We live in a day when popular opinion says that ?promises are made to be broken.? We continue to make promises, but they are broken every day. The reason that this has come about is because we are fallible human beings, sin has corrupted us at our core, and this fact leads us down Broken Promises Blvd. on a regular basis. Let me give you some examples.
We stand before God, our family and friends, and make a promise to the love of our life??I promise to love you for the rest of my life. I promise to be faithful to you. I promise to honor you, cherish you, in sickness and in health, in the best of times and during the worst days of our marriage. I promise?? Even though we make that promise in good faith, we are willing to break our promise when the ?worst of times? become worse than we had anticipated, or for some, if a better deal comes along. Broken marriages are so common today that you might be led to believe that grooms and brides are standing at the altar with their fingers crossed behind their backs.
Broken promises are not confined to wedding vows, we see broken promises and we break our promises, most every day. Those of us who have made a commitment to serve Jesus as Lord and Master of our lives have promised that we will seek His will over our will. Yet, we break our promise repeatedly as we seek what we want instead of what He wills for our lives. George Bush?s father, who served as President of our country, was canned because he broke a promise not to raise taxes. Business people enter into agreements; they hire lawyers who charge exorbitant fees to draw up legal documents to make sure that the promises are kept, only later to find themselves in court fighting over broken promises. Young people promise their parents that they will come home at an agreed upon time, but then they break their promise by showing up late. At the beginning of each semester students make a promise to their teachers and professors that they will not cheat on tests or plagiarize on their term papers. Promises are made and yet every semester students are reprimanded or even lose their opportunity to gain an education because of broken promises. Dads and moms promise their kids that they will do ?this? or ?that,? but then they fail to deliver on their promise. We promise to show up at appointments on time, but we don?t. We promise to pay our bills, yet we default on our commitments. We promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and then we commit perjury. We promise to try harder, but when the cat?s away we still play. We promise and promise and promise, but we still excel at breaking our promises. How do you explain this troubling phenomenon? The explanation is quite simple really. Jeremiah 17:9 says, 9 ?The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it??
The Apostle Paul reinforces the same message as he wrote to the folks in the church at Rome and said,
10 As it is written: ?There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.? 13 ?Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.? ?The poison of vipers is on their lips.? 14?Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.? 15 ?Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.? 18 ?There is no fear of God before their eyes.? (Romans 3:10-18 NIV)
You might think that with such wide spread corruption, with all of the broken promises scattered at our feet, we would just stop making promises, but you would be so wrong! Promises continue to be made every day. Promises are still cherished by those who long for a promise fulfilled. There is something within us that wants to believe that a promise can be kept. I?ve come today to tell you some good news?there is One who makes promises and never breaks them! He has kept every single promise that He has ever made and He?s still in the business of making promises to people like you and me today. As a matter of fact, in our study for today we are going to learn some of the promises that God has made that can absolutely revolutionize our lives. Let?s begin. Turn with me to Proverbs 2 as we dig deep into God?s Word.
1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. 9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair?every good path. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. 12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, 13 who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, 14 who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, 15 whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways. 16 It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, 17 who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. 18 For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. 19 None who go to her return or attain the paths of life. 20 Thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous. 21 For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; 22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it. (Proverbs 2:1-22 NIV)
As we come to the second chapter of Proverbs we hear the father once again urge his son to listen and take to heart his words of wisdom. We need to recognize that the father is doing more than holding ?chalk talk? sessions with his son. The father is doing more than appealing to the cognitive reason of his son?he is pleading, urging, and making a passionate appeal to his son to make this wisdom his own wisdom, his own way of life. The father says, ?If you will do this, then some wonderful things will take place in your life.? Let?s take a look at the ?If? section of Proverbs 2. Take a look at verses 1-4 with me.
1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, (Proverbs 2:1-4 NIV)
Derek Kidner, in his commentary on Proverbs, says that this book appeals to our rational, cognitive mind, but in actuality the book of Proverbs appeals also to our heart, to our emotions, and it calls for a passionate commitment from us if we want to obtain wisdom. Take a look at the phrases in verses 1-4 that demonstrate this.
? Accept my words.
? Store up my commands within you.
? Turn your ear to wisdom.
? Apply your heart to understanding.
? Call out for insight.
? Cry aloud for understanding.
? Look for it as for silver.
? Search for it as for hidden treasure.
For those who desire to know God?s wisdom there is a price to be paid. In verse 1 we are told to ?accept? the words and to ?store them up in our hearts.? The Hebrew word used here means to ?hide or store up.? It is the same word that is used in Psalm 119:11 where we read,
11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11 NIV)
How can you and I ?store up? God?s commands? We meditate on God?s Word, we roll it over and over again in our minds and our hearts until it becomes part of us and we are able to recall God?s wisdom from heart. We hide God?s Word in our hearts so that it can work on our heart and soul throughout the day, so that the Spirit of God can bring it to mind when we are in need, when we are being tempted, or when our strength and spirits are low and depleted.
