Image: “The White Shirt (Man and Wife)” by Edward Knippers from Revealed: A Biblestory Book for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard
Proverbs 5:15-23 [NLT]
15 Drink water from your own well—
share your love only with your wife.
16 Why spill the water of your springs in the streets,
having sex with just anyone?
17 You should reserve it for yourselves.
Never share it with strangers.
18 Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you.
Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19 She is a loving deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts satisfy you always.
May you always be captivated by her love.
20 Why be captivated, my son, by an immoral woman,
or fondle the breasts of a promiscuous woman?
21 For the Lord sees clearly what a man does,
examining every path he takes.
22 An evil man is held captive by his own sins;
they are ropes that catch and hold him.
23 He will die for lack of self-control;
he will be lost because of his great foolishness.
Dear God, can it be ironic to me that Solomon wrote this (I assume Solomon wrote it)? With his hundreds of wives and concubines, did he know what he was missing and wished it wasn’t too late for him? Did he wish for something simpler and more pure?
It feels like I could go in a lot of different directions with this passage and image this morning. There’s promiscuity before marriage. Of course, the obvious is adultery. But then there is prostitution and sex trafficking (including minors) and also pornography (the gateway drug for it all–not that all of this didn’t happen before pornography existed).
Verses 22 and 23 are a great crux of this whole passage for me: “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 great foolishness.”
Before I get too judgmental towards others, let me first, once again, apologize to you for the ways in which I have failed you sexually. You know that, since I was a teen, there have been times when I’ve failed in this area when it comes to pornography. Nearly 30 years ago, in one of my first deep conversations with my wife (then girlfriend), I told her that I had struggled with that. Satan’s power is in the secret and I didn’t want it to be a secret. I didn’t want to pretend to be some puritan that I’m not. Even now, the image that accompanies this passage that I put above could be considered pornographic in a way. But when reading the context it becomes not dirty and what sex is supposed to be.
I heard one time that almost no one hears about sex for the first time in a healthy way. Maybe not everyone, but almost everyone’s first exposure to sex is unbiblical. It might be bad information from another kid on the playground or from an older sibling. It might be porn. It might be a TV show that depicts a negative sex act or reference to sex.
When our children were small, I would screen movies for them not based on language or even violence, but I found myself being very sensitive to how it depicted sex. As a friend of mine once said, “We only get our innocence once.” I wanted them to keep their innocence as long as possible. My wife and I even went to the Christian bookstore when our oldest was about five years old and looked for a book that would be age-appropriate for us to talk about with our son. I don’t know if we did the right thing or not, but we were doing our best to make his FIRST exposure to sex to be what you intend sex to be.
So now, on to what I think the artist is trying to communicate to me in this picture.
- First, he has “man and wife” in the title, so we are given a frame of reference. This is what you intended.
- It looks like there is an air conditioning unit at the top of the wall. If that’s what it is, then it’s a fairly modern portrayal.
- There are two people, with the woman on the bed and the man standing. What I notice about the woman is that she appears to be on her elbows. She isn’t just lying there waiting for it to happen. She seems to be anticipating it.
- The husband is standing and taking off his shirt (apparently last). They aren’t in the throws of passion, lying in bed and ripping each other’s clothes off. This is a marriage. This is something they’ve done before. This is an experience for both of them.
In the little blurb on the bottom left side of the picture, Bustard quotes from Tim Keller’s piece, The Gospel and Sex.
The Bible is full of covenant renewal ceremonies….The ultimate covenant renewal ceremony is the Lord’s Supper. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper renews the covenant made at baptism; through the breaking of bread and the pouring out of wine it reenacts the selfless sacrifice of Jesus to us….In the same way, marriage is a covenant, one that creates a place of security for vulnerability. But though covenant is necessary for sex, sex is also necessary for covenant. The covenant will grow stale unless we continually revisit and reenact it. Sex is a covenant renewal ceremony for marriage, the physical reenactment of the inseparable oneness in all other areas–economic, legal, personal, psychological–created by the marriage covenant. Sex renews and revitalizes the marriage covenant.
Father, help me to be pure today. Help me to be pure in my thoughts and in my words. Help me to be pure in what I do, and help me to fail to do nothing that you have called me to. Help me to hear your voice and clearly see your path ahead for me. Help me to love my wife the way to which you called me, and help us to live our lives as a couple in the way you need us to. Do it all for your glory and so that your kingdom will come and your will will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
In Jesus’ name I pray,