Proverbs - on Life and Death Sermon

Proverbs  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  26:33
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Choosing the Path of Life

Free to choose the path… not free to choose the consequences!
The God we worship is the sovereign Lord of the universe.
And in his sovereignty he gives human beings the dignity of making moral choices.
Even though God is totally sovereign over everything, including our choices, the choices human beings make are very real choices, they are not fake.
And they have real consequences
And they are consequences for which God will hold us accountable… because God created us as moral beings.
But we don’t get a choice about the consequences of our choices!
A person is free to make a choice to climb onto a roof and jump off, but the consequences of the choice are not for that person to decide.
But the consequences are set in the concrete below.
Some of our choices are a matter of life and death… and Proverbs speaks a lot about life and death.
We have choices about which path we are on, whether we walk the path of life or the path of death… but the destinations of those paths are fixed.
One leads to glory and the other to destruction!
Prov 14:12 “12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
Prov 12:28 “28 In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.”
But life is more than a beating heart and death is more than a still heart.
Proverbs sees life and death as being over the whole realm of our existence.
Death casts its shadow over us every day.
Pandemic… (has been a forceful reminder of our own mortality)…but also balding heads and thinning grey hair, aching bones and anxiety, confusion and sin are all signs that death lurks all around us.
There is also a life force at work in our world.
And this life force is for a life that is more than a beating heart.
This Life comes from God via the gospel of Jesus.
We don’t earn it or deserve it… but God freely gives it to all who meet his requirements of repentance and faith… turning from our sin to our Saviour… and accepting that will be our way of life every day until the Lord Jesus returns or our heart stops beating.
Proverbs repeatedly warns us that death lurks… even for God’s people.
Proverbs alerts us to where death lurks… and how to find the path to real life.
Look at the contrasts
Proverbs 2:9–10 (NIV84)
1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you… 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.
Proverbs 4:11 NIV84
11 I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.
So Proverbs alerts us that life is more than simply choices; life is about the life path we choose.
Path implies way of life, way of decision making… day after day… a routine or habit.
I have found this very helpful.
A person is on the path of life when they generally choose the way of life. Day after day. It’s not about perfection… and it’s not about making some wrong decisions (that’s inevitable given we’re fallen creatures in a fallen world) but it’s about the path we’re on.
But then we run into a problem. Proverbs also says things like this…
Proverbs 11:4 (NIV84)
4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
Proverbs 11:19 (NIV84)
19 The truly righteous man attains life, but he who pursues evil goes to his death.
Proverbs 10:16 (NIV84)
16 The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment.

The Paths of the Righteousness (& the Wicked)

