This week as I've studied for our second sermon on the seventh commandment, I ran across this account: William Bennet, an author and former senior official to President Reagan and George H.W. Bush once attended a wedding in which the bride and groom vowed to remain together, “as long as love shall last.” Bennet said this – "I sent paper plates as my wedding gift." (From The Proverbs Driven Life by Anthony Selvaggio).
Today the divorce rate is still going strong, and many are preparing for divorce through no fault divorce and prenuptial agreements. Sexual infidelity is shockingly high among married couples, with more and more average couples saying that they have or would engage in extramarital sex if they had the opportunity. Sadly Premarital sex is hardly even a question among many teens.
In contrast to all this Proverbs tells us by way of appeal, by command, and by vivid example a simple message: run from sexual sin with all your might. Put sexual intimacy in the place where God has promised the blessing to be found – within the protection of God-honoring marriage. Proverbs deals extensively with this subject. Here are just a few places:
Prov. 1 –embrace wisdom
Prov. 2 – Seek wisdom: it will keep you from sexual sin
Prov. 5 – Drink water from your own cistern, rejoice in the wife of your youth
Prov. 6 – The one who commits adultery destroys himself
Prov. 7 – The case study of a man who lumbers like an ox into adultery
Why is this here so much about sexuality found in Proverbs? Remember, this is Solomon. This is the man who had so many women in his bed he could have had sex every night for more than two years straight and not been with the same woman. That’s a frightening thought. Perhaps the only thing more frightening would be trying to keep all those women happy! Solomon learned the damage of sexual sin at great personal cost.
But there is a larger reason for the Bible's teaching on sexuality: Sex is one of God's greatest gifts. He devoted an entire book of the Bible to the fundamental "goodness" of properly sanctified sexuality (Song of Solomon). God designed you as a sexual being to enjoy this gift in its proper sphere. He is a good God who loves to give good gifts to His children! (By the way, that doesn't mean that sex is perfect even in the context of marriage. Because of the effects of the fall there will always be some struggles and difficulties, but that is a topic for another article).
The witness of the Bible seems to reveal that God has even a larger purpose for sexuality mainly because He has a larger purpose for ordaining marriage in the first place. The late Edmund Clowney put it this way:
"God did not fish around for some image to use to show his people what His love is like, and then stumble on marriage as the best one to convince them to return to Him in covenant devotion. He did not recognize the power of married love and determine to use sexuality as the strongest figure. No. God planned it the other way around. The Lord placed in us at creation deep sexual emotions so that we might understand the jealousy of His love for us and the joy of jealousy in Him... such deep seated jealousy is right and good, evidencing the natural instinct that God has placed in us as human beings to desire 'one true love.' God created that instinct so that we would better understand his faithful love to us." (How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments, by Edmund Clowney)
Do you see Clowney's point? God created marriage, and sexuality in marriage to be a high definition picture of His love for you. Ephesians 5:25-27 may well have this in mind:
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."
It seems that the love, proper marital jealousy and the sexual desires that come with marriage were created in us by God to help us understand His love for us. Don't shy away from this because it seems odd to relate sexual desire to God's love for us! The point is not that God's love for His people is sexual in nature. No, rather the point is that God wants us to know what it means to be deeply and wholly devoted to someone so we might better understand what it means for the church to be His bride. When Paul says "husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church, he invites us to see Jesus as a model for our marital love. But He also wants us to experience deep desire for and devotion to another person so that we might better understand His love for us and our calling to love Him in return. God has given us a desire for "one true love." And He is the only one who can perfectly fulfill that desire!
As we continue to think about sexuality in our sermons, let's never think that this is just about sex. God wants us to see His jealous, holy and perfect love for us, and He's given us concrete pictures (such as marriage and sexuality) to help us better understand the profound mystery of how Christ relates to us, His people.