************ Sermon on Proverbs 1:8-19 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 5, 2016
"Enticed to do Violence"
"Is Google Making Us Dumb?" That's the title of an article I came across this past week. The author could have added Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to his title too. The problem with these sites is that they reduce life to an endless stream of information. They reduce life to a 20 second factoid. They encourage an already short attention span. They suck up an unbelievable amount of time. My biggest problem, though, is that none of them give us a basis for life and living.
We need Jesus. We need Jesus to rescue us from the mindset delivered to us by Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, and the 500 other main social media sites. We need Jesus to rescue us from our information overload. We need Jesus to counsel us with a new (and yet ancient) wisdom that comes from Him. Then we can live. That is what is at stake in Proverbs -- our living for Jesus. In this book, Christ speaks to us for our living calmly, patiently, lovingly, and seriously.
What I am saying is that Proverbs works only when we deliberately slow down and listen and think and pray. For many years Billy Graham read one chapter of the book of Proverbs every day in order each month. Probably each one of us should do something similar. It is time to get off the information highway, pick up the Bible, and go deep.
Two voices are speaking in our Bible passage: wisdom is speaking as a loving father; and fools are speaking too. We hear the two voices raising three points: the offer of wisdom, the warning of wisdom, and the promise of wisdom.
I The Offer of Wisdom
A We start with the offer of wisdom in verse 8. We hear God speaking to us through a father advising his son:
(Prov 1:8) Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching.Every dad needs to have this kind of talk with his son during the critical teen years. And, every mom needs to have this kind of talk with her daughter during the teen years. Dad is looking his boy straight in the eye and saying, "Son, here’s the kind of world you’re going to be living in every day of your life. Here’s what you can expect. And here is what you have to do about it."
This is a wise dad. He is not shielding his boy from the real world. He is telling him about it in advance, but in a way that will help his son. Nor is he being all negative.
B We are in a family, too, in the church. That kind of family is worth a lot today. Many today are under-parented. But God our Father loves us by putting us inside His family, where we have father-figures, and spiritual-mothers, so all of us can grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Think, for a moment, how this all comes to expression in our church. We appoint district elders to look over every home. We have GEMS and Cadet counselors, youth leaders, Sunday School and Catechism teachers. All of these are encouraged to say with Proverbs, "Listen, my son, my daughter, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching ..." Our goal is wisdom for living. Wisdom for living under Jesus.
C Parents and grandparents who live for Jesus need to be willing to give straightforward advice to the young. Same goes for the father-figures and spiritual-mothers in the church. They need to be willing to spend time with the young ones and give them guidance and wisdom. They need to be willing to point out their own successes and failures and pass on to the next generation what they have learned.
On the other hand, children and young people who live for Jesus, need to be willing to listen to those who are older and wiser. They need to recognize that the older and wiser talk the way they do out of love and concern for the young and not because they love the sound of their own voice and want to stop all their fun.
II The Warning of Wisdom
A This brings us to the warning of wisdom as we find it in today's passage:
(Prov 1:10) My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.
I want to note two things here. First, who are the "sinners" Proverbs has in mind. After all, every one of us is a sinner. Even the wise father-figure who is speaking is a sinner. So who are the "sinners" the father is warning against? In mind are habitual, chronic sinners. In mind is the professional criminal. In mind are hard-core bad guys. In mind are those who terrorize and bully. In mind, are those who only look out for number one: narcissistic, self-centered, me first and me only. These are the "sinners" we are being warned against.
Second, this father is not wasting his breath on things that might happen. He is telling his son, "They are out there. You will encounter them. They will try to entice you. When you run into them, this is what you do ..." I wonder if the parents here are having this kind of talk with their sons and daughters. The father-figure in our passage knows what his son will experience, so he warns him: "Do not give in to them."
B Now remember, Proverbs gives us wisdom for living. Wisdom for living with Jesus and under Jesus. It is reality-based counseling. After the introduction we looked at last time, what does Proverbs say to us about wise living? What specific sin are the children of God being warned against? What is the sin that the so-called sinners hold before us? What sin do they entice our youth with?
The answer is most surprising. It says (are you ready for this): refuse violence. Violence is tempting, but it will destroy you. So, resist violence.
We all know violence is a bad thing. But why are we being warned about this? Has anyone ever said to you, for instance, the message of the fool in verses 11 & 12:
(Prov 1:11-12) Come along with us; let's lie in wait for someone's blood, let's waylay some harmless soul; (12) let's swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit ...This kind of sounds like the gangs hanging around the Oval just north of downtown Visalia. Or to put it another way, Proverbs tells us, "Don’t join a gang!" "Do not go along with their violence."
My initial response to what we read in Proverbs today: Really? Is this what a wise father and mother say to their children? Is this what we need to warn our children and grandchildren against? Is this a problem, congregation, we need to be concerned about with our sons and daughters and church members? Do we need to fear violence and gang membership on their part.
After 20 years of ministry here I can truthfully say not a single one of our young people have ever joined a gang. As far as I know, not a single one of our youth have ever laid in wait for someone's blood either.
So, you might be wondering about the father's advice to his son. You might be wondering if this kind of advice is even needed for today. You might wonder who are the fools today who entice others to lie in wait for someone's blood. Let's turn to Hollywood. Hollywood has glorified violence for years. "My son, don't be like Hollywood. Don't glorify violence." Let's also turn to professional sports. Many professional athletes think it is okay to beat their woman and their children. "My son, don't be like professional athletes who think they can mistreat those around them." And, there is an entire mindset out there which says it is okay for Hollywood stars and professional athletes to take advantage of the gullible young women who flock around them. "My son, beware of this mindset."
