Watch or Listen HERE
How many of you here today are good at directions? Okay. How many of you have never been lost, ever in your life? Who will admit that you get lost fairly easily or fairly regularly? Yes. Good for you. Notice there weren’t any guys who raised their hands – just kidding. Being directionally challenged is something you’re born with, I think. The great news for directionally challenged people is that you marry opposites of yourselves. SO, if you will listen to your spouse, you can probably get to your destination. Short of that, an iPhone with GPS also works, and it argues a lot less, too.
Anyway…someone who gets lost a lot can tell us three things: first, they don’t get lost on purpose – really. Second, lost people always get lost before they know they’re lost. A person is never aware of their lostness while they are getting lost. It has to dawn on them. Until then, especially if they are a guy, they are confidently “not lost.” And third, lost or not, you always end up where the road you are on takes you. That last one’s amazing isn’t it? It’s like saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” But it’s true.
When you’re lost, where you intended to go is irrelevant at that point. Saying, “But this isn’t where I want to be,” doesn’t help no matter how many times you say it. Your intention may have been to get on I-10 and head to San Antonio. But if you get on I-10 and head east, you will never get there. Lost people are victims of the principle of the path. If you’re on the wrong road it doesn’t matter what you believe or what you intend, you will always end up where the road you’re on takes you. It’s your direction, not your intention that determines your destination – that’s the principle of the path.
It’s pretty easy to understand geographically isn’t it? The paths you choose impact you more than your intentions or motivations, more than your ideas or dreams. But this principle is NOT so easy to see in other areas of life. We are all on some sort of path – financially, morally, relationally, and spiritually. But there seems to be some sort of disconnect between where we want to end up and the path we choose. So, for the next four weeks, we are going to look at various areas of life through the lens of the principle of the path – Direction, not intention, determines your destination. Turn in your Bibles, Smartphone, etc., to the book of Proverbs chapter 7. This may at first seem like a strange story to tell on Easter Sunday. After all, today is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to earth to save the world from their sin. But, believe me, it’s not so strange.
We start with this story in Proverbs 7 about a young man who ignored the principle of the path. Now we don’t know if this is a story that King Solomon observed or was a participant in. We do know that Solomon’s observations later in his life come from maturity and experience. These are two things that young people, like the man in our story today, just don’t have. Those under the age of 20 might be offended by the implications of this story. But it is not an insult to be called “naive” or “simple” if you are. And, in ancient thought, anyone under about the age of 20 was just that. Naiveté is actually a wonderful thing as it implies innocence and youthfulness. Being simple is very similar. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid, or lack intelligence; it simply means you haven’t lived long enough to have experienced a wide-variety of situations. And that can be good or bad.
It’s like when a parent is watching their children grow up. The kids learn to crawl, and then to walk and then to run. Then, one day, they are outside playing when suddenly the toddler runs out into the street. The child doesn’t know how dangerous that is but the parent does, because the child is naive; they haven’t experienced a car hitting someone or something. /Or let’s say there’s a teenager who just learned to drive here in south Texas. They get invited up to their cousin’s house in upstate New York in December. If they try to drive a car in upstate New York in December the way they drive in Houston, Texas in December, there’s probably going to be a problem. Parents can see that. People with experience can see what’s coming even when the inexperience/naive teen cannot. That’s what these words mean. So please have some thick skin, no matter what age you are, and apply the useable principles from today and the weeks to come.
6 At the window of my house I looked out through the lattice. 7 I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who was naive’.
That’s what we just talked about. Please don’t be insulted.
8 He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in.
What a beautiful scene. Taking a nice walk downtown as the sun in setting on a beautiful, cool spring evening. But you don’t have to be a scholar to anticipate where this story is going, do you? You don’t even have to have read this story before. And now you’re really thinking, “Why is he telling this story on Easter with my kids in the room?” I promise, it will all make sense. But this young man is headed to a certain place, knowing only what he’s heard about “her,” and in his head the soundtrack is playing “Born to be Wild” or “Life is a Highway.” // Meanwhile the older man is watching this whole thing and there’s soundtrack in his mind as well. It’s the theme to Jaws. There’s this huge contrast between what this kid thinks he’s experiencing and what this older, wiser man knows is happening. And the reason there’s such a contrast is because the older, wiser guy knows the principle of the path – your direction determines your destination. The kid just thinks it’s about to be an exciting event. The older, wiser man says, “No, it’s not an event; it’s a path. And every path has a destination, and this is a path with a very predictable destination.” The story continues:
Proverbs 7:10-14 (NIV)
10 Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a woman of the evening and with crafty intent. 11 (She is loud and defiant, and her feet never stay at home; 12 now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.) 13 She took hold of him and she kissed him and with a brazen face she said: [this means nothing to us] 14 “I have fellowship offerings at home; today I fulfilled my vows.
