From Ears to Feet–Lesson 2
Sabbath School lesson for January 3-9, 2015
A popular line of a modern parent to their small child today might well be, “You need to listen, do, and follow through.” A catchy phrase used often in at least one household I’m familiar with.
And that is precisely how Solomon introduces his message. He encourages us to hear it with our ears and follow through with our feet. This training in wisdom will do us no good, unless we actually pay attention and follow up with active service.
Our education must go beyond knowing the difference between right and wrong. We need to know how to choose right and not wrong. Engagement of the ears and feet are both vital in this search for wisdom.
“Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil” Proverbs 4:26, 27 NKJV
We are told here to consider the path of our feet, in other words where our life has brought us. Consider what actions worked well, and which ones did not.
It should be obvious that walking in a straight line is the most efficient way to get to our destination. This is one way police officers have used to test whether one is inebriated. “Can you walk in a straight line?” If not, there’s a question about your ability to drive straight. Makes sense, does it not?
Proverbs 4 is the focus of today’s study.
Just as the heart is considered the seat of our emotions in Hebrew thought, wisdom and intelligence is associated with our ears. When Solomon asks for an understanding heart in I Kings 3:9, he’s really asking for a “hearing” heart. The act of hearing is the first step in education. We must first hear instruction, before we process and apply it.
This instruction must therefore come from an external source (our parents, the Bible, God). Consequently, there is no such thing as a self-made individual in Hebrew thought. Wisdom is something we receive, not something we discover or shape on our own, with our own skills and intelligence.
The heart is involved too, however. King Solomon asked for an understanding HEART. Proverbs 4:23 says “Keep your HEART with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” NKJV Our search for wisdom must therefore include our emotions. This quest for knowledge and wisdom is not a cold, objective project. The heart must be involved.
Discussion Questions: Read Proverbs 4:23 and Jeremiah 29:13, and discuss how these two verses help us understand Matthew 13:44.
When have your emotions led you in the right direction, and when have they steered you wrong? Can they always be trusted then?
How much should we allow our emotions to impact our spiritual life? What is the proper place for emotions in our worship of God?
Monday: Protect Your Family
Proverbs 5 is the focus of today’s study.
The reason we need to protect our families, as it says in I Peter 5:8, is “…because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” KJV
We must assume that the “strange (or immoral) woman” that it speaks of in chapter 5 refers to a man OR woman, since either could seduce a spouse and lead to a violation of the marital vows.
The first danger is simply listening to her (or him, as the case may be). Consequently we must all be aware of our language, that it doesn’t send a wrong or inappropriate message to our listener.
This may be hard to detect, because we are told that these words often drip with honey, are smoother than oil; in other words, they are just the words we need to give or receive comfort, confidence, affirmation, and finally love. But Solomon warns us that the end is bitter, and sharp are the results that follow when we don’t heed this advice. See Proverbs 5:4.
The second danger, besides watching the way we speak, is to beware of the places our feet take us. Verse 8 says, …do not go near the door of her house,” NKJV So, as you can see, our ears and our feet are involved in this adulterous adventure. And the consequences are never pretty. Someone always gets hurt, when these situations occur.
Solomon, ever the wise father, finally counsels us to “rejoice with the wife of your youth.” God sees and knows all. We never leave His side without His noticing. “For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, And He ponders all his paths.” Proverbs 5:21 NKJV In other words, don’t ever think you are doing something in secret. You can’t hide from God.
Discussion Questions: Prostitutes, as portrayed in chapter 5, are frequently used as symbols of apostasy in the Bible. God often calls Israel, in times when they were practicing idolatry, an adulterous nation. Read examples of this in Ezekiel 43:7-9, Hosea 5:3, 6:10, Nahum 3:4 and Revelation 19:2. Discuss the metaphor of marriage, as a symbol of our relationship with God, and how it must hurt Him to see us be unfaithful–just like it hurts the faithful spouse when adultery is present in the marriage.
How can the promise of I Corinthians 10:13 be helpful in matters of adultery? Does this promise of “a way to escape” hold true even for those with sexual addictions?
Tuesday: Protect Your Friendship
As important as protecting our families, we are admonished in Proverbs 6:1-5 to protect our friendships. Many friendships are lost when finances get involved. The judicial system is loaded with cases involving loaning money to someone who proves to be negligent in payment.
Exodus 22:25 instructs us not to charge interest on money we loan to our friends and neighbors and we are even encouraged to help the poor, as far as we’re able. But we must also be wary of overextending our resources and risk losing more than money. We are at risk of losing our friend as well.
