The Winning of A Maid
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Proverbs, that portion of the Word of God we are studying together. Chapter 30 is the subject of our discussion at the present time. Chapters 30 and 31 of the book of Proverbs represent supplement number one and supplement number two of the book. Chapter 30 represents The Words of Agur and chapter 31 represents The Words of Lemuel .

The Words of Agur were divided into a series of wonderful things. The last time that we met together we talked about the four insatiable things, and now we want to think about the four wonderful things. Agur used a phrase in his discussion which we introduced to you and which we want you to continuously be familiar with when he said, in verse 15:

Proverbs 30:

15 …There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough:

That phrase he repeats periodically throughout the chapter to introduce the series of four things which he wants us to consider. We pointed out to you that when he used the phrase, “There are three things, yea, four…,” he was emphasizing one truth by illustrating it in a threefold manner.

I would like for you to notice the paragraph which begins with verse 18:

Proverbs 30:

18 There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:
19 The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.
20 Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.

Three Illustrations Emphasize One Truth

Following the suggestion that I made only a few seconds ago, that Agur takes three illustrations to emphasize one truth, we might summarize what we have said by calling to your attention that he speaks first, by way of illustration, of the eagle in the air; then he speaks of the serpent upon the rock; then he speaks of the ship in the sea. Those illustrations, which Agur said were too wonderful for him to understand, emphasize the ultimate truth that he wants to deal with in the paragraph before us—the way of a man with a maid.

Three illustrations, one basic truth, he describes as four wonderful things. The word wonderful in our language does not always convey what it does in the Scripture. I think it would be wise for us to recognize that this word wonderful comes from the Hebrew word pala , which is translated in a variety of ways in the Scripture, two of which we are going to call to your attention that you might be able to understand exactly what Agur had in mind.

Turn to Psalm 131 and notice that the Psalmist uses this word pala when he speaks of things which he wisely decided to leave undisturbed. Notice verse 1:

Psalm 131:

1 Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

Notice the phrase, “too high.” That is the translation of the Hebrew word pala , so when Agur was saying, “I don't understand the way of an eagle in the air. It is too wonderful for me,” he was saying, “It is too high for me. The way of the serpent upon a rock—that is too high for me. The way of the ship in the sea—that is too high for me.”

Notice what is recorded in Deuteronomy, chapter 17, verse 18, where you will find the same word translated by yet a different phrase, which emphasizes to us the thing that Agur had in mind when he said, “These things are too wonderful for me.” Moses was giving instructions concerning problems that might naturally arise which would be too difficult for ordinary folk in the society to handle. He said, in verse 8:

Deuteronomy 17:

8 If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose;
9 And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:

You will notice the phrase, “too hard.” That phrase is the translation of our Hebrew word pala . Agur said, “There is something too hard for me: the way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent on a rock, the ship in the sea, but more especially, the way of a man with a maid.”

Go back to Proverbs, chapter 30, and notice Agur's exact words:

Proverbs 30:

18 There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:

Notice the word know and understand that he is speaking of things, not marvelous and wonderful in the sense that we might, but too high and too hard when you recognize that the word know comes from the Hebrew word yada, which is translated understand in the Scriptures.

Turn to the book of Job, chapter 42, and you will have an illustration of this very thing that we are talking about. God had rebuked Job for his inexcusable pride in the midst of all that he had endured, and Job, finally recognizing that pride and his guilt in relation to it, says, in verse 1:

Job 42:

1 Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
2 I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.

That is his statement; that is his premise: “Lord, You are supreme.” Then in soliloquy he said, concerning himself, in verse 3:

Job 42:

3 Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.

Notice the word understood . That is the translation of our Hebrew word yada , which is translated by the word know. Job said, “I have been a fool. I have been shooting off my mouth about things that I did not even understand.”

Get the picture: Agur said, “There are three things which are too high and too hard for me, yea, there are four things that I don't understand: the eagle in the air, the way of the serpent on the rock, the way of the ship in the sea, but more specifically, the way of a man with a maid.”

If you read very many commentaries on this portion of the Word of God, you will find that almost without exception they suggest that the eagle leaves no trail in the air; the serpent leaves no trail on the rock, and the ship no trail in the midst of the sea. The suggestion is that this is what Agur did not understand, but I suggest to you that that is not the real thrust of the verse. I suggest to you, in light of the fact that the word way , here, comes from our Hebrew word derek , which does not speak necessarily of a road that you might find on a map, but speaks of a mode of action. It speaks of a manner or of a custom. For example, if you go back to Genesis, chapter 19, and notice verses 30-31:

Genesis 19:

30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.
31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth:

Notice the word manner in verse 31. That is a translation of the Hebrew word derek , which is translated by the word way in Proverbs, chapter 30, so when Agur was speaking of his lack of understanding of the way of a man with a maid, he was thinking about his lack of understanding of that mode of action which decides the course that is taken by the eagle in the air, the serpent on the rock, the ship on the sea, the man with a maid.

