Seduced (Proverbs 7)

“You want business?”

It was a persistent question walking back to my flat after work. I’d managed to rent a place in  one of the less desirably parts of town and along the road I had to walk along was where the local prostitutes operated. I have to say they hadn’t made much of an effort and there was no real attempt to seduce me in.  It was fairly easy to say no.

What would it take to seduce you? If the men among us are honest, the this question will be literally to do with sex.  Our heads are turned by pretty women.  What is more, men seem able to compartmentalise, to flirt with the young colleague at work and separating that out from home life, family life and church.

But there are other things that seduce too aren’t there?  As we saw when looking at Proverbs 5, whilst the wisdom literature warns against actual sexual unfaithfulness, adultery represents the general temptation towards idols and away from God. So, what is it that attracts you away and distracts you from Christ?

Here in Proverbs 7, we are once again warned about the danger of adultery and its seductive nature. Once again, this is not a mere warning against sexual immorality. Rather, Proverbs sets up a contest between 2 women for the affections of Solomon’s sons. One woman represents wisdom, she is beautiful and faithful, this is the wife of his youth. The other is loud, seductive, flirtatious. She is folly.

Learn to love God’s Word (v1-4)

One of the things that talking about the dangers of foolishness does is it serves to highlight the treasures and beauty of wisdom. Our best defence against error is to learn to love truth, our best defence against idolatry is to learn to love God with our whole hearts.  Here Solomon calls on his sons to listen to his teaching, to treasure his words and to prioritise them. He is not just thinking about human advise here but first of all, he has a responsibility to pass on God’s word to his sons and secondly, he too is bringing revelation.

Note the similarity with these words in Deuteronomy.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.[1]

Some of the stricter orthodox Jews follow these words literally, creating phylacteries, or leather boxes containing scripture to be tied to their hands and their foreheads. However, the point is more that God’s people should be surrounded by and saturated by God’s word so that it is constantly on their minds and so that they continuously act in obedience to it.

This is demonstrated again in Proverbs 7:4 with another metaphor. Wisdom and insight are close friends, family members even. You are to treasure and honour them, sticking close to what they say.

Practically for Christians, we follow this through by reminding ourselves each day of the Gospel. What is going to guard me against sins’ seduction? The answer has to be the realisation that it simply cannot compare with what God offers me in Christ.

Stand out from the herd (v6-9)

We are now very familiar with the language of herd immunity as people have debated the possibility of a level of collective immunity developing in society against COVID-19. The idea is that either by vaccination or having had the virus, enough individuals become immune so that the virus is not being passed around. The idea is that just as with cattle and sheep, also with humans, there is a tendency towards herding where a whole group shares the same attributes.

A similar herd mentality can arise when crowds gather. Why is it that normally peaceful people can become rowdy, aggressive and even violent at football matches or on demos? Why is it that people can get caught up in mass hysteria? The answer is that we want to belong, we want to be part of something. So, we are influenced and we influence others.

Solomon looks out into the street at night and sees the gangs of young lads congregating (there is nothing new under the sun). Lads engage in laddish behaviour. There waiting for young men with money in their pockets, sexual desire in their trousers and alcohol in their bloodstream are the prostitutes ready to entice them in.

It is so easy to get caught up in unhealthy and sinful behaviours. We often see that when people begin to fall into habits of grumbling, complaining and slandering. We also see it with abusive, bullying behaviour.  So stop and think. “Am I doing this or saying this because I know it to be good and true or am I following the herd.”

Sometimes this may require you to cut off or row back on friendship with those who habitually encourage you into unhelpful and sinful behaviour.

Beware the deceptive nature of sin (v10 -27)

The lad is met by the seductress, dressed up to tempt him to come with her. She promises him passion without responsibility, sex without commitment, lust without love.  The deal seems attractive, no strings attached fun whilst her husband is away.

But remember that sin is a liar. One day the husband will return and seek vengeance. Don’t assume that your temptress will stay loyal to you when he does.

Again, remember that whilst there are specific dangers with sexual immorality that the imagery is metaphorical here, warning of the dangers of foolishness by which we mean turning away from God, his word and his wisdom.  All sin seduces with the lie that no one will find out and no-one will get hurt.

Did you spot the further lie here too? She says:

I had to offer sacrifices,[d]
and today I have paid my vows;[2]

This is the lie of religious justification. How often do we hear that?

“It’s okay, I prayed about it.”

“God is love and this is the loving thing to do.”

“Who are you to challenge me … let he who is without sin …”

“They may become a Christian through my witness to him”

We have heard them all and we know that very rarely do things end well. But sin is very crafty and plants all sorts of excuses in our minds. As I mentioned before, I think there can be a particular male temptation to compartmentalise.  I remember a youth leader at a church, going down to lead the children’s work, returning home, packing his case and walking out on his wife and children. You would think

“How could he be down running the kids’ club with all of that already planned?”

However, that’s the point, he could, and without any sense of hypocrisy in his own mind. Beware the veneer of religiosity that gives a cover for grave sin.

Conclusion

So, how do we stick close to Christ and resist temptation? I would suggest

  • Get rooted in God’s word
  • Think about he company you keep
  • Be alert to the true ugliness of sin.
  • Be ruthless in rooting out excuses.

[1] Deuteronomy 6:6-9.

[2] Proverbs 7:14.

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