Proverbs 7 tells a story of a young man who gives in to desire and pleasure only to give up his soul—a fairy tale gone wrong.It begins when a young man, naïve and foolish, not unlike the students of the author, goes out in the middle of the night, possibly looking for love in all the wrong places. And he encounters the archetypal seductress.
Pause. We need to note here that this does not present woman as the consummate seductress, nor does it assuage the man’s guilt and blame the woman. It’s a story with stock fairy-tale figures, not so different from the characters in Hallmark movies, used to teach men and women about the nature of misplaced desire.
Enter the woman, married, lonely, who knows where her husband has gone or how he’s amusing himself, and she wants to fill the void. She’s conniving and crafty, and she doesn’t care about God’s order. She lies in wait like a predator.
They meet. She’s been waiting just for him, she tells him. She’s prepared a feast of a bed for him with perfumes and comfortable sheets. She’s spared no expense. He’s the apple of her eye come at just the right time. And he follows her.
Not like a king being led to pleasure, as she would have him believe, but as an animal ensnared and led to its death.
Here’s what the narrator shares in the dénouement: the young man is not special after all. Instead of winning pleasure and his heart’s desire, he loses an epic battle and finds death.
Throughout the first nine chapters of Proverbs, the author portrays Wisdom and Folly as two women: the virtuous woman who creates a loving, nourishing home and the adulterous woman who offers pleasure but can give only death. This story in chapter seven comments on the nature of Folly while, simultaneously, teaching on a literal level about sexual desire. How we think of our bodies manifests in how wisdom and folly play out in our physical lives. How we treat our bodies gets to the heart of who God created us to be. He made us to be in intimate relationships, and this is modeled and fulfilled in marriage. A betrayal of the marriage bed is a betrayal of the deepest kind, a betrayal of the most intimate relationship. A casualty of misplaced desire.
Despite what our culture teaches—that we should follow our hearts and that these desires are always good—that path often ends in loneliness and pain. It leads to death in relationships and emptiness within. The Bible gives us a better way, a way of life and nourishment and the true fulfillment of desire and pleasure. Wisdom respects God’s created order and conquers temporary instincts and feelings in order to give them their proper place. Just as understanding the sonata form can help you hear Mozart on a deeper level, living out God’s order in the sexual realm opens up deeper levels of seeing the beauty of God’s order in other places.
Remember, living wisely means choosing God’s path now wherever you’ve been and wherever you are. While we can’t change the past, we can choose this path no matter our backgrounds. Jesus’ redemptive work gives us a fresh start. We can choose to live within God’s bounds today and still experience the beauty of His music.