Listen to Me
April 8, 2018
There are many things in life that people can regret. A student might stare hopelessly at her computer the night before a final paper is due and say to herself, “This is not going to go well. I should have started on this three weeks ago.” A patient might receive bad news from the doctor and say to himself, “I should have listened to my mother and taken better care of my body.” Parents might wish they had done things differently for their children and say to themselves, “If only we could turn back time.”
And the son of the king of Israel might fall for the forbidden woman and say to himself, “I am at the brink of utter ruin….”
We are going through the opening chapters of the book of Proverbs. And it is a touching drama. A father speaks to his son about wisdom and how to be a good king for Israel. And a big part of that is marital fidelity. A good and righteous king for his people must be a good and righteous husband for his wife. The honor and glory of the king’s throne is tied to the purity and holiness of the king’s marriage. This is wisdom. And the son must do well in this… or else.
For if he does not do well in this, if he does not listen to the words of his father, then he will regret it. He will regret it in four ways.
First, if the son does not keep his way far from the forbidden woman, then he will regret the loss of honor. Verse 9a says, “lest you give your honor to others….” If he falls for the forbidden woman, then he will endure great shame and humiliation. His name will be worth nothing. His image will be tarnished. His accomplishments will be questioned. His rewards will be stripped. He will be the target of mockery and ridicule and hatred and scorn. He will lose all of his friends. He will be exiled. He will be famous for all the wrong reasons. He will regret the loss of honor.
Second, if the son does not keep his way far from the forbidden woman, then he will regret the justice he deserves. Verse 9b says, “lest you give your years to the merciless….” If he falls for the forbidden woman, then there will be no mercy for him. The law will come down on him. Those who are wronged, perhaps the husband or the family members of the forbidden woman, will pour out their wrath upon him. No payment of money would be able to release him. No lawyer or advocate could be able to help him. No amount of goods works could bring him redemption. There will be no second chance, no forgiveness, no sympathy, no mercy. There will only be heavy and final justice. He will regret the justice he deserves.
Third, if the son does not keep his way far from the forbidden woman, then he will regret the fall of Israel. Verse 10 says, “lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner….” If he falls for the forbidden woman, then the nations around him, the strangers and the foreigners of Israel, will benefit from his loss. His wealth and his economic power will be given to others. His work will all be in vain. His land and his people will be taken over by others. His kingdom will all come crashing down. He will regret the fall of Israel.
Fourth and finally, if the son does not keep his way far from the forbidden woman, then he will regret a sad and sorry end to his life. Verses 11 and 12 say, “… and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say….” If he falls for the fobidden woman, then he will go out in sadness and sorrow. Lady Wisdom will have laughed and mocked him. God, to the praise of his glorious justice, will have passed by him. And he will talk to himself in a sad Shakespearean soliloquy.
“How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.”
He will close his eyes with no hope for a tomorrow. All his yesterdays of hatred for discipline will light his way to dusty death. Because he did not listen to his father, he will be a poor player that will be heard no more. His utter ruin in the assembled congregation will be a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. He will regret a sad and sorry end to his life.
Oh how tragic his four-fold regret will be! He will exchange the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until full day for the shadow of twilight that grows darker and darker until full death. He will lose the family heritage and legacy. He will forfeit the tree of life and the graceful garland for his head. He will be cut off from the land of the living. This is the worst kind of tragedy. And all of this will happen to the son if he does not stay far away from the forbidden woman - if he does not rejoice in his wife.
Unfortunately, Israel’s royal lineage of sons lived very sad and tragic lives. None of them were perfect in wisdom and righteousness. None of them could reverse the regretful reign of the first king Adam who failed to establish the kingdom of God. None of them could escape utter ruin on their own.
But that is not how the story ends. Because none of Israel’s kings or peoples or land or rest was ultimate. None of its tragedy and regret could overshadow the promise of an eschatological son. None of it was anything more than a picture or a preview of the Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace. None of it was meant to be greater than Jesus.
Praise be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! He is the promised Son of the heavenly Father who fulfills Proverbs 5. He was perfectly wise and righteous. He earned the tree of life. And then he took all that was his and gave it to us and he took all that was ours and and put it on himself. He took away all our sin. He took away everything that could lead to our ruin and regret. And he died for us and rose again for us and ascended for us.
Brothers and sisters, things are different now. Now there is nothing that we will regret in the new heavens and the new earth. And the reason why is because there will only be victory and thankfulness and worship. Now when the Day of the Lord comes, or when you close your perishable eyes one last time, you will not say to yourself, “I am at the brink of utter ruin.” And the reason why is because Jesus once said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Now we want to be wise, now we keep far away from the forbidden woman or man in our lives, and now we welcome discipline and incline our ear to the word of God. And the reason why is because we love the Son who is our king.
Brothers and sisters, let us keep our ways far from the forbidden woman or man. Whether you are married or single or something in between, be wise. May sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness not even be named among you. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:3-5). Stay away from the literal house and literal door of the forbidden woman or man. But also stay away from non-literal houses and doors that can exist on the internet or in the world of fantasy or imagination. May you keep your way far from the forbidden woman or man.
Brothers and sisters, let us cherish and understand the wisdom of God. God’s wisdom is often urgent. It can involve serious warnings. It is personal and covenantal. And it is real and consequential. We are such a great church. You all are the best. I am truly thankful for who we are and what we do here at Highland. But let us not relax on this. Let us have vigilance and continue to be a wise church. Let us strive to be even more wise as the Day draws near. I would love it if people said about us, “The people at Highland Church are so wise!” Let us cherish and understand the wisdom of God.
I would like to close now with these wonderful words of encouragement. You have honor in Christ. You have an infinite number of good years ahead of you in the new heavens and the new earth. Your flesh and body will be transformed one day. And you are at the brink of utter victory in the assembled congregation. There are many things in life that people can regret. But I tell you the truth, you will not regret the salvation of the Lord and the fear of the Lord. Listen to him.
Summary of Sermon
In the opening chapters of Proverbs, a father speaks to his son about how to be a good king for Israel. And a big part of that is martial fidelity. A righteous king for his people must be a righteous husband for his wife. The honor of his throne is tied to the holiness of his marriage.
This is wisdom. And if the son does not do well in this, then he will regret it. He will regret the loss of his honor, the justice that he deserves, the fall of his kingdom, and a sad end to his life.
None of Israel’s royal lineage of sons were perfect in wisdom and righteousness. None except Jesus Christ.
Praise be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Now there is nothing that we will regret in the new heavens and the new earth. We will never be at the brink of utter ruin. Instead, we are at the brink of utter victory.
Our of love for the eschatological Son of God who is our king, let us keep our ways far from the forbidden woman or man. Let us cherish and understand the wisdom of God. And let us be encouraged by the fact that we will never regret the salvation of the Lord and the fear of the Lord.
Questions for Discussion & Sharing
There are many things in life that people can regret. From the light-hearted to the serious, what are some common examples of regretful moments of foolishness in people’s lives? What do people say to themselves at the moment of regret? What are their soliloquies, so to speak?
What are real-life examples of the forbidden woman or forbidden man in our schools, our workplaces, and our society at large?
Marital infidelity is devastating. In what real-life ways are honor lost and justice administered with such foolishness?
How does the wisdom and righteousness of Christ compel us today to be holy in our marriages and pure in our sexual morality overall?
How does the fact that we are on the brink of utter victory change the way that we live today?