************ TASC Sermon on Proverbs 1:8-19 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on June 27, 2016

Proverbs 1:8-19
"Enticed to do Violence"
TASC Talk 2

I want to tell you about Louie. Louie works for the public school district. Louie has a dangerous job; his job is as dangerous as that of any policeman. He is a truancy officer. His job is to track down students who don't attend school. Guess what he has discovered? Most of the kids don't attend school because they are too scared to attend school. Any idea why? Because of gangs. They either made a mistake and joined a gang and now are in hiding. Or, they have done something that put them in the crosshairs of a gang.

Louie sits with the kids. A lot of them start crying. If they ask, he prays with them. He tells them there is hope and, if they ask, he tells them about Jesus and the church. The kids cannot go back to school so sometimes Louie arranges for them to go to a different school or a different school district. If that is not possible, he serves as a go-between for the student and the teacher. He brings assignments and books to the student and finished work back to the teacher.

The gangs know who Louie is and what he does. So he needs to find the students without a gang member following him. Louie has been threatened more than once so he makes sure he works out at the gym because gangs only respect force. He also has an unlisted phone number and no listed address -- even in our church directory.

You might wonder how dangerous is a gang and gang membership. In our first month in Visalia, almost 20 years ago, 6 people were murdered. An Asian gang member was knifed at Jack In The Box by a Mexican gang. The leader of the Asian gang returned the following night and sprayed bullets everywhere; two people were killed and a couple were wounded. They followed the ambulance to the hospital and tried to kill the wounded ones in the Emergency Room. Since that time, whenever a wounded gang member is brought to the hospital, the whole hospital is put on lockdown. I've been stuck inside more than once. The police were given a tip and raided the house were the Asian gang members were hiding. Bullets flew everywhere. Two gang members were killed, a police officer was killed, and the leader was captured. His mama came on TV and told us her boy was a good boy.

You might wonder what all of this has to do with our reading from Proverbs. Well, let's find out.

I The Warning of Wisdom
A I want to direct you attention to the warning that we hear in verse 10:
(Prov 1:10) My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.
This is wisdom from a father to his son and a mother to her daughter. Now remember, this is 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." Keep away from the kind of people that Louie tells me about.

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 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.

I talked to Louie about this. He said something very wise. He said, "Tell our kids to avoid a gang mentality."

What is a gang mentality? It is a mentality that glorifies violence and devalues life. We see this mentality in Hollywood. Hollywood has glorified violence for years. "My son, don't be like Hollywood. Don't glorify violence." We also see this mentality in 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."

B I want you to realize that violence, a gang mentality, is a real problem today -- even in our circles. Let me mention a number of modern ways to shed blood:
-do you kids play video games; what do you think Proverbs would says about the bloody war games so many youth play
-bullies at school ganging up on another kid (usually through social media), tormenting him or her to the point of despair and even suicide
-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
-date rape
-physical and sexual abuse

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.

C The words of verses 11 & 12 are the words 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.

II 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.

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.

When people meet you and see you, we want them 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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