Proverbs 7: More seduction? (Hint: it's not only about that!)
"Keep my commands and live" (Pr. 7:2a)
"...a young man without sense, passing along the street near her corner...in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness." (Pr. 7:7-8)
If you're reading along at home, you're probably wondering when Proverbs will stop talking about "the Seductress" or "the Adulteress" or "the loose woman." Does Solomon have a hang up on this issue?
Well yes and no.
Yesterday we took a look at sexual temptation, shame, and the like. Because the writer is warning us directly against such things. Today we're going to dive into the bigger idea that the writer is using when they talk about these things...
In chapter 8 (tomorrow) we're going to be introduced to Lady Wisdom - in the Greek known as Sophia. (There are all kinds of interesting things to say about Her, but we'll save that for tomorrow.) So far we have heard a bit about wisdom, but the author has had us focusing on another lady - "the Adulteress."
This is intentional.
Solomon wants us to see these two in contrast...
Light vs. Dark.
Life vs. Death.
The land of the living vs. Sheol - the land of the dead.
Lady Wisdom vs. Lady Folly (the adulteress).
Remember, some of Proverbs should be understood straightforwardly, and some of it needs to be understood through the lens of the style it is written. This is a book that is trying to lead the reader into Wisdom. Wisdom is not so much understanding the right things, but figuring out how to actually do it in real life! In other words, it's easy to know the law, it's just incredibly hard to actually live it out on a daily basis (see Romans 7). This is where Lady Wisdom steps in to help. In this way following or falling prey to "the adulteress" can be understood as walking through life without thinking deeply about our actions! It is like what James says in the New Testament:
"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do." (James 1:22-27)
Notice what James is saying. If you read Scripture and know what is right yet you ignore it in the moment of testing, you're like a person who looks in the mirror and then immediately forgets what they look like! It's foolish. It's worthless. What was the point of doing any of it in the first place?
It's not unlike the young man in Proverbs 7 who passes by the house of this "adulteress" and finds himself breaking all of his vows. It leads to death, it leads to darkness, it leads to separation from God and from people.
The point is this: At the end of the day wise people are those who learn to trust their wise elders and God - who often times say things that don't make sense in the moment but in time are proven to be true.
When you were a child your parents told you to look both ways before you crossed the street. At first you didn't understand why, but as you grew older you learned their advice was wise.
When you were young your parents told you to apologize and forgive people (hopefully) and at first that didn't feel right - you wanted to hate people who were mean to you. But as you got older you learned that by not forgiving others you are holding on to hate and only harming yourself. Their advice was wise.
When you went off to college your parents or pastor or youth leader told you to make wise choices with who you date, who you sleep with, and who you choose to marry. You either listened or did not listen and in retrospect you realized they were actually right. Their advice was wise.
In retrospect we understand what was wise and we try to warn younger people!
The challenge we are presented with in chapter 7 is between two choices - light or dark, seduction or wisdom, life or death. The question is will you become truly wise and recognize your need to listen to God's Wisdom prior to making the mistake?!?! This is the trick - at a certain point each of us needs to own up to our continual missteps and ask God to help us before we do it again! It isn't easy, but it is at the core of why we come together in communal worship and fellowship and yearn to live a life out in the open where our brothers and sisters in Christ can challenge us and hold us to a high standard. That is true wisdom!
And of course, in case you misinterpret what I'm saying as some kind of a works-based salvation. Understand that the ability to change can only come from the power of God's Holy Spirit working in our lives in order to change our nature, our desires, and our actions. It is only possible because of the free grace that the Resurrected Messiah offers to those who follow Him.
Proverbs 7 gives us option 1. Proverbs 8 will give us option 2 - a better alternative. See you tomorrow!