The Forbidden Woman and the Righteous King
March 25, 2018
In the television sitcom comedy series Fresh Off the Boat, the Huangs, a Taiwanese family, move from DC’s Chinatown to Orlando in 1995 to open a cowboy-themed steak restaurant - only to face hilarious culture shock as they pursue the American dream. One of the main characters on the show is the mom, Jessica Huang, played by the amazing Constance Wu. Jessica is a no-nonsense, pragmatic woman who believes in tough love. And you need to know that she has a lazy eye and she loves movies that star Denzel Washington. In one funny scene, Jessica confronts her husband Louis after learning that one of Louis’ hang out friends named Toni is actually not a man but a woman. Overwhelmed by jealousy and the idea that Louis could cheat on her, she lays down the law and gives him female friend rules.
At one point, Louis asks, “So I can never be around a woman outside of work?”
Jessica replies in epic fashion: “That’s not what I’m saying. That would be crazy. All I am saying is if you’re going to hang out with a woman, it has to be when the sun is up. And, she can’t be taller than me or younger than me or weigh less than me or look like she weighs less than me. Also! You can’t share food! Okay, I guess if you’re stranded and you have to share food, then clear soups or broths, only! And you will display your wedding band, close to your face, at all times. Photos of your children must be present, if they themselves cannot be. If she happens to touch you, even if by accident, you will excuse yourself and call me, immediately! If she has smoky eye makeup, that is bad. If she has lazy eye, ah that’s good!”
“You must always travel in separate vehicles…. Going back, lazy eye is out. It encourages eye contact. And she must never have ever been or even wanted to be a gymnast. Oh and this goes without saying, but no Denzel movies.”
It’s easy to laugh at seeing Jessica be so crazy sassy funny toward her husband Louis. But while Jessica’s female friend rules might sound ridiculous, Jessica’s ultimate goal and desire is not ridiculous at all. And while in the fictional world of television comedy Louis as a main character will probably never be killed off, in the real world and in the eyes of God and his written word, marital infidelity and adultery will be the death of you.
We are going through the book of Proverbs, and we have arrived at a very special moment in the introductory chapters of the book. The father speaks to his son about wisdom and how to be a good king for Israel. Up to this point, we’ve heard him say the following. Do not consent to sinners (1:10) who set an ambush for their own lives (1:18). Search for wisdom as for hidden treasures (2:4). Trust in the Lord with all your heart (3:5). Do not plan evil against your neighbor (3:29). Put away crooked speech (4:24). But now the father speaks to his son about the all important subject matter of marital fidelity and adultery.
This is huge. The king of Israel was to be righteous in his marriage to his wife. At the time of his father’s instruction, the son would have either been married already, or on the verge of getting married. And the son was to be righteous in his marriage to wife in two crucial ways. First, he was to stay far away from the forbidden woman (5:8). Second, he was to rejoice in his wife (5:18). He was to be faithful to his wife and devoted to her and intimate with her. And he was to exercise wisdom and keep away from the wives of other men, women who were forbidden because they were already married to their husbands, women who were adulterous because they were actively unfaithful to their husbands. The king of Israel was to be righteous in his marriage to his wife in these two crucial ways.
This morning, we will just look at verses 1-6 and consider this forbidden woman - namely four things about her: her true self, her seductive words, her final destination, and her foolish sin.
First, the father tells his son an extremely simple but profound concept about the forbidden woman: she is not who you think she is. At first, the forbidden woman seems so appealing. Her lips drip honey and her speech is smoother than oil. Honey was the sugar of the Old Testament. The forbidden woman is sweet to the taste. And oil was a good thing in the Old Testament. The forbidden woman brings gladness and delight. But the forbidden woman is not who you think she is. Her sweetness to the taste is actually a trick. Her gladness and delight is really a trap. For in the end she is bitter as wormwood and sharp as a two-edged sword. The forbidden woman is not you who think she is. People say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Well, the forbidden woman is like a book with a pretty cover but a terrible story. She is a bait-and-switch. She is a venus fly trap. She is a bad surprise. She is nothing but trouble. She is your worst nightmare. This is who she really is. This is what the father tells his son. And the son must be wise and know this.
