The Downfall of a Young Man (1)

By Tommy L. McClure

(Note: To get the most from this study, the reader should first read the entire 7th chapter of Proverbs, TLM).


Much regard is shown for young people in the Bible. The children of the rebellious Israelites were allowed to enter Canaan, whereas their fathers were condemned to die in the wilderness (Deut. 1:35-40). Jesus, very busy throughout his personal ministry, was not too busy to be concerned about children (Mk. 10:13-16).

Many instructions are given in the word of God with children’s benefit in view. They are taught to honor their parents, “the first commandment with promise”; the promise was and is “that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:1-3; cf. Exod. 20:12). Fathers are not to provoke them to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Paul was not unmindful of the welfare of children in giving instructions to Titus concerning the duties of aged women who were to “teach the young women . . . to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home” (Tit. 2:3,4).

Special regard for many people is shown in Proverbs. Solomon wrote with the “young man” in mind (1:1-4); the vocative, “my son,” heads many of his instructions (1:8,10,15; 2;1-5; 3:1,11,21; 4:10; 5:1; 6:1,20).

In chapter 7, Solomon exhorts to govern the mind by the word of God as the antidote against fornication (vv. 1-5), tells the story of a young man being snared by an adulterous woman (w. 6-23), and makes application of the story, showing the importance of taking good counsel and fair warning (vv. 24-27).

The lessons in this study will deal primarily with the facts set forth in the story (vv. 6-23).

The Person Being Tempted

1. The person tempted is a “young man ” (v. 7). Thus, he was at an age when this temptation is unusually strong (cf. 2 Tim. 2:22); he was without wisdom necessary to fully discern the evil intended and involved; and was without sufficient courage and know how to resist the flatteries of his seducer.

Youth is a crucial age when minds and bodies are storehouses of energy which will be expended – either for God and righteousness, resulting in salvation; or the devil and sin, resulting in damnation. Both God and Satan make powerful bids for youth! God says, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Eccl. 12:1); he tells youth how to cleanse its ways (Psa. 119:9); instructs parents to train up the child in the way he should go (Prov. 22:6); makes clear how that it is to be done by the words “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4); and, shows the importance of setting the proper example before them (2 Tim. 1:5). The devil, on the other hand, knows that poisoning the minds of youth is his most effective weapon, and strives to reach that goal by Nazism, Communism, Catholicism, atheism, infidelity, agnosticism, evolution, liberalism, humanism and thousands of other damning devices.

2. The person tempted was “a young man void of understanding” (v. 7). Not properly principled with wisdom and the fear of God, he ventured to sea without chart and compass. No wonder the importance of understanding is so of, en repeated by Solomon! He teaches that it keeps one from evil (2:11,12; cf. Job 28:28); that getting it brings happiness (3:13); that obtaining it is more important than the getting of silver and obtaining wisdom is better than gold (16:16); that it is a wellspring of life to him who has it (16:22); and, that it should be a permanent acquisition (23:23). Truly, one void of understanding is on dangerous ground – “the man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead” (21:16).

Assuredly, someone was to blame for the young man’s condition! Possibly, his parents did not teach him the words of the Lord, contrary to the command of Moses (Deut. 6:6,7). Or, the young man himself may have been stubborn and rebellious, comparable to the one Moses described (Deut. 21:18-21), or to the one described by Solomon himself (Prov. 15:5). The cause of the young man’s “void” is not revealed and we may never know. But, we should ask ourselves, “If my son starts the voyage of life void of understanding, will it be because of me or in spite of me?” For our own good, we had better make sure it is not the former, for his good, we should try hard to prevent it being either!

3. The person tempted was in the wrong company “among the simple ones” and “among the youths” (v. 7). Had he been with wiser and older people, the sin might not have taken place.

Bad company is indeed dangerous! “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Provl. 13:20). “Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33, ASV). The painful regret of many, so dominated by Satan that they “cannot cease from sin” (2 Pet. 2:14), is, “I got in with the wrong crowd.” Young man, don’t say, “It won’t happen to me!” It has happened to countless thousands who said the same – but, it happened! Look at a few Bible examples of people who became tainted with the evil influence of their associates: (a) Lot, seemingly oblivious to the evil environment he and his family were entering and looking only at the prospects for great wealth, “pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (Gen. 13:12,13). That Lot was affected, in some degree, by this evil environment is obvious (Gen. 19:4-9); so were his daughters who conceived seed in incest and gave birth to the evil and feared Moabites and Ammonites (w. 30-38). (b) Israel wanted a king so she could be like the nations round about (I Sam. 8), and became almost, if not fully, as sinful as they were. (c) Solomon, in his later years, allowed his idolatrous wives whom he had married contrary to the will of God to turn away his heart from following the Lord (1 Kgs. 11: 1- 13). Since these were adversely affected by evil company, how do you know you won’t be? You don’t! Remember that Peter was very sure of himself, too (Matt. 26:33-35), only to find out later that he was grossly mistaken (vv. 69-75).

