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Harlot’s Web

Michael Beck Michael Beck

“For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit. She also lieth in wait as for a prey …” (Proverbs 23:27,28)

In light of the very real defilement that occurs by “touching” an unclean thing, the Bible has three practical words when it comes to the idolatry of pornography: flee, flee, flee.

“Flee fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:18)
“Flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14)
“Flee also youthful lusts.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

The spirit of harlotry like a predator seeks to catch its prey. Potiphar’s wife “caught” Joseph by his garment. Of the loose woman we read, “So she caught him, and kissed him …” (Proverbs 7:13) Those ensnared by pornography on the internet are often spoken of as those who have gotten “caught by the Web.” Such language is appropriate. A spider uses a web to catch its victim. Once trapped the spider moves in to inject a poisonous venom that causes paralysis. Once paralyzed the victim offers no resistance and is ready to be consumed at the spider’s will.

The snare laid by a harlot suddenly “takes” those who come too close to her. “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.” (Proverbs 6:25) Once ensnared, the spirit of fornication that works in a harlot stirs a paralyzing spirit of lust in the one caught. Once “lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15) The harlot’s victim can now be “led like an ox to the slaughter.” Joseph was able to flee when he had to because he had first firmly refused the offer presented to him. He had not allowed “lust to conceive” in his heart.

Proverbs describes just the opposite in one young man who not only got too close to the snare but allowed himself to be paralyzed by lust.

“For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, and beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house …” (Proverbs 7:6-8)

Those instructed by the grace of God to deny worldly lusts keep far away from sources of temptation.

The first grave error that this simple young man made was an error of movement. Instead of fleeing the harlot, he moved closer to her. He passed “through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house.” Rather than moving away from the home of the strange woman, the young man moved toward it. Was he unaware of the danger that awaited him on that block? Doubtful. The woman in question was surely known in the neighborhood. “She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.” (Proverbs 7:11,12) It is the business of a harlot to make her presence in a neighborhood known. The man who knows a harlot can be found in a given place and yet proceeds in her direction is asking for temptation. Jesus instructed us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” (Matthew 6:13)

Those instructed by the grace of God to deny worldly lusts keep far away from sources of temptation. (Titus 2:11,12) Proverbs 5:8 says, “Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house.” A wicked house has a wicked path leading up to its door. Concerning a wicked path God warns: “Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” (Proverbs 4:14) All these admonitions are meant to keep us far enough away from the snare that we will not get caught by it.

Yet how many men have been caught by the harlot’s snare simply because they were not wise enough to flee from a known spot where the spirit of fornication beckoned. How foolish are those who go to our beaches in the summer where the spirit of fornication is rampant? Even public libraries and bookstores are filled with opportunities to be snared. The spirit of fornication pervades popular music. Who is so naive as not to know that the television and the internet are rife with the prospect of meeting strange women? Why are such paths entered? Because men make “provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:14)

The path that begins with temptation leads to death if it is not immediately discerned and avoided.

The prudent man is able to see down a dangerous path and not even enter into it. The simple enter an evil path and keep going on it until they bear the consequences of their folly. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.” (Proverbs 22:3) The path that begins with temptation leads to death if it is not immediately discerned and avoided. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14,15)

The enslavement that the fornicator experiences is the product of not recognizing fornication as sin in its first advance and quickly fleeing it. When we flee something we get away from it or get it away from us. Isaiah prophesied that an anointing would be upon Jesus which would “make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD.” (Isaiah 11:3) The verse literally speaks of Christ’s spiritual senses being so acute that He could smell the approach of evil. Too often our spiritual senses are so dull that we are thoroughly “mugged” by sin before we realize what has happened. The key to avoiding destruction is to stay far from the “harlot’s house” that leads to hell. “Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” (Proverbs 7:27)

“Youthful lusts” do not automatically disappear when one reaches a certain age, nor do they go away when one gets married.

