As we continue our study of Proverbs we are moving into the third section of this powerful book of instruction. The prologue, which set forth for us the purpose of studying the Proverbs, is found in Proverbs 1:1-7. The first section of instruction began in Proverbs 1:8 and ended at Proverbs 9:18. In section one we read about Solomon?s wisdom offered to his son. The wisdom Solomon offered was broken down into twelve different lessons. In section two we have the Proverbs of Solomon. We?ve learned from many weeks of study that Solomon?s Proverbs in this section are little, one or two sentence nuggets of wisdom which span the spectrum of situations and scenarios that the young man will face in life. This second section of Proverbs began at Proverbs 10:1 and continued to Proverbs 22:16.

Today, we will move into the third section of Proverbs. The third section begins at Proverbs 22:17 and continues to Proverbs 24:34. As you take the time to read the third section you can see that it really resembles the first section of Solomon?s book more than the second section. In this section we find lessons that flow like a father and son talk on the back porch instead of the one and two line bits of wisdom found in Proverbs 10-22.

This section of Proverbs is also marked by some interesting and distinguishing features. First, look at verse 17 and read with me??Pay attention to the sayings of the wise;? The ?sayings of the wise? are not simply the sayings of Solomon and we will look at this in just a minute. In verse 20 we see another interesting feature. We read that there are 30 of these wise sayings that are being offered for those who desire to learn wisdom. Bruce Waltke and many other Bible teachers believe that Solomon borrowed some of these wisdom sayings from an Egyptian wisdom teacher named Amenemope who lived before Solomon. Dr. Waltke writes,

The external evidence of the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope (ca. 1186-1069 B.C.) confirms the internal evidence that the Thirty Sayings of the Wise is a distinct anthology of wisdom sayings. Most scholars believe that the Thirty Sayings of the Wise shows a creative use of Amenemope. The structural model for this collection, ?Do I not write for you thirty sayings?? derives from the last chapter of Amenemope (27:6): ?Look to these thirty chapters.? In Egypt, and we should probably assume the same about this collection, the holy number ?thirty? symbolizes a complete and perfect teaching. But its material dependence on Amenemope extends only for the first eleven sayings (22:16-23:11). (Bruce Waltke, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Proverbs 15-31. pg. 217)

I got on the internet this past week and read The Instruction of Amenemope. There are no doubt some parallels between what we have in this section of the book of Proverbs and the teachings of Amenemope. Let me share a couple with you. In Proverbs 22:17-18 we read,

17 Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, 18 for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips. (Proverbs 22:17-18 NIV)

In the very first chapter of the Instruction of Amenemope we find a similar saying offered to his son.

Incline thine ears to hear my sayings, and apply thine heart to their comprehension, for it is a profitable thing to put them in thy heart. (Amenemope 1:6)

Let me give you one more example before we move on. In Proverbs 23:4-5 we read,

4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. 5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. (Proverbs 23:4-5 NIV)

It is pretty clear that Solomon took an idea from Amenemope and put his own twist on it. Let me read to you from what Amenemope wrote.

If riches come to you by theft, they will not stay the night with you. They made themselves wings like geese, and flew away to the sky. (Amenemope 6:7)

Some of you may be wondering, ?What does this have to do with me trying to live my life and pay my bills?? That?s a good question and I have an answer for you. Throughout history there have been many ?wise? teachers who have offered people their tidbits of wisdom for every facet of life. There have always been authorities who have been willing to supply people with answers to their questions about everything from having a successful marriage, raising kids, succeeding in business, managing finances, getting a job, etc. There have been wise people in every society and in every age?from Egypt to America and every country in between, but we must be careful who we listen to. The key for you and me in helping us determine what is truly ?wise? is this?what does the teacher base his or her wisdom on and where will it lead us? What is the motivation behind his or her counsel? You can see this in the comparison of Amenemope and Solomon.

In Proverbs 22:17-18 Solomon lays down for us the importance of single-mindedly pursuing wisdom?just as Amenemope does?but Solomon goes one important step further: Solomon says in verse 19, ?So that your trust may be in the Lord.? We are not pursuing wisdom so that we can become educated or appear wise in the eyes of people, but we are pursuing wisdom so that we can learn to trust the Lord. Is the wisdom that you listen to ?God-glorifying? or ?people-glorifying?? Is the nugget of wisdom to help you have a better life or to help you have a better walk with the Lord? Those are important questions. The wisdom that we can glean from the Bible will always highlight our inability to do life on our own and will then be followed with God?s willingness to empower and sustain us as we seek to live our lives, all of our lives, to His glory. Lawrence E. Toombs put it another way. He writes,

Wisdom is to be found with God, and nowhere else; and unless the quest for wisdom brings man to his knees in awe and reverence, knowing his own helplessness to make himself wise, wisdom remains for him a closed book. (Toombs, 1952: 195).

Let?s take a look at our Scripture for today found in the middle of these 30 nuggets of wisdom. Our study this morning will center on Proverbs 23:17-24:1. Read along with me.