Young and old people need each other, contrary to the thinking of some. It is good to respect age differences, but we can become too regimented. This extreme regimentation has produced “youth churches,” “youth worship services,” “youth rallies,” and the like, in which older people are looked upon as intruders if they merely attend. When old and young associate together, the old can be a source of wisdom and maturity to the young, and the young a source of freshness and energy to the old. Those who are so overly concerned about regimentation need to consider the example of Jesus: “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions” (Lk. 2:46). Jesus, then only twelve years old, did not consider those old men, doctors of the law, a bunch of outdated mossbacks, eggheads, ignoramuses and old foggies – he heard them and asked them questions! Nor did they brush him aside as a little egotistical up-start or a young “Johnny-come-lately” – they were astonished at his understanding and answers (v. 47)! The modern “generation gap” may have been produced by humanism or some other false system bearing the “ain’t so” label (“ism”), but not by the word of God (see Mal. 4:5,6; Lk. 1:17).

4. The victim of the temptation was sauntering “passing through the street” (v. 8). Like many young people now, he was idle, aimless and wandering; I call it ‘.’pressing concrete” for want of a better term. Had he been going with purpose and with a look of determination, the evil woman might have paid him no attention.

Idleness is a great curse, especially to young people. They have boundless energy which will be expended, if they are idle toward good, they will soon be active in evil, Satan will make sure the vacuum is filled. The old adage “an idle brain is the devil’s workshop” is still true, and doubly so of young because they lack age, experience and wisdom. Trouble is sure to come when a young man has nothing better to do than grow bangs, a beard, wear outlandish clothing and pound a drum, and when a young girl has only to keep up on sexy styles and dances. Idleness was one of the sins of filthy Sodom (Ezek. 16:49) upon which the Lord rained brimstone and fire from heaven (Gen. 19:24,25). Get the point? If he rejected it then, he does not favor it now (see Mal. 3:6).

5. He steered his course in the wrong direction – “he went the way to her house” (v. 8). He may have heard something about the women and been curious. If so, he was flirting with temptation contrary to Solomon’s instruction already given (5:8): “Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house.” Many flut with temptation now by participating in dancing, social drinking, mixed bathing, scanty dress, petting and watching X-rated movies. Paul’s instruction is: “Abstain from every appearance (“form,” ASV) of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). “Abstain” does not mean “flirt with” nor “sample.” If the youngster was ignorant of the woman, which is not likely, still he was in a place where he had no business. The devil quickly finds “business” for such (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8). Places in which young people (and old) have no business include taverns, dance halls, gambling casinos, topless joints, and such like.

6. He was a “night owl” – “he went the way to her house, in the twilight, in the evening of the day, in the middle of the night and in the darkness” (vv. 8,9 ASV).

The four terms – “twilight,” “evening,” “middle of the night,” and “darkness” – indicate repeated trips and that he was ambling around in the woman’s neighborhood most of the night. A young man now who saunters around in a “red light” district most of the night is up to no good and headed for trouble!

Like Eli who restrained not his sons (1 Sam. 3:11-13), his parents may have been at fault because they had not administered proper restraint. Many parents now act as though what their children do is none of their business; they never inquire as to where they go, what they do, with whom they associate, nor when they return home; they regard curfew enforcement as infringement on the civil liberties of their “little darlings”; and, they think their children are above wrong-doing – much like the proverbial mother who, having watched her son march in boot camp, later observed, “Every body on the field was out of step except my Johnny!”

This youngster, like many of the young set now, likely considered day life dull, drab and boring, so decided to experience night life. If he followed the course pursued by many in our generation, he slept most of the day while his parents did all the work, and at sundown was as fresh as a daisy in the morning dew, ready to play the role of a two-legged nocturnal animal. In the darkest part of the night it seems, the evil woman met him (vv. 9, 10). The episode reminds us of Job’s words: “The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me: and disguiseth his face” (Job 24:15); also of the words of Jesus. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither corneth to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (Jn. 3:19-21).

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 10, pp. 294-295, 310
May 18, 1989