A warning is a statement that indicates a possible or impending danger, problem or other unpleasant situation. We have warnings on almost everything we own these days: warning lights on our cars, low battery warnings on our phones and tablets, virus warnings on our computers, low batteries in smoke detectors, or refrigerator doors that have been open too long. One thing that warnings have in common: they aren’t subtle. The beeps are loud, the messages are persistent, the lights are bright, and in Proverbs 7 we have a writer trying to be loud and persistent with his warning to his sons: Don’t go near the immoral/adulterous woman. The writer starts with advice and commands that he wants his sons to obey.
“Love wisdom like a sister; make insight a beloved member of your family. Let them protect you from an affair with an immoral woman, from listening to the flattery of a promiscuous woman.” (Proverbs 7:4-5)
The writer, wanting to be heard, takes the commands further by telling a story. He writes about a young man he saw out of his window one day. The writer describes this young man as lacking common sense as he crosses the street “near the house of an immoral woman, strolling down the path by her house.” He does this under the cover of evening darkness. The woman comes out to him and throws her arms around him, kisses him and begs him to come into her house to “drink our fill of love until morning.” The young man gives in and the writer describes him as “an ox going to the slaughter,” “a stag caught in a trap,” and “a bird flying into a snare.”
Oftentimes when a writer or speaker wants to really emphasize a point, they will use an illustration to do so. The writer of Proverbs 7 is doing just that—he wants his sons to learn from the mistake of this young man he saw. So the command is given, the point is emphasized with a story, and then the lesson is recapped.
“Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her. Don’t wander down her wayward path. For she has been the ruin of many; many men have been her victims. Her house is the road to the grave. Her bedroom is the den of death.” (Proverbs 7:25-27)
The lesson: don’t go near her. Don’t go near the thing that you should avoid! Don’t go near the thing that tempts you. The young man decided to cross the street, to put himself near the thing he was supposed to avoid. Does that sound familiar? That’s been the story in my life many times. I think men create a challenge out of it: let’s see how close I can get without falling in. What’s the success rate on that? I know mine was extremely low. The fact of the matter is that when we wander close to the thing we should not have, we have already given in to temptation. When we make it a challenge concerning our own strength, we will fail every time for it is not by our strength that we overcome temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13, James 4:7).
This sin of folly, of thinking we can get close to the thing we are supposed to avoid, has been happening since the very beginning, all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
“The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?’ (…) The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” (Genesis 3:1,6)
Did you catch that? There’s no passage in there that describes the snake leading Adam and Eve to the tree, there’s no description of them having to walk over to the tree to take the fruit. They’re standing right there. We all assume and picture the snake being in the tree and Adam and Eve are always standing right next to it—they were right next to the thing they were told to avoid. It makes it so much easier for the tempter to succeed when we allow ourselves to be close to the temptation.
When the Bible talks of temptations, overwhelmingly the answer is to flee. Run away! The worst way to play a game of tag would be to stand as close as you could to the person who is “It.” The object of the game is to run away and not get caught by that person, so to be successful you stay as far away from them as you can. We should see temptation this same away: the object is to run away and not get caught by temptation so we should stay as far away from it as we can. Listen to the warnings, don’t get near the thing that tempts you, and stay as far away from them as you can.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.