An Invitation to Death
June 3, 2018
In the opening chapters of the book of Proverbs, a father speaks to his son about how to be a good and wise king for Israel. And here in today’s Scripture text, the father teaches his son to avoid the forbidden woman.
We have heard a lot about her and about adultery in these last several months. The forbidden woman forgets the covenant of God (2:17). Her husband will not spare you in his revenge (6:34). In the end she is bitter as wormwood (5:4). Her house leads to death (7:27). The father gives a lot of attention to the forbidden woman.
But why all this attention on her? Why do we need to hear so much about adultery and sexual sin? We have to remember that the entire Bible is a story of salvation, and that the first nine chapters of the book of Proverbs sets up an amazing drama: the son must make a choice between wisdom or foolishness. The son must declare his love for one of two women: Lady Wisdom or Lady Folly.
In the first chapter of Proverbs, we heard the words of Lady Wisdom. She is personified as the true and excellent wife. And with her words she offers the young and the simple true life. But now, for the first time in our series, in the seventh chapter of Proverbs, we hear the very words of Lady Folly. She is personified as the deceitful and tempting adulteress. And with her words she seduces the young and the simple to true death.
This is the drama of Proverbs. We are seeing a war of words. And we are left to think: What will the son choose? Whose words will capture his heart? Lady Wisdom? The true and excellent wife? Or Lady Folly? The forbidden woman and adulteress? What an amazing drama.
But this is not just the drama of Proverbs. This is the drama of salvation. We read everything in the book of Proverbs. And we are left to think: what kind of son could possibly do all of this? Who can be perfect in his righteousness? And will God’s promise of old come true? Will there come an eschatological king who will crush the head of the serpent? What an amazing drama.
So the father wants his son to choose wisdom. And he teaches his son by telling him a story. A story about an invitation to death.
The story begins with a young man passing along the street as the sun goes down. And he is up to no good. Under the cover of darkness, the young man goes in secret to where the adulteress lives. In the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night, the young man sets himself up to be at the wrong place and at the wrong time. It seems that no one notices him. But the father notices him. He perceives the young man from the window of his house. And, even more, our Father in heaven notices him. God sees the young man from his throne in heaven. Thus, the young man is seen. And he is judged to be one who lacks sense.
The story continues with the entrance of the adulteress. She is the forbidden woman. And she is on the attack. Her heart is deceitful and her dress is inappropriate. She is loud like a thundershower (1 Kings 18:45) and tumultuous like a military camp set into confusion and panic (1 Samuel 14:16-19). The woman is wayward in her wanderlust. The adulteress is restless in her homelessness. She actively prowls the street and the market and every corner to indulge and fulfill her sexual desires. She’s all over town. She gets around. And when the senseless young man turns the corner, she seizes him and kisses him with unrestrained shamelessness. Make no mistake: this is an attack. And the adulteress, who is not so much a gold digger as a grave digger, is really a deadly, devilish monster who commits nothing less than premeditated spiritual murder. For many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng.
But the adulteress does not kill with her looks. She kills with her words. And the following account of words that the father conveys to his son is one of the most disgraceful and disgusting and deadly in all of Scripture.
The forbidden woman tells the young man that he is important to her. She offered sacrifices and paid vows earlier in the day, but now her attention is all on him. And she tells the young man that he is important to her. “I have come out to meet you.” “I have found you.” She goes on to explain all the sacrifice that she is making for him. Unfortunately, it’s a false commitment, and the young man does not know this. Colored Egyptian linens, Perfumes of myrrh and aloe and cinnamon - how could the young man resist all of this flattery of his sad ego? He is the man.
The forbidden woman frames herself with spirituality. Perhaps her religion was that of Israel. Perhaps her religion was that of the Canaanites. She was either a blatant hypocrite before God or a blatant follower of the fertility gods of the foreign nations. But it’s all a nice dance in front of the young man. Unfortunately, it’s a false spirituality, and the young man does not know this. A sense of spirituality - how could the young man resist such religion? Their love can be spiritual.
The forbidden woman goes on to tell the young man that they can have love together. But that love is a mere physical love. It is a one-night-stand love. Unfortunately, it’s a false love, and the young man does not know this. Love and delight - how could the young man resist such a reward? This is true love.
