Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Scarlet Sin

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exo.20:14)

What used to be called “the scarlet sin” is barely pink in today’s society. Sexual sin, before or after marriage, may be risky, but it is certainly not risqué. “Everybody does it.” Yes, everybody who values pleasure more than purity; and everybody who fears being ostracized more they fear the wrath of God (Heb.13:4). Two years ago, I wrote on this subject as part of a study in the book of Proverbs. I have decided that it still says what I want to say today; therefore, I am reproducing it here, in nearly its entirety. As I re-read it, I was challenged anew to guard my heart and my body, wherein dwells the Spirit of God. I pray it will speak to you, as well.


Sparkling Waters or Poisoned Spring

“Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.” (Prov.5:15)

Just as diamonds are displayed on black velvet to bring out their brilliance, in this chapter, the joys of marriage dazzle against the miseries of illicit love. If Proverbs teaches anything, it teaches the folly of trifling with sexual sins. The “strange woman” is mentioned and described numerous times and presents a contrast to the feminine personification of wisdom in the book, as well as stark disparity from the woman in chapter thirty-one.

Marriage has been under attack from the Garden of Eden to the present day. The onslaught has only intensified through time, till, looking around, one is tempted to suspect it may be drawing its last breaths. In the last thirty or forty years, it has come to be considered only one of many avenues for expressing love along with such arrangements as living together on a trial or semi-permanent basis or just an occasional rendezvous. Apparently, love and marriage no longer go together “like a horse and carriage.” And now, suddenly, marriage has gained new “champions”—homosexuals and lesbians. Just when we were convinced this ungodly world system had given up on marriage, devotees of sexual perversion have decided it may be a good thing after all. Now, not only has marriage been trivialized, it’s been bastardized. Thank God, while all this social experimentation has been going on, God’s Word, “that liveth and abideth forever,” has remained unchanged: “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb.13:4). The intimate expression of love is only honorable if it is takes place within the confines of marriage, which Ephesians five makes clear is a binding covenant between a man and a woman. Anything else dishonors God, society, and the participants themselves (1 Cor.6:18). God restricts sex to marriage, not, writes Warren Wiersbe, to rob us of pleasure but “to increase pleasure and protect it.”

The lips of the strange woman are said to “drop as an honeycomb,” and her mouth is “smoother than oil” (5:3). Stolen waters are advertised as being sweet (9:17), but it is a sweetness that is cloying—sickening sweet. In the same way overindulgence in rich food leaves us with almost a revulsion to it, the first taste of unholy, unlawful sex may pleasure the sensual palate; but, in the end, it becomes “bitter as wormwood” (v.4; cp. Rev.8:11). No wonder Solomon wails in bitter regret, “How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!” (5:12-13)

If the preceding verses are a picture of the disease, verse fifteen provides a preventative: “Drink waters out of your own well,” says Solomon in verse fifteen. “Get your lovin’ at home!” There are no sweeter waters than these. The couple whose love enjoys the smile of God, enjoys also the fullness of its pleasures. Or, at least they should. God is the Author of marital intimacy, and any sex education that does not take that into consideration is just basic biology equivalent to the “birds and the bees.”

Paul says it this way: “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1Cor.7:2). Obviously, when Paul says “every man” and “every woman,” he is making a general statement, since he goes on to say that as far as he is concerned, there are times when marriage is not practical or even possible. He makes sure, however, that we know these circumstances are the exception and not the rule. But, either way, sex outside the marriage bond is forbidden. And when the Bible speaks, the argument is over. In the case of a single man or woman, it is fornication; when a married person indulges in it, it is adultery.

As a woman, verse nineteen challenges me in two ways: To bring to my marriage the serenity typified by the quiet deer (“Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe”); coupled with the exuberance expressed in the latter portion of the verse (“…be thou always ravished always with her love.”) It is not always easy to balance these two dimensions, since most of us lean one way more than the other. But because life can be a roller-coater sometimes, ideally, my love should be both restful and ravishing

Verses sixteen through eighteen use phrases that picture these waters of satisfaction breaking forth into fountains “dispersed abroad,” and rivers that will spill out “into the streets.” These are the children of a godly union who flow into the mainstream of life with the underpinning of loving, faithful parents—faithful to God, one another, and the confidence of their children.

The final picture in chapter five is a warning to us that sin is always binding. “He shall be holden with the cords of his sins” (v.22). I remember once when our children were young, my husband made this Biblical object lesson come to life by taking everyday sewing thread and wrapping it slowly around the wrists of our younger son. The first few strands were easily broken, making Josh quite confident in his own strength. After several more were added, however, it became harder and harder, till he was finally forced to admit he could no longer break them. With sin, repetition forms the habit, and the habit becomes the ruling principle. This is especially true of sexual sins. The wise man or woman will turn away from the first strand of its insidious threads.


I will only add to this Solomon’s warning in Proverbs 5:11, where he predicts the end for those who will not heed his words of warning. You will, says he, “…mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed.”

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