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The DEEP

Fresh Baked Bread

Wisdom, sleepless nights, and the road to wickedness

Proverbs 4:14-17

14 Do not enter the path of the wicked,
And do not walk in the way of evil.

15 Avoid it, do not travel on it;
Turn away from it and pass on.

16 For they do not sleep unless they have done evil;
And their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall.

17 For they eat the bread of wickedness,
And drink the wine of violence.

 

I am blessed to be surrounded by bakers who love me. My mom always has a baked treat when my family and I visit. Mom serves many confectionary goodies but her specialty is “pound cake.” If you are unfamiliar with this treat, buddy, you are missing out. Pound cake is made in a round “bundt” pan and the ingredients traditionally include “a pound of this, and a pound of that” from around the kitchen. 

As a result, it is guaranteed that you will probably gain a pound with each delicious bite and it will pound your “beach body diet plan” into the ground.  

My wife is also a wonderful kitchen magician who continually bakes bread, cookies, cakes, pies and other epicurean delights. My two sons have grown from licking beaters and mixing bowls to developing their own talents. My oldest bakes desserts for his youth group (he is now the most popular kid in church) and my youngest son routinely picks wild blackberries by the bucketful to bring home to make fresh pies. Life is good!

There is nothing like coming home from work to smell fresh-baked bread or waking in the morning to the aroma of fluffy biscuits in the oven. Scientists have even proved that, due to human anatomy, olfactory signals very quickly get to the limbic system, meaning that smells reach the brain more quickly than other senses. The result is a “triggering” of reactions in the brain that, in the case of fresh-baked bread, can make a smile break out on your face–and add another inch to your waistline!

In Proverbs 4, Solomon instructs the children of Israel further on walking the path of wisdom. In verses 10-13 he urges his son to choose the right path–a path well-trod by righteous ones who have gone before him–and calls you to follow the One who is “The Way, the Truth, and The Life.” (John 14:6) 

Solomon continues to lay out the path of wisdom in verse 14-17 by shining light in the opposite direction: the way of evil. He triggers the senses with another form of fresh baked bread: the bread of wickedness. This bread does not fill the senses with joy and good memory, instead it fills the heart with despair.

A father’s wisdom comes in an unvarnished warning:

14 Do not enter the path of the wicked,
And do not walk in the way of evil.–Proverbs 4:14

Solomon pulls no punches when it comes to his advice: when it comes to foolishness of taking the wrong path, do not enter! 

The word “path” helps to unite this passage with the previous exhortations to the path of righteousness. There is a beautiful “oppositeness” here that reminds you again that this is poetry you are reading, not simply a list of “do’s and don’ts.” 

For the “good way,” there is an equal and opposite “evil way,” like the feared and deadly “Upside Down” world in the hit TV show “Stranger Things.” The good world of reality is shadowed by the world of evil, from which dark things creep and death stalks the unwary. 

The urgency of tone seeks to convey that you are not only to avoid the path of evil, you are not to give an inch when it comes to resisting it. This is an old theme that is reflected throughout the Bible, including the Psalms:

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; - Psalm 1:1

In order to receive such blessing you first must avoid the wicked path at all costs:

15 Avoid it, do not travel on it;
Turn away from it and pass on.–Proverbs 4:15

Well, this is easy, you might tell yourself. After all, if you are reading this, chances are you are not someone whom would be considered “wicked” in the traditional sense, right? You are probably not wanted for murder, do not kick puppies, and have not invaded the nation of Ukraine. 

How difficult is it really to avoid the path of wickedness? You know from your own experience that avoiding sinful actions and the error of poor moral choices is not as easy as one might think. As a believer, you strive to avoid overt sins and to live a life of holiness, but you know that the process of Sanctification can be a long and pothole-filled road. As the Apostle Paul reminds you, it is a path of daily dying to self:

31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.–I Corinthians 15:3 

But sin and sinful habits call to the heart and, like the aroma of fresh-baked bread, sin can have pleasing “triggers” that can derail your daily pursuit of holiness and switch you back to the track of self-focus and disobedience

What are your “triggers” to sin? Perhaps if you are prone to anger, your trigger may be the frustration of dealing with what feels like the incompetence of others around you. Perhaps you are resentful of someone in your life or in your past who has control over you, and your anger seethes like a bed of lava beneath a placid lake, ready to explode at least provocation.

