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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:Drink Water from Your Own Cistern
Text:LD 41 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 7th Commandment (Adultery)

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 119:4,5                                                                                                      

Hy 1

Reading – Proverbs 5; Proverbs 31:10-31

Ps 128:1,2,3

Sermon – Lord’s Day 41

Hy 72:1,4,5

Hy 55:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved, every child of God must be concerned about being holy: set apart from sin, and set apart for God. And that means we need to be very much aware of the temptations that are active in this world around us.

As one example, we’re aware of how sexual temptations are ever-present. Styles of clothing and lyrics of songs, themes in movies and TV shows, images in advertising and more—all of these steal power from God’s good gift of sexuality. Then there’s the pornography always around us, on our computers and on our mobiles. It takes watchfulness and prayer to avoid it, much strength to resist. If you’re looking for this sin, it’s easy to find and simple to access.

I don’t want anyone to let down their guard, so I hesitate to say this: These sexual temptations are nothing new. It’s not a uniquely 21st century problem, but this has always been an area where God’s people need to be watchful. No, don’t let down your guard, because sexual sin has always had an ability to destroy a person, to ruin your life and your faith.

Consider Proverbs. In the ancient wisdom of this book, God reserves special attention for matters that are related to the seventh commandment. All of chapter 5 is about the perils of adultery. Part of chapter 6 is about it, and all of chapter 7. Then there are many other proverbs about the seventh commandment from a more positive point of view. I haven’t done a verse count, but I expect that Proverbs says more about this subject than about any other.

This was a vital thing for Solomon’s son to know about. So before he explains the dangers of adultery, he begins chapter 5 with that renewed call for diligence: “My son, pay attention to my wisdom; lend your ear to my understanding” (v 1). “Know this,” he’s saying, “when it comes to this sin, your own strength and self-discipline are powerless to save you. Firmly established wisdom is the only safeguard. Only the fear of God can help you stay pure.”

There are serious warnings here, but it’s not all bad. This commandment doesn’t only sound the alarm. In this sermon we’ll also consider the LORD’s encouragements and blessings, so that we might walk in the joy and safety of his ways. Let’s look at the seventh commandment in Lord’s Day 41 under this theme,

“Drink water from your own cistern:”

  1. the poison of adultery
  2. the refreshment of marriage


1) the poison of adultery: If temptation was unpleasant and sin didn’t offer us something nice, few of us would fall for it. Satan would have failed in tempting Eve if the forbidden fruit hadn’t been “pleasing to the eyes, and desirable” (Gen 3:6). But it was, and she fell. Ever since then, we continue in the same path—we choose what feels right, and follow what promises us lots of pleasure.

Well-put is Solomon’s warning: “The lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil” (5:3). When we hear the voice of temptation, to us it sounds like it’s going to be good. There’s a slickness to that invitation, and it’s enticing. Just the right image can make us click on it. Just the right words can make us go too far in our relationships. Simply a passing suggestion can make our mind to wander. And together with these temptations—any temptation—goes the spirit of this world, which tells us we’re allowed to give in to our passions and desires. It’s our life, after all. It’s about what makes us happy.

But it’s poison. Solomon confronts us with that truth almost right away. A tempter’s words are like honey, “But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword” (5:4-5). Wormwood is a plant that grows in the desert, and is especially bitter to the taste—as someone put it, “it makes your tongue shrivel inside your mouth.” This is what sin is like: sweet on the lips, but with an aftertaste that is most vile.

And it’s more than just a passing regret or a minor setback. Adultery can have results that are fatal. Solomon describes where it can lead: “Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of hell” (5:5). We know that this is true of every sin, how sin can bring us to a place where repentance becomes almost impossible. But the LORD has a special word of warning for this kind of transgression: “Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (5:8). Keep away from it, God says. Recoil from its touch. Ignore every invitation to adultery, as nice as they sound, as enticing as they look. To put ourselves in the reach of this temptation is to place ourselves right on the edge of God’s preservation—such is the power this sin has. So we have to avoid it, says the Catechism: “gestures, words, thoughts, desires…” even “whatever may entice us to unchastity” (Q&A 109).

