Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky;
the way of a serpent on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a virgin.
Do you see the hidden pearl in this proverb? In each case, two different but complimentary creations of God become one, moving in a beauty that would not be possible without the other. The fourth example is so profound Agur cannot comprehend it: the way of a man with a virgin. It is a mystery, but the marriage bed is honorable, and magical when it flows within the boundaries God ordained. The sexual relationship within marriage is like a pure flowing river, restoring, renewing, and reviving.
But a river that exceeds its banks brings death, destruction, and despair.
In my own life, when I came to Christ as a young wife, God redeemed both my view of marriage and the marriage bed. I had an unrealistic perspective of marriage, thinking it would be able to meet all of my needs. Though my husband tried so hard, he couldn’t fill up the God-shaped void in my soul. It was so unfair, but I was perpetually angry with Steve for this. That, as well as guilt for sin in my past, lessened my enjoyment of the sexual relationship. I was blind, and my blindness was taking our marriage into a downward spiral.
Then Christ found me and made me His own. I had been carrying a burden of guilt, but didn’t even realize it. Though Steve was the only man I’d ever known (in the biblical sense), we’d been intimate before marriage. I justified that, yet as Romans 2:15 explains, God had written his law on my conscience, so I felt guilty – sometimes accusing myself, other times, excusing myself. But when Christ found me – He first showed me my guilt clearly, and then took it!
I also had blinders on my eyes. In part, I had no idea how desperately I needed God in my life. I had been demanding that God’s gift of marriage fill up the emptiness in my soul – and now I saw that it could never do that – even though I had been blessed with a wonderful husband. Only God could fill up the emptiness in my soul, and when He began to do that, I left Steve off the hook and began to appreciate him anew – not demanding that he be what he was never intended to be.
To my astonishment and to my husband’s delight, both my marriage and my enjoyment in the marriage bed began to change. When I didn’t demand of them what they could not give, they returned to being delightful gifts.
One day at the dentist’s office I picked up Redbook and read an article entitled: Sexual Pleasure: The Surprising Results of 100,000 Women. What was so surprising? I smiled as I read. The women whom the editors thought would enjoy sex the least enjoyed it the most! At the top of their charts were “strongly religious” married women! I could tell from the responses that the “strongly religious” women were primarily born-again Christians. The editors scratched their heads. Weren’t “strongly religious women” prudes? Weren’t the women who had been “freed” from sexual prohibitions supposed to be the ones who would really enjoy sex? Though they didn’t understand, they had the integrity to report the results accurately.
When I got home, a letter to the editor flowed out of my heart:
I am thankful for this survey, for it shatters the notion that strongly religious women don’t really enjoy sex. In fact, it shows that the reverse is true. I’d like to offer a few points of explanation for this:
- A woman who has a close relationship with God has experienced healing forgiveness for anything in her past. A woman who hasn’t drawn near to God may, without realizing it, be carrying guilt. This is bound to affect adversely her sexual relationship.
- A woman who has a close relationship with God has experienced a peace in Him that’s going to affect every aspect of her personal life. A woman who is far from God has an emptiness that cannot be filled with anything but God. She imagines and hopes other things will fulfill her, but they won’t.
- A woman who is reading her Bible realizes sex within marriage to be good and pleasurable. Proverbs 5:18–19 tells husbands to “rejoice in the wife of your youth . . . let her breasts satisfy you at all times, and be thou ravished always with her love.”
Akron, Ohio (Redbook, Dec. 1975)
My sister called me from Utah: “I can’t believe my little sister is writing about sex in Redbook.” A neighbor stopped mowing his lawn and crossed the street to tell me he’d liked my letter. Acquaintances stopped me in the grocery store to remark on my letter with a smile. It was a bit awkward, yet I thought, Yes – He changes every aspect of our lives – and He created sex, so of course, He wants us to enjoy it. Indeed, the Creator of sex knows what will bless it and what will spoil it. Like a pure river, the sexual relationship renews and replenishes when it stays within the boundaries God ordained. This is why God tells a husband and wife to enjoy the marriage bed and to not deny one another. When we give ourselves to one another within the safety of the marriage bed, our bond is renewed. The gift of sex does what the Maker of it purposed for it, in part, to do.
And in a mysterious way, as Ephesians 5:32 tells us, this oneness that occurs in the marriage bed portrays a much deeper picture. It is a picture of the unity God longs to have with us spiritually and emotionally.Likewise, when sex is used outside of the boundaries God ordained, it brings death and destruction, like the raging river that floods over its boundaries. God uses the picture of adultery to portray sin, to show throughout the prophets that sin is not breaking a rule, but breaking His heart. It hurts not only Him, but it ravages our relationship with Him, in the same way that unfaithfulness ravages a marriage.
I realize this may be a hard week for singles — but next week we will see how this all points to Christ, so please do this foundational part. You haven’t missed the best — the best is yet to come.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study
There are so many passages we could look at for the marriage bed is important to God. He says it is wrong to forbid marriage, and it is wrong for couples to forbid one another, but to give freely and generously within the boundaries He ordained. Often when I would not feel “in the mood,” but wanted to obey the command not to forbid, God changed my heart, my mood, and His mighty power washed over us, cleansing, re-energizing, and renewing our covenant.
In reading through Leviticus recently, when I came to Leviticus 18, he gives so many commands not to let the river flow outside the boundaries. I thought, Why couldn’t you just say keep sex between one man and one woman in holy matrimony for life? But I realized, our hearts are so deceitful, He needs to spell it out, don’t uncover (a euphemism for sexual relations) your father, or your mother, or your father’s wife, or your sister or your mother’s daughter…on and on — because our hearts are so deceitful, we can justify sin.
The passage we are looking at this week is an important one, so we will stay here so that you can look carefully and not feel overwhelmed. I like it in part because it contains both the negative and the positive admonitions on sex.
2. Read Proverbs 5
A. What is deceitful about a “forbidden” woman? (vs. 3-6)
B. What are some forms of deceitful sex, or sex that exceeds the boundaries God ordained?
C. What instruction is given to the young man in verses 7-8? How could you apply this?
D. What reasons are given for keeping the river in the boundaries in verses 9-17? Find at least six.
E. What command is given in verses 18-20? What comments do you have on this?
F. What closing comments are in verses 20-23?
3. Summarize and comment on how the following passages apply to you.
A. Hebrews 13:4
B. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5
C. Challenge: Proverbs 30:18-20.
4. If you are single, how do you talk to your soul so you can remain celibate?
5. Tim Keller often says Christians should be stingy with their bodies (except in marriage) and generous with their money — a reverse to the world. How are you doing?
Thursday-Friday: Keller Sermon (You may already have it — otherwise it is 2.50)
6. What are your notes and comments?
7. What is your take-a-way and why?