We are continuing in this verse with the entiement and thinking of the harlot, the adulteress, as she seeks to lure a young man into her trap of sexual immorality. This verse is fascinating because it reveals that the adulteress has a religious side to her as well. Her comment to her prey is truly interesting because it speaks of someone who has gone and done their religious duty. Let's take a look at it today and seek to gain wisdom and reject stupidity as a result.
Her statement is that her peace offerings are with her. The idea here is not that she has yet to offer them, but rather that her spiritual condition is one who is at peace with God - someone who has already offered this sacrifice to the Lord - and who, as a result, has some kind of stored up religious earnings. She thinks that she has religious credit on deposit - and therefore she can withdraw it in her current actions. This is the mindset of penance rather than repentance. Penance assumes that we can pay for our sins with some kind of religious ritual - and too often is seen as a payment up to date - with the result being that we can sin some more later. Repentance is a change of mind granted by God - with the result that by grace alone our sin is forgiven. Along with repentance is both restortation and regeneration so that we are truly changed. The one who has engaged in repentance IS changed by God - whereas the one doing penance is engaged in a works mentality where they have earned something from God.
The adulteress here is stating that she is paid up - and has somehow earned the right to now engage in further sin. Having done her religious work - her religious duty - she is now free to live as she pleases. This is the danger of works-minded religion - it deceives the one practicing it into thinking that after they have sinned, they can just work some more - work a little harder - and all will be well. There is no transformation involved - just another IOU paid in full to God as they continue in their self-made menagerie of religous ritual.
Today she has paid her vows . . . what vows? Evidently there is a supposed promise of reformation - but there is no action toward it coming any time soon. The next verse is so telling because in it she says, "Therefore I have come out to meet you, to seek your presence earnestly." Her comment is that having done her religious duty, having made worthless and empty vows, now she is free to engage in her sexual escapades. Her religion is merely a facade to further deceive whatever willing dupe is in her sites. She's ready to roll - now that she has played her religious game for the week - or the day - or however she works to maintain the illusion of being right with God. What a convenient religion this is.
The danger here is that we will be drawn into an illicit relationship thinking that we are having adultery with a good person - a religious person. The reality is that we are walking over the pit that has been covered with leaves by the one hunting us. If we buy the lie and step over the hole, we will quickly find that what we've actually stepped upon is a trap. The lie was there to lure us into a false sense of safety. The reality is that we are now caught - and in grave danger.
Just one last parting comment though - because this particular practice is even among those of us who are evangelicals. We need to be extremely careful that we are engaging in repentance before God and not just a protestant form of penance. When we come to confess our sins - we don't need to stop there. Too many (myself included unfortunately) just confess their sins - but do not go into the second part of 1 John 1:9. We are all about confessing a sin that makes us feel bad, feel guilty, feel caught - but are we truly interested in God's change in our hearts? The second half of that verse says that we also ask to be "cleansed from all unrighteousness." Here is the forgotten part. We need God to not only forgive - but cleanse us of the mindset and choices that led to that sin in the first place. We need to say to God, "Get rid of every 'unright' behavior, choice, thought, reasoning, and activity." There is where we can camp out for a while and have the Lord do a thorough heart searching in us. There is where we can be protected from the very sin these two verses reveal to us. We can move from penance to repentance - and in so doing - from merely salving our conscience for a few moments to true change.