adultery

1 Chronicles 1-2, Amos 2

Read 1 Chronicles 1-2 and Amos 2 today.

This devotional is about Amos 2

What made idols so attractive to God’s people? What benefit did they get out of worshipping pieces of wood and stone? What was so powerfully compelling about their theology that all the prophets, judges, and many kings could not root idolatry out of Israel?

There are several answers to that question but a powerful one is alluded to in Amos 2:7d-8b: “Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name. They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge.” Those verses suggest that idols were attractive because “worshipping” them involved sex. It was immoral and against God’s law to commit adultery but, according to these false religions, you could have sex with someone else beside your spouse as part of your offering to a false god. This activity was wicked in God’s sight, as we see here Amos 2 but it was acceptable in the culture at large when it was done as an act of worship.

No wonder God’s people were so devoted to this type of false worship. “Sex sells,” as the advertising proverb goes. There are no false religions in our setting, that I know of, which offer sex as part of the liturgy. But, as you know, sex is used to sell products, to sell movie tickets, and to get plays on music videos. Sex is also packaged and sold as a product in itself through pornography, prostitution, and strip clubs. Our world is as interested in and as obsessed with sex as any generation in human history has been; sex is now the idol instead of being a feature of worshipping an idol.

The Bible commands us not to commit adultery or fornication but it also commands us not to lust after other people sexually. Loving and serving God requires us to guard our hearts and our eyes and to remind ourselves continually that our bodies belong to God and to our spouse.

Have you drifted into sexual sin or flirted with it in your mind? Are you careful about what you see and where your mind goes when it wanders? Are you thinking inappropriate thoughts about someone in your life who is not your spouse? Have you acted on those thoughts at all? Let this fragment of two verses this morning turn your mind in repentance toward God. Ask him to purify your heart and be obedient to that desire in how you act toward others, think, and look. Don’t join the idolatry of adultery; ask God to help you glorify him with your mind and body.

2 Samuel 16, Ezekiel 23

Today, read 2 Samuel 16 and Ezekiel 23.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 23.

Societies do not look kindly on prostitutes. Some women are forced into prostitution against their will due to economic hardship or threats of violence or through slavery. If we knew their stories, we might look on them more kindly on these women and put more shame on the men who hire them. The reasons, however, do not justify prostitution and it is wicked in God’s sight.

In this chapter God compared Israel, represented by Samaria (v. 4d), and Judah, represented by Jerusalem (v. 4d) as prostitutes. Their idolatry is compared to prostitution in the sense that they desired and gave themselves to other gods instead of to the God of their covenant (v. 49). God explained and defended the judgment that Israel received from the Assyrians and the judgment that would come to the Judeans as the consequences of their unfaithfulness to him. The logic of this passage goes like this: “You want to give yourself to the gods of the Assyrians? I’ll marry you to the Assyrians in every way.”

The purpose of this passage is to teach us to empathize with God. God loves his people and married himself to them by a covenant. Instead of wanting God as much as god wanted them, Israel and Judah pined for others. If your spouse did that to you, you would be hurt; it would also arouse in you deep feelings of anger and betrayal. You’d feel this way both toward your spouse who wanted someone else and the person that he or she wanted instead of you.

This is how God feels when we love material things more than we love him. It’s how he feels when entertainment is more appealing to us than worship. It describes the pain he experiences when being accepted in society matters more to us than ordering our lives by his commands. James 4:4 uses this very language to warn us: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

In Christ, there is hope for our adulterous hearts. James 4:6-10 says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

This is what we need when our hearts are captivated by other things more than God. We need to humble ourselves and ask for his forgiveness and deliverance. If you find yourself valuing other things above your walk with God, let this passage help you understand why God responds the way he does. He is jealous for you (v. 25) and wants you back.

2 Samuel 11, Ezekiel 18

Today’s OT18 readings are 2 Samuel 11 and Ezekiel 18.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 11.

The most famous passage in 2 Samuel stands before us today. There are several lessons to be learned from David’s sin but the one I want to focus on today is in verse 3: “The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” This answer was the result of David’s inquiry about Bathsheba; verse 3 says, “David sent someone to find out about her.” That statement is vague; what exactly did David want to find out?

He might have merely been seeking her name. If that’s the case, then all he needed to hear was “Bathsheba.” He might have been seeking her marital status. David already had several wives (2 Sam 5:13) so he might have been willing to add one more if she were single. Given that Bathsheba did not yet have any children, she was probably still very young. The fact that the man who was sent to find out about her mentioned her father first in his report might be a clue that this is what David was after.

