It is easy to occasionally read something in the Bible that you immediately dismiss as irrelevant to your life. This is especially true of stories in the Old Testament, which, if taken at face value, have no bearing on my circumstances at all. Proverbs 7 is just such a passage, with its depiction of the temptation of an unsuspecting man by an adulterous woman.
Just as I was beginning to wonder who I know that this warning might apply to (nasty little Pharisaical habit), I read this verse: “Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng” (Prov. 7:25-26). Ouch. This passage is not just about sexual sin, it is about ALL sin.
How often do the cares of the world, even the good ones, turn our hearts aside from the one true path? When we acknowledge the frequency with which we turn away from God, we begin to grasp the enormity of the sacrifice Christ has made to reconcile us to him.
In John’s first letter (from which some of our liturgy is taken) this concept is unpacked a bit. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Understanding the real nature of sin in myself is evidence that I am delivered from sin. This does not mean that I am free from sin, but that through God’s awesome love and power I am no longer a slave to it.
As my friend the Reverend John Barr (far left) said to me recently, “Sin still rages but it does not rule.” It is the difference between walking in darkness and walking in the light.
Oswald Chambers (near left) explains it better than I ever could: “The love of God at work in me makes me hate with the hatred of the Holy Ghost all that is not in keeping with God’s holiness. To walk in the light means that everything that is of the darkness drives me closer into the center of the light” (My Utmost for His Highest, December 26).
Notice that it is not my nature that rejects evil but the work of God in me. John sums up this divine imputation at the end of Chapter 2: “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” (2:29). The righteousness is not self-generated, but comes from outside of us.
So when we come across the exhortation in Proverbs 7 to “keep my commandments and live” (vs.2), we can rest in the knowledge that it is only through God’s grace that we are able to submit to his will. Now what could be more relevant to my life than my very salvation?
We must seek the gospel message in every part of the Bible, not just the New Testament. We will learn more not only about ourselves but more importantly about our Father’s fierce love for us.