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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:
 
 
Title:God's answer to the riddle of the one-more leech
Text:Proverbs 30:15-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Self Control
 
Preached:2002-01-14
Added:2002-01-14
Updated:2007-08-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Proverbs 30:1-17
Text: Proverbs 30:15-16
Singing:
Hymn 4:1-4
Psalm 32:1-2
Psalm 36:1-3
Psalm 65:1-3
Psalm 65:4-6
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

I have a few books on my shelf that all contain the same story. Sure, the details are always different, but the basic story is almost exactly the same. It goes something like this:


"Jim," my wife said as I walked in the door. "I want you to make a decision." Putting a quart of whiskey on the table, she gave me an order demanding that I make a choice. "This bottle or our marriage!" she demanded. "That's easy," I replied. I picked up the bottle. "I'll see you later! My two daughters came out of the bedroom. They were only four and five at the time. "Daddy, please don't go!" they cried, "Daddy, don't go!" I walked to the front door, picking them up. "Honey, I love you very much, but I have to leave." That's all I said. With that, I walked out the door never to see them again for seventeen years.


The story has variations - some people do it over cocaine or some other drug, others do it for sex or gambling. Regardless of the details, the end of the matter is that they do something completely foolish for the sake of "one more." Now I don't know if anybody here in our congregation can see themselves in this story. It's not here in this sermon to point at anybody you or I might know. The story is here to point to a problem.

Before you think that this isn't your problem, maybe you should think again. I know for myself that our text of this morning was one of the toughest texts I've ever had to deal with. Not because it's so hard to understand, but because of the way it points the finger at me and makes me very uncomfortable. I know what it says and part of me just doesn't like it. God's Word does that. Sometimes reading the Bible is just like walking through a forest of poison ivy with shorts on. It does that for us whether our problem is a quart of whiskey or some other secret sin we struggle with that nobody else knows about. And we all have those secret sins don't we? We would die of embarrasment if all of our sins were exposed to the whole church. If our thoughts were laid open and people could see our bitterness, our uncharitability, our lusts, we would be squirming. Just imagine if everybody could see the prideful way we sometimes criticize other families and their way of doing things. All our nice veneer would be gone and people would see us for who we really are. Oftentimes we love our sins and go back to them time and again like an old friend. It sometimes gets pretty ugly doesn't it? Do I need to go on? You do the thing you hate and then what? You end up doing it again. And again. The cycle seems to be endless. It's downright frustrating. You don't need to be enslaved to a bottle to know what that's about. All you have to do is be human and the older you are the better you should know it. Be honest and you know that this is about you. In a certain way, Jim's story is my story and your story. His foolishness often plays out in our lives in a similar way, though perhaps not so dramatically. We make foolish choices to continue in sin even when we know better. And so, our text of this morning speaks to you, congregation of Christ. I proclaim to you God's Word with this theme:


God's answer to the riddle of the one-more leech


We will see:


  1. The past hopelessness of this riddle

  2. The present reality of this riddle

  3. The future final solution to this riddle


1. The past hopelessness of this riddle.


We find our text of this morning in Proverbs 30. This is a self-contained chapter of this book, written by a certain Agur, son of Jakeh. We know nothing about him other than what's written in verse 1. There are many guesses about his identity - many scholars believe he was a non-Israelite - but these remain in the realm of speculation. God has not revealed Agur's identity to us and we may be content with the knowledge that it's not important. What is important is that he was clearly a man who feared God and who knew something of the wisdom that comes from the fear of the LORD. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he made a number of observations and wrote them down. They've been providentially preserved for us in this chapter.

Through much of this chapter, especially what we read in verses 1-17, we find that Agur alludes to a number of God's commandments. For instance, in verse 9 he speaks about theft, in verse 10 he speaks about slander, and in verse 11 he speaks about disrespecting one's parents. What is clear, then, is that Agur is making several observations about sin in its various forms.

This helps us to understand the riddle of our text. It helps because Agur's observations about sin continue with our text. He's seen a leech. Maybe he was down by a river or lake somewhere and one latched on to his leg. Maybe you've seen them too. If you have, you may know that they're great bait for fishing, but are they ever ugly! Personally, I don't know anyone who's had a pet leech. Most leeches are blood-sucking water dwellers. They attach themselves to creatures who pass by and then they feed off their host's blood. All they do is suck and destroy. Their whole purpose in life is to take more and more so they can produce more and more of their own.

