Let’s say that the Lord came to you with a test – checking to see if you knew the condition of your soul. What would you answer if He asked, “What is your most common sin – your most troublesome temptation?” I’m not sure, but I think that most saints of God know the answer to that question. But would we pass the Lord’s test, by admitting and confessing to our greatest weakness? Often, people would rather deflect their true guilt to some “lesser sin.” So what is it? Pride? Perhaps deceit. Is it laziness and indolence? What about envy?
If I had to guess I would say that SOLOMON’S most besetting sin involved immorality. Of course I Kings tells us a bit about his family life. I would say that a thousand wives and concubines reveals something about his weakness. But also, based upon the number of references here in Proverbs, immorality appears to be often on his mind.
I picture this book coming from his pen later in his life, after a great deal of polluted water had flowed under the bridge. But he doesn’t speak about himself – all the references are made in regard to his “son.” Why is that? Don’t we all practice some degree of “transference” when we look at other people? We take what we find in our own hearts and transfer that to the next person. Some people believe they are hearing lies, because they themselves often lie, or if they were in that other man’s shoes they would lie. Why do some people always think the worst of others? Transference? Some people automatically accuse others of stealing from them, perhaps because they are kleptomaniacs themselves – but of course their problem is under control. Solomon worried about his children, because he knew his own personal weaknesses. He assumed that his sons would be just like himself. And perhaps that would not be a bad assumption. “Son, protect yourself against the strange woman with the honeycomb lips and smarmy behavior.”
Tell us once again, Solomon. What steps can we take to keep our besetting sins at bay?
“My son, keep my words… Keep my commandments and live.” Who is the primary source of instruction in the early life of a child? Isn’t it mother followed by dad? That three-year-old is going to learn things about life, which should stick with him for the next 80 years. But what tends to happen when some of the neighbor kids laugh at his mother’s morality lessons? Doesn’t he waver just a bit? Some of you home school because you know from personal experience what false teachers can do to impressionable minds. You take steps to protect the early instruction of your children – “keeping” them –“guarding” them. While Solomon doesn’t disagree, he says that at some point it becomes the child’s responsibility to guard those early commandments and words.
Parents often apply this lesson within their families, but when it comes to their church, they go blind. They were taught from the first day of their salvation and subsequent church membership that certain doctrines are true. For years they believe in the virgin birth, eternal security, the imminent return of Christ, a literal seven-year tribulation, along with two dozen other truths. But they don’t protect and keep those doctrines, listening to strangers and reading their books, until they begin to question the instruction they have heard since the days of their spiritual infancy. Solomon says, “keep” my instruction; “build a hedge or fence about it” – don’t permit the wolves to get in among the flock.
“Lay up my commandments with thee.” This Hebrew word is translated “lay up” seven times, but it twice as often expressed as “hide.” I admit that Solomon wouldn’t put it this way, but I think its okay to say, “put it in the bank.” Keeping that doctrine under your mattress or pillow is fine, but it would be better protected in a vault? You’ve been talking to that Presbyterian about the imminent return of the Saviour. It is fine to bring that beautiful truth out and show it to him. But it is not wise open your heart to his allegorical interpretation, giving it serious consideration. Don’t leave any valuable truth out just laying around for someone to come by and steal it. “Son, don’t question creation or look at the theory of evolution in that way – or that beautiful street-walker.”
“Keep my law as the apple of thine eye.” Five times the Bible speaks of “the apple of the eye.” Sometimes the statement relates to us, just as we have it here. And sometimes some person is referred to as the apple of the LORD’S eye. The Lord “found (Israel) in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye” – Deuteronomy 32:10. Psalm 17:8 – David says, Lord, “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.” What an interesting expression. Do you know what it means? The experts tell us that it refers to the dark circle of your eye through which you see. It speaks of the pupil of the eye. The idea is – keep my truth – keep God’s truth – as at the center of your vision. And by its nature, it suggest protection – guard the truth as much as you would your eye-sight itself.
“Bind them upon thy fingers.” What does a ring on the third finger of the left hand tell the world? This person is married. And when a man puts a ring on that finger of his spouse, he tells everyone that this woman is mine. Solomon says, do that same sort of thing with the instructions and doctrines that I have given you. And even further – bind them – tie them down, secure them to your fingers – and to your heart. Perhaps you have never done it, and you might even think it silly… But I have done it; it may be silly; but I guarantee that it works perfectly. A time or two in my childhood, my mother tied a piece of thread or light string to one of my fingers, telling me not to forget to do whatever it was she wanted me to do later in the day. The string on my finger was so unusual, that it was impossible to forget what it was I was to do. “Bind them upon thy fingers.”
“Write them upon the table of thine heart.” Obviously, this would be like writing something important down on a black board. 150 years ago, children sometimes went to school with hand-held slates, upon which they could write. Eventually those slates went away. But aren’t they coming back? Maybe not so much for school, but many people walk around with electronic tablets. They can use a stylus or a finger, to write on that tablet and the computer remembers what has been written – appointments or whatever. The problem with black boards, or the green boards down stairs, the slate and even the electronic tablet is that they can be left behind. Solomon says, write my commandments on the tablet from which you can never be separated – the table of thine heart.
Additionally, were you ever punished by having to write your misdeed a hundred times on a sheet of paper or on the black board? “I will not sass or give back-talk to my mother;” “I will not lie about the dog and how I lost my homework.” “Son, write my instruction a hundred times on the tablet of your heart so that you never forget it.”
Solomon’s last suggestion for self-protection was “the sister argument.” “Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman.” We can choose our friends, and we can “unfriend” them. At least, I hear you can do that on Facebook. But our brothers and sisters will always be brothers and sisters, even if we don’t stay close. Solomon tells us to make his instruction as dear to us as our favorite sister. We assume that his sons were not yet married, or the principle would have been extended to wives. The sons of Jacob destroyed an entire city in which there was one who abused their sister. That is how tenacious and protective we should be with the instruction we have received in our youth – both secular and spiritual instruction. “Don’t lay a hand on my sister, my soteriology, my ecclesiology or my escatology.” But it is not just about punishing the abuser; it is about loving and holding dear that sister of ours.
“Son, it is a dangerous world out there. There are harlots and there are heretics. Protect yourself.”
My son, guard my words, and hide them in the vault of thy heart. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the tablet of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman.