Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Strategies of Sexual Temptation

The following is adapted from Proverbs: Wisdom That Works by Ray Ortlund:

My son, keep my words
and treasure up my commandments with you;
keep my commandments and live;
keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
and call insight your intimate friend,
to keep you from the forbidden woman,
from the adulteress with her smooth words. (Proverbs 7:1-5)

This is Old Testament language for what the New Testament calls being born again of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-9). Something deep inside us changes. We start treasuring God’s commands from the heart. We experience the gospel as an intimate friend. We are not ourselves geniuses. We are just saying to God’s wisdom, “I want you more than I want any woman or man.” Here is why we all need God to give us new hearts like that. Look at the kind of world we are living in:

For at the window of my house
I have looked out through my lattice,
and I have seen among the simple,
I have perceived among the youths,
a young man lacking sense,
passing along the street near her corner,
taking the road to her house
in the twilight, in the evening,
at the time of night and darkness. (Proverbs 7:6-9)

The father saw something. He wants his teenage son to see it too, so he can walk into adulthood fully alert. The father tells us three things about the strategies of sexual temptation: the approach of temptation (vv. 6-13), the speech of temptation (vv. 14-20), and the impact of giving in to temptation (vv. 21-27).

Who is involved? The man, in this case, is one of “the simple.” We have seen the simple before (Proverbs 1:4, 22). A simple person, a petî—related to the Hebrew verb meaning “to be open”—this person is keeping his options open, uncommitted, still “exploring life,” we might say. So this particular simpleton is feeling restless early one evening and takes a walk. He is curious. He has heard about a certain part of town—or certain sites on the Internet. So there he goes, probably thinking, “I can handle this. I’m strong. And I need to see these things for myself anyway.”

And behold, the woman meets him,
dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.
She is loud and wayward;
her feet do not stay at home;
now in the street, now in the market,
and at every corner she lies in wait. (Proverbs 7:10-12)

“Wily of heart” means, literally, “guarded of heart.” She is unguarded in her dress, revealing much. But she is guarded in her heart, revealing nothing. There are men and women who do not know what a relationship is. They have never experienced it. They can role-play a relationship, but they do not give their hearts away. Sex they give, but themselves they guard. This young guy has no idea what he is walking into.

She seizes him and kisses him,
and with bold face she says to him,
“I had to offer sacrifices,
and today I have paid my vows;
so now I have come out to meet you,
to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.” (Proverbs 7:13-15)

Back in those times, religious sacrifices could include a meal from the meat of the animal sacrificed. Eating meat was a luxury anyway. So here the woman is saying, “Not only am I caught up on my religion, but I also have a feast of extra-special food waiting at home. It’s a special occasion, like Prom Night or Mardi Gras. Come on, everybody needs a break. And you’re the one I want to share all this with.”

“I have spread my couch with coverings,
colored linens from Egyptian linen;
I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
aloes, and cinnamon.” (Proverbs 7:16, 17)

Only the rich owned furniture in their homes back in this world. So this guy thinks he is hitting the jackpot. A beautiful woman, a great feast, a luxurious setting, exotic experiences are all just waiting for him.

“Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;

let us delight ourselves with love.” (Proverbs 7:18)

The Hebrew here could be paraphrased and expanded, “Come, let’s saturate ourselves with love-making in all its forms; let’s enjoy ourselves with every act, all night long, slowly passing the night, no hurry.” But as one commentator points out,

To have a full sexual relationship with somebody is to give physical expression to what is meant to be a covenanted relationship—that is, stable, faithful, permanent. To say physically, “I am giving myself to you,” while emotionally and spiritually holding back from covenanted commitment is in fact to live a lie—a split in the personality which is ultimately stressful and destructive.

“For my husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey;
he took a bag of money with him;
at full moon he will come home.” (Proverbs 7:19, 20)

“Nobody will ever know” is the temptation. But if she is willing to betray her husband, why does Mr. Dimwit think she will be fair to him? The offer of sin-with-no-regret is how Satan lied to us in the Garden of Eden. When (not if) a man or woman tempts you with the assurance that no one will ever know, that person is really saying to you, “God does not exist.”

But this young man, on an impulse, falls for the temptation: “All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter” (v. 22). Why like a dumb ox? Because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). They just are. We cannot change that by any amount of wishful thinking. We must not think, “What happens down in Mexico stays in Mexico.” It doesn’t. But by the time this young man feels the impact, it will be too late.

He is not the only one. History is like a battlefield, with casualties of sexual folly lying everywhere: “Many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng” (v. 26). It is no accident that Babylon’s most important female deity, Ishtar, was the goddess of love and war, because in this world of folly, sex and violence have long gone together. But Ishtar is a powerful goddess. In our modern world, studies now show that pornography rewires our brains with addictive power, taking us prisoner. But we can be wired back for intimacy with God and real relationships with others through God’s redeeming love.

It is not enough for us to know how foolish we have been. We also need to know how good it is really to be loved. Maybe you have noticed that something is missing from this entire passage here in Proverbs. The word “God” appears nowhere in this text. But elsewhere in the Bible we find out how good it is to be loved by God.

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