Monday, July 24, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 61, The Throne Of Grace

In the second half of today's passage Solomon will tell us how to avoid being entrapped by substances and other devices that will lead us astray. God should be our first resort when trouble comes, not our last.

"A corrupt witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil." (Proverbs 19:28) Solomon paints a clear picture of the one who enjoys doing evil. He says that person gulps down evil in the same way a hungry person gulps down food. The wicked person can't get enough.

"Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the back of fools." (Proverbs 19:29) In Solomon's day a public flogging was a common punishment for wrongdoing, although he has mentioned before that punishment does little for the one who is morally and spiritually foolish. He's seen too many wrongdoers go right back out and break the same laws that got them into trouble in the first place. Nevertheless, penalties must be carried out when the law is broken, and even though the fool may learn nothing from his mistakes, sentences must still be passed. Solomon would have been an unrighteous judge if he failed to apply the law to the ones who broke the law.

"Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise." (Proverbs 20:1) When we studied the book of Ecclesiastes we learned that Solomon tried using alcohol to alleviate his depression, but even while doing so he somehow managed not to be "led astray" by wine. He said, "I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly---my mind still guiding me with wisdom." (Ecclesiastes 2:3a) It wasn't in Solomon's character to give himself over to foolishness. He tried to be shallow like those who partied every night, but it just didn't work for him. He wasn't able to drown out the emptiness in his soul with wine, so he gave up on it. The problem with alcohol is that some people have a weakness for it and some do not. Solomon apparently did not, but nobody has their first drink while saying to themselves, "I want to become an alcoholic!" We might not know whether we have a weakness for alcohol until we've been led astray by it, and then we may find it difficult or even impossible to stop drinking.

Many a family has fallen apart due to someone's drinking. Many a person's life and health has been ruined by alcohol. We would be better off to avoid it entirely than to fall into its trap. In the Bible we find that wine is considered a celebratory drink, a blessing from the Lord, and as such it was to be enjoyed only with a sense of reverence and thankfulness. I'm not here to tell you whether or not it's okay for you to have a drink, because each person should be led by his or her own conscience in such matters. But drinking would probably be far less likely to become a problem if the fruit of the vine was enjoyed in the spirit in which it was intended to be enjoyed, not for the purpose of carousing and debauchery, not for the purpose of self-medicating ourselves, and not for the purpose of lowering our inhibitions so we can give ourselves over to sins we wouldn't commit while sober. In the Bible we find positive references to wine only when it is being used in its proper context, such as an offering to the Lord in thanks for a bountiful harvest or for celebrating a wedding or other happy occasion.

Anything can become an addiction if we use it improperly, even things that are good for us like the food we need to nourish our bodies. We must be on guard against self-medicating ourselves with alcohol, shopping, pornography, illicit relationships, food, or anything else that takes the place of God in our lives. (I want to point out I'm not saying anything against taking medication that's prescribed by a reputable doctor for a clinically diagnosed mental or emotional condition. I've had to do this myself and would never criticize anyone for it.) We may experience temporary relief the first time we use alcohol or some type of habit to calm ourselves down. The next time our anxiety reaches the same level, our brain will remind us of what helped us the last time and it will tell us to do it again. It won't be long until we are stuck in a loop. But that loop is a trap because all it does is lead us in circles. God should be our first resort, not our last. What if we got down on our knees in prayer as soon as we began to feel anxious? We, as the children of God through Christ, have the right to enter into the very throne room of God by prayer. We are invited into His presence in the same way Christ is invited into His presence. Why is it we sometimes turn down such awesome help? I've done it myself; I've neglected the most valuable source of power there is in favor of trying to fix things on my own. Let's not do that anymore. Let's accept our position in the family of God. We are His dearly beloved children! Christ has won us a place in the Father's house and how foolish it would be of us to reject the help that the Lord alone can provide. "Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

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