Proverbs 5 Sermon The Tale of Two Intoxications (Rev. Erik Veerman)
Our sermon text this morning is Proverbs chapter 5. In the pew Bible, you can find that on page 628. As you are turning there, let me say that three of Solomon’s opening lessons in Proverbs are about matters of sexuality and adultery.
That’s what this chapter focuses on, but it’s not just chapter 5 here. The second half of chapter 6, and then all of chapter 7 also deal with this topic.
Originally, I was planning to preach one sermon that covered all of it. After thinking about it more, I changed my mind.
· First, if Solomon (or really God through Solomon) put such a weight on these matters, then so should we. We should also consider them with similar significance and not simplify them.
· Second, as I worked through these chapters, they each have a unique emphasis.
· Chapter 5 directs us not just away from adultery, but also toward faithfulness in marriage.
· The second half of chapter 6 includes an emphasis on keeping our hearts pure in matters of sexuality. So, part of that chapter is about lust.
· And chapter 7 gives explicit warnings about the temptations which lead us down the path of seduction.
That’s where we’re headed. Next week is a missions focused Sunday and the week after we’ll be in the first half of chapter 6. So, these heavy matters will be spaced out a little.
Let’s turn our minds and hearts now towards God’s Word.
Reading of Proverbs 5
Well, these are sensitive topics for several reasons. I thought I would start out by acknowledging a few.
· For the parents here with younger children, I will be careful about my word choices without avoiding the matters. But you may need to elaborate with your children later at your discretion.
· It’s also sensitive because it’s intensely personal. God created us as sexual beings. He created us male or female. That’s a big part of who we each are. It should not be our primary identity – no, if you are a believer in Christ, you’re primary identity is in him. Nonetheless, sex and gender are important matters.
· Let me add something else. This topic may also be personal to you because of your history. That may include being a victim of sexual abuse. Some of you, I know, experienced that deep hurt and pain perhaps even by someone you thought you could trust.
· Or you may also have experienced the deep wounds of adultery – not your own adultery but the unfaithfulness of a spouse.
· Or lastly, the sensitivity of this topic may come from your own sin - past or present - sexual sins that you have or do struggle with. The Bible is not shy about addressing those. That may include lust or a pornography addiction, or that may be physical adultery – not just adultery of the heart but actual. Sexual sin has a particularly hard and lasting impact. That’s part of the warning of these chapters.
What I want to say up front is this: we have a God who is loving and forgiving. He is a God who restores and ministers to us on both sides of sexual sin. He can bring healing, and he can forgive.
The pain of being abused will last a long time, but we have a God who lifts us up and who is with us. He has come near to us in Christ.
Jesus knows your suffering and weakness. He himself suffered. He was grievously sinned against. And he experienced temptation. As the author of Hebrews put it, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
If you have sexual sin in your past or you are struggling with it now, let me say this: There is no sin so great that God cannot forgive you when you lay it before him. Do you understand that? When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, he took all your sin. He nailed all of it to the cross. That includes your sexual sin, whatever it is. When I say “your sin” I’m referring to you if you have come to Christ. In other words, you’ve turned your life to him. You’ve come to him repenting and seeking his forgiveness and renewal. If that’s you, as the prophet Isaiah wrote, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
Now, perhaps this is your first time here. I don’t know your situation. God does.
· Maybe you’ve made a mess of your marriage because of your infidelity.
· Maybe you are so overcome by a sexual addiction that you don’t know where to turn.
· Or maybe there’s some other sexual struggle… or you are feeling a great weight that you are having a heard time bearing.
Jesus can bear it for you, when you come to him in faith. That includes turning that sin, that struggle, over to him. And when you do, a beautiful thing will happen. He will take the full judgment that your sin deserves, and he will make you right in God’s eyes. That is the very first thing that needs to happen. And then through that restored relationship with God through Christ, he will begin, by his Spirit, to help you with that sin… with the support of the community of faith. If I’m speaking to you today, Jesus says, “come to me.”
Because of the personal and sensitive nature of this chapter, I wanted to begin there… to begin with the forgiveness and restoration of Christ.
And let me point out, Proverbs 5 is not just personal to Solmon’s sons or to his original readers or to us today. No, these chapters were very personal to him. Solmon himself was born as a result of an adulterous relationship.
Some of you know what happened very well. One day, Solomon’s father, King David, was on the roof of the king’s palace. And across the way was a beautiful woman bathing. Bathsheba. She was already married yet David sought her. He had her brought to the palace. He then committed adultery with her. And when David learned that she conceived, he had Bathsheba’s husband put on the front lines of the battlefield knowing he would be killed. And he was. So, not only adultery, but murder to cover up his sin. David then took Bathsheba as his wife.
And at first, David felt no conviction. That is until the Lord rebuked him through Nathan the prophet.
Nathan told David a story of a great man who had a great many possessions including many lambs, but this wealthy man took and killed the only lamb of a poor man, so that he, the wealthy man, could feed guests. David heard the story and was enraged. To which Nathan replied with those famous words: “You are the man!”
