Wisdom Seeker: Day 7

Proverbs 7

She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait.

Proverbs 7:11-12

Once again, we’ve come to a father-to-son warning against falling for an adulterous woman. It paints a picture of a seductive woman who presses on her target and gives him little space to think of anything but the temptation she offers.

Of course, there’s a plain meaning to this text – a warning to sons not to even stray close to this sticky spider’s web. Could be, there’s an implied warning to us ladies not to put up some false religious pretense (v 14) while allowing our thoughts to stray from devotion to our husbands lest our actions soon follow.

But I also see a third thing here: an indictment against adultery with the world.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James 4:4

Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Still, I can see in this wayward woman who is now in the market, now on the streets; who presses herself on this unfortunate young man, who fills his ears with chatter so that he cannot think clearly – in this picture, I can see the busy-ness, the cares and worries and pleasures of our world.

They, too, stalk the marketplaces and streets. So many pleasures are arrayed for our purchase, tempting us to live beyond our means. They are on every screen and on billboards all around us. They tempt us with discontent – with bigger, better, and more stuff. With grander vacations.

The worries plague us, too, from the debt we’ve buried ourselves in to the fears and diseases and constant evil reported in nonchalant terms in the news. The social media frenzy of reactionary fury and the babble of a million voices all distracting from the problem and never addressing it at its root.

All the while, we imagine our God is on some trip far away and not noticing our little infidelities. We offer him some pittance of agreement at church on Sunday and fail to honor Him in our secret thoughts, as we choose our entertainment, or as we speak (or type) to others throughout our days.

In short, we wrap our arms around the world and laugh it up, and we turn our backs on the Source of eternal peace. We trade in deep and abiding joy for mere momentary happiness. We commit spiritual adultery.

Let’s not anymore. Let’s keep as far away as we need to so the world cannot seduce us any further. Then, let’s dive deep into the Fount of Living Water, and taste and see that He really is good!

Father God, forgive our spiritual adultery. Whatever boundaries we need to build between ourselves and the part of the world that tempts us most, we ask You to show us and help us to build it. Keep us close by Your side and prick our hearts when we stray, for we confess we are a people prone to wander. But oh, how we need You, Lord; never so much as now! Teach our hearts to long for You more and more, amen.

Adulteress

…And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:11b

A few days ago, I dreamed of the passage about the woman caught in adultery from John 8 and have spent many days reading and pondering the story. As I’ve read and re-read, I have also delved into commentaries out of curiosity over what others say, and in doing so found that many scholars do not believe John actually wrote the verses found in John 7:53-8:11, but that the words are nonetheless considered to recount an actual event that was perhaps added in later.

However, the scope of this article has nothing to do with whether or not this passage is a valid writing of John but rather a reflection on what it was God was saying to me, personally. And this morning, I finally got it.

In order to best share it with you, I need to point out another passage in Scripture, namely Matthew 18:23-35. To summarize, this is the parable Jesus told about a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owed the king a debt so tremendous that it was impossible for him to pay back.

Upon receiving the news that he, his family, and all he owned were to be sold in order to make payment on the debt, the servant begged for mercy. Moved by compassion, the king not only granted mercy but pardoned the servant’s debt.

The forgiven servant proceeded to encounter a fellow servant who owed him a small debt. When this man asked for lenience, the servant, apparently forgetting the mercy that had been extended to him, actually began to choke his fellow servant, throwing the poor man into prison.

Word of the event reached the king who summoned the man whom he had pardoned, taking him to task for being merciless to his fellow when he, himself, had received abundant mercy. My Lord closes the tale by stating:

So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:35

Oh, there were other Scriptures the Lord called to mind as I have mulled over the dream and the passage found in John 8. However, as Inigo Montoya said in The Princess Bride, “Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

There are many valid and wonderful insights that can be derived from both passages. Both have a great deal of easily applicable information on the treatment of others, on mercy, on grace, on forgiveness… indeed, on a host of Godly learning.

But…

All of this is nothing more than intellectual exercise until each of us understands what my God has been revealing to me.

I am the servant forgiven an unpayable debt. I am the woman caught in adultery.

We all are, for there is not a man or woman alive today who is entirely innocent of spiritual adultery; of pursuing self-indulgence or money or fame or innumerable other gods rather than remaining faithful to the One who Created us after His own image and breathed His life into us.

It is here, trembling in fear before the Righteous Judge as the murderous crowd drop their stones and slowly trickle away one by one until I stand alone before Him – it is here that I truly feel awed by His unlikely act of forgiveness. Here is where I feel the crushing weight of my debt and my inability to repay it.

And here is where I marvel at His words, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on, sin no more.”

Now that I have tasted the overwhelming and entirely undeserved freedom of my pardon, how could I not also forgive those who have committed such little offenses toward me?

And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:34-35

Father God, today I pray that we would each feel the incredible relief of forgiveness, realizing that our own unpayable debt and spiritual adultery are so much larger than the petty offenses we stack up against our brothers and sisters. Help us to grasp the weight of joy in Your forgiveness in such a way that we are eager to leave our lives of sin and walk in freedom, forgiving others as You have forgiven us.