Three Kinds of Company To Avoid
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles to Proverbs, chapter 23, that portion of the Word of God we have been studying together. You will recall we have been studying the book of Proverbs on the basis of the divisions into which it naturally falls because of the authors of the particular proverbs we find in it. For example, in the first ten chapters we found thirteen lessons on Wisdom by Solomon. Then in the next section through chapter 22, verse 16, we found a series of messages which were termed The Personal Proverbs of Solomon . Then beginning with verse 17 of chapter 22 and going through chapter 24, verse 22, we found the division that we entitled The Words of the Wise I , because in chapter 24, verse 23, we have another section The Words of the Wise II . They are distinct; they are different.

We are now in the midst of a discussion of The Words of the Wise I , which we have found falls naturally into such divisions as a series of exhortations on things not to do or things that should be avoided by born-again believers. The second section of the passage we discovered dealt with the value of family training, and we considered that with you in our last lesson. The third section deals with three kinds of company that believers are to shun, and that is the section we will be thinking about now. The fourth section deals with the pleasant riches of wisdom's house. Those of you who have been able to study with us have already had a visit to wisdom's house. You know, for example, that it is a house with seven pillars, but you have not had the opportunity to notice all of the rich treasures which are included in that house. That is what we be will talking about in our next lesson.

We now want to talk with you about the three kinds of company that born-again believers should shun, so we ask you to notice with us the portion of the Word which begins with Chapter 23, verse 26:

Proverbs 23:

26 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.
27 For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.
28 She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.
29 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
33 Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
34 Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
35 They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.

Proverbs 24:

1 Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.
2 For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.

We are going to stop right there because in that paragraph is presented the three kinds of company we, as born-again believers, should shun. Perhaps you were able to recognize the three classes of people as I read the passage in question, but in case you did not, let me suggest that you consider them as designated with the words that I have used. You may want to use other words to designate them, and if you do, that is quite all right, but these words describe them.

We should shun prostitutes. We should shun drunkards. We should shun evil men. Let me say at the outset, so that you won't lose everything that I want to say to you, that when I say we should shun these three classes of people, I am not suggesting that we should neglect them. I am not suggesting to you that we should ignore their needs. I am not suggesting to you that we should not accept the responsibility that is rightfully ours to give them the truth of the Gospel, the way of salvation, the solution to their problem. When I am talking about shunning these three classes of people, I am talking about using these people as close friends, as regular companions in all that we do, as regular associates.

This particular section begins, as do all these sections, with an appeal. I would like for us to consider that appeal for a moment, as it is presented to us in verse 26:

Proverbs 23:

26 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.

We have said that this particular section is the words of the wise who, we have discovered, are a group of people on an equality with the prophets and the priests. Whenever the prophets said something, whenever the priests said something, you could just as well say, “God is saying it,” because God was speaking through them; so when we find the wise men saying, “My son, give me thine heart,” we are not doing any violence to the Scripture at all to say that God is making a twofold appeal to all individuals. God says, “Give Me thine heart. Observe My ways.”

May I say, when God says, “Give Me thy heart,” He is not speaking to unbelievers. Quite often, you know, this particular verse has been used by sincere folk in witnessing by suggesting that unsaved people should give their hearts to Christ. I never quibble too much about phraseology. The idea is to get the point across, but to be scripturally exact, we should not ever invite an unsaved person to give God his heart. What would God do with a heart of an unsaved person? Jeremiah says in chapter 17, verse 9, of his prophecy that the human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it? God can't do anything with an unregenerated, deceitful, dirty heart. It is never wise to say to the unbeliever, “Give God your heart.” Instead of saying to the unbeliever, “Give God your heart,” you should say to the unbeliever, “Come to God through Jesus Christ,” or “Come to Jesus and God will give you a new heart.”