King David was cut to the heart, and he cried out in repentance to God. And Nathan responded, “the Lord has put away your sin.” You see, God forgave David. Now, David and those around him still had to endure the earthly consequences of his sin, but he was forgiven.
And we have the beautiful Psalm of David’s repentance – Psalm 51. It’s the same plea we can make to the Lord knowing that he forgives.
Well, what happened next was that the child Bathsheba conceived died. Nathan had prophesied that. But soon after, she conceived again, and Solmon was born.
As Solmon grew up in the palace, he would have found out exactly what happened. When David and Bathsheba taught Solomon about love and faithfulness, they would also have warned him about adultery and its consequences – but yet God’s mercy to them despite David’s grievous sin.
So, you see, as Solmon is instructing his sons, here, he is intimately aware of adultery. And Solomon so desired his sons to walk the path of faithfulness throughout their days.
Let me put it this way: Solmon wanted his sons to learn the easy way and not the hard way.
Kids, do you know the difference between learning the easy way and not the hard way?
· The easy way is listening to your parents (or others) as they teach you God’s commands… and then seeking to honor Lord in your life.
· The hard way is not listening to them or God’s commands. Then realizing later that what they taught you was right all along. But you had to sadly experience the heartache and pain and consequences of your sin.
Look down at verses 12-14. That’s basically what it says. You see, right after describing the consequences of adultery, Solomon describes to his sons what they would say if they followed that path:
“How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.” Solomon is saying that they will go back in their minds to when they were younger. And they will wish that they had listened to their parents and God’s Word. In short, they will regret not listening because they learned the hard way.
And then in verse 14, they will lament, “I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” It’s too late, for them, in the sense of their shame and the destruction it caused. But as Solmon personally knows from his father, it not too late in view of God’s mercy.
For all the younger generations, here’s the plea of Solomon: learn the easy way and not the hard way.
Here’s the warning: The path of adultery is so tempting and so enticing. Let me expand that to include any sexual sin. Look at how verse 3 puts it: “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil”.
Now, don’t be distracted by Solomon focusing on the adulteress woman. Remember, he’s writing to his sons here. Yes, adultery is personified as a woman, but Solomon is not saying that somehow women are the problem. In fact, back down to verses 12 and 13, he points out that his sons will realize they were at fault if they follow the path. Really, these opening verses are about any adultery – or let me add, any fornication. That is, any sexual activity outside of the confines of what God has ordained. We’ll come to that in a minute.
Let me say it again, sexual sin is so appealing on the outside. It promises so much, yet it delivers on none of its promises. It’s described here in verses 4-11.
· Rather than honey, it’s “bitter as wormwood.” Wormwood is a terribly bitter herb. It often makes someone sick who eats it. Solomon is saying it’s poison. Going down the path will poison you.
· And he adds that it’s like a two-edged sword. Death.
In the original animated jungle book movie, there’s a scene where Mowgli is being entranced by Kaa. Kaa is the big snake and Mowgli is the young boy – the man cub. Kaa’s eyes get big as he sings “trust in me” and puts Mowgli in a spell. He’s luring him so that he may devour him.
Sexual sin is especially alluring in our culture today. It’s not just something we conjure up in our sinful hearts, but we’re also preyed upon. Our weaknesses and sinful desires from the fall are tapped into through images and videos… and through lies of the culture. We’re targeted through all the devices we carry around everywhere. And it’s all animated by the devil, who has no interest in preserving your life. We’ll talk more about the temptations out there and our desires in here when we get to the end of chapter 6 and especially chapter 7.
Beloved, the plea here for you (and me) is to not get pulled into the lies and deception of sexual sin. It may promise life, but it only leads away from life and instead, as it says, to the path of “Sheol” - the grave.
In fact, much of the description here is about the sad consequences, especially verses 9-11. You are giving yourself away to “strangers,” your years to the “merciless.” It says they will take “fill of your strength.” Your years will be years of “groaning.”
King David was forgiven. He was washed by the blood of Christ. Jesus not yet come, but yet his sacrifice was sufficient for all those who had come before, who trusted by faith in the one to come. Yet King David still endured the heartache of his sin. If you track David’s life, after his adultery and his act of murder, the trajectory is a struggle of pain and difficulty. I’m not telling you that to discourage you. The Lord restores and forgives. Rather, I’m mentioning that because a big part of this chapter is a warning to stay away from sexual sin… or to put an end to it, with the help of God’s Spirit and the church.
And let me say, there are resources today that can help. It’s never too late. The Lord knows your sin – that’s down in verse 21. You are not hiding it from him. He can and will forgive. Please reach out to me this week… so we can talk and pray.
That brings us to an important question. Is God saying that all sexual intimacy is sin? No. Rather, what he’s saying is that any and all sexual activity outside the context of a Biblical marriage is sin. But inside a Biblical marriage, it can be a beautiful thing.
I’ll define Biblical marriage in a minute. But first, the language there in verses 15-19 is poetic. It’s speaking of the passion and fulfillment of marital intimacy. If you will, it’s Song of Solomon language that is describing the marriage bed. The language of cisterns and streams and springs and fountains is poetic for an overflowing fulfillment of physical love between a husband and wife.
And did you notice that it clearly says that it’s something to only be shared in that context.
