Proverbial Wisdom on Sex outside of Marriage
Proverbs 5,6,7 selected texts

(c) Copyright 2005 Rev. Bill Versteeg

This morning we are going to be reading from the book of Proverbs (5-7)on the issue of sex, especially sex outside of the boundaries of marriage. Before we do that, 2 things we have to keep in mind, and one warning.

  • First - the proverbs when we first read them make it sound like the source of evil in feminine, the adulteress, a woman. But in his strategy of teaching, Solomon paints as a woman not only the worst evil, but also the highest good. And so he paints wisdom as feminine, a beautiful woman worth more than any other thing in life, and he paints foolish evil as a woman. The point is, the passages we are about to read are not about gender, they are about listening to wisdom from God.

  • Second, as we read this, you might think that all these references to marriage and adultery - that they must speak to adults only, people in their 20s or later, and therefore does not speak to teenage premarital sex. Wrong. When we read these passages, we have to remember that Hebrew young people would often get married at the ripe old age of 12 years, 6 months. When the desire for sex was awakened in adolescence, that was when they got married. These passages are speaking about sex outside of the boundaries of marriage - premarital sex, extra marital sex, adultery, and pornography. And so listen up - it applies today, to you. 

  • The warning: We might want to label this sermon "PG 13" because the proverbs talk frankly about sex, and so will this sermon.

We are inundated with pictures. Television, the internet, magazines, street signs, everywhere we go, everywhere we live, we are surrounded with pictures, pictures that communicate messages and values, including messages and values about sex.

Our culture is communicating clear messages about sex - sex is a normal human drive, and since it is a normal human drive, everyone should explore it, everyone has the right to fulfill it, everyone ought to do it, so should you, whether inside or outside a committed relationship called marriage. The book of proverbs paints some different pictures, when it comes to sex, lets begin reading together.

Proverbs 5
5 My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
listen well to my words of insight,
2 that you may maintain discretion (capacity to know what actions will be for your own good.)
and your lips may preserve knowledge.
3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, (sounds good!)
and her speech is smoother than oil;
4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, (gall is a translation for Wormwood - a herb that contains the chemical “Thujone” or “absinthol” which is a poison, in smaller amounts creates states of euphoria and drunkenness, it is addictive and in larger amounts it can kill.  Here we see sexual sin might bring pleasure, but it at least brings regret, it is addictive and can even kill)
sharp as a double-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave. a
6 She gives no thought to the way of life; (what makes for a good life)
her paths are crooked, but she knows it not. (at least not willing to acknowledge it)
7 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
do not turn aside from what I say.
8 Keep to a path far from her, (avoidance is the first strategy for overcoming temptation - don’t let yourself be exposed to it)
do not go near the door of her house,
9 lest you give your best strength to others
and your years to one who is cruel,
10 lest strangers feast on your wealth
and your toil enrich another man’s house.
11 At the end of your life you will groan,
when your flesh and body are spent.
12 You will say, “How I hated discipline!
How my heart spurned correction!
13 I would not obey my teachers
or listen to my instructors.
14 I have come to the brink of utter ruin
in the midst of the whole assembly.”

This morning, we start by focusing on these words from verse 15,16

15 Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
16 Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
17 Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.
18 May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.

Let me repeat the reading of verse 15,16
15 Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
16 Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?

Solomon paints sex as the treasure of water. He lived in a land where water was scarce, and one of the greatest treasures a person could own was a source of pure, clean water. And his argument is very simple. If you have something that you treasure deeply, what do you do with it? You protect it. If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?  You would put it in a safe bank account or a secure investment. That which we treasure, we protect.

And so this proverb pictures sex as the treasure of water that we keep safe in our own well, a covered well to keep pollutants out of it, a well that will remain safe, and continuously provide refreshing water to quench our thirst. In the bible, sex is a beautiful treasure to be kept very safe and secure in the boundaries of the well of marriage. Sex outside of the safe and secure boundaries of marriage is like letting your water flow in the streets, says this proverb, and you probably know all to well, and I am certain that those who have gone to Tijuana on our most recent mission trip can tell you even more stories, water that runs in the streets is called sewage, water outside of the boundaries of safety is dangerous, it can kill, it should not even be touched. It is because water started flowing in the streets and quickly turning into sewage the New Orleans is now an empty city.

The first picture of sex is that its something to treasure and so be kept safe in the boundaries of marriage, it is exceptionally dangerous outside of those boundaries.

King Solomon then goes on to describe the beauty of sex as a treasure kept safe.

19 A loving doe, a graceful deer— (maybe because of a deer’s nice legs)
may her breasts satisfy you always, (satisfy is a weak translation - literally means joy or the beginnings of being happy in the sense of having a little to much to drink)
may you ever be captivated by her love. (captivated - literally to be in rapture, a state of euphoria)
20 Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?
Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife?
21 For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD,
and he examines all his paths.
22 The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;
the cords of his sin hold him fast.
23 He will die for lack of discipline,
led astray by his own great folly.

We now move on to Proverbs chapter six for Solomon's second picture of sex outside of the boundaries of marriage.

20 My son, keep your father’s commands
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them upon your heart forever;
fasten them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
23 For these commands are a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and the corrections of discipline
are the way to life,
24 keeping you from the immoral woman,
from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife.
25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty
or let her captivate you with her eyes, (literally - eye lashes)
26 for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread,
and the adulteress preys upon your very life.

These next verses, the second word picture that we want to focus on..

