Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head
and a chain to adorn your neck.
My son, if sinful men entice you,(Prov. 1:8-19 NIV)
do not give in to them.
If they say, ‘Come along with us;
let’s lie in wait for innocent blood,
let’s ambush some harmless soul;
let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
cast lots with us;
we will all share the loot’–
my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
for their feet rush into evil,
they are swift to shed blood.
How useless to spread a net
where every bird can see it!
These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they ambush only themselves!
Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the life of those who get it.
Prov. 1:8 to the end of Chapter 9 is like an introduction to wisdom. It will teach us what wisdom is, and how to desire wisdom before it begins to teach us wisdom starting in ch 10.
The Teacher is an older man, and he is teaching a younger person to whom he refers as ‘son’. The Teacher is not necessarily the son’s father. Young men would apprentice themselves to an older sage in order to learn wisdom. The Teacher begins his instruction by encouraging the young person to listen to the instruction of his father and mother.
The first warning is to make us aware that there are evil people in the world who will try and influence or entice you to do wrong. Much evil is carried out just for the love of evil itself. St Augustine in his confessions tells of how as a youth, he and his friends stole apples. He says that he didn’t like apples, he just stole for the joy of stealing.
These evil men prey on innocent blood. They victimise and harm because they can. The two sins mentioned are murder and theft, but they are representative of many sins that others will seek to entice you into. Sin takes away the life of the person who is enticed. Many young people are lured into drugs. Those who get addicted then start selling drugs to fund their habit. They then get involved in other crime as the addiction becomes more expensive and very soon the sin has taken over their lives.
The young man is urged to listen and not forsake the teaching of his parents. The teaching of wisdom will be like a badge of honour, like a garland to grace your head or a chain to adorn your neck. This garland is like the honour that is given to you by others who recognise you for what you have done. The necklace is an item of jewellery and signifies the beauty of a life that is lived wisely.
The evil men of verse 10 attempt to make the sin attractive. They entice and persuade. They offer friendship, telling the young person they can be one of their group. In many of the inner cities, young people are growing up in broken homes. There is no role model and there is no love or companionship to be found in the home. These young people are easily groomed and enticed into gangs. In the gang they have those they can identify with them, those who will look out for them. The young people are enticed to do wrong and then honoured by the gang. The gang becomes a surrogate family.
The Teacher cautions the young person and warns them not to be enticed. Don’t be taken in by the benefits that they are offering. The garland and necklace are the rewards of a disciplined life that has been given over to learning wisdom. The rewards of crime are instant, but the sharing in those ill-gotten gains will destroy the person’s life. In ‘That Hideous Strength’ by CS Lewis, Lewis describes how the devil’s disciples serve the devil. In the end the devil doesn’t reward his disciples for their faithful service, he destroys them.
The evil men are destructive of themselves and others. Their evil has become a habit and a lifestyle. They don’t give a second thought to the harm and injury that they bring on others. They offer a common purse that the newcomer can have a share in. But being part of the community only lasts as long as your usefulness to that community.
As well as the enticement of riches and community there is the lure of excitement and power.
V15 literally means do not walk in their paths.
If the young person pays attention to the wisdom that he has been taught, then he is forewarned, and the evil men’s efforts will be useless. It will be like spreading a net in the sight of a watching bird.
Eventually evil people get caught in their own trap.
The young person has to choose between two paths, one that leads to death and the other to life.
Lord God help us to hide Your word in our hearts that we might not sin against You. Help us not to be enticed by sin and evil people, to be tempted by popularity, or by the acclaim of the crowd. Lord keep us on the path of righteousness and allow us to serve You all the days of our lives because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.