Twice the word “intoxicated” is used. The first time is in verse 19 – Solomon tells his son to be intoxicated with his wife – delighting in physical intimacy with his wife. The second time, verse 20 – Solomon exhorts his son not to be intoxicated with a forbidden woman.
When you think of the word “intoxicated,” what comes to mind?
Well, we would think of someone inebriated or drunk. But a better understanding from the underlying Hebrew is to be in raptured or enamored or captivated with a great pleasure or a great fondness for something.
And let me point out the slight difference in the two intoxications described here.
· The intoxication in marriage is an intoxication of “love.” That word is at the end of verse 19 - love. This intoxication is founded on love between husband and wife. The word “love” there is not the Hebrew word for covenant love, rather it refers to a deep affection and commitment. That love is the foundation of the intoxication.
· The second intoxication is a shallow blind intoxication. It’s not described as love, but rather is only connected with physical intimacy. You see that in verse 20. It’s a sinful intoxication of something forbidden.
The point is this: God has created the joy of physical intimacy, but it is reserved for Biblical marriage. Sexual intimacy can and should flourish in that covenantal union between a husband and wife. Any other sexual intimacy is not what God ordained. Even though it may feel exhilarating, like I’m sure it did for David in the moment, yet it violates what God has established. That path leads to the consequences as this chapter describes.
Let me clarify one thing. I’ve used the phrase Biblical marriage a few times. And what I mean is a marriage between a man and a woman. One thing really important to understand is that God established marriage before the fall – before Adam and Eve sinned. In other words, marriage is an institution that transcends the fall and sin. Marriage is a creation ordinance applicable to all humanity. Marriage is part of God’s grand design and command to fill the earth with his image bearers.
As you know, we live in a cultural moment that questions the institution of marriage – that questions whether there’s even a need for such an institution… or questions whether marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
But let me say, what God has established in marriage is good! The Christian ethic of sexuality in a monogamous marriage relationship between a man and a woman is good. The institution of the family with a father and mother is good.
Study after study has shown that this pattern (which God has given) leads to the flourishing of humanity and the stability of society. It’s founded on the loving commitment between a man and a woman in marriage.
To put it in another way, the Christian sexual ethic that God has laid out in his Word (including here in Proverbs 5) leads to blessing. Any other patterns suggested or pursued do not come from God but come from the fallen and sinful desires that we each have.
I’m not shying away from saying that, because one avenue through which God gives his common grace to all the world is through marriage – marriage between one man and one woman.
Let me tell you a few things that I am not saying:
· I’m not saying that all marriages are healthy. No, the fall did happen. When two selfish sinners come together (and that is any of us to one extent or another) there is going to be conflict. Those here who are married will tell you that marriage is one of God’s means of sanctification.
· I’m also not saying that physical intimacy in marriage is always easy or uncomplicated. No, it can be difficult at times because of history and sin and health issues.
· Another thing that is important to know is this: singleness can be a great blessing. The apostle Paul made that point very clear. So, I’m not saying that everyone is called to be married.
· And one more - I’m not saying that a single mom or dad can’t raise up their children faithfully. They can with the help of a loving community.
Here’s what I am saying. Marriage as a whole, between a man and a woman seeking to love each other, is good for all humanity. It’s good because it’s God’s design.
Let me make one last point: Marriage between a husband and wife points to the relationship that Christ has with his people. It’s a beautiful picture that God has given us. In fact, it’s more than a picture. Christ is the bridegroom and his church is the bride. That’s the relationship that God has established with his church. The church is betrothed to the Lord Jesus himself. He provides and protects her and delights in her. Jesus is our redeemer.
That’s one thing that Proverbs 5 does… it points to that beautiful relationship, which brings us back to where we started – the love and forgiveness of Christ.
The marriage between Christ and his church happens through the redeeming work of Christ. We were unfaithful. We had followed the enticing path of the adulterer. We were the ones giving away our honor to others and groaning in our sin, yet Christ redeemed us. He restored us to a relationship with himself.
The reason that any of us here can seek faithfulness in our sexuality…. is because of the faithfulness of Christ.
I know I’ve said a lot so far, so let me briefly summarize as we close.
First, we’ve all sinned and struggled in matters of our sexuality, but God is a loving and redeeming God. He forgives and restores in and through Jesus.
Second, like Solomon with his sons, God wants us to learn the easy way and not the hard way. He wants us to listen because the path of sexual sin, though enticing, leads down the path of despair and destruction.
Third, there’s an infinitely better way - the way of faithfulness to God in our sexuality. If you are not married this means sexual chastity with the help of God’s grace. If you are married, it means loving your spouse and keeping physical intimacy to that relationship alone.
Fourth, though the cultural winds blow strong against this pattern, yet it is God’s design and through it, all humanity is blessed.
And last, marriage is ultimately patterned after the relationship that God has with his people through Christ. In him, we are redeemed and can pursue his will and our purity through his grace.
Regardless of your marital status, your past hurts, or present struggles, we can all enjoy the faithful love of our heavenly bridegroom. And through him we can anticipate the day when we will be free from all sin and sorrow… and will delight in his love and presence forever. Amen.