27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?
28 Can a man walk on hot coals
without his feet being scorched?
29 So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;
no one who touches her will go unpunished.

Solomon’s second word picture show us that sex is like fire. Once again, fire can do great good. It can warm us, make our lives comfortable, give us pleasure and fill our homes with energy as long as fire is in a controlled secure place like a fireplace. Many of us have fireplaces in our own home. We love them. This proverbs point is that the fire of sex should burn in the safety of our own home within the boundaries of marriage.

When sex goes outside of those safe boundaries, what happens is an inferno, a fire that is out of control, that damages and destroys far more than you thought it could. This is Solomon’s point.

27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?

Can you put burning coals in your pocket?  The idea behind Solomon's words is that these coals are hidden, no one sees them, we play with fire in secret. But the truth of placing burning coals in our pocket is that our clothing will be burned quickly.  Not only will you notice the burning sensation on your legs, everyone else will notice the smoke billowing from your pants and everyone will notice that your clothing is on fire. Put fire in the wrong place, it doesn’t matter how secretly you put it in the wrong place, very quickly it spreads and it becomes the fire that destroys character, relationships, homes and even faith.

Sex is like a fire and it is designed to be celebrated in the safety of a fire place called marriage. And so the next time you look into the captivating eyes of someone who is attractive to you, and see those fluttering eyelashes which may be to you very beautiful, picture them like this, (  full of fire, yes very beautiful, but they will only remain beautiful and full of fire if the fire is kept in the safe place of marriage. We want to look at one more picture of sex in the book of proverbs, so lets keep on reading. This last selection of scripture tells wisdom in storied form.  Aperson watches as a young person falls for temptation...

7:6 At the window of my house
I looked out through the lattice.
7 I saw among the simple, (as in not very bright)
I noticed among the young men,
a youth who lacked judgment.
8 He was going down the street near her corner,
walking along in the direction of her house
9 at twilight, as the day was fading,
as the dark of night set in. (He’s out at the wrong time, his motives are to do things in secret, his intent is no good)
10 Then out came a woman to meet him,
dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
(Solomon then describes a girl who you might not want to get in a relationship with or marry)
11 (She is loud and defiant,
her feet never stay at home;
12 now in the street, now in the squares,
at every corner she lurks.)
13 She took hold of him and kissed him (the implication is that she does not even know the young man and she goes about kissing him - we would feel uncomfortable with someone who does not know us kissing us - because it just does not fit into any picture of healthy relationships - again the issue is that some behaviors belong only at home between husband and wife)
and with a brazen face she said:
14 “I have fellowship offerings a at home; (after bringing an offering often to an idol, a person could bring home the leftovers, which would often be quite a bit. She is inviting him to a feast)
today I fulfilled my vows.
15 So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!
16 I have covered my bed
with coloured linens from Egypt. (often pictured in scripture as preparation for intercourse)
17 I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
18 Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!
19 My husband is not at home; (its secret and its safe)
he has gone on a long journey.
20 He took his purse filled with money
and will not be home till full moon.”
21 With persuasive words she led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.

The next words are the picture that we want to focus on...

22 All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer
stepping into a noose
23 till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
little knowing it will cost him his life.
24 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
pay attention to what I say.
25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways
or stray into her paths.

The picture Solomon paints is that of a cow or an ox - beautiful, innocence and profoundly dumb. Cattle trustingly can be led to pasture and back, if a person treats them right, they will follow. Though they will recognize and defend themselves from a predator, if they do not think something is a predator, they can be profoundly trusting. And so Solomon sees this young man like a ox or cow, trustingly being led to the slaughter not realizing that every step he takes is a step that leads to his destruction, the slaughterhouse room.

26 Many are the victims she has brought down;
her slain are a mighty throng.
27 Her house is a highway to the grave,
leading down to the chambers of death.

In summary, when it comes to sex outside of the safe boundaries of marriage, the Proverbs give us some exceptionally clear pictures.  Proverbs 5 tell us that sex is like drinking water: it must be kept safe in a secure place - from there it can be for us a cool refreshing drink of pristine refreshing water.  Sex outside of those safe boundaries turns into streams of sewage running through the streets that have the power to poison, infect and kill.   Proverbs 6 paints the picture that sex has the power of fire:  it is beautiful, warming, comforting and life giving if kept under control in a safe place, like a fire place, but sex as fire can become a inferno that destroys everything we value, especially the relationships that we treasure.   Proverbs 7 tells a story of a young man turning to sex outside of the boundaries of marriage with a prostitute, and it literally pictures him as a calf being led to the slaughterhouse and her bedroom as the slaughterhouse room where the men she has ensnared hang from meat hooks on the ceiling!

How are you going to keep your life safe - your treasure safe, the fire the energizes your life safe?

I know that as I share these wisdom pictures from scripture, that there are individuals here who know exactly what these pictures are about, they know the addicting power of sex outside of marriage, how it makes one sick, is like a destroying fire, and maybe we wish we knew better back when we were young, or we wish we would have listened to the sound advice that we did get, but now it is to late.

The gospel is about grace, the grace of God for sin sick people, people who have fallen - forgiveness is freely available in Christ.  The promise of scripture is that when we turn to God in humility, with broken hearts, knowing what we have done to ourselves and to others and to Him, when we confess our sin, he is faithful and just and he will forgive our sins and cleanse us. (Psalm 51, 1 John 1:8f)

(The ideas for these images come from the great book Preaching and Teaching with Imagination by Warren Wiersbe, p. 45).


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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