The Nets of Temptation (1)
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI
Proverbs 1:17: “Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.”
As you know, the author of most of the book of Proverbs was Solomon. He was the son of David. God had blessed Solomon with wisdom. He was the wisest man the world has ever known. It is a blessing for us as Christians to have his instruction preserved for us in Proverbs because the instruction really comes from God in Jesus Christ.
The purpose of the Proverbs is to give us wisdom. Any of us can be a student of Solomon’s by reading the Bible. God warns us about the dangers of sin and encourages us with the blessings of obedience to His commandments. Today, children of the Protestant Reformed Churches learn about God and His Word in church, catechism and in school. In ancient Bible times, children were instructed by the use of Proverbs. They probably did not have time off during the summer either.
In the earlier verses of Proverbs 1, Solomon warned his son about what happens to those who keep the company of sinners. Such fellowship seems to start innocently enough but being with sinners will lead to the destruction of the son’s spiritual life.
To teach us about the dangers of sin, Solomon uses an example from nature. Solomon tells us about a bird.
The bird which Solomon is having us watch is being hunted. Back in Bible times, birds were not hunted with shotguns. Most of the time they were not even hunted with bows and arrows. Men used nets. The net would be stretched across an opening where birds were known to fly. Sometimes the hunter would hide a little way away from the net, wait for some birds to gather, then scare them so they would fly into the net. The birds would become tangled in the net, just as bugs become tangled in spider webs. The advantage to the hunter in using this net was that the bird was still alive and the hunter could do with him as he pleased. The bird could be used for food for the family or he could be sold to someone else.
Whether the bird was eaten or sold, it was trouble for the bird. His days of living free were over. He was now in the possession of the hunter. The hunter could do with him as he chose. It did not happen very often that the bird escaped to enjoy his freedom again.
Because people knew about how hunters used nets to catch birds and other animals, the net is often used in the Bible as a picture of temptation. Of course, the hunter is Satan. He is trying to catch us in the net of sin. If he can catch us so that he owns us, our freedom of living in friendship with God is over. Solomon wants us to be aware of the spiritual dangers around us. He wants us to recognize these nets of Satan so that we can avoid them and be safe.
There are many examples from the Bible of people who did not see the danger of Satan’s net of temptation. They fell into sin. The result of being caught in the net was disastrous.
Let’s use Eve as our first example. Eve saw no real danger in speaking with the serpent herself or listening to Satan, instead of directing the Devil to her husband who had been created as her head. She became trapped by Satan’s net and the fall of Adam into sin soon followed.
David also serves as an example of falling into the net in the story of David and Bathsheba. He saw a beautiful woman bathing. David did not flee from temptation as he should have. Instead, David thought that there would be no real harm in just inviting this lovely woman to his palace for dinner. David sought to find out how close he could come to the net and not be tangled in it. David fell into the sins of adultery and murder. He wound up paying the price for that evening of sin for the rest of his life.
Solomon tells us that when a net is spread while the birds are watching, you will not catch any birds because the birds know the net is there. They know the net is a serious threat to their safety, so they keep away.
This is not the way it is with us sinners. There are many times when we have seen Satan’s net of temptation but, instead of fleeing for our spiritual lives, we boldly step forward, right into the net. How foolish!
Joseph serves as a good example for us in Genesis 39. He was faced with a serious temptation. His master’s wife wanted to commit the sin of adultery with him. Apparently, Joseph was a young and attractive man. Perhaps he was still just a teenager. We do not know exactly.
What would stop him from “having a little fun” with this evil woman. Was Joseph’s father going to find out? No, Jacob was far away and thought his dear Joseph was dead. Was an elder or minister going to find out what Joseph did so he would be in big trouble with the church? No, Joseph lived in a wicked land where the people served their idols by committing adultery. Their idols were just excuses to sin. The religious leaders of Egypt probably would not care that much about it. Would Joseph’s older brothers find out about what he had done and reprove him for his sin? His brothers, too, were many miles away.
Joseph could take this sinful opportunity and, as long as the master of the house did not find out, he could get away with it. No, Joseph realized that God knows everything and to serve God faithfully as a Christian meant he had to avoid this sin.
Still, Potiphar’s wife tempted him day after day. This must have been hard for him. What did Joseph do? Genesis 39:10 tells us that not only did he refuse to go along with her sinful suggestions, he would not even allow himself to be alone with her in the house. He saw the net and fled. He knew what sin would do to his soul and his relationship with God.
We also must be spiritually alert so we can avoid Satan’s net. We have a nice Christian school here. As teachers we can work with fellow believers. Students have the opportunity to make many Christian friends here. Still, we have to be careful. There is a spiritual battle which takes place here every day. Each of us has the duty to see to it that this school is Christian in more than just name. We cannot put Christian on the building, and then live our lives as if Christ crucified and God’s commandments make no difference in how we behave ourselves. We say that we are Christians, so we had better behave ourselves that way. That means we had better be alert for the nets which Satan spreads for us here. ... to be continued