War of the Worlds: The Threat of Sexual Sin

H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel, The War of the Worlds opens with these words:

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied… With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs … Yet across the gulf of space… intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”

This is an apt description of the threat faced by many Christians in the 21st century, especially concerning the area of sexual morality and sin. We are busying ourselves, serene in the assurance we are masters over ourselves, without giving too much thought to the fact that another world is examining us, drawing its plans against us, seeking to overcome us and ultimately destroy us.

Preaching through Proverbs has been a weekly reminder of this narrative: there are two ways, paths, even worlds, which can never join forces and are ultimately opposed to each other. Proverbs 1-9 is the opening section of Proverbs, all written by Solomon. It covers many subjects, but one dominates the pages of the opening 9 chapters: sexual sin / adultery. With increasing frequency, the subject of adultery dominates the latter chapters 5-9. There is a clear crescendo of warning and instruction on the subject: chapter 2 contains 3 verses on the subject; chapter 5 – 14 verses; chapter 6 – 15 verses; chapter 7 – 27 verses and finally in chapter 9, 6 verses. Clearly adultery is a significant theme in these chapters.

But we might ask ourselves, why is adultery the main theme/sin in chapters 5-9? I think there are a number of reasons:

  • Adultery / sexual immorality is a common sin. Whether by heart or hand the lure of sexual immorality is significant, especially in today’s culture.
  • Adultery / sexual immorality is a powerful sin. It sinks its hooks deep into the human soul.
  • Adultery / sexual immorality perfectly describes the temptation techniques of the world, flesh and the devil. That is to say, adultery in Proverbs, is something of a representative sin – it stands for all the world will throw at the Christian, and the manner in which it will tempt him.

This theme climaxes in chapters 6:20 – 9:18 in a presentation of two worlds at war. These worlds, are ultimately epitomized by Woman Wisdom (Ch 8:1-9:12) and Woman Folly (the forbidden woman, the foreign woman, the adulteress) in 6:20-727 and 9:13-18. They are clearly set in opposition to each other – both seeking to gain followers – Woman Wisdom leading people to life, Woman Folly leading people to their death.

But what is perhaps most informative, and surely this warns us all, is the manner in which the world seeks to wage this war. Throughout Scripture, from Satan in the garden to the anti-Christ of the new covenant era, we observe sin dressing itself up as virtue. That is one of sin’s most powerful techniques – that it looks like something positive or moral, and thus allures the simple into sin. Woman folly sets about her task of luring men and women to their death (7:22-24; 9:17-18), through sexual sin, in a manner which parallels the techniques of Woman Wisdom. In other words, the manner of Satan and sin’s appeal is strikingly similar to that of the call of Wisdom, which is of course, the call of Christ. The following chart makes this clear:

Woman WisdomWoman Folly
1. She calls, cries out and teaches: “Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice” 8:11. She calls, cries out: “her lips drip with honey and her speech is smoother than oil” 5:3; “she sits at the door of her house… calling to those who pass by” 9:14
2. Location: “on the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand, beside the gates in front of the town” 8:2-32. Location: “her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market and ate very corner she lies in wait” 7:11-12; “she sits at the door of her house, she take a seat on the highest places of town” 9:14
3. Prepares a feast: “Come eat of my bread, drink of my wine” 9:53. Prepares a feast: “Stolen water is sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” 9:17
4. To whom does she call? “O simple ones learn prudence, O fools learn sense” 8:5; “Whoever is simple let him turn in here! To him who lacks sense she says ‘Come eat of my bread’” 9:4-54. To whom does she call? “Whoever is simple let him turn in here! And to him who lacks sense she says ‘stolen water is sweet’” (9:17-18)
5. Her message: “Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and live and walk in the way of insight” 9:5-65. Her message: “Come, let us take our fill of love till morning, let us delight ourselves with love” 7:18
6. Her attraction: “Take my instruction instead of silver and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels and all that you may desire cannot compare with her” 9:10-116. Her attraction: “I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh and aloes and cinnamon”.

Comparison 6 is completed when acknowledge that the adulteress is perfuming her bed linens with the same spices that the Messiah is beautified in Psalm 45:8. What conclusions should we draw from these observations?

  • Sin mimics that which is good in order to gain our confidence. It is a counterfeit and cannot give what it promises, and hides what it actually delivers (death).
  • Sin is cunning; well Satan is cunning and sin follows suit. Do not expect the issues of discerning and avoiding sin to be easy.
  • Adultery in Proverbs is both physical and spiritual (as it is in the rest of the Old Testament). It therefore is a “representative” sin, which captures the way in which people are drawn away from God.

Finally, this ought to be a clarion call for all men (and women) in the church to examine themselves with regard to their desires and practices. Sin lies in wait at the door. Keep it outside your houses.

Matthew Holst