We all think we don’t know what she means, but we do. Every person of ANY religion knows what she was saying, “I’m not a ‘working’ woman, I’m a woman of status. I’m a religious woman of society and I have done my duty to the gods and made my offerings at the Temple. I fulfilled all my obligations of repentance and penance, so now, my bucket of sin is empty and I’m ready to fill it up again – with YOU!”
Sound familiar? Catholic, protestant, Buddhist, Muslim, whatever your background, we all know this one. We say, “The path I’m on is not perfect. I have sinned against God or nature or whatever I worship. BUT, I’ve been to the priest, I’ve made my sacrifices, and I’ve confessed my sins for the week. I even did a few good things in penance – I prayed at church this week. I gave some money for the poor. I’ve spun my prayer wheel and avoided certain foods. I shaved my head and deprived myself to make up for my mistakes. So now the gods, or God is pleased with me, and I can do what I want. // Next week, I’ll just go to the Temple again, I’ll just pray again; I’ll just give again and be forgiven all over again. Right?” What do you think, really? Since that is not the point for now we will move on, but hold onto those thoughts that just rushed through your mind.
Verse 15. Now she says something three times here that really pulls him in – listen to this:
15 So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you!
And he’s thinking, “I am so special, I’m one of a kind, I’m the man of her dreams. This is unique. This is like the stuff stories are made of, and songs are written about. I can’t wait to tell my friends. I mean this is unbelievable. I came walking down here thinking maybe I’d see her, BUT she came out looking for me!” And the volume of the soundtrack in his head goes up to about 8 or 9.
She tells him how she even decorated for him. She cleaned the house and made it smell pretty just in case he stopped by. She’s made everything perfect just for HIM! // Then she tells him her husband is out of town, duhh. And he’s thinking, “Wow! Who would have guessed I was so special?”
She continues about her husband in verse 20:
20 He took his purse
Ok, call me old fashioned or unfashionable, but could this be the reason his wife is playing cougar mamma to all the young men in town? Just saying.
20 He took his purse filled with money and will not be home until full moon.”21With persuasive words she led him astray; 22 All at once he followed her…
And he’s thinking, “I am like a celebrity! I am like a rock star! I’m like a well-known person walking into a club and all eyes are on me. I mean this is the ultimate. This is an event I will talk about the rest of my life.” Little does he know how true and how short that might be. And the older, wiser man is watching and thinking, “This is not an event. It’s a path.” Then he writes:
22 All at once he followed her like an ox going to slaughter,
“No, no, no, no. Not like an ox going to a slaughter. You know: like ‘Mr. Rich and Famous’ going into a club. No, not like an ox going to a slaughter, don’t you hear the soundtrack of my life?”
“No, I hear the Jaws music.”
(What’s this have to do with Easter? I’m getting to it.)
But just in case you are not getting the picture Solomon continues with other examples to prove his point:
22 like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces its liver. Like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.
“Now wait, wait, wait. You’re like my dad trying to ruin my fun in the snow. You’re like my mom trying to keep me from the fun in the street. You’ve got this all wrong; this is just a date!”
“No, no, no, it’s a path.”
“This is just an event!”
“No, it’s not; it’s a path.”
And the wise one says, “Son, you’re focused on what seems pleasurable on the path and I’m focused on where you’re heading. You’re focused on the immediate, and I’m focused on the ultimate. You’re focused on the here and now, and I’m focused on tomorrow. Your direction determines your destination – and your future.”
Now Solomon pulls out of that narrative, pulls out of that scene, and he begins to address you and me. This is for ALL of us. This is what we ALL need to hear and grab onto. The path to a destructive end is not necessarily a “woman,” the path to sorrow and regret is different for everyone and we must watch out.
24 Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to
what I say! Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.
This wise, elder is saying, “Watch out, because you’ll never see it coming. When I started reading this story you kind of knew where it was going. How did you know? Because we can see danger when it’s happening to somebody else, can’t we?