Let’s take a closer look at the devil’s tempting tactics. For this we turn to Proverbs 7. The heading over this chapter in my Bible at home is “The Crafty Harlot.” We might say “The Sneaky Prostitute,” or “The Devious Pornstar.”

 Here Solomon describes how an adulterous woman will try to snare a foolish man. Solomon looks out the window, and sees “a young man devoid of understanding” (7:7). That’s the first problem. Temptation often works on us, whether male or female, not just because Satan is so tricky, but because we are so foolish. What do I mean? We overestimate our own strength to say no. Or we don’t know the enemy that we’re up against.

Consider this simple young man, “passing along the street near her corner, in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night” (7:8-9). See how he’s heading straight into the ambush, and at the worst possible time! Did he know that temptation was prowling there? Did he realize that the prostitute was just around the corner?

Beloved, what do you think? Do you just stumble upon sin, unexpectedly? Come upon it, like a coin dropped on the sidewalk? Sometimes. But more often, our radar detects it from a distance. We pick up the little hints and invitations, so we know where it is, and how to find it. And if we’re not resisting in the power of the Spirit, we’ll go towards it. Like that foolish young man in Proverbs, we go towards sin preferably under the cover of secrecy, or in the hidden place of our thoughts, or when no one is around to see. We go towards it, because without God’s help our hearts are always drawn to sin.

And do you think that you can easily escape, or approach sin without being affected? Consider chapter 6, where Solomon is still talking about adultery. He asks in verses 27-28, “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?” Of course not. Temptation acts powerfully on a willing heart; it’s like throwing petrol onto a fire. Sin is always ready to flare up, so if we put fuel onto sin with what we look at, or what we joke about with our friends, it’s only going to burn stronger.

When we fall into sin, we can try blame the world, or the power of technology, or even the influence of other people. But James says, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (1:14). Sin always starts in the heart, when we foster wrong desires or nurture evil thoughts. And when Satan sees that we’ve got some weakness, when we’ve let down our guard, he’ll attack.

Solomon describes what happens to the foolish man, drifting toward temptation: “There a woman met him, with the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart” (7:10). It’s a frontal assault! With her clothing and words and actions, she tries to snare him: “She caught him and kissed him” (v 13). There can be a directness and boldness to this kind of temptation—a winking eye, a flash of skin—and if we’re not standing firm, we’re in danger of falling.

The temptations we face are often very similar to those that unbelievers face. But Satan sometimes has to be more deceptive to get us on board. Listen to the bizarre thing the adulteress says, “I have peace offerings with me; today I have paid my vows” (7:14). She says that she’s done what God’s law requires, so she is free to sin. It sounds strange, yet it works still today. Don’t we sometimes excuse our sin by saying that, for the most part, we’re good Christians? “I’ve been baptized. I still attend church on Sunday. I make my contributions—so what does it matter if I do a little indulging in sin from time to time?”

And as we said, Satan can make this sin very easy. Completely private, and without demands. He can even make temptation so that there’ll be no consequence for us, and no danger. As that woman persuades, “My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey” (7:19). Sometimes that’s the only thing holding us back: the consequences, or the possibility that someone might find out. So Satan puts us at ease: “No one has to know. And the guilt won’t last. What you do here will never come back to you.” We like that: sin, without cost, without consequence. All you have to do is erase your browsing history, or agree beforehand that you’ll keep it secret. We can have a side to our life that is completely private, and completely godless.

So what happens to our young friend in Proverbs 7? He gives in. After that convincing sales pitch, he can’t say no. Solomon sees it unfold: “Immediately he went after her…” (7:22). He wanted instant gratification. And that’s still what we seek: we don’t want to wait, we want our pleasures now.

But notice how Solomon puts it. He says the young man “went after her like an ox going to the slaughter” (v 22). Like a fish that you bash on the head. For temptation is never just a game. It’s not catch-and-release. It is a matter of life and death! “Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death” (v 27).