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. 18 There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. 19 Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path. 20 Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, 21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags. 22 Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. 23 Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding. 24 The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him. 25 May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice! 26 My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways, 27 for a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well. 28 Like a bandit she lies in wait, and multiplies the unfaithful among men. 29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? 30 Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. 31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! 32 In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. 34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. 35 ?They hit me,? you will say, ?but I?m not hurt! They beat me, but I don?t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?? 24 1 Do not envy wicked men, do not desire their company; 2 for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble. (Proverbs 23:17-24:1 NIV)

In this section of Scripture we see the same word appear in the first verse of our study, Proverbs 23:17, and in the last verse of our study, Proverbs 24:1. The word, ?envy,? is prominent. Between these two words we read about what many folks envy?the good life filled with self-indulgence, the fast life filled with fulfilling every whim and desire we crave, the high-flying, fast-living, fun-filled life of those Solomon calls ?sinners.? Who or what are you envious of this morning? What in life are you zealous for, what are you passionate about? The Hebrew word, ?an’q’? (kaw-naw’) means, ?to envy, be jealous, be envious, or zealous.? Let me show you what some of the folks in the Bible were envious of so that we can better understand the word. In Genesis 26:12-15 we see that the Lord blessed Isaac and the Philistines were envious of Isaac?s good fortune. Read along with me.

12Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. 13The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15So all the wells that his father?s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth. (Genesis 26:12-15 NIV)

Some of you may be familiar with the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph had a dream one day that he would rule over his brothers in the future. His brothers didn?t appreciate Joseph telling them about his dream. As a matter of fact, we read in Genesis 37:11,

11His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. (Genesis 37:11 NIV)

In 1 Kings 19:9-10 we see a positive use of the word. Elijah is jealous, or he has great zeal for the honor of God?s name. He took on the false prophets of Baal and showed them to be false only to find out that the wicked Queen Jezebel was after him. Jezebel had tried to destroy all of God?s prophets in Israel and when Elijah found out that she had turned her sights on him he was scared to death. Elijah ran for the hills. When Elijah became exhausted he sat down under a broom tree and prayed that the Lord would take his life. A little later we read about God?s conversation with Elijah. Turn to 1 Kings 19:9-10 with me.

9There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: ?What are you doing here, Elijah?? 10He replied, ?I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.? (1 Kings 19:9-10 NIV)

In our Scripture for today we find both the negative use of the word, ?Do not let your heart envy sinners,? and the positive use of the word, ??but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.? What are you zealous for this morning? Do you look at the lives of those that Entertainment Tonight and People magazine say are living it up, living the good life, and wish that you could have as much fun and excitement as they are having going to parties and staying up till all hours of the night? Are you envious when you hear your co-workers talking about where they are going after work or on the weekends?heading to Happy Hour, Ladies Night, or gathering at a friend?s house to party?and wish that you were going with them? When you hear your classmates talk about the parties they went to on the weekend and their sexual exploits with the opposite sex are you envious of their stories and wish you had stories of your own to share with the guys or girls in your school? Solomon describes these people as sinners.

There are three different aspects of the ?sinners? lives that Solomon points out as being destructive?they drink too much wine, they gorge themselves, and they are sexually immoral. Take a look with me at verses 20-21 and we can read about the first two characteristics.

20 Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, 21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags. (Proverbs 23:20-21 NIV)

Now let?s take a look at verses 26-28 and we will see the third characteristic of those Solomon describes as sinners.

26 My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways, 27 for a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well. 28 Like a bandit she lies in wait, and multiplies the unfaithful among men. (Proverbs 23:26-28 NIV)

By highlighting these three characteristics Solomon is not exhausting the definition of what it means to be a sinner. Each and every one of us is a sinner. We were born sinners. We were born with a heart that is set on doing what we want rather than what God desires for our lives. We?ve seen in Proverbs the wide road that we sinners travel in separating ourselves from God. In this section Solomon simply points out a particular group of folks who represent the self-indulgent and self-destructive revelers in society.

I was talking this past week with a friend of mine who had gone to an NFL game with his brother last season. His brother has had season tickets in the same section of the stadium for years. The people who sit in that section have become friends. They meet before the game and begin their party, they party during the game, and then they meet after the game to continue their party. As we were talking he said to me, ?You know my brother is really a good guy, he is just lost.? I told my friend, ?Think about it. Out of all of the people who were in the stadium that day do you think most of the crowd lives like your brother or like you?? There is no question about it. The world is drawn like a moth to a flame to the fast life where loose sex and loose living flow like a mighty river.

I?ve been amused by a commercial I saw on TV promoting Las Vegas. You?ve probably seen the commercial with the tag line??What happens here stays here.? If you don?t understand the meaning of that promise then something is wrong with you. The commercial is false advertising. What happens in Las Vegas doesn?t necessarily stay there. If you visit one of the women that Solomon describes in this section of Proverbs then you may take something home with you that you didn?t bargain for. If you join in on the revelry and drink yourself into oblivion then you may take home lost nights or days, an empty billfold, and much, much more. And will you learn from your experience? Not necessarily. Take a look at Proverbs 23:29-35.

29Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? 30 Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. 31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! 32 In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. 34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. 35 ?They hit me,? you will say, ?but I?m not hurt! They beat me, but I don?t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink??

