We are going to spend our time this morning taking a look at Proverbs 20:3-7. As I have been studying this chapter of Proverbs this past week it has seemed to me that this section of Scripture holds a very important lesson for those of us who live in a land of illusion, a day of exceptional deception. Let’s read our Scripture together and then I will explain what I am talking about.
3 It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. 4 A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing. 5 The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out. 6 Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find? 7 The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him. (Proverbs 20:3-7 NIV)
I have spent a lot of time this past week studying this section of Scripture because it seems to fit together to me; I see a connection between these five verses. I see Solomon giving his son, and those of us reading his writings today, a survey of humanity. This is not an exhaustive survey of humanity, but a survey of the different kinds of people that we will meet and have to deal with in life. Let me show you what I am talking about.
In these five verses we run into different sorts of people who have different temperament types, different levels of motivation, different agendas, and last of all different commitments. Look at verse 3 with me as we begin. In verse 3 there is the peaceful person who avoids strife and the hot-headed fool who’s always looking for the next fight. In verse 4 we read about the sluggard who does nothing, but expects everything to be handed to him. Let’s skip verse 5 for a minute and go on to verse 6. In verse 6 we see those people who say they will always be there for those they love, but then Solomon points out how difficult it is to really find someone who is not a fair-weather friend. In verse 7 we see the “righteous” person, the person who is rightly related to God and others, and lives out his convictions. Because he lives out his convictions and is true to what he believes, his kids are blessed, they are given a solid foundation by which they can build their own life…if they choose to do so.
How can we know these folks? Can we recognize them when we see them? Are there any distinguishing characteristics that we can identify to help us assess the character and commitment level of those we meet in society? These are important questions for us to be able to answer because some of these folks would not be our best choice for a friend, business partner, husband, or wife. If we have as our friends those who are hot-headed or slackers or fair-weather-friends then we are going to suffer the consequences of those friendships. How are we to know? Can we really know someone?
Folks in Wichita, Kansas thought they knew Dennis Rader. He grew up in Park City, Kansas, a suburb of Wichita. Dennis attended Wichita State University and graduated with a degree in Administration of Justice in 1979. He never became a police officer, but he worked as a Code Enforcement Officer for the city. Dennis made sure everyone complied with city ordinances concerning their homes, dogs, etc.
Dennis married, and he and his wife have two kids who are now grown. While his kids were growing up he was a Boy Scout leader–an excellent Scout leader. An article from The Wichita Eagle newspaper chronicled Dennis’ commitment to the young boys who were in the Boy Scouts.
Dennis Rader taught Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts how to tie knots. He was good at knots. The old Scout leaders remember that. They remember that Rader doted on his own son, that he helped the boy turn himself into an Eagle Scout. That he was tireless, that he showed up at hundreds of Scout gatherings. They remember that Rader was a great camp cook, that he was kind and patient with little boys and big boys. Three aging Boy Scout fathers remember a man whose friendship they cherished. And they remember him teaching little boys all the basic knots that doting Boy Scout fathers teach boys on campouts: The square knot. The sheep shank. The double-half-hitch. The bowline knot. The taut line hitch, for tying down tent poles. It is unsettling to them all, now. Bind, torture, kill. “That was one of the first things I thought about when I heard,” said George Martin, a longtime Rader friend and scoutmaster. “And I’ll bet you he learned how to tie knots as a boy himself, in the Boy Scouts.” When Martin spoke these words he began to cry. (Scouters recall Rader as good father, knot expert, Roy Wenzl, The Wichita Eagle, Tuesday, March 1, 2005)
What was it that George Martin was referring to when he said, “That was one of the first things I thought about when I heard.” Well, there was another side to Dennis Rader. Dennis was not only a Scout Leader, husband, and committed father, but Dennis was also a serial killer, “The BTK Killer.” Over the course of the last thirty years Dennis has terrorized Wichita by killing at least ten people with a twisted style and flair that rivals the killer in the Denzel Washington movie, The Bone Collector. Who would have known? Certainly not Dennis’ family. Definitely not Dennis’ friend, George Martin, who probably knew him as well as anybody outside of his family. Dennis Rader lived a double life, a life of deception, and today he is sitting in jail, judgment day has come, and he is now serving 10 life sentences at the El Dorado Correctional facility.
