This next “talk” (6:20-35) gives wisdom’s protection from adultery: adhere to God’s Word avoids adultery’s horrors. Your responsibility is to faithfully obey God’s Word (20-21). Verse 21 vividly illustrates verse 20—you secure what you don’t want to lose (“bind, tie”). This isn’t rote memory, it is in the core of your being, essential to life (“heart, neck”). There are three results of faithfully obeying God’s Word describing the protection it gives from immorality’s continual bombardment (22). (1) You will always be shepherded, v. 22a; (2) you will always be protected, v. 22b; (3) you will always be taught, v. 22c. There are definite reasons for faithful obedience (23-24). God’s Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (v. 23; Ps 19:4; 119:105). Do you like walking in dark, dangerous areas? Would you go through a mine field without a detector? Don’t live life like that! You don’t have to be in the dark! Be wise, not foolish! God’s Word shows you where to go and what to avoid. The practical importance of this is seen in verse 24, which tells of a temptation to immorality (“the flattering tongue”) that is interpreted two different ways. The fool is impressed, but the wise are alarmed. This doesn’t happen automatically or naturally. It requires knowing, believing, and being disciplined by God’s Word (20-21; Heb 5:14). Practically fearing the Lord is seen by adhering to God’s Word to avoid adultery’s horrors!
1. What are some things you do that are just boring, mundane, daily chores that you do without thinking? Is that what is meant by vv. 20-21? What’s the difference practically?
2. How are you “tying down” God’s Word in your heart (21)?
3. How can your “grip” on God’s Word be loosened?
4. Do you remember what it means to fear the Lord?
The sixth “talk” teaching the skillful application of God’s Word (“wisdom”) is an exhortation: stay away from bad debt, laziness, and troublemakers (6:1–19). This section (16-19) gives more detail to the wicked person’s portrait from verses 12-15 (same body parts and actions are described). The phrase “six…seven” gives a sampling, not a complete list (16). The proud (16a) don’t give a thought about God and so look down on everyone else; the complete opposite of a Christian outlook (Phil 2:1-8). As a liar (16b, 19a) he doesn’t live or promote truth but changes things around for evil ends. This kind of person has no heart for others but is quickly violent and destructive (17c). There’s no hesitation, he’s quick and enthusiastic to join in mayhem, destruction, and mischief (18b). From “head to toe” the wicked person is totally corrupted by sin. The path of wisdom—practically living out the fear of the Lord—is to love what God loves and hate what he hates. Christ saves sinners to be like him (Rom 8:29). Who you are, what you do, and the kind of people you associate with affects you. Stay away from the wicked!
1. Invest some serious time comparing and contrasting the character and actions of the wicked with the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. What can happen if you willingly put yourself with those who have these characteristics and actions?
3. Are there certain things about this kind of person you appreciate? Enjoy? Get a kick out of? Laugh at? How do your feelings match up with God’s feelings (v. 16)?
4. Evaluate your life and actions by the descriptions in vv. 12-19.
Proverbs gives needed discernment (1:4) what not to be like and who to avoid. The person described in 6:12–15 is “worthless” and “wicked” (12). The Hebrew phrase behind “worthless” is “son of Belial,” or Satan; this kind of person demonstrates Satanic characteristics and conduct (cf. John 8:44; 2 Cor 6:15). Eli’s sons (1 Sam 2:12) and Ahab’s two witnesses against Naboth (1 Kings 21:10) were described this way. This kind of person lives to turn life upside down and corrupt everything. He rejects rules, calling evil good, and good evil. He communicates nothing but trouble to those who are with him and his cause (12b–13). The “heart” (14) is the control center of life, and this person’s control center is characterized by and works out perversity and evil. He’s always arguing, picking a fight, and causing trouble. Though he sounds proud and powerful, his end will be sudden and irreversible (15). The way of wisdom and the fear of the Lord is to stay far away from this kind of person so that you don’t end up like him and with him.
