The Net of Temptation
Brian D. Dykstra (teacher at Hope PRCS, Walker, MI- written as a devotional for teachers)
Proverbs 1:17-19: "Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof."
Solomon has just warned his son about the consequences of keeping the company of sinners. It all started innocently enough, but the end was the inevitable destruction of sin. An example from nature, a bird, is now used.
In ancient days, birds were hunted with the use of a net. The net had the purpose of taking the bird into the hunter’s possession. Nets were also used in the hunting of larger animals and especially fish. Hunting was not done for sport as it is sometimes today, but it was done as a means of livelihood. The net, when used on land, would be spread across an opening, and then the hunters would drive animals into the net to capture them.
Because of this common use of nets, in the Old Testament the net is often symbolic of spiritual threats. Most often they picture the danger of seduction, blinding flattery, exploitation of the righteous by the wicked and the punishment resulting from a sinful walk. Here we have the seduction of the acquisition of easy wealth and ample friendship (evil though it might be), the flattery of being needed in this sinful group and the exploitation of the innocent who cannot protect himself.
All of this temptation is likened to a net that snares and means the end of life for the bird. If such a net were spread in the presence of the bird, the bird would avoid the net because he now knows that it is there. By instinct he recognizes the danger and, in the interest of self-preservation, flees.
It is different for fallen, depraved man. Sin holds such power over our natures that, rather than fleeing from the net of temptation, we would rather see how close we can get to it without being snared. In our pride, we often believe that we have the wisdom to back away and escape before we find ourselves in any serious trouble. For the son in verse 10, surely, what would be the harm in merely hanging around with such people?
How often doesn’t it prove otherwise? Certainly, for Eve there was 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, was there? Abraham would not experience any threat if he lied about his wife by saying that Sarah was his sister, would he? What harm could there be if Abraham were to beget children by the use of his maidservant? For David, what harm would come from just inviting a married woman over to his palace for a little dinner?
Yes, we often see the net but, instead of fleeing for our spiritual lives, we boldly step forward! A bird avoids the net by mere instinct, whereas man, endowed with the ability to reason, foolishly presses ahead.
Solomon points out that these sinners, who seek to capture his son, are really setting a net for their own souls. While they lay in wait for their victim to pass, they are really putting the eternal destiny of their own souls in peril. As they lurk for the lives of the innocent, it is their own lives which are in spiritual danger. That is what happens to those who are greedy of gain and kill for profit.
Solomon tells his son that such would be the end of one who joins the company of sinners. As Ahab allowed Jezebel to do the plotting and scheming against innocent Naboth, he was becoming entangled in the net of his own destruction. The son is told to flee. Do not trust your own strength or wisdom. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you can back away before the situation gets out of hand. We can only go to God in prayer and rely on His strength.
It sounds all too simple to satisfy today’s child experts. It is foolish to give such instruction to children. It would never work. Such a method of instruction would only produce fearful, untrusting and paranoid teens. That is the net with which they hope to ensnare us! They seek to draw us into their trap by their apparent logic. Yet what type of teens has the sinful world produced with their theories? No, they are not fearful all right, not even of the ghastly evil that threatens the destruction of their souls. They are very trusting. They trust their own moral relativism, right into the bottomless pit which was left by digging out the only true moral foundation. They are not afraid of any danger. Many simply joyfully immerse themselves in the cesspool of sin.
Do we see Satan’s nets around us? Then listen to the giver of true wisdom. Follow the instruction given by the Triune God concerning the instruction of children. Give the instruction which Solomon gave to his son. It is the wisdom of God in Jesus Christ.