The Morning Before a Sexual Fall. How the Battle for Purity Is Lost

Two voices vie for your sexual purity. If you think the battle is just about images and videos, you won’t be ready to fight. This is a war of words.

According to Proverbs 2, whom we listen to — each morning, throughout the day, late at night — will determine whether we give in to temptation or resist with the strength of God. The first voice is the voice of God written in Scripture:

My son, if you receive my words
     and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
     and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
     and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
     and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
     and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1–5)

While some counselors simply say, “Run away from her,” true wisdom says, “Run even harder after God.” How will you be delivered from “the forbidden woman . . . with her smooth words” (Proverbs 2:16)? By surer words. It’s not the only strategy we need for sexual purity, but without this ruthless habit of mind and heart, every other strategy is bound to fail.

The First Voice We Hear

Notice that the wise man doesn’t simply encourage his son to read the Bible, but to listen, search, cry out, and dig.

Listen carefully with your ears (2:2).
Search persistently with your eyes (2:4).
Cry out desperately with your mouth (2:3).
Dig tirelessly with your hands (2:4).
Wrap your heart around these words (2:1–2).

Hearing God’s voice in the Bible requires more from us than other kinds of reading. It requires all of us. Reading the Bible well means engaging every part of you — meditating and praying until God’s words are pleasant to you (Proverbs 2:10). No one is saved from sin and temptation simply by information. We need surgery — words sharp enough to pierce through our dullness, wielded by one wise enough and strong enough to never harm us.

Receive. Treasure. Make your ear attentive. Incline your heart. Seek it like silver. Does engaging God’s word feel that active to you? Reading the Bible is good, but reading alone is not enough to feed and purify our souls. When we give more, expect more, pray more, invest more in our reading, God’s words begin to have their full effect in our hearts and lives by his Spirit.

No Shortcuts to Life Change

If you seek God’s wisdom like silver, “then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:5).

The thens in Scripture are terribly frustrating for fools who want the conclusion without the exertion. The fool wants God to ship him purity because he asked for it. We’re prone to chafe and protest when God promises to give us what we asked for through persistent struggle. It doesn’t feel like a gift if we have to work.

Until we realize our effort is a miracle — something that would have never happened apart from divine intervention. It is supernatural to strive to enjoy God’s word — to listen, search, cry out, dig. And if you seek understanding like silver, “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:5). Not simply knowledge of him like you know driving laws or American history, but knowledge filled with fear and affection — a kind of spiritual, emotional, and relational knowledge. You know him. And you are a different person for having known him.

The Second Voice

If you treasure God’s word, then you will fear and understand, and “so you will be delivered from the forbidden woman” (Proverbs 2:516). There are three distinct steps in Proverbs 2. Don’t miss the sequence: If. Then. So. Bible meditation becomes fearful and affectionate knowledge of God himself, and that kind of knowledge delivers us from sexual sin and temptation.

Bible reading alone will not keep you from sexual sin. You will not know the Lord without really hearing his voice. And you will not find satisfying and durable sexual purity without knowing fearful and joyful communion with God through Scripture. If we try to check the boxes of obedience without trying to know him, we quickly forfeit our ability to consistently and joyfully say no to temptation.

And that temptation is the second most important voice in Proverbs 2.

War of Words

When Proverbs describes the forbidden woman, it calls her “the adulteresswith her smooth words” (Proverbs 2:16; see also 7:5). Later it says, “The lipsof a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil” (Proverbs 5:3). And then again in Proverbs 22:14: “The mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit; he with whom the Lord is angry will fall into it.” Proverbs mentions the forbidden woman five times, and four times it says explicitly how she destroys a man: with words.

No wonder God’s plan for sexual purity begins with listening to what he says. When we delight in his words and meditate on them, we wage war against sweet, smooth, and lethal words. Even in a society dominated by images and video, words remain the battleground for sexual purity. Every illicit image whispers a lie and makes a promise it cannot keep. By listening to the words of God and knowing him with fear and affection, we are prepared to prove that sexual sin’s promises are untrustworthy and therefore unenticing.

God, on the other hand, fulfills every promise and every warning, and he warns us that the forbidden woman’s “house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life” (Proverbs 2:18–19). With the same mouth, he promises through King David, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalms 16:11).

Whose mouth fills your head? In the moments of temptation, two voices vie for your heart. One is smooth, seductive, and destructive; the other is sovereign, reliable, and rewarding. One lures you into bed with death; the other places you firmly and mercifully on the path to life. Let his voice have the ears of your heart — not just in the moment, but in the many moments before temptation comes.

When to Start Reading

Many of us think to open our Bibles the day after falling into sin — almost as a kind of Protestant penance. Having not fought the temptation to sin, we at least try to mitigate the guilt. But Proverbs 2 teaches us to open our Bibles days, weeks, months, even years before temptation comes.

The fight for sexual purity begins with drawing battle lines in God’s word each morning. Proverbs 2 lays out the spiritual map and sequence for our war:

Read the Bible until you love to read and obey the Bible.
Then, you will know and fear God deep in your heart.
So, you will be delivered from “the forbidden woman” — from sexual sin and temptation.

If you give yourself to God’s word before you give in to sin, “wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil” (Proverbs 2:10–12). Sexual sin is most enticing when God’s word has lost its sweetness in our ears. How can we treasure what God says and let our eyes wander?

And unless we listen to it attentively, search it persistently, cry out over it desperately, dig into it tenaciously, and read it relentlessly, the word of God will not be sweet enough to our ears to deliver us from evil. Unless we seek it like silver, we’re bound to fall again.

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated fromBethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have two children and live in Minneapolis.