Proverbs 1:8-33 Sermon Warning: Danger Ahead (Rev. Erik Veerman)
Proverbs 1:8-33 - Warning: Danger Ahead
Our sermon text starts with Proverbs 1 verse 8 and goes to the end of the chapter. That is found on page 625 of the pew Bible.
Last week we ventured into the heart of Proverbs. Wisdom. What is wisdom and where do we begin.
As a reminder, there are three components to wisdom – knowledge, righteousness, and discernment. Knowing God and his commands; Reflecting God’s righteousness in your life, and growing in discernment of what is good and true and what is not.
And wisdom begins with fearing the Lord. For Solomon’s original readers, to fear God meant to pursue God and the terms of his covenant promises. It also meant to have a reverent awe of his being and glory and power. For us, that reverence and awe centers on Christ and salvation in him. Because it’s through him that we can fear the Lord in worship. In fact, that phrase “the fear of the Lord” is in the book of Proverbs 21 times. It’s very central to Proverbs. Listen for it in today’s reading.
As we come to God’s word, please stand in reverence of God and his very word.
Reading of Proverbs 1:8-33
In 1994, I spent a couple of weeks at a camp in Sweden. I was with a group ministering to children from the Chernobyl area of Ukraine… This was about 8 years after the Chernobyl nuclear plant melted down. Sadly, because of the radiation exposure each one of them had some form of cancer. Some of them were not expected to live much longer.
The Chernobyl incident was a grave tragedy. The Soviet Union listed only 31 official deaths as a result of the meltdown, but the true number is in the thousands.
The sad part is that it all could have been avoided. The risks and the warnings were ignored or suppressed.
· For one, employees were not properly trained. Because of that, operators overlooked the warnings signs about the reactor’s instability.
· Several safety tests had been postponed several times.
· Then, the night of the meltdown, the automatic shutdown mechanism was deliberately disabled. Add to that, when the reactor core showed signs of heating beyond control, protocols were not followed to shut the reactor down.
· And get this, the scientists knew about several design flaws. They knew the implications of a meltdown. In fact, the main chemists and several engineers expressed grave warnings about a catastrophic accident. Yet the Soviet government and their culture of secrecy suppressed the concerns. The warnings fell on deaf ears.
The result was tragic.
Well, Proverbs 1:8-33 is an urgent warning. It’s saying, “listen to the voice of wisdom.” If you don’t, and instead listen to the voice of evil, your life is at grave risk. Like a nuclear reactor meltdown, there will be a chain reaction that leads to destruction and deadly fallout.
Think about this. Starting in Proverbs 1 verse 8 and going all the way through chapter 9, Solomon presents several life lessons about wisdom. They build on one another as Solomon makes the case to pursue wisdom and to avoid folly and evil. And where does Solomon begin? He begins with a warning. Up front, he wants to make clear the gravity of the situation. If you do not hear me… if you do not listen to the voice of wisdom, you will die.
I know that sounds harsh, but the beautiful thing about this chapter is the loving urgency in which the warning is conveyed. “Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching.” Solomon is lovingly pleading with his son.
Now, before we jump into the details, let’s go back to something we considered a couple of weeks ago. The wisdom of Proverbs is wisdom for all of us. Every single one of us here. But it is especially written to the younger generation.
Children and teenagers here – God has given your parents the primary responsibility of teaching you God’s wisdom. Wisdom from the Word. They’re not the only ones in our church family leading you on your journey of wisdom and faith, but your parents have a special role, and they love you. In this opening verse, verse 8, God is calling you to listen to them.
Sometimes it feels like your parents are weighing you down. That sometimes their teaching and guidance feels unfair or harsh. I know this from experience. But kids, the truth is the opposite! Look at verse 10. When your parents are guiding you in truth and righteousness… Those instructions are (and here’s what it says) “a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” A garland of greens made into a king’s crown symbolized victory over enemies. That was usually reserved for those who fought in the battle. But this crown is for you, in your youth, as you listen to your parents’ wisdom. And the pendant around you neck symbolizes guidance and protection in life.