Even back in the OT the Bible talks about the righteous life.
What is this righteous life?
Is it a perfect life?
Is that what Solomon means when he says the wages of the righteous bring them life?
Prov 11:4 has an interesting take on the word righteous.
Proverbs 11:1 NIV84
1 The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.
The ESV Bible says, “but a just weight is his delight”.
Have a think about this.
What makes a weight accurate or just… or in other words, righteous?
Here are 4 $1 coins.
Now if I put one in my hand I reckon it weighs… ah… maybe 1/4 kg. Let me take a look at one of the coins… aha! Here it is stamped on the coin, 250 grams! Look at that! I was spot on. So four of these coins weighs exactly one kilogram… RIGHT?
It is right because I have declared it to be right… and when I looked at the coin it said 250 grams… therefore my declaration is accurate, right, just… and righteous!
AM I RIGHT? Yes or No? No!
Because for weights there is a universally agreed external and objective standard to which we all adhere.
It doesn’t matter whether or not I declare something to weigh 250g.
It doesn’t matter if 250gm is written on the coin… if the objective standard says it weighs 20gm.
It doesn’t matter that I sovereignly declare the weight to be 1kg for 4 of them… if the objective standard says 4 of them weigh 80gms.
A righteous, just, accurate scale that the Lord takes delight in is one which matches the objective, external standard.
And if I’m a butcher using my sovereignly declared $1 coin weighs 250gms to sell my meat to the public… the weights and measures government department will hear about it and Prov 10:16 “16 The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment.”
Let’s push this a little further.
Our governments are increasingly declaring abortion and euthanasia to be right.
Does that make them right? (righteous, just, accurate)
They have declared that it is right that I have to use my blinker to turn off the road onto a different road and when I overtake another car… is that wrong?
Our government has declared same sex marriage to be right… and many people even in churches agree.
Is that right? (righteous, just, accurate)
In his book “A Better Story” Glynn Harrison talks about how prior to the 1960’s there was a generally held agreement about objective standards for human behaviour.
But as the decades since then have gone on there has been a change from objective standards to the sovereign individual.
We used to think of ourselves as belonging to a community.
We used to find our identity within that community.
We were parents, teachers, lawyers, soccer mums, Christians… we accepted our place in our community and gained some satisfaction in our place in the community.
Marriage and family; workplace and career; neighbourhood and civic community....
But now it’s not so much about good of the community and each individual finding their place in the community… it’s more about the happiness of the individual.
And in the pursuit of individual happiness the individual looks within and tries to work out what they sense within as best they can each day.
So much so that now a person can get up in the morning, and despite being a generally accepted and objective reality of being male, declare that he is now female.
How does that square with what is righteous, just and accurate to the external standard?
And despite being a generally accepted agreement that a male and a female would get together and marry and have a family as the nuclear unit of society, that too has been overturned because… well… love is love… and who are we to judge? Right?
How does that square with what is righteous, just and accurate to the external standard?
And while people who grew up in the middle of last century held moral convictions about male and female and bearing children and what constitutes a marriage… why is it that for so many conservative church people that is no longer true?
What about the objective external standard?
How did that change?
It’s one thing for the world to adapt to all these changes… but how did people in conservative churches ever get to support abortion, euthanasia, same sex marriage and gender issues?
How come increasing numbers of young Christians in conservative churches now live together before marriage?
Glynn Harrison argues that for the most part we just caught the standards that people accepted for life in a similar way to the way we catch a cold.
It was just there somewhere… and we picked it up.
We’re not quite sure just who, when or how…
We just know a man is a man, a woman is a woman and a man and a woman marry and have kids.
But as for understanding the foundational reasoning from the Scriptures why that is so… that hasn’t been taught well.
So when the 1960’s revolution began … and then the 1900’s finished… and our children or grandchildren or their friends turned up with a same sex partner… and well, they’re lovely kids… and love is love… and… who am I to judge?
We weren’t taught to consider the righteous external standard… so what did we do?
We made up our own minds about the matter!
And now even some conservative Christians are clapping when when parliament overturns long held societal norms!
Perhaps too many people made their choices based on gut instinct and norms they’d just picked up as they grew into adulthood.
So when the anchor is gut instinct, then when people we love do things contrary to what we used to believe, long and strongly held opinions are abruptly reversed!
This friends is a tragedy for the Christian church.
Proverbs says we need that external standard to guide our lives on the path of righteousness which leads to life!
Prov 19:16 “16 He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of his ways will die.”
We don’t need to look deep within the individual to find the path to life… we need to obey the instructions God has given us.
Pr 15:10 “10 Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die.”
Discipline doesn’t have to be a lightning bolt from God… nor only Judgement Day.
Discipline can be a life of mixed families and blended families and kids who are incredibly confused about who they are, what life is about, or how community works.
Know this: Many people in the wider community have a deep unease about where society is heading… and if they turn to the church, if they get served a coffee by someone from the church, they stumble upon a church website… they come for a visit… will they simply find more of the same?
People who are unsure, confused, going along with the crowd?
God forbid!
They need to find a group of people with a better story.
A better way of doing life.

Life in The Way!

So when we turn to the Scriptures to try and find the path to life, what wisdom.... what external standard can we find to tell us whether or not we’re on the path… the way, to life?
Jn 14:6 “6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus is wisdom personified… and in him we find the path, the way to life is relational… it comes through making friends with God through Jesus.
And following his path. The way of heavenly wisdom.
One last proverb to finish.
Pr 24:13 “13 Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.”
Honey is not simply for looking at and evaluating.
You enjoy honey by taking some freshly baked bread, a liberal application of real butter and cool honey all over it… and eating it!
Beautiful! Just beautiful!
Proverbs 24:13–14 NIV84
13 Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. 14 Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.
That’s what taking and applying wisdom is like to our soul!
Wisdom is not simply for looking at and evaluating.
The wisdom of proverbs is for taking and chewing on and swallowing and going out into the world in the strength it provides to live and work to the glory of God.
Then we conform to the external standard.
Not because we want to build a relationship with God, but because we have a relationship with God and we want it to last for all time and eternity.
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