Proverb 7: A Story of Avoidable Destruction
Hey River Family. My Name is James Smith and Terry asked me speak today. First, Terry is not Sick! He had a preplanned trip to see family and asked if I would stand in today. Terry and I have been working hand-in-hand for many years. For nearly the past 20 years I have sat in this church while Terry and Co. have taught from this pulpit. Week after week I have walked away Loved deeply and compelled to change. Week after week I have been in small groups where we share our lives deeply and are challenged as Rob Noxon said in group just this week, to not let our brothers down.
This week I have the honor of sharing with you the joy of having what I consider to be the best job in the world. I have this unbelievable dual career with being a Therapist at Heritage Family Counseling Services and a teacher at Trinity Academy a private Christian High School. Some people really struggle to understand how I could love a job where day after day I talk with folks about their greatest hurts. My daily world is full of conversations regarding trauma and abuse, anxiety and depression, arguments and affairs, suicidal and crazy thoughts and all of that is before I leave the High school!
The real Joy of my job, is obviously not in all of the wounds, pain and suffering I see, it is in the everyday beauty of being trusted. It is in the work of preventing heart ache when possible and the watching the miraculous work of the Lord as he heals their wounds.healing It is the beauty of having a platform where I can love people in their times of greatest struggle.
A few years ago I had the privilege of training with a class at Trinity called Ministry and Missions. The class spends the whole year preparing and training to live a missional life. A life that seeks relationships that create openings to share about the transformative power of Christ.The capstone of the class is a spring break trip to a foreign country to put into practice all that they have learned. As the day approached excitement grew. Nicaragua was our destination and the students were ready. As I finished up my packing, the day before we left, I went to get my passport, only to find it missing. My anxiety began to grow and the search became more and more frantic. Being male, I searched some places multiple times, believing that I must have looked right past it as I usually do. My bride joined the search, this meant things were serious! For the next 12+ hours we searched. My anger and frustration grew. As the time for our flight quickly approached I let the other leader know that I was not going to make it because my passport had gone missing. I can’t express the amount of frustration I had. I was letting down my team. I was letting myself down. I am also a former Marine, this was completely unacceptable. How could I be so foolish and misplace such an important item. The plane and team eventually left without me. My heart sunk. I just could not understand.
The forecast for all of the week of spring break was mush like this week, RAIN RAIN and more RAIN. I walked out to my big messy shed with my head down, tears of anger and frustration continued to come. Why!?! I sulked, alone in my shed I angrily organized tools and cleaned up a year worth of sloppy failures to put tools back and with every move I was reminded that it was this same lazy lack of effort to put things back where they belong that led me to my current predicament of not having my passport. What a fool I am. Two days went by, dark and rainy. Julie, with a gentle hand took me aside and spoke some truth to me. “I know you are hurting because you are not with the team but you have also been given an unplanned week with your family.”
I was stopped in my tracks realizing how my focus on only failures and all the things I was not able to do, was blinding me to all I was able to do. I was consumed by my past foolishness and doubling down on my failure by cutting myself off from my family.
Oh how this week has reminded me of then. Our team that was supposed to leave today for Peru is now stuck in a rainy Wichita KS, Much as all of you are. In fact, we can’t even meet together for worship. While this may be a direct sign from the Lord that he didn’t want me to preach this week, I am going to trust Him to filter my foolishness out of your ears! The truth is, while we are stuck in Wichita, and unable to meet as a congregation, God’s word in PS 16:5-6, rings true.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
What he has given us is not only enough or sufficient, It is BEAUTIFUL! Our “lot” is abundant. We have not been ripped off.
What happens when the joy of a bountiful land becomes the prison you can’t escape? Do you feel trapped? Isolated and Alone? Do you lose sight of all that you are given where you are at?
I believe that troubles often begin with a focus on all that exists outside our borders rather than what lies within our boundaries.
The Lord has given us a domain with all we need. We will never find comfort and security outside the walls of our given kingdom.
Today we are looking at Proverbs 7. As Terry mentioned 2 weeks ago, this proverb is about adultery. Terry has asked me to give some insight as to how scripture has shown itself to be true in working therapeutically with couples.
