Sunday, August 2, 2009

Widgets

The Seed of the Serpent


You an’ me kin live dat high life in New York.
Come wid me, dere you can’t go wrong, sister.

(From Sport’n Life’s enticement of Bess)

... throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse.

(Gang-bangers’ recruitment spiel from Proverbs 1)

Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;
let us delight ourselves with love
.”
(Wayward wife’s seduction of a young man from Proverbs 7)

Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." (Romans 1:32)

This is the second in a series of posts on the subject of a “Proverbial” character, “the Simple”. The first post dealt with his characteristic mindset - “turning away” - and the great spiritual danger he is in. This post deals with a fact of life that, in his turning away, he characteristically refuses to believe: There really are people out there - Satan’s agents - who are actively committed to destroying him spiritually.

Such people are introduced almost immediately in the first chapter of Proverbs, as a father implores his son not to join up with “sinners” who “entice” him with a life of bloodshed and booty. We may read the account and think their recruitment spiel can’t be very attractive, with pleas like, “let us lie in wait for blood”. But, if we think in terms of the attraction of a gang, we should be able to see the appeal: Joining them, the youth will become a “big man” and people will fear him. Together, the gang will take whatever they want, and they’ll do it as comrades. But, says the father, in the end, that’s not really what it will all be about. Instead, it really will be all about bloodshed and violence. In effect, the son will become - with the others - a monster, joining them in “setting an ambush for their own lives”. (vs. 18)

Another striking passage on the lure of evil - and the agents who do the luring - is the 7th chapter of Proverbs, where a father is warning his son to beware of the wayward wife and her attraction. Here, it’s easier to grasp at first glance why the young man might be enticed, as she is brazen and forward with him (vs. 13), and, in addition, there seems to be no immediate danger, since the woman’s husband is out of town for a long period (vs. 19,20). But, again, the danger is not so much in being caught (though Proverbs 6 does warn against that), but in being ensnared in a spiritually deadly bondage to sexual sin: “All at once, he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces his liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.” (vs. 22,23)

One aspect of Proverbs 7 that sheds some light on this is found in the descriptions in the Hebrew of the type of woman that is involved: “... to keep you from the strange woman, from the foreign woman with her smooth words.” (Pr. 7:5) The reason this sheds light on what is going on is that it echos what we find in Proverbs 5, where we have warnings about “the strange woman” (vs. 3); about a situation where “strangers take their fill of your strength and your labors go to the house of a foreigner” (vs. 10); about what is to become of the young man’s “streams” of life - “Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you.” (vs. 16,17). And then a last warning, “Why should you be seduced my son, by a strange woman and embrace the bosom of a foreign woman”.

So using the usual translations of what in Hebrew are “a strange woman” and “a foreign woman” obscures the message that a young man who yields to sexual lusts is entangling himself in a whole different culture, with people who, viewed from the point of view of the Kingdom of God, are “strangers and foreigners”. Instead of the nourishment of the Church, that is, of “the seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15), he will have been taken captive by “the seed of the serpent”. Proverbs 5 warns him that the outcome will be hellish: “... at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, ‘How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof!’” (vs. 11,12) “The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of disicpline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.” (vs. 22,23) And what is true of the spiritual ruin brought about about by sexual sin is equally true of that brought about by sins of violence, or greed, or deceit.

Is this overstating the dichotomy between the two groups? Are the “strangers and foreigners” who entice the young of the church really that bad, that far gone? Are they really that committed to promoting evil? (If you have seen the movie version of Porgy and Bess, think of Sport'n Life, crooning, "There's a boat dat's leav'n sooooooon for New York". Is he real?) Proverbs speaks uncompromisingly to the matter: “... men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, ....” (Pr. 2:12-14) And again: “... the strange woman, the foreign woman with her smooth words, ..., her house sinks down to death, ....” (Pr. 2:16,18) And again: “... they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.” (Pr. 4:16,17) And again, “Her feet go down to death, and her steps lay hold of the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander and she does not know it.” (Pr. 5:5,6)

Do we really believe the judgment of Scripture in this matter? Do we believe that our young people are the targets of Satan’s agents all around us (and, in some cases, among us)? Do we understand that our young people will resist these truths and, because of that, they will, unless we urgently exhort them to take the truths seriously, be “sitting ducks”? Or have we adopted the point of view of the world around us, and chosen to think that our unbelieving neighbors (and the hypocrites in our congregations) aren’t really all that bad?

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