Proverbs: Part Two

Welcome back.

This week we find ourselves still analyzing the warnings in the first chapter of Proverbs. We began an in-depth look into the book of Proverbs last week, where King Solomon outlines the overall purpose for studying it: to attain wisdom, discipline, insight, prudence, discretion, guidance and righteousness, and to live a just and Godly life.

I’m very much looking forward to getting into what this book is known for; a survival guide for this earthy desert of sin, a compass for sailing the worldly seas, witty one-liners begging to be etched in wood and hung above a door frame – or tweeted to all your followers. Alas, we won’t get into the meat and potatoes until Chapter nine, because before we can enjoy our steak, we must first eat our appetizer. Chapters 1-9 compare and contrast wisdom and stupidity; without first understanding the difference between the two, and what results from leading a life engrossed in one or the other, one cannot possibly understand the importance of the remaining 22 chapters.

Part Two – Chapter 1:8-19
Exhortations Against Enticement – Warning Against Enticement

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They will be a garland to grace your head
and a chain to adorn your neck.
My son, if sinners entice you do not give in to them.
If they say, “Come along with us;
let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood,
let’s waylay some harmless soul;
let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
throw in your lot with us,
and we will share a common purse” –
my son, do not go along with them, 
do not set foot on their paths;
for their feet rush into sin,
they are swift to shed blood.
How useless to spread a net
in full view of all the birds!
These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they waylay only themselves!
Such is the end of all who go after illgotten gain;
it takes away the lives of those who get it.

My son is 11. He’s kind and considerate, thoughtful and caring. His hormones are also starting to kick in which means he’s beginning to realize that he knows more than I do. When he knows he’s right – and sometimes he is, but don’t tell him I said that – he won’t hesitate to cut me off, interjecting his thought or rationalization. It’s frustrating for me, for up until about six months ago, my words were gospel to the children of the Thomas household. I knew all, and what’s more, I had eyes in the back of my head. Still, I’m not perfect, and when I make a mistake I own up to it and apologize. Although this happens more often than I’d like, I still have bits of wisdom to pass on to my children who haven’t yet experienced life to the extent that I have. Every parent wants the best for their children. It’s too bad they won’t realize that they should have heeded King Solomon’s warning, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching,” until they have children of their own.

The next four verses remind me of the music videos I used to watch in the early 90s from rap artists like Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Eazy-E and Big Pun, which would immortalize gang members – such as those from the Bloods and Crips – as heroes, drugged out ladies of the streets at heroines, and anyone who had died as a result of either as a martyr. I watched as a depiction of these East and West Coast enemies literally “laid in wait for someone’s blood,” ready to take out the first person they saw who wore a blue or red bandana (depending on where your loyalties laid) from their back jean pocket. The videos portrayed a life I’d otherwise never known existed – thank God for that – where poverty created neighborhoods no person in their right mind would enter. When you crossed over these tracks the law became that of the jungle; the bigger fish ate the smaller fish for breakfast, and the spoils put bread on the table for dinner.

Here’s the first two verses from a song that I used to blare from the windows of my Dodge Daytona, cruising Speedway on a Friday night.

“Gangsta’s Paradise”

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I take a look at my life and realize there’s nothin’ left
Cause I’ve been blasting and laughing so long,
That even my mama thinks that my mind is gone
But I ain’t never crossed a man that didn’t deserve it
Me be treated like a punk you know that’s unheard of
You better watch how you’re talking and where you’re walking
Or you and your homies might be lined in chalk
I really hate to trip but I gotta loc
As they croak, I see myself in the pistol smoke, fool
I’m the kinda G the little homies wanna be like
On my knees in the night saying prayers in the streetlight

Been spending most their lives, living in the gangsta’s paradise
Been spending most their lives, living in the gangsta’s paradise
Keep spending most our lives, living in the gangsta’s paradise
Keep spending most our lives, living in the gangsta’s paradise

