcoholic beverages is not condemned in scripture and in some cases actually encouraged.  In the October sermon, rather than concentrate on Scriptures that condemn drunkenness, I showed from the Scriptures how it is OK to drink alcoholic beverages.   

       In reading through Proverbs 23, I found that Solomon has a great deal more to say about the effects of drunkenness. Since he addresses this issue several times in the Proverbs, it’s apparent this was a major concern of his.  Since drunkenness is a serious problem with many people and the cause of a great deal of pain, suffering and death, this problem should be a serious concern for us as well. So we will begin today by returning to this issue as does Solomon.

       Proverbs 23:29-35:  Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.  Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. "They hit me," you will say, "but I'm not hurt! They beat me, but I don't feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?"

       This set of proverbs pretty much describes the problems, experiences and mentality of those who drink too much.  Those who drink too much will experience woe, sorrow, strife, complaints, bruises and blood shot eyes. Those who drink too much will experience the unsteadiness akin to being tossed by waves on the sea as Solomon alludes too.  Those who drink to the point of drunkenness impair their ability to think straight and consequently place themselves and others at risk for the things Solomon speaks of.      

       We are all familiar with the auto crashes that take place due to drunken driving. Often innocent people are killed and lives are shattered forever because of injury due to drunken driving. In Wisconsin there have been attempts by various legislators to increase the severity of penalties for drunken driving including the penalties for first time offenders. These attempts are often met with resistance from various organizations such as the Tavern league of Wisconsin.

       In 2015, 10,265 people died in the U.S. in alcohol-impaired crashes, up 3.2 percent from the 9,943 who died in alcohol related accidents in 2014.  The 10,265 alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2015 accounted for about one out of three highway deaths (29 percent) on U.S. roads.  There was an alcohol-impaired traffic fatality every 51 minutes in 2015.  There were 28 alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities every day on average in 2015.

      Solomon speaks of incurring needless bruises.  Just think of the multiple thousands of fights that occur because of the influence of alcohol.  Just think of the injuries incurred (Solomon’s bruises) because of the fights that occur due to impaired thought processes related to consumption of two much alcohol.  Just think of the murders that are committed due to mind altering consumption of too much alcohol.  Just think of how many women have been raped by alcohol induced male aggressiveness. 

       Then there are the health problems associated with over consumption of alcohol.  Liver, damage, kidney damage, brain atrophy, diabetes and the list goes on and on. When Solomon writes that alcohol bites like a snake and poisons like a viper, he is probably alluding to the negative effects alcohol in excess can have on the body and the mind.  In the US, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

       In 2012, 3.3 million deaths world wide were attributable to alcohol consumption.  In 2014, the World Health Organization reported that alcohol contributed to more than 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions, most notably, liver cirrhosis, cancers, and injuries. Globally, alcohol misuse is the fifth leading risk factor for premature death and disability among people between the ages of 15 and 49. In the age group 20–39 years, approximately 25 percent of the total deaths are alcohol attributable.

       Back in my college days I belonged to the number one social fraternity on campus at the time and it was customary to have what we called Friday night smokers.  Well, there wasn’t a great deal of smoking going on but the beer flowed quite freely and it was not uncommon for fraters to over imbibe. I am sure my liver took somewhat of a beating during those years.  Fortunately, the liver is the one body organ that can actually regenerate itself and grow new healthy tissue.      

       The fact Solomon writes so extensively about the effects of over consumption of alcohol shows this has been a problem for thousands of years. History shows it has always been a problem.  We have Scriptural examples of alcohol induced misbehavior going back to the time of Noah.  We read in Genesis 9 that after the flood Noah planted a vineyard, apparently used the grapes to make wine and got drunk drinking the wine and ended up lying naked in his tent.  His son Ham saw him naked and apparently some hanky-panky occurred as we see Noah placing a curse upon Ham over this incident. 

       In Genesis 19 we have the incident with Lot and his two daughters.  Lot and his two daughters escaped the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and ended up living in a cave in the mountains.  Here’s what happened.

       Genesis 19: 31-36: One day the older daughter said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man around here to lie with us, as is the custom all over the earth. Let's get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father." That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and lay with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. The next day the older daughter said to the younger, "Last night I lay with my father. Let's get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and lie with him so we can preserve our family line through our father." So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went and lay with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.   So both of Lot's daughters became pregnant by their father. 