The greatest deceit that the devil tells, the worst lie, is that this sin—or that any sin—is harmless. He says that the immediate enjoyment is worth it, and in the end it doesn’t really matter. Yet he’s lying! When he invites us to sin, Satan is not seeking our good or benefit. He’s not concerned about any regrets we might have later, or any consequence to our life or our faith, even if they’re terrible. He just wants us to disobey God our Maker and Saviour.

So we need the reality check offered in chapter 5; “Don’t throw away your holiness by giving in to this temptation,” the Spirit says. “Don’t give up your strength or wealth in pursuing sexual immorality. Don’t let this sin consume the years of your life—because if you’re not careful, it will consume you.”

Beloved, we have to know that the consequences are grave. This sin has a fearful power. It can destroy your peace with God. It can cause marriages to crumble, and families to disintegrate. Adultery can have an absolutely enslaving affect; as Solomon says, “His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin” (5:22). Repetition forms a habit, and the habit becomes the rule, until we can hardly break free. Scripture gives this needed warning, and the Father repeatedly tells us that taking the road of sin can lead to only one place. Unless we turn away from it in true repentance, then we need to know that it’s going to kill us forever.

So if we want to avoid it, what’s the key factor in this sin, and every sin? It begins with us, we said, and with our lack of true wisdom. Listen to the sinner’s lament in 5:12, “How I have hated instruction, and my heart despised correction!” That’s when it all started to go off the rails, when he ignored the good instruction of God’s Word. Without wisdom, we’re lost. If we’re not living each day in the fear of God, we will not stand.

But in that same passage we are also pointed to our one sure hope. God tells us that the wise life, the best life, the holy life, begins and continues with the fear of the LORD. When we live in close fellowship with Christ, we have our antidote to the poison of adultery. When we commit ourselves to holiness, we can start to overcome the worst that Satan throws at us. And thanks be to God, in Christ He provides total cleansing. Only by returning to Him can we find our way.


2)  the refreshment of marriage: It’s time to be more constructive, for God also points us in the way that is pleasing to Him. After warning his son about the dangers of adultery, Solomon says, “Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well” (5:15). A cistern is a tank for storing water, usually dug near a spring, and covered with a lid. In Israel, everyone needed a cistern for the dry season. Because water was so precious, you didn’t sneak onto your neighbour’s property and drink from his cistern—you drank from your own!

God is saying that instead of desiring joys that are forbidden, instead of being dissatisfied with what we have, we ought to cherish God’s gift. And married love is among the greatest of those earthly blessings. So if God has blessed you with marriage, don’t go looking for contaminated springs that will kill you. Don’t drink bottled water that you have to pay for. Enjoy in thankfulness what is yours already. Drink from it deeply, and let it invigorate you. God has designed marriage to bring us great refreshment.

In this fallen world it’s true that a marriage can suffer, and it can become an unpleasant place. Everyone knows those verses about difficult wives, like 21:9, “Better to dwell in the corner of a housetop than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” There’s not a corresponding proverb about lousy husbands, but just think of everything Proverbs says about the foolish man: it talks about a man who is impulsive, who is proud, who is lazy, who is easily angered, and so on. These verses can hold up a revealing mirror to any man and husband!

I think here of what it says in the Marriage Form, when the husband’s calling is explained. He is exhorted, “Live with your wife wisely and honour her.” What is wise living? We know that by now: it’s living in the fear of God, submitting your whole life to his authority, trusting in his love, and relying on his strength.

And that wisdom should be expressed in many ways. It is shown by the husband’s leadership of the home. He knows the Word, and he leads by the Word. He shows by his life what’s the way to live before God. Like Solomon says in 24:3, “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established.

If God has granted children, then the father also needs to be closely involved in teaching them. Think of what Solomon is doing throughout this book. He’s giving life-instruction, as every parent should: “Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding” (4:1). Part of that is also teaching our children about the danger of sin. We know that foolishness is bound up in every heart, so we must give wisdom about how our children can live rightly in this wicked world. These lessons should also touch on the things that Solomon is explaining to his son, about the importance of our sexuality, and the dangers of adultery. These are things that parents need to teach about: purity, marriage in the Lord, and having children.

