Proverbs 4:16-17

Proverbs 4:16-17 "For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence."
Baptist Church Buffalo NY
In the text, an ancient parent is attempting to get and keep his son on the right path, a path which Solomon calls the “way of wisdom” in verse eleven.  Desperate to keep his child off the wrong path, Solomon is warning Rehoboam of the dangers of even contemplating that wrong path.  Entering the path of the wicked would be entering a life of imminent trouble because the people on that path are fueled by wickedness and violence.  Their energy comes from wrongdoing.  They feed on violence and mischief.

The path of wickedness is trodden by souls who refuse to sleep until they have performed trouble somewhere to someone.  Choosing this path in life is choosing to be surrounded by people who can not rest until they have caused harm to the people in their way.  From a distance, this path and its travelers don’t seem that dangerous.  On it, you might see the occasional hardened criminal riddled with prison tattoos but mostly on this path, you will see it traveled by regular people who are plagued with discontent.
When Solomon speaks about evil people bent on doing harm, he is not speaking about the person who seeks violence for the sake of violence, although such a person certainly travels the path of evil men.  The person that Solomon is speaking about in these verses is the person who will do whatever is necessary to get what he or she doesn’t have.  Such a person will not rest until they get what they want and for that reason, they will not rest until they do what is necessary to achieve that prize, which is typically going to come at the expense of someone else.  For example, the husband who wants another woman will not rest until he gets her.  That may take days, weeks, months or even years but he will not be content until he commits adultery.  When he finally commits adultery, he will be guilty of causing harm and pain to all those around him.

Choosing the wrong path in life is choosing to be with people who are discontent with their lot in life.  Choosing the wrong path in life is choosing to be with people who can’t rest until they change their circumstances.  The people on this path will not sleep soundly until they get more money.  Covetousness becomes an obsession that renders people mere obstacles or opportunities in their pursuit of money.  The people on this path will not rest until they get more power in their home, in their workplace or in their community.  Power becomes an obsession that renders people distractions or tools in their thirst for power.  The people on this path will not rest until they get what they don’t have - no matter the costs.  

Discontentment is the driving force behind the determination to do evil.  Discontentment is the driving force behind the determination to steal from someone.  It is the driving force behind the determination to sleep with someone other than your spouse.  It is the driving force behind the determination to cheat someone out of something.  Mischief is born out of discontentment.  Violence stems from discontentment.  People get hurt when someone doesn’t confront and ultimately, address their discontentment.      

Judas Iscariot entered the path of evil men in Matthew 26 when his discontentment with Jesus led him to consult with discontented priests.  These priests were determined to destroy Jesus Christ.  They could not rest until they caused Him harm.  Because Judas shared their discontentment with Christ, he too became determined to cause Jesus harm as well.  Matthew 26:16 tells us that, “from that time, he sought opportunity to betray Jesus.”  Judas wasn’t a hardened criminal; he was an apostle.  Judas wasn’t a violent man; he was a healer.  Judas wasn’t seeking the demise of Christ just for the pleasure of seeing a man’s demise; he was a discontented man.  Discontentment leads to a determination to do evil.

Haman, the Agagite was determined to do harm to the Jewish people in the Book of Esther because he was discontent with sharing the same society with them.  He could not sleep until He destroyed them.  He could not rest until Mordecai and his people were eliminated from his life.  Haman wasn’t a life-long criminal; he was a politician.  Haman wasn’t a gangbanger; he was a prominent husband and father.  Haman wasn’t bent on violence just for the sake of violence; he was a discontented man.  Discontentment leads to a determination to do evil. 

In Genesis 39, Potiphar’s wife also illustrates the type of person that travels the wrong path Solomon was warning his son of.  She was determined to sleep with the young Hebrew servant, Joseph.  She urged him to sleep with her “day by day.”  Why was she determined to put Joseph’s life in danger and break her husband’s heart?  Because she was discontent with her marital status and/or the state of her marriage.  She would not rest until she got Joseph in bed with her.  She would not sleep until she committed adultery with the young man.  When she couldn’t get what she wanted, she lied in order to do mischief to Joseph.  When she couldn’t get what she wanted, she falsely accused Joseph of rape in order to harm him.  This is the type of person that occupies the wrong path in life.  This is the type of person that Solomon was warning his son he would be exposed to if he chose the way of evil men.  Discontentment leads to a determination to do evil. 

Solomon knew that there are two very different paths in life – the way of wisdom and the way of wickedness.  On each of these opposing paths, there are two very different types of people – those who are determined to do wrong and those who are determined to do right.  By observation, Solomon was well acquainted with those who were determined to do wrong.  By relation, Solomon was well acquainted with those who were determined to do right.  Psalms 132:1-5 says, “LORD, remember DAVID, and all his afflictions: How he sware unto the LORD, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob; Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, UNTIL I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.”  Determination to do evil is born out of getting us what we don’t have.  Determination to do right is born out of getting God what He doesn’t have.

Choose the path of good men so as to be surrounded by people who are determined to do right.  This is the safest path and it is surely the most enjoyable path.  Don’t even contemplate the path of evil men because it’s deceptive.  Neither an accomplished apostle, a polished politician or a wealthy wife looks bent on doing evil but deep within their hearts rests a monster – discontentment.  Eventually, discontentment breeds a determination to get what they don’t have and this will come at the expense of someone at some point. 

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