Look at the situation they got me facin’
I can’t live a normal life, I was raised by the streets
So I gotta be down with the hood team
Too much television watching got me chasing dreams
I’m an educated fool with money on my mind
Got my 10 in my hand and a gleam in my eye
I’m a loc’d out gangsta set trippin’ banger
And my homies is down so don’t arouse my anger, fool
Death ain’t nothing but a heartbeat away,
I’m living life, do or die, what can I say
I’m 23 now, but will I live to see 24
The way things are going I don’t know

Tell me why are we so blind to see
That the ones we hurt are you and me

King Solomon knew about the law of the jungle long before MTV ever personified it on TV. “My son, do not go along with them.” They are only killing themselves. “Such is the end of all who go after illgotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it.” The artists who had created the songs I loved listening to within the confines of my high school hooptie began to drop like flies. Eazy-E: AIDS. 2Pac: shot and killed. The Notorius B.I.G: shot and killed. Big Pun: heart attack. Their violence and/or extravagant lifestyle had caught up with them. I turned the stereo down and learned to love songs like “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding and “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel.

Chapter 1:20-33
Exhortations Against Enticement – Warning Against Wisdom

Wisdom calls aloud in the street,
she raises her voice in the public squares;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out,
in the gateways of the city she makes her speech;
“How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?
If you had responded to my rebuke,
I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.
But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,
since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke,
I in turn will laugh at your disaster;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you-
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me.
Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord,
since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke,
they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

When I worked in Savannah, Georgia I used to spend the majority of my lunch breaks in Forsyth Park. Charles David Moody was as much a presence in that park as the famous fountain standing in the middle.

Photographed in 2014 with my Nikon F, b/w film, ISO 100

Photographed in 2014 with my Nikon F, b/w film, ISO 100

I didn’t even have to look for his sign. His thunderous voice shouting, “Be Warned!” gave his position away as he circled the square mile park block. Round and round he would go along the perimeter sidewalk, runners and bicyclists weaving their way around him when he would stop to place a business card with a verse of scripture on it in the slats of the park benches. CardIf you happened to glance his direction for even just a millisecond, Charles would stop dead in front of you, blocking your path, look you in the eyes, and ask if you’d seen the Light. I’d watch him from my blanket on the soft grass as the folks who were too kind to instantly blow him off would then instead be forced to listen as he passed as much Godly wisdom as he could from his lips to their ears. And then, as these tourists and locals would slowly inch backwards trying to make an escape, Charles would reach into his pocket and pull out a flyer which summarized all he’d been trying to express, just in case they’d forget what he’d told them when they got into their cars or passed the threshold of their homes. I’d been the lucky recipient of his speech a couple of times myself, and I could count on a third if my path crossed his again. He was always there, calling aloud in the street, desperate for people to take off their blinders and heed the warning of rejecting God’s words.

Proverbs consistently identifies three types of people: the simple, the fool and the mocker.

How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Proverbs 1:22

Simple people go through life without giving it much thought. As a result of their laziness, the days come and go without any personal growth, and just like the other two groups of people, in the end, they will be sorry. Fools are smarter, having made a conscious decision to deny Christ, living according to their personal standards, morals and know how. The worst of the bunch are mockers, those who outwardly rebel against God and proclaim their viewpoint to all who will hear. To mock God is dangerous thing, for He will have the last laugh.

I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you… Proverbs 1:26

The last bit of this section of scripture scares me. There’s really no other way to put it. God’s words are harsh and cold.

They will call to me but I will not answer…. I will laugh at their misfortunes and afflictions. …they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes…waywardness will kill them…complacency will destroy them… Proverbs 1: 28-32

If this warning from God doesn’t give you chill bumps I’m not sure what will. Be warned! Do not wait until it is too late: until God’s mercy and grace have run dry. Allow your fear of the Lord to be your gate to wisdom, your brighter path.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Proverbs 1:7

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