1. The path of wisdom is to love what God loves and hate what God hates.
2. Christian, what did God save you to be like (Rom 8:29)? Do you live that way? Look like that? Love that?
3. Can the people you associate and “hang out” with affect you? Note 1 Cor 15:33.
4. What is this person’s “food”? What was Christ’s “food” (John 4:34)? What is yours? Whose table are you eating at?
5. What will God do to the wicked? What does God command the wicked to do?
A second life-ruin is poverty, and to stay away from that you must avoid bad work habits (6–11). When applied to work, wisdom and the fear of the Lord involves hard work, not laziness and sloth. You should learn how to work from the ants (6–8). The “sluggard” is one who’s in the habit of being lazy, a couch-potato, a loafer, a do-nothing. If this describes you, “go…consider…be wise” (6). Ants work hard (7–8)—they never sit around doing nothing. No one needs to get them going. They do their work when and how they’re supposed to, so their needs are met. You must not only learn this positive example, you must stay away from its opposite: look out for laziness (9–11). Sluggards love to lounge around (9–10), avoid as much work as possible to enjoy a longer nap. This is living for rest and relaxation. Rest is substituted for work and made one’s occupation, career, and calling. The more you give in to and feed sloth, the more habitual it becomes. Eventually, however, sluggards will starve (11). Laziness brings poverty, but sadly sluggards learn this lesson too late. Poverty rarely happens in an instant; usually it is the result of a pile of “just a little.” The point of v. 11 isn’t the suddenness of poverty but the position you put yourself in because of your laziness. Be wise and avoid poverty by working hard and watching out for laziness!
1. Are ants made in the image of God? Who is? How is learning from ants how to work an embarrassing rebuke? Why do we need to learn this?
2. Who does the sluggard live for? How does that match up with living in the fear of the Lord? What do you live for?
3. What drives and controls the sluggard’s life decisions? How does that match up with biblical wisdom? What controls your life decisions?
4. This doesn’t mean rest is bad. When it comes to “R&R,” what’s the difference between the proper time and the present time?
5. Think about your work habits—do they show the fear of the Lord and biblical wisdom?
The sixth “talk” teaching the skillful application of God’s Word (“wisdom”) is an exhortation: stay away from bad debt, laziness, and troublemakers (6:1–19). A sure way to ruin is to be responsible for someone else’s debt (1–5). The situation (1–2, 5) describes the danger of becoming a cosigner—being legally responsible for paying another’s debt should the borrow fail to pay (cf. 11:15; 17:18; 22:26–27; 27:12–13). The danger of cosigning (“snare, caught, fowler’s hand”) isn’t obvious—it seems like a good thing to do, helping a needy friend who’s unable to get into debt on his own. What’s dangerous is that you completely surrender control of your life and finances to someone else. The solution (3–4) is to get out of that position as soon as possible. “Deliver yourself” (3, 5) means tear yourself away from the situation—“go…humble yourself…plead.” Do whatever it takes, don’t put it off, do it ASAP. Verse 4 emphasizes this—don’t wait until tomorrow, do it today! Being responsible for someone else’s debt is a foolish thing to do because (1) You’re committing yourself to something you don’t know and can’t control; (2) You lose your security—your future is now given to someone who is in debt and who could just walk away without caring what happens to you; (3) You’re putting everything that that you’ve carefully saved into the power of someone who probably hasn’t been careful. That’s foolish!
1. Is this saying be stingy? What is it saying?
2. If you want to help someone in need, is taking responsibility for their debt the only option? You could either loan it to them (without interest, 28:8) or just give what is needed (19:17).
3. What is the difference between loaning and becoming responsible for a loan?
4. What could happen to your family if you put yourself in this situation?
This last word of wisdom makes the point that the Lord sees sin and judges it. This is an essential part of “the fear of the Lord,” reverently believing the God of the Bible, exclusively loving, obeying, and worshiping the One you will give an account to. He sees everything you do (21), so be controlled by the fear of the Lord, not exciting feelings and situations. God. Is. Watching. The punishments of verses 22–23 are not bad luck but certain events for those who reject the Lord. You may think you hide your tracks from everyone else, but your ways and paths are deeply rooted wagon tracks clearly seen by the Lord. Not only does the Lord see what you do, he judges sin (22–23). God very rarely judges sin with the lightning bolt; most often he lets sinners go their chosen way, and the path and way of sin is death. What a sobering thought that God judges sinners by letting them go their way. Love your spouse and no one else; God sees all—avoid a fall!
1. When does God get tired? What in all creation does God miss or forget? With this in mind, think and meditate on v. 21.
2. A practical help might be to write v. 21 on cards and put them in different places to remind you of that truth. Regularly move them around.
