Proverbs: Every Dad’s Nightmare
Every dad’s nightmare is to find out that his son or daughter has fallen in with the wrong crowd. I can remember a time when I was younger, somewhere in elementary school. My parents had just finished tucking my brother and I in at night. As they were leaving the room, I yelled, “Shut up!” Maybe there was a reason, maybe not. I had heard it at school. Probably not from the worst kid in class, but probably not from the best, either. I hesitate to give that example because it is so trivial compared to what some parents experience from their kids.
It’s also far from the warning given in Proverbs 1:10-19. Right out of the gate, the first teaching given to this young, simple son is this: Don’t get mixed up with a group of killers.
My first thought: Isn’t that common sense?
The dad says,
10My son, if sinful men entice you,
do not give in to them.
11If they say, “Come along with us;
let’s lie in wait for innocent blood,
let’s ambush some harmless soul;
12let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
14cast lots with us;
we will all share the loot”—
Often in Proverbs we think of the contrast between fools and the wise; these are more than fools. They are sinful men. They are blatant and blunt in their scheme. The only positive thing about it is they’re approaching the boy to join them rather than make him their victim. Verse 12 refers to the grave/pit, which was Sheol. In the Old Testament, Sheol is a dark place for all of the dead. Heaven was reserved for God and his angels. God did not choose to reveal eternal life as we understand until Christ. They want to swallow this unfortunate fellow like Sheol swallows the dead. The idea is that they will hurt him in a surprise attack and he will not have a chance to defend himself. The loot will be theirs. It sounds like a foolproof plan, pun intended.
The admonition to steer clear is wise because this father knows the outcome.
15my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
16for their feet rush into evil,
they are swift to shed blood.
17How useless to spread a net
where every bird can see it!
18These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they ambush only themselves!
19Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the life of those who get it (Proverbs 1:10-19, TNIV).
Listen to how many words are repeated to emphasize the evil outcome will really be for the sinful men: men (v. 10, 18); lie in wait (v.11, 18); blood (v. 11, 18); ambush (v. 11; 18); alive/life (v. 12; 19). Verse 17 means that this plan is not as well-thought-out as they portray it to be. Rather, it’s a plan that has been shown for what it truly is. It will not work, but only end in misery and life.
What might God be saying in all of this? There are two negative commands: Do not give in (v. 10) and do not set foot on their paths (v. 15). They are paralleled, with the second one magnifying the first: Giving in to the appeal leads to going along with them. We are all tempted to fall in with the wrong crowd. This crowd may not be plotting murder and stealing, but we know when we’re being wrongly influenced. We tend to think this message applies mainly to teens and “peer pressure,” but adults are not immune either. Especially when it comes to money, we are all tempted to have more than we own. One commentator wrote, “The blessings of the wicked are counterfeits of the blessings of the wise. Both the wicked and the wise speak of finding wealth (1:13; 8:18).” The difference is that the wise find wealth by seeking wisdom. Money will be a large theme of Proverbs, and the message is clear. Do what is wise, and only then will you find wealth.