An Invitation to Imagine Marital Faithfulness
Prayer - Hallowed by your name - God is concerned for his name, our entire salvation for his name.
Brothers and sisters in Christ.
Our Scripture text for this morning, as we continue our study of the obedience of faith is a text we have heard so very often. Let me just refresh your memory though on why this series is called the obedience of faith. The simple reason is that it takes faith to obey. Where there is no faith, disobedience to the law of God is right around the corner.
Faith is the motivating reason for obedience.
Faith is the assuring source in our life that enables us to trust God for things the world chases after.
Faith is the source of our conviction that what we do in our lives, in our relationships really matters to God. The government may stay out of our bedrooms, God does not.
Like every other command, this is certainly true for our text today, from Exodus 20:14
"You shall not commit adultery."
Faith is the motivating reason, the assuring source and the sure conviction that obedience to this command really matters to God. If faith is dropped, the reasons for obedience to this command become hard to justify. We are then, it appears evolutionary creatures. And the theory of evolution fails to give compelling reasons to be faithful to or spouse.
The reason why we obey this command is because God Sanctified marriage, and God sanctified sex for marriage and marriage alone. Now to describe to you what the sanctity of marriage is, let me invite you to use your imaginations, after all, that is the theme of the year. (Tangent)
I invite you to guess a very old way of describing Halitosis, and if you are unfamiliar with this technical term, halitosis means extremely bad breath. What comes to your imagination when you think of really bad breath?
Psalm 5:9 gives a fitting imaginative description
"Their throat is an open grave." Of course David and Paul in Romans 3:13 took this to refer to a spiritual halitosis, but it triggers our imagination. Now the cure for bad breath generally speaking is to brush our teeth. Would it be appropriate to take this brush to brush my teeth (pull out toilet brush) (now the youth are daring me to do it!) All of us know that there is something just terribly wrong about using a toilet brush to brush our teeth, (even dangerous) for the very simple reason that a toilet brush is a dedicated brush, it is for the toilet alone, just like the tooth brush should be used for the mouth alone and it should not be used to clean the toilet. That sense of dedicated purpose is what we mean by the sanctity of marriage.
Sex is to be practiced only within the covenant bonds and safety of marriage. Outside of those covenant bonds, it is not only very inappropriate, it is even dangerous and always has life long consequences.
Now let me dispel a few myths. Adultery is an act of unfaithfulness to the covenants of marriage. Sex is God given to be enjoyed within the safety of marriage covenants.
Sex that happens with someone outside of the marriage is adultery. It is an act of marital infidelity to your spouse. And this is not time dependant.
In our culture, sex is regarded as OK as long as you are not married, and we think that it is not adultery, but the truth is, to practice sex before marriage is an act of infidelity to your future spouse. It is adultery. And the argument that "we are going to get married" doesn’t hold. I have known way to many young people that have shacked up together with the plans of getting married only to break up before marriage ever becomes a reality.
And this sex outside of marriage includes after marriage. God designed sex for a covenant bond of commitment to one spouse till death parts them, and if they are divorced, Jesus makes it very clear that even divorce does not excuse us from this basic principle that sex outside of this one covenant bond is adultery.
That’s why he said in Luke 16:18
"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Sex has been given by God to enjoy safely within the context of marriage commitments. Sex has been sanctified to marriage. To practice it outside of marriage is as inappropriate and as dangerous as brushing your teeth with a used toilet brush.
Some questions are definitely worth asking, this one especially so. Why would God be such a stickler over our sexual behaviour? Why is this such a big issue to God that Jesus would talk about adultery the way he did, even calling lust adultery, a theme that we will look at next week. Is there a reason God takes adultery so seriously?
Yes, there are a variety of reasons. One of them is that God loves us, and wants for us and our children the security and context of love and faithfulness in which we can grow and thrive. For children, a big part of security is the faithfulness of their parents not only to them but to each other. It is hard to accept commitments of love and faithfulness from a person who has not been loving and faithful to someone they have made covenant commitments to. Adultery creates fundamental flaws in the very fabric of family.
A second reason is that adultery is spiritually dangerous. Sex outside of the context of marriage has been the spiritual downfall of many a young person, just like it was the spiritual downfall of the nation of Israel at Baal Peor. I will address that next week.
But there is a third reason and that third reason is I believe to be the most important one. God is such a stickler about our sexual behavior because marriage is all about the relationship between Christ and the church and the faithfulness of Christ to his church.
Paul makes that clear when in Ephesians 5 which he starts with be imitators of God, he writesEphesians 5:25–33 (NIV)
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. This picture is God created, it is Gods intention that marriage reflect this profound relationship of faithfulness between Christ and his bride the church. Now once again, it takes faith to see that and thus it is faith the is one of the main motivations for fidelity in marriage.
Adultery then is an act of violence against Gods divine artwork! It is ultimately an act against God.
This explains why Joseph when tempted by Potiphar's wife saidGenesis 39:9 (NIV)
How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?"
To commit adultery would have been an act of violence against God and Gods intent for Potiphar's marriage!
That’s why David after committing adultery with Bathsheba and killing Bathsheba's husband would say to GodPsalm 51:4 (NIV)
4Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
David recognized that both the act of murder and the act of adultery were sins against God. The act of murder because it was an assault against the image of God, the act of adultery because it was an assault against the beauty of God in his faithfulness in relationship to Israel and the church. If murder is an act of violence against the image of God, adultery is an act of violence against the image of Christ and the church. Both are acts against God.
Now this morning, I realize that before this command, do not commit adultery, there are many of us here who are burdened with guilt. We have at least entertained our lusts with pictures, or we have had sex outside the God ordained boundaries of marriage. The ghosts of relationships past haunt us into the present. For some, had we known what we were doing to ourselves, we have sown to the wind and we have reaped the whirlwind. Is there grace in scriptures for us adulterers.
You might remember the prophet Hosea. He was instructed to marry a prostitute named Gomer, this time a picture of Israel's unfaithfulness to God. And even though she committed adultery and left Hosea, Hosea went back to her again betrothing himself to her again, committing himself to her again. Some of the most passionate words in all of scripture are found in the book of Hosea, promises to Israel and to us. The Lord says,
Hosea 6:4 (NIV)
4"What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears.
How can I give you up, O Ephraim
How can I hand you over, O Israel
I will heal their waywardness and love them freely for my anger has turned away from them.
Hosea's faithfulness to Gomer was a picture of Gods faithfulness to the church. And God demonstrated the reality of that love when he send his son Jesus, to be the groom for the church, his bride. He gave himself up for her, shedding his blood for the forgiveness of her sins, cleansing her by the washing of the water and the word. There is grace, there is forgiveness for all of us, no exception. The word of welcome was the same as Hosea (3) to Gomer. Turn away from your adultery, sin no more, be faithful to me as I am faithful to you. The bride that Christ took for himself was a real piece of work, because she include me and she included you. But Christ is taking the mess we have made, sowing to the wind and reaping the whirlwind, and he is once again making us beautiful, his artwork, a wonderful picture of grace.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.