3. If you’re not passionately controlled by your spouse’s love (v. 19), what will you be controlled by (v. 22)?
The last aspect of avoiding immorality and loving your spouse (5:1–23) is love your spouse and no one else (5:15–20). To avoid the pit of death that adultery leads to you must be faithful to and love your spouse. Listen to three solid reasons why you must love your spouse and no one else. First, marital faithfulness is better than promiscuity (15–18). God provides marriage as the only “arena” to know and enjoy the blessings of physical intimacy (15). Don’t bring your love and desire to anyone else other than your spouse (16–17). Second, martial faithfulness provides great delight (18–19). The husband and wife fill and refresh each other (18). Marriage involves mutual joy and fulfillment. Be “addicted” to your spouse’s love—that is God-given protection from illicit, unlawful passion (19). There is never a time or circumstance when you should look for physical intimacy with anyone other than your spouse. Third, marital faithfulness protects from infidelity (20). The road leading to adultery looks good at the turn, but its end is corruption and death (cf. vv. 4–5, 9–14). Why would you be your own worst enemy, preferring poisoned and stolen puddle-water instead of the pure living waters of your own well?
- Slowly read through this section, and think about this: Which is put on public display and which is enjoyed privately, promiscuity/immorality or marriage? Evaluate what you see and hear in the world today by this.
- Where does God say is true enjoyment of intimacy? Why don’t more people believe this?
- Note that verse 19 commands what you are to be satisfied, enraptured, intoxicated, ravished, and exhilarated with. Who created marriage? Does God know what is best?
- When both spouses have this commitment, what kind of relationship will they have? Contrast this with the situation in verse 20—what kind of relationship will that be?
- Where—and with whom—do you enjoy intimacy? Are you in line with God’s will and gracious provision?
- What changes do you need to make in your relationship with your spouse so you both enjoy this gift and protection from God?
God’s will stated in this talk is avoid immorality and love your spouse (5:1–23). There are three essential aspects of this, the first is be saturated with biblical wisdom for protection from sexual seduction (5:1–6). The second given here is to stay away from immorality before its too late (7–14). You must hear and heed God’s Word, being controlled by Scripture rather than fleshly senses (7). To disobey God’s commands is to “depart” from his Word. Your life must be characterized by obedience to God’s written Word—bring your desires and affections in line with it! God’s written will is to stay far from immorality (8), there is no debating this. If God’s clearly given, written will is ignored there will be tragic effects: loss of life (9–11) and too-late-regret (12–14). When you live by sense rather than Scripture you lose the best years of your life. You can’t judge life by immediate appearances; take the long look, keep the “end” in view (ask, “Where will this lead?”). The regret in vv. 12–14 is “too late” because the end it points to is final and eternal.
1. If you don’t know God’s will as given in the Bible, are you “off the hook” for your ignorance? Why?
2. Compare verse 8 with 1 Cor 6:18; Eph 5:3; 1 Thess 4:3–8; 2 Tim 2:22; and Heb 13:4.
3. What specific items are mentioned in verses 9–11?
4. Why is the warning about sexual immorality addressed to young people?
5. What are some practical ways of implementing Matt 5:28–29 and Rom 13:14 regarding sexual immorality?
6. Hating and spurning God’s Word is to depart from the faith. Check out Num 15:31; 2 Sam 12:9; 2 Chr 36:16; Ps 107:11; Prov 1:25, 30; 12:1; 13:13; 15:5; Isa 5:24.
Fearing the Lord—how should that be seen in you morally and sexually? The fifth “talk” teaching the correct, skillful application of God’s Word (“wisdom”) addresses this crucial aspect of life: avoid immorality and love your spouse (5:1–23). There are three essential aspects of this. The first (5:1–6) is be saturated with biblical wisdom for protection from sexual seduction. Being saturated with biblical wisdom involves careful (1a) and exclusive attention (1b). “Giving attention” and “inclining” involve intentionally directing yourself to God’s Word and away from everything ungodly. Many things will affect, direct, and turn your heart. You must determine to go exclusively in the Lord’s way. You must do this in order to gain and retain the needed discretion and knowledge (2). “Discretion” is the ability to see things as they really are and make correct assessments. The point here is that this is a life-long effort: you can lose discretion and knowledge. The reason why you should be saturated with biblical wisdom is given next (3-6), to be protected from sexual seduction. Since this is a fatherly “talk” to his son he talks about an “immoral woman.” The seducer’s speech drips with honey and is smoother than oil—this is flattery (3). The only way you’ll see his/her true character is if you’re saturated with biblical wisdom. Sin never shows itself for what it really is. It always hides its true character. What is their speech really like (4)? Where will seducers and those they seduce end up (5–6)? They say they’ll take you places, but what place (5)? They say they know where they’re going, but they really don’t (6).
- Are you intentionally devoting attention to God’s Word? What is the opposite of intentional?
- What will happen if you incline your heart toward self-gratification (1 John 2:15ff)?
- Where does the path of temptation always lead (James 1:14-15)?
- Is it wise to judge based on appearances? Why?
- The sexual seducer is self-deceived and lives for the moment. Do you have the discernment to see through the seduction? The devotion to Christ to resist it?