The person Solomon is describing says, ?When will I wake up so I can find another drink?? Do we necessarily learn from our experiences? Not necessarily. The other thing we don?t bargain for is the long term affect that this lifestyle will have on us. Did you know that the vast majority of folks who are in prison are addicted to either drugs or alcohol? I can?t tell you the percentage of people who visit this church each week in need of money for their electric bill or for food who are alcoholics or addicted to drugs. Many of them have reached the point of desperation and even though in the past they may have said, ?I don?t have a problem,? now they know that they have a problem, but they have drank and used drugs for so long that it is part of them. The claws of addiction are embedded deep in their hearts and they feel like they will never be freed. They wake up one day and realize that they have been robbed of life.

The same end result takes place in the lives of those who pursue loose living with men or women in a sexual way. Take a look at verses 26-28 once again. Solomon writes,

26 My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways, 27 for a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well. 28 Like a bandit she lies in wait, and multiplies the unfaithful among men. (Proverbs 23:26-28 NIV)

Isn?t it interesting that here the dad says to the son to give him his ?heart? and his ?eyes.? Men, young men as well as us older men, let?s have a heart-to-heart for a minute. Visual stimulation cannot take place without willing eyes. This is not new news. Job wrote, 1 ?I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. (Job 31:1 NIV) We men are stimulated by what we see. What we look at will have an affect on who we are and what we do. You may think that looking at websites and images on the internet is harmless, but you are wrong. You might think that nobody will get hurt by visiting places which are oddly called, ?Gentlemen?s Clubs,? but you are wrong. One thing leads to another and the first misstep we make often leads to even worse missteps if we don?t repent of our sin and turn back to God and His way of living.

Solomon says that the wayward wife, or the loose woman, ?lies in wait? like a bandit. The word that is used here is interesting in that it comes from a rare verb that means ?to ambush,? ?to snatch away,? or ?to take.? You may think that you are going to gain some ecstatic, euphoric experience by indulging your sexual appetites, but you will find out differently. You may think that she will fulfill your erotic dreams, but you are fixing to live a nightmare. She will not give, she will take. This is not only true for those loose women in society, those girls in your school who have a reputation, or those women who walk the halls of your office with seduction written all over their smiles, but this is also true for those young guys in your school who make empty promises, but steal your heart as well as your virginity and integrity. It?s true of those men who seem too sweet and understanding, but who are only looking to take you for all they can get and then kick you to the curb once they are done. Solomon says, ?Do not envy sinners.? Don?t be zealous for this kind of life.

There is an alternative to this kind of living as Solomon says,

? but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. 18 There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. 19 Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path. (Proverbs 23:17-19 NIV)

You and I are encouraged to be zealous or envious of the ?fear of the Lord.? We are not to look at the lives of those who are not walking with God; we are to walk in absolute reverence and utter respect for God and His ways. You say, ?Ok, I?m ready, but how do I do that?? That?s a great question. Let?s allow God?s Word to provide the answer for us. Look at verse 19. We are told to be wise and keep our heart on the right path. Being wise means that we pay attention to what goes on around us. The lessons God provides through the lives of others as well as the lessons God provides through His Word. Keeping our heart on the right path means that we keep our focus on walking with the Lord regardless of what others are doing. In verse 23 we are told,

23 Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding. (Proverbs 23:23 NIV)

Get the truth and don?t relinquish it for anything. Specifically get wisdom, discipline, and understanding. We could spend another hour taking a look at these three words, but suffice it to say that all three come from earnestly walking with God and spending time in His Word. I also need to say that wisdom, discipline, and understanding to not come all at once. We will be in the process of acquiring wisdom, discipline, and understanding throughout our lives. As you gain more and more wisdom, discipline, and understanding don?t turn back, don?t turn aside from what you learn and gain. Don?t sell out!

There is no greater example of this than the man who wrote Proverbs. Solomon is said to have been the wisest man who has ever lived and yet later in his life he sold out. He threw away all that God had taught him and lived for fast women and good times. Just read the Book of Ecclesiastes and you can gain great insights into what I am talking about. In 1 Kings 11:1-4 we can read about how Solomon?s choice to ?sell out? the wisdom God had given him cost him in life.

1King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh?s daughter?Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, ?You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.? Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. (1 Kings 11:1-4 NIV)

We can?t be like Solomon. Hold onto wisdom, live in godly discipline, and you will gain great understanding. This is the life that we are to zealous for, this is the life that we should pour our hearts and souls into, and this is the life that will lead to a promising future beyond this life. I mentioned to you earlier that our first misstep will most often lead to even more dramatic and destructive missteps if we don?t repent of our sin and turn back to God. Let me make something clear: our first misstep has nothing to do with abusing alcohol, gorging ourselves, or chasing loose women or men. Our first misstep is refusing to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of our life. He is our hope, our strength, and our shield against the destructive forces that seek to undo us. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans and said,

11And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Romans 13:11-14 NIV)

Do not envy sinners, but clothe yourself with Jesus Christ. Will you do that this morning? Won?t you invite Him in?

Zealous For What?
Proverbs 23:17-24:1