So, in other words, listening to your parents as they disciple you in God’s wisdom will be a tremendous blessing in your life. Having their wisdom will give you victory over your enemies and give you guidance in life.
But if you do not listen and follow their instruction, the path of your life will be difficult and will risk the grave consequences presented in this chapter.
This chapter is for all of us, but it’s especially for you to hear.
Well, that brings us to the warnings in this chapter.
We’ll consider them in 3 points. First, Beware the Dread of Disaster; second, Avoid the Enticement of Evil, and third, Hear the Warning of Wisdom.
· Let me say those again. Beware the Dread of Disaster – that’s what will result if the warning is not heard. We’re going to start with the end in mind.
· Second, Avoid the Enticement of Evil (that’s the focus of verses 10-19). How evil entices us.
· And third, Hear the Warning of Wisdom (verses 20-32 give us a warning from wisdom, herself).
Now, to be sure, we’re not going to end with these warnings. Yes, they are critical and we’ll spend most of our time on them. But we’re going to end with how we should respond to the warnings. That’s also emphasized here.
But let’s begin with the warnings.
Beware the Dread of Disaster
So first, beware the dread of disaster. Those words, “dread of disaster,” are the last three words of this chapter. You can see them there down at the end of verse 33. You may be thinking, “Why start with the end?” Well, here’s my reasoning. Having the end in mind is going to raise the stakes of the warning. And that’s the point of this chapter. The phrase, “dread of disaster” summarizes the results of ignoring wisdom and getting pulled into evil.
Listen to what happens to those who reject wisdom and instead follow the path of evil.
· Verse 18, They “lie in wait for their own blood,” it says, and they “ambush their own lives.” This is the self-destructive nature of evil.
· Verse 19 talks about how greed for unjust gain, “takes away the life of its possessor.”
· And down in verse 32… they will be “killed,” it says, because they turned away from wisdom. Their own complacency “destroys them” as Solomon warns.
Do you hear the dead of disaster in that? Death, murder, your life taken away and destroyed. We’re talking about the end of the line here. It’s what will ultimately result if you do not listen and instead venture down the path of folly and evil.
And it’s not going to be pretty on the way. Verses 26 and 27 capture that. Wisdom laughs and mocks at the life of the one who ignores her. And look at the words used to describe that life: Calamity, terror, distress, and anguish, all like a storm and whirlwind.
And down in verse 31, they will “eat the fruit of their way.” That’s shorthand for saying their evil ways will result in evil consequences.
None of the results are good. When you reject God’s wisdom, the result is self-destruction. You are setting your life on the path of death.
You see, the stakes cannot be higher. And this is the warning. The path of sin and evil leads to ultimate consequences.
Beware the dread of disaster.
Avoid the Enticement of Evil (v. 10-19)
Ok, let’s go back up to the beginning, because one of the things that these verses do is tell us where it all starts. The question is, where does the path that leads to disaster begin? We’re given the answer back up in verses 10-19. It begins with the enticement of sin and evil. This is the second warning: Avoid the Enticement of Evil. That word enticement is right there in verse 10. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” By the way, that word for sinner is someone whose is caught up in deep sin. We’re all sinners, but this instance is about those who practice evil ways. They make a career out of sin and leading people astray.
Do not be enticed by them.
And Solomon wants to make this warning real – real in the sense of what the call of the sinner sounds like and what to avoid. Because, the thing is, sin and evil are enticing. In our sinful nature, we’re naturally drawn to the lies, empty promises, counterfeit pleasures, and false hopes that they offer.
“Come with us. Look at all of the stuff and things and money out there. It’s all waiting for us to take. Oh, don’t worry about what will happen to those in our way. All the gains outweigh what must be done. We won’t get caught. No, we’ll do this together. We’ll split the spoils. Your life will be changed.”
What is the enticement? Well, in the example that Solmon gives, it’s an appeal to material wealth and an allure to power. We’ll have those precious goods. We’ll be the ones in control. Ultimately, it’s false promises and lies achieved through ill-gotten means. It’s greed for unjust gain, as verse 19 says.
