In Proverbs 7, Solomon unmasks immorality’s deception to help us stand against it. But we won’t be ready to skirmish unless we first lock and load. You can’t win a battle with an empty weapon.
1 My son, keep my words
and treasure up my commandments with you;
2 keep my commandments and live;
keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
3 bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
and call insight your intimate friend,
5 to keep you from the forbidden woman,
from the adulteress with her smooth words. (Prov 7:1-5, ESV)
Observe Key Words
First observe three key words: “keep,” “my,” and “words.”
The word “keep” is repeated 4 times.
The first 3 repetitions are all parallel. Keep my words. Keep my commandments. Keep my teaching. “Treasure up my commandments” is sandwiched in the middle and fits the idea well. We should get the idea that keeping the commandments is not the same thing as obeying the commandments (what we usually mean by “keeping a command”). It has more to do with treasuring, storing, valuing, or guarding.
The one who keeps the commandments is the one who hungrily savours every word and fends off any threat of dilution, forgetfulness, or spin.
Notice now the twist in verse 5. This compulsive hoarding of wisdom (and keeping it close) will keep you from the forbidden woman (that is, from immorality). When you keep (protect) wisdom, wisdom keeps (protects) you. Thus the opposite should come as no surprise: The one caught by immorality is the one who has failed to guard wisdom (the one who lack sense – Prov 7:7).
Observe next how Solomon likewise plays with the word “my,” a pronoun of possession. There’s a reason possession is nine-tenths of the law.
“My son” – you, the audience, are a possession of the one speaking to you.
“My words,” “my commandments,” “my commandments,” “my teaching” – the words of wisdom are a precious possession, but freely available to you.
“Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister'” – keeping the words of wisdom will teach you a thing or two about possession. You’ll learn intimacy from the one who was intimate with you.
“Words” bracket this stanza. The one who keeps Solomon’s words (Prov 7:1) is kept from immorality’s smooth words (Prov 7:5).
For this reason, I write. For this reason, we speak truth to one another. This battle will always be one of words. Which words will rule your heart? Whose promises will you treasure deep within?
Now that we’ve noticed how the key words are used, we can fit the pieces together. This stanza is structured as a chiasm, a pretty common literary device in ancient literature where the second half is a mirror image of the first half. The point is often to draw attention to the center.
A Keep my words – Prov 7:1
B Life-giving commandments become the apple of your eye – Prov 7:2
C Make sure these words fill your heart and are bound on your fingers – Prov 7:3
B’ Intimate insight/wisdom becomes your sister – Prov 7:4
A’ Be kept from immorality’s smooth words – Prov 7:5
The Main Idea
Like an arrow, the passage’s structure points right to verse 3. Something must be written on the tablet of your heart. The words found there will seep out of your fingers into your everyday choices. Solomon already covered this ground in his formula for change in Prov 4:20-27: Wisdom must come in the ears, through the heart, and out the fingertips.
Now he gets specific and applies his formula to the realm of sexual temptation.
If you’re tired of capitulating and want to get in the ring with your sexual sin, your training begins now. You must hear the words of wisdom. You need to get them inside, and you need to keep them there. Guard the commands, memorize the Word, serve the Lord. Your fight doesn’t begin when you’re looking at seedy websites. Your resistance begins long before.
The battle is coming, and your cartridge is empty. You need to fill it with rounds of ammo. Check the safety. Clean the barrel. Let’s lock and load.
But know this, soldier. You’ll still lose this battle if your hope lies in your ability to pack your own ammo. If that’s all you get from this post, you’re doomed.
What you need is a companion. An intimate friend. A sibling (Prov 7:4).
Your hope is in that wisdom which came down from heaven to be your friend. That man of wisdom who called you “Mine” long before you considered him yours. The Word (John 1:1) whose Father can keep you from stumbling and present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy (Jude 1:24-25).
When he unzips you and steps inside, immorality won’t ever stand a chance. It’s no longer a fair fight.