Bind Them On Your Heart Always
Proverbs 6:20-35 – Proverbs: Wisdom for Life
Second Sunday of Advent – December 9, 2018 (am)
The father’s language is getting increasingly picturesque and colorful as he moves through Lesson 9 of 10. We just read it together, so you can hear that. The essence of his instruction to his son in this Lesson is expressed in the introduction (20-24), so we’ll spend the bulk of our time on those five verses. The clarity of that instruction is improved if we reverse the order of vv.22 and 23 (Fox 229). But I’m just going to mention that at the moment; we won’t read this text in that order until our conclusion. But between now and then we want to walk through this passage toward being instructed and edified by the father’s words here. We see three directional signs along the way.
Cling to Wisdom, It Is Your Guiding Light – 20-24
There is vivid imagery in the father’s introduction. For the first time since 1:8 (Lesson 1), the mother’s teaching is mentioned again (20). It is torah (teaching), the word of God, through the parents. And we shouldn’t hear these as two separate words of instruction. They should be taken together (Fox 228); they function as a unit. And in so doing, their force is magnified. So, my son (20), bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck (21). Again, not really two actions, but one: tie them like a pendant… around your neck, so that they may always be  close to your heart (Fox 228-9) (cf. 3:3). This is a familiar metaphor, isn’t it?
And it’s not always positive. When we tie things up and hang them around someone’s neck we’re blaming them for something that’s not necessarily or fully their fault. But it can also be positive, as here. You tie something around your neck so that it’s always with you, so that you’ll never forget it, so that it becomes part of your identity. Think dog tags on a soldier. They identify him to others if he’s injured or killed. But they also identify himwhile he’s alive. He’s part of a team, one of many. He’s one of his nation’s soldiers. But here the father’s commandment and the mother’s teaching are voluntarily hung around the [son’s] neck;he’s [binding] them on [his] heart. They’re more like a cross necklace that reminds the wearer of her identity. It can even be thought to keep her safe in some notable ways (cf. Fox 229).
Now, here’s where the most vivid imagery begins, as the [father] tells his son the benefits of clinging to his commandment. Son, embrace your mother’s and my teaching(20-21) and it will do you good. It is more than mere guidelines, my son, more than merely a path for your feet to walk. It includes a lamp to light the way (23). And it offers course corrections—reproofs of discipline (23). It calls you to account when you try to ignore it, son! This teaching is like a moral GPS! It [talks to] you! (22) It’ll whisper in your ear (cf. Fox 229-30) every morning as you rise!
That’s how v.22 describes the father’s commandment and the mother’s teaching: 22 When you walk, they will lead you; that may be the most familiar role of the teaching of Scripture in our lives. We’re used to consulting it for guidance and direction. But this goes further: 22 … when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. Wisdom will stay with you like a close friend, protecting you, advising you in difficult circumstances, proving its worth again and again. Just this week I had a situation with a work crew at our home removing some dead trees. One got away from them for a moment and dinged the side of our house. They did a great job regaining control and laying that tree down safely. But I still needed wisdom to handle the situation, and quickly. So, I [asked] God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it [was] given to [me] (Jam.1:5 niv). A simple answer came to mind that was satisfying to all. I paid for their services. And we were all on with our day.
22 When you walk, [wisdom] will lead you; when you lie down, [it] will watch over you; and when you awake, [it] will talk with you. It will [teach] you along your way. 23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, 24 to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.Remember what we learned about the adulteress from that odd-duck passage last week, that text which helped us understand how to hear all this instruction about the allure of the seductive woman to this sexually mature but still youthful son? The woman is real. And to the son she is almost irresistible. But the [father] used last week’s teaching to clue us in to the fact that, as strong as sexual temptation is to a young man, other seductions in this world are equally strong in the lives of others, young and old, male and female—boastful promises, slothful habits, sewing strife (1-19).
[Keeping] your father’s commandment, and [not forsaking] your mother’s teaching (20)… will lead you away from all that. It will watch over you as you sleep (22)—perhaps even filling your dreams with sweeter images and clearer perceptions of guiding principles that seem so much more cloudy in the fog of fully-conscious temptation. Then those principles can talk with you all the more plainly when you are awake (22). They’ll make more sense to you!
Bottom line: cling to wisdom; it is your guiding light. And…
Flee Seduction, It Will Destroy You – 25-33
This is the heart of Lesson 9. It’s all about the seductress. And it seems to distinguish (26) between a prostitute and an adulteress, a married woman who is cheating on her husband. The [father] is not implicitly diminishing the seriousness of prostitution. He’s just clarifying that there is a difference between someone who does what is wrong to put bread on the table, vs. someone who is doing it just for the sport of it. You can see this as he opens this lesson: 25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;26 for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life. This is the activity of witches in Eze.13:17-23, prophetesses, who make use of some sort of magical bracelet to ensnare people, to hunt for souls (Eze.13:18, cf. 20). [This married] woman is not only a murderer; she [wants] to trap and bind the [son’s] life, as the witches in Ezekiel do…. The “precious [life]” is not just an incidental victim of the seductress, it is her “kill,” the profit of her hunt (Fox 232). This is a whole different game than the prostitute plays.
