One of Ten
She was one of the most physically beautiful women I have ever
met. You can imagine, then, my surprise when she asked for
counseling because her husband was having an affair. He was bringing
his paramour into the house, in front of his teenage children, and
taking her into the bedroom. The actions were completely out of
character for him. I was mystified.
Now, to the world this would be a tale that simply illustrates
how obsolete my thinking is. For example:
· The problem is, you care. The world sees marriage as a
convenient relationship, but certainly nothing to get in the way of
a passionate love affair. Why are you so bothered with it?
· The problem is, you’re repressed. Ah, yes, my psyche is all
mixed up. I need to be liberated. After all, if the passion is
there, you need to give in to it, not repress it.
· The problem is, you need to experience many lovers. After all,
how can you condemn something until you try it? There are plenty of
women out there who’d like to cure your ignorance.
The Christian view is well known, but the times are so evil that
it must be stated:
· You mean I shouldn’t care? I shouldn’t care about my own wife?
My children? The stability of the home in which we are trying to
raise them? Callousness is no virtue.
· Of course I’m “repressed.” I suppress (the right word) my
natural urges. With food it’s called a diet; with fear it’s called
courage. With sex it’s called faithfulness. We tame the natural
urge; we do not let it rule over us.
· Oh yes—evil is enlightening. Where have I heard that before? It
is the oldest lie in creation. I’ve never been a bank robber
either—but I’d convict one if I was his juror. Even without
The beautiful young lady? I forgot to tell you—what she “forgot”
to tell me—she was having an affair too. Of course, she was sure he
knew nothing about it—she didn’t want to hurt him, you see.
Dynamite comes with a warning label. Christian marriage, too.
Lord, how often we see the debris of marriage broken by adultery;
may we see that obedience to your command is for our benefit.
Covenant With My Eyes
It’s a common bit of humor with me as I teach; “I can tell
everything I want to know about a woman in 2.9 nanoseconds. Unless I
blink; then it takes twice as long.”
Male eyeballs. It has pleased God Almighty to give to the male of
the species the eyes that look for a beautiful girl. They are
pleasant to look at; if they flatter you, you can hardly get enough
of it. But like any other natural desire, it must be controlled, or
it will cause trouble.
The trouble often comes because your wife is growing older. This
can hardly be said to be her fault; it is God who has ordained that
we age. But because our society evaluates women primarily on what
they look like—as opposed to men, who are rated on what they have
done—older is definitely not better. You can see that this is
unjust. Can you also see that it is the man who must correct this
injustice? Certainly the wife can not. How do you do that?
In a word, preparation. If you’re going to drive the freeways,
you’d best be prepared for ding dong drivers. If you’re going to
look at the girls you had best be prepared for your own reaction.
After all, you know the drivers are out there. So are the girls, so
How? Job suggests one way here; there are others.
· Make up your mind beforehand. Job calls it a “covenant with his
eyes.” It’s the choice beforehand that you will not give in to this
· Respect the “wife of your youth.” Remember that it is to her
you made those promises on your wedding day. God has little patience
with those who do not keep their promises. Your little pleasure is
her large pain; this is not respect.
· Make your love for her an act of will. So many assume that love
means only passion uncontrollable. It is not. Passion is the starter
motor; love is the smooth running engine of marriage. Make a
conscientious effort to love her, every day.
Adultery doesn’t just “happen.” It comes when we give in to
temptation. Temptation unexpected is more severe than temptation for
which we are prepared. So I say with the Boy Scouts—be prepared.
Lord, our world teaches that adultery is normal; let them see in
us the faithfulness which brings glory to you.
As a country song has it, “one takes the bows, one takes the
blame.” The common vision of adultery is that there is one person
doing the tempting and another giving in to it. The teacher of the
Bible will usually focus on the victim—and how to prevent being one.
But in this passage we see two other personalities described:
· We see the temptress, of course.
· We also see the man whose company leads you right to her.
Let’s start with that man. How do you recognize a “friend” who is
leading you into adultery? Solomon (who knew this problem quite
well) tells us here:
· His speech is perverse. Do you know someone who constantly
talks about sex? Particularly his “accomplishments?”
· He walks in the way of darkness. Everything about him is just a
little gray; always looking for the unethical edge.
· He’s a man who delights in evil, especially perversion. What
kind of video tapes does he watch?
The woman? Easy to recognize as well:
· First, there is flattery. When my wife flatters me I have the
contented look of a dog being scratched behind the ears. But that
privilege is reserved for her. When another woman tries it, this
should set of alarm bells.
· Next, there is the betrayal of her husband. Isn’t it curious
that we always picture the “other woman” as being single? In a sense
she is; she’s thrown away that relationship. Look at her husband (or
ex-husband); if he resembles a tube of toothpaste squeezed dry,
you’ll know the reason.
· Finally, she is one who forgets that she made solemn promises
before God. (They are called wedding vows, after all). She promised
faithfulness to the first guy; what makes you think she’ll any more
faithful to anyone else?
Solomon put it well:
And I discovered more bitter than death the woman whose heart is
snares and nets, whose hands are chains. One who is pleasing to God
will escape from her, but the sinner will be captured by her.
(Ecclesiastes 7:26 NASB)
Lord, to the pure all things are pure. Lead us so that we are
indeed faithful and pure, to our spouse and to you.
Be Exhilarated Always
There is an enduring myth in our culture: it is known as falling
in love. The myth is not that it does happen; the myth is that it
· There is the myth that you “just can’t help it.” It is a common
justification for adultery. It appears that we go helplessly from
one passion to the next.
· There is the myth that you cannot keep up this passion. In a
sense this is true; but we also use this to justify abandoning one
woman to look for the next. We just can’t help it—but we do
everything to encourage it too.
· There is the myth that you just can’t decide to make it happen.
You’re either in love, or you’re not; you don’t have a choice.
