Proverbial Wisdom: Flee from Sexual Immorality
By Ryan Itzel
Four years ago, my pastor told me, “The greatest need for a young person like you, is wisdom.” After all these years, those words have remained in my mind, proving to be true time and time again. Wisdom is a necessity that we cannot go without. In James 1:5, this truth is declared, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” The wrong response many of us have, including myself far too often, is that this verse is referring to others and not ourselves. In every moment of every day, we need godly wisdom to respond as Christ would respond, to live as Christ would have us life, and to reject the sin which Christ died to atone. I say this by way of introduction, as the need and necessity of wisdom must be understood if we are to receive the teachings of the Scriptures with humility.
Proverbs chapter 7 was written by Solomon and pictures a father instructing his son in the way he should go. The teaching of this chapter is not hard to understand, but hard to hear. It cuts straight to the heart of a sin that has been prominent throughout all of history and continues to target young and old, seeking to destroy and pervert all that God declares to be good. This is the sin of sexual immorality.
Keep My Words
The proverb begins by saying, “My son, keep my words and treasure my commandments within you.” The only way to be guarded from sin is to store the Word of God in our hearts, meditate on it, and allow it to guide us in every decision we make. The proverb continues in verses 2-3, exhorting the reader to keep these teachings as the “apple of your eye,” and to “write them on the tablet of your heart.” Solomon goes on to say that we should be so well acquainted with wisdom, so saturated in this understanding, that we would call it “an intimate friend.”
Verse 5 leaves no room for speculation as to why one would need this wisdom and understanding, “That they may keep you from an adulteress, from the foreigner who flatters with her words.” As the psalmist says in Psalm 119:11, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” We need this proverbial wisdom if we are to have any hope of victory in the battle against this sin.
A Young Man Lacking Sense
As a father teaching his child, the proverb continues with a story to illustrate the need for wisdom. In verses 6-7, the writer pictures himself looking out from his bedroom window to see a young man who is, “lacking sense.” Since he lacked sense, the story clearly pictures the consequences of failing to heed wisdom’s instruction. As this young man passes through the streets, his wandering takes him “the way to her house,” (v8). The woman is not yet described, but the setting in which this young man wanders demonstrates the first of many failures. The young man wanders “in the middle of the night and in darkness,” (v9). He has not only wandered to a place that will be his downfall, but he wanders in the late night, at a time in which his already limited judgement is compromised. Willfully, the young man puts himself in the way of temptation and death. Before going further, do not make this mistake. Obey Paul’s words in Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” The young man made ample provision for the flesh, and as the proverb tells, this first failure would lead to many more.
Though verses 9-12 describe the woman as the young man’s lustful passion (for we are lured and enticed by our own desire - James 1:14), the wisdom here is applicable to all sins. We may all have different tendencies, but we all have the same fleshly disposition to pursue that which is an offense to God. The hymn Come Thou Fount captures this truth with the phrase, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Yet with the following verses, the need for wisdom is only magnified.
And Behold, a Woman
Next, the wisdom lacking youth finds himself confronted with what clearly his roaming feet had in mind. A woman, adorning herself with one purpose, to lure and entice all who come her way (v12). She attempts to mask the wickedness of her intent from the young man by her cunning, boisterous, and rebellious manner, going so far as to kiss him before even speaking a word (V10-13). Though she is married (as we will see in v19), she does not remain at home, but seeks to fulfill her own unrighteous desires.
Today I Have Paid My Vows
As the woman approaches the young man, we see the sinful lies and temptations that the enemy uses to lead astray those who are not watchful. But first, verse 14 displays an interesting fact that often dominates our thinking before we rebel against our God. The woman says, “I was due to offer peace offerings; today I have paid my vows.” In an obvious lie, the woman feigns spirituality. Sin often cloaks itself with something seemingly true or good, a sweetener to the cyanide. This tactic has been used by the enemy from the beginning (Genesis 3:1).
I Have Come Out to Meet You
The ruler of this world is not passive in his attempt to lead us to sin. Here, the proverb gives five examples of the deception of sinful lusts. First, sin attempts to flatter us. In verse 15 the woman says, “Therefore, I have come out to meet you, to seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you.” The woman’s words intend to make the young man feel wanted. She attempts to show herself as faithful to him in her desires, yet she has already proven herself false by her faithlessness to her husband. Sadly, the young man, foolish and naive, hears her words and rejoices.
Second, the setting in which the harlot draws the man is seductive. Sin always seems desirable at first. It shows itself in the best light, advertising itself with attractive features. Here, the woman spread her couch with linen, myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon, all to entice the young man through his senses. Third, the woman twists the truth by calling his lusts “love,” (v18a). Though the emotions felt by the young man feel like love, they are clearly identified as the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). Fourth, the woman describes physical pleasure as the result of indulging in his desires. Sin feels good while doing it, and always promises a satisfaction that is can never provide (Psalm 16:11). Finally, the woman leads the man astray by removing the fear of accountability for his actions. She says in verse 19, “For my husband is not at home, he has gone on a long journey.”
With the fires of desire exacerbated, and the fear of being caught eliminated, we see the conclusion of the story. In verses 21-22 the foolish young man’s response is captured, “With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him.” “Suddenly he follows her,” but not all is as it seems. Though he believes he has received everything he could have hoped for, his steps lead him somewhere he did not expect.
As an Ox Goes to the Slaughter
Indulging in sin may seem freeing, but its way only leads to death. James 1:15 says, “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” This is where the young man found himself in verse 21, not realizing that his actions “will cost him his life.”
Proverbs 7 ends with the father instructing his son through the wisdom of this story, calling to attention the severe consequences of allowing and cultivating sin in one’s life. The father urges for his son to “listen,” and to “pay attention” to the words of his mouth, as verses 26-27 say, “For many are the victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain. Her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death.”
If you do not have freedom from sin, for you have not trusted in Christ to save you, repent. Confess your sin before God, and trust in the perfect work of Jesus Christ alone to save you. He died for sinners and was raised on the third day as a demonstration of God’s love (Romans 5:8). Turn to Him and find forgiveness!
Christian, sin is serious, it is deadly, and you best be “killing sin or sin will be killing you,” (John Owen). Do not make provision for the flesh, but rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Heed the wisdom of the Scriptures, put on the Armor of God, fight with the Sword of the Spirit. By the grace of God, purpose in your heart not to sin (Psalm 119:57, 106), and flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18)!