Finally, the forbidden woman tells the young man that everything will be okay. They will be safe. There is nothing to fear. For her husband is away. He will not know anything. She profoundly echoes the words of the serpent before Eve: “You will not surely die.” She separates the deed from the consequence. Unfortunately, it’s a false security, and the young man does not know this. No husband to worry about - how could the young man cover his bases better? Nobody will know what they do.
So these are her words. And sadly and tragically, the young man follows her. He listens to her words. He trusts her promises. He obeys her commands. He follows her.
But little does he know that he follows her to his own death. Her seductive speech and smooth talk is really nothing more than disgraceful and disgusting and deadly words. She persuades him and she compels him. But she is really out to kill him. And so he is like an ox led to the slaughter. He is like a stag pierced by an arrow. He is like a bird caught into a snare. Out of a liver comes much blood. Thus, it is a swift death and a quick end. And the young man is reduced to an animal. An animal sees no connection between a trap and a death. The young man sees no connection between the adulteress and the cost of his own life. He lacks sense. He doesn’t know. He is gullible. He listens to her. He fails to see that her words are dangerous and stupid. He does not think. He just acts. He just follows her.
And so his end is death. Many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. The end.
The father sees all of this tragedy. He sees it from the window of his house. But then he turns away from the young man and looks at his son. He loves his son. He knows that his son can be that young man. He knows that this is war. And so he exposes who the adulteress is and what she does and says so that his son will be wise. He frames her. He puts her in her place. He shares her dangerous words to his son. He shows him how smooth and seductive she is. But he masterfully quarantines her. He surrounds her with the truth. He removes all of her makeup and shows his son what she really looks like. He destroys her argument (2 Corinthians 10:5) and puts her to death (Colossians 3:5) so that his son will not die from her. This is war. This is love. The father wants his son to know how disgusting the forbidden woman really is. The father wants his son to know the revolting tragedy of adultery and sexual immorality.
And the father wants his son to do better than him. Remember, David committed adultery with Bathsheba. Solomon committed sexual immorality by having seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. The legacy and heritage of Israel, the throne of royal kings, the line of fathers is stained with sexual sin. And the sad thing is that the father, poetically speaking, was that very young man in the street. And so remembering the reality of his sin, the father wants his son to do better than him.
But also remembering the promise of a king who would crush the head of the serpent, the father looks at his son and puts his hope in the ultimate Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus kept the words and treasured up the commandments. Jesus bound them on his fingers and wrote them on the tablet of his heart. Jesus kept it all as the apple of his eye. The apple of the eye is a metaphor for the dark part of the eye, that is, the pupil. The gaze of Jesus’ truly human pupils were fixed on the law and the wisdom and the truth of God. Jesus was perfect in wisdom. He never sinned. His righteousness is a rejection of the forbidden woman and everything that she stands for. And his righteousness is declaration of love for wisdom.
It is this perfect wisdom and righteousness that saves us. For with his perfect wisdom and righteousness, Jesus earned life. “My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live.” Jesus is the only person in the world who deserves to have sabbath rest in heaven with the Father. He has perfect wisdom and righteousness credited to him. But the good news of Jesus Christ is that he credits his perfect wisdom and righteousness to us. And now we live.