Is any of this really true? We certainly act like it. As one
writer put it, we don’t practice faithfulness; we practice serial
monogamy. And sometimes we go from serial to parallel. But what
about this idea that the next woman is inevitable? I have heard it
stated by a Christian that if a wife “fails to take care of herself”
(by which he meant retain a sexy figure) that she’s asking for her
husband to leave. (His wife is a regular at the gym, as you might
imagine.) There’s nothing wrong with the gym; but it is God who
ordains aging; why then is it your wife’s fault?
And how is it, then, that Solomon can say to us, “Be exhilarated
always with her love”? It sounds like a command to do the
impossible; but God never commands the impossible. Then how?
· First, be ready to do it. Decide that you will be passionate
about the woman. For example—schedule time devoted exclusively to
· Realize that we need change—and we need constancy. God provides
that in the rhythm of our lives. There is a rhythm to passion as
well. Learn its cycles and enjoy them.
· Finally, be exhilarated! The passion is there; God gives it to
the married for a reason. Fan the flames of passion.
If you take the time and trouble to love your wife—in every sense
of that word—the rewards will indeed be great. Your Lord will reward
you; even your wife might think of it favorably. Try it.
Lord, we will polish a classic car for hours, a wife of the same
year we neglect. Teach us better; teach us to love her more.
Reduced to a Loaf of Bread
Explaining a passage like this to the politically correct is a
misadventure in the English language.
We don’t have prostitutes anymore; have you noticed? We have “sex
workers.” Why? “Sex” is a positive word; so is “worker.” Therefore
by changing the label we have made them part of decent society. This
comes, of course, from the same people who hold that marital
fidelity is a terrible mistake. After all, how do you expect to
improve your sexual technique?
The truth is radically different. There is an “only-ness” to
sexual relations, given by God. Until recently it could be said that
a man always wanted to be her first lover—and she wanted to be his
last. There’s only one way to make that work.
Today’s opinion goes beyond that. The prostitute is seen as (get
this) a virtuous outlet for sexuality. After all, it is reasoned,
the prostitute constitutes no threat to wife and family; she’s just
hired help. There is no chance that she’ll ask the man to divorce
his wife and abandon his kids. Right.
The adulteress too has been transformed. Since she’s in a stable
marriage of her own (!), she too is no longer a threat. It’s just a
little fun on the side, and improving your technique. I suppose this
is better than the new “sex on first date” style; but not much.
The truth is much more grim. To the prostitute you are a cash
transaction. The effect that prostitution has upon your marriage,
your conscience (and possibly your body) is none of her concern..
But the truth is far worse with the married paramour. The
adulteress seeks your very soul, whether you know it or not.
· First, an affair defiles your conscience. You have taken the
most solemn vows of fidelity; so has she. You have broken yours and
helped her break hers. If you take that lightly, your conscience is
· More than that, when you do such a thing you give Satan a firm
grip on your soul. The passionate few moments alter your
relationships for life; you must cover up, conceal. Satan will use
this to push you into more lies, more adultery.
Proverbs were written for the young man. But the rest of us can
see the benefit in this too.
Lord, sometimes we see stupidity best when it’s in the rear view
mirror. Keep us from Satan’s lies and grasp.
The Jealous Husband
The phrase has passed out of the English language, except as a
humorous reference. But there are a few of us left; a few who
remember. I speak of those who consider themselves “gentlemen of the
old school.” It is not strictly a Christian concept, though it is
greatly influenced by Christianity, as many of its remaining
practitioners are Christians. To be specific:
· A gentleman of the old school respects his wife. He pays her
the honor which is her due. This may come in the form of such
chivalry as opening the car door for her. But do you not see that
such actions imply that she is worthy of that respect?
· A gentleman of the old school is faithful to his wife. Adultery
is “not done.” It is impolite, disrespectful. Of course, he expects
the same from his wife.
· A gentleman of the old school is as courteous as the times
allow. Good manners are the lubricant of society.
It sometimes comes as a surprise, then, the streams of rage that
will come from such an old school gentleman if he finds that his
wife has been unfaithful to him. Indeed, it quickly becomes clear
that his rage is bad for his wife—and worse for her lover. Why?
· They are called “old school” because they want things as they
were. They yearn for better times, times now past in this situation.
Such a gentleman may forgive his wife—because he wants things just
like they were.
· But he will have implacable hostility to her lover. Why is it
so much more difficult to forgive him? Simply this: he is the man
who stole your dreams—there is no getting them back.
It comes down to expectations. If a husband expects faithfulness
from his wife, and gives it in return, his expectation is that this
will be a lifelong relationship. If she meets those expectations, he
will meet hers. If she does not, the expectations are shattered.
Expectations. The old school expects fidelity. The expectation
our world gives to us today is that any attraction is reason for
sex; fidelity is neither desirable or possible. Our expectations are
low; so is our behavior. But remember: expectations are not moral
standards; God sets those.
Lord, teach us to set our hearts on you, so that we may indeed be
the ones who meet your expectations.
But I Say
Dorothy Sayers pointed out that all creativity—whether from God
or human beings—is Trinitarian in nature. If you will, there are
three aspects to any creative work of art:
· There is the father idea. This is in your head—an image of the
painting you will do, the plot outline of the book you will write or
the vision of the sculpture you will carve. No one can see these
things except you and God—but they are there, and they are real.
· There is the incarnation—the son of the father idea. It is the
painting on canvas, the words of the novel, the marble after
sculpting. The more faithfully you execute the father idea, the
better the work.
· Finally, you must consider the effect your art has on the ones
who will see it. It is of no use making what you think is a powerful
statement against war if the rest of the world sees nothing but a
statue with too many arms. The change in the viewer must also be
along the lines of the father idea.
