Sunday, August 23, 2020

Spiritual Journey: The Temptress & the Union with the Lover

“There was once an African queen who heard about a powerful king in a faraway land. She was told so many tall tales about this king that she found it impossible to restrain her curiosity. So she left her Ethiopian palace and embarked on a long journey. When she arrived in the fabled kingdom, the queen came face-to-face with the world’s richest man.

His vast estates included parks, zoos, temples, libraries, universities, and lavish resorts. A thousand delights awaited him in his palace of pleasures.

This hedonist was also the greatest thinker in antiquity. He wrote four books that are among the towering classics in history, and he composed wise sayings that are still repeated today, as well as three thousand poems and more than one thousand songs.

After spending months with the king, the African queen gushed, “All that I heard is not even half of what I have seen.” You remember this Ethiopian queen by her kingdom’s ancient name, Sheba. The king was Solomon. The Ethiopian left with memories to last several lifetimes. A thousand years later, an official of the Ethiopian royal court traveled to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. On the way home, a church deacon told him about Jesus and baptized him. The court official brought Christianity back to Africa, making the Ethiopian Orthodox Church the oldest continuing Christian body in the world —all this because a curious African queen decided to visit a king!” –The One Year Book of Amazing Stories, Robert A. Petterson, p. 609

Today we continue our spiritual journey series, and we consider, from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the encounter with the temptress, and the encounter with the lover. Much like Solomon and Sheba meeting, we see these two encounters are about living with great wisdom, and how powerfully wise choices can change our lives.

This is part of our spiritual journey as we live this life. We all have an innate desire for companionship in life. Some of us are meant to be married, and have a family, others are meant to stay single and serve the Lord.

There are two encounters that you’ll face on your spiritual journey. The first is the temptress, or the tempter. The second is the union with the lover. Let’s begin with the temptress. For this description, we turn to Proverbs chapter 7. In this chapter you have a young man, and he’s on his way in life. He’s growing, prepared to meet someone and settle down together, but instead he comes across a woman that is a danger to him. And if you’re a woman, it’s a man, a tempter, who seems exciting, or mysterious, but something isn’t quite right. You’ll get that feeling in your gut.

It says, Proverbs 7:10-27, "Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.(She is unruly and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.)She took hold of him and kissed him.”

So you have this woman, who is always out and about looking for someone to get with. Growing up me and my friends called these kinds of women ‘bar girls.’ Same thing ladies, the guy you see whose always with someone new, he’s really slick in how he speaks, he knows just what to say to get a woman into bed. You could call him ‘the bar boy.’ You get the idea.

So she just comes up and kisses this guy in Proverbs and says
"15 So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!
16 I have covered my bed
with colored linens from Egypt.
17 I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
18 Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!
19 My husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey.
20 He took his purse filled with money
and will not be home till full moon.”

So there drops the bombshell. Shes married! But her husband is away and she wants to get with this guy. Crazy stuff, right? Have you ever developed a sort of friendship with someone of the opposite sex, and they kind of lure you in, and once you already like each other in a deeper way, they drop that bomb and say “I’m married.” And your upset, you feel betrayed, but they’ve already hooked you in, a real connection has developed there. So they say something like, oh you know, its already over, we don’t even talk anymore. And we want to believe the lie because we already like that person. Has that ever happened to you? Terrible!

And that’s actually how sex trafficking can take place. A guy will just act like he’s romancing a woman. He’ll take her to fancy restaurants, take her to the movies, and they start dating. But what’s really going on is he’s grooming her. He’s establishing a romantic connection. Especially for women that is hard to break once it’s developed. And after he’s led her into that connection, he’ll begin to slowly ask her to do things that she wouldn’t normally do. Slowly but surely. And if she refuses, he may beat her, or scare her into doing things. And eventually this woman is working for this man, having sex with strangers for money. She has become a victim of sex trafficking. All through the power of romantic connection. So women, be careful of that, even men, be careful of that, sex trafficking can happen to men as well. Scary stuff.

It says verse 21, "With persuasive words she led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.”

Words are powerful ladies and gentlemen, very powerful. People can convince us of almost anything. That’s why I always caution you about believing what the news media tells you. We’re very easily manipulated by agendas, especially during election seasons. So watch for that. But words can lead us to do things we would never do otherwise. Like sleeping with a married man, or woman. I’ve even seen Christians say, well I like him so much, but he’s married, what should I do pastor? It’s just shocking how love, or lust, can make us very blind. We don’t let ourselves see the real danger.

Verse 27 concludes by saying, “27 Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.”

This is the encounter most if not all of us will face, the encounter with the temptress. Our enemy Satan knows how attack us. He knows how to set us up for failure. The person we are considering to marry may seem to be all that we desire. She or he, may seem perfect. But pray, and pray, and pray brothers and sisters. Because this person may be a tempter set up by Satan to ruin your life and your ministry. Always pray, and listen for the Holy Spirit within saying, “Something isn’t right here.”

There is a huge difference between the right one, the almost right one.

One of the best strategies when dealing with the temptress, is to flee the situation. Run for hills. That’s biblical. Get out of there. Break contact. Block. Get away from them. I don’t let myself sit there being tempted too long, I’ve gotta get away. Move back into the realm of sanity.

But once we’ve conquered the temptation, and escaped, someday we hope we will encounter the moment of the union with the lover. And we fall in love, with the one God has designed us to be with.

Proverbs 31 says: “A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

So you have this picture of an honorable woman, an honorable man, who is right for us, and we are right for them. She is wise, she is bold, she is a bit of everything, a teacher, a merchant, a businesswoman, good at training, and capable of training up her children. There’s so much here to study, I encourage you to take some time reading proverbs 31 this week.

But we continue, we see the union with the lover beautifully and magically portrayed in the Song of Solomon.

It says Song of Solomon 2:8, "Listen! My beloved!
Look! Here he comes,
leaping across the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Look! There he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattice.
10 My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”"

"My beloved is mine and I am his;” in verse 16.

"Who is this that appears like the dawn,
fair as the moon, bright as the sun,
majestic as the stars in procession?" -Song of Solomon 6:10

"Who is this coming up from the wilderness
leaning on her beloved?" -Song of Solomon 8:5

In conclusion, this whole topic of the tempter and the lover is about something critical: making wise choices in our lives. The choices we make in regard to the temptress and the lover are unique in this regard: Their consequences will last the rest of our lives. If we join with the tempter we will have a lifetime of sorrows, and if we join with the lover, we will have a lifetime of biblical love. So what choice will you make? Wise, or unwise? Flesh or Spirit? Choose wisely.