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TEXT: Proverbs 1:8-19
SUBJECT: Proverbs #5: Temptation
THE MEANING OF "TEMPTATION".
I was surprised to find that the English word, "Temptation" is nowhere to be found in Proverbs. But this should not hinder our study in the least, for the Book abounds with counsel on that subject.
"To tempt", of course, simply means, "to solicit or encourage to sin". In describing it, the authors employ a wide and interesting vocabulary, only some of which we can presently examine:
In v.10, we read, "If sinners entice", which is a translation of the Hebrew, PATA. This word literally means, "To make wide, or to open up". It brings to mind a boxer, whose guard is dropped, thereby exposing his face to the blows of his opponent. It is so used in 16:29-30. An evil man acts very friendly to his neighbor for the purpose of gaining his confidence and causing his suspicions to cease. Then, he burglarizes his house, violates his wife, kidnaps his children, or murders him.
Thus by "temptation", we are "opened up" to sin.
Another word is SHAGAH, which means, "to lead astray". It reminds us of the tourist who is walking down a safe, well-lighted street. One of the locals, however, shows him a "short-cut" down a darkened alley, where, in turn, the fool is waylaid. So it is used in 5:23, of the prostitute who misleads the simpleton.
Thus, in "temptation", we are led astray.
A third word is NADAGH, which means "to press, force, or drive". It conjures up the taskmaster whipping his slaves to work. Thus it is used of the adulteress, who through her subtlety, "forces the young man to her bed", 7:21.
Thus, a temptation may be a driving, uncontrollable urge, which will not rest until it is satisfied.
But whatever word is used, the idea of temptation remains basically the same, i.e., "To solicit or encourage to sin"
THE ARGUMENTS FOR TEMPTATION.
OBSERVE: Satan is a forceful advocate for sin. He can argue his case in a way in which human lawyers can only envy. Because he is "More subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God made", he is able to make sin seem, "not bad at all". And because he is "Transformed in an angel of light", he can even make it seem "good". But our duty is to be "not ignorant of his devices". Therefore, we must understand and defeat his arguments, some of which follow.
Argument #1: Satan appeals to the desire for personal happiness. "Stolen waters taste sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant", 9:17.
"Intelligent" people call this argument "The need for self-actualization". Honest folk simply say, "If it feels good, do it!
But this argument is fundamentally flawed for at least three reasons:
It mistakes man's purpose for existence. Why are you here? The sensualist responds, "To have fun". The capitalist suggests, "To make money". The philanthropist says, "to help others". The environmentalist says, "To protect nature". But Scripture dashes all such answers, and calmly sets forth the chief end of man as this, "To glorify God". Paul put it well, "The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord", "For you are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's", and "Whether, therefore, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God."
It mistakes the true nature of "happiness", which ultimately consists of one thing: communion with God, Psalm 16:11.
It is horribly short-sighted. It exchanges an eternity of true bliss, for a few years of carnal pleasure. Like Esau, such a man trades his birthright for a bowl of soup!
Argument #2: Satan appeals to the popularity of the act. In our text, no less than eight plural pronouns are used, "us and we" seem to be the operative words.
This argument begins in childhood, (everyone else is doing it), grows around the time of adolescence, (peer-pressure), and often continues into maturity and old-age, (Keeping up with the Jonses').
But "popularity"--if anything--ought to argue against some act, rather than for it. For the Scripture teaches that "popular opinion" is:
Ignorant of truth, "The whole world lies in darkness".
Hardened in error, II Thessalonians 2:11.
Prompted by Satan, Ephesians 2:2a.
Under the wrath of God, Ephesians 2:2b.
Whenever, therefore, you see "Everyone else doing it", you can rest assured that such is an argument for you abstinence rather than participation.
Argument #3: Satan appeals to the secrecy of the act, 1:11.
This is perhaps the chief argument in favor of sin: No one will ever find out.
But to such an argument, I would pose two obvious answers:
Secrets are hard to keep from men, Ecclesiastes 10:20.
Secrets are impossible to keep from God, 5:21. Observe His exposure of secret sins, II Samuel 11:12, Ezekiel 14:3, Our Lord's expose upon the Pharisees.
Argument #4: Satan will appeal to the mercy of God, 7:14.
He will remind you of the Divine promises to forgive. He will bring to mind the sins of godly men. He will presume upon the patience of God.
But to such arguments, we respond:
The promises of mercy are extended only to penitent sinners, not to their hard-hearted brethren.
The sin of godly men were recorded, to make us watchful against sin, not prod us thereto.
The patience of God is often restricted, 1:20-33.
Argument #5: Satan will appeal to the insignificance or brevity of the act.
When he cannot justify sin, he will diminish its evil. "It's not that bad". The most shocking example of this is found in 30:20, or "I'll be in and out", see 6:10.
But both of these arguments are exposed by conidering these facts:
No sin against an Infinite God can be small.
Sin often becomes inextricable, 5:22; 17:14, John 8:34.
The arguments are subtle. They seem so reasonable. No sane man would disagree with them. Yet, be this as it may, "There is no wisdom or understanding, or counsel against the LORD". (21:30) You can never--under any circumstances--say, "Let us do evil that good may come", without incurring these words, "Whose condemnation is just".
THE SEASONS OF TEMPTATION.
Temptation may occur at any time, especially when least expected, 1:17. There are, however, certain times when we are most liable to it. They include the following.
We are liable to temptation in times of extraordinary difficulty, 30:8-9.
We are liable to temptation in times of extraordinary blessings, 30:8-9.
Perhaps the best example of this is Simon Peter, Matthew 16:13-19 and vv.21-23.
But we are primarily susceptible to temptation when we neglect the means of grace. 2:10-14.
The Apostles in the Garden and Hebrews 3:12-13.
HOW TO OVERCOME TEMPTATION.
Fear sin, 14:16.
Fear its Divine detection. Fear its Divine punishment, . Fear its hardening influence upon yourself. Fear its effects upon others.
Battle against its first appearance, Cf. 5:6 with James 1:13-16.
Be thankful for what you have, 5:15ff.
Attend to necessary duties, 4:25.
Avoid those people and things which tempt you, 4:14-15.
Fear God, 3:7.
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