Because we now live, because we are united with Christ, we therefore love wisdom and righteousness. We want holiness to be the apple of our eye. We want to say to wisdom, “You are my sister.” We are attentive to the word of the Lord. We don’t keep the commandments and therefore live. We live, in Christ, and therefore we keep the commandments.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I invite you to grow in wisdom. Know the temptations and the tactics of the forbidden woman. Remember where her path ends. Be disgusted by sexual sin and all sin. Watch out for seductive or smooth words. Never forget that this is war.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I invite you to grow in the fear of the Lord. God knows all things and sees all things. He knows all of our thoughts and imaginations and motives and loves. There is no such thing as secrecy or anonymity or invisibility with God. May we not walk in the dark.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I invite you to get ahead of the game when it comes to your children. Frame the forbidden woman. Put her in her place. Show your children what she really looks like without the makeup so that they won’t fall for her when they see her with her makeup on. Tell them the truth of God’s word before they are confronted with the lies of the world. Don’t let the forbidden woman be the first person or the last person to talk to your children. Frame her. Then your children will be able to put her to death. This is love.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I invite you to stop traveling in darkness if you are doing so. In Proverbs 7, the young man passed along the street and took the road to the adulteress’ house. In today’s internet age, you do not need to pass along a literal streets under literal darkness to stumble upon the forbidden woman or man. The streets of today’s age can be any questionable website. The darkness of today’s age can be any VPN. Walk away from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Walk away and go home, before it is too late, before you are well on your way to the chambers of death.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I invite you to say to wisdom, “You are my sister.” Let us love wisdom. Nothing you desire can compare with her. Let us search for it as for hidden treasures. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. Do not despise discipline or rebuke. Read the Bible thoroughly. Make it a major life goal to be holy and bear the fruit of the righteousness of Christ. And let us always stay humble and work out our salvation with fear and trembling as we stay sensitive to the foolishness that stubbornly remains in our hearts. Let us fear the Lord.
In closing, today we looked at the forbidden woman and we examined her words - her invitation to death. But next week, we will look at Lady Wisdom and we will examine her words - her invitation to life.
Summary of Sermon
A father speak to his son about how to be a good and wise king for Israel. He warns his son to avoid the forbidden woman.
Much attention is given to the forbidden woman because the son must choose either wisdom or foolishness. He must declare his love for either Lady Wisdom or Lady Folly. Lady Wisdom is personified as the true and excellent wife. Lady Folly is personified as the deceitful and tempting adulteress.
This is the drama of Proverbs. And we see a war of words: an invitation to death versus an invitation to life.
But the greater drama of salvation is in play as well. When we read Proverbs, we are left to think: What kind of son could do all of this? Who can be perfect in righteousness? And will God’s promise of old come true? Will there come an eschatological king who will crush the head of the serpent?
The father teaches his son by telling him a story. A young man passes along a street in the cover of darkness. And he goes to where the adulteress lives. But he is perceived. And he is one without sense.
The forbidden woman is on the attack. She is deceitful and loud and wayward and restless. She seizes the young man in order to fulfill her sexual desires. And she kills him with her words.
She tells him that he is important. She tells him that she is spiritual. She tells him that this is love. She tells him that there is nothing to fear and that everything will be okay.
The young man follows her. He listens to her words. He trusts her promises. He obeys her commands.
But little does he know that he follows her to his own death. The adulteress’ words are deadly. He is reduced to an animal. And his end is death.
The father sees this tragedy and uses this story to expose who the adulteress really is so that his son will not die. He frames her. He removes all of her makeup. This is war. This is love.
Moreover, the father speaks to his son with the hope of an ultimate Son who will surpass a legacy of kings and fathers and sons that is stained with sexual sin.
Jesus Christ is the eschatological Son of Proverbs. And he is a king who is perfect in righteousness and wisdom. He never sinned. He rejects the forbidden woman. He crushes the head of the serpent.
And we who are in Christ are saved because his perfect righteousness and wisdom has been credited to us. Now we live.
Because we live in Christ, we are invited to grow in wisdom and in the fear of the Lord. We are invited to frame the adulteress for the love of our children. We are invited to stop traveling in darkness and start walking home. We are invited to say to wisdom, “You are my sister.”
Today, we looked at Lady Folly and her invitation to death. Next time, we will look at the Lady Wisdom and her invitation to life.
Questions for Discussion & Sharing
The father teaches his son by telling him a story about a young man and an adulteress. What makes this story so powerful and effective? What are your personal thoughts or reactions to it?
The forbidden woman kills the young man with her words. What do our sinful hearts, the world and the enemy like to tell us when we are faced with the temptation to sin any kind of sin?
What does Jesus’ love for wisdom and righteousness mean to you? What does the drama of Christ’s fulfillment of the promise of salvation mean to you?
What are some ways in which you can grow in greater disgust and hatred for sin and foolishness? What are some ways in which you can grow in greater love and zeal for righteousness and wisdom?
God knows everything. How might this simple but profound truth change you?