Sabbath School Lesson Begins
The Book of Proverbs
Lesson 3 *January 10–16
Read for This Week’s Study: Matt. 5:21–30; Prov. 6:21; Prov. 7:3; Prov. 6:23; Prov. 7:2; Prov. 6:24; Prov. 6:30-31; Prov. 7:26-27.
For the commandment is a lamp, and the law
a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life
(Proverbs 6:23, NKJV).
Two brothers were left home alone, but given a strict warning by their mother not to eat the cake that she had just baked. To make sure that the boys would obey, she added the threat of punishment.
When she left, it took the boys only a few minutes to decide
to eat the cake anyway.
This is not a matter of life and
death, they reasoned.
Our mother would never kill
us; so, let’s eat!
For the teacher in Proverbs, though, the issue he speaks about is indeed a matter of life and death. His language is strong and sometimes graphic. Of course, Jesus used very strong language Himself when talking about matters of eternal life and death (see Matt. 5:21–30). And no wonder. In the end, our ultimate destiny, our eternal destiny (and what could be more important than that?), rests upon the choices that we make here now. So we should take the urgency of the strong language at face value.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 17.
Read Proverbs 6:21 and 7:3. How are we to understand the bodily images used in these texts regarding how we should relate to God’s law?
As we saw in an earlier lesson, in Proverbs the heart represents the seat of emotions and thoughts. By telling us to bind the law upon our hearts (Prov. 6:21), the teacher means that we should always be in close connection with the law. There is no moment we may lose contact with the law, because the law is what defines sin (Rom. 7:7). The teacher also insists that this law should even be written on the tablets of the heart (Prov. 7:3), just as the Decalogue was written by God on the stone tablets (Exod. 24:12).
To speak about the law written on the heart means that the law
is not just an external set of rules imposed on us. The law should
penetrate our motivations, our secret intentions, and so be part of our
intimate self. It’s another expression of having the Pauline promise of
Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27) be a
reality in our lives.
To tie the law around the neck also means
that we should keep it close to ourselves. Ancient people used to tie
their precious belongings around their necks. The neck is the place
through which air travels to the lungs, allowing breath and life, an
association of thoughts that is attested in the Hebrew word nephesh
soul), which refers to
and is derived from a word meaning
To bind the law on one’s fingers means to bring the law into the domain of actions. The teacher focuses on the fingers to suggest the most delicate and intimate actions. The law should affect not only the grand choices we make but the smaller ones as well (see Luke 16:10).
Although the biblical intention of these images was purely symbolical, it is noteworthy that these symbols have been taken literally in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. It is seen through the use of the Jewish tephillin around the head and the fingers, the Christian crosses around the neck, and the Muslim (and Christian) rosaries around the fingers.
Symbols can be helpful, but why must we be careful not to mistake the symbol for the reality it represents?
Proverbs 6:23. How is the law related to
In the Bible, the word of God or His law has been compared to
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path
(Ps. 119:105, NKJV). In
the Hebrew mind there is a connection between
the idea of
law and of
Just as the lamp illuminates the path where we walk, the law will help
us stay on track; that is, when we face moral choices it will help us
to know what the right choice is, even if at times reason or personal
expedience would tempt us to disregard the law.
What examples can you find in the Bible of those who chose to follow God’s law despite powerful reasons not to? What can we learn from their obedience? In what cases, if any, did their choice to be faithful seem to be the wrong one at least from a human perspective?
with Proverbs 6:23, read Proverbs 7:2. Why is the law
Since the Fall, our hope for eternal life cannot be found in
the law, but only through faith in Christ. However, obedience to the
law and the principles it represents continues to play a central part
in the life of faith (see Matt. 19:17,
Rev. 14:12). We obey because, as
the Lord said to Israel thousands of years ago,
I am the LORD
your God (Lev. 18:4).
The law of God is related to
simply because of who God is — the source of our life. This principle
represents true spirituality: we trust God and His promises for our
present life, just as we trust His promises for eternal life.