Over the last two year in Los Angeles, there’s been a rash of smash and grab robberies. NPR did a story on this recently. In one incident, 30 people entered a Nordstrom in the middle of the day. Then all at once, they began smashing retail displays, and grabbing as much high-end merchandise that they could, as quick as they could, before fleeing in different directions. It was a flash mob. One of the perpetrators sprayed a security guard with bear spray. They got away with $300,000 in goods in just a few minutes. That was one of a couple of dozen similar robberies. In another incident, a woman fired a handgun at an officer and is now in custody for attempted murder. The LA Times did a story on this. In fact, they interviewed several people who participated in these crimes who were now behind bars. One person said, “That’s how people pay heir rent, pay their car loans. Going to the mall, stealing clothes, that’s how people have money.” Another person said, “[people] don’t have things and they want things.” Many of them are enticed by what are called smash and grab gangs who coordinate the attacks. They get a cut of the merchandise without taking the risk, and then, if they are feeling the heat, they sell you out to save themselves.
Perhaps you’re not enticed by that example. But what about insider trading, or stealing software or violating copywrite license, or financial fraud, petty theft, tax evasion, stealing legal drugs… or cheating on exams, or school groups that bully other kids.
Whatever the enticement, it starts small but escalates quickly. Sin and evil draw us in incrementally. We’re lied to or we lie to ourselves… and the consequences are downplayed. Each step takes you down the path further and further away from wisdom and closer and closer to disaster.
And Solomon pleads with us here. Verse 15 “Do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their path… their feet run to evil and they make haste to shed blood.” As we already considered, the path of greed for unjust gain takes away your life.
Avoid the enticement of evil.
Hear the Warning of Wisdom
That brings us to the third warning. The call to hear the warning of wisdom. The previous verses provided a concrete example of sin and evil in the form of a gang or mob. These verses, 20-32, broaden the warning and describe the downward spiral of sin when wisdom is ignored.
Wisdom in these verses is personified. She’s crying out in the streets and market and at the city gate. In other words, wisdom is calling to those going about their business. The reference to city gates in verse 21 is particular because that is where the leaders and the elders of the city would meet to discuss matters of concern. So, the cry of wisdom is to the entire city. Every single one of us.
And she begins with this question, “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?” The English word “simple” doesn’t really capture the Hebrew understanding. It does mean “simple” but in the sense of ignorant. Some translations use the word gullible. It’s a person who does not care about seeking wisdom, or does know to seek wisdom, or has no discernment. That’s very different than the word “scoffer” in the question that follows. Scoffers are intentional in their mockery of wisdom. And then next, there’s the fool, who, as it says, “hates knowledge.” A fool says, “I’ll do what I want and believe what I want.”
There’s a progression from being simple in this sense, to a scoffer, to a fool. It goes from being ignorant of the consequences, to continuing down the path despite the consequences, to being utterly defiant of the consequences. And there’s something they all share. They all ignore the call of wisdom. That’s all over the place in these verses.
· Verse 24. “You refused to listen” …and right after that, “no one has heeded”
· Verse 25. “You have ignored my counsel” and “would have none of my reproof”
· It gets worse down in verse 29. “They hated knowledge” and “did not choose to fear the Lord”
· And finally verse 30, the worst of all – “they despised all my reproof”
Do you hear how their rejection of wisdom escalates. It goes from ignoring counsel, to refusing to listen, to hatred of knowledge and truth, to despising wisdom. To summarize, the downward spiral of ignoring wisdom leads to a downward spiral of consequences.
And wisdom responds. Verse 28. “They will call on me, but I will not listen. They will seek me diligently, but will not find me.”
Some of you will be familiar with the critically acclaimed show Breaking Bad. It came out about 15 years ago and ran for a few years.
It’s a drama about a high school chemistry teacher, Walter White. He was diagnosed with cancer. To pay for his medical bills, he naively gets wrapped up into the Methamphetamine industry. And, of course, doesn’t tell his family. The meth he makes is the purest ever. While it pays for his cancer treatments, it starts him down the Proverbs 1 path to destruction. He initially gets tangled up in local drug wars, then the cartel, then a relational war with his own family. There’s a trail of death, deceit, and destroyed relationship. Though he occasionally wants to escape and leave it all behind, the tangled web of lies and moral failures and murder have trapped him. The damage had been done. The meltdown reached the point of no return.