Now, if this is true for artistic creation, it is also true of
all thought which results in action. What if the thought is an evil
one? Have you ever rationalized it by saying, “Well, as long as I
don’t do something about it….” But it is deadly; it defiles the
conscience. It gives Satan a handle to grasp you with. And worse:
every time that girl walks by, the effects get a little worse.
Eventually your conscience will no longer stand in the way; the evil
idea will be incarnated into an evil action—which will indeed affect
those who see it.
So as you watch that pretty girl go by, think about what you’re
thinking. Thought is the father to action; as you think, you do; as
you do, you are. If you defile the conscience, things only get much
worse; Satan now has many more avenues of attack. These too will
give rise to action, and reaction—all evil.
So what is a man to do? Job had it right: make a covenant with
your eyes. Decide now what you’re going to do about the girl in the
short skirt and high heels. Do not say, “I can’t help it.” The truth
is, you cannot help it now. But what if you were prepared for this
problem? Plan ahead!
Lord, it’s hard to have male eyeballs. Give us strength to resist
our temptations and humor enough to laugh at our weaknesses.
It’s not apparent from this small passage of Scripture, but the
early church had a problem with the Gentiles who were now coming to
Christ. What should we tell them in the form of explicit
commandments to keep them out of trouble?
· These are new Christians—with no Jewish background. What things
are both necessary and unknown to them?
· These are Christians who have only the Old Testament as
Scripture—and not well acquainted with that.
The solution—recommended to this day—is found in the KISS
principle: Keep it simple, stupid. Whatever you’re going to tell
them must be simple and straightforward.
Of course, you need not cover such ground as murder, robbery and
theft; the people of the Roman world understood well enough that
these things were wrong. Indeed, it was the sense of sin and guilt
that was common to these people which made them seek the salvation
found in Christ. Therefore, you need not state the obvious. But you
must be explicit about that which is not obvious. So James gives
them some elementary dietary law, a prohibition against getting
involved with idols—and he prohibits fornication.
To begin, we must define the word; it has passed out of common
usage in our day. It means sex between a man and a woman, neither of
whom is married. In the Old Testament it is prohibited—and
punishable by marriage. But in this time, the average Roman would
certainly not have thought this to be a problem. Adultery—that he
could understand. Trifling with another man’s wife is very likely to
lead to serious complications later on. But fornication?
Just why does the church condemn it?
· First, chastity is most likely to produce life-long marriages
(despite what Hugh Hefner thinks). A man always wants to be a
woman’s first love; she always wants to be his last..
· Second, fornication defiles the relationship that God created
to teach us about the relationship between Christ and the church.
That last is rather deep. Rather than explain, James simply gave
the commandment—as we might do for our children, looking back on our
Lord, so often we see that your words are wise—after the fact.
Help us to listen first.
1 Corinthians 6:13-19
One of the largest bodies of fresh water in North America is Lake
Erie. It is also the waterfront to a large number of industrial
plants. This is convenient; shipping by water is relatively cheap.
It is also convenient for the disposal of various waste materials
produced by heavy industry. First in innocence, then in ignorance,
then in greed, American industry polluted Lake Erie until people
were warned not to eat the fish from the lake—it could kill you. The
life of the lake was dying, simply from how we polluted it.
Prostitution produces somewhat the same result within the church.
Many Christians see no objection to it; it is politically correct to
approve of it. But let’s follow the steps of Paul’s argument here:
· Our bodies are “members” of Christ. How so? The church is
Christ’s body on earth; we are parts of that body. Not
undifferentiated parts—but members, each performing a specific
function. Our flesh is, therefore, his body.
· When you have sex with someone, the two of you become “one
flesh” - that is, one body. Note that this is not restricted to
marriage, but any sexual union.
· Therefore, when you have sex with a prostitute, you have
brought her pollution into the body of Christ. If we allow this
often enough, the life of the church is threatened.
Indeed, as Paul argues here, immorality (any sex outside
marriage) pollutes your own body. You become one flesh with one who
does not belong to Christ; in the case of a prostitute, you become
one flesh with someone who sells her body at market rates. But your
body is the temple of the Holy Spirit—for you received the Spirit
when you became a Christian. Think what this means for the witness
the Spirit wants to bear through you!
The body united with a prostitute is, spiritually, like a
run-down church building, paint peeling. It attracts no visitors,
for any who would inquire can clearly see that its members just
don’t care about the church. So it is with “casual sex”; it shows we
don’t care for the body of Christ, the temple of the Spirit.
Thus, answer me this: if we do not care for his body; if we do
not care for this temple, how much will He care on the Day of
Lord, help us to remember to be holy, for you are holy. We are
your body on earth; may the world see a true picture of it.
The Blunt Truth
1 Corinthians 7:1-2
The passage sounds strange to modern ears; perhaps we might
wonder if there was some ancient prohibition against marriage.
Modern thought condemns marriage as slavery of women, to be
abolished as soon as the feminists become a majority. So just why
would Paul make such a statement?
· The times are tough; it might not be such a good time to get
married. Better to be single if you are serving the Lord; you’ll
have more time for it.
· But—should you happen to be married already—don’t get a
divorce. Rather, build your marriage and family.
But what about the guy on the edge? What about the poor fellow
who’s in love, sees all that sex going on around him, and just plain
desires it? Paul doesn’t say, “Be strong and shut up.” He follows
his Lord’s teaching; this is a hard thing, not everyone can do it.
If you’re one of those who can’t, don’t worry about it—get married.
Remember that the world of the Corinthians was very much like our
own—anything that put two bodies (or more) in the same bed was
heartily approved. The Romans by this time had quite fallen from
their early nobility. So Paul announces the practical solution to
the problem: get married, stay faithful (and have fun at it).
In short, one of the purposes of marriage is to provide for the
satisfaction of the sexual drive in human beings. We are amphibians;
we are spiritual beings, but also physical beings. The solution to
the sexual urge is simple: have sex. Just do it within marriage.
That, no doubt, strikes you as a blinding flash of the obvious.
