Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 23:17-35

 

Most of this chapter of proverbs is self-explanatory – to people who are relatively mature particularly for Christians – people’s whose eyes have been opened by the grace of God. Most mature Christians have no problem understanding what the Holy Spirit is saying. But what about new saints – people who have just spent 20 years in a moderately licentious life-style? What about kids in their mid-teens – who are just now being tempted with adult-type sins? They may not see the dangers of alcohol and sexual immorality. They need to be warned.

I’d like us to engage our imaginations at least for the introduction to this message, and maybe beyond that. Picture King Solomon, laying aside his crown, as he sits with three or four of his oldest sons. Don’t visualize the palace throne room or even in the king’s office with the big fancy desk. This takes place in the family living room with a big fire blazing on the hearth. The setting is casual and friendly, and there is some give and take, even though we only have Solomon’s words recorded. I think it might help us to maintain this picture, if we break apart and rearrange this collection of proverbs.

Solomon begins at a point where he has been many times before.

Verse 22 – “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old. Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice. My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.”

It is a heart-breaking and sad fact, but many kids eventually come to think they are wiser than their parents. They picture themselves growing up in a society which is different from that of Mom and Dad – back when they were teenagers. They think of their parents as forgetful of their past; jealous of their kids and mean-hearted because of that jealousy. But the fact is, as you all know, those parents love their children and fear the dangers which they clearly see and understand. Parents are prone to worry about their children, and praying for them is not enough. From time to time they must speak to them, setting them down, turning off the cell phones, pulling out their ear buds in order to talk to them.

Solomon looked at these sons of his and recognized in them the danger of ENVY.

Verse 17 – “Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long. For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.” Last week we considered the subject of envy in a general sense, but tonight let’s put it in the context of the rest of the chapter, whether it was meant to be that way or not.

Some of the friends of these royal brothers, may have had liberty to “party” every week or every other night. Some of their acquaintances may have gone to dances, to private homes where the parents are gone, and where they had access to liquor. Some of them openly praised the buzz they got from alcohol or drugs. Some of them laughed at these sons of royalty, encouraging them to sneak out of the palace to join them. They may have said to them, “Your father may be king, but you are nothing but slaves. Escape the chains of that palace and have some fun with us Friday.” Perhaps Solomon could sense in his sons a growing envy of the sinful lifestyle of their friends. “They don’t have to go to church; they can wear whatever clothes they want; they can drink and smoke.”

This experienced father replied, “I not only urge you to fear the Lord all the DAY long – but all WEEK long, And there are a great many other things to fear if you follow this siren’s call of jealousy and envy.” And then he began to teach them about some of those other fears.

Fear the dangers of alcohol.

Verse 19 – “Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way. Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” Not only is liquor expensive to buy, but it can rob the drinker of his incentive to work, creating even more poverty. And with that alcohol may come extremes in other areas – like excessive food and wild parties. Liquor to excess is guaranteed to produce poverty.

Verse 29 – “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.” So, “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.”

Do you remember me mentioning the garter snake I caught when I was a kid – I was about ten or so. I decided that it would make a good pet, so I kept it in a 5 gallon bucket, feeding it little frogs. I would carry it around, draping over my shoulder or across my arms in front of my chest. I would use it to scare the girls and to impress my friends. My snake and I got along pretty well for a couple days, probably because the poor thing was stupefied by my affection. But finally it came to its senses and awoke to its true nature; it decided it had enough of me. So it bit me, teaching me that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. And telling me it was an untamed, wild animal. For a while, I enjoyed its color and the way it moved; I liked its little tongue and the way it ate. But “at the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.” I brought upon myself “wounds without cause,” and some rather angry “redness of eyes.” I suppose a ten-year-old might be forgiven for his foolishness, but not a thirty-year-old drinker. He should know that he will be bitten eventually.

I can hear, as Solomon leans towards his sons, uttering the words of verse 34 – “Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.”

“Boys, you may think that those wild rides at Disney World are fun. And someone might tell you that the buzz of wine is just the same, but it is not. When you can’t stand up straight because you are drunk; when it feels like your world is spinning; When you can’t see straight, because you’ve filled yourselves with liquor, you will eventually regret it.”

On any given Saturday night at the ER, of all the people brought in with knife wounds, gun-shot wounds, or simply beaten up, how many have NO alcohol in their blood? Sure, the man who stabbed him was drunk, but very likely so was the victim. And that drunkard, even if he has not been attacked by other drunks, often ends up the next morning sick and feeling abused. It’s called a “hang over,” but that is euphemistically unrealistic. In a relatively short time that man may become so addicted to the wine, and so immune to the hang over, that despite the painfulness of the following day, he says, “I will seek it yet again.”

Sadly, the evil effects of drugs like alcohol and marijuana, reach beyond the immediate.

They reach beyond the impaired ability to drive the car, which brings about accidents and thousands of deaths every year. They go beyond the impairment of rational thought and the resultant loss of productivity and jobs. The results go beyond the damage brought about to the liver, the brain and other parts of the body. One of the problems of drunkenness is that it leads to other sins, compounding the problems with alcohol itself.

Is it coincidental that interspersed between verses exposing and condemning wine and drunkenness we have statements like Verse 27 – “For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit. She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.” Verse 33 – “Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.”

Why are the warnings about wicked women scattered among warnings about alcohol? Isn’t it because some sins open the door to other sins? Where are the sons of Solomon more apt to find a whore or a harlot? At a tavern or the temple? At the place that sells wine or the place that sells groceries? Who is more apt to be caught in the web of a whore? – the clear thinking and clear seeing soul or the one with the bleary eye-sight? Whose eyes are more apt to “behold strange women?” Who is more apt to fall into a deep ditch or a narrow pit – a sober man or someone high on pot?

Should we be surprised to find in this chapter the condemnation of theft or murder? These are not mentioned, but would we be surprised if they were? How often does the murderer have to muster up the courage for his crime with a few stiff drinks first? Doesn’t wine increase the probability of hearts to “utter perverse things” lies or blasphemies?

As Solomon fields a few questions from his boys, and as he expresses some of the things he has learned about wine-abuse, hopefully they are listening. Solomon prays that they will be spared the penalties of alcohol and its related sins. He knows that “the father of the RIGHTEOUS shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a WISE child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.” Abstemious children – kids who abstain from the things of the world bring godly parents great joy. And they bring to themselves a great many blessings as well.