And the [father] doesn’t want his son getting ensnared in it. He wants his son to understand that all evil is not the same. It’s not all of one sort. As you chase the seductress, you can get in deeper and deeper until you’re well over your head. The consequences of self-gratification mushroom as you move from one level of involvement to the next. Even prison inmates talk about this. You can be incarcerated for heinous crimes without unusual retribution, but if you’re in for harming children your life is in grave danger. So here. Look at v.30 People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry. There is a certain amount of sympathy for a needy thief.31 [B]ut if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house. There will still be stiff consequences. However: 32 He who commits adultery lacks sense; he…destroys himself. 33 He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. Look at v.27 [A man can’t] carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned. 28 [He can’t] walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched. Even in this parallelism there is a step-up. In the first line, his clothes are burned. In the second line it’s his feet, his skin. 29 So it is with he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished.
There Is No Escaping Seduction’s Destruction – 34-35
The husband will see to that, this [father] tells his son. 34 For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. 35 He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts. There are seductions in this world out of which you cannot buy your freedom! No ransom is high enough—that’s the word here (compensation). When you’re in the habit of surrendering to different seductions, sooner or later you’re going to seize upon something that matters to someone, and you won’t just be able to get out of it!
If it’s sexual gratification you seek, treating other people as though they belong to you—because that’s what sexual engagement means; that’s what marriage means: your body belongs to another, by covenant agreement, and theirs belongs to you (1Co.7:4)—then sooner or later you’re going to claim as your own someone who belongs to another, someone who means something to someone—a [jealous] husband, a protective [father], a jilted lover from some previous illicit relationship. And it’s going to cost you your life! When I joined the board at our local elementary school in Chicago, that’s the first challenge we had to navigate: replacing a Principal, a husband and father, a professing believer, who got involved with a divorcedsubstitute teacher, and paid for it with his life at the hands of herjealous ex-husband. This warning is real. And even otherwise morally upstanding people can suddenly find themselves in very bad company when they begin to give in to the call of the seductress, to the desire for gratification.
If it’s boastful promises you struggle to control (1-5), obligating yourself to do things beyond your ability or your resources just to look good, sooner or later you’re going to run into someone who won’t let you off the hook, who’s going to hold you to your word, demand payment, and maybe even sue for damages.
If it’s slothful habits that seduce you (6-11), sooner or later you’re going to run into a boss who won’t tolerate lateness. You’re going to find yourself in a place where that bit of knowledge, that skill, that competency you’ve long wanted to develop but never found time for, is going to be just the thing you’re lacking to do the thing you most desire to do. And now that desire is entirely out of reach, unattainable.
If it’s sewing strife that seduces you (12-19), sooner or later you’re going to find yourself in the midst of conflict that spins completely out of control. The consequences are entirely out of your hands and the full weight of them will come crashing down on your own head, magnified by God’s full disapproval (16).
There is just no escaping the destruction we will inherit as we get comfortable surrendering to the seductions of this world.
This is the warning at the heart of Lesson 9. But along with it comes the vivid assurance we’ve already discussed. It comes in the introduction. And those are the words I want you to remember from Lesson 9, now with vv.22 and 23 in reverse order, just for clarity that brings.
20 My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. 21 Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. 23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life. 22 When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you, 24 to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress, and from any and all other seductions.
The wording here reminds us of other teaching about how to handle God’s Word, e.g., Deu.6:6-9 or 11:18-20: Deu.6:6 …these words that I command you… shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them… to your children, [you] shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
It reminds us of the work of God’s Word within us:Psa.119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, guiding me, or v.130 The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple (nkjv)—wisdom.
Still, God’s written Word cannot do this kind of shaping work within us until God’s living Word does its saving work. Ultimately, [keeping the] father’s commandment and [not forsaking the] mother’s teaching doesn’t come just by understanding or even obeying the content of Scripture. It comesby embracing the Savior to Whom all of Scripture points. It comes by receiving Him in faith, trusting Him as our sin-Bearer and as the One who can reconcile us to God, and then write His teaching on [our] hearts (Heb.10:12-18), reprogramming us to trust it. This is the One who said: Joh.8:12 … I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
Are you [walking] in the light of the Father’s Wisdom today,trusting His Son as your Savior and Guide?