But see how the world has assaulted this idea:
· One drumbeat says that sex is “dirty” - inherently wicked,
something to be ashamed of. Would you do something dirty with the
one you love?
· Another drumbeat says that sex in marriage must be dull—which
is the deadliest sin (being dull, that is). Therefore adultery is
now required for our “sexual health.”
God’s view is quite different. Sex in marriage is to prevent sex
outside marriage. It’s to keep him (or her) coming home at night.
Sex is, in fact, God’s wedding gift to us. It is from him, and
therefore it is blessed.
Lord, let us enjoy your gifts as you intended, using them for our
good. Faithful need not equal dull.
Not Even Named
An old friend once put it this way: “The first time I heard a
woman swear, I blushed. It was so embarrassing, I blushed to my
ears; I didn’t know what to say.” Our younger readers will find this
hard to credit, but there was such a time in America, and not so
long ago. But no more.
The concept of “propriety” - the idea that there are certain
topics not fit to be mentioned in polite society—is an old one.
There were certain topics which were simply taboo. This is, of
course, a very old-fashioned idea—which by no means makes it false.
What has happened is that the female of the species now uses
language that her grandmother would have condemned completely as
“not lady-like.” Our women see this as being “just as good as men.”
In a sense, true; in a sense, true.
But propriety is still with us; it is now called “political
correctness.” We cannot possibly hint that there is any real
difference between men and women, for example. To suggest that
certain cultures might be judged by their actions is forbidden as
well. (All cultures are equally valid; pass me some of the cannibal
stew.) So the concept is not gone; just changed.
Let us therefore retain the concept and see what the Scripture
calls taboo in polite Christian circles:
· Sexual immorality. The word in the Greek is the one from which
we derive our word “pornography.” The conversation is well known to
men; the leering evaluation of each female based upon her face,
figure and willingness to have casual sex. Is it right that we
should so casually weigh our sisters?
· Impurity. The word is rooted in the Greek word which we know as
“catharsis” - with a negative in front. It means one who is not
holy; who will not examine himself. It is the conversation of those
who view the grace of God like another tissue to blow their noses.
· Greed. Often passed today as being an energetic business type,
this conversation places money ahead of Christ. The greedy don’t
name Jesus Lord, for they worship another god.
Propriety is still with us; let us remember that there is a
propriety for Christians even yet.
Lord, we are soaked in the world’s way of conversation. Rinse
this from us, and teach us to build each other up.
It is a lovely list of the sins of the flesh and the world. We
shall take them separately and then add them together. Ready for a
bit of mathematics?
· Immorality—the root word is the one from which we take
pornography—meaning the craving of sexual pleasure,
· Plus impurity—the sin of the man who will not take the
spiritual equivalent of a bath, maintaining that his own sins smell
good to him,
· Plus passion—the root word is pathos—meaning the emotion that
will not be denied,
· Plus evil desire—meaning the wicked mind which constantly
pictures the results of evil as being good,
· Plus greed—the constant desire for more, for there is never
enough wealth to satisfy it,
Equals idolatry. How so, one might ask in this day? I can see how
it definitely adds up to “I Want”, but why idolatry?
Let’s take it from the Old Testament example. We remember from
the Ten Commandments that God said “you shall have no other gods
before me.” This can have two meanings:
· It can mean that we are to put God first among our pantheon of
gods, whatever that might be. That’s how it’s often proclaimed in
sermons, but is it really the case?
· It can also mean that we are not to have another god in the
presence (“before”) the Living God.
That last is much more likely. Recall that in the days of Judah’s
decline, the kings undertook to bring idols—images of the false gods
of the heathens around—into the Temple of God. No doubt the
politically correct were there, chanting “all religions are equally
true.” This is what caused God to exile the nation.
We have much the same happening in many Christian lives today.
That lovely list of sins adds up to one thing: the “I Want” in our
lives is our ruling passion. Christ will have all of you or none of
you; bring no gods before him. Let these things be banished from
your life, so that the “I Ought” of God crushes the “I Want” of the
world. There is but one God; worship Him alone.
Lord, we forget the honor that is your due. Help us cleanse from
our hearts those things that would steal our love from you.
God the Avenger
1 Thessalonians 4:3-6
Audiences love it; critics hate it: Camelot. Lerner and Loewe’s
interpretation of Arthurian legend is perhaps best known for its
ballad, “If Ever I Would Leave You.” It is a beautiful song; in
keeping with the “advanced thinking” of the time, in this song the
adultery between Lancelot and Guinevere blossoms.
Excuses. When adultery blossoms we are quick to produce our
excuses. See if you recognize any of these:
· “Nobody will ever know.” After all, Arthur’s a nice old guy and
we shouldn’t upset him.
· “Sex is so beautiful, how could anyone condemn it?” Maybe it’s
not sex but the partner that God condemns.
· “Variety is the spice of life. Why don’t you try it?” For the
same reason I don’t wrestle rattlesnakes, spicy or not.
· “The only response to temptation is to give in.” This is what
makes fat people fat. (Like me.)
· “It’s actually my wife’s fault.” World’s oldest excuse; see
Adam in Genesis.
Now, if the purpose is to justify adultery to me, people will
have little fear of vengeance (as long as it’s not my wife). But it
does not do to leave the Living God out of your calculations—or your
excuses. Let’s take it step by step:
· He is consistently portrayed as the defender of the weak—the
widow, the orphan and the innocent oppressed.
· He created marriage to give to us a living example of Christ’s
love for the church. It’s his creation, and very holy.
· He is the Avenger. He is both powerful and righteous, and he is
quite capable of dealing with any of us.
Our problem is that we don’t think he’ll do anything. We see his
patience and think he doesn’t care. It is not so.
Camelot fell because its foundation crumbled in adultery. It is a
legend, of course. But may I bring to you another such legend? The
medieval monks who wrote Arthur’s legend held that the return of
Christ would come when another Arthur ascends the throne of England.
