What’s it like to be caught in a death trap? To be tricked and ensnared by a supposed gift? Ammi Ortiz, the 16 year old son of a Messianic Jewish pastor, was seriously wounded by a basket delivered to his family’s doorsteps with a simple greeting “Happy Purim!” When he opened it, it blew up in his face. It was a bomb designed to kill and maim. It was a snare that was designed to extinguish life.
How ironic that this happened during the Feast of Purim which celebrates the preservation of life in the book of Esther in the OT. The deliverance of the Jews from Haman’s plot to annihilate them. Ammi’s family lives in the town of Ariel for the purpose of reaching people with the gospel of Yeshua.
We may not face physical death traps like missionaries such as the Ortiz family, but along life’s journey we do encounter spiritual snares that lead to death. According to the book of Proverbs, what are they? And, secondly, how are we rescued from them?
What are the snares of death? What I’m talking about here is not necessarily a premature death, or even a physical death, but a death-like existence. Death is an entire realm that is in constant conflict with life. Derek Kidner puts it best: “You can stray into death’s territory and find yourself among its citizens long before you ever quit this earth” (p. 56). They are many snares. We all have a need to be turned from mortal perils.
Two key Proverbs… 13:14 – The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. 14:27 – The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.
Word picture: Death is compared to a hunter of birds of prey. It conceals its traps to capture and kill the unsuspecting.
A snare is a type of trap. According to the book of Proverbs, there are multiple death traps in this journey called life! These snares can totally disrupt our relationship with the Lord who is the source of life and bring about death which is a severance from the fullness of life that comes from a relationship with the living God through faith in Jesus Christ.
What are some of these snares?
Choosing the wrong friends. Proverbs 13:20 He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. The selection of the wrong friends and work associates can ruin you.
A biblical character who chose the wrong friends and suffered for it – Rehoboam was the son of one of the writers of Proverbs – King Solomon. Perhaps no other king in history inherited as much as Rehoboam. His father spent his 40-year reign in Israel by building extensively. Rehoboam rejected the sages’ advice and sought counsel from the friends with whom he had grown up. His epitaph – “And he (Rehoboam) did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD.” (II Chronicles 12:14)
Immorality – Loving the wrong woman/man. A relationship with an immoral woman leads a man into a death-like existence.
Loving the wrong woman/man leads us into death’s territory before we die. Proverbs 2:18 – For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. Proverbs 5:5 – Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. Proverbs 7:27 – Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.
Do you doubt that this is one of the snares of death? Go ask Eliot Spitzer, the former New York governor whose extramarital encounter caused him to lose almost everything for which he had worked. Ask King David about the price he paid for his treacherous act of adultery with Bathsheba.
Inordinate desires for wealth will lead us into death’s territory before we die. The love of money has mercilessly destroyed many people.
Proverbs 17:1 – Better a dry morsel with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.
Proverbs 18:11 – The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall.
Money has a way of supplanting one’s trust in the Lord. We tend to cling to our possessions for security and significance. When we do so, we live foolishly in the realm of death. “You, O man of God, flee these things.” (1 Tim. 6:9-11)
Money is so incredibly limited in what it can do. “It can build a house, but not a home; it can put food on a table, but not fellowship around it; it can give a woman fur and jewelry, but not the love she really wants” (Bruce Waltke, p. 103).
The Movie – The Ultimate Gift – starring James Garner who play the billionaire tychoon Red Stevens. He dies and the vultures he calls his family circle greedily maneuver to collect their portion of estate. This movie hammers the theme that money, the love of it and the ease it provide, often ruins a family.
Biblical Example: Judas was religious for the money bag for he coveted what was in it. It doomed him to destruction.
Withholding discipline from defiant, rebellious children leads us and them into death’s territory.
Proverbs 23:13-14 – Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death. It is cruel to withhold discipline from defiant children. A father is charged to deliver his son from death by timely discipline.
Eli’s sons – Hophni and Phinehas… (1 Samuel 2) The Lord put them to death. I will raise up for myself a faithful priest…(v.35).
How are we delivered from these snares? There are multiple death-dealing snares, but there is one fountain of life – the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel of Jesus Christ rescues us from the snares of death to experience His resurrection life and immortality.
Key verse: Proverbs 14:32 – When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous have a refuge.
The wise man of Proverbs saw beyond this dying world; and caught the sunbeams of glory “brought to light by the Gospel!” Even from the book of Proverbs, we see that death does not have the last word.
Our Savior has “destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” The gospel of Jesus Christ delivers us “from the snares/traps of the devil, who takes men captive to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:26)
Thus, what is God calling us to do this Easter? Two things: Receive God’s gift and pursue God’s path!
A GIFT – Receive the gift of righteousness that delivers us from death and its snares… physical, spiritual, and eternal death.
What is it that delivers us from death and its snares? This wisdom writer has one word for us – righteousness!
Proverbs 10:2 – Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.
Proverbs 11:4 – Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
In the gospel, a righteousness is revealed.
Corollary Verse: Romans 4:25 – Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Question 33 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism ask: What is justification?
Answer: Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Do you have this righteousness? Do you cherish this gift of righteousness in your own heart? Martin Luther reminds us that if we do not, we will be continually buffeted by fears and depression!
Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf declares in his hymn: “Jesus thy blood and righteousness, my beauty are…my glorious dress…”
Our acceptance and right standing before the Lord leads to godly living!
A PURSUIT – Resolve to pursue God’s path of righteousness!
In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.
Pursuing the way of righteousness means…Wisely choosing your friends
Loving your wife or husband well.
Committing yourself to the thankless work of shepherding the hearts of your kids by careful discipline.
John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress – The word “progress” in The Pilgrim’s Progress means a journey. Christian makes a danger-filled pilgrimage from the city of Destruction to the Celestial City on the King’s highway. Along the way, he encounters many snares: Slough of Despond… Christian mounts the Hill of Difficulty, and reaches the house called Beautiful. On his way down the hill, Christian faces more obstacles. He battles Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation. He enters the town of Vanity, which hosts a year-long carnival called Vanity Fair, meant to tempt pilgrims to abandon their journey. They stumble onto the grounds of Doubting Castle owned by Giant Despair. They have to pass through the Valley of the shadows. Then they reach the Delectable Mountains called Immanuel’s land. Christian and Hopeful pass through the River of Death and are received with joy into the Celestial City.
I come to you today as Evangelist throwing you the rope…