The Bible has one thing to say to those who feel they are strong enough to be around such lures without falling into them: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) Too often men have overestimated their ability to withstand temptation. Naive, carnal, young men, like the one described above, succumb to harlotry; but, so do older, spiritual men. “For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her.” (Proverbs 7:26) The names Samson, David and Solomon are on the long list of strong, honored men who were no match for the spirit of fornication. “Youthful lusts” do not automatically disappear when one reaches a certain age, nor do they go away when one gets married. They must continually be fled until we have safely arrived on heaven’s shores. The decision to depart from iniquity is daily made by the disciple of Christ. The wisdom of God’s word to flee “youthful lusts” needs to be heeded by men of every age and station of life.

The wisdom of God’s word to flee “youthful lusts” needs to be heeded by men of every age and station of life.

Many pastors and Christian leaders have been caught by the web of the harlot and the adulteress. Why? Like David and Solomon before them, rather than fleeing the sight of the strange woman whose presence aroused lust, they allowed its poisonous, paralyzing venom to enter their system until they were pawns in the hands of an unclean spirit. They disregarded the wise admonition of scripture to flee fornication, idolatry and youthful lusts. They chose not to depart from evil when they could get safely away. Temptation is not sin, but not decisively resisting temptation in its first approach inevitably leads to sin. Once lust has conceived sin is brought forth.

If men as God loving as David and as wise as Solomon could fall, who is so confident to believe it couldn’t happen to them? “A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.” (Proverbs 14:16) A wise man is aware of the danger that evil poses to him. He is not interested in seeing how close he can come to the fire without getting burned. He fears the possibility of falling prey to evil and therefore stays as far away as possible from avoidable temptation. The fool though with blustering confidence passes over into harm’s way, claiming he is strong enough to resist evil. He discovers too late that the bait laid in the harlot’s trap is too strong to resist.

We are told: “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:7) The fool who plays with fire is wise in his own eyes. He tells himself that he is not out to start a forest fire, he simply wants to understand more about fire and needs to experiment. Likewise, all manner of justification is brought in as to why one can and even should be around the evil of lascivious images. After all shouldn’t we be aware of what the world is falling prey to? One need not test the harlot’s wares to know how evil they are. Paul laid down the rule for the collection of knowledge: “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” (Romans 16:19) Every time we turn on a TV set or get on the internet, we are entering dangerous territory. Harlots are a mouse click or dial flip away. But “isn’t there some good to be had from the television and the internet?” Is there some good to be had from your right eye or your right hand? Yet, Jesus said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29) According to the command of Jesus, whatever proves a cause for our stumbling is to be gotten rid of, before it brings us to hell.

Wise, practical decisions can keep us from much unnecessary temptation.

The road to the harlot’s house is far from the righteous man. He walks in a path that steers clear of evil. In doing so, he keeps himself from “fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11) It is far wiser to keep sources of temptation outside our front door than to fight with fleshly lusts once allowed in our living room. “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.” (Proverbs 16:17)

Wise, practical decisions can keep us from much unnecessary temptation. Abraham’s nephew Lot provides us an example of one who unwisely subjected himself to temptation. Genesis 13 tells us that although “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly” Lot pitched his tent “toward Sodom.” By Genesis 14 we read Lot “dwelt in Sodom” and by the time the two angels came to the city in Genesis 19: “Lot sat in the gate of Sodom.”

Whatever his justification might have been, Lot foolishly moved in the direction of temptation. Lot is called in scripture a “righteous man.” He knew what Sodom was like but went there anyway. To go to places known for licentiousness is an invitation to be tempted. The result: “… that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.” (2 Peter 2:8) Lot vexed his own soul. His temptations were self-induced. God eventually brought him out of such temptation: “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations” (2 Peter 2:9) But Lot never should have gotten into them to begin with. Our world is filled with enough temptation without us adding any more to it.


Michael Beck is a pastor in New York City and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.