Let me start on that road by saying that my longing is not to prepare a long list of pharisaical rules that you must follow in order to do things “right”. Nor is is to stand in condemnation of any of you who have fallen into sexual sin. We cannot “otherize” and pretend like it is someone else who has this issue. If this message finds you in a spot where you are currently or have pursued that sin, lay it down. Get help. You CAN change from here. Our God is a Redeemer and Restorer. He can and will do one of those when you yield to him. Just like he took my foolish actions with my passport and gave me time with my family. He will either give great purpose to your hurt and struggle (redemption) or he will make you like new(restoration).I want to encourage you to “treasure” the careful instructions the Lord lays out.
Listen to His heart as he pursues us.
(The scripture references are from The Message).
Dear friend, do what I tell you; treasure my careful instructions.
Do what I say and you’ll live well.
My teaching is as precious as your eyesight—guard it!
Write it out on the back of your hands;etch it on the chambers of your heart.
Talk to Wisdom as to a sister.
Treat Insight as your companion.
They’ll be with you to fend off the Temptress—that smooth-talking, honey-tongued Seductress.
My efforts in therapy or the classroom are to come alongside just as Christ has come alongside me. As I sit with clients or students, I spend a good amount of time just encouraging them to hear me out as their advocate and find ways to remember what we discuss because the real battle is not being fought during that 1 hour I am with them. It is being fought by them in their daily life. We need to know that we have someone willing to help and walk alongside us. We need to have community.
When people hear about affairs they frequently express shock, but most often they are not surprised by how the affair came about. My clients knew problems were there, they didn’t think it was “that bad”.
Listen to this story.
As I stood at the window of my house looking out through the shutters,
Watching the mindless crowd stroll by,
I spotted a young man without any sense arriving at the corner of the street where she lived,then turning up the path to her house.
It was dusk, the evening coming on,
the darkness thickening into night.
This part has all the makings of a dumb horror movie. As you hear or read this, you should be saying “Don’t do it!”. But just like a campy horror flick when the dumb teenager decides to go out into the woods in the middle of the night to figure out what that weird sound was when a homicidal maniac is on the loose, we make similar foolish choices. Most of those dangerous choices are made thinking that we won’t have a problem. Prior to social media, about 75% of affairs started with a simple meal between 2 friends of the opposite sex. The 2 sit with the intention of just catching a bite to eat and then begin sharing their lives with one another. Encouragement and compassion and understanding, A fondness, another lunch. Shared struggles. A commonness, a dinner, a text, a chance meeting. Matching schedules.
Now that social media has taken over, a couple messages back and forth can serve as the initiating event. In almost all of the affairs I have dealt with, neither party intended to have an affair with their original contact. They just set the stage for sharing life without accountability. The opportunity or “street” where affairs reside was there and it was private like the dark of night. It then catches them by surprise!
Failure in fidelity(faithfulness), has some common origins:
- Complacency- Getting in a rut and not paying attention.
- Thoughtlessness- Not considering the way you are traveling or the people along the way.
- Ignorance- Choosing not to listen to the warnings won’t protect you.
- Invincibility (foolish self-confidence)- All are vulnerable.
- Engaging in known or unknown risky behavior.- Doing things that you know will tempt you.
- TOO- targets of opportunity. The Adulteress is waiting and chooses whomever comes along.
The Proverb continues.
Just then, a woman met him—
she’d been lying in wait for him, dressed to seduce him.
Brazen and brash she was,
restless and roaming, never at home, walking the streets, loitering in the mall, hanging out at every corner in town.
Her attack isn’t subtle and it hit every weakness. Affairs tempt that which we long for the most. Satan lurks and pulls at our heartstrings in areas where we are most hungry. This is why we have to do the wise preventative work of enriching our marriages. Keeping our Spiritual, emotional AND physical intimacy as a top priority. We must not let our relationships get weak lest we provide a fissure for the enemy to creep through. The example of Nehemiah is one of my favorites. I love the whole story, but I want to be like those on the wall of Jerusalem as they rebuild. First, Nehemiah knew that the wall was weak and that they had to rebuild or the city would fall. Then he worked on it. But his enemies came to attack. After warding off the attack he has his workers make an important change.
Nehemiah 4 15-20 (ESV)
When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
We need to take this lesson in Proverbs 7 and fight like the wall builders. See where problems exist (this may take an outsiders view like close friend, pastor or therapist), work to rebuild where the relationship is weak, and be ready to defend your relationship at all times. Additionally, when you are under attack, SOUND THE ALARM!!
The story in Proverbs continues…
She threw her arms around him and kissed him, boldly took his arm and said, “I’ve got all the makings for a feast—today I made my offerings, my vows are all paid, so now I’ve come to find you, hoping to catch sight of your face—and here you are!
