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Proverbs 5-7: A Wise Man Avoids Forbidden Women Print E-mail
Proverbs
Sunday, 03 June 2007

The present culture in America is obsessed with sex and sexuality.  You cannot turn on the TV, go to a movie, surf the internet, read a newspaper or magazine, listen to the radio, without being confronted by this fact.  The statistics for the sales of pornographic material are staggering.  The homosexual movement is growing in popularity and exposure.  What former generations would have considered appalling for the public arena, is now normal and expected.  Indeed, the obsession over sex is obvious in our culture.

So, where is the Church in all of this?  Of course I can only speak in generalizations, but it seems that for years the approach of the Church was simply silence, with the occasional rant against sex in general.  Yet, it seems that she is slowly beginning to recognize the need for saying more than just, ‘Don’t have sex.’  The obvious question then is what is she to say?  How is the Church to respond to the current sexual obsession in our culture?  Which leads to the ever important question: what does the Bible have to say about sex and sexuality?

Surprisingly I think for most, the Bible actually has much to say on the subject.  Both the Old and New Testaments give us clear instructions about sex.  If we are honest, the Bible is at times very frank concerning this issue.  In fact, even in our text this morning the writer of the Proverbs gives some explicit instructions concerning the appropriate expression of sexual desire (see 5:15-19). 

I recognize the need to speak appropriately to our current audience, which is composed of young children, and I want to be sensitive to that.  At the same time, it is so important that we let the Bible speak on this subject (and all subjects of course).  We cannot bury our heads in the sand and ignore sexual temptation and sin as a Church.  Rather, we must listen to what the text has to say and pray for grace to be obedient.  It is the Word of God that a watching world needs to see taught and practiced in the life of the local Church.

The writer of the Proverbs would not be surprised at the current struggle with sexual temptation, for he devotes almost 3 chapters to this subject in the book.  Again, he is primarily addressing young men and instructing them in wisdom (see 1:8, 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 10:1, etc.).  So what does he say to young men concerning sexual temptation?  Simply stated, he tells young men to avoid the forbidden women, referring to the prostitute and the adulteress.  As the rest of the Scriptures affirm, the writer of Proverbs teaches that a man is only to have sexual relations with his wife.  Within this instruction, he identifies at least four ways to avoid the forbidden women, which I want us to consider this morning.

First, avoid forbidden women by delighting in your own wife (5:15-23).

After warning the son about the forbidden women in 5:1-14, which we will consider below, the writer tells the young, married man to delight himself in his own wife.  Look at 5:15-20.  Let me be honest and just say that I am somewhat uncomfortable even reading such a text.  Yet, I really believe that it is a text that we need to hear and heed.  Without going into great detail, we need to see what the author is saying.  He is telling his son to take great delight in his wife sexually.  He is to find sexual fulfillment in her.  One commentator states it this way: “The father encourages the idea that the best defense (against committing adultery) is a strong offense (reveling in the joys of marital sex).” 1  The Bible does not simply say: ‘Just stop desiring sex.’  Rather, it instructs men to get married and fulfill their desires with their wives, which is appropriate.  This is exactly what Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 7.  One clear way to avoid the forbidden woman is to enjoy your own wife.

Thus, I think the Bible commands us to have healthy sexual relationship in our marriages.  Wives if you want to help your husbands in their struggle against sexual sin, then this is one way that the Bible instructs you to do so.  Sex is a gift of God and is a beautiful and right thing within the marriage relationship.  Yet, when what is beautiful is denied or neglected, it can turn into something that is very ugly and destructive.  If you want to fight against sexual temptation, then fight for a healthy sexual relationship within your marriage.  Remember, the best defense is often a good offense.

Second, avoid forbidden women by keeping your distance (6:20-29).

In chapter 6, the author turns his attention to other issues in the first 19 verses, but then returns to avoiding the forbidden women in verse 20.  Look at 6:20-29 with me.  After once again calling his son to pay attention to the instruction that he is giving, he warns him against giving in to the flattery of the evil woman and adulteress (see v. 24).  Then he warns against desiring her beauty in verses 25-26.  He then uses the comparison of getting burned by fire.  Basically he is saying what we have been told all our lives, namely you cannot play with fire and not get burned.  Entertaining desires for the evil and adulteress woman is simply playing with fire.  Just desiring her beauty in your heart will lead to being burned. 

