Summary: What difference does it make if you’re wise or not? And what’s so important about being wise? Because if you follow God’s way you will live.
What difference does it make if you’re wise or not? And what’s so important about being wise? Why does God spend so much space in his written word on encouraging us to be wise?
Well today’s passage goes some way in answering those sorts of questions. In fact what we find here is first a warning, in ch 7 then a plea in ch 8, with an explanation of what it is that makes Godly wisdom so valuable.
I was originally thinking of just looking at ch 7 but what I found as I began to prepare was that chs 7&8 go together. They’re what’s called a Janus. Janus was the Roman god of gates and doors, beginnings and endings. He was represented with a double-faced head, looking in opposite directions. And here in chs 7&8 we see the two possible choices of lifestyle represented by two quite different women.
The setting of these first 9 chapters is a father teaching his children how to make their way in the world. He implores them: "keep my words and store up my commandments with you; 2keep my commandments and live, keep my teachings as the apple of your eye; 3bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart." The idea is like us wearing a white wrist band or a pink ribbon, or a red poppy to remind us of the causes that we care about. In this case the things to be worn metaphorically on the fingers, to be written on the heart, are God’s law. Why? Because by following the commandments you will live.
The Danger of an Uncommitted Life
Then he gives them a warning, an object lesson from what he’s observed in everyday life. You’ve probably done this sort of thing yourself, or had it done to you. You see a news report of a child who’s been hurt crossing the road and you say to your children "See how careful you need to be when you cross the road." Here, though the lesson is one for older children. He says "I was looking out the window and I saw among the simple ones a young man without sense..."
Now, when we think of someone being simple we probably think of Simple Simon: someone who’s 1 can short of a six pack; the lights are on but no-one’s home. But that’s not what this means. Here the simple person is someone who’s still undecided, still making up their mind what belief system they’re going to follow. It’s especially used to talk about the young person who’s grown up in the covenant community of Israel but hasn’t yet decided to accept all the beliefs of the community for themselves. They’re open-minded, uncommitted. And the issue for these young people is that because they’re committed to nothing they’re open to anything and are therefore easily misled.
Now can I just say at this point that this is no longer a definition that applies just to young people. In fact I’d suggest it applies to the majority of people in our world today. Because people have no external basis by which to shape their lives they’re open to anything. There are no absolutes, so they flit from one experience to the next. They make moral and ethical judgements without any sound basis other than this seems right or this is what most people think. As we’ll see later they think the increase in our knowledge of the world over the past hundred years or so makes us able to understand everything. And so the scene that the father paints here has a familiar ring to it.
He says he saw this simple young man walking along the street in the evening towards the house of an adulterous woman.
Now I think there’s a double meaning here. Certainly there’s a warning against sexual immorality. This is a woman who plays around when her husband is away. But there’s also the idea of this loose woman representing all that’s opposed to God’s law. There’s a certain lawlessness about her behaviour that epitomises the attitude of those who’d draw us away from obedience to God in lots of areas.
Suddenly a woman appears coming towards the young man as he walks her way. She’s decked out like a prostitute, dressed to kill, or at least to seduce. She’s described as wily. That is her intention is to deceive; to pretend that what they’ll take part in is an act of love, while in fact all she’s doing is indulging her own desire for sensual pleasure while her husband is away. And notice how her description is of someone who could be found anywhere as she wanders around in the dark seeking someone to seduce. It reminds me of the description of Satan, prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.