       I have to wonder how many millions of pregnancies have occurred because of alcohol induced reduction of inhibitions which lead to sexual activity that may not have occurred if the participants had not over imbibed. 

       As already mentioned, Last October we discussed Proverbs 20:1, where Solomon speaks of wine being a mocker and beer being a brawler and that whoever is led astray by them is not wise.  It is being led astray by the overconsumption of alcoholic beverages that Solomon is concerned with.  The things Solomon speaks of in Proverbs 23 don’t happen when alcohol is consumed in a responsible manner.  Let’s again look at what Solomon says about overconsumption of alcohol.

       Solomon writes that “Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. "They hit me," you will say, "but I'm not hurt! They beat me, but I don't feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?"  This is a description of someone who is .drunk. The thinking is altered, normal inhibitions disappear and you begin to experience strange things and behave in abnormal ways.  We have all seen someone who is drunk swaying back and forth fighting to regain some semblance of stability. Maybe we have been there as well.  Someone who is drunk may not feel pain because the senses have been dulled by alcohol.  Solomon describes this very well when he talks about being hit and not feeling any pain. 

       You normally don't experience the things Solomon talks about when having a glass of wine or a beer or two.  You don’t incur blood shot eyes, woe, sorrow, strife and bruises when having a few drinks with friends at a bar or party.  No, these are all things that happen when we drink too much.  These are all things related to drunkenness.

       For altogether too many people, over consumption of alcohol is a way of life and often leads to full blown alcoholism where craving for alcohol becomes an addiction.  Some of you may remember the movie Days of Wind and Roses staring Jack Lemon and Lee Remic which came out in 1962. This movie was nominated for five Academy Awards. This movie vividly portrays the ravages of alcoholism in superb performances by Lemon and Remic. The movie showed what lengths alcoholics will go to drink and how difficult it is to overcome this problem. This movie ends in a bittersweet fashion as Jacks character is able to stop drinking but his wife in the movie played by Lee Remic is unable to stop. 

       Drunkenness is seen in Scripture as behavior unbecoming to a Christian. In one of Paul’s lists of behaviors that can keep a person out of the kingdom, drunkenness is listed as one of those behaviors.

       Galatians 5:19-21: The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

       1 Corinthians 6:9-10: Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders   nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

       As I covered in detail in my sermon last October, drinking of alcoholic beverages in Scripture is not condemned and is even encouraged.  It’s the misuse of alcohol that is condemned.  Drunkenness is a misuse of alcohol.  As you see in some commercials about not drinking and driving, if you are going to drink, drink responsibly.  That is advice we should all embrace.

Proverbs #2

       Proverbs 24:11-12: Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, "But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?

       Solomon is expressing here a rule of behavior that is emphasized throughout Scriptures.  This rule of behavior is that we are to help others in time of need and if we fail to do this, we place ourselves at risk of being on the wrong side of God. Solomon is teaching that we can’t hide from God our failure to help others in need. God knows our thoughts and intensions.  We can’t get away with saying we knew nothing about a need when we actually did and chose to ignore the need.  God has always required that we help those in need.  We see this principle built into the Covenant God made with ancient Israel.

       Deuteronomy 15:1: There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

       It is virtually a measurement of our love for God and for one another to give of ourselves when a need arises.  Apostle John made this evident in his first letter.      

       1 John 3:17-18: If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

       John is simply saying that if we profess to love God and profess to have God’s love reside within us and fail to help those in need when it is in our power to do so, we are virtually a Christian fraud.  John made it very evident that to love is not a matter of words but a matter of action.  Apostle James spells this out even more clearly.          

       James 2:15-16: Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

       Both James and John are pointing out that it is not enough to just think good thoughts and say nice things to someone in need.  We need to take action whether that be in the form of providing financial resources, material goods or simple our time in helping someone that needs assistance. Jesus made it very clear that providing for the needy is a virtual pathway into the Kingdom and is the expression of Kingdom living.

       We should all be familiar with Matthew 25 where Jesus gives a number of parables pertaining to what the Kingdom is like. He then speaks of His coming in the glory of the Father at which time He separates the sheep from the goats which is a metaphor for the righteous versus the unrighteous.  He then speaks of the sheep being blessed by the Father and He is seen as giving to the sheep their inheritance in the Kingdom. What is instructive is the criterion that is presented for inheriting the Kingdom. 

