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It’s been a while since we were in Proverbs, so let me remind of what we last talked about. Solomon reminded us of the all too familiar trap of illicit relationships with women. While Solomon was giving his son specific guidance about avoiding an adulterous woman, the principle applies to men and women. No matter how exciting it may seem to be in the moment, death and destruction always results from immorality. We may not see it here in this earth, but judgment will come. This morning, Solomon continues with the theme of marital purity, but he does it in metaphorical terms.
Grab your Bible and check out Pro. 5:15-23.
Are we really talking about water? Most of us do not store drinking water, but back in Solomon’s day, water was a precious commodity because the area was so dry. People would collect rainwater in underground reservoirs so they would have water available during the dry summer months. You can travel to Israel today and see many cisterns still standing. Wells were different than cisterns and were equally important. Gen. 26 and 29 shares stories about the value of wells. Wells often had stones placed over the top of it to prevent unauthorized use. Isaac’s son Jacob first saw his future wife at a well. Solomon is not talking about water. He’s continuing his warning about fidelity in relationships. He’s talking about purity prior to marriage and faithfulness after marriage.“Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well.” This is a continuation of the warnings from the previous passage. Don’t take what isn’t yours. You can apply this to numerous things, but he’s talking about marital relations. The cistern and the well are metaphors for a wife. A man should have sexual relations with his wife and only his wife. Intimacy is reserved for marriage. Everyone would be wise to follow this seemingly obvious instruction. Think of the world wide implications of abstaining from sex prior to marriage and then remaining monogamous after marriage. If she’s not meeting your needs, demonstrate sacrificial, unconditional love for her. If the man is not a follower of Christ, Peter says it this way ladies, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” (1 Pet. 3:1-2) The cistern and the well represent a source of water to quench thirst. The wife is designed to quench the desire for intimacy. That metaphor seems pretty clear, but then the water gets muddy.
Let’s try and clear up the muddy waters. So far, Solomon has been giving instructions to his son so that the son will, “receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice, and equity” that was stated way back in 1:3. The theme that began at the beginning of chapter 5 continues here, but I wish it were clearer. There is an exclusivity that is expected in marriage and that continues here with vs. 16-17. Some have made the argument that these verses are talking about prostitution, but we can’t be sure. What is certain is that a man’s sexual desire is reserved for his wife and only his wife. All energy must be directed within the boundaries of marriage. Fantasies are not healthy, helpful, or holy. It was Jesus that raised the standard of holiness from the physical act of adultery to the thought of it. Matt. 5:27-28 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Lust is defined as an unhealthy craving or desire. Men, if this is how your life is characterized, it’s sin.
Verse 18 contains a subtle principle I don’t want you to miss. Notice the phrase, “wife of your youth.” This gives us the idea that the one that married when you were young is still your wife now that you’re old. I love the fact that I’ve been married for over 28 years, but it’s by the grace of God that we have remained married. I can tell you the secret of our marriage is not that I’m a great guy, or Kari is a great girl. It is only because of God working in us and our desire to please Him that we have stuck it out. I can honestly say that we have a great marriage, but it is not without issues. We disagree; we can be short with one another. The only formula I can offer is to become the man or woman God expects you to be as He transforms you continually into the image of Christ. V. 19 contains some very graphic language and I want to focus on that last phrase. “Be exhilarated always with her love.” Exhilarated literally means intoxicated or make very happy. Men, be head over heels, crazy in love with your wife. Solomon is really a romantic guy. Listen to what he said in Song of Solomon 4:9, “You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; you have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes.” There is an excitement in marriage that cannot be sustained in any other relationship between two people. Notice that Solomon uses the word, “always” and since, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16) we need to pay attention. Marital sexuality is a wonderful gift for mutual enjoyment between a husband and a wife.
Notice the rhetorical question in v. 20. Why would anyone choose to throw away the blessing of a wonderful marriage? Maybe you’re thinking, my marriage isn’t so great. Are you faithfully and sacrificially loving your wife or your husband? Consider Paul’s definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind and not jealous; love does not brag, and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails!” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a) I’ve fallen out of love some would say. You have likely heard it said that love is a choice and not a feeling. Choose to love and allow the Lord to transform that cold, stony heart.
Here are some sobering thoughts. In v. 21 Solomon says, “For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord and He watches all his paths.” Solomon is still talking about marital fidelity. What happens between consenting adults is still visible to God. This isn’t some sort of biblical threat, it is a reality. David asked the rhetorical question, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” (Ps. 139:7) The answer is absolutely no where. And why would anyone want to flee from the Lord’s presence? That’s the better question. You can pretend it’s your little secret. You can convince yourself that no one knows what’s going on and that no one will get hurt. God is watching, but not in the way some in ministry have led you to believe. If you’re not a believer, God’s aim is not to punish you, but to draw you into an authentic, passionate relationship with Him. If you are a believer, God wants you to follow the straight path that demonstrates the power of God. The one that fails to heed these warnings finds himself in a terrible predicament. Check out the final thoughts in this passage in vs. 22-23.
Folly means foolishness and astray means wander. Wow. The immoral man has no one to blame but himself. Don’t ignore the instructions of Scripture. Following the instructions will save time, money, and energy and you’ll end up with the product that you’re supposed to have. Think of all the heartache you’ve experienced just because you didn’t follow instructions. Don’t do that in life.