You see, that is what is needed in our world today. So many people are trying to do with that old, deceitful, dirty heart what is utterly impossible. In Ezekiel, chapter 36, verse 26, God says, in relation to those who are included in the New Covenant—and in that passage primarily He is addressing the nation of Israel, but Gentiles are included in the New Covenant as well, “I am going to take away your heart of stone, and I am going to give you in its place a heart of flesh, a tender heart, a heart that will be yielded and amenable to Me and My ways, and then you will do the things that please Me.”

God is saying, in this passage of Scripture to individuals who need this particular message, “Give Me thy heart, and observe My ways,” but He is not asking for that deceitful, dirty heart to which we have made reference. He is talking about the Hebrew word leb , which speaks of a well, in the sense that it is something deep within, but has reference to feelings , and has reference to intellect , and has reference to the human will . God is speaking to you, saying, “Surrender to Me your will. Surrender to Me your intellect. Surrender to Me your feelings, and then you will be able to observe My ways.”

Turn to the book of Philippians. Paul expresses what I am attempting to say to you in words very brief, and if you get these words fixed in your own mind, then you will be able to know what God had in mind here when He was saying, “Give Me thy heart.” You will know what He meant when He said, “Observe My way.”

Certainly, He was not speaking about observing the ways of God through sheer human effort. We repeat: Such a thing is an impossibility. Notice Philippians, chapter 2, verse 12:

Philippians 2:

12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

If we were to stop there, we would have a perfect picture of a multitude of people who are doing just that. They are trying to work out their own salvation, work for their own salvation, really, in fear and trembling, never knowing for sure whether God is going to save them or not. One day they feel saved and the next day, they don't. My heart goes out to people like that who are working for their salvation in fear and in trembling, but they would never feel that way if they read the next verse. Notice what it says:

Philippians 2:

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

“Work out your own salvation” is a reference to living your Christian life. It is a reference to obeying the revealed Word of God, of doing that which pleases Him. Did you notice how God arranged it? He said, “I am going to work within you. You work out what I work in.” Do you see why He is asking for your will? Do you see why He is asking for your intellect? Do you see why He is asking for your feelings? That He might work His will through your will and through your intellect. It is not difficult to do the will of God if you will only let Him work out through you what He is all the time working in.

Somebody said, “I don't feel capable of doing the will of God,” nor do I. I don't think I could, but I can respond to this appeal: “Give Me thine heart.” I can respond to this appeal: “Observe My ways,” because when I surrender my will and my intellect to God, I can expect God to work through me in a fashion that will accomplish its purpose.

We are talking about shunning evil companions. We are talking about avoiding certain kinds of company, and you might find it a very difficult thing to do in your own strength, but in the power of God it will be a possibility.

Avoid Keeping Company with Prostitutes

Let us consider the classes of people we are to avoid keeping company with by calling to your attention the first class—prostitutes, who are described for us in verses 27-28. Notice the words:

Proverbs 23:

27 For a whore [a prostitute] is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.
28 She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.

The whore and the strange women are one and the same. The two phrases are used in apposition one with the other. You may be saying, “But, I don't see any warning in this paragraph concerning the necessity for us to avoid this particular class of people.”

We call to your attention the Living Bible rendering of verses 26-27, a paraphrase summing up those three verses: “Oh my son, trust my advice. Stay away from prostitutes.” The editors of the Living Bible render these three verses in this paraphrased fashion because that is the sense of the whole passage of Scripture. The reason that the information is given about prostitutes is that you might have a warning to stay away from them.

When we think of a prostitute, we don't think of one who is described in the manner here. We think about them as described in a much more attractive fashion than this, but you see, God advertises honestly. You know, most of our advertisers are not advertising honestly. All you need to do is watch the advertising on television to know that. The advertising on television that you see concerning cigarettes doesn't show a man dying of cancer; it shows a country home in a wheat field and reminds you of that down-home taste. Right away your saliva glands begin to operate because you think about that down-home taste not related to tobacco but to the chicken and and all of the rest of it. Oh, the slyness of Satan. He never presents the picture concerning harmful things as a ditch.

