I’ve really enjoyed looking at the family the past few weeks. If you’re just joining us, we’ve been searching the Bible to see what it says on a number of the issues we face in our families – issues like singleness, parenting, and marriage. We’re coming to the end of our series on the family. Today I want to look at a subject that is PG-rated – the subject of passion and sexuality. It’s not only an important part of marriage; it’s an important part of who we are.
If you have a Bible with you, we’ll be looking at Proverbs 5 today. It’s found on page 722 of your pew Bibles. The entire purpose of the book of Proverbs is to give us wisdom and instruction for life. It’s to help us learn how to live skillfully. The authors of this book have applied themselves in observing and reflecting on how we can live life skillfully. The book of Proverbs is almost like a how-to book, except it’s not as much concerned with changing our methods as changing our character. Proverbs touches on many of the issues that are close to where we live. One of them is sex.
If you’ve read the Bible for any length of time, you know that the Bible is never shy about sex. One of the books in the Bible is a passionate story of love and passion between a man and a woman. A whole book! Some people are so uncomfortable with reading this book that they call it an allegory of Christ’s love for the church. It isn’t. It’s a beautiful picture of romance between a man and a woman.
There are lots of stories in the Bible with seductive overtones. The story of Ruth includes an account of Ruth coming to a man in the middle of the night, uncovering his feet, and lying down beside him for the night. I don’t think anything improper happened – but I think that there were sparks flying! You can read story after story about passion and love in the Bible. You can be both spiritual and sexual at the same time. A strong faith and a strong sex drive aren’t incompatible. You can be a Christian and sexually alive and passionate. That’s why I want to look at Proverbs 5 today.
A University of Nebraska freshman was asked by the chaplain if his church had any influence on his view of sexuality. He said, “Are you kidding? People in my church don’t believe in sex.” We live in a sexually confused culture in which, and it seems sometimes like the church is the only place that isn’t talking about sex. Sex is part of who we are. It’s something to be celebrated and enjoyed as a gift from God.
Let’s look at the heart of the Proverbs 5 passage, and then we’ll back up and look at how we can experience what Solomon describes. Proverbs 5:15-20 says:
Drink water from your own well—share your love only with your wife. Why spill the water of your springs in public, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Don’t share it with strangers.
Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving doe, a graceful deer. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, with an immoral woman, or embrace the breasts of an adulterous woman?
You and I may feel a little nervous reading this passage in public. It may seem too intimate, or even somewhat hurtful to you. Because a male wrote these words, he focuses on the female body, but I think we can say that these verses go both ways. They’re for men and for women. It’s not written as an objectification of women as much as a celebration of a man’s love for is wife. Let’s dig a little deeper to try to figure out what Solomon’s words mean for us today.
Three years ago, I traveled to Israel. I had no idea before I went how much of Israel is dessert. I always thought of Israel as the land of milk and honey. It’s also the land of dust and scorching heat. There were a lot of days that we drank a lot of water and ran back to our air-conditioned coach. You can imagine how valuable wells were thousands of years ago.
When this passage was written, a well was a family’s most important possession. It was essential for life. It was a crime to steal water from somebody else’s well. Solomon uses the image of a well to picture a wife – one that would have been very appropriate in that culture. The Song of Songs 4:15 says, “You are a garden fountain, a well of living water, as refreshing as the streams from the Lebanon mountains.” A good sexual relationship satisfies desires. That’s why Solomon says, “Drink water from your own well—share your love only with your wife.” Passion is good! The Bible talks about passion being something that satisfies desires, like a good cup of water satisfies thirst. It’s something that’s valuable; something that’s to be celebrated.
This may or not be your reality, but it’s the ideal. God wants your sexuality to be a source of blessing to you. He’s given it as a gift for your pleasure and your enjoyment.
Solomon goes on in verses 18-19. “Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you.” The idea of blessing is that it’s something that God himself blesses for you. It’s a God-given gift. I wonder if we’ve ever stopped to ask God’s blessing on our sex lives. We should! Having it blessed means that God will make it fruitful – that it will be everything that God intended it to be. That’s not a bad way to pray – that the sexual component of your relationship will be everything that God intends it to be.
One poll has shown that married Christian women enjoy a vibrant and vigorous sex life that registers higher levels of satisfaction than among non-Christians. That’s what happens when God blesses our sex lives.
“Rejoice in the wife of your youth.” There’s something to be said about a relationship that has stood the test of time – one that has seen the ups and downs and the highs and the lows. When you’ve spent many years together, and you’ve experienced the joy and the contentment of a divinely blessed, monogamous relationship, from years ago until now – that’s something to celebrate. Our culture celebrates youth. I believe the people who are enjoying the strongest relationships aren’t the young. They’re those who have built a relationship over years that has stood the test of time.
These verses are sensual. They speak of the type of physical relationship that couples are to enjoy. Then, verse 19 concludes: “May you always be captivated by her love.” The word for captivated comes from a word that means to swerve, to meander, to reel – almost like you’re intoxicated. It’s the stagger that expresses the ecstatic joy of a captivated lover. It means that you should be intoxicated with the love relationship that you have with your husband or wife. You can’t read this passage without getting the very strong idea that this isn’t a side issue in life. It’s not something that’s disconnected from who you are. Your passion is something to revel in. It’s something that should satisfy and intoxicate you. It’s a gift from God to be enjoyed.
Some theologians used to teach that the Holy Spirit leaves the room when a couple engages in sexual intercourse. One man, named Yves of Chartres counseled the godly to abstain from sexual intercourse on Thursdays to remember Christ’s rapture, on Friday’s in remembrance of his crucifixion, on Saturdays in honor of the Virgin Mary, on Sundays in commemoration of the Resurrection, and on Mondays out of respect for departed souls. We usually think of the Puritans as being uptight about sex, but they did a lot better than others have in church history. One Puritan encouraged sexual intercourse “to lighten and ease the cares and sadness of household affairs, or to endear each other.”
Throughout history, the church hasn’t always led the charge in celebrating sexuality as the Bible does. The Bible teaches that sex is a gift to be enjoyed, to be celebrated.
Two Ohio State University psychologists have concluded that sex is one of the most important of the fifteen universal fundamental behaviors that drive human behavior. They’re right. God has made us that way. Other studies have shown that sexual activity is good for you. One study has shown that men who had the most sex have a fifty percent lower mortality rate than those who don’t. As somebody has said, “Would you expect that a gift from God would be other than good for us?” (Leonard Sweet)
Sanskrit-based languages have ninety-six words for love. Persian has eighty. Greek has three. English has one. It’s time to develop a fuller understanding of love in which passion is part of the equation.
What God has created is part of all of us. We are all sexual beings. We have the privilege of enjoying something that’s been designed by the one we serve – by God himself. We have the joy of celebrating one of his good gifts to us.
No matter who you are today, I’d challenge you to elevate your understanding of the sexual area of your life as a gift from God, given for intimacy and enjoyment. God could have chosen procreation to take place in any number of ways. He chose it in a way that would bring pleasure and intimacy to us. He’s given us this as a gift to be celebrated and enjoyed.
This is true of all of us no matter what our marital status is. We are all sexual beings. God has put protections around our sexuality, such as reserving it for the marriage relationship – but we’re all sexual persons, created in the image of God as male and female. We need to celebrate our sexuality within the protections and guidelines that God has given us.
It may be hard for some of us who are married to hear that sex is this kind of blessing, because it hasn’t been in our experience. For those who may have struggled with this for years, it may be painful or even impossible to celebrate this aspect if their lives. We may first need to get the courage to talk about this issue with our spouse, to read a book on sexuality or maybe even go for counseling. There’s no shame in this, because we all experience sexual brokenness in our lives. There’s never any shame in admitting that we need help. It will take some courage, but it’s worth it.
For those of us who are married, another way that we can apply this new understanding is to pray and ask God’s blessing on our sex lives. It’s Biblical. You could pray that this area would be a fountain of blessing for you and your husband, your wife – satisfying, captivating, even intoxicating.
There’s a prayer found in a Jewish book that some people think should be part of the Bible. It’s a prayer that may not be Biblical, but it’s a beautiful picture of how we can pray for the sexual aspect of our marriages. It’s used today in some Amish weddings. It’s set as a newly married couple enters the marriage bed for the first time. They jump out, realizing that they forgot to pray. They then offer this dedicatory prayer basing their relationship on friendship and love – a prayer that we learn from today:
Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors,
And blessed is your name in all generations forever.
Let the heavens and the whole earth bless you forever.
You made Adam, and for him you made your wife Eve
As a helper and support.
From the two of them the human race has sprung.
You said, “It is not good that the man should be alone;
Let us make a helper for him like myself.”
I am now taking this kinswoman of mine,
Not because of lust, but in sincerity.
Grant that she and I may find mercy,
And that we may grow old together.
And they both said, “Amen, Amen.” (Tobit 8:5-8 NRSV)
Sex is a gift from God. It’s something that we should celebrate. There are only two applications from what I want to talk about today, and you already have the first one. Celebrate your sexuality. It’s not dirty. It’s created and blessed by God for your benefit.
…To Be Protected
The other application comes from the rest of Proverbs 5, and chapter 7 as well. Sex is a celebration…but it’s a celebration that needs protection. Our society hasn’t really changed too much. God gave us our sexuality as a gift to be enjoyed. Solomon is very honest about the pressures that can turn us away from enjoying sex the way that God intended. The first part of Proverbs 5 is about a prostitute. Solomon gives some of the results of wasting God’s gift with a prostitute in verses 9-14: a loss of honor, a loss of everything we’ve worked for, and even disease. Verse 14 records what one might say after suffering these results: “I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace.” Solomon is brutally honest about what happens when we don’t protect God’s gift of sex.
Proverbs 7 talks more about an immoral woman, in a series of verses that could be equally applicable to a man who is immoral. Solomon concludes in Proverbs 7:24-27:
Listen to me, my sons, and pay attention to my words. Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her. Don’t wander down her wayward path. For she has been the ruin of many; numerous men have been her victims. Her house is the road to the grave. Her bedroom is the den of death.
The best way that we can protect ourselves against a misuse of sex that will damage us, and even destroy us, is to do what Solomon has already said – to “drink water from your own well – to share your love only with your wife” (Proverbs 5:15). God isn’t trying to spoil our fun. He isn’t telling us to ignore our desires. God knows the damage that comes about when we don’t protect his gift of sex. Sex is so valuable that it needs to be protected, treasured, and nourished within the guidelines that he’s given us, for our own benefit.
We live in a sexually broken world. We live in a day in which people reach puberty earlier and earlier, and yet we’re getting married later and later in life. That’s a recipe for disaster.
I doubt there is anybody here who can’t think of a number of people – perhaps somebody close to you, perhaps even you – who hasn’t been damaged by a misuse of sex. One of God’s greatest gifts has been used by Satan to cause damage in many areas of our lives.
One of the greatest hurts that can be inflicted on an individual is sexual abuse. If we’re sexually abused, we’ve been violated at one of the deepest levels of our lives, and the scars can take so long to heal. The worst part is that we read a passage like the one in Proverbs 5 and we don’t see what sex was created to be. We see what that person has done for us. We may even read some of these passages and see them as a condemnation of what’s happened in our lives, when it’s anything but. God is on the side of those who have been victimized and hurt by others. He doesn’t come to condemn, because it’s not your fault. He comes to bring healing and his grace.
God doesn’t condemn you; we don’t condemn you.
There are more than a few of us who have sexual regrets, that may be primarily about things that we’ve done, images that we’ve seen, thoughts that we’ve cultivated that go far outside of what God intended. The good news about God is that “the pit of grace is as bottomless for sexual behavior as for any other sin” (Leonard Sweet). God is able to forgive our pasts, and to heal our hurts. As I encouraged us to pray earlier that God would bless our sexuality, I would encourage you to pray that God would heal and forgive you – that he would wipe out any mistakes in your past, and that he would fill you with his grace and his healing.
If you’ve failed God in this area, this is what God says in Jeremiah 31:34, “And I will forgive their wickedness and will never again remember their sins.” The reason that we exist as a church is so that we can serve as proof that God can be your healer and forgiver, just as he’s been ours. I’d love nothing more than if you come to God today and let him restore you. We’ve seen the consequence of sin. Jesus came to die for our sins so that we could be forgiven and so that we could experience eternal life. God can heal and forgive.
No matter what your past, you can begin today to begin to protect th e gift of sex. You can enjoy it to the fullest extent within your marriage – but protect yourself from using it apart from God’s guidelines. A little while ago, I came across a list of consequences of not following God’s direction in this area. I copied the list onto my Palm, and it’s there as a reminder to me to protect God’s gift of sex. Here’s what I copied. The writer, Randy Alcorn, says:
Whenever I feel particularly vulnerable to sexual temptation, I find it helpful to review what effects my action could have:
Grieving the Lord who redeemed me.
Dragging His sacred name through the mud.
One day having to look at Jesus, the righteous judge in the face, and give an account of my actions.
Following the footsteps of people whose immorality forfeited their ministries and caused me to shudder.
Losing my wife’s respect and trust.
Hurting my daughters.
Destroying my example and credibility with my children.
Causing shame to my family.
Forming memories and flashbacks that could plague future intimacy with my wife.
Wasting years of ministry training.
Undermining the faithful example and hard work of other Christians in our community.
On and on.
Proverbs 5:21-23 concludes, “For the LORD sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes. An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his incredible folly.”
I want to close today by praying for you in this area of your life. My prayer is that you would experience all of God’s best in this area. My prayer as well is that you would be protected from experiencing the damage that can come when sex doesn’t take place as a gift from God to be celebrated between husband and wife. I invite you to pray along with me.
Father, I thank you for this awesome gift. I thank you that although it’s something we’re shy to talk about sometimes, it’s not something that you were shy about in your Bible. It’s a gift from you. It’s something that can captivate us. We thank you for this gift.
We’ve been damaged, because we haven’t always used this gift the way that you intended. The evil one has taken this good gift from you and has used it for our harm. You are the healer and forgiver. We come to you today with a commitment to honor your Word in this area. We pray for your forgiveness and for your help.
I pray especially for those who have been deeply wounded in this area – who have been hurt or abused by somebody else sexually, who find this as an area of hurt. Would you come alongside them and comfort them, and give them your grace.
For those of us who have never come to Jesus Christ and become his follower, his apprentice, and who have never experienced his grace, we give our lives to you today. Forgive us and give us life. Thank you that Jesus died for us and rose to give us new life.
Thank you for our families. We thank you for all your good gifts, and we ask your blessing upon them. In the name of the one who died to save us, and who rose again to give us new life – in the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.