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PROVERBS: AN ADVENTURE IN WISDOM
Proverbs 5:18-19 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer - may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.
I'll wait just a moment for some of you to catch back up with me. The "breasts" stuff may have thrown you off. What's wisdom saying?
Today, we will look at the largest challenge for society - the formation of strong families. Family is the basic building block of any society. Who can count the books written, courses taught, internet information available, or sermons preached on this topic? It's not that the information is not available, yet though drowning in data, strong families are still not readily found.
The wisdom in Proverbs cuts through all the "how to" information and sums up the only way to forge a strong family. Wisdom condenses it down into two absolute necessities. Forget the books, courses, internet information, and sermons and focus on two things: STRONG FAMILIES ARE A RESULT OF STRONG MARRIAGES AND EFFECTIVE PARENTING PRACTICES. That's it! Remove either of those and you will not have a strong family. Let's talk first about STRONG MARRIAGES. Let's read that passage again.
Proverbs 5:18-19 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer - may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever BE CAPTIVATED BY HER LOVE.
Remember Solomon is talking to his son. It's the same for a woman to rejoice in the husband of her youth. The King James' version says "be thou ravished always with her love." The New American Standard says "Be exhilarated always with her love." What's Lady Wisdom saying? Find again the passion you had when you fell in love, when your spouse captivated you, exhilarated you, ravished you. It's still there. Find the thing(s) that provides a mutual sense of exhilaration and enjoy it. It is doing this that will make a life-long marriage and that's the only kind of marriage wisdom understands. Wisdom listens to all of today's rhetoric about irreconcilable difference, no fault divorces, and exchanging spouses every six to eight years. Then wisdom would come back to its original statement. "Be exhilarated/rejoice in the spouse of your youth." When you get married, stay together. Work it out. Find compromises. Get help. Try and try again, but stay together.
Wisdom does not justify adultery in any way or for any reason.
Proverbs 5:20-23 WHY BE CAPTIVATED, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife? For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own GREAT FOLLY.
The question here is to the man, but, again, it can as easily be to the woman. It could easily say, "Why be captivated, my daughter, by a whoremonger?" Those ensnare the person and hold them from God's best. This lack of discipline will destroy the family because of their being seduced by Whore Folly.
Proverbs 6:32-33 Adultery is a brainless act, soul-destroying, self-destructive; Expect a bloody nose, a black eye, and a reputation ruined for good.
That's about as straight forward as it gets. As we can see, wisdom has no room for adultery. Wisdom says to take it off the radar screen in your mind. Make it out of the question. Wisdom says adultery is brainless, places great guilt on the person, is self-destructive, and will probably destroy another family in the wake. Adultery is a lose, lose situation.
Let's listen in as wisdom tells us how adultery plays out. In this case it's a man being seduced by a hot wired woman finding herself a man, but it could as easily be the other way around. Let's listen in.
Proverbs 7:15-19 It's you I was looking for! I came out to find you, and here you are! My bed is spread with colored sheets of finest linen imported from Egypt. I've perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let's drink our fill of love until morning. Let's enjoy each other's caresses, for my husband is not home. He's away on a long trip.
The adulteress, or whoremonger, is looking for someone and goes to find them. The first statement is something like, "I've been looking for you all my life. I've finally found someone who understands me!" Thoughts are planted. Her bed is ready. She gives an enticing invitation and then hits it with the big bomb. "...my husband is not home..." She's promising extended activity. What's a guy to do?
Proverbs 7:21-23 With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. ALL AT ONCE he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, LITTLE KNOWING IT WILL COST HIM HIS LIFE.
The seduced was doing just fine. Probably their home was doing well. They were happy. It was a good family, but ALL AT ONCE things changed. Wisdom says that in one weak moment a person could wreck their marriage, wreck their family, wreck their life, and even lose their life.
I've sat, and probably you have too, with individuals this literally happened to, both husbands and wives. It's heartbreaking and heart wrenching. Nearly every time the words are spoken, "I have messed up. I have wrecked everything because of what I have done." Also, it's, "If I could only turn the clock back, if I could have a 'do over,' I would never do what I did."
Let's reiterate wisdom's emphasis. Strong families come from strong marriages. Nothing undermines a family as does unfaithfulness, but don't point fingers.
1 Corinthians 10:12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.
What's the Bible saying? No one is beyond being tempted. The simplest solution is to avoid the temptation like the plague. Marry carefully. It's for life. Be captivated and exhilarated with your spouse. Find every ounce of exhilaration you can find together. Rejoice in the spouse of your youth.
Pastorally, let me say this. Some may not be experiencing exhilaration, or captivated by your spouse. Perhaps, after years into the marriage, you feel you married the wrong person. Perhaps, you married and remarried, but still not happy. Here is the bottom line of what wisdom and all of scripture says: Adultery is not the answer. It will only add to the disappointments you are already experiencing. When the adultery comes out, and it will, the shock, shame, and guilt is so much worse than you ever predicted. No matter how unhappy you are, adultery is not the answer. Explore other options - counseling, talking, and forgiveness. Lean more deeply into your relationship with God. He will help you. Sometimes a time of separation clears the water and settles the dust. Try every option you can to work it out. Love is there someplace or you would have never married. It captivated you once. It can again. Do all you can, especially if you have children. However, in some situations, divorce happens. But, it's one thing to sit down and tell the children mom and dad did everything possible to make it work. It's a totally different thing to say, "Your mother ran off with another man." "Your father left us for another woman."
