I was between books Sunday night, so as I was getting ready for bed, I looked deep into the back of my little cabinet and well behind the first row of books, I spotted a volume which I haven’t opened in twenty years. It is called, “Encyclopedia of Men’s Heath.” It was published by Rodale in 1995, and Judy bought it for me shortly after it came out. The opening section gives some general guidelines for good health – eating, sleeping, exercise and avoiding certain lifestyles which we call “sins.” One of those lifestyles is exposed and condemned in our scripture for this evening. After the initial section, the book goes alphabetically through specific problems from acne and Alzheimers to warts and wrinkles. It describes each problem, mentioning causes, prevention and treatment. Perhaps, if the Lord hadn’t so blessed me over the last two decades, I would have found this book earlier. But I am reviewing it now, just to make sure I am still on the right physical path.
Then yesterday, I looked at the first verses of our text – “My son, keep thy father’s commandment and forsake not the law of thy mother.” I was struck with the parallel between that secular health book and God’s spiritual health book. Solomon at this point doesn’t get into a list of the family commandments and laws. It was expected that the royal family – the princes and princesses of the king – already knew these rules.
So what is Solomon’s simple exhortation?
“Keep them” and “forsake them not.” Even though many of things in the first section of the Rodale book, might be new ground for a great many people, I think that most of us wouldn’t be surprised by anything found there. But that doesn’t mean we obey the rules of the book. For example, I read the other day that I should get between 8 and 9 hours of sleep every night. You know that, and I know that, but how many adults actually get that much on a regular basis? I certainly don’t, even on those few occasions when I think I have the opportunity. The book says that I should eat more fruits and vegetables, but I divert my guilt in this area by pointing to the fats which I reasonably succeed in avoiding. The book says, I should drink 8 to 10 8 ounce cups of water every day. Do you drink that much water?
Solomon urges us to “bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.” Simply put that means make God’s will a part of your life. It should not be necessary to run to the rule book to see whether or not we should eat that banana. And we should already know that pride is a cancer and envy is carcinogenic. Children should bind it about their hearts that deceit is a sin which will eventually cause great pain. If they keep doing certain things, their bodies will most likely be overcome with arthritis or diabetes.
Solomon says, “Tie them about thy neck.” There must be two dozen different kinds of machines at the gym, many of which concentrate on specific muscles. I use four or five of them, which are rather general – legs, stomach, and arms. In addition to the machines, I sometimes see people adding their own “degrees of difficulty” to them. I’ve mentioned one man who had a backpack filled with rocks or books, which he wore while using the treadmill. Others put heavy weights on the floor and then bend over and push them back and forth for 30 feet.
As I read Solomon’s words, I thought of one or two who loop straps around their necks, attaching weights to them before going through various contortions – bending and rising. I will assume that it is healthy for them, but I know it wouldn’t be healthy for me. Let’s just say that Solomon’s statement – “Tie them about thy neck.” – suggests health and strength – spiritual health.
What are the results of practicing good health? Isn’t it good health?
When we “keep, forsake not, bind” and “tie” the precepts of God’s Word to our hearts and lives, we will be blessed with Spiritual good health. “When thou goest, it shall lead thee.” The Rodale book says that good exercise is one of the steps to preventing or reducing arthritis. I know that there are different varieties, but this is a pretty good general statement. In other words, spending a hour in the gym may help to keep you going ten hours later. Eating a healthy diet, will make you more healthy even when you are three hours between meals. Having bound the precepts of the Word to your heart, you will find help when that moment of temptation comes upon late in the day when you are tired and weak. “When thou goest, it shall lead thee.”
It will even be there “when thou sleepest.” Isn’t it logical that a good diet is good for your body at 3 a.m. just as much as it is a 3 p.m.? I don’t know about you, but I hardly ever remember my dreams. But I’ll assume that I do dream – Judy sometimes will tell me that I was running or muttering during the night, when I can’t remember a thing. When I do wake up remembering a dream, I say without any pride, because I have no control over them, rarely do I remember any sin in my dreams. I hope you can say the same thing. But what is the likelihood that I would dream sin, if I was constantly filling my waking hours with sin? “Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck… when thou sleepest, they shall keep thee.”
“It shall talk with thee” – verse 22. The commandment of the Father – the Word of God will talk with thee – an interesting consideration. If I might apply it – as we meditate upon the Word it will become ingrained – it will become a part of us. Put more bluntly – it will become habitual, and it will talk with you at the appropriate moment. Athletes spend many hours in the gym with a purpose much different than me. They are not just trying to gain strength, which of course they are trying to do. But they are also training certain muscles to do certain things. Perhaps it is to jump really high or to hit or kick a ball in a certain way. In practicing the laws of their fathers and their coaches, they want those laws to speak to them when they need to jump above the rim or to bend the ball into the net. And sometimes those fathers and coaches get really mean and in the face of their sons and daughters. The purpose is that “the reproofs of instruction” might become their “way of life.” – verse 23.
What will result if we don’t keep the father’s commandment?
Solomon gives one example. As I say, this Rodale book, has about a hundred chapters on subjects starting with acne and ending in warts. Between them are articles on AIDS, ED, herpes, hepatitis, impotence, itch, mid-life crises, and half a dozen other subjects related to verses 24-35 of this chapter. Perhaps all of them can be summarized with verses 27-28. “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?” Out of the dozen medical problems caused by immorality, which would you prefer to have? Syphilis? Gonorrhea? How are you going to explain to your parents or your spouse how you came to have scabies? “Can a man take scabies into his bosom, and his body not become filled with bugs? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?” “Whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.”
And that is before the social and ecclesiastical ramifications begin. ” A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.” Solomon adds, when the woman’s husband finds out what you have done, then what will happen? “For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.”
“My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.” And immorality is just one area of sin from which we need to be protected.