Second, the father makes a very interesting observation about the forbidden woman. So much of her seduction comes from her words. It’s not the forbidden woman herself who is sweet as honey and smooth as oil. It is her words. Look carefully at verse 3: “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil….” It’s not ultimately her looks that kill. It’s her words. Adam and Eve did not ultimately eat the from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because it was just a delight to the eyes. Adam and Eve ultimately ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they listened to the serpent’s words. The forbidden woman’s seduction is therefore based on a mindgame of interpretation and concepts. And the son must be wise and know this. The son must therefore understand that wisdom is a war of words. It is no coincidence that verse 2 calls for a preemptive strike against the lips of the forbidden woman. The lips of the son must guard knowledge. His lips must speak against her lips. While her lips drip false honey and counterfeit oil, his lips must guard knowledge and declare the fear of the Lord. Whlie her speech is filled with flattery and persuasion and fifty shades of grey, his speech is to be filled with righteousness and wisdom and the acknowledgement of only two colors in covenant life: black and white. And if the son fails to put up the word of the Lord, then he will be devoured by the two-edged sword of the forbidden woman, a sword that in the original Hebrew is actually not literally a two-edged sword, but literally a “sword of mouths.”
It is noteworthy that Joseph lived this out and spoke clearly against Potiphar’s wife when she asked him to sleep with her. Joseph refused and said these words: “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her (Genesis 39:8-10). Joseph’s lips guarded knowledge. Joseph did not listen to her. And when Potiphar’s wife tried to get physical with him, Joseph ran away.
Third, the father goes on to explain to the son the forbidden woman’s final destination. Her feet go down to death and her steps follow the path to Sheol, which is the dark and cold and silent place of the grave - a place that makes one think about the eternal reality of hell. The forbidden woman is headed toward death. Her way is not the way of life. And the son must be wise and know this. He must know that they are on different paths. They are headed toward two competely different destinations. And if the son were to fall for her, then he would join her in her way. If the son were to fall for her, then he too would be taken down to death.
Fourth, the father finally reveals what is going on inside of the forbidden woman. A very sad thing is happening inside of her. She does not ponder the path of life. She wanders. And she does not even know it. All of this is happening in the forbidden woman’s heart because she does not have wisdom. Because she is sinning. Because she does not fear the Lord. The forbidden woman has forsaken the companion of her youth. She has forgotten the covenant of her God. She has abandoned her husband. She has thrown away her marriage covenant. And now she is dull in thinking (she does not ponder the path of her life), she is lost (she wanders), and she is blind (she does not even know what is going on). And the son must be wise and know this.
Armed with all of this knowledge about the forbidden woman - about her true self, her seductive words, her final destination, and her foolish sin - the son can be a good king who is righteous in his marriage to his wife. Knowing the truth about the forbidden woman, the son can do the two crucial things that a righteous king must do in his marriage: stay far away from the forbidden woman (5:8) and rejoice in his wife (5:18).
The son can do this. The son should do this. The son must do this. But the son didn’t do this.
At the end of the day, none of the kings of Israel had perfect wisdom and righteousness before the Lord. Even the greatest kings of old, King David and King Solomon, failed to fulfill the call of Proverbs 5. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. Solomon committed sexual immorality with seven hundred woman and three hundred concubines. They both reflected the sinfulness and the human wisdom of the first king Adam, who failed in two crucial ways when the serpent offered a substitute wisdom. He did not stay far away from sin. And he did not love and protect his wife.
But the last Adam and the ultimate king of the true Israel did not fail in this two crucial ways.
First, Jesus never sinned. In every respect he was tempted as we are (Hebrews 4:15), yet he never fell for the sweetness or the smoothness of sin. Jesus never sinned. He did not fall for the tricks or the traps of the lies of the evil one. Jesus never sinned. His lips guarded knowledged and his mouth declared the fear of the Lord. Jesus never sinned.