Now Agur tells us that the leech has two daughters. These two are always crying out, "Give, give." They don't even say "please." They are greedy little things. From the way this is expressed in the original text, it appears that these two daughters are actually two body parts of the leech. The leech has two sucking disks at each end. With these two sucking disks it latches onto a host and then bites in and sucks the blood. Those appear to be the two daughters mentioned in our text and so we're not really looking at three leeches, but one with two parts. This makes sense, because there would be little likelihood that Agur himself would observe two baby leeches with their mother. After all, many leeches do not actively raise their young, of which there are usually much more than two. No, it seems pretty clear that Agur was looking at a single leech with its two sucking disks.

But enough about that. Let's ask the question: what does the leech have to do with anything? Well, Agur notes that the leech is only concerned with taking, commanding others to give. From what follows in our text, it's clear that this is an endless cycle. Verse 15b speaks of three things that are never satisfied and four that never say enough. That way of speaking means that Agur could say much more, but he's only going to give four examples. These four examples will make it clear what he's trying to get at.

So what do all these examples have in common with each other and with the leech? Brothers and sisters, it all comes down to the terrible fact of sin in human existence. Look at the grave, for instance. Sheol is the word used there, as you see from the note at the bottom of your NIV. The grave or Sheol, death, would not exist if it were not for sin. The barren womb, the woman who can't have children, that's not the way it's supposed to be. Women were created to bear children. 1 Timothy 2:15 even goes so far as to say that "women will be saved through childbearing." Salvation is directly connected with the fruitful womb. You can see countless examples in Scripture of how the barren womb was considered a curse. The barren womb is therefore directly related to sin (not that it is always the direct result of some specific sin of a specific person). The same can be said for the land which is never satisfied with water. The Bible tells us in Psalm 104:13 that God does indeed normally satisfy the earth with water. So our text is describing an abnormal situation, one of drought. Drought is a covenant curse directly related to sin. Finally, the fire which never says "Enough!" For one with a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament, it's pretty difficult not to make a connection here to what we read in Isaiah 66:24 (the last verse of that book), "And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched " The unquenchable fire is mentioned several times in both the Old and New Covenants. It points to hell as the ultimate punishment for sin.

From all these examples, we see that sin's character is always to want more. That's where the connection to the leech is. More and more. Give, give. The grave and death are relentlessly pursuing the human race. Many people even give themselves over to it and get involved with violence as entertainment (think of WWF, etc.) or abortion. The barren womb causes women to want and never be satisfied. Think only of Rachel's cry in Genesis 30:1, "Give me children or I die!" A constant craving. The parched land always needs more water, unlike at creation where the land was watered in a special way. After the fall into sin, came famine. Finally, hell and the devil are always demanding more souls and doing what they can to achieve that goal. Sin, all its results and all its consequences, is like the greedy leech that always needs one more. One more body in the grave, one more barren womb, one more drop of rain, one more soul in hell. There is never any satisfaction for the evil one - he always wants one more and he wants us to want more of what he wants.

So it is, brothers and sisters, that Agur paints a hopeless picture of the reality of sin for the people of the old covenant. There was the endless cycle of life and death. There was endless sin. Drought and famine occurred from time to time as expressions of God's wrath against sin. Death and misery were all around - people died then as they do now. This was his observation, not unlike the observation made by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes that all is vanity. The leech, that horribly ugly creature, is a metaphor for human life and experience. The riddle of the leech teaches us that sin takes all it can from human life and gives absolutely nothing in return.

With that in mind, we can see how this text is a loud moaning cry for the coming of Christ. Only He could put an end to this cycle of death and misery. Only He could put salt on the leech, so to speak. He was and is the answer to the hopelessness expressed in this riddle. The once-for-all of Jesus Christ destroyed the one-more of the leech, that child of the serpent. That's the way it is in principle. But in practice, the riddle remains for us and we see that in our second point:


2. The present reality of this riddle.


Jesus Christ has come. He suffered, died and rose from the dead. In all that He crushed the head of the serpent and poured salt on the serpent's ally, the leech. True enough. But yet the riddle of the leech remains for us a disturbing reality. It's there in our everyday lives. You know it as well as I do.