Advertising related to intoxicating beverages is never presented as it is. Here is a beautiful young couple, traipsing through a beautiful country scene with a babbling, clear brook and a suggestion that refreshing comes from a certain kind of beverage. But when the Word of God advertises, it advertises the end, not the beginning. Correct advertising would show a man as we will see him a bit later in our discussion, not by a babbling brook enjoying life, but on skid row wishing he were dead.

In this passage of Scripture, there is a suggestion that this prostitute is a deep ditch. There is nothing attractive about a deep ditch. I wonder why the Spirit of God used this phraseology to describe a prostitute. Have you ever fallen into a deep ditch by accident, a deep ditch around which warning signs were not properly placed, and as you were walking along, suddenly you were in it. That is why God chose this figure of speech. You see, most men who enter into adultery don't plan it. They fall into it. Oh, some do, but most men fall into the deep ditch. They don't really know it is there. They don't plan it that way, but that is the way it happens.

Then you will notice the strange woman which is used in apposition to the whore , described as a narrow pit or a narrow well. What is this? Well, if you have ever fallen into a narrow pit or a narrow well, where there is no room to lie down, squat down, or move around, you know what it is talking about. You are there. You know the feeling of utter helplessness that can saturate your very being, and unless someone comes to the rescue, there is no help for you. God, I believe, used this figure of speech to describe the prostitute to remind men who are embroiled in her clutches that they are in a helpless condition altogether.

Look at verse 28, for here the emphasis is placed not so much upon the foolish meanderings of individuals who fall into sin by accident, but upon the deliberate intent of the prostitute to have her prey, for in verse 28, you read:

Proverbs 23:

28 She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.

I would like for you to notice that phrase, “lieth in wait,” which comes from the Hebrew word arab , which speaks of hiding in an ambush in order to lay awaiting the prey that comes your way.”

Look at the next word in the statement, the word prey . You will notice that it comes from the Hebrew word chetheph , which is translated by the word robbery . This isn't a very pleasant picture of a prostitute, is it? Here she is, hiding behind some barricade of some kind, waiting for you to come by and she will pounce upon you and she will rob you.

I don't think that most men need to be concerned about being robbed of their virtue. They have probably already lost it, so I don't think that is the thought of the verse, but if you remember what we have discussed with you concerning prostitution in the Bible, you know that a prostitute robs men of many more things than their virtue. The prostitute robs men of their homes and of family and of loved ones. The prostitute robs individuals of that which they hold dear and would not sell for any price at all, but do barter away with a prostitute for a few moments of sensual pleasure and then never have the satisfaction that comes from real love.

May I say to you who are not oriented yet, there is a God-given divine love that provides complete sexual satisfaction, and then there is a physical passion that will provide what folk think is sexual satisfaction. I have never talked with a man who has known the sexual satisfaction of real love and has experimented with the sexual satisfaction provided by fleshly entertainment but what has told me that there is as much difference between the two as there is between daylight and dark, so that the second kind of satisfaction, that which is accomplished by the mere satisfying a physical appetite in the bosom of a strange woman, becomes a dirty thing. It becomes dry. It becomes dusty. It becomes something that is nauseating.

I realize that my saying this may be received or may be rejected, but I beg of you, if you have not played fast and loose with your body and with the God-given sexual privileges God has provided, don't play fast and loose. Save yourself, boy. Save yourself, girl, for that man, that woman that God is going to bring into your life and you will know what real love is. Believe me, it will not have the taste of dry dust that a mere physical relationship has.

There is something else in this verse that I want you to notice. In verse 28, this woman lies not only in wait for a prey, but the statement of the Word is that she increaseth the transgressors. I want you to notice that word transgressors with me, because it comes from the Hebrew word bagad . It is a picturesque word. It speaks of an individual who covers his face with a cloth. He doesn't want to be seen going into the house of the prostitute in a way that people will recognize him so he covers his face all up with a cloth so nobody will recognize who he is, and of course the word has come to have the meaning of deceitfulness . When you read here that this strange woman increaseth transgressors, the idea is that she is responsible for the increase of many transgressions. She is responsible for the increase of much more sin than the sin of sexual promiscuity. How many men have visited a prostitute, have been unfaithful to their wives and have had to add to that sin of unfaithfulness numerous other sins in order to maintain even the semblance of a home? Prostitution within itself is bad enough, but it increases that which is sad indeed. Avoid keeping company with prostitutes is God's Word to you tonight.

Avoid Keeping Company with Drunkards

Look at verse 29, where we are introduced to another company of people with whom we should not keep company, another company of people whom we should avoid. That company of people we have designated by the term the drunkard . In our study of the book of Proverbs—for example, in verse 20 of chapter 23—we have already been warned not to keep company with these folk. Notice chapter 23, verse 20:

Proverbs 23:

20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:

Don't keep company with drunkards, but here in the paragraph which begins with verse 29 and concludes with verse 35, we have God's picture of a drunkard and all of the reasons why intelligent people should stay away from drunkards, because in this paragraph is presented to you the foolishness of drinking. We considered this passage of Scripture when we were thinking about the verse: “Wine is a mocker and strong drink is raging,” but we want to review, rather hurridly, what we said to you about the effects of drinking, which ought to be a red flag in the face of everybody to turn them away from it. It has social consequences. For example, the individual who drinks has woe . We suggested to you that that comes from a Hebrew word which means “unfulfilled desire.” The individual who drinks has sorrow . That comes from a Hebrew word which means “want,” and refers to poverty. The individual who drinks has contention . That comes from a Hebrew word which refers to quarrels. Seldom can a man drink without getting involved in some kind of quarreling. The individual who drinks is given to babbling . This word comes from a Hebrew word which refers to the idea of talking to oneself. He is muttering and murmuring and babbling about insignificant things. The man who gives himself to drink has wounds without cause —that is, wounds he cannot explain. He has redness of eyes, which is the effect of the alcohol upon his physical well being.

In addition to these physical things he has some mental problems because alcohol has its effect upon individuals mentally. You will recall that we brought to your attention that the individual who gives himself to alcohol may be the subject of what we used to call delirium tremens , when he is completely out of his mind, physically speaking, and has no way of understanding that there is no real danger for the danger appears so real. It is expressed in verse 32:

Proverbs 23:

32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.

This man who is given to drink loses control of his passions, for many men, under the influence of drink, commit sexual crimes that they would never dream of committing if they had full possession of their faculties. Many times when individuals want to commit crimes of passion, they drink in order to bolster their courage and accomplish their purpose.

Individuals who drink have a warped perspective. They cannot see things as they ought, as described in verse 34:

Proverbs 23:

34 Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.

Nothing is right, and nothing seems in its right perspective and the individual who drinks is afflicted with insensibility in the sense described in verse 35. Notice:

Proverbs 23:

35 They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not…

That is the reason men who are under the influence of alcohol can be injured and not be conscious of the injury until after they have sobered up; and, of course the saddest thing in my mind of all is that individuals who drink are given to addiction. The potential is there, at least, and is described in the last part of verse 35:

Proverbs 23:

35 …when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.

All of the promises, all of the pledges, all of the good intentions do not last for long. That is the reason the Spirit of God said, “Be not among the winebibbers.” You will be exposed to the same temptations to which they are exposed, and you should give careful consideration to the fact that you are made of the same dust as they and if they have fallen, then you certainly can fall as well.

Avoid Keeping Company with Evil Men

We want to consider with you, in the closing moments that we have, the third class of individuals with whom we should not keep company. We have used the phrase evil men to describe that group. Notice they are presented to us in chapter 24, verses 1-2:

Proverbs 24:

1 Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.
2 For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.

Notice the instruction: “…neither desire to be with these evil men.” Who are the evil men? Many people present many definitions for this particular group of people, but we want to limit our discussion to the meaning of the word evil in the original Hebrew. It comes from the Hebrew word ra , which is translated by the word bad , by the word calamity , by the word hurt , by the word sorrow , and by the word trouble .

I am bringing you all of the meanings of this one particular word because I don't want you to think that evil men necessarily always wear horns. They may not always look evil. They may not always act bad, but they are men who, if you associate with them, are bad for you, bad medicine , as the Indians said. They are individuals who will hurt you. They are individuals who will bring you calamity, trouble and sorrow.

Don't associate with people like that. I make mention of that because, as I say, the Devil deludes us so easily and he would say quite often, concerning evil men, “Oh, they are not so bad. They really are not bad at all. They are members of the church. They are some of the leading citizens of the community. They are some of the most popular people in school. They are not evil. They are upstanding, upright folk.”

We are not talking about the people who have a good reputation. We are talking about unregenerated people who are bad medicine for you because they are not honoring God in their lives. Satan has a way of making such individuals so alluring that born-again people oftentimes find themselves very envious of these individuals—envious of what they are, wanting to be what they are.

The word envious comes from the Hebrew word qana , which is really translated by the word zealous , which indicates that the injunction, “be not envious of these people,” is not a latent feeling of envy that is in the hearts of most of us. You know, when we see somebody prosperous, or somebody unusually popular, I think if we had to be perfectly honest we would say that down deep in our heart there is a latent desire to be like that, to have what they have. We are not talking about that latent desire that goes with the human heart. We are talking about a zeal that prompts you, not only to want what they have and be what they are, but to set the wheels in motion to be like them. God is saying, “Don't be envious of them; neither desire to be with them.”

This word desire is a strong word. It is from the Hebrew word avah which means “to lust after.” Yes, you see the word lust is related to many things in the Word of God other than sex; and God is saying in His Word that you and I should not associate with these people because if we do, we will find ourselves wanting what they have and we will find ourselves desiring to be like them.

You may say to yourself, “Oh, that won't happen to me. I am not that kind of person. I don't want a thing that they have,” but the Spirit of God, in giving some messages concerning soul-winning in the the epistle of Jude, said that there are some individuals to whom you have to witness quickly and be gone, lest you be caught in the flame yourself. There are some individuals to whom you have to witness quickly and go wash your hands really quick, lest you get dirty from touching the spotted garments of the world.

If the Spirit of God declares that, I think it is a bit foolish for ordinary human beings to go around talking about how they can do this and how they can do that, and it might hurt some people but it is not going to hurt them. God suggests that you be very, very careful about your associations with evil men.

Reasons to Avoid these Associations

He is going to give you some reasons in verse 2:

Proverbs 24:

2 For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.

This is the reason you should stay away from them. Their heart studieth destruction and their lips talk of mischief. The word studieth is from the Hebrew word hagah which means “to plan.” What He is saying here is that these evil men are always planning mischief of some sort. They are never quiet for a moment. Their heart is studying destruction and talking mischief. This word destruction comes from the Hebrew word shod , which is elsewhere translated by the word robbery . These individuals are all the time planning some evil deed which is well described by the word robbery .

These are not the folk who take a gun, break a glass door down and shoot the guard on the inside. These are the men who plan the robbery so very carefully that they themselves are not involved, but you become the pawn and the goat. When they speak of talking, they are not talking in the sense that I am talking. When they are talking mischief, they are arranging it, because the word talk comes from the Hebrew word dabar , which means “to make very careful arrangements in relation to the subject under discussion.” The word mischief in our English text is not as powerful as it ought to be, for the word mischief comes from the Hebrew word amal which elsewhere is translated wickedness .

Any born-again believer should recognize the fallacy of keeping company or close relationship with these three classes of people: the prostitute, the drunkard, and evil men because God says in His Word that when you keep company with people like this, it won't be long until you will be like them.

Conclusion

I would suggest that you examine the company you keep. Maybe you are not aware of the kind of company you are keeping. Examine the company you keep and “Have nothing more to do with it,” say the wise men. The way to do it is to give God your will, your intellect, and let Him live His life through you, or as the Apostle said, “It is not I who live, but Christ Who lives in me.”


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