I’ve spread fresh, clean sheets on my bed, colorful imported linens.
My bed is aromatic with spices and exotic fragrances.
Come, let’s make love all night, spend the night in ecstatic lovemaking!
My husband’s not home; he’s away on business, and he won’t be back for a month.”
Everything the person wants is there. Listen to all that he is offered!
- She is Passionate with him.
- She is bold and affectionate toward him.
- She is pursuant of him.
- She is excited to see him!
- She is prepared to celebrate.
- She is describing ecstasy.
- She is offering to do this over and over.
- She is promising that they won’t be caught.
Proverbs 7:21-23 (The Message)
Soon she has him eating out of her hand, bewitched by her honeyed speech.
Before you know it, he’s trotting behind her, like a calf led to the butcher shop, Like a stag lured into ambush and then shot with an arrow, Like a bird flying into a net not knowing that its flying life is over.
He is shocked! He is fooled just like we, hunters like to fool deer into walking in front of our blind. We are hoping the Deer walks in and thinks to himself “ wow! Look at all
this corn that comes out of this magic machine every morning at 5 am by this weird ladder next to that tall tree!” Then death comes upon him when the arrow is let loose. What they had is broken and lost wether the hunter finds his buck or not the deer will die. Much like we die inside when we break our vows even when we don’t get caught. I am attempting to echo Provers in saying don’t be foolish! The “corn” is a trap! Don’t get into a corn addiction. Enjoy the bounty that the Lord has provided in your own relationship. Corn addictions are hard to stop once you have started. A quick note about Corn. Corn addictions are addictions to the strongest chemical known to man. It is harder to stop that addiction than to quit Heroin. It is a chemical addiction that takes a great amount of effort and grace to overcome.
Proverbs 7:24-27 (The Message)
So, friends, listen to me, take these words of mine most seriously.
Don’t fool around with a woman like that; don’t even stroll through her neighborhood.
Countless victims come under her spell; she’s the death of many a poor man.
She runs a halfway house to hell,
fits you out with a shroud and a coffin.
Embracing the wisdom of proverbs 7 means…
All of this teaching will need to be kept close to your minds at all times. If we do this, we will choose to open our eyes to risks and not find ourselves stupidly walking into traps.
We will understand that Satan loves to encourage us to misuse what God intended for us to use.
There is real danger of sexuality outside of the marriage covenant that is biological. It is a neuro-chemical that ignites and does not want to stop. This should lead to protection and compassion not condemnation and legalism. This same neuro-chemical that leads us to become so addicted to sexual temptations outside of marriage is what God designed to be used to draw us to one another in marriage. We are just misusing it. We should deeply understand that God has gifted us with this and not let the “fire out of the fireplace.
The fire of this sin hits hard and fast and is overwhelming. It often consumes our life before we call for help.
The lie that we will never get caught. That we can have our cake and eat it too. The lie that consequences will never hit me or they wont hurt like people say they will. Are all just that , LIES. Infidelity, when caught, destroys trust, and often leads to divorce. Even when it is not caught, it destroys intimacy and leaves you feeling vacant.
When you know and believe the truth that, the guaranteed end is unavoidable, this gives us courage to resist. This allows us to reject pridefully going down the road where the adulteress waits to claim her prize. It allows us to run like Joseph from danger.
This does not mean that we are cold and unapproachable. It means we are wise and diligent to protect. We can be loving to others and not foolish. We have to embrace lives of accountability to engage the world well.
Though you may embrace this, remember the calamity of Job.
Wise action and open eyes do not mean you won’t face temptation. It means that you will be well equipped to resist.
It also does not mean that infidelity won’t hurt you. Marriage is a great and beautiful risk. When you say “I do” you agree to live your life with the risk that the other will not honor that covenant. Many a man and woman have sat in my office with the story of living wisely(never perfect but wise) and yet are suffering because of their spouses failures. Proverbs is meant to give you hope and direction, not a promise of a future without hurt. The hope is that you can avoid being the dumb stag, not that your spouse wont be one.
Most of all take this away from today. The message here in Proverbs 7 is one of great love. An Imploring to be holy, keep your covenant and to rest in the love of your Father. When you let Him embrace you and trust in His wisdom, your best future awaits. As you ask for protection for all of those at risk of becoming sick from this virus that has captured the worlds attention, ask God to protect you and your marriage from the evil one who longs to take more than your health. Our God Reigns!