C I want you to realize that violence is a real problem today -- even in our circles. Let me mention a number of modern ways to shed blood:
-bullies at school ganging up on another kid (usually through social media), tormenting him or her to the point of despair and even suicide
-computer hackers stealing people’s identity and money and life
-politicians neglecting their constituents but taking care of each other (this is why mad people are voting for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders)
-racists treating others as non-persons who don’t count
-neighbors who need bad things to be true of someone else in order to justify their gossip
-a faction splitting a church; it only takes one person to get it going but "if anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him" (1 Cor 3:17)
-physical and sexual abuse
-Islamic terrorists plotting and murdering people to create their own ideal Muslim society
-the murderous modern state -- like China under Mao, Russia under Stalin, Germany under Hitler, Cambodia under Pol Pot, N. Korea under Kim
As I was studying for this sermon, it occurred to me that what I am saying sounds very similar to what the Catechism says about the sixth commandment:
105 Q. What is God's will for you in the sixth commandment? This similarity with Proverbs tells us something about the Catechism. Where the Catechism is not a direct quote from Scripture it expresses the wisdom of the ages. Where the Catechism is not a direct quote from the Bible it gives us proverbs for living.
A. I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor--
not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture,
and certainly not by actual deeds--
and I am not to be party to this in others;
rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.
Violence is the way of our foolish world. It is what the world used on Jesus and it is what the world uses on Christians. But we are not to be like the world. Instead, we are to be like Jesus Who willingly suffered crucifixion and death.
D Verse 13 tells us the goal of the sinners: "we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder." Verse 19 says more about this:
(Prov 1:19) Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it.Did you hear that? The sinners "go after ill-gotten gain." Or, as another translation puts it, they are "greedy for unjust gain." They are greedy for money and wealth and possessions, of course, but there is more. At its core, ill-gotten gain succeeds by stepping on someone else. By taking advantage of a situation. By stabbing someone in the back, even if it is a friend.
This is the voice of the fool. Anybody who makes it easy for us to disobey God certainly isn't a friend. The offer they make may sound exciting, but it can only lead to disaster. How tragic that a group of people would actually find enjoyment in doing evil, and how foolish of them to think their loot would satisfy their desires. They reject the eternal treasures of wisdom (3:14-16; 16:16) for the cheap trinkets of this world, and they lose their souls in the process.
E There is a connection between verse 11 and verse 14. Verse 11: "Come along with us; let's lie in wait for someone's blood, let's waylay some harmless soul." Verse 14: "we will share a common purse." Do you see the connection? "Help us slit his throat, and we’ll take care of you!"
The most recent issue of World Magazine has a story on the Clintons and their Foundation. It appears that in exchange for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton keeping quiet about Boko Haran, their foundation has received millions in donations.How long can this hold together?
You need to realize hardly any group in the world is as blood-thirsty as Boko Haran. "Let's lie in wait for someone's blood ... share a common purse."
God is warning us here. Sure, we all long for community. But this is the kind of community to which we should never want to belong.
Make sure, my brothers and sisters, that you join together with others for the right kind of reasons. Too often, even within the church, people join together for a negative cause. It is one way we nurse our grudges, and it feels good. But whenever we gather around grievance rather than Jesus, that is counterfeit community and black-market relationships. It cannot succeed long-term.
Rather, let’s join together because of the Lord Jesus Christ, our common faith, and our joy in the Lord.
III The Promise of Wisdom
A This brings us to the promise of wisdom. Listen to what verse 9 says: "They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck." What will be a garland and a chain? Proverbs is talking about a godly father's instruction and a godly mother's teaching.
What do those images mean? A garland was a victor’s wreath. In chapter 4 the garland stands in parallel with "a crown of splendor" (Prov 4:9). And, a chain was a pendant worn around one’s neck as a mark of prestige. Think of an Olympic gold medal.
The desire of the father and mother mentioned in verse 8 is that the children obey what they have learned, so that God’s truth will become a lovely ornament to beautify their lives, like a crown on a king or a necklace on a queen. Paul told Christian servants to "make the teaching about God our Savior attractive" (Titus 2:10), which simply means to make the Bible beautiful to others by living a godly life. Peter exhorted Christian wives to win their lost husbands by focusing on the imperishable beauty of Christian character rather than the artificial beauty of man-made glamour (1 Pet 3:3-4).
B So what is our heavenly Father saying to us? He is saying, "If you’ll listen to me, my wisdom will make you attractive." Why are most people not in church on a Sunday morning? Because they do not see churches and Christians as attractive. But God wants us to be attractive. He made us for glory. He gets us there through wisdom. God’s wisdom is beautiful, impressive. He puts a garland on our head and pendants on our neck. The gospel says, "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 13:14). So we take off the rags of sin and violence and we put on the grace and beauty of Jesus. Our Father is offering to put His glory upon us. A big part of the spreading power of the gospel is the wisdom God puts on believers and on their church.
We want the people of our city, as they visit our church, to walk away saying, "What beautiful people." But remember, we do not put that wreath on our heads. God does. God makes us beautiful. Wisdom will beautify you. That's the message here.
The wisdom of Proverbs started out historically for the training of leaders in ancient Israel. It was written by kings and others in the royal court for young men in their teens and twenties whose future was bright with nobility.
That's what we are in Christ: we are royal sons and daughters. If you follow the wisdom of Proverbs you are beautiful sons and daughters of King Jesus.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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