I am the light of
the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the
light of life (John 8:12,
NKJV). How have you experienced the
reality of this wonderful promise in your walk with the Lord?
As we have just seen, the author of Proverbs 6:23, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directly links light and life to God’s law. In the next verse he gives a solid example of how the law, as light and life, can offer us powerful spiritual protection.
What are we being warned about in Proverbs 6:24? Besides the obvious, what more subtle warning is given here?
When a religious person is tempted, the greatest temptation is
to find a religious reason to justify the iniquity. Using God to
rationalize bad behavior is not only a terrible form of blasphemy —
it’s powerfully deceptive. After all, if someone thinks that
is with me, then what can you say in reply? This can happen
even in cases of adultery.
God has shown me that this
[man or woman] is the one I should be with. If that’s what
believe, who or what can trump what
God has shown
Notice, too, it’s not just her physical beauty that lures him. She uses language, flattering words, to draw the victim into her trap. How often have men and women been led into compromising situations by subtle and seductive words, sometimes even couched in religious language? The author of the book of Proverbs seeks to warn us against this deception.
The law is the perfect antidote against the
tongue of a seductress. Only the imperative of the law and
the duty of obedience will help us resist her alluring words, which can
sound so true and beautiful. Indeed, the seductress will find you not
only handsome but also wise and bright. She may even evoke her
spiritual needs; and ironically, dangerously,
the love of God
might become the justification for sin.
Just think how easily we can be led, even under the guise of faith, to justify wrong actions of any kind, not just adultery. Why, then, is an absolute commitment to the law of God our only real protection against even our own minds and the tricks that they can play on us?
You Shall Not Steal
Right after his warning about adultery (Prov.
author starts talking about another sin: stealing (Proverbs
relationship between the two commandments (stealing and adultery) shows
how disobedience to one commandment can affect our obedience to the
others. The attitude of compromise, to pick and choose in regard to
God’s law, could be even more dangerous than complete disobedience to
The strongest bulwark of vice in our world is not
the iniquitous life of the abandoned sinner or the degraded outcast; it
is that life which otherwise appears virtuous, honorable, and noble,
but in which one sin is fostered, one vice indulged. . . . He who,
endowed with high conceptions of life and truth and honor, does yet
willfully transgress one precept of God’s holy law, has perverted his
noble gifts into a lure to sin. — Ellen G. White, Education,
Read Proverbs 6:30-31. What are these verses saying about what even a desperate person does?
Poverty and needs do not justify stealing. The thief is guilty
he is starving (Proverbs
6:30, NKJV). Although the
starving thief is not to be despised, he must still restore seven times
what he has stolen; this shows that even the desperateness of his
situation does not justify sin. On the other hand, the Bible insists
that it is our duty to meet the needs of the poor, so that they don’t
feel compelled to steal in order to survive (Deut.
How interesting that after going from adultery to stealing, the text now returns to adultery (Prov. 6:32–35). The two sins are indeed somewhat similar. In both cases someone is illicitly taking something that belongs to someone else. A crucial difference, however, between stealing and adultery lies in the fact that the former sin concerns only the loss of an object, while the latter deals with something much greater. In some cases one can make restitution for stealing an object; in the cases of adultery, especially when children are involved, the damage can be much more severe than when stealing is involved.
Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets,
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
commandment forbids not only acts of impurity, but sensual thoughts and
desires, or any practice that tends to excite them. . . . Christ, who
taught the far-reaching obligation of the law of God, declared the evil
thought or look to be as truly sin as is the unlawful deed.
Most people don’t think of death when they sin; they have
other things on their minds, usually the immediate gratification and
pleasure that they derive from their sin. It doesn’t help, either, that
popular culture often extols adultery and other iniquities. In
contrast, the book of Proverbs places sin in the right perspective, a
view echoed many years later by Paul:
The wages of sin is
death (Rom. 6:23).
Read Proverbs 7:22-23 (NKJV). What makes the adulterer vulnerable to the threat of death?