Prince Charles’ oldest son is named Arthur.
Lord, at your return on the Day of Wrath many old wrongs will be
avenged at last. Let us be those who give—and accept—mercy.
The story is a familiar one to Bible readers. It is now much
maligned by feminists (who insist that we have only Joseph’s side of
the story). Whether or not this episode encourages rape I leave to
the reader’s sense of logic. What I would point out to you is
Joseph’s defense. Many would consider his situation an opportunity;
what reason does he give for turning it down?
In a word, stewardship. Joseph understands the concept clearly;
his master put him in charge so that the master wouldn’t have to
worry about it. If you do that, you select someone who is above all
trustworthy—and that is the first characteristic of stewardship.
Joseph no doubt knows the perquisites that come along with the
job—as slaves go, he’s got a good assignment and knows it. But with
those perquisites come limits.
But (as the woman might have argued) who’s to know? Joseph makes
it clear: God knows. Such an action would be a failure in
stewardship, a sin, and therefore an offense against God. It is
certainly conceivable that Potiphar might have had an opinion on the
subject as well—but see that Joseph isn’t worried about him. Do not
fear the one who can kill the body; fear the one who can throw the
soul into hell.
All this sounds good until you remember that Joseph took this one
on the chin. Off to jail! Joseph’s faith is shown here; if God is
the judge, he is also the reward. He was preparing Joseph for
There is an example for us in our own marriages. Husband is given
stewardship of wife; wife of husband. The terms are different, for
the man is to be the spiritual leader, but both have their own
stewardship responsibilities. My wife and I are stewards of each
· First, we must be trustworthy—before God and each other.
· Next, we must use the perquisites of our positions responsibly.
· We must also know the limits of those perquisites.
· Finally, we must acknowledge that we are accountable to God for
our stewardship of each other.
Lord, how often we view our privileges in marriage as toys to be
used as we please. Remind us always that our marriages are but a
picture of your love for the church; your care, our example.
It is rare today to hear of someone who marries simply for the
sake of having children to inherit something. It is even more rare
to hear of a man doing that. Times have changed.
In the days when this story happened—about three thousand years
ago, more or less—the custom of the time was different. It was
considered absolutely essential that each father hand down to his
sons the property and estate which pertained to him. They did not
view land as a commodity, as we do. Rather, it was a gift of God to
the clan in which you were born. It was important, therefore, to
have a male heir—otherwise the property would go to a cousin or
whoever the nearest relative might be.
In an agricultural society such as this, property was the main
form of wealth producing asset. A person who had no property was,
almost by definition, poor. This was particularly true for a woman,
as (in general) she did not inherit the land—the sons did. If they
did not provide for her, she starved.
To deal with this situation, God commanded that the nearest
“kinsman-redeemer” was to redeem the land; i.e., pay off any debts
in buying the property at market value. There was one important
stipulation: you got the property, you got the widow. Any children
born to her afterwards were counted as the heirs of her dead
husband, who would inherit the property.
Under such circumstances, Naomi sends Ruth to apply to Boaz , to
ask him to perform the function of kinsman-redeemer. By our
standards it is a risky maneuver. She is a woman, no virgin, in a
society which does not value such. Naomi and Ruth are depending upon
the honesty, integrity and righteousness of Boaz. If he doesn’t
measure up, Ruth becomes just another crime statistic.
But Ruth’s plea is just, and she makes it to a righteous man. He
does not claim his midnight visitor for sexual purposes; rather, he
places her under his protection.
To the pure, all things are pure. Boaz sees no merry widow in
this; he sees a woman who claims God’s justice. He will see that she
gets it. I wonder: how many of our men could claim the same? Would a
pretty midnight visitor be viewed as a pleasant diversion or the
call to fairness?
Lord, strengthen us so that we look beyond our own convenience
and pleasure. May we follow this noble example; the pure heart to
whom all things are pure.
Adultery as Betrayal
2 Samuel 11:8-13
David finds himself in quite a predicament. He has made another
man’s wife pregnant, under circumstances in which there could be no
mistake about the paternity. He’s looking for a way to cover his
tracks—but winds up deeper in sin. How did he get into this mess
· He’s in the wrong place at the wrong time—and he should know
it. It’s spring, the “time which kings go forth to war.” The army is
in the field; David is in the palace.
· He’s feeling pretty good about himself. Things have been going
rather well lately—he’s self confident.
· He’s at the palace when the business is at the front. He has
time to play with his toys; what’s one more toy, even if you stole
No problem, he thinks. I’ll send for the husband; they’ll have
sex; he’ll think the kid is his. He should have known better. Uriah
is one of his “Mighty Men” - comrades of many years, those who
suffered in the wilderness with David. He is, tragically, an old
friend. As his actions make clear, he is a member of a band of
brothers—soldiers who accept hardship as their lot. When a man won’t
have sex with his wife because his buddies are in the field, that’s
a unit with high morale—full of tough soldiers. It’s also a warning
signal to David.
Adultery is betrayal; in this instance, David’s betrayal of a
good friend. David didn’t intend murder; his eyes saw, his heart
wanted and his body was satisfied. But to do this is a betrayal of
God, who took little David from the sheepfold and made him king of
Israel. It is also the murderous betrayal of a good friend, one who
has shared many hardships. It is also the betrayal of his people,
whose king was a man after God’s own heart, and therefore an example
to God’s own people.
It is also an example to us. David, the greatest king that Israel
ever knew, the man after God’s own heart, committed adultery—and
then murder to cover it up. If you think yourself immune to this,
think again. Even the best have been snared by this.
Lord, well have you taught us to pray, “Lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Do not let us rest in our own
assumption of confidence; rather, remind us that we are but sinners
who need to come daily to you.
What do adultery and the CIA have in common? Everything is top
secret—until printed on the front page of the Washington Post.