Just to take the examples of Agur, those things that he observed. Death still consumes more and more. We still find women, also in our own churches, who for one reason or another cannot bear children. Even with all our modern irrigation systems, drought still has the potential to cripple us as it does with many other nations in the world. And if all that is not enough, there is still the fire of hell which demands more. In all these things, sin, death and Satan, that unholy trinity, they are demanding more and more.

And so often, we are willing accomplices. The congregation of Jesus Christ is quite often never satisfied. We quite often say to ourselves, "I'll do it just this one more time and then I'll promise God never to do it again." One more time becomes one more time. You can never say, "Enough! I've had my fill of sin." We become trapped by that leech who sucks our spiritual blood and the problem is that we actually enjoy it. Don't you see, brothers and sisters: our text this morning is here in God's Word to convict us of our sin and humble us before God. Doesn't it break your heart to realize that your life is affected by this leech and you've allowed it to be that way?

Do you remember the dream that Pharaoh had in Genesis 41? There were seven ugly, gaunt cows and they ate up the seven fat cows. Our lusts, our desire for sin is just like those thin, ugly cows. After they ate the seven fat cows, they were just as hungry and whining as before. Sin always demands more and more of you until it totally envelopes your life and being. Then you quite often don't even realize that it's happened.

That's the way it often is. But let me ask you: does it have to be like that? That's where there's good news, brothers and sisters. It doesn't have to be like that at all. Remember that the book of Proverbs quite often makes observations about life, simply telling us the way things often are. But they are not necessarily hard and fast rules of life, like the Ten Commandments. That's where there is hope in our text, particularly for us who live after the coming of Jesus Christ. He broke the cycle. He has made satisfaction for our dissatisfaction, for our always wanting more and our love affair with sin. With His precious blood, there is satisfaction. He broke the power of the grave with His glorious resurrection. He put out the fires of hell for those who believe in Him.

Then we are also commanded to find our satisfaction and contentment in Him. For one thing, that means that we have to put to death that sinful nature which always demands more and more of us. That sinful nature is a friend to the one-more leech. It's never satisfied and so it has to be crucified, according to what Paul teaches in Romans 6. Putting off that old sinful, leech-like nature is not meant to leave us naked. By the same token, we're commanded to put on the new nature. Sounds great, but how do we do that in practical terms? Well, it begins by developing habits and patterns of self-discipline and self-control. We have to put aside ourselves and our selfish interests. We have to put aside the good feeling we get from our sins and we have to put God's kingdom first. Not wanting more and more for ourselves, but wanting what God wants. That involves the great virtue of self-control. You have to say "No" to your sinful desires, even when it hurts or when you're not going to get the satisfaction you've been used to. It also means that we have to continually repent before God that we haven't been passionate enough about Christ and the things that He loves. Are we willing to do that? You have to be. Surely you see how stupid and foolish sin is, don't you? Just like that leech, it will suck your blood dry. Without Christ sin will kill you and the unquenchable fire will also find you as its fuel.

Brothers and sisters, it is possible to get self-control and get the edge on the one- more leech. The Scriptures speak so often of self-control that it's clearly possible to get it. By God's grace and Spirit, you can do it. But Scripture plainly teaches that you need the help of others. As we learn from Philippians 1, the struggle of believers against sin must take place in the communion of saints, in the church. We're not taking the struggle for self-discipline and a godly pattern of life seriously if we think that we can do it by ourselves. You need someone to help you, someone to whom you can be accountable. Someone who can encourage you on the right ways and admonish you with love when you go on the wrong ways. That means that you have to make yourself vulnerable, something that is sometimes hard to do. It takes courage, especially if others have hurt you in the past when you did confess your sins and weaknesses. How do we get around that barrier to growth in holiness? It starts with us as a congregation resolving to be gentle and kind with one another, realizing that our struggles are the same. We have to be willing to be vulnerable so that we may grow together in holiness. For that is what God calls us to do, brothers and sisters, also by means of this text. He wants us to be convicted of our sin, but then also to grow in Him.

