Years ago as I was reading this chapter of Proverbs, the thought came to me that it was not talking of a literal harlot but rather the churches, most of which are harlots to God. Every time I have read it since, I have become even more convinced that it was speaking of the churches seducing simple-minded people and in many cases indoctrinating them with false doctrines and usurping the headship of Christ in their lives— to the point of sending them to hell—all in the name of religion.
It is contrasting the woman wisdom (not a literal woman), who is the Holy Spirit, with the harlot woman (not a literal woman), who represents many churches. Another way I could say it is that it is contrasting a real relationship with the Lord with a relationship with a church and religion. The first leads to heaven, the second to “the chambers of death” (v. 27). Christ came to begin a relationship, not a religion. It is really quite a sobering thought: Many think their religion or relationship with a church will save them, when it may be condemning them to hell.
I could use my own family and myself as an example. My mother came from a big Roman Catholic Italian family. She took me and my sister to church as little kids. I’m sure she thought she and we were saved because we had religion and were going to church. However, I didn’t actually get saved till I was 24 years old in a Protestant church. Now I am not picking on the Catholic church even though I am sure many who go to it are not really saved. The same is true for the Protestant churches.
In Prov. 7 the harlot is religious: “I have peace offerings with me; Today I have paid my vows. So I came out to meet you, Diligently to seek your face, And I have found you” (vs. 14-15). Her “husband” has gone on a long journey—just like the Lord . “For my husband is not at home; He has gone on a long journey; He has taken a bag of money with him” (v. 19). The parables speak of the kingdom of Jesus as a man going on a journey,
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property” (Matt. 25:14 ESV).
“It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake” (Mark 13:34 ESV).
The bag of money He took with Him (Pr. 7:19) was the price for our redemption. In the Hebrew the word for "money" is “silver.” In the Scriptures silver represents redemption. Clearly the man who went on a journey in Prov. 7 is none other than the Lord Jesus. Thus, the unfaithful wife must be His church.
It says that the immoral woman seduces with her “words,” Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," And call understanding your nearest kin, That they may keep you from the immoral woman, From the seductress who flatters with her words” (vs. 4-5). Literal harlots don’t usually seduce with “words” but rather by the way they dress. They don’t have to say much. Churches, however, are all about “words,” doctrines, creeds, sermons, songs, etc. In fact, most churches I have been in are rarely silent long enough to even pray for 5 minutes– even though God says in the Bible, “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7 ESV). Today, churches are not known as houses of prayer but rather houses of “words” or sermons.
Verse 12 says the seductress was lurking at “every corner.” I have lived in the Richmond area for decades; and although I have heard there are prostitutes in town and have even seen police stings on the news, to my knowledge I have never actually seen a prostitute on any corner or anywhere else in my travels. However, on many, many corners all over town, I see churches with signs out front trying to lure people inside—sometimes with very witty words on their marquees.
Proverbs 7 says, “So I came out to meet you, Diligently to seek your face, And I have found you. I have spread my bed with tapestry, Colored coverings of Egyptian linen. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with love” (vs. 16-18). This speaks of the efforts that religion and churches go through to make the buildings more alluring and comfortable to lure converts in. To take “our fill of love till morning” is not talking about a relationship of love with the Lord or the fellowship of love among believers, which is rarely seen in churches, but rather a love relationship with the church itself who has usurped the place of the Lord for many. The church is meant to lead people in a love relationship with Jesus, not the church system itself and not religion. Many pastors speak of their church as “their church” because that is what it is. It is not the Lord’s church. They have usurped Christ’s place as head. So if the people are not in love with all the comforts and programs of the church, they are in an inordinate love relationship with the pastor —a man. I have already written a book about what the church should be like—patterned after Ezekiel’s temple. In it I make the case that the very position of pastor (shepherd) is a false man-made position. It’s a metaphor, not a reality! You cannot make an actual position out of a metaphor any more than the pew warmers can become actual sheep— hello, church. Did anyone ever learn what a metaphor was in English class? How about instead of "pastor" we make an actual position out of the metaphor “bridegroom.” Then your wife can say, “This is my 'bridegroom,' instead of “pastor.” You have just as much scriptural authority to use the metaphor "bridegroom" as a real position as "pastor"— absolutely none. It’s impossible except in the figment of people’s imaginations. “ Pastors” is a metaphor for a body of elders. It is never found in the New Testament in the singular except referring to Christ. God never intended a one-man show! A one-man show cannot help but usurp the headship of Christ.
“ And he took the path to her house. In the twilight, in the evening, In the black and dark night. And there a woman met him, With the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart” (vs. 8b-10). Jesus said He was the light of the world, not a religion of man. "Jesus answered, 'Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him'” (John 11:9-10 ESV).
Night implies darkened understanding like the simple young man devoid of understanding. He is simple because he has never sought the Lord himself and studied the Bible for himself or fasted and prayed for the Holy Spirit to give understanding. He represents people who only get fed from the harlot church once a week in the darkness of man’s false doctrines. The harlot is a Jezebel. Most churches are not a servant but want people to exalt and serve her pleasures and give her love offerings to keep the machine of religion running— not for the benefit of the people, but for the church itself to perpetuate her harlotries. She thinks she is doing good for the victims while damning many to the “chambers of hell.”
So what do we do about going to church? I am not saying we should stop going to church unless we know it is teaching false doctrines. We have nothing else in place at this point. This is what I will say: If all your spiritual life consists of is going to church, you are essentially married to the harlot instead of Christ. Going to church for a couple hours on a Sunday should be a very small part of your weekly spiritual experience. We should be seeking the Lord daily every morning and evening and in between because we want to marry Him. If the church takes that place in your life, you are one of the simple ones Proverbs is speaking about. If all your spiritual life consists of is going to church on Sunday, you don’t have a relationship with Jesus and may not even be saved. We should go to a church that we think has sincere motives to hear the word; worship corporately; find at least some fellowship; and if we have any opportunity, to exercise our own gifts for the people. If church has usurped the headship of Christ in your life, the harlot has seduced you; and you may wind up in the “chambers of hell.”