Wednesday, 3 September 2014

(247) September 4: Proverbs 5-6 & 1 Corinthians 14:1-20

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read note the key lessons.

To ponder:
The space given in these chapters to warning against adultery stresses its seriousness. Not only is it profoundly destructive to marriage and family life, affecting generations to come, but it also distorts the image of God’s faithful commitment to his people that marriage is intended to picture. As a capital crime in Israel, when the law was properly administered, it could also lead to death. Because the writer is addressing his son, he talks of the adulteress. But the principles apply to both genders.
            The father begins chapter 5 urging his son to listen to his wisdom attentively and have lips that preserve knowledge, no doubt by repeating it and passing it on. He is also warned against the apparent sweetness of the adulteress’s words, that flatter, but that are actually bitter and as destructive as a sword, leading those enticed to the grave (5v1-6). So the son is urged not to even go near her door, lest he give the years of his life to one who is cruel, lose his wealth to strangers, and end his life with a groan and in ruin, regretting how he hated discipline and instruction (5v7-14). Even today, these things can result from falling into adultery. So this is a salutary warning. And it continues with metaphors that urge the hearer to delight in his own wife (cistern) and not share his “streams” with strangers, as God sees and examines his ways, and evil people will be ensnared by their sin when led astray by foolishness (5v15-23).
            It is perhaps the note of folly that leads into chapter 6. It is unclear whether the writer is urging his hearers not to offer money in support of a neighbour. But what he does advise, is that if your commitment ensnares you financially, then you must not sleep until you have persuaded your neighbour to free you from your obligation (6v1-5). We are therefore urged to caution with money we might lend rather than give, and with financial commitments in general. To find yourself indebted and unable to pay can be terrible.
            Wisdom on averting poverty in other ways follows. First, we are to consider and emulate the ant, who has no one commanding them, but has the foresight to work hard in order to store its provisions ready for the winter (6v6-8). So there is wisdom in saving in case of future need. We are also not to be lazy by seeking excessive rest, as that way poverty comes suddenly and destructively like a bandit or armed man (6v9-11).
            Perhaps anticipating that the lazy man will seek money by dishonest means, the writer then speaks of how the deceitful and dissenting scoundrel, who works evil with his secret signals and ways, will face disaster and destruction in the end. And the reason is because of the things God hates: pride, lying, violence, scheming, being quick to do evil, bearing false witness against others, and stirring up dissent (6v16-19). This section of the psalm does not undermine generosity or promote materialism. It does however commend caution with money, hard work, and upright living as the way to avert poverty and disaster (see Eph 4v28, 1 Thess 4v11-12).
            In what follows the son is again reminded to obey his parents’ teaching and keep it with him, because it will guide him, watching over him at night and speaking to him by day (6v20-22). Here we see the normal means by which God guides. It is by the teaching of scripture that we seek out, digest and keep to mind. Even when we don’t have our Bible’s open, as we face everyday decisions, God constantly speaks to us through our knowledge of his word, so that we act in a way that is wise and righteous. Although he could give us direct guidance on such things as the job we take or where we live, he doesn’t promise to. But he does provide insight as to the things to be considered, such as financial risk, and godly motivation. God’s commands in scripture, and perhaps passed to us by godly parents, are like light illuminating our path, and corrections that can lead us not just to long life, but eternal life (6v23).
            In the rest of the chapter the writer turns again to warnings against adultery. His commands can keep us from falling into all forms of sexual immorality, whether by tempting words or simple lust, as well as from the adultery that we have already heard will only burn us (6v23-29). And we should be in no doubt, sleeping with a prostitute reduces one’s dignity to the material gain she seeks in order to buy a loaf of bread; and the adulteress preys upon one’s very life. Moreover, whereas a thief is punished even if his crime is understandable because he is starving, how much more can the adulterer be sure of punishment and everlasting shame for his lack of judgement. 6v34-35 probably refer to the offer of compensation to the woman’s husband when found out, in order to escape the law’s penalty. The point is that the angry husband will not show mercy. Tolerance of adultery in our culture means it rarely results in any punishment or shame, showing just how immoral our culture has become. Nevertheless, without repentance, adultery will receive its due at the judgement, and this more than anything should warn us against it.
Praying it home:       
Praise God for his readiness to warn us against destructive behaviour. Pray that he would keep you from sexual temptation and sin.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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