Friday, June 15, 2012

Exodus 20:14 Don't Commit Adultery

"You shall not commit adultery."

Exodus 20:14 (NIV)

Only five words are needed to express this command, but what an important concept is held within it.  When one makes vows before God to take someone as a husband or a wife, those vows certainly ought to be kept.  Hebrews 13:4 is particularly clear in this regard:

"Marriage should be honored by all,
and the marriage bed kept pure,
for God will judge the adulterer
and all the sexually immoral.

Hebrews 13:4 (NIV)

There are plenty of temptations out there trying to wear down the foundations of a marriage.  We need to guard our thoughts and make wise decisions about relationships with the opposite sex.  I have seen way too many believers start out with good intentions and then gradually drift into an adulterous situation.  You may tell yourself that he/she is 'only a friend', or 'only a co-worker' or 'has similar interests', but turning to another person for something (even emotionally) that a wife or husband should be providing is dangerous.  I doubt anyone means for things to go that way.  You know that saying where "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."?  It is easy to think that some other person is better than the spouse which God has given you, more understanding, more interesting, etc.  However, this is actually an immature kind of thinking, for it does not take into account the fact that everyone has weaknesses and/or sins that are unattractive.

Don't let yourself be caught into this trap which has ensnared countless others.  I am not saying that married people can't have friends who are of the opposite sex.  I am saying that we are sinners, and that we need to be honest with ourselves about our motives.  Do I really just want to help this person, or am I physically attracted to him/her or enjoy the way they compliment my efforts?

Also, we need to avoid putting ourselves into situations which could become compromising.  A little forethought can keep us out of situations which could end up destroying a marriage.  Find someone else (of the same sex) to counsel that woman who is distraught over her failed relationship, or that man who complains that his wife doesn't understand him.

What about situations which seem out of our control?  Some people are very bold in their advances, even toward married people.  Remember Joseph, the Israelite who had been sold as a slave to Potiphar in Egypt?  He was just faithfully going about his duties when Potiphar's unfaithful wife started to make advances toward him.  At first, Joseph wisely just stayed out of her way and avoided contact with her.  He also explained to her that for him to commit adultery with her would be an offense not only against her husband, but against God.   Then, when she would still not take "No" for an answer, he fled her presence, even leaving his cloak behind.  (See Genesis 39 for the full story.)

Such radical commitment to avoid anything that would jeopardize the purity of the marriage relationship is also evident in Jesus' instructions to his followers regarding avoiding adultery:

"You have heard that it was said,
'Do not commit adultery.'
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
gouge it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one part of your body
than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one part of your body
than for your whole body to go into hell."

Matthew 5:27-30 (NIV)

Now before you go cutting anything off or gouging out your eye, let me just say that Jesus is not teaching people to mutilate themselves.  Think about it:  Even blind or one-handed persons can still have lust in their hearts.  Jesus is just saying that we should take sin extremely seriously, and deal with it as drastically as necessary before it destroys us.  Destroys us?  Isn't that a little overstated?  Nope.  Check it out:

Romans 6:21 "What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?  Those things result in death!"

Romans 6:23  "The wages of sin is death..."

James 1:15 "Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

No wonder God wants us to take sin seriously.

We always seem to focus on the couple themselves when discussing this verse, which is reasonable, for it is their relationship which we are talking about.  However, I think that one of the reasons why marriages are so prone to attack is that the marriage relationship is a picture of the relationship between God and His people.  Often, marriage imagery is used in Scripture to illustrate the self-sacrificing love and care of the Lover for his beloved.  Imagery about adultery is used to illustrate the unfaithfulness of those who turn away from their relationship with God to follow another 'god'.  This verse from Hosea illustrates all of these concepts:

"The LORD said to me,
'Go, show your love to your wife again,
although she is loved by another and is an adulteress.
Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites,
though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes."

Hosea 3:1 (NIV)

In that passage it is easy to see the self-sacrificing love Hosea will show to his adulterous wife by allowing her to return to him despite her unfaithfulness.  In the same way, the LORD allowed the Israelites to return to Him when they repented, despite the many times they turned to idolatry.  If we are honest, we will also see that this is exactly the same way that the LORD allows us to repent and return to Him despite our own unfaithfulness.  [By the way, the part about the raisin cakes is that these were used as offerings to Baal.]

That's all I have on that for now, although books could (and have been) written on these subjects.

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