Why is it that we find that—even in our “enlightened”
age—adultery is something done in the night and fog? Listen to the
· “It’s so no one gets hurt.” In other words, if it’s known, it
would hurt? Then why would you do it?
· “This prevents the gossips from spreading things.” I’ve never
heard a gossip accuse anyone of chastity.
· “It’s no one else’s business anyway” Really? Then why the
secrecy? Why the midnight rendezvous?
The real reason is much simpler: it is so that one deceiver can
play out his passion with another.
Sex, you see, involves mutual trust—at least to the extent of
mutual nakedness. In the marriage relationship that trust springs
from love; in the adulterous relationship that trust springs from a
mutual guilty secret. Usually, neither party wants it known—so
neither will disclose it willingly. And both are willing to believe
that the other will respect them just as much in the morning.
God has a different view. The sins he sees his children commit in
the darkness he exposes to the light. He does this for two reasons:
· It is disciplinary for those involved. Having been embarrassed
and ashamed once tends to make twice less likely.
· It is an example for the others; this too could happen to you.
Does this work? Not really. Not for all of us. Some of us take
heed, others just vow to be more clever next time.
· We think that God does not see; the darkness must blind him
· We think that God does not care; after all, no lightning bolts
· We think that God does not act, and therefore nothing can go
wrong. Ask Bill Clinton about that last one.
Chastity is simply integrity in sexual matters.
Lord, teach us the humility to know both your greatness and your
tender love for us. Lead us not into conspiracy, but deliver us from
deception, delusion and dishonesty.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health
Administration has a problem. In every state of the union there are
abandoned mines and quarries which pose a danger to human beings. So
this agency issues flyers and press releases to warn the public
about this danger—and people ignore them. Why?
· Ignorance is one reason. You can die from gas (either explosive
or just not breathable), drowning, the walls collapsing, poisonous
snakes (love it in there), explosives, old machinery, a vertical
drop (some shafts go several hundred feet down), and disorientation
which results in starvation.
· Foolhardiness is another. Their website quite frankly admits
that old mines are “alluring, mysterious and intriguing.” Add to
that the attitude of, “It will never happen to me,” and you have
someone ready for a fall.
In short, people are too busy to find out the truth and too cocky
to do anything about it if they do. Despite all the warnings and
advertising, people still die in abandoned mines.
It’s a fundamental fact of human nature; we live in a fallen (no
pun intended) world. Solomon uses the deep well or pit as a metaphor
for the prostitute and adulteress. The parallel is rather close. For
example, the adulteress is:
· Alluring—after all, she never cleans the kitchen when you’re
· Mysterious—especially compared to the wife you know so well.
· Intriguing—she should be; she gets a lot of practice at it.
It’s an art work; still life of forbidden fruit.
Just like the abandoned mine, it’s easy to get into an adulterous
relationship—and hard to get out. Why?
· There’s the fear of exposure, they subtle danger that somehow
your wife might find out.
· If you do it long enough, you become a regular customer. You
get a discount—off your soul.
Like the mine safety people, God has posted the warning. You are
no longer ignorant. You are only tempted.
Lord, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Including the temptation to think we can juggle passions.
Prophet and Priest Polluted
This passage brings to memory a concept which is not very
familiar these days. The concept is this: because of the sin of the
people, the land can be cursed. Our ancestors were quite familiar
with this; they knew what it meant to pray for rain—and to pray hard
for rain. A greater familiarity with the Old Testament taught them
that God still rules in this universe.
We have rejected that notion. Everything now is scientific;
because we are more knowledgeable, God no longer cares about the
land on which we walk. (To state the proposition is to see the
absurdity). The truth is rather simple: the universe is a place run
by moral law. As we might put it, “what goes around, comes around.”
It hasn’t changed just because the weather bureau is smarter now.
Is this happening to us right now? The word used is “polluted.”
It is not a coincidence. Consider how we have affronted God:
· We no longer condemn any form of sexual sin. Even to touch upon
the subject in a sermon provokes the reaction that the preacher is
meddling where he shouldn’t.
· We honor those who are foremost in acclaiming sexual sin.
Churches who ordain practicing homosexuals are “bold” and
“courageous,” while those who don’t are “backward” and “out of touch
· We ignore those who are adulterous (for example) within our own
congregations. When was the last time you heard adultery rebuked?
Prostitution? Divorce? God hates divorce, says the Scripture. We
Just to make the parallel clearer, do we not trust in our might?
Might is not right, says the Lord, but we as a nation trust in our
technology. Even in the church we trust in our own wisdom; when it
contradicts the Bible we say the Holy Spirit is leading us. This is
the justification given, for example, by the Episcopal church for
its policy of ordaining homosexual priests and bishops.
It is appalling enough that we practice such wickedness as a
nation. We fit Jeremiah’s description of the nation here; the same
God is active, and the same fate awaits. If you think we’ll be the
exception, remember: the smart money was on Goliath.
Lord, have mercy on this nation we love. Send us the spirit of
revival—and repentance. Reform your world, beginning with us.
2 Peter 2:14
This passage is taken from a rather lengthy, passionate section
of Scripture written by the Apostle Peter. He was an emotional man;
his love for the church fueled his righteous anger with those who
would destroy her. Chief among these are the false teachers.
This selection gives us just one of the characteristics of such
people. In particular, he mentions their habits as sexual predators.
The phrase would be new to Peter, but it accurately pegs them.
Eyes full of adultery
No part of the human anatomy reveals the heart as well as the
eyes. We are accustomed to the idea that an honest man will look you
right in the eye, for example. Here we see the roving eye, always
looking for the next adultery. See if you recognize the symptoms:
· First, there is the constant cataloging of women. The lesson
may be pious, but his speech frequently talks of how good looking
this or that woman might be.
· Next, there is the constant probing for weaknesses—usually in
the form of “let me pray for you.” For these, to find a woman’s
troubles is to find the way into her bed.