       Matthew 25: 35-36.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

       Here we see presented the kind of behavior required for inheriting the Kingdom.  Here are the standards of behavior highlighted by Jesus as to what makes for righteousness versus unrighteousness, being a sheep or a goat. Further down in this chapter, Jesus reveals that those who failed to feed the hungry, cloth those in need, look after the sick and visit those in prison, are denied the Kingdom.

       We saw earlier in our discussion of drunkenness that Paul identifies a variety of behaviors that are unacceptable in relation to entering the Kingdom. Paul spoke of sexually immorality, idolatry, adultery, prostitution, homosexual behavior, being a thief, being greedy, a drunkard, a slanderer or a swindler as behavior that is not compatible with inheriting the kingdom of God.  These are all proactive behaviors.  Jesus is identifying reactive behaviors.  How do we react to the needs of others?   Jesus is taking about how we respond to the needs of others.   

       Serving the needs of others should be a major response to the grace God has bestowed on us.  How we behave in this area may be a major factor as to level of reward in the Kingdom.

       In the Proverb under consideration, Solomon instructs that God takes note of how we respond to those in need and responds to us accordingly.  While our salvation is a gift from God and not based on our good works, reward in the Kingdom does appear to be based on good works. 

       Matthew 16:27: For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

       Luke 6:35: But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

       Providing for our enemies is probably one of the more difficult things we are called upon to do.  It goes against the grain of our nature.  Yet it is apparent that God wants us to do just that and if we do our reward for doing so will be great. We are all familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan.  Samaritan’s looked upon Jew’s as their enemies.  Yet, in this story a Samaritan comes to the aid of a Jew and is commended for doing so.  Jesus uses this story to teach love of neighbor even if such neighbor is seen as an enemy.

       Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3, speaks of Christ being the foundation upon which we build.  What he writes is rather instructive as to this matter of rewards.

       1 Corinthians 11:11-15: For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's workIf what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 

       Here Paul appears to be teaching that while salvation is through Christ the foundation, reward is based on how we build on the foundation which is Christ.  One way we build on that foundation is through meeting the needs of others which is the principle expressed in the Proverb under consideration and a principle expressed throughout Scripture.

Proverb #3:

       Proverbs 24:13: Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.

       Proverbs 25:16: If you find honey, eat just enough-- too much of it, and you will vomit.

       It is interesting that Solomon, in the midst of all the various moral/ethical observations and moral/ethical pronouncements about human behavior, he interjects a statement or two about the physical food called honey.  As most of you know, for the past 32 years we have owned and operated a health food store called Milk ‘N Honey.  We didn’t name it that.  We inherited the name from the family from whom we bought the store in 1985.  They took the name from a passage of Scripture found in the OT.

       Exodus 3:8:  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-

       The Promised Land is referred to several dozen times in the OT as a land flowing with milk and honey.  This phrase was used in a metaphoric sense to signify a land that would provide an abundance of food for the Israelites. Honey is also used in Scripture in a metaphoric sense to characterize everything from the attraction of an adulteress woman to characterizing the words that proceed from a wise man.

       As seen in the Proverb under consideration, honey is seen in Scripture as a cherished food commodity.  We find that the manna provided to the Israelites had the taste of honey.  In Matthew we find that John the Baptist lived on locusts and wild honey. It was wild in the sense that it was natural which is what the Greek word rendered “wild” means.  You may ask, is there an unnatural honey?  Isn’t all honey natural?  Well, all honey starts out natural when it is harvested but due to processing it can loose some of its naturalness. 

       Honey is nutritious in that it has a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, a small amount of protein and of course a lot of carbohydrate.  Honey is around 80% sugar, mainly fructose and glucose.  This is why it provides the body with a quick source for energy. 

       Honey comes in a variety of flavors depending on what the bees were feeding on that produced the honey.  If they were feeding on clover pollen, you have honey that has a clover taste to it. If they were feeding on alfalfa, the honey will taste like alfalfa.  There are virtually hundreds of different honeys available.  Some honeys are considered very medicinal which means they have therapeutic value in the treatment of certain heath problems.   One such honey is called manuka honey which is derived from bees that feed off the manuka bush that grows in New Zealand.  This honey appears to have antibacterial properties.

       In view of honeys history as a mainstay of the human diet, we can easily see why Solomon made several comments about its use.  He did caution not to use too much of it.  After all it is around 80% sugar.

PART TWENTY-FIVE