Like verses 26 and 27, wisdom turned on him - laughing at his calamity and distress and anguish. Ultimately, the dread of disaster fell on him. And it all began with a good motive to provide for his family with all of his medical bills, but he made terrible decision on how to do that. It destroyed them all.
Let me say, I am not endorsing the show. We watched it through a content filtering service because of the level of language and violence. But Breaking Bad, as the title indicates, captures the sad progression of rejecting wisdom.
Let me also say, it’s never too late to get out. You may have heavy consequences to deal with but don’t let that stop you from hearing wisdom.
Wisdom is crying out to you. Will you hear her warning?
Beware the Dread of Disaster, Avoid the Enticement of Evil, and Hear the Warning of Wisdom
I imagine by now you’re feeling the weight of the warnings. I think that’s the point of Solomon’s intense language. But notice how this ends. Verse 33. “but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” Did you notice? There are only two outcomes in this chapter. Almost the entire chapter has focused on tragedy of destruction for those who reject wisdom. But Solmon ends with the promise of security for those who listen.
The warnings in this chapter are a wake-up call to listen. But think about this, what is required for you to listen to this wisdom?
Well, hearing and responding requires trust and belief. You see, this is a matter of faith. God is saying through Solmon, “Listen to me. Hear my words of wisdom. Believe them and live, reject them and die.”
And the test of whether you believe this wisdom is whether you turn from your sin and to the wisdom of God. I skipped over verse 23. That’s because I wanted to come back to it now. It captures the key element of listening to wisdom. Look at it. verse 23. It begins, “if you turn at my reproof.” That idea of turning is the heart of repentance. It’s turning from what wisdom has warned against – from ignoring and refusing to listen and turning to wisdom. Wisdom calls you to turn away from the sinner, away from evil, away from your sin, and turn to God. You cannot come to God and his wisdom without turning away from the ways you ignore or reject his wisdom.
This message is the message of faith in Christ. We’ve already talked about how Christ and the cross is the wisdom of God. We’ve already talked about how through Christ we can rightly fear the Lord, by worshiping him in our lives. That’s where wisdom begins. And these verses direct us to faith in God by hearing and trusting in him and repenting from all the ways we have rejected his wisdom. It’s faith that is fulfilled in the person of Jesus and salvation in him. The call to hear and respond to wisdom is a call to faith and repentance in Christ.
What I’m saying is that the warnings of rejecting wisdom and the tragic result of death and destruction is only overcome one way. It’s turning to the one who is wisdom. Who is wisdom personified. That is Jesus. There’s no middle ground. If you’re here today and you haven’t turned your life from the folly of sin to him and his wisdom, then he’s calling you.
And when you do, you will receive a great reward. Let me read verse 23 again. “If you turn at my reproof,” says wisdom, “behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.” When you turn away from your sin, evil, folly, scoffing, wisdom will be given to you. You’ll have the spirit of wisdom. You’ll notice that the word “spirit” is lowercase. That’s because wisdom is speaking. But when we understand that the wisdom of Proverbs is ultimately God’s wisdom, that lowercase “s” becomes a capital “S.” In other words, when you hear the call of God’s wisdom and you turn to him by faith, God will pour out his Spirit on you. Your new faith in Christ will result in God giving you the Spirit of truth and wisdom, the Holy Spirit. You will have an intimate relationship with Wisdom himself.
Let me say that in a slightly different way. This whole section of Proverbs 1 is a call to believe in God and his wisdom. Belief in God is hearing, trusting, and turning. It’s hearing the call of God’s wisdom, turning away from rejecting his wisdom, and trusting in his wisdom by faith in Christ.
Let me very briefly summarize as we close.
Hear the wisdom of God. When you do, it will be for you a blessed crown of victory and a pendant of God’s grace. But be warned, if sin and sinners entice you and if you reject the wisdom of God in Christ, the path will lead you through anguish and distress to disaster.
But when you hear the wisdom of God in Christ, and turn to him by faith, he will give you his Spirit and you will rest secure forever. May we each hear the warning and turn to him.