Some of you are not liking this lesson at all. You are more uncomfortable than I've made you in a long time. You experienced divorce, or experienced adultery. Please understand. It has to be talked about. If this talk will save one family, keep one person from experiencing the heartache you experienced, isn't it worth it? Let me add this. We serve a God of forgiveness. He created forgiveness and though we fail and mess up life, God forgives and, if we will allow him, will take our worst messes and make life better than imaginable.
Let's talk about the second great challenge of a family: EFFECTIVE PARENTING PRACTICES.
Psalms 127:3 Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.
They are expensive gifts, aren't they? Nonetheless, God gives them to us to "reward" us or "pay us back." I laugh out loud at that because I see God paying back parents for things they did as children by their own children.
Proverbs 23:25 May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!
Children should make their father and mother glad and cause them to rejoice. Our children certainly do. Children are treasures and should be told tens of thousands of times that their parents are crazy about them. Love should be expressed daily. Nearly in every situation, when you find a well adjusted adult, you find that person had at least one parent who loved them abnormally. Every human being, to be normal, needs to be loved by their parents abnormally.
However, wisdom doesn't leave it at love. There is more to effective parenting than loving those little gifts from God and bundles of joy... They each have a streak of something in them that will make the parenting challenge interesting, no exceptions.
Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
There is some idea that children are born good, but then, because of bad parents and bad environment, they turn bad. That verse answers that question. Foolishness is BOUND UP IN THE HEART OF A CHILD. Children are born depraved. Yes, I was born depraved and so were you and so were your children born that way. I know... Your children are different, right? I remember when my daughter Bonnie was born. She was perfect. Surely there was no rebellion or foolishness in her, but fast forward that video only a few years and you find out differently. Frantically, we all ask, "What is a parent to do?"
Proverbs 23:13-14 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
So, tell your child next time, "I'm saving you from hell." I love to sort of shock people with that verse from the trusted King James' Version. I'll soften it a little with the New Living Translation for some of you who have trouble doing this.
Proverbs 23:13 Don't fail to correct your children. They won't die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death.
If you discipline them correctly, the way God intended, it's not abuse. They won't die. I had a woman in our church walk into my study one day saying she felt she was a mean mother because she "beat" her children constantly. I smiled and said, "You are only disciplining them for what you catch them doing." She pondered that and it changed her thinking about disciplining.
We don't have time to go into all the different forms of discipline i.e. spanking, time out, grounding, whatever. Of course, no form of discipline must ever do violence to a child. The point is the parent owes it to the child to find some form of discipline that will drive out rebellion and foolishness from their heart. If the parent allows their child to grow up without accountability, limits, boundaries, consequences, responsibilities, etc disaster will happen. You don't have to wonder if disaster will happen. You and they will go through a living hell and perhaps literal hell awaits the child. That sin streak bound up in the heart of a child will destroy them and lead them to ruin body, soul, and spirit.
Wisdom will listen to all the "politically correct" arguments, but then point to a messed up person and say, "See, I told you so." That's why a parent must pour massive amounts of love into their children but simultaneously pour in massive amounts of discipline to set and enforce limits that shape character and drive out foolishness. Achieving that balance is a challenge. It's called effective parenting. Someone says, "Kids will be kids." You are so right and they will push you as far as they can. "Oh, give them some slack." They will cross the line every time if you give them slack. It's love and limits.
Another part of effective parenting is helping your child find their destiny in life.
Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
There are two layers of understanding here. Impart into your children the correct things about life and when they are older, they will take those lessons and make them a part of their own lives imparting them to your grandchildren. Train them in the things of the Spirit and they will hold on to them. The second layer is to help them find the way he or she should go in life. The first important thing we can give our children is love. The second important thing we can give is discipline and limits. The third important thing we can give them is direction and understanding of the great talents God put into their lives. We need to point out to the child the things in which they are good doing and enjoy doing. Those are their skills and competencies. How much heart break and discouragement could we spare our children if we "train a child in the way he should go"?
Parents, this involves observation, investment of time and money, spending time with your child, talking, and prayer. By doing it, you put wind beneath their wings and they will fly. The last thing you want is to mislead your child.
If you will pour in abnormal love, at the same time pour in biblical discipline to drive out foolishness and help your child discover their God-given talents, there comes a time of payoff. Proverbs 31 talks about the virtuous woman parent, but it also relates to a good father parent. It says...
Proverbs 31:28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed...
A time will come when your children bless you in return, and take it from Judy and me, there is nothing more fulfilling than when your children thank you for the way you loved, disciplined, and trained them.
To experience the family you want, you marry to stay married. You avoid the sin of adultery. You develop and create a strong marriage. Next, you pour abnormal love into your children at the same time you pour in abnormal discipline and train them to find their destiny. Those are the required ingredients for a strong family.
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