We must not only learn, or ?store up? the words of this book, but we must ?call out,? we must ?cry out,? we must single-mindedly search and look for it as if it were hidden treasure. Let me show you something very interesting about the pursuit of wisdom, which is nothing less than the pursuit of God. In verse 3 the father tells his son that if he will ?call out? for insight and ?cry aloud? for understanding, then he will gain understanding about the ?fear of the Lord? and he will find the ?knowledge of God.? The word dad uses here for ?call out,? is a Hebrew word that means, ?to call, call out, cry, utter a loud sound, or to summon or invite.?
As you can tell by the definition of the word this is not merely an intellectual pursuit of wisdom, but it is a passionate pursuit, a heartfelt cry. We must lift up our voice and ?cry out? for God to open the storehouse of what we are lacking, to supply us with a godly character and the resources to live a God-honoring life.
Now, let me show you what is so interesting about this command. Turn back with me to Proverbs 1:20-21 and let?s read together.
20 Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; 21at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: (Proverbs 1:20-21 NIV)
The same two Hebrew words that are used for ?call? and ?cry out? are used here in these verses, but let me ask you, who is it that first ?calls aloud?? Who is it that lifts her voice and cries out inviting those who lack wisdom to come and learn of wisdom?s ways? The first cry, the first call, is that of Wisdom inviting us. God calls us, He urges us, He cries out to us, and He invites us to learn of His ways. Now, what will we do? Will we call back, will we answer, will we cry out to God from our need, our desperation, and our eagerness to learn of His ways or will you and I continue to live foolishly, haphazardly, and destructively?
You see my friend it all begins with Him doesn?t it? We wouldn?t even know that we lacked wisdom if it were not for God calling out to us. We wouldn?t even consider the thought of pursuing God if there were not first an invitation by God to pursue Him and learn of His ways.
The wisdom of Proverbs is not a wisdom that simply commands a strong mind, neither is it a wisdom that is acquired for those who simply possess a fervency of spirit, but it is a wisdom that demands the commitment of the heart and mind, every fiber of our being. The father tells his son that ?if? he will yield his own way to the ways of God and call out to God to supply everything he lacks, ?then? he will gain some very specific and necessary things for life. Take a look at what is promised in verses 5 and 9. In verse 5 we read,
5then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:5 NIV)
If you and I will make the pursuit of God our first priority in life then we will understand the ?fear of the Lord,? then we will ?find the knowledge of God.? Our worship and adoration of God will flow out from the sanctuary of worship into the paths of our lives. We will see and understand the value of the ways of God. We will see God?s ways surface in our life and influence our every decision in life.
In verse 9 we see that our commitment to seek God with all of our hearts and minds will lead us down every good path. Read the verse with me.
9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair?every good path. (Proverbs 2:9 NIV)
I?ve learned a powerful lesson this past week?a lesson that has truly humbled me and caused me to stop my work and ask the Lord to lead me only in His paths. Let me explain to you what I am talking about. During the past two weeks of our study of Proverbs we have talked about the invitations and voices that are out there inviting and enticing us to follow them. We?ve talked about how the majority of those invitations and voices will lead us astray and lead us down a path that leads to ruin. We don?t understand this when we begin the journey with those who are doing the inviting, but eventually we find out that destruction is the ultimate destination.
In verses 1-9 we learn that if we will passionately and single-mindedly pursue God then we will walk on a different path. This path is paved with the fear of God, it is lined with the knowledge of God, and it will lead us into what is right and just and fair?every good path. The Hebrew word for ?path? means, ?entrenchment, track, or path.? The same word is used several times in the Hebrew Bible. It is used three times here in Proverbs 2. Here in verse 9 we see the ?good path.? This is God?s path. The path of what is right, what is just, and what is fair?not according to our sense or definition of justice or fairness, but according to God?s holiness.
There are other paths that we can take, many other paths that are available to us. I want to show you two of these by looking at how the same Hebrew word is used in this chapter. Turn with me to Proverbs 2:12-15 and let?s read together.
12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, 13 who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, 14 who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, 15 whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways. (Proverbs 2:12-15 NIV)
God will save us, He will protect us from those whose paths are ?crooked and who are devious in their ways.? These people leave the straight paths, the path of righteousness, and they walk in utter darkness. They are devious, deceptive in their ways, and though it may appear that they are leading us to fun, excitement, and prosperity?the end of the path is destruction. I don?t want to walk in this way. The same word for ?path? that is used here in verse 15 is found in verse 9, but it is an altogether different path that leads to an altogether different destination.
