Be Wise About Sexual Purity
Sunday School Lesson for February 15, 2004
Background Passages: Proverbs 5:1-23; 6: 20-35
Our lesson this week explores both the blessings and dangers associated with sexuality. As will become clear from our lesson passages and others that will be referenced, human sexuality is a gift from God that has been designed for enjoyment under very specific conditions. The institution of holy matrimony—the union of one man to one woman for the duration of their natural lives—has been established by God as the only legitimate and righteous outlet for the expression of sexual love. Our Creator’s delight in the institution of marriage, and the resulting expression of physical intimacy by a man and a woman, is nowhere more clearly revealed than in the creation narrative of Genesis 1-2, and particularly in 2:24-25.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
It should come as no surprise that the book of Proverbs is replete with clear teaching regarding the wise stewardship of this divine gift. In our assigned passage we will discover a wealth of practical, God-honoring instruction that will guide us as we seek to glorify our Creator with both mind and body. It should be remembered that the Biblical exhortation that follows is designed for both the married and the unmarried.
My son, give attention to my wisdom, Incline your ear to my understanding; 2 That you may observe discretion, And your lips may reserve knowledge. 3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, And smoother than oil is her speech; 4 But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death, Her steps lay hold of Sheol. 6 She does not ponder the path of life; Her ways are unstable, she does not know it.
In this passage there is an immediate and clear link established between wisdom—that is, wisdom as God has defined it in this book—and moral purity. Note how the passage specifically instructs young men (and all people generally) to safeguard themselves by maintaining a teachable spirit (v.1). The implication here is that a wise person (man or woman) will pursue the truth as found in God’s Word (and in the counsel of Godly mentors) and will, therefore, develop both “wisdom” and “understanding” in regard to sexual matters. This will naturally lead to a growth in discernment, or “knowledge,” and the practice of “discretion” in all matters of life, but especially those related to sexuality (v. 2).
The paragraph also contains a most somber warning regarding the seductive power of sensual allurements. Though this is demonstrated from the male perspective, the truth applies in all situations of sexual temptation.
· First, we see that the flattering enticements of the “adulteress,” who represents someone other than one’s wife [Garrett, 91], appear as “honey,” and her “speech” is “smoother than oil” (v. 3). In other words, sexual temptation, like many other forms of enticement, is thoroughly deceptive in nature. It is never in reality what it appears to be at the outset. Note how the apparent presence of “honey” and “oil” quickly gives way to the bitter, caustic taste of “wormwood” (v. 4). Sexual temptation, represented by the adulteress, promises one thing yet delivers quite another. The painful consequences of the violation of God’s will are lost in the excitement of the moment. However, the reality of judgment, and even death, is just around the corner for those who give in to her seductive voice.
· Secondly, the adulteress herself is depicted as one who is eternally lost. The images of “death” and “Sheol” seem to make it clear that, while she appears as a beautiful and desirable person, her life is empty and void of any spiritual vitality. She “does not ponder the path of life” (v. 6) or seriously consider the consequences of her actions. Sadly, she does not love God and is destined for destruction though “she does not know it” (v. 6). The warning is that those who pursue her are likewise on the pathway of judgment and death.
Now then, my sons, listen to me, And do not depart from the words of my mouth. 8 Keep your way far from her, And do not go near the door of her house, 9 Lest you give your vigor to others, And your years to the cruel one; 10 Lest strangers be filled with your strength, And your hard-earned goods go to the house of an alien; 11 And you groan at your latter end, When your flesh and your body are consumed; 12 And you say, "How I have hated instruction! And my heart spurned reproof! 13 "And I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to my instructors! 14 "I was almost in utter ruin In the midst of the assembly and congregation."
Again, we discover a dire warning concerning the terrible consequences of disobedience in sexual matters. In this passage we are given a more detailed glimpse into the serious results of such sin.
· In the first place, sexual temptation is so powerful that the young man is counseled to stay far away from those who have loose morals. The best approach to this kind of temptation is to flee—“Keep your way far from her . . . do not go near the door of her house” (v. 8; cf. 2 Tim. 2:22).
· Yet, not only is sexual temptation most powerful, it is demanding as well and extracts a very high toll upon those who indulge. As soon as one succumbs to it there is a profoundly high price to pay. Note how verses 9-11 describe the total ruin of one who commits sexual sin. Ultimately, a few fleeting moments of pleasure will cost one his “vigor,” “years” of life, the loss of “strength” and hard earned “goods.” The final step in this tragic digression is the forfeiture of life itself—“your flesh and your body are consumed” (v. 11; cf. 1 Thess. 4:2-7). The passage makes it clear that sexual sin “leads to personal degeneration and financial depletion. The man who indulges himself will pay the price a hundred times over” [Garrett, 92].
Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. 20 For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress, And embrace the bosom of a foreigner? 21 For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He watches all his paths. 22 His own iniquities will capture the wicked, And he will be held with the cords of his sin. 23 He will die for lack of instruction, And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.
In this section, the appropriate place for healthy and fulfilling intimacy is set forth. As we have noted earlier, the institution of holy matrimony has been designed by God as the only place for the expression of sexual love. It is also quite clear that a satisfying and intimate marriage is a powerful safeguard against sexual temptation. Again, from the perspective of the male, the text calls upon the young man to find his fulfillment in his wife alone. With plain, yet appropriate, language the man is exhorted to be thoroughly satisfied with his wife’s sexual intimacy and to ever be “exhilarated” or, more literally, “intoxicated” with “her love” (v. 19). This command places a holy responsibility upon both partners in the marriage. Each should be sensitive and attentive to the needs of the other so that any temptation to violate the marriage bond is effectively repelled (cf. 1 Cor. 7:5).
The text also counsels the young man to remember that he never acts apart from God’s all-seeing eye (v. 21). His every way—including all actions and thoughts—are always “before the eyes of the Lord.” To please and glorify the omniscient God should be incentive enough to keep one’s life and marriage pure (carefully note the instruction in 1 Cor. 6:15-20).
As with the other passages, there is also a somber warning for every person regarding the misuse and abuse of the gift of sexual love. Note that images of bondage, slavery, and death are employed to make the point that sexual sins are not engaged in without disastrous consequences. Ultimately, the one who violates God’s design for sexual intimacy will “go astray” and “die for lack of instruction” (vv. 22-23).