When the crime was made public we heard a lot of talk about how Dennis Rader was a leader in his church; he was the President of his church board. I know why the media latched onto this fact about Dennis Rader’s life, it’s another opportunity to show the world what hypocrites Christians are, right? For our secular society the Christian life is a bunch of baloney. This guy who attended church on Sunday was out killing people, even children, during the week. For those of you who are here this morning and you are skeptics, you don’t believe God’s Word, then let me encourage you to consider this: There have been “demons” in the church for as long as there has been a church. In Luke 4, Jesus ran into them in Capernaum. Read along with me beginning in verse 31.
31 Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 “Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are ‘the Holy One of God!’ 35 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. 36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!” 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area. (Luke 4:31-37 NIV)
What the world sees as the weakness of the Church, the chink in the armor of the Body of Christ, is truly the heartbeat of the mission of the Church. Jesus came to call sinners. There is no better place for sinners to be than in the Church. I’m glad that Dennis Rader was in church, but I wish he would have allowed the power of the Church, Jesus our Savior, to transform his dark and twisted heart.
At the same time that there is no better place for sinners to be than in the church, hearing the Word of God that can set the captive free, straighten out those who suffer from twisted souls and minds, we must realize that there are many reasons why people come to church. Let me explain to you what I mean.
I was talking to Dr. Darnell about this section of Scripture and he told me a story. David was 17 years old when he knew that God was calling him to enter the ministry. When the word got out in his little community not everyone was excited. David’s dad was a businessman and many assumed that David would take over his dad’s business one day. One man, who was a leader in the local synagogue, was also a friend of the Darnells. Mr. Smither’s called David one day and invited him to come and eat dinner with his family. When David arrived he walked into a dining room that was set for a king. David couldn’t believe his eyes. While they were eating dinner Mr. Smithers said, “David, I’ve heard that you want to go into the ministry and I want to encourage you not to make that mistake. You need to take over your dad’s business and not waste your time on ministry. All of that talk about heaven and hell is just a lot of talk. Make something of your life.” David said, “Mr. Smithers you are a leader in your synagogue, how can you say that?” Mr. Smithers said, “David, there are lots of reasons why people go to church or to synagogue and I go there for business opportunities.”
You need to know that not everyone here this morning is here because they want to grow in their relationship with God. Not everyone here wants to learn God’s Word. Not everyone here wants to see their life changed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are people here who want to make contacts to help them in their business. There are others here who are lonely and they just want to make some friends, some healthy friends. They’ve been to the clubs, visited the bars, and they left them more lonely and more broken than when they arrived, but boy do they need a friend. They don’t necessarily believe that they need a Savior, but they know they need a friend. Oh, my friends, there are many reasons why people come to church, but only those who have ears to hear and a heart that hungers for God will truly see their lives changed by the power of God.
Now, I told you that we would come back to verse 5 so let’s take a look at it at this time. Solomon writes,
5 The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out. (Proverbs 20:5 NIV)
This is a very interesting verse and there are different ideas about whether Solomon is conveying a positive or negative teaching from it. I want us to spend the rest of our time taking a deeper look at this powerful little verse because it has such a life-saving application for you and me regardless of how young or old we are today. Take a look at the word, “purposes” with me. The Hebrew word for “purposes,” means, “counsel, plans, advice, or purpose.” The word appears 88 times in the Hebrew Bible. When you study the word you see that it can be used in either a positive or negative sense. Turn with me to Psalm 33:10-11 and you can see the “plans” of nations, people, and God.
10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Psalm 33:10 NIV)
The Lord’s purposes are unshakeable, unchangeable, and they are a blessing to those who will seek to walk in them. He is the Sovereign Lord of history; He knows the story from beginning to end because He wrote the script. His desire, His plan, is to bless us as we walk in His purposes for our lives.
That may be God’s purpose or plan for our lives, but we want something more. Isn’t that amazing? We want something more than to walk with the King of Glory? We want something more than to fellowship with the Lamb of God? We want something more than to experience the blessings that come from living in obedience to God’s Holy Word? We want something more? Have we lost our minds?
We want something more so we plot and plan and come up with our million dollar ideas of what we want out of life and we go for it. We convince ourselves that there is happiness at the end of the rainbow, when we finally get what we are going after. How many shattered lives can stand and testify for me this morning that it doesn’t work that way?
