Wednesday after the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Proverbs 4-7 (NKJV)
4:1 Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; 2 For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. 3 When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, 4 he also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live. 5 Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. 6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. 7 Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. 8 Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. 9 She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
10 Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of your life will be many. 11 I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. 12 When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. 13 Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she is your life. 14 Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. 15 Avoid it, do not travel on it; Turn away from it and pass on. 16 For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; And their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. 17 For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.
18 But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. 19 The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know what makes them stumble.
20 My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; 22 For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. 23 Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. 24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. 26 Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.
5:1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom; Lend your ear to my understanding, 2 That you may preserve discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge. 3 For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; 4 But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of hell. 6 Lest you ponder her path of life—her ways are unstable; You do not know them.
7 Therefore hear me now, my children, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. 8 Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, 9 Lest you give your honor to others, and your years to the cruel one; 10 Lest aliens be filled with your wealth, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner; 11 And you mourn at last, when your flesh and your body are consumed, 12 and say: “How I have hated instruction, and my heart despised correction! 13 I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me! 14 I was on the verge of total ruin, in the midst of the assembly and congregation.”
15 Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well. 16 Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love. 20 For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress?
21 For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He ponders all his paths. 22 His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin. 23 He shall die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.
6:1 My son, if you become surety for your friend, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, 2 you are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth. 3 So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; For you have come into the hand of your friend: Go and humble yourself; Plead with your friend. 4 Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. 5 Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, 7 which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, 8 provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.
9 How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep—11 so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.
12 A worthless person, a wicked man, walks with a perverse mouth; 13 He winks with his eyes, he shuffles his feet, he points with his fingers; 14 Perversity is in his heart, he devises evil continually, he sows discord. 15 Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly; suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.
16 These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.
20 My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. 21 Bind them continually upon your heart; Tie them around your neck. 22 When you roam, they will lead you; When you sleep, they will keep you; And when you awake, they will speak with you. 23 For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life, 24 to keep you from the evil woman, from the flattering tongue of a seductress.
25 Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids.
26 For by means of a harlot a man is reduced to a crust of bread; And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life. 27 Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? 28 Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? 29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent.
30 People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. 31 Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; He may have to give up all the substance of his house. 32 Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. 33 Wounds and dishonor he will get, and his reproach will not be wiped away.
34 For jealousy is a husband’s fury; Therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. 35 He will accept no recompense, nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts.
7:1 My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you. 2 Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye. 3 Bind them on your fingers; Write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call understanding your nearest kin, 5 that they may keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words.
6 For at the window of my house I looked through my lattice, 7 and saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, a young man devoid of understanding, 8 passing along the street near her corner; And he took the path to her house 9 in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night.
10 And there a woman met him, with the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart. 11 She was loud and rebellious, her feet would not stay at home. 12 At times she was outside, at times in the open square, lurking at every corner. 13 So she caught him and kissed him; With an impudent face she said to him:
14 “I have peace offerings with me; Today I have paid my vows. 15 So I came out to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you. 16 I have spread my bed with tapestry, colored coverings of Egyptian linen. 17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18 Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with love. 19 For my husband is not at home; He has gone on a long journey; 20 He has taken a bag of money with him, and will come home on the appointed day.”
21 With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with her flattering lips she seduced him. 22 Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, 23 till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life.
24 Now therefore, listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth: 25 Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths; 26 For she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. 27 Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death.
The father instructs his son to find the most essential love of his life: true wisdom. To gain a wife that he will both trust and cherish, it is necessary for him first to have wisdom. Hearing the wisdom of both father and grandfather will serve him well—wisdom that is being repeated to him not merely from custom, but because it has been shown truly to be wise. Having instruction as his first love will protect him both from the adulteress and from adultery, because he will learn what to value and how to evaluate. Thus, the father pleads by means of sound reason: “For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law.”
The parallel in these two parts helps us understand the rest of the Old Testament as well: “law” here is Torah, which is the equivalent of “doctrine” or “teaching,” not simply of “commands.” The father’s instruction is not just a setting forth of laws, but of graciously providing what is necessary; saying, “Get wisdom!” is not a command to do what Solomon confesses to have been fruitless in Ecclesiastes, but an invitation to receive the gift that comes through hearing what the father says.
Diligence and purity are the two parts of a life of wisdom: not playing with hot coals but, instead, wholeheartedly pursuing what belongs to one’s vocations protects the wise and honors father and mother (and the Lord in whose place they stand). Hearing we have wisdom; yet, as St. James says, “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only.”
Grant me, O Lord, not to despise the good counsel You have brought me, but to treasure the wisdom given me through my parents and through my fathers in the faith; for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.