Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sermon: Proverbs 5: 1-23 Wisdom for Life - Relationships

Have you ever been sitting in the house, and out of the corner of your eye, you spot something moving along the skirting board? Or maybe you’re lying in bed and you hear some scraping and scratching, the patter of teeny tiny feet in the attic. When you have a mouse on the loose around the house, then you need to set a trap or two.

Lots of people have different ideas about what the best thing to put in the trap is - peanut butter, Mars bar, chocolate or whatever, you can tell me later what you use - but the idea is the same. There’s something sweet, something nice that attracts the mouse over, but as it enjoys the sweetie, it meets its maker.

Put yourself in the mouse’s shoes for a moment. It smells the tasty treat, it wants to enjoy it, but it actually brings about the death of it. Something nice leads to death. That’s the picture Proverbs paints of adultery. Look at 5:3. ‘For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.’ Do you hear the contrast? Honey lips, sweet with smooth oily words; in the end bitter and sharp. Now it says there the forbidden woman; ladies, this could just as easily be the forbidden man.

We’re still in the early chapters of Proverbs, where Solomon is speaking to his son, passing on wisdom for life. He’s teaching and training his son how to live, what to do and what to not do. Over the course of three chapters Solomon addresses the issue of relationships and adultery, urging his son to stay away from the forbidden woman.

There is wisdom here for us, as we seek to live out God’s way, whether we are married or single. In a day when the crowds flock to read and now watch Fifty Shades of Grey; as TV adverts and programmes push the boundaries; we need to know what God’s wisdom says about relationships.

Here in Proverbs 5-7, it’s clear that God wants faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness. The warnings come from the outset. We’ve already seen the sweet, smooth trap of the forbidden woman’s lips. But to follow her, to pursue her is to follow the path to Sheol, the place of the dead; rather than the path of life (5:5-6). It’s as if there’s a fork in the road, to life or death, like a T junction - you can only go one way. Because of that, Solomon warns his son to stay away from her. Don’t go near her!

Over in chapter 7, we have a worked out example of the dangers of heading over to her. From his window, Solomon watches and sees ‘a young man lacking sense.’ He goes along her road, he’s just passing by when she pounces. It’s as if he is overwhelmed that she wants him, kisses him, speaks to him. She is ready, her bed is ready, her husband is away on a long journey, there’s no danger, you won’t be caught, it’ll be fun, come on ahead... The seductive speech and smooth talk persuades and compels him. The Mars bar is enticing in the trap, but it’s a trap all the same.

Do you see the three pictures used - the ox to the slaughter as he follows her; the stag caught fast until the arrow pierces its liver; the bird in the snare. He doesn’t see what lies ahead. He’s caught up in the moment. And he’s well and truly caught. Chapter 6 (which we didn’t read) portays adultery as carrying fire next to your chest, or walking on hot coals. The danger is there.

Back in chapter 5, Solomon asks ‘Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?’ It’s a question that Solomon would have needed to ask himself. You see, for all his wisdom, for all his understanding, he himself was caught in the same trap. Dale Ralph Davis is an Old Testament lecturer. He called his commentary on 1 Kings ‘The Wisdom and The Folly’. In 1 Kings, we have the record of Solomon’s reign. God asks him what he would like, so Solomon asks for wisdom. He builds the temple, his palace, and everything is great. The Queen of Sheba comes to visit to hear his wisdom. Chapter 10 is the pinnacle, a record of his great wisdom, and prosperity. But the folly begins in 11:1 ‘Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh... He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.’

Even wise Solomon fell into this trap. And Jesus heightens the command - to even look with lust is to commit adultery in the heart. The traps are set all around us. Virtually everywhere we look is a minefield. The papers, the TV, internet, as we walk around. Always before us are the paths to Sheol or to life. As 5:21 tells us, ‘For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.’ Every choice we make, the Lord sees, the Lord knows. Every step we take, towards the trap or away from it, the Lord is aware.

There’s a verse in 2 Timothy 2:22 where Paul warns about dangers, but doesn’t leave it there. He also promotes the better. ‘So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with all those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.’ Run away from the wrong (which Solomon has been telling us), but he also tells us what to pursue.

First, he puts it in picture form: ‘Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well...’ and then he gets to the idea itself: ‘Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.’ Don’t be intoxicated by forbidden ones, be intoxicated by your wife or husband. The Song of Solomon is all about that deep love between husband and wife. There the images of love and the description of beauty is enlarged even more than the ‘lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love’ we find here. As a preacher at a minister’s conference put it one time, why would I want a cheap and nasty Big Mac anywhere else when I can have steak and chips at home?

Now. some of you might be saying, well, that’s ok for those who are married. All of us, at some stage of our lives is single. Some of us end up being single again after marriage. What about us? The warnings remain. The senseless youth is single. But there is still a husband to delight in. The Bible makes it clear that every marriage, even the best, is really only temporary. The vow is ‘till death us do part.’ As Paul teaches in Ephesians, marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and his bride. That is the only marriage in heaven, when we will be joined with him for ever.

In that sense, each of us is called to delight in our husband, to take joy in our relationship with Jesus, and be faithful to him. He came to save us, by living the perfect life, including in his sexual purity, to take away our sins, to divert us from the path to Sheol and set us on the path of life. If the iniquities of the wicked have ensnared us, and the cords of our sin hold us fast; Jesus came to loose our chains, to free us - not for sin, but to live for him.

As Paul writes to the Corinthians - ‘You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.’ Each of us, single or married, belong to God, bought by him. By his grace, let’s be aware of the sweetness of the trap, and steer clear, as we live out his wisdom and walk in his ways.

This sermon was preached at the Wisdom for Life Lent Midweek Series in Aghavea Parish Church on Wednesday 25th February 2015.

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