A wise husband will also love his wife, and cherish what God has given: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth” (5:18). A husband should honour his wife highly as the person whom God brought into his life. God commands that a husband treat his wife with gentleness, and nurture her in love. He should encourage her strengths and abilities, and trust her judgment. “Rejoice with the wife of your youth.”

What about the place of the woman in a marriage? In chapter 31, the wise mother of King Lemuel sets before her son a portrait of an excellent wife, a choice gift of God. The passage begins with that loaded question, “Who can find a virtuous wife?” (31:10). And the question is asked, not because a virtuous wife is so hard to find, but because she’s not often desired. Already in Lemuel’s day, the requirements for a good wife were too often reduced to outward appearance, instead of godliness. But a wife of holiness has great value: “For her worth is far above rubies” (31:10).

And this chapter describes what such a woman will do: seeking wool and flax, working with her hands, rising while it’s yet night, providing food for her household, spinning wool, making clothing, giving alms, and much more. Christian women have sometimes struggled with this passage because of the sheer number of tasks that the Proverbs 31 wife is involved in. She’s a wonder-woman, and she sets an impossible standard!

But that’s not the main point of the passage. No woman needs to feel inferior after reading this chapter if she’s never bought or sold a field, or conducted business at the market. This isn’t just a woman who is super-smart and ultra-efficient. No, she has a secret, and the secret of her life (and all she does) is found in her living relationship with God. Consider verse 30, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” There is the key, just like it is for the entire book of Proverbs. Fearing the LORD and living in reverence before God is what matters most!

It’s obvious that we live in different times than Proverbs 31. This chapter describes an ancient eastern rural community, not a 21st century urban culture. A wife and mother today can be busy with a whole different set of duties: driving here and there all day, running the household, doing homework with the kids, volunteering, doing payroll for the business, and much more.

A Christian wife might find different ways to be busy than described in Proverbs 31. But here’s what endures: this is a godly woman who is adorning her life with good works. Indeed, even if you’re not married, or don’t have children, this is the question: Do we put our whole being into working for the LORD? If you fear God, then you’ll be active in your marriage, and active in your family, active in your church—you’ll be active wherever God has put you.

And what about the happy husband of this godly woman? We see him in verse 23, “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.” The husband sits in the gate of the city, because this is the place where justice was administered, and judgments were made. The husband is well-received there because of his wisdom, because of his fear of God.

But he’s also there because his wife supports and encourages him. Consider 31:11, “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.” A husband is able to fulfill his calling in the community because he knows that his wife is in control at home, and that she can be trusted to do all things well. Because each carries out their work faithfully, they are mutually blessed.

And such a marriage brings benefit to others. Verse 28 says that the children of this woman “rise up and call her blessed.” They cherish her, because they receive from her faithful guidance, counsel, and care—things that can last a lifetime. Still today, Christian women should understand the great and eternal value of the work they’re doing.

Another Proverb puts it so well, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord” (18:22). For in God’s wisdom, He’s given us this gift of marriage, for mutual support, for loving encouragement, for holy service. So let husbands and wives treasure together what God has given them.

What about those who are not married, and who perhaps seek a life’s partner? The Holy Spirit has wisdom for them as well, and He has a reminder for everyone else—that we let holiness, and not beauty or fame or success, be our primary goal. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised” (v 31). The LORD doesn’t look down on the beauty of a woman, or the strength of man—He made us this way, after all. But God says that appearance and charm and success and wealth and position will only fade, while it is holiness that endures. To live wisely then, is to arrange everything in our lives not around ourselves, or around our earthly relationships. To live wisely is to arrange everything around God and his Word, for that’s the life that is truly blessed.

Beloved, in the seventh commandment we’re presented with a choice. A choice between the path of blessing and the path of curse—a choice between sipping from poisoned waters, or drinking from refreshing springs. May God help us in all these things to fear his Name. If you will be holy for God, depend each day on his forgiving grace in Christ Jesus, and live each day in the power of his Spirit!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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