The Way of an Eagle in the Air

You will search your Bibles in vain for any significant discussion of the way of the serpent on the rock, the way of the ships in the midst of the sea, but you will find an interesting discussion in Job, chapter 39, of the way of the eagle in the air, which emphasizes what I have been trying to say to you—that we are talking about a manner and a mode of action rather than some marked trail through some unknown territory. In Job, chapter 39, you will notice the paragraph which begins with verse 27:

Job 39:

27 Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?
28 She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.
29 From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.
30 Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she.

God is still dealing with Job concerning his inordinate pride, and He puts Job in his place by saying: “Job, doth the eagle mount up at thy command and make her nest on high? You have been so smart, and you have made so many smart remarks. I would like for you to tell Me, does the eagle do what she does because you have trained her?” No, she doesn't. She does what she does because God has instilled in her that intuition, if you call it that, which guides her in all of her activities so that she seeks the highest place in the mountains as her nesting place that she might be able to view the whole territory of the horizon that she might be able to see any kind of movement at all that food might be provided for the young. She wasn't trained that way. She was provided with this instinct by her Creator.

The Course of a Man with a Maid

We have suggested to you that all of these three things but emphasize the basic truth, back to Proverbs, chapter 40, that Agur wants to discuss with us—the way of a man with a maid. I would like for you to notice that phrase as I point out to you that there are some individuals so temporally and materially inclined that they do not see anything at all in this passage of Scripture but a reference to sexual intercourse. Others, who recognize the growth of love as it is taught in the Word of God, are able to see in this passage of Scripture a reference to that natural provision which God has made between the sexes, if that provision is carefully understood through the Word of God, which will map out the course of a man with a maid.

I think it would be wise for us to recognize at the very outset that in God's plan and purpose, He speaks of a maid in the terms of a virgin, for the word maid in our text comes from the Hebrew word almah , which is translated virgin in Isaiah, chapter 7, verse 14. Notice:

Isaiah 7:

14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Virgin is the interpretation that is placed upon the word almah , so that we are talking about the relationship that exists between a young man and a young woman. If you prefer to take only the material, temporal interpretation of the passage, you might read the words of Agur this way: “There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: the way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon the rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the fourth thing that I do not understand,” Agur might have said,“is why a girl will let herself be seduced by a man.”

I prefer to look at the whole picture of love as it is presented in the Word of God and suggest that we might read Agur's words this way: “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: the way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent on the rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the growth of love between a man and his virgin.”

The Importance of Virginity

Young ladies, if you are listening, mothers, if you are listening, you should recognize already without additional comment that the Bible places a tremendous value upon virginity. It has no room for the permissiveness of our age. Agur would have been horrified at the mothers of this day who provide their daughters with birth-control pills so that the family name won't be disgraced or the family might have an additional burden. The Bible emphasizes that young ladies should guard their virginity and mothers should instruct their daughters in that respect. In this age when this sort of thing has been almost buried under the wrong approach to the relationship between man and maid, it needs to be emphasized all the more.

Emphasis of the Man's Responsibility

I said that the Bible places emphasis upon the importance of virginity, but did you notice in the words of Agur, the emphasis is placed upon the man's responsibility? It is interesting that Agur did not say, “I do not understand the way of a maid with a man.” He said, “What I don't understand that is too wonderful for me, that is too high for me, is the way of a man with a maid. Agur began exactly where God began because God always, in any discussion, has His beginning with the man.

I would like for you to refresh your minds concerning this principle by turning to I Corinthians, chapter 11, and noticing the principle of God's dealing with the man. We do not have time to discuss the entire chapter, so don't miss the point in our discussion by getting involved with the different things which are presented in the chapter. Fasten your attention on those verses which we call to your attention, beginning with verse 8:

I Corinthians 11:

8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.

If you will, for our discussion, just eliminate that word for . That word for refers back to other things that are discussed in the chapter, but this is the principle upon which that discussion was based, and we are interested in the principle. “The man is not of the woman, but of the man.” Let that speak very plainly to you. God did not create the woman and then take the man out of the woman. He created the man and then He took the woman out of the man. Notice verse 9:

I Corinthians 11:

9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

God did not create a woman and say, “This woman is incomplete. She needs a man.” God created the man and He said, “This man is incomplete. He needs a helpmate for him.” Now skip down to verse 11 and notice:

I Corinthians 11:

11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

That verse should forever silence the empty, vain reasonings of man that attempt to use these verses of Scripture and like passages to suggest that the man is more important than the woman, that the woman has a servile place while the man has a place of lordship. Notice in verse 11: “…neither is the man without the woman…” Man is incomplete without the woman, and the woman is incomplete without the man. In the Lord, God looks upon the two as a unit, not as one lording it over the other. Now, look at verse 12:

I Corinthians 11:

12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

True, God did take a rib out of the side of Adam and from that rib, He created woman; but if woman did not give birth to children, Adam would be the only man who ever walked the face of the earth. This is what Paul is emphasizing. He is emphasizing the way of a man with a maid, not the way of a maid with a man. What he is emphasizing is that the man has a responsibility to discharge in winning the woman that God has chosen for him.

