Siren’s Song

Last week we talked about how every thought, every word, and every deed is moving us in a direction. We are going somewhere. In Psalm 1, David says you will be blessed if you don’t go the way of the ungodly, the sinner, and the scornful. It starts with going for a walk, standing, and eventually sitting.  It never happens all at once.

In my years as a principal, I have had many kids come see me in my office (rarely is it to say “hi”).  The student who gets sent to my office for something like fighting or hitting someone, that wasn’t the only thing “bad” that they did. They weren’t just sitting there, obeying their teacher and then all of a sudden, wham, hit someone. No, there were choices that led up to this outburst of physical aggression. It usually starts with getting angry because something happened that they didn’t like. Mean words follow. And then they do something that they can’t take back. This is what David is talking about in Psalm 1 and he says this is the way of a foolish person. Sin reduces all of us to fools. Another way to think about this is by looking at a character in Greek mythology called the “sirens”.

You read about them in the poem that the author Homer wrote long ago called the Odyssey. The main character is a great warrior named Odysseus who, with the help of some trickery and a large wooden horse, defeated the Trojans.  War is over and it’s time to head back home but the gods had other plans for Odysseus. He is held against his will for seven years on an island. He finally is allowed to leave and sail home but once again he faces many difficulties and huge obstacles that keep him from the land he loves. He has to face a man-eating cyclops, a huge seven-headed monster, great storms, and even the place of the dead, among many other difficulties. However, one of the most difficult tests in his voyage home was sailing around the island of the sirens. Sirens were beautiful looking woman creatures who lived by a rocky island and who sang an enchanting song. The song was so intoxicating that it normally caused passing sailors want to hear more and more of the song so, even though they knew it was extremely dangerous and had been severely warned not to go there, sailors would steer toward the rocks to listen to this song, only to hit them and sink to their death. Odysseus had all of his sailors plug their ears up with beeswax, except for himself, whom he ordered his men to tie him to the mast of the ship, as he wanted to hear the song but not be lured away by it. He told his sailors to not to untie him as it would only make him leave the ship and drown himself. He and his crew made it past but only by using extreme measures to not be drawn to the rocks by the song of the sirens.

Sin is like the sirens. It doesn’t shout at us. Get in your face and say you better disobey or else. No, it is a soothing, sweet song. One that we like to hear. It makes us laugh, hum along and gets stuck in your head. How could sailors be so foolish? They knew of the sirens and their great danger yet many of them sail into the rocks and drown. Are we any different? We know of sin and its great danger. We know sin ultimately leads to misery but time and again, we listen to its song and walk down its foolish path.

So what is this song that the sirens sing? What makes it so attractive that a wise sailor will forget all that he knows about staying away from dangers and drive his ship straight into the rocks? Odysseus wanted to be the first person to hear the siren’s song and live. He ordered his men to tie him as tight as they could to the big mast of the ship and ordered them to disobey him if he told them to untie him. He knew it would take that drastic of action to keep him from falling away. As they sailed past the sirens rocky island, here was their song:

Come this way, honored Odysseus, great glory of the Achaians, and stay your ship, so that you can listen here to our singing; for no one else has ever sailed past this place in his black ship until he has listened to the honey-sweet voice that issues from our lips; then goes on, well-pleased, knowing more than ever he did…Over all the generous earth we know everything that happens.

What did the sirens promise?  Knowledge! To know the unknown. To know the future. They promised Odysseus to tell him things he didn’t know. Does this sound familiar? It should. There is another story, but this one is true, that the promise of knowledge led someone to a horrible choice. In the garden of Eden, the snake promised that if Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they would have what? The knowledge of good and evil. If all you knew was good, why would you want to know evil? Adam and Eve did not take extreme measures to guard themselves and they listened to satan’s song and believed his lie.

It’s the same feeling that you feel when your teacher, your mom or dad tell “you don’t touch this”, “don’t watch that”, or “don’t go there”.  What do you want to do more than anything? You want to touch it. You want to watch it. You want to go there, more than anything else in the world. That is the song of the siren. It tells you so sweetly that disobedience is not that bad and in fact, you will get knowledge. You will learn something new. And when you get what you want, that will make you happy. Here is the scary thing, that song comes from inside you. From the sinful desires of your heart and mine. I can cheat. It’s only a white lie. No one got hurt. They made me do it. It is so easy to start walking down our own path. We listen to that honey-sweet voice that lies to us again and again because we forget so quickly about who we are. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are blessed with everything you need. Your heart is full. It is satisfied and happy. You should desire nothing more than delighting in God at His word. But it can be so easy to think that when God says don’t do this, don’t go there,  we are really OK to do it. But what happened to Adam and Eve? Did they end up happy when they were thrown out of the garden in shame? The lie of the siren’s song is the same lie of Satan. You will not get what you desire, instead, you will get misery and pain.

In contrast, we are to obey…with a happy heart. We are to happy in our obedience. Obedience brings joy. Real joy. It also opens your ears to hear another voice.  Not the wicked sirens song but the voice of wisdom.  Listen to this from Proverbs 1:

Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; 

on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech:

“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?

How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?

Repent at my rebuke!

Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.

In order to hear wisdom’s voice, you must walk in obedience. You must walk the way of the blessed, which means you walk a different path than the sinners, the ungodly and the scornful. They follow the song of the sirens, a song that promises knowledge but it is a song of lies. Like the sailors on Odysseus’ ship, we must be extremely serious to guard our hearts against sin and its honey sweet voice. Let’s stuff our ears with beeswax to never hear even one note of that seductive song, and instead listen with our hearts to the voice of wisdom.