Solomon likens this situation to a bird in a snare. It does feel like a trap, and he cautions us to free ourselves and avoid it in the future. He even recommends trying to mend the friendship. “…Go and humble yourself; Plead with your friend.” Proverbs 6:3 NKJV
Discussion Questions: Is this proverb meant for the person lending money or the person getting the loan? In what way could it be dangerous for both parties?
How can you avoid committing to a loan that you cannot fulfill? Either as a borrower or as a lender.
Read Galatians 6:2. How to we balance our desire to “bear one another’s burdens” with the words of this proverb?
Wednesday: Protect Your Work
Proverbs 6:6-11 presents us with the picture of two different kinds of workers. On the one hand is the busy ant, carrying burdens heavier than himself in order to store food and prepare for the winter. He doesn’t even need a boss or supervisor in order to perform well on the job.
Then there’s the habitually lazy sluggard, who only lives for himself and the present. The sluggard is also known as a bum, do-nothing, lazybones, loafer, and slouch. You can guess the end result of this lifestyle…poverty. It may come suddenly, but it certainly could end up being a permanent condition.
Therefore, what father doesn’t want his children to grow up knowing the value of hard, productive work? Our identifying marks in life are:
- our marriage and family,
- our circle of friends,
- and ALSO our livelihood.
Solomon wisely includes this last area as needing protection.
Discussion Questions: We have seen in modern times an opposite of the sluggard. We call this individual a “workaholic”. Why has this condition become more noticed today than in times past?
What remedies are there for a “workaholic”? Could the Sabbath be part of the solution?
One author has pointed out the need for a business plan that includes not only the brief years of our present life, but the eternal future beyond the grave (Ellen G. White, Education, p. 145–or see quote in Wednesday’s lesson). How is it possible to prepare for that future, as well as our later years in life?
Thursday: Protect Yourself
After warning us about protecting the three main areas or domains in life: family, friends, and our work, Solomon gives a stunning picture of what wickedness looks like on a person. This not only helps us identify it in others, but see it in our own heart, where the problems actually begin.
In Proverbs 6:12-19 we find two parallel poems, describing a wicked, worthless person. He is noted not just by what he does, but for what he is on the inside.
Here’s the first poem (v. 12-15–numbers supplied):
“A worthless person, a wicked man,
- Walks with a perverse mouth;
- He winks with his eyes,
- He shuffles his feet,
- He points with his fingers;
- Perversity is in his heart,
- He devises evil continually,
- He sows discord.
Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly;
Suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.” NKJV
And here’s the second poem (v. 16-19–numbers supplied):
“These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
- A proud look,
- A lying tongue,
- Hands that shed innocent blood,
- A heart that devises wicked plans,
- Feet that are swift in running to evil,
- A false witness who speaks lies,
- And one who sows discord among brethren.” NKJV
We can see many similarities in these two poems when shown this poetic rhythm of sevens. It becomes obvious that behavior that is manifested in our actions begin inside us, in our thoughts and emotions.
On the one hand is the lazy sluggard, and the other the walking wicked. Both are not interested in following wise instruction (using their ears), but rather their own devious inclinations that lead to bad actions (using their feet).
Jesus made a poetic statement that follows this reasoning: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Matthew 15:19 NKJV Again, a list of seven.
Discussion Questions: Point out areas in these poems that the sinful choices of the wicked impact others. How are others affected by what we do?
Why is so easy to think that we aren’t hurting anyone but ourselves? What is the fallacy behind this kind of thinking and where does it originate?
Share how the actions of others have hurt you or those you love.
Why is God so offended by Solomon’s list of seven abominations?
Solomon gives us many tools for using our ears to hear instruction about using our feet in a manner that glorifies God. We must not only know about right and wrong (which comes about by listening), but actually allowing our feet to carry us in paths of righteousness, and away from doing harmful things to ourselves and others.
Our focus this week was on protecting:
- our family (beware of situations that lead to adultery)
- our friendships (beware of the entrapment of bad loans and lending)
- our workplace (be a good independent worker who plans for the future)
- and ourselves (be diligent in recognizing evil in others and in your own heart)
Study at least one Bible character who knew what was wise, but chose a path of folly instead. There are many. Try to learn something from his or her story.
Carefully consider the areas of life (family, friends, workplace, and personal) studied this week to determine if there is an area you need to personally improve or enhance.
Use strategies to mend relationships or just to help get yourself on a better track of righteous living.
- pray for wisdom in knowing how to approach the problem(s)
- make contact with someone, if it seems appropriate (via letter, email, phone call, or visit)
- continue to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices (diet and exercise, etc.)
- encourage more friendships at church and work, trying to include those most socially isolated
- watch less television or other media sources that tend to make the “seven abominations” a form of entertainment
- make necessary adjustments to your personal and/or family devotional time (the “keeping your heart” part)
Next week: A Matter of Life and Death
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