Behavioral Expectations of Man Before Marriage

There are many passages of Scripture which we might consider, but I am going to ask that you turn to a passage of Scripture which will describe for us the behavior which is expected of the man before marriage. Turn, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 7, and notice verse 31. In this chapter, God is dealing with the subject of marriage for the time of the present distress. The Apostle Paul went about unmarried because of the tremendous burden he had to discharge his responsibilities before God. He said that he had a perfect right before the Lord to lead about a wife, but he did not think it would be fair to the wife if he took upon himself that responsibility in view of the present age in which he lived. He said: “You ask me about marriage. I would suggest to you that you don't get married for the present distress.” Paul is not speaking against marriage. He is speaking about an immediate situation. “On the other hand,” he said, “if you do decide to marry, there is nothing wrong in what you have done.”

Look at verse 36, where we have the behavior of a man before marriage. We are interested in what is declared in verse 36:

I Corinthians 7:

36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.

We need to examine this verse because there is much misunderstanding in connection with it, but I want you to notice with me the phrase, “behave uncomely.” That phrase is interesting to me in the light of our discussion, for the phrase, “behave uncomely,” comes from the one Greek word aschemoneo , very literally translated, is describing behavior according to the rules. This verse of Scripture says, “Young man, if you are going to court a virgin, if you are going to keep company with a young lady, then God expects you to behave according to the rules.” Did you get that? Behave in a comely fashion. Behave according to the rules.

It is a sad commentary on the relationship between fathers and sons today that many young men who are keeping company with young ladies do not know any rules by which they should behave. They have never been told of the way of a man with a maid. The whole mode of action with many young men is based upon the standards of the society in which they move, and if the popular thing is to cut notches in their mental acumen as the murderer cuts notches in his gun by making as many conquests as he can, that is what he has done.

Agur would have no trouble in understanding that way of a man with a maid. “Something,” he said, “that is beyond human understanding is the way of a man with a maid when the man plays according to the rules.” Many young ladies do not understand that way today because so often they feel that if they do not put out all the way or to a certain degree, they will lose the interest of the young man who wants to keep company with them. But God said, “Something that is wonderful and marvelous in the eyes of a man like Agur is how, when a man plays according to the rules, he wins his maid.” If you want to be very literal and very specific, he wins his virgin.

It is an amazing thing how many men want a virgin for a wife, but are deflowering every girl that they have an opportunity to deflower. They hope one will be left for them that they might take as a wife. God speaks of the relationship, by way of responsibility of a man with his virgin, warning in this passage of Scripture that he should not behave himself uncomely. He should behave according to the rules.

Let us look at this verse, for we need to understand what it is saying. It is not saying primarily that if you don't act according to the rules and you get your virgin in trouble, you haven't sinned if you marry her. That is the way some people read the verse, but that is not what the verse says. The verse is speaking of something entirely different, a second subject you might say. “If she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will.” That is, let him make his decision. If he decides to marry her he has not sinned. If he decides not to marry her, he has not sinned in the light of the present distress that Paul had in mind.

Look carefully at the phrase, “flower of her age,” and make a mental note that it has absolutely nothing to do with a girl's losing her virginity. This passage of Scripture does not say that if she passed the flower of her age in the sense that she loses her virginity and you are responsible for it, you should marry her. You haven't sinned if you do. The phrase, “the flower of her age,” is an idiomatic expression that speaks of the passing of time. If you have gone together with a young lady long enough that you feel that you have an obligation to her, then go ahead and marry her. You have not sinned.

The question of the importance of marriage in this chapter is primarily related to Paul's day, but the principle is here. This is the reason that I want you to notice this phrase in verse 36, “if need so require.” That phrase comes from one Greek word, opheileo, which might be translated by the words under obligation . If you feel that you are under obligation to marry, then marry by all means.

I said at the very outset of our discussion that this verse of Scripture would describe for us the responsibility that is placed upon man in winning the woman. His behavior must be according to the rules. If he keeps company with a young woman to the extent that he has placed himself under obligation to her, then there is liberty to marry.

