Keep My Commandments and Live
Proverbs 7:1–27 – Proverbs: Wisdom for Life
Third Sunday of Advent – December 16, 2018 (am)
By this time, we’re very acquainted with the father’s opening words to his son; they’re almost like the introduction to a letter but with either a foreshadowing or a summary statement of the message he wants his son to hear in each Lesson. And we hear the message of this last one most directly in v.2, our title today: 2 keep my commandments and live….
In Lesson 10, the father is pulling out all the stops. He’s telling his son a story that draws him in. It puts him in the place of the young man he sees out in the street as he [looks] out through the blinds from the window of [his] house (6-9). And it lets his son see what happens when someone gives in to seduction before it’s too late and he gives in to it himself. Michael Fox wrote (V.1, P.252): The little drama is lurid and alluring. The audience (which is to say, the male reader who is the assumed audience of the book) is lured into imagining the erotic delights offered the youth in the story: the kisses, the banquet the woman has prepared, her silky plush bedding, the sensual intoxication of a night of sex, passed in deceptive security in the husband’s absence. The reader can surrender to fantasy, enjoy the titillation, relax into the vicarious eroticism, and imagine himself in that bed. Then, when his guard is down, reality slaps him in the face. He learns that the fool, whom the reader has joined in fancy, is actually lurching not to bliss but to butchery, rashly and mindlessly like a dumb animal. 22 All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast 23 till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.
How many a young man has been hypnotized by the smooth words from the adulteress (5) and taken down just as the father describes here? How many of us, young and old, surrender to seduction and are swept in to this swirling sea of self-gratification? We need to hear this! The father’s message comes in three parts.
A Call toward What It Takes to Live 1-5
Use whatever method you need to remember the father’s commandments (1-5). Tie a string around your [finger] (3a). Learn them by heart (3b). But whatever you do, learn to love wisdom like a sister (4a). Be devoted to her like an intimate friend (4b). But don’t miss the imagery here: this same word sister is used five times in Son. for the woman: my sister, my bride (4:9, 10, 12; 5:1), my love (5:2) (Garrett 103). This broadens our appreciation for intimate friend! But it also tunes our ear to a whole collection of echoes of the language and imagery of Son. in this final Lesson, reassuring us that there is a far better way to satisfy the desires that have this young man forfeiting his life here!
But at the moment, what we most need to hear from this opening call is that life—abundant life, not just being alive but entering into all the fullness of life that Pro. talks so much about, just as Jesus will (cf. Joh.10:10), and Paul (cf. 1Ti.6:19)—is found in the arms of wisdom, not in the arms of an adulteress! But this can be really hard to believe at times—even still in our day—and harder yet to imagine! That’s why the father told his son this story (6-23) that all of us still need to hear. And what he describes is a perfect storm.
An Encounter that Captures What We’re Up Against 6-23
6 … [A]t the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, 7 and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, 8 passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house 9 in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. Several things are wrong here. First, this young man (7) is in a very wrong place at a very wrong time. It doesn’t even seem possible that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. But he is described as lacking sense (7). So, even if he does know what he’s doing, it seems like 1) he doesn’t understand all that’s at stake, or 2) he doesn’t care, or, worst of all, 3) he thinks he can control the outcome. And that’s all it takes to get this tragic tale started.
As soon as the woman shows up (10 ff.), any neutral observer knows he’s out of his league. And any vulnerable observer is instantly caught in the story as though he himself is the young man (7) on the street (8) at the time of night and darkness (9). She overpowers him (10-12). Outwardly, she [holds] nothing back and inwardly she gives nothing away (wily of heart, guarded in heart [esv n.3], cf. 4:23 Guard your heart….). She’s literally dressed to kill (Kidner 71). Her first move is shock and awe (cf. Kidner 71): 13 She seizes him and kisses him…. Next, she [flatters] him: he’s the one she is searching for, no other! (13) Third, she suggests a feast from the nondevoted portion of her sacrifices (14), implying also that she is attentive to her religious obligations (Fox 246). Then she fires his imagination, talking about the fluffy comforters (16) and soft aromas (17) of her chamber, and what they will do there until morning (18). Finally, she [reassures] him that her husband is away on a long journey (19-20) (Kidner 72), insinuating safety at the very point that most threatens his life (cf. 6:34-35, a husband’s jealousy is insatiable).
In short, she answers every single objection he could raise before it ever clarifies in his increasingly foggy mind. 21 With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. And all at once he follows her (22). There’s a turning point in this battle against seduction, a sudden surrender where we just give in to whatever is coming. And what comes is destruction, utter destruction, like an ox goes to the slaughter (22).
There’s no other outcome when we surrender to seduction. It always takes us where we never really wanted to go, and keeps us much longer than we ever wanted to stay, and costs you much more than you ever wanted to pay. But when you put yourself in the path of temptation, like this young man did, there’s a point at which, all at once it’s like a different person inside you rises up and responds. You’re like a spectator with no control over what takes place next.
A Repeated Call and Reminder of What Is At Stake 24-27
So, the father’s issues a reminder to all his sons (24), of what is really at stake here: 26 … many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. 27 Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. As written on the Gate of Dante’s hell: All hope abandon, ye who enter in (Inferno C.III L.9).
So, where do we find hope in this battle? For truly there is no one who can steer clear of the snares of every sort of seduction! So, are we all doomed to death under the overpowering persuasion of the adulteress, basted over the fires of hell by her buttery smooth speech? Even if we don’t go out into the street at compromising [times] of night, seduction still pursues us night and day, even in the privacy of our homes through screens that bring her right before our eyes in high definition! There’s no escaping her for anyone with the slightest inclination to look for her, or track where she goes.
And it’s not just sexual temptation. Those who can’t control their buying are relentlessly pursued by marketers who can anticipate our desires through the accumulated choices we’ve previously made online. For a struggling glutton, any food is one click away. Those seeking riches never have to hit a casino. You can play without ever getting up off your couch. How do we defeat such relentless and targeted seduction?
Our only hope is in Christ alone, the Son of God, the power and wisdom of God (1Co.1:24) come in the flesh. That’s why we so anticipate the celebration of His birth during Advent Season, and then long so deeply for His return. He is our only hope! He alone has resisted seduction with uncompromising perfection. He has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin (Heb.4:15 esv). And He did that for our benefit! In fact, 2Co.5: 21 For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that by faith in him we might become the righteousness of God. There is our hope!
But we need help to lay hold of Christ in this battle. We need to Heb.3:13 … exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of [us] may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. We need one another’s help to trust Christ in this battle, to win it. We offer that to you right now. Our Elders and Ministry Staff want to help you win this battle, and toward that end our email addresses are listed on the screen. I would encourage you to send a message right now, even before we pray.