There is another place where the same word is used for an alternate path available to those who will choose to go it alone, living life apart from God. Turn with me to verses 16-19 and we will discover where this path leads.
16 It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, 17 who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. 18 For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. 19 None who go to her return or attain the paths of life. (Proverbs 2:16-19 NIV)
The Hebrew word for ?path? that we?ve been studying is found where we read ?her paths (lead) to the spirits of the dead.? This time the word is used referring to the ?adulterous? woman. The Hebrew word here really means ?strange or foreign.? Let me show you some of the other places where the same word is used. Turn with me to Deuteronomy 32:15-16 and you can see how God became jealous and angry because Israel served ?foreign? gods.
15 Jeshurun (Israel) grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior. 16 They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. (Deuteronomy 32:15-16 NIV)
Another instance of the usage of the word is in Jeremiah 5 where God let?s His people know that hard times are coming because of their disobedience. Read along with me.
18?Yet even in those days,? declares the LORD, ?I will not destroy you completely. 19And when the people ask, ?Why has the LORD our God done all this to us?? you will tell them, ?As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your own land, so now you will serve foreigners in a land not your own.? (Jeremiah 5:18-19 NIV)
Why are hard times on their way? Because the people have forsaken God and bowed before ?foreign/strange? gods. There may be many available options when it comes to our worship and allegiance, but there is only one true God. All other gods are foreign, they are strange, and they are not to be served by us.
This is such a powerful use of the word when you consider what this word means. The ?foreign woman,? or adulterous is living outside of God?s will and His ways for her life. Notice: She leaves her husband, the partner of her youth. She ignores the covenant of her God. She is roaming around town looking for some man to draw into her arms, into her bed, into her web of death and destruction. She is no woman of God. Her ways are foreign to the ways of God. Her ways are alien to what God desires for His women.
God?s Word tells us that God will protect us from these kinds of women. Women, you need to know that God will protect you from these kinds of men as well. We need that protection don?t we? Just look around. What kind of women and men do you see paraded around as desirable today? The women of Victoria?s Secret may draw a huge crowd, but God?s Word says that they are strange women. Young guys listen up. The girls at your school who dress like Brittany Spears or J. Lo may turn a lot of heads, but they will also turn your life upside down. You need God?s wisdom to protect you.
Ladies, God?s women, you need protection every bit as much as the guys. You read romance novels and watch soap operas thinking to yourself that if you just had a man like the smooth guy in your mind or on the screen then you could really feel like woman. Yeah right! He would lead you down a rose petal path that ends in heartache, sorrow and death. Young ladies listen up. Those guys at school that talk so smooth and tell you that he?s never felt that way before about anybody?he is lying through his teeth. He?s just telling you what you want to hear so that he can get what he wants to get. Once he?s done with you then he will throw you away like yesterday?s news.
Having spent the last few minutes taking a look at the path God calls us to walk in comparison to the paths we are invited to take with the wicked men and adulterous women I hope you are experiencing the same feelings I?ve been experiencing this past week. I don?t want to walk the path of the wicked?those who are dishonest, arrogant, deceptive, greedy, and self-serving. I don?t want to be lured down the path of the adulterous, loose woman who will draw me into her web of death?the death of my soul, the death of my marriage, and the death of a godly heritage to pass on to my children and friends. I want to walk the path of God.
God promises that He will protect us, He will save us, He will deliver us from the ways of wicked men and adulterous women if we will pursue Him with all of our hearts and minds. You and I need to know that without His protection and His guidance we are doomed to walk paths that end in death and destruction. At the same time we need to know that if we will seek His presence, His counsel, and His guidance like we were searching for the Hope diamond, then He will be a shield for us and He will lead us down the path that leads to life. Take a look at Proverbs 1:6-11 with me.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. 9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair?every good path. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Proverbs 2:6-11 NIV)
Where do wisdom, knowledge, and understanding come from? Not from the halls of education or the books of philosophy, but from the Lord. He promises victory for those whose heart is right with Him. He is a shield to those who walk in integrity before Him. He will guard our steps and protect us if we will answer His cry to learn of His ways and walk in His steps with a resounding, ?Yes Lord!? Once again, we don?t seek to become wise by enrolling in the best institutions of higher learning. We become wise as we seek to walk with God. When we seek Him above all else then we are told,
21 For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; 22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it. (Proverbs 2:21-22 NIV)
Do you want to live? I?m not talking about spending time on the planet. I?m talking about living in freedom, living in the fullness of God?s desire for your life. If so, then pursue Him with all of your heart. Surrender your heart to Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life this very morning and you will come to know the fullness, salvation, and abundance that only He can bring.