I want you to notice this word obligation that I might emphasize again that the responsibility lies with the man. Many, many times I have had parents talk to me and say, “Well, my son was all right until that girl got hold of him, and once she got hold of him, she made an entirely different person out of him.” Humanly speaking, that can happen, but listen carefully. A young man rightly oriented in the Word of God could never be misled by a young woman; and in the sight of God, the responsibility does not lie with the woman; it lies with the man. The sooner that you and I as parents (I speak to my own heart as well as to you parents.) recognize that this is where God places the responsibility, the sooner we can lay a foundation for a happy home for our children.

If you have sons, you should teach them to play according to the rules. If you have daughters, you should teach them not to keep company with young men who are not playing according to the rules. You should see to it before it gets to the place of obligation—needless obligation—that your daughters do not keep company with young men who are not playing according to the rules because sometimes their eyes are misted with the romance of association, and they are not able to see things in their right perspective.

Behavioral Expectations of Man After Marriage

If I believed what many folk believe—that once the marriage vows are said, all of the problems are solved, I would stop the message right here. A lot of parents feel that way. A lot of parents at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony sit down and kick off their shoes and take a deep breath and say, “Well, that is over. I am glad that we got her started out all right.” You may have just gotten her started into a whole lot of trouble. That is all you may have gotten her started into because it does not end there.

Somebody says, “Oh, that is right. If each of them give and take, and it is a fifty-fifty proposition, everything will work out all right.” That is not what the Bible says. What are we discussing? The way of a man with his virgin. We have presented to you that behavior before marriage of which the Bible speaks, which was a mystery to Agur. I want to continue our discussion for a few more minutes by suggesting that we look at the behavior after marriage which God expects.

Where did we say God began? With the man. “Oh, yes,” you say, “I understand that. I go along with you. It is the responsibility of the boy to take care of the girl when he marries her, but after he marries her, then she has a little responsibility.” Well, she has, but we are still talking about the way of a man with a maid.

In I Thessalonians, chapter 4, you will see that God is still talking about the way of the man with a maid. The way of a man with his virgin? Yes. God, in His wisdom and His grace, has presented him with a virgin; his responsibility does not end there. Notice verse 1:

A Word of Admonition to Married Men

I Thessalonians 4:

1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.
3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, [This is God's will that you should keep yourself clean, particularly in matters of sex. That is] that ye should abstain from fornication:
4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:
6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

This is a word of admonition to married men. In verse 6, the matter of defrauding your brother is not to be interpreted generally, but in the light of the context is to be interpreted in what we would refer to as wife-swapping today. Every man, in verse 4, should have his own vessel. Every man should have his own wife, and he should keep that wife unto himself, and he should not defraud his brother, as in verse 6, by taking his wife. That is the interpretation of the paragraph, but I wanted you to notice this verse particularly because of the emphasis on the responsibility of the man after marriage. The thrust of the verse: “That every one of you married men should know how to possess your vessel in sanctification and honor.”

I call to your attention the phrase, “know how to possess his vessel.” Men, you should not only teach your sons the rules for courtship; you should teach your sons the rules for activity on the marriage bed, for there are many marriages which have seemed to indicate great promise that have failed miserably because the man did not know how to possess his vessel. You might say, “If the woman had done her part…” That is not what God says. The man should know how to possess his vessel.

It is regrettable that individuals do not know how, and we are quite willing to agree that everything cannot be learned in a crash course, and that is the reason I would like for you to turn with me to I Peter, chapter 3, a portion of the Word of God that is familiar to many of us. We call to your attention that we might emphasize the remarks which we are making through the Word. Notice verse 7:

I Peter 3:

7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them [your wives] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Yes, there is instruction in this chapter for the wife, and it would be wise for all wives to heed carefully the instruction that is given here and elsewhere in the Word, but our area of discussion is the way of a man with his maid, and the emphasis that we place on verse 7 is on the phrase, “dwell with them according to knowledge.” Not only does the man have a responsibility before marriage to behave according to the rules, he has a responsibility after marriage to behave according to the rules.

As we have pointed out to you at other times, every man ought to know how to possess his wife. Don't worry about your neighbor's wife. You will only know how to possess your vessel if you make a study of your vessel, for you learn to dwell with her according to knowledge. Every man who dismisses his relationship to his wife with the empty statement: “All women are alike,” is shirking his responsibility before the Lord.

Men today are looking for careers. Oftentimes when you talk with young people in the area of careers, all kinds of expressions are received in the material realm. I have never heard a young man say, “I have chosen for my career the winning of a virgin and the fulfillment of her life,” but I would like to hear some young man say that sometime.

Conclusion

Oh, you may be a doctor while you are pursuing this career. You may be a schoolteacher; you may be a preacher. But how wonderful it would be if young men would recognize their responsibility before the Lord, and adopt as a career the winning of a maid and the fulfillment of her life.

No wonder Agur said, “Three things are too wonderful for me: the way of an eagle in the air; the way of the serpent on a rock, the way of a ship upon the sea, and the way of a man with his virgin.”


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