Have you ever been to a counselor and you tell about half of your story and they say, I bet when that happened, you felt…. And you said, “Yes, yes, I did!” “And I bet your husband or your wife or your girlfriend did this” . . . “You’re exactly right. You’re so smart.” And the counselor is thinking, “I’m not smart. I’ve heard this story a million times. You’re just like the last person that left here 30 minutes ago and paid me $100. This isn’t rocket science. This isn’t new or unique or special to you. It’s predictable, because it’s a path. It’s a crowded highway that you’ve chosen. And the path you’ve chosen physically, relationally, financially and spiritually is predictable.
That’s why we can all see others headed the wrong way. But we can’t seem to see when we are lost. You rely on your good intentions or religious activities to get you by. But the path you take trumps your good intentions and your confessions. You may think it’s going to be fine, it’s all going to work out. But the wise says, “No it’s not, you’re like an ox to the slaughter. You’re not a celebrity on a stage. You’re not a rock star. You’re a simple minded animal walking right into a trap.” He says, “Be wise and realize that every path has a predetermined destination.
When we ignore the principle of the path it sounds like this:
• “I want to meet a committed guy who’s really got his act together, so I’m going to go out with anyone that’s cute.”
• “I want a great intimate life once I’m married, so I’m going to practice with everyone I date.”
• “I want to be there for my family, so I’m going to work all the time.”
• “I want to lose weight, so super-size that.”
• “I want to support charities and caring for the poor, so I’m going to buy stuff that fulfills my emotional needs.”
Your “want” for something, your intention, your hopes and dreams get you NO WHERE. Direction really DOES determine your destination. But like this young man, we are easily enticed. We are easily overtaken emotionally by what’s on the wrong path. Or we become complacent or comfortable to the point that it’s hard to change course even when we realize we are not headed to the right destination. And change isn’t easy. We can’t do it on our own.
That’s why it’s good to have observant friends on the path – they can see your direction without the emotional baggage. They see our weaknesses and blind spots. That’s why we encourage people to develop their relationship to other people on the journey of faith. They can and will help us to find the way and stay on it. That’s why it’s so important to develop your relationship with God. God has a lot of history. God’s seen it all. And God has seen the outcome of your direction before you even know you’re on the wrong path.
The question we really need to ask ourselves is this, “If you continue on your current path, where will you end up?” Where you’re headed is so much more important than where you are. Has anyone tried to warn you lately? Do you know anyone that has taken your path and ended up where you want to be relationally, financially, spiritually? Are you ignoring where your current path is taking you because of people or things on the path that are holding you captive emotionally? Are you making excuses why everyone else is wrong about where they see you headed? // Nobody gets around the principle of the path – your direction WILL determine your destination.
So, what does this have to do with Easter? When Jesus came to earth he grew to know his destination – it was the cross. And he headed down that path, through temptation, rejection, abuse, torture and eventually execution. He did it because he understood that his ultimate destiny was to be the Savior of the world – the one person who could offer you forgiveness of sin and eternal life. There was no other path that could get him there.
It was hard to leave the father he worked beside for 30 years. It was hard for him to leave his mother and younger siblings to travel away from home. It was hard to leave personal and monetary security to teach what would be the most controversial message of all time. But he knew that without his decision to follow this path, you and I would never know forgiveness, you would never know the love of God.
So, he gave up all of his “emotional” ties and all of his easy living to stay on the right path. He never changed his course or his mind about his destination, so that we would have a chance to change our life eternally. We can’t change our path without God’s help. We cannot affect our eternal destiny by intending to be good enough or even BEING good enough. We must change our course and our mind to realize that we need Jesus. Only He can bring eternal change.
Jesus followed this most difficult path so that we could have a relationship with God, forever. Choose to change those practical areas of your life for the better. And please choose God’s path to forgiveness – Jesus death and resurrection for you. // Jesus said that God loved the world so very much, that God sent his one and only Son, that was Jesus. So that anyone believed in him, they would be forgiven of their sins and receive eternal life. // God loved, so God gave. If you believe, you will receive…eternal life. Start there, today. It’s the best path you could ever take. Let’s stand for closing prayer.
Would you step into our world again today and lead us into the changes we need to make? Help us to listen to the wisdom of those who see what we can’t. Help us listen to you are we read the Bible and pray for your direction. Thank you for coming to earth in order to forgive our sins and save us from our impending destruction. Thank you for Jesus and all that his example and actions mean to our world. Amen and amen.
May the God of the path guide you into truth, grant you wisdom and hold you firmly through the good and the bad. And may the power of the resurrection give you all you need to change your life for the better. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy