Sunday Services: 9:00am & 10:45am

Sex & The Power Of Pictures

Sex & The Power Of Pictures

Preached by Benjamin Vrbicek

If you are visiting this morning, or new to our church, what we do each week is teach through a portion of the Bible. We believe God has spoken in the Bible and so each week we learn something from his Word. For the last few weeks we have been in a series in a book called Proverbs. It’s a book in what is called the Old Testament, which is a name for the books that come before Jesus.

In the Book of Proverbs, God gives his people guidance for many different aspects of our lives. Last week we looked at passages that teach about friendships. This week, we are talking about sex.

If that makes you uncomfortable, you are not alone. It does me too. And this pillow is up here to remind me to tell you a quick story as we start. Rewind about a decade. My wife and I are engaged and about to get married. It’s the last secession of pre-marital counseling with the pastor that was marring us. We are in his living room, his wife is joining us, and we are talking about sex. And I’m about as uncomfortable as possible. Seriously. There was nothing that anyone was necessarily doing to make me that way, at least intentionally, but I ready to bail.

Just to give you a sense of what I mean, at one point, I looked down at my lap, and I noticed something about the decorative pillow I was holding. I didn’t realize it, but as the conversation when on, I was squeezing it tighter and tighter and tighter, until we were possibly just seconds away from goose feathers flying everywhere across the room.

Sometimes the claim is made that the church, and maybe preaching specifically, is irrelevant to what goes on in the world. I can hardly imagine a topic more relevant. However, my guess is that what God says will make some of you uncomfortable. Some of you will be uncomfortable by what is said negatively. Others, however, will be uncomfortable by what is said positively.

Just know the topic makes me a little uncomfortable as well. I didn’t by 200 pillows for you, if you get uncomfortable, so I suppose you’ll have to make do another way.

If you will, please pray with me, we then we’ll get to work on seeing what the passage, and more importantly, what God has to say about the topic of sex.

Lord…

Introduction

The statistics on pornography are staggering. Just to name one, pornography is the most searched for topic on the internet with 68 million hits a day (the “staggering” quote is a loose quote from Denny Burk, What is the Meaning of Sex?, p. 223; the following statistics I got from his as well; my impression is that statistics from other sources would be comparable.)

Although I cannot be sure, I believe my first exposure to pornography was when I was eight. At the time, we lived in England. We only lived there for a handful of years, but while we were there, one time at the barber shop I stumbled upon a newspaper called The Sun. And on page three, there it was. Nearly twenty-five years later, I can almost make it out in my mind what it looked like.

Pictures have extraordinary power, and I don’t just mean the revealing ones pictures. There is a reason that magazines and newspapers put pictures of all kinds on their front covers; there is a reason advertisers use pictures to sell products. Pictures have tremendous power. We say they are worth a thousand words. And awards are given for the best pictures; they have a category of the Pulitzer Prize for photography. They do that because pictures have the ability to move us; picture call to us; they entice us; they woo us; they tell a story; they have power.

And so it is with Book of Proverbs. Proverbs puts before us pictures—powerful pictures. Now, in Proverbs, since we are talking about written material, the pictures I am speaking about are “word pictures” but they are pictures nonetheless. And they are powerful, especially so because they come from God.

This morning, imagine yourself—imagine us—at a museum or an art gallery. The exhibit you are here to see is named The Book of Proverbs. And, we might say, I’m your tour guide. On this morning’s tour, we’ll only have time to look at two of the pictures, although the full exhibit has many more picture, even pictures on this topic of sex. Both of the pictures we’ll be looking at come directly from Proverbs chapter 5, and we might say that one is a negative picture and the other positive. As we walk by each of them, we’ll pause for a few moments so that I can point out a few things to you about each.


1 My son, be attentive to my wisdom;
incline your ear to my understanding,
2 that you may keep discretion,
and your lips may guard knowledge.
3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,
4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow the path to Sheol;
6 she does not ponder the path of life;
her ways wander, and she does not know it.

7 And now, O sons, listen to me,
and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
8 Keep your way far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house,
9 lest you give your honor to others
and your years to the merciless,
10 lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
11 and at the end of your life you groan,
when your flesh and body are consumed,
12 and you say, “How I hated discipline,
and my heart despised reproof!
13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
or incline my ear to my instructors.
14 I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the assembled congregation.”

That is the first picture. The caption of this picture is “Smooth and sweet poison.” It’s a picture of sex outside of God’s good design; that is, sex outside of the way God intends it to be enjoyed, namely, between one man, one woman, one lifetime, in the covenant of marriage. Which means, that though I’ve talked some about pornography, we are really talking about much more than that.

Let me point out three things about the picture.

1a. From a Dad to a son

First, notice who this picture originates from and who it is intended for. In vv. 1 and 7 read, “My son, be attentive to my wisdom… And now, O sons, listen to me.” From this, we see that it originates from a father and is intended for a son(s).