The most important bit of information that David got in verse 3 was the news that she is “the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” That should have ended the conversation right there. She was another man’s wife. It was therefore inappropriate for David to have any further contact with her and he knew it.

He also knew that her husband wasn’t home. David was usually out with his army and doubtless knew who Uriah was. It was unusual for a Hittite to convert to Judaism and fight in Israel’s army. He also was, obviously, a very loyal and righteous man (vv. 6-13). It seems clear that David knew her husband was away fighting the Lord’s battle which was David’s battle as well. The fact that David, having heard that she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, immediately “sent messengers to get her” (v. 4) indicates that he saw the opportunity to sin and he took it. If her husband was at home with her or could be home soon from work or whatever, David would never have attempted to get with her. His sin was made possible by (1) not being where he should have been (2) being bored (v. 2) and not finding a righteous way to occupy his mind (3) acting on his lust when he saw something he shouldn’t have seen (4) ignoring the obvious boundaries (her marriage and her husband’s diligence in his duty as a soldier) (5) deciding that her husband’s absence was an opportunity to sin.

It seems clear that David did not intend to sin when he stayed home from fighting. It wasn’t his fault that he had insomnia or boredom. It is unfortunate that he didn’t respond by his boredom by spending time with one of his wives or playing his harp or going to the tabernacle (it was open 24/7/365) or read God’s word. The fact that he didn’t do any of those things wasn’t a sin either. He probably didn’t intend to be a peeping Tom when he went out on his roof at night. People used their roofs in his time like we use a deck or patio today. As I mentioned, it wasn’t a sin for David to ask about Bathsheba since she might have been an eligible bachelorette. Temptation does this to us. It takes situations that we innocently wander into and presents us with opportunities we think we might be able to get away with.

There are a few lessons, then, to learn from this situation:

Be careful when you’re not doing what you normally would be doing. Be careful about how you handle your boredom. Be aware that temptation sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Respect the boundaries God has put into place. They exist to warn you that danger lies beyond them.

Ultimately, though, none of us can avoid temptation. We carry around depravity in our hearts and it is easily aroused. Jesus saved us from the consequences we deserve for being sinners and for sinning but he also commands us and empowers us to live a holy life. We need to pray, “Lead us not into temptation” just as Christ taught us to pray because we are weak and temptation is so powerful. Let David’s compromises and sins cause you to turn to Christ for help each day.

Genesis 39, Job 5, Psalm 37

Today’s passages are Genesis 39, Job 5, and Psalm 37.

This devotional is about Genesis 39.

A guy like Joseph could easily have justified an immoral relationship with Potiphar’s wife. He had been sold and enslaved unjustly. He was deprived of the blessings that he should have had as Jacob’s favored son, not to mention the opportunity to marry and have a family of his own.

Given all this, it might have been flattering to catch the eye of Potiphar’s wife. It was she who tried to initiate the relationship with Joseph (v. 7) and she was persistent about it (v. 10). Someone in Joseph’s situation may have feared the consequences from Potiphar, but at least one of his wife’s advances happened when there was nobody around to witness it (v. 11). Joseph was able to resist the temptation, however, not because he feared Potiphar but because he feared God. As he said in verse 9, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

This is the attitude we need to help us refuse temptation. Even if nobody else ever knows about your sin, God will know and he will hold us accountable.

Joseph’s situation worsened after he obeyed God. He was unjustly accused and imprisoned but God had not abandoned him. It would take years, but his faith in God would eventually rewarded. Reminds me of some other verses we read today, Psalm 37:

Psalm 37:5-6: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.”

Psalm 37:27-28: “Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.”

It’s often hard to do the right thing. Remembering that God is watching and believing his promises helps. In fact, it is what living by faith is all about.

Mark 10

Today’s reading is Mark 10.

Two people join together in the covenant of marriage with great hope for what their lives together will be like, great intentions about how they interact with each other, and an expectation that their marriage will last for the duration of their lives. This is how God intended it to be, as Jesus said in verses 6-7, “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” If Adam and Eve had not sinned, every marriage would be perfect because two perfect people would enter it with the ability to have perfect obedience to God’s intentions and commands for marriage.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. When two people marry, both of them bring a sin nature, a sinful past, and sinful desires and impulses into the marriage. No matter how strong their resolve and how good their intentions may be, they will have an imperfect marriage. If problems accumulate and are unresolved, one or both of them may start thinking about what it would be like to be married to someone else.