Seeking God’s wisdom and staying in his paths (4:1–27) requires receiving and retaining God’s Word (1-9) and following righteousness while avoiding wickedness, as there are only two paths and two destinations (10-19). This requires devotion on your part: be entirely (20-23) and exclusively devoted to God’s Word (24-27).
Entire devotion to God’s Word means giving God your ears (20), listening only to God’s “words” and “sayings.” Give God your eyes (21-22). You should always look to God’s Word—it shouldn’t be a distant outpost (like Antarctica), it should be the very command center of your life (Washington D.C.). Your “ears” and “eyes” are the doors of your heart, and you must give God your heart (23). Whatever enters your heart affects your life. Your desires, decisions, and direction are determined by your heart.
Exclusive devotion to God’s Word involves your words (24), they must be completely in line with God’s character. What you say reflects and reinforces who you are. Don’t talk like an unbeliever or listen approvingly to godless talk so you are not harmfully influenced by such. Exclusive devotion involves what you see (25); there will always be things to distract you from what you should focus on. There are so many distractions in our time—you must discipline yourself to have a laser-like focus on Jesus Christ. Lastly, exclusive devotion involves what you seek (26-27), you must stay only on God’s path. This is not “staying between extremes,” but complete separation from what is wrong and entire commitment to what is right.
- What you see, listen to, say, etc. not only influences you, it reinforces and trains your direction in life. Is everything you hear, see, think, and say in line with God’s character?
- What is the most valuable, precious thing you own? How do you care for and protect it? What about your heart (4:23)?
- Check out Luke 6:43-45. What do your words, emails, social media, texts, etc. say about your heart?
- Think about what you read, watch, and listen to. Do they express and help you with entire and exclusive devotion?
- Do you think about the direction of your life (v. 26)?
The second necessity of seeking God’s wisdom and staying in his paths is to avoid wickedness (4:14-19). You need to do this at all costs (14-15)— the six commands here emphasize how important it is to avoid wickedness at all costs. There are no “redeemable” aspects of this wicked, sinful world. While walking the path of righteousness you should never look at the path of wickedness longingly. The reason why you must avoid wickedness at all costs is because wickedness thoroughly corrupts (16-17). These verses describe how addicted those given to wickedness are—they live to sin, can’t help themselves, can’t keep it to themselves (evangelists of evil), want to harm others, it is what they think about at night and live for during the day, they are thoroughly corrupted by sin. God clearly says there are only two paths, only two destinations (18-19). Righteousness—living wisely, by the fear of the Lord—enable you to see where you should go in life. Only God’s way is safe and gives peace of mind. Life is full of trips and traps, but those who live by their own wits never see why they fall for “they do not know,” they are spiritually blind.
- Think about what an unbeliever eats and drinks and lives for. Is that what a person who fears the Lord should look for?
- You can know your “destination” by the “road” you’re on; what road are you on? What’s the “scenery” look like?
- You can know your destination by the company you keep. Who do you like? Allow to influence you?
- What do you think about when you go to bed? What do you live for?
- If you are on the wrong path, get off it now, immediately!
- Do you ever see someone willingly drive with his eyes closed? That might give a thrill, but it is always fatal. How does this illustrate this passage?
This fourth “talk” of chapter 4 emphasizes that you must seek God’s wisdom and stay in his paths. What are the basics involved with that, and why should you? You must follow and continue in righteousness for only in that “path” are found safety and life (10-13). The specifics are given in chapters 10-31; chapters 1-9 give the basics you first need to hear and heed (young children are not told the details of adult life, but unless they first learn to obey, they won’t listen to the details later on). Following God’s righteousness requires hearing and welcoming God’s Word (10). Hearing without welcoming isn’t true faith. The path of wisdom is the right way to go (11). You don’t just “know” it—you must be taught (11a) and taken by the hand (11b). It’s not just head knowledge, you must do it. Following righteousness is God’s way, and his way is the best way (12). Only the Lord’s way gives true freedom and ease (“not hindered,” “not stumble,” 12). Truly seeking God’s wisdom and staying in his paths requires discipline and effort (13—note the three commands here!).
- Who is wiser, a two-year-old or a parent?
- Why isn’t hearing without welcoming true faith (v. 10)?
- Think of a way to illustrate the foolishness of knowing what is right but not doing it (vv. 11-12).
- Read, think about, and meditate on v. 13. What are you doing now about that? Think about both activity and attitude. What is the reason given in v. 13 why you should do this?
- Do you have this “basic” commitment to fearing the Lord, to growing in wisdom?