· With these comes the constant lure for such women. These are
men who constantly show themselves to be trolling troubled waters
for troubled souls.
How do you recognize such wolves? Wait; their fruits will soon be
Their victims are always with us. These are women with what Peter
calls unstable souls. These women can be found in any church. They
frequently go from one teacher to another, seeking the latest and
greatest—and asking for his affirmation.
These are women whose marriages may lack companionship; their
marriages might be full of rage. Whatever the cause, the cure is
always found in Christ. The church needs to come alongside such
women; this is one reason we need women’s discipleship groups. Often
young, it is the task of the older woman in the faith to guide and
solidify such a soul.
Lord, taking a young soul from flightiness to rock solid
stability is neither easy nor short. Encourage us as we do this;
teach us always to know that you are the rock we seek.
Sit Up And Listen, Children
Sit up and listen, children. Today’s lesson in political
correctness is the glorious truth, “All cultures are equally valid.”
In other words, everything is beautiful in its own way.
As I write this, one of our local school districts is in turmoil.
Three Christian trustees refused to accept the state bureaucracy’s
requirement that the elementary school children be taught that gay
“marriage” is normal, proper, frequent and righteous. Approve of
this, or no state funding. This despite the people passing an
initiative declaring marriage to be solely between man and wife.
Strangely, we have a similar situation here. Lot has a couple of
male visitors. The politically correct majority wants to welcome
them in the traditional Sodom fashion (homosexual rape). It’s their
equivalent of the welcome wagon. They’re pretty confident too; as
Lot shows, he’s not a particularly courageous guy.
Do you see the parallel? In both instances the homosexuals
announce themselves to be true righteousness; anyone who doesn’t
agree is obviously defective. Therefore, we need to use force to
make sure that our values are not disrespected by weirdo right wing
fundamentalists (like Lot).
There is a fundamental issue here: how do we enforce “the will of
the majority” without trampling “the rights of the minority?” How do
we decide which shall prevail?
A moment’s reflection will give you a simple answer. If you have
two options, each claiming to be the right answer, you can only make
that decision in one of two ways:
· You may be required to resort to force. The North said slavery
was morally wrong; the South, that it was morally right. The matter
came to civil war.
· You may be able to decide between the two—but only if you
accept some other guidance as being superior to both. If there is no
accepted guide superior to both claims, then force will be the
The society of Lot’s time, in the town of Sodom, knew that force
was the answer. The politically correct in our time think the same;
the state must mandate. It would be well for them to recall the fate
Lord, it grieves those of us who love this land to see the
depravity which we now call normal. Lord, send revival—and
Do Not Defile Yourselves
Defile: to make unclean or impure; to corrupt the purity or
Thus the dictionary definition. Permit me three examples:
1. It is common in most of the world today to expect that public
officials are corrupt. Simply to get them to allow you to do
business requires a payment; more money will motivate them to deal
harshly with your competition. Note: corruption is more common than
honesty; so shouldn’t this be declared to be both normal and
2. Anyone who has worked in a restaurant or cafeteria during the
lunch hour knows: cleanliness is not next to godliness; it is next
to impossible. Without an honest health inspector, our food would be
prepared in filth. Shouldn’t this be “normal” too? It certainly
would be cheaper for the restaurants.
3. We usually think of purity in terms of soap. But did you know
there is purity in metals? How do you feel about a car manufacturer
who does not check the purity of the steel used in the frame? Does
purity matter there? Or should we let the car maker save a few
The matter is relatively simple. We still think our public
officials should be thrown out of office when shown to be
corrupt—unless, of course, sex is involved. We still want purity in
the foods we eat; we trust the car makers to use the right purity of
metals—to the point of trusting our lives to it. Failure in this is
still grounds for lawsuit. In fact, in almost every aspect of life,
we find a consistent pattern: there is a pure, right way to do
something. We expect it to be done by that pure, right way. If it
suspected that this is not happening, we investigate. If we find
that it is amiss, we are outraged.
In every area of life except one: sex. Purity in sex is mocked,
reviled, described as impossible. Television still shows us one man,
one wife families—on the rerun channel. We still have the
expectation that our wife (or husband) should remain faithful—in a
society that proclaims impurity as righteousness.
The family is the brick in the wall of society. We are taking the
bricks and grinding them into dust. How long will the wall stand?
Lord, our bodies are the temple of your Holy Spirit. Strengthen
your church in the struggle to keep that temple pure and undefiled.
Open the eyes of our civilization, that they may see.
Truth For A Lie
It is important to note the sequence of events that Paul
describes here; we are seeing it again in our day.
First, God is no longer worshiped. Instead of the Creator, his
creation is being worshiped. How so?
· Happy Earth Day! Yes, ecology is here to save you; bioethics
defines truth. So go out and meditate on nature; take a couple of
crystal pyramids with you.
· For those not so foolish, there is materialism. Oh, it’s not
that we worship the material; it’s just that we love it. (435
horsepower, zero to 60 in …)
· And—should you want to worship the highest—why, there’s
humanism. Man makes the rules; we define for ourselves what is
right. All cultures are equally valid.
Have you seen any of this lately?
Next, God “gives them over” to their passions. In other words, he
ceases to keep them out of the trouble of their own making. He
simply lets them go. Would the loving God do such a thing? If you
deny Him, He will deny you.
The result? (Remember—Paul wrote this almost two thousand years
ago). Homosexuality becomes rampant. Not just for men (as it was a
few years ago) but also for women. Another rousing victory for
feminism! Could this possibly be the same pattern that Paul saw?