In Moses’ time, men held all the power. They decided whom their daughters would marry and a man who had the means could accumulate several wives (or several hundred wives, in the case of Solomon). Part of the reason for polygamy was that war and farm accidents created a world where there were not enough men available to marry all the women who existed. A man who disliked his wife, then, could just add another one to his life and hope she would do for him what the first wife did not. But if he disliked one of his wives enough, he could kick her out. Because he inherited his property from his father, he had absolute ownership and his wife had no legal ownership at all. If he told her to leave, she was trespassing if she didn’t go immediately.

If a man sent his wife away, she didn’t have many options. She could return to her father’s house but dad might not be able (due to age or poverty) to care for her and her children. If another man liked her, he would be in a tough position because what if her husband cooled off and wanted her to come home? Moses, in the words of verse 4, “...permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” The certificate of divorce clarified a woman’s status. It told a potential second husband that a woman was free to remarry because her original husband had repudiated her and dissolved their relationship legally. This is why Jesus said, “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law” in verse 5. The “hardness of heart” referred to the tendency of men to marry a woman, then kick her out but without actually divorcing her so that he would have the option of bringing her back into his life and his home again. This would be an abuse of his power so, to protect a woman from being starved and homeless due to a husband who wouldn’t decide whether to live with her or break it off legally with her, Moses required any man who kicked his wife out to make it all official and legal-like.

Divorce came into existence, then, to protect women from being legally bound to men who wouldn’t keep his commitment to his wife. If a woman is legally married but moves in with another man, we call that adultery. If she has been divorced, however, there is no adultery--legally speaking--because the divorce legally dissolved the marriage agreement.

All of this makes sense to us and it made sense to Jesus and his audience. If you sign a contract with Comcast but then decide that they are not keeping up their half of the bargain, you can dissolve the contract. There may be penalties to pay (as there are in divorce, actually) but nobody will judge you for using legal means to end a bad contract.

Jesus, however, taught that marriage is more than just a legal contract. His teaching reflected the intentions of God as stated in Genesis 2:24 and quoted by Jesus in verses 7-8 of our passage, Mark 10: “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” We know from 1 Corinthians 6:16 that “one flesh” refers to sexual intercourse. God created sex not only so that a couple could make children together but also so that they would be bound together at a physical level, not just a legal level. Divorce dissolves the legal aspect of marriage, but it is impossible to dissolve the psychological bond that physical intimacy creates. Sex permanently bonds you to your partner in a way that is impossible to completely break. This is why remarriage is, according to Jesus, an act of adultery because God created and intended marriage to be one man and one woman for one’s lifetime.

The disciples were concerned by how strict Jesus was about divorce so they asked him to clarify his remarks in verse 10 of our chapter today. Jesus explained that someone who divorces his wife to marry another person has committed adultery. Legally, they can do that but morally and spiritually, they cannot. Notice that Mark here did not include the exception clause that Matthew included in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. The exception clauses allows someone to divorce and remarry for “sexual immorality.” In that case, Jesus said, the divorcing spouse has not committed adultery because the sin of adultery was already committed by the spouse who was sexually immoral. Sexual immorality is a breach not only of the legal covenant of marriage but of the “one flesh” relationship. You are supposed to be “one flesh” with only one person so adultery separates “what God has joined together.” Mark did not include the exception clause because most divorces are not due to adultery. Jesus warned us all in this passage that, although divorce is legal and (regrettably) sometimes necessary because of a hard hearted spouse, it is not what God wants nor what God intended for marriage.

The application to all of us is obvious, isn’t it? If you’re unmarried, don’t become one flesh with anyone except for your spouse after the wedding. If you are married, be faithful to your spouse and determine to stick with the marriage for the duration of your life.

Although it takes two consenting adults to get married, it only takes one to divorce. It is sad, but true, that your spouse can unilaterally end your marriage whether you want it to end or not. If you’re divorced and this passage opens an old wound for you, I understand and am sorry. The application for all of us is really the same, however: be obedient to what God wants no matter what situation you are in now. If you are married, don’t get divorced or commit adultery. If you are single (whether because you’ve never been married or because you’ve been divorced), live a pure life now and seek to uphold God’s design for marriage in your own life as best as you can.

Proverbs 6:20-35

Today we’re scheduled to read Proverbs 6:20-35.

Proverbs 5 was devoted entirely to warning us against the sin of adultery. Here in 6:20-35, Solomon revisited that subject. In Proverbs 5:16-22 Solomon advised you to protect against adultery by prioritizing and enjoying sex within your marriage. That instruction came at the end of the teaching on adultery. Here in Proverbs 6:20-24 his recommendation for avoiding adultery comes at the beginning of the section, not the end as in chapter 5. Also unlike chapter 5, Solomon viewed his instructions as the antidote to adultery not an amorous marriage as in chapter 5. This suggests multiple layers of defense against this sin. One layer is a mind that is devoted to truth and prepares for the temptation of adultery (6:20-24). The other layer is a strong relationship with your spouse (5:16-22).