Maybe you struggle with fear and anxiety, and a ringing phone can set off a wave of terror as you fear a boss whom could fire you. Or perhaps the weather alert on your phone can bring an avalanche of stress as you mentally deal with a tornado or thunderstorm that may never arrive. 

Triggers such as these can quickly draw you into a sinful pattern in much the same way addictions have triggers that set off destructive behavior. As sip of alcohol can lead you on an alcoholic bender. A glimpse of flesh or a feeling of rejection can tempt you to pornography, or to have an affair. A stressful day at work can pull you into a bag of potato chips or Oreo cookies–and a downward spiral of depression.

Some of these triggers are things that you have struggled with all of your life. Sometimes you may even actively seek out the things that feed into your sin, and this can be difficult to beat. 

Solomon's own parents are an example of this. David may have committed adultery (and murder) after he saw Bathsheba bathing–but David was the one on the roof! It is difficult to imagine this event being a random thing: 

Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold–2 Samuel 11:2 

The passage and setting imply that David may have known exactly when to creep in the darkness to see what he should not–perhaps with lustful thoughts of the very bathing beauty that he would be able to observe. The stairs to that rooftop peepshow led David, the “man after God’s own heart,” directly on the pathway of the wicked. Perhaps this image of his father’s wanton sleeplessness is remembered by Solomon, as he continues his instructions:

16 For they do not sleep unless they have done evil;
And their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall.–Proverbs 4:16

When you are locked into a pattern of sin, actual sleeplessness can befall you. The image here is that sleep can be “torn away” by a disquiet in the soul. This can also be the picture of a person who schemes and plots to harm others–and can only rest at night once his plans are laid. The prophet Micah speaks of him: 

1 Woe to those who devise iniquity,
And work out evil on their beds!
At morning light they practice it,
Because it is in the power of their hand.–Micah 2:1

All of this can also be the consequence of “life in the wicked lane,” as the pressure, stress, or guilt of a self-serving heart weigh you down. Have you ever been kept up at night by worry, anger, or a desire to simply get even with someone whom you feel has done you wrong? As the Psalmist says:

4 He devises wickedness on his bed; He sets himself in a way that is not good; He does not abhor evil.- Psalm 36:4

You must “abhor” evil, even when it feels that it is justified in some way. Avoiding the path of wickedness can be more difficult that you ever imagined. Especially with the earthly perks it offers: 

17 For they eat the bread of wickedness,
And drink the wine of violence.–Proverbs 4:17
 

Here we go with the delicious baked goods again! This chiastic parallel, however, is an unholy meal of bread and wine. This is the food of the devil himself, and as the old English phrase implies:

He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon.–Canterbury Tales (paraphrase)

So what is the key to resisting these sinful triggers, this delicious attraction to the evil way? Like all idols, you must identify the things that lead you into sin and give them over to Christ. It is only through prayer and humility that you can see these things, through the convicting–and comforting–work of the Holy Spirit. 

It is not that many of these things are even bad. C.S. Lewis takes care to provide understanding of this in his book “The Great Divorce:”

No natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God's hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.–CS Lewis, “The Great Divorce” 

Your challenge is to not become a servant of these good things–food, drink, physical affection–but instead become a better servant Christ. Jesus set the great example in his earthly obedience to His Father:   

34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.–John 4:34

Do you have earthly things that you hold more dear than a life of holiness in Christ? In truth, we all do and it can be lifelong task to identify and put them in their proper place. Another insight from C.S. Lewis: 

If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.–CS Lewis, “The Great Divorce” 

What “souvenirs of Hell” do you keep hidden? I know that I must regularly check the hiding places in my heart to be rid of the carnal clutter that is stashed there. If you find yourself on this path of wickedness, remember that all is not lost. Lewis again offers encouragement on getting back on the right track:

I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back til you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, 'with backward mutters of dissevering power' --or else not.–CS Lewis, “The Great Divorce”

The only way to be put right lies not in the bread of wickedness but in the One who is the Bread of Life:

41 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”–John 6:41 

Lay these earthly distractions aside and smell the fresh-baked wonder of Christ’s completed work on the cross. He is the all-sufficient baker whose bread will never leave you hungry but instead, eternally satisfied. Like the old Welsh hymn “Guide me O, Thou Great Jehovah” sings:*


Guide me, O my great Jehovah,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but you are mighty;
hold me with your powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore,
feed me now and evermore.–William Williams, 1745

 

*[Sung at the link by a Ugandan A Capella choir]

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The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/community

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

 

 

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