Perhaps some of you find this ironic. Let me tell you what I mean: recently I was listening an interview with a Christian counselor and expert on this topic, and he said he knows “an overwhelming number of men” for whom it was their father that introduced them to pornography, whether intentionally or unintentionally (“Porn, Pride, and Praise: An Interview with Heath Lambert” on the Authors on the Line podcast, www.desiringgod.org/interviews/porn-pride-and-praise-an-interview-with-heath-lambert-22-minutes). And that’s sad and ironic perhaps because the father here is doing the exact opposite.
What do we see about the father? We can see few things. He is a pleading father and an involved father. This father pleads with the son he loves to turn away from sexual sin. There is love and urgency and compassion in the father’s voice. He wants the best for his boy.

And while this picture is crafted as a father speaking to a son, we should point out that it certainly does not apply only to men. Back in the opening verses of the book, we learn that the whole book is written to young people (v. 4)—both young men and young women. I mention this because the issues of pornography and sexual sin are not simply problems for male issues. There are certainly men’s issues, but they are not only men’s issues. Statics would say that 28% of visitors to pornographic websites are women (Denny Burk, What is the Meaning of Sex?, pg. 223). But often, for women, the outworking is different.

In summary, the first thing to see is that it is a father to a son, Proverbs is speaking to more than just men. Let’s keep moving.

1b. Drinking sexual sin is smooth and sweet

The second thing I want to point out about this picture is that drinking sexual sin is smooth and sweet. In v. 3, the father tells the son,

3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,

And notice the focus on speech. Notice that the temptation, among other places, comes through the woman’s speech, specifically through flattery. It’s nice to be spoke well of. It’s nice to be wanted, to be appreciated, to be noticed and needed.

In chapter 7, which we won’t get to, there is another picture painted of a wayward woman seducing a young man, and she says to him this: “So now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you” (v. 15).

It tastes good to be flattered, especially if you live in a praise-less and appreciative-less vacuum. If your home is without praise and appreciation, it will taste good when a friend of the opposite sex tells you, “Oh, you’re such a good mother. I just love the way you take care of your children.” Or, “You are such a good provider. And when do you get time to stay in such good shape.” Those words are powerful. They taste smooth and sweet. Consider, Jason’s sermons last week on friendship where he noted the verse in Proverbs that says it is an enemy that multiplies kisses (27:6).

I’m going to tell you a story, but you have to promise not to repeat it, and that goes for the thousands, I’m sure, who are listening on the internet as well. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell anything too bad, because I’m the only one who will look bad.

So I’m at the office working for another church. It’s an office like you have: a copier machine, pens, paper, other office supplies. And I’m going to change out the copier paper. There are a few people in the room, so I look behind me before I bend over. All clear, so I bend over an start changing the paper. And then, I hear this woman’s voice behind me. She says, “Are those new jeans?” I’m sure it was said monotone, but of course I heart it in this flattering voice. “Are those new jeans?” And in just a millisecond, you know what thought enters my head? It’s this: “Still got it.”

I know; I’m ridiculous. But I stand up says, “Ahhh yes, actually they are new jeans.” But I’m thinking “you shouldn’t be noticing that.”

To which she says, “Well then, you should take off the sticker.” It wasn’t even the small tag, it was the long strip with the size on it. So I throw it away; try to play it off. “O, I had that there for a reason.”

Here’s the point: flattery is so powerful and we crave it so much, that even when we are not really getting, it we interpret it that way. The father says, Beware of this woman and her words—smooth, sweet, honey-like words.

1c. Drinking sexual sin is expensive

The last thing I want to point out, is that while sexual sin tastes good, it is an expensive drink. It costs you your life. It promises to be smooth and sweet, and it is, but it ends in poison. Look again at vv. 4-5, and then 11-14,


4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow the path to Sheol;


11 and at the end of your life you groan,
when your flesh and body are consumed,
12 and you say, “How I hated discipline,
and my heart despised reproof!
13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
or incline my ear to my instructors.
14 I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the assembled congregation.”

These verses—these pictures—powerfully put before us the agony of not just solitary moments lived in sin, but the agony of a lifetime of disobedience, particularly sexual disobedience—the agony of a lifetime of drinking poison.

I think it’s interesting that the last line says, “I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation”—assembled congregation meaning the gathering of the people of God. So when the father says that a man who lives a lifetime in sexual sin will eventually come to hate his very existence, I think its noteworthy that he is decidedly not talking about some Moabite, or Edomite, or Canaanite, or whatever other foreign nations surrounded Israel. No, he is talking about someone that went to worship with the people of God frequently, hence the phrases, “in the assembled congregation” or “I did not listen to my teachers.” In other words, we might say this the man was a church-goer that let the Word of God go in one ear and out the other for an entire lifetime. Does that sound like Solomon, perhaps?