Let’s focus on that first layer, the one described here in 6:20-24. Verse 24 says that it is the teaching of godly parents (v. 20) that will keep “you from your neighbor’s wife.” How does that work exactly? Verses 25-29 tell us.

All temptations to sin consist of lies. Just as Satan promised Eve that disobeying God’s commands would liberate them to become “like God, knowing good and evil,” all temptations promise some kind of benefit with no cost. Adultery, of course, promises thrills and pleasure. If you feel yourself being attracted to someone else who is not your wife, the promise of that attraction is that the beauty of that person will be yours to enjoy (v. 25) if you begin a relationship with her.

But sin always hides the cost and Solomon’s teaching to his son in this passage is to consider the high cost of adultery (vv. 26-33). Sex with a prostitute is sinful but sex with another man’s wife is a much costlier sin (v. 26). It will bring punishment into your life (v. 29) just as surely as coals will burn you (vv. 27-28). If you learn this well when you are young, you will be able to see through the lies that temptation to adultery tell you and understand the real cost of the sin.

Adultery is so costly because of the social shame after the sin is exposed that adulterer’s bear. Some sins make sense to us such as stealing to avoid starvation (v. 30). Yet even that sin exacts a cost when the shoplifter is caught (v. 31). Our hearts go out to a starving man who steals because he is just trying to stay alive (v. 30) so when his fine for stealing is paid, that is the end of the matter (v. 31). Adultery is not disposed of so easily. Verse 33b says, “...his shame will never be wiped away.” In other words, if you get caught committing adultery, that is going to stick with you and become a permanent part of your story. At the very least, the spouse of the person you commit adultery with will not forget (vv. 34-35). In his quest to get justice, he will not hide what you did but will spread the word so that the maximum number of people possible hear about it.

In the moments of temptation, these truths can help you find your way out of temptation without sinning. If you can remember that the promises adultery make to you will prove to be false, it will be easier to say no when the temptation comes your way.

So, determine now to live a pure life and to remind yourself that the high cost of sin far outweighs the temporary pleasures the sin will offer you. This is the wise way to live--the pure way. May God give us grace to trust him and obey his word if any of us face this temptation in our lives.

Proverbs 5

Today we are scheduled to read Proverbs 5.

The first four chapters of Proverbs have mostly consisted of exhortations to become wise and descriptions of the benefits of wisdom. Here in chapter 5, Solomon turned to describing the kind of practical life choices that a wise person makes. He began with a lengthy, passionate plea to his son not to commit adultery. Verses 3-6 described the deceptive dangers of an adulterous woman. Verses 7-14 urged us not to go anywhere near adultery. Verses 15-20 gave us the antidote to adultery which is to cultivate a passionate relationship with your spouse. Finally, verses 21-23 explains why all of this is important: God is watching and his judgment will come on those who disobey his commands, including this command.

Although this passage is written from the male perspective, it takes two to commit adultery. Just as there are seductive women in the world, there are also men who are skilled “pick up artists.” Adultery is tempting because it makes you feel wanted; it revives the thrill that you had when you and the person you’re married to now felt the passion of attraction. Adultery happens in secret, so there is the added thrill of danger. Like many risky activities, the risk itself heightens the experience. But the costs of adultery far outweigh the price tag. I read somewhere that the average extramarital affair lasts about six months. After that point, the thrill begins to wane and the stress of feeling guilty, the dishonesty of keeping it secret, the deception required to avoid detection, and the unexpected strain it causes to one’s marriage begins to add up. The momentary pleasure that adultery promises does not last but the consequences do. God’s command, “Do not commit adultery” is a command for your good. It is designed for your happiness not to keep you from being happy. It takes faith in God in the moments of temptation, but that faith will be rewarded.

If your marriage is suffering from neglect or worse, you and your spouse are both potentially at risk and vulnerable to the seductions of a third party (vv. 3-4). The Lord urges us to turn away from that temptation and turn toward your spouse. Addressing pain and problems in your relationship is harder than falling for someone who acts sweetly toward you and promises pleasure with no string attached, but the rewards of working on your marriage and finding satisfaction there are so much greater than the temporary pleasures of sin.

Ask God for the faith to do right if you encounter a temptation to adultery. Pray for yourself to have a pure heart and for your spouse to have an open heart toward you. If you are not yet married, trust the Lord that purity will be better for you over the course of your life than the temporary thrill that sexual sins offer. May God protect all of our marriages and our hearts as we read these words and think about how to apply them to our lives today.