“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent…My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path...” Proverbs 1:10 & 15
The structure of Proverbs Chapter One, after the introduction of 1:1 – 7, sets the tone of the rest of the book: there are two ways, two paths; one path leads downward and the other upward; one way is that of sinners, fools, and the unfaithful, the other way is that of the righteous, the wise, and those who are faithful to Yahweh, to His law, and to others.
Just as Psalm One begins, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” Proverbs begins with (after the introduction) do not consent…do not walk…keep your feet from their path.
Every day we have a baseline choice, either to renew our commitment to the instruction of our Father and to our mother’s teaching (1:8 – 9) or to venture into the way of sinners (those whose way of life is opposed to the righteousness of God). Every day we choose whether to live in the fear of God or in the fear of man. Every day we decide whether we will submit ourselves to the Word of God, the wisdom of God, and the discipline of God; or whether we will surrender ourselves to a world system which is passing away, disappearing into the night.
There is many a son and daughter living with pigs (Luke 15:16) and eating swine’s food, children raised in the house of their Father, children who have forgotten their Father’s teaching and their mother’s instruction. Then there are many who have never known a way of life outside the pig pen. It is important that we know which road we are travelling on – for not all humanity is traveling on the same road, we are not all going the same way – and while there may be common experiences that we all share to one degree or another – there are experiences which we do not share – for one group of humanity is alive and the other is dead.
To ignore the distinction is to ignore Biblical warnings – it is not to make one group look better than another, for the way of the righteous represents those fleeing from the City of Destruction, from the way of death, into a relationship with the God who not only loves them, but who loves all mankind. To ignore the distinction is also to abrogate a witness to the Living God, for if we ignore the distinction we will not live and speak distinctively – and to live and speak distinctively in Christ is to offer hope to others, for we live and speak as those who also know the food of the pigpen and who have found a banqueting table.
There is a temptation to read the description of sinners in Proverbs Chapter One and to think, “That’s not me and it’s never been me.” Not many of us have “laid in wait for blood” or have “ambushed the innocent without cause” or have thought about “swallowing others alive,” or at least that’s what we think. But do we ask, “How have we treated others? Have we treated others as men and women and children created in the image of God? Have we treated others with dignity and respect? Have we used others, and consumed others, and manipulated others?”
“So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; it takes away the life of its possessors,” (Proverbs 1:19). Violence need not be isolated to the body, it can also be perpetrated on the heart and mind and soul. The wounds of the soul are often more lasting than the wounds of the body, the scar tissue of the soul can be more deadening and painful than the scar tissue of the body.
The picture of sinners in Proverbs 1:11 – 19 is the picture of people using people, including the ambushing of others. We have become masters of the ambush in our society for the ambush is when things are not as they appear – an ambush is when the unsuspecting are lured into their own destruction.
The way of business has become the way of the ambush, the way of politics and government the way of the ambush, the way of relationships, all too often, the way of the ambush. We do not say what we mean, we do not act with integrity, we are not truthful, we applaud the “spin” as we applaud an actor or athlete, and in the church our preaching and teaching is often designed not to be clear and precise but rather to make sure people come back, to ensure that they have a great experience. Marketing has gone far beyond any semblance of a focus on products, it now seeks to ambush the consumer by selling images of pleasure, lifestyle, sex, power, and money. A house of mirrors is an ambush – a society of mirrors is bizarre…the bizarre is now normal. When we manipulate we ambush. Are we sure we cannot see ourselves in Proverbs 1:11 – 19?
All of the above is violence, and violence takes away the life of those who practice it, who nurture it, who make it a way of life. The hearts and minds and souls of men, women, and children are assaulted by violence every day in myriad ways in our Western society – and we seek to deaden its pain, it is as if we are a people in hospice, a people in palliative care.
The cure is the fear of the True and Living God – recognizing His holiness and our depravity outside of Him; the cure is Jesus Christ and His righteousness. The way from death to life, from hospice to health, is Jesus Christ. Those who know Him are called to live distinctively in word and deed.
“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you,” 1 Timothy 4:16.
This is not just about us – it is about others. How are we living?