Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Grotesque but Profound Picture

Proverbs 11:22
Like a gold ring in a pig's snout
    is a beautiful woman without discretion.
                            
This proverb is one of the most memorable and shocking proverbs in the entire book.  It is also one of the most profound.  It is memorable and shocking because of its bold comparison.  It is profound because of what the comparison portrays about our fallen human nature.

Let's begin by looking at the comparisons.  There are two:
                                                          
1.      A gold ring is compared to a beautiful woman;
2.      A pig's snout is compared to a woman without discretion.
                                                   
The first comparison compares the outer person.  A woman's physical, outer beauty is compared to a gold ring.  Nothing shocking about that.

The second comparison, however, compares the woman's inner nature with a pig's snout.  That is a bit unflattering and shocking, especially when we consider what pigs are like and what they do with their noses.

I grew up in large population areas, far removed from the country and farms.  So I haven't had much firsthand experience with pigs.  But one of the beauties of the internet, at least for my narrow purpose in this instance, is the ability to watch pigs online and learn about them.  I learned pigs love to get dirty.  They use their snouts to root in search for food.  They love to bury their noses in the ground almost to the point of covering their eyes, and they seem to do this incessantly.  Besides this rooting instinct, pigs also love to wallow in the mud to keep themselves cool and protect themselves from bug bites, and they do not seem to care if the mud in which they wallow is filled with swill and feces.  Furthermore, and this comes firsthand from my wife who grew up on a farm, mother pigs are not exactly motherly.  They tend to lay their large bodies on their little ones, either crippling them or killing them.

So, comparing a woman to a pig is not flattering, but it is memorable and shocking.  But why is this comparison also profound?  What does it teach us?

Verse 22 forms an inclusio with verse 16.  Two women, one righteous and one wicked, form the bookends that shelve this small group of proverbs.  Remember what we said about the gracious woman in verse 16: "Because the bodies of women are more receptive than men's, women become a better picture of discipleship."  If verse 16 is showing us a picture of discipleship, verse 22 is showing us a picture of anti-discipleship.  Verse 22 is really showing us a picture of the whole fallen human race.  Though we were created for intimate union with our Lord and Husband, to bear for him the fruit of righteousness, with the goal of obtaining glory from him, we now are just the opposite.  Having been estranged and divorced from our Lord and Husband, we root with our noses in the earthly pursuit of wicked things (or good things we turn into idols), and thus, we mar his image, and bring dishonor to ourselves, both now and for eternity.

This picture ought to grieve us.  It ought to give us a better understanding of just how grievous our fall has been.  Look at that pig with his nose buried in the ground, rooting for satisfaction from this world.  That is you and me in our fallen nature.  Look at how incessant is the pig's instinct to pursue the things of this earth only, with no thought of looking toward heaven and the Lord.  That is you and me in our rebellious nature.

We were created to be the Lord's bride.  We were created for intimacy and closest communion with him.  We were created to have the seed of his word abiding and bearing fruit in us.  We were created to reflect his image, but we have marred that image and caked it with the dirt and grime and feces of our selfishness and sin.  We have loved created things more than our Creator and Redeemer, and so our heart, our affections, our understanding, and our will, are all in pursuit of the wrong goals. 

And the pursuit of wrong goals is not a small thing.  The picture is grotesque and unfitting.  As grotesque as a pig rooting all day and every day, with his snout buried in the ground. As unfitting as a pig with a beautiful ring in its snout.  Such is the grotesque and unfitting fallen nature in man, who was made for union and communion with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but has traded that beauty for the filth and mud of living for lesser things.

If by grace you have been united to your Lord and Husband, Jesus Christ, then no longer offer your body to the service of sin and selfishness, but rather, offer your body to him in love for his service:
"Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present      yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness." (Romans 6:13) 

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