Thus, the author is instructing his son (and us) to stay as far away from the forbidden woman as we can.  Men, we must be honest with ourselves and understand our weakness here.  We need not pretend like we are strong.  We need to be honest with our wives and do everything we can to stay as far away from such sin as possible.  If the TV tempts us to sin, then we need to get rid of it (or take some sort of action to prevent exposure).  If the internet tempts us to sin, then we need to get rid of it or get a filter.  If there are magazines lying around that tempt us to stumble, then we need to throw them away and ask our wives to help us keep them out.  We cannot play with fire and expect not to get burned.  We must do everything we can to keep our distance from the forbidden woman.

Third, avoid forbidden women by pursuing Lady Wisdom (7:1-20).

If you are single, you may be wondering: ‘What am I supposed to do since I do not have a wife yet?’  One thing that you can do is spend your time chasing Lady Wisdom rather than forbidden women.  Look at 7:1-5.  The writer instructs his son to be intimate with Lady Wisdom in order to avoid the temptation of the forbidden woman.  This is similar to the instruction given earlier to those who are married.  Instead of just sitting around trying not to give in to sexual temptation, the biblical author instructs you to give yourself over to study of the Word, to prayer, to learning, to walking with the wise.  In other words, instead of expending your energy on sin, expend it on righteousness. 

Of course, this also applies to married men as well.  Not only do we have our wives, but we also have Lady Wisdom.  By God’s grace, the pursuit of holiness and wisdom will drive out any pursuit of wickedness.  If idle hands are the Devil’s workshop, then let us use our time to serve and know the Lord that our hands may never be idle.  Another way to avoid the forbidden woman is by pursuing Lady Wisdom.

Fourth, avoid forbidden women by considering the outcome (5:1-14, 6:30-35, 7:21-27).

Each of these chapters contain a very sober warning about what will happen to the one who does not avoid the forbidden woman.  Look at 5:3-14.  Not only does the forbidden woman lead to Sheol, or death, but she also leads to great shame in this life.  She may appear pleasing to the sight and taste, but she has a horrible aftertaste.  There is no honor for the one who gives in to her temptation.  Look at 6:32-35.  The author warns against the adulteress in this passage by reminding his son of the rage of her husband.  Look at 7:21-27.  Again, she may appear pleasing, but she is simply a trap and a snare.  To pursue her is to pursue your own destruction.  And if you think that you will not be caught in this sin or that you can hide it, look at 5:21-23.  We cannot hide from God.  We may fool everyone else, but He will not be fooled.  Thus, if you are tempted with this sin, then consider the outcome and flee from it as you would from your own death.

Let me close this morning by trying to apply these texts to the different groups that are present.  First, to the young (unmarried) men, let me encourage you to recognize your struggle in this area and to find accountability.  Find another Christian man to confess your sins to and who will hold you accountable to avoiding this sin.  Prepare for a future wife by faithfully pursuing Lady Wisdom.  Second, to the married men, let me encourage you to delight in your wife and to also find accountability.  Be honest with your wife and let her know how she can help you in this area.  She is a great blessing to be prized.  Find another married man that you can confess to and who will hold you accountable in this area.  To all men, let me just be frank.  Stop trying to pretend like you do not struggle with sexual temptation.  Be honest, confess your sins, and find accountability.

As for the women, let me address the single women first.  Let me encourage you to hear and believe what the Bible says about men.  Do not think that you can dress inappropriately and men will not struggle with it.  Do not think that you can be overly flirtatious with men and it will not impact them.  The author of Proverbs would not spend three chapters on something that was no big deal.  Recognize the struggle and do all that you can to help men in their fight against this temptation.  Finally, to married women, let me encourage you to recognize the great blessing that you can be to your husband in this area.  Now granted, he can never blame his sin on you, for his sin is his own fault.  But do all that you can to keep him from this temptation.  Do your best to make it easy for him to delight himself in you.  Likewise, to all women, even though the text deals with men, we all know that the man can play the role of the seducer as well.  Therefore, you must be aware of and fight against this temptation as well.

To us all, we must understand that there is more to this than just our relationships with each other.  Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that the marriage relationship is meant to portray the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Thus, by God’s grace may we be faithful and accurate in our picture of the gospel to a world that desperately needs to see the love of Christ for His Bride.  Amen.

1 Tremper Longman III, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms: Proverbs (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), p.158.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 14 June 2007 )

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