I have come to recognize something that takes place in us when we determine our own plans for our life. We will use anyone or anything to achieve our purpose. If we want to make a name for ourselves then we will stoop to any level to grab a headline. Look at folks like Kim Kardashian and Dennis Rodman and you can see what I am talking about. If we just want to have fun then we will throw away our morals, any sense of right and wrong, and we will chase anything or anyone that shows promise for showing us a good time. If erotic ecstasy is our aim then we will lie to the opposite sex to get what we want. Don’t believe me? Just ask high school boys how many times they’ve said, “I love you, and if you really love me then you will let me.” If our purpose is to succeed in business then we will use any means necessary to achieve that goal. We will go to church to meet potential clients, we will “work” the numbers, and we might even go to church to try and gain God’s favor. God sees right through what we are doing. In Isaiah 29 the Lord sees right through what the people are doing. Read along with me beginning in verse 13.
13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. 14 Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” 15 Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” (Isaiah 29:13-15 NIV)
God sees right through our perverted deceptions, but it is so hard for us to see through the deceptions of others isn’t it? How many times have I been fooled? Too many to count!
For those of us here this morning who are living a life of deception, it is difficult for others to see through what we are doing isn’t it? Because we get away with it for awhile we think we’ve got game. Because we haven’t gotten caught yet we think we’re getting over. Oh, but God has His ways doesn’t He? Turn with me to Genesis 29 and let me give you an example. Before we read this Scripture let me give you a little background. The two main characters in the story are Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah, and Laban, Jacob’s uncle. Jacob was well accustomed to living a life of deception. He had deceived his brother and his own father on his deathbed. Now, let’s see what happens.
16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. 21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.” 22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. 24 And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant. 25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” 26 Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” (Genesis 29:16-27 NIV)
The deceiver just got took! God has His ways doesn’t He! How can you really know someone? Solomon says, 5 “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” What’s going on inside of you or me is going on deep inside of us and nobody can know, really know, who we are, what we are about, and where we are going except for God and us. When it comes to others there is no way that you can really know them, and what they are about, unless you take time, ask questions, observe, and then during the passage of time, you can draw your conclusions. Even then we must realize that some folks are masters of disguise. Things are not always as they appear. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.
If I meet you for the first time I can shake your hand and smile at you like I am your best friend. I express all kinds of goodwill towards you. You may leave our initial meeting and think, “Man, there’s a good guy. He seems like he’s really got it together.” We may spend more time together over the next few months and I might continue to impress you. I “worm” my way into your heart by putting my best foot forward, but what you don’t know is that I have found out that you are a prominent businesswoman in the community. I know that if I can impress you that I might get a good job in your company or you might be willing to introduce me to one of your friends who can help me. What you don’t know is that I’ve got a history of job jumping, taking advantage of my employers, and even dipping into the company cash register when nobody was looking. Solomon says, 5 “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” It takes time to get to know someone. It takes wisdom and prayer to dig beneath the surface and see a person for who they really are. Take time. Slow down. Don’t jump to conclusions.
Or you may be a young high school girl who is just trying to make your grades and get along with everyone at your school. Some guy comes along who is good looking and has a dynamite personality. He shows you attention and you like it. Finally, he asks you out on a date and after answering a dozen questions from your parents you are given permission to go. You have a great time the first time you go out on a date, but over the course of time you begin to see a side of him that you’ve not seen before. You first noticed it when he took you to a party at one of his friend’s house. There were folks there getting high and you thought it was strange that he would take you there because he knew how you felt about drugs. While you were at the party he disappeared for awhile with one of his buddies and when he came back he smelled like a Cheech and Chong movie. After you left the party you asked him if he got high when he left with his friend and he denied it. Don’t believe it. Pay attention. Take notes. Kick him to the curb. Solomon says, 5 “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.”
What does it mean to be a person of “understanding?” I’m so glad you asked. The Hebrew word for “understanding” means “discernment, intelligence, or insight.” These are abilities that are both a spiritual gift from God and developed. You develop the gift God has given you by paying attention and taking notes, by using past experiences to try and guard against finding yourself in the same predicament all over again.
As we close this study I want to ask you a question. Doesn’t it seem like deception and deceit have become the order of the day? It doesn’t matter what area of society you want to talk about–deceit and deception are rampant. How do you change society? How can we see truth and faithfulness stand as the rule of society? Well, the only way I know is for you and me to take a stand. I can’t change the world, but I can allow the One who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” to come and change my heart. He will transform your heart if you will seek Him above all else. He will straighten out our crooked hearts and our crooked ways and cause us to walk in truth and faithfulness. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114