The one who goes
after her is described as
someone who has lost his personality and will. He is no longer
thinking. The word immediately suggests that he
does not give himself time for much reflection. He is compared to an ox
goes to the slaughter, to a fool who goes to
correction of the stocks, and to a bird who
to the snare. None of them realize that their life is
Read Proverbs 7:26-27. What makes the immoral woman lethal?
It’s possible that the woman here depicts more than a
adulterer. In fact, she represents values opposite to wisdom. Solomon
uses this metaphor to warn his pupil against any
form of evil. The risk is huge, for this woman does not just wound; she
kills, and her power is such that she has slain even the strongest of
men. In other words, others before you, stronger than you, have not
been able to survive in her hands. The universal language of this
passage clearly suggests that the biblical author is speaking about
humankind in general. (The Hebrew word sheol in the
text has nothing to do with
hell, as commonly
thought; it designates the place where the dead now are: the grave.)
In the end, the point is that sin, whether adultery or something else, leads to annihilation, the opposite of the eternal life that God wants us all to have through Jesus Christ.
No wonder, as we said in Saturday’s introduction, the language is strong — we are dealing, literally, with matters of life and death.
Think of some
people who have fallen in a big way. Why should this make you tremble
for yourself? What is your only protection?
Satan offers to men the kingdoms of the
world if they will yield to him the supremacy. Many do this and
sacrifice heaven. It is better to die than to sin; better to want than
to defraud; better to hunger than to lie. — Ellen G. White, Testimonies
for the Church, vol. 4, p. 495.
Choose poverty, reproach, separation from friends, or
suffering rather than to defile the soul with sin. Death before
dishonor or the transgression of God’s law should be the motto of every
Christian. As a people professing to be reformers, treasuring the most
solemn, purifying truths of God’s word, we must elevate the standard
far higher than it is at the present time. — Ellen G. White,
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 147.
loveas the ultimate standard of right and wrong. After all, think about all the bad things done under the pretext of
love.How, then, does the law continue to act as a way of protecting people, either from themselves or others, who might otherwise be led into sin?
Being from the tropical country of Puerto Rico, Paola never
dreamed that she would end up in the wilds of Alaska.
just so out there, Paola says.
It’s one of those
places that you’re never going to go to because it’s so far away.
But when the recruiting team from the Alaska conference came to Walla Walla University (Wash.), looking for summer camp staff, Paola decided to check them out. She was hired, and that summer she found herself lifeguarding on the shores of Lake Aleknagik at Camp Polaris.
It was nothing like I expected, Paola
I pictured snow and igloos, but it was gorgeous and
In addition to the natural beauty, Paola experienced other
surprises. During orientation, staff were warned that bears frequented
We were instructed that these bears aren’t like
Yogi Bear [a friendly children’s cartoon character], Paola
But even though we were warned, a lot of us were
it’s just a bear.
One day Paola noticed a bear coming into camp. Wanting a picture, she quickly grabbed her camera and looked down as she walked toward the lake. Looking up, she suddenly froze– directly in front of her was a Grizzly bear!
Everything stopped. I couldn’t hear anything.
Everyone else was in the lodge; no one could see me. The bear was
frozen too. The only thought I had was–
This isn’t Yogi!
Suddenly, the Grizzly headed toward a garbage container, and
Paola moved quickly back into the lodge.
Sometimes you don’t
know how bad something is until you come face to face with it,
Working at the camp opened her eyes in many ways, admits
I realized that I’m not a kid anymore. These are the
kids now, and I needed to take care of them.
Sometimes Paulo found drawing the line of authority
When there were issues, I learned to maneuver
around the child, not making them feel unwelcome or inferior, but
working with them in a way so they could see they needed to stop their
tantrum and come back with the others who were having fun.
“There had to be a certain amount of respect going on
so that they would know you were the authority, but would still feel
comfortable coming to you if they had any problems–especially
spiritually. At Camp Polaris, there is a spiritual aspect to everything.
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by the General Conference
of Seventh-day Adventists.
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