It's hard, but it's not impossible. We know that we're never going to reach perfection in this life. Yet, we still have to make it our aim to please God and thank Him for making satisfaction for our sin with His Son. With that in our hearts, we can look in faith to the One who has said, "Enough! It is finished!" We will hear more about that in our third point:


3. The future final solution to this riddle.


The present reality of this riddle gives us reason for self-examination. It also gives us the proverbial kick-in-the-pants to get motivated about living in God's ways. At the same time, our present reality is filled with the knowledge of what Christ has done. That gives us a hope for the future.

We know at this moment that we have our struggles. We have the never-ending fight against sin. By God's grace, you win one battle and you're quickly faced with another. You think you have your lusts under control and then pride comes into your life. You think you have your gluttony under control and then you become vain. You get your gossip under control and then you become materialistic. And so on and on it goes. It gets tiresome. It's like being on a treadmill that never stops.

Imagine that there was no end to this. Life would be vain and futile. There would be no end point. Scripture tells us plainly that such a thought is wrong. Agur didn't know half of what we do today. However, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the One who inspired Agur, He did know everything. If Agur was a faithful believer, we can be sure that he had the messianic hope, looking for the One who would redeem God's people from their sins. But we are much more blessed because we know that Redeemer has come and has done His Work. We can say that better: He has done most of His work.

You see, there is still yet work to be done. There is a future final solution to this riddle of the one-more leech. We can look forward to the grave being a thing of the past. We eagerly anticipate the time when barren wombs will concern us no longer. Drought will be a thing of the past and the unquenchable fire will be out of sight and out of mind. It is a certain fact that Jesus Christ will return. He will accomplish the ultimate and final victory over the unholy trinity of sin, death and Satan. It's guaranteed for us in the Bible.

This is not pie-in-the-sky theology that has no relevance for today. I say that because the coming of our Lord Jesus gives us something to look forward to in our battle with the one-more leech, also our struggle for self-control. Think only of what is written in 1 Peter 1:13, "Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed." There's an end in sight - when Jesus Christ will be revealed at His second coming. So, set your hope fully on that and be self-controlled. If there would be no end, we might tire out and give up, but when we know the end is coming, we become more diligent. There comes an urgency. So, the next time the struggle with the one-more leech comes in your life, think about the coming of our Saviour. He will return soon! Be ready for His return and fight against your sins all the harder in anticipation of it.

You should also think of how the coming of Christ shows us who is really important in our lives. To illustrate what I mean here, think of how easily we get thrown off our sinful tracks when someone we love, like our spouse or our children, catches us right before we do some kind of sin. Our ungodliness can be revealed by their appearance and we are shamed into not sinning. Well, then, give thought to how much more we would be ashamed to be caught by Christ at His coming! Let that thought motivate you to throw some salt on that leech demanding more from you.

Finally, brothers and sisters, don't ever try to excuse that one-more leech in your life by saying, "I'm only human, I can't help it." That is not Scriptural thinking. When Christ returns, you will still be human, but you will be perfect. Then we will reach what we are supposed to be, we will have true humanness, the way God created us to be. We will have unhindered fellowship with God and our neighbour. Being recklessly self-indulgent and being enslaved to the leech of sin is NOT what God intended for us. That means that today we have to start aiming for what we will later be. By the grace of God, you can help it. To put it in a matter of fact way, when we give ourselves over to the one-more leech, we're acting like animals. Proverbs says it bluntly in 26:11, "As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly." It's okay for dogs to go back to their vomit and lick it up, but people were not created to do that. They were created to be vessels for God's glory and so that means that right now they have to start living like that. The Bible shows us how and it tells us that we can.

You see, beloved, the future final solution gives us hope. When we are caught up in a web of sin in our lives, there is a way out. Remember Jim from the the introduction to the sermon? He did find a way out in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus, by His Spirit and Word will lead us out too, brothers and sisters. He will do so if you are willing to submit your life to His Word. Sin will always be there, but that one-more leech of Proverbs 30 does not have to be a soul-sucking force in your life. With Christ and His Word there is a way to change. There is hope and there is salvation. AMEN.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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