It’s hard to know exactly what the connection of Solomon (and for that matter, David too) with respect to the final content in this book. There are several contributors mentioned (what does “collected” entail for the men of Hezekiah in 25:1? Consider also, Agur in 30:1, Lemmel in 31:1), but certainly King Solomon is identified (1:1; 10:1; 25:1), and maybe even David is implicated (4:3). I guess what I’m saying is that if you know anything about Solomon’s life, he might have known something about this man that is being described. And surely those who first read the book knew their king(s) was a failure.

This aspect of picture is put before the son for one reason, namely to say, “You don’t want to be like this person. You don’t want to come to the end of your life only to regret your existence. Son, I love you, and God has better for you.”

Perhaps you expect the Bible to say negative things about this topic. “Oh, there goes the Bible again; all worked up about sin.” If you’ll walk with me to the next picture, you’ll see why the Bible is so worked up, namely because sex is a beautiful diamond that is being treated like cheap gravel. And while the next picture in Proverbs is certainly a much warmer, I’m not sure it makes us that much more comfortable. In fact, comparatively between what I just said and what I’m about to say, that was easy. So, walk with me to the next picture.

2. Intended for pleasure

Let’s get the next picture before us so that I can point a few things out about it. Follow along with me as I read from vv. 15-20,


15 Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

As I said at the start, the caption under this picture is “Intended for Pleasure.” I take that title from the title of a famous book written by a Christian doctor on the topic of sex (although it might not be famous to you). It’s the book I was given during my premarital counseling and I still give out today. It’s a good title. God has in fact designed, engineered if you will, sex to be enjoyable. I don’t think he is surprised by the fact that there is pleasure to be had. He’s not like, “Whoa. Wait a second; I didn’t know that was going to happen like that.”

I just want to point out two things about this picture about the language, or what I might call brushstrokes, that is used. First, something about how the language is both provocative, but also positive. Second, that the language of prayer is used.

2a. Positive and provocative language

What I want you to notice about the language used here, if you didn’t already notice, is how positive and provocative language it is. We see this in several places.

First, in vv. 15-18, we see the imagery of “cisterns” and “well” and “springs” and “fountains”—which parallel female and male anatomy. That’s provocative, but the way it’s talked about is certainly positive. And think about how special and valuable a source of water was in the ancient near east. If you have a water source, especially a good one, it is so valuable. The father is saying, “Protect this area of your life because it is not like gravel but diamonds. Not poison, but thirst quenching drink.”

And look at vv. 18-19,


18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.

Be intoxicated. That’s provocative language. Love, cherish, adore, be intoxicated with your wife. Or, if you are a women, then be intoxicated with your husband. Or if your are waiting for that someone, wait with intoxication.

2b. Prayer for divine blessing

As your tour guide, let me point out just one last thing about this picture, and that is the prayer for divine blessing. Notice what it says that in vv. 17 and 18 the word “let” is used (“Let your fountain be blessed… Let her breasts fill you at all times.”). This is the language of prayer. The father is praying that this area of his child’s life would be blessed.

That is exceptional. I think I could see myself patting self on the back after I stumble through an awkward presentation of the ‘birds and bees,’ but how many of you can imagine being this glowing and positive and even praying for diving blessing?

For all the negative imagery for sex in the Bible, this picture tells us something profound about God. Another way to say that, we learn something about the artist from this picture. And what do we learn? That, just like the father, he is rooting for his children. He wants the best for them. That’s why he painted these pictures.

Conclusion

As we close, I want to go back to a phrase I brought up earlier, namely, the phrase “in the assembled congregation” (from v. 14). In that passage we saw a picture of a man who was distraught and in deep agony over his sin, a lifetime of sin.

What I want to point out is this: he was in the right place. The assembled congregation of the people of God is the right place. It is the right place because it is the place where a king’s love was known. I’m not talking about King Solomon or David or any other human king. They had their failures just as you and I do. I’m saying, the King, meaning God.

The Church is the place for people who are broken. You should want to be in the assembled congregation not because being in the assembled congregation saves you or makes you better by itself.

You want to be in the assembled congregation because that’s where story of forgiveness is celebrated and known and received. The church, the assembled congregation is the place where the story of King Jesus’ talked about, and it’s the place where everyone can find hope.

I don’t know much about your life. Perhaps you resonate with this man in the passage. You know something about your brokenness and you wonder if there is hope. I’m saying there is; there is great hope. Jesus was a king that laid aside his crown. Lived among us. Was tempted in every way, but was without sin. He died and rose again victoriously. Now he sits at the right hand of God as the king he truly is. And he extends his royal love to any that would come to him in repentance and faith.

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