June 11, 2015.
Daily Reading: Proverbs 5-6.
Background: Proverbs 4.
Concepts and Connections.
Warning against adultery: It is very interesting that one of Solomon’s main concerns, at least at the beginning of this book, is to warn his sons against adultery. Perhaps he had learned from his father, as it was an affair that began his mother and father’s relationship (see II Samuel 11-12); or perhaps his wisdom that was given from above lead him to see the true ugliness of adultery, even in the grander sense of the terrible sin of spiritual adultery that the children of Israel struggled so heavily with. Regardless, Solomon spends a substantial amount of time dealing with adultery and thus we should pay close attention to what he has to say here. It is true that we desire most what we can’t have, and that is the trap that is laid with the forbidden woman. Solomon warns against the seduction that can accompany evil, making what is wrong look so good, yet in the end it is certainly bitter. Notice the advise to stay far from the forbidden woman, not even going near her, as we will likely fail. Man cannot keep fire close to his chest without being burned. This is a good principle to apply to all sin, as we should not be trying to be as close to the line as possible without stepping over. We will inevitably fall over if we do that. Rather, let us actively avoid what is not right and seen to distance ourselves from sin. Instead of going into the forbidden woman, Solomon tells his sons to rather “drink water from your own cistern,” or in other words, to enjoy the pleasure of your own marriage, as that is one of the purposes for marriage. Notice the emphasis to get joy and pleasure from one’s own marriage, being intoxicated with the love of the wife of one’s youth. It is the fool and the one who lacks discipline that is lead astray by adultery.
1. The layout of the proverbs: Though the book of proverbs is split up into chapters and verses, much of the wisdom is in proverbs that are a lot shorter in nature, consisting from one to six verses typically. Thus, there is a lot said in a few lines, and one set of verses can vary widely in topic from the set that is juxtaposed to them, though in the same chapter. That being said, it is better to read through the book of proverbs more slowly than other books, taking less chapters at a time, in order to better soak up everything that is being said. Take time to read over sets of verses two or three times, and consider what each set is saying. There can be a multitude of wisdom nestled in a single verse.
2. Humbling ourselves: Verses 1-5 deal with humbling ourselves before others when we are found to be in the wrong. Many times when we are wrong about something, our instinct is to get defensive and cover up our mistake or inadequacy. Instead of asking for forgiveness, we act like nothing is wrong, or even that someone else beside ourself is actually the one who is wrong. This proverb is a warning against this denial and stubbornness, advising us rather to go to the person that we have wronged or mistreated and ask for mercy, that we might save ourselves from adversity.
3. Hard work: Verses 6-11 talk about the virtue of hard work, calling in the at as an example of how we should approach our labor here on the earth. We are advised to be active, not lazy or sluggish, in order to avoid poverty coming on us unexpectedly as a result of our procrastination and lack of hard work. This is principle is reiterated by Paul in several of his letters (see II Thessalonians 3:10-12, I Thessalonians 4:11-12, I Timothy 5:8, II Timothy 2:6 and Colossians 3:23).
4. The worthlessness of wickedness: Verses 12-15 deal with the wicked man, exposing the worthlessness of evil. Because his heard desires evil and he continually sows discord, calamity is sure to fall upon him. We are warned against this wickedness so that we might avoid the utter demise at its end.
5. Seven things the Lord hates: Verses 16-19 are perhaps the closest you can get to seven “cardinal” sins listed in scripture (though these are not the seven cardinal sins for which the phrase was coined). In short, they are: pride, lying, murder, evil intent/scheming, an aptitude towards wickedness, a false witness and gossip (or sowing discord). If we were to list the worst sins that one could commit, we would perhaps list the “big” sins of murder and perhaps a heart with an evil intent, but those that we might consider to be “lesser” sins such as lying, gossip and pride would probably not make our list. Yet these are seven things that the Lord hates. Do not take that phrase lightly. Each of these sins has the potential to be devastating, especially in community. We should take special note of them and actively fight against the urges to do each, always monitoring ourselves to see if we have slipped into any.
6. More warning against adultery: For the remainder of the chapter, once again Solomon turns his attention towards the sin of adultery, practically begging his sons to listen to the words of their father and mother in avoiding the forbidden woman. Man cannot get close to her without being burned. Notice the difference that is drawn between the sin of adultery and other sin. There is a case made for the thief that steals for the sake of his hunger, as he will not receive the penalty of death if he is caught, but rather will pay sevenfold. The recompense of adultery is not this way, however, as it hits at a much deeper nerve in man, and the husband of the forbidden woman will not take any gift given by the adulterer in return for his sin. Jealousy is a powerful emotion that is not easily satisfied. The wise man will avoid the situation all together.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Lamentations 1-4.