Praise be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Second, Jesus loved his bride and died for the church. We did not ponder the path of life. We were wandering. And we didn’t even know it. We had no wisdom. We sinned against God. We did not have a fear of the Lord. God’s law was forsaken. God’s covenant was forgotten. God’s kingship was abandoned. God’s love was thrown away. And we became dull and lost and blind. What a sad sight we were. But Jesus covered our adultery with his righteousness and wrote onto our prostituting hearts his law. And he who knew no sin became sin for us, so that he took the bitter destination and the wrath of the judgment of the flaming sword of the tree of life that we deserved and suffered for us and died for us and was buried in the grave for us. Jesus loved his bride and died for the church. And he loved the church and gave himself up for her so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Praise be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Jesus is the ultimate king who gloriously fulfills Proverbs 5.
And now we say no to sexual sins and temptations as we seek to be wise before the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Brothers, whether you are married or single, I urge you to be attentive to the wisdom of God and stay far away from forbidden women with sweet lips. Sisters, whether you are married or single, I urge you to incline your ear to the understanding of the word of God and stay far away from forbidden men with smooth words. Highland Church, may all of us ponder the path of life and not go down the path of death. May we not wander on darkened computers. May we not wander in dreamy fantasies. May we be careful of traps and tricks that can be at our schools or workplaces. Watch out. Keep discretion. Be attentive. Guard knowledge.
I don’t think you need to get crazy like Jessica about this. But I don’t think you should be careless about it either. Husbands, I don’t think you need to display your wedding band, close to your face, at all times. But I do think you need to display integrity and trustworthiness and wisdom and righteousness, before the face of God, at all times. Wives, if for some insane reason you’re stranded and you have to share food, I don’t think it is very loving to your neighbor to share only clear soups or broths and secretly keep the good stuff to yourself. But if a man asks you to grab dinner at a romantic restaurant late at night for no apparent reason, call your husband, immediately. To all the single brothers in the room: if you know a girl who has smoky eye makeup, ah that’s okay! But if she has smoky eye makeup and does not ponder the path of life, that is bad. And to all the single sisters in the room: this goes without saying, but no Denzel movies.
Summary of Sermon
In Proverbs 5, the father speaks to his son about adultery and marital fidelity. For the king of Israel was to be righteous in his marriage with his wife. He was to do this in two crucial ways. He was to stay far away from the forbidden woman. And he was to rejoice in his wife.
With regards to the forbidden woman, the son was to be wise and know four things about her: her true self, her seductive words, her final destination, and her foolish sin.
First, the forbidden woman is not who you think she is. Wisdom is knowing that while she seems so sweet and smooth at first, in the end she is bitter as wormwood and sharp as a two-edged sword. The son must read her trick and trap correctly.
Second, so much of the forbidden woman’s seduction comes from her words. Wisdom is a war of words. The son must guard knowledge and declare the fear of the Lord with his lips.
Third, the forbidden woman’s final destination is death. Wisdom is knowing that your way of life is not hers. The son must realize that falling for her would mean death for him.
Fourth, the forbidden woman’s heart is a heart of sin. Wisdom is knowing that she is foolish, lost and blind. The son must understand that she has forsaken the companion of her youth, forgotten the covenant of her God, abandoned her husband and thrown away her marriage covenant.
The son must be wise and know all of this. But the kings of old - David, Solomon, and Adam - did not have a perfect wisdom and righteousness.
However, the last Adam and the ultimate king of the true Israel did not fail to stay far away from sin and love and protect his wife. Praise be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! He never sinned. And he loved his bride and died for the church.
May we be wise and stay far away from forbidden women or men. May we ponder the path of life and not go the way of the path of death. May we be careful of traps and tricks that can be at our schools or workplaces. May we watch out, keep discretion, be attentive and guard knowledge.
Questions for Discussion & Sharing
What do you think about Jessica Huang’s female friend rules?
Much of wisdom is about knowing who the forbidden woman (or man) really is and judging a book by its content and not its cover. What are some ways in which we can be unwise about people who can bring spiritual harm to us?
Much of wisdom is a war of words. What makes words so powerful? How can words be seductive? How can our words contain the knowledge and the fear of the Lord?
To join the forbidden woman or man is to join them in their death. What are ways in which people change and go from one direction to another? How does the slow, downward spiral toward death work?
The church is the bride of Christ. And he loved the church and gave himself up for her and sanctifies her so that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27). How does this wonderful gospel truth affect and shape who we are and how we are to live as we wait for the return of Christ? What female friend rules or male friend rules would be in good order now, in light of the grace of our God?