Well, let’s look at the next step: they receive “in their own
persons the due penalty of their error/” Modern liberals rail at
Christians because of the AIDS epidemic (if we weren’t so repressed,
we’d have spent a lot more on AIDS research). AIDS—completely
preventable by chastity—is seen as the curse that Christians have
given to the truly righteous homosexuals. The Northridge earthquake
was centered in a very localized area—where almost all the world’s
hard core pornography was produced. It’s just a coincidence, of
course. The world knows that God either doesn’t exist or doesn’t
care, right? Did you know there’s a major earthquake fault running
right through San Francisco?
But in all this, remember: it is the heart of God that none
perish, but all be saved. The repentant heart is always heard in
Lord, your purposes cannot be thwarted. Help us to bring the
mercy you give to those who so desperately need it.
Daughters In Harlotry
Clothing, I am told, is not a simple thing. One must achieve “the
look.” Careful attention needs to be paid to the volumes of
advertising, the apparel of fashion leaders and of course any number
of magazines available at the supermarket check out stand.
The result is "the look." She is wearing black patent shoes;
fishnet stockings; a short, tight miniskirt; a blouse carefully
unbuttoned for the maximum suggestion; makeup done just so, to
emphasize the lips. Most men would find her quite worth looking
at—even though she’s in the third grade.
Why would a girl so young dress like that? Let me give you three
1. Peer pressure. She is by no means the only one; all those who
are “cool” dress like this. The pressure to conform is almost
2. Mother dresses the same way. Even if she’s dropping off her
child at a Christian school.
3. And, as Mom tells her, it’s practice for the real thing. She’s
going to need to attract a man some day.
You’re never going to attract a husband unless you dress like
that? It doesn’t seem to have been so much of a problem over the
last six thousand years or so. But let me ask Mom some questions:
· This look will get you sex. But will it get you the
companionship and love you need, or just one more one night stand?
· Is sex really the basis of a strong marriage? Or is it just the
· Are you condemning your daughter to repeat her mother’s
mistakes? You wouldn’t give her marijuana, even if you smoked it
when you were a teen.
And finally, what makes you so sure that Prince Charming is in
the bar to start with? Consider well what you advertise for; you
will get it.
The old-fashioned virtues, such as modesty and chastity, are just
that: virtues. But virtue needs to be taught. Is your daughter a
daughter of the King of Kings, or a child of harlotry? Just because
the land is full of it doesn’t mean your child should be too.
Lord, it is hard to resist the ways of the world, especially for
the children. They yearn so much to be accepted. Give us strength to
pass on to our children your way, not the world’s way.
The Rape of Tamar
2 Samuel 13:11-16
Let us be perfectly clear on the subject: rape is sin, and is
also a violent crime. Combined with incest (as in this account) it
is considered so evil as to warrant the death penalty.
But that is not the story here. The story begins with David and
his “affair” with Bathsheba. He thought he had the matter covered up
nicely when he disposed of the husband—but these things have a way
of being uncovered. God promised him that he had not heard the last
It is likely enough that Bathsheba had little choice in the
matter. David, after all, is the king. How does one argue with him?
The lesson is not lost on Amnon; the rules are different for
royalty. He sees her; he wants her; he schemes to get her alone and
he rapes her. It is not only rape, but incest; both are David’s
What does the Law say? Simply put, it says that she should have
screamed; he should have been seized promptly and taken out and
stoned to death. Since this happened in a city, and she didn’t
scream, she too would be stoned to death. You would think a death
penalty would keep this from happening. But the Law cannot prevent
sin; it can only punish it.
It doesn’t end there. Absalom, Tamar’s brother, tells her not to
worry. In due time he takes care of the problem, with a knife in
Amnon’s belly. This leads eventually to Absalom’s revolt, in which
he takes over his father’s harem—for a while. Ultimately, Absalom is
killed in the revolt. David mourns him; “Would to God I had died for
thee, O Absalom, my son, my son.”
Any pastor can tell you stories like this; you don’t need to look
in the Bible. They’re all around us. Children grow up in broken
homes, with incest, with drugs and all sorts of abuse—and go on to
found families of their own, with the same troubles. Your rebellion
against your parents comes back to haunt you—when you have children
that are just like you.
But there is a way out. His name is Jesus Christ; he’s been
working miracles in families for years. It is not unavoidable; the
cycle can be broken. But you have to ask for his help.
Lord, teach us to throw our pride on the table—for you to gather
up and keep from us. Then teach us your ways in our families, giving
us the gift of humble repentance.
To understand this one little verse we must first know that this
book of the Bible is, as its title indicates, a series of
Lamentations by the prophet Jeremiah. He laments over the fall of
the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Judah.
The rape itself was rather a routine feature of war at the time.
The practice of the time was to allow the soldiers of the victorious
army to rape the wives and daughters of the losing army’s people.
This was considered to provide a bonus for the troops; it probably
also motivated the defenders as well. Afterwards the most attractive
women would be taken as slaves. And that is the politest description
of the process which I can give.
What is unusual about this particular conquest is that God
prophesied it through Moses—several hundred years earlier. He had
the people recite the blessings and curses; one of the things
promised was precisely this ending: conquest, rape and pillage,
exile and slavery.
Judah had grown too confident in the Lord’s mercy. Always before
they experienced the cycle: they would grow fat and comfortable, and
forget God—idols were much more reasonable in their demands. Sin
soon led to disbelief; God punished the nation by means of other
sinful nations. Judah would cry out that surely they were better
than the invaders; much more righteous, by comparison at any rate.
But not until repentance came did God restore them. Finally, they
exhausted God’s patience. For those who would ask why the events of
September 11 took place, I would suggest you seek the parallel in
If a people call themselves by God’s name, he expects purity.
Often, He gets idolatry. Idolatry then involved funny looking
statues; today it involves material things; success; pride—the outer
signs are different, but it’s the same.
Interestingly, the favorite illustration of the prophets for
idolatry is adultery. The reason is simple enough for us; our
marriages are to be the picture on the living canvas of our bodies
of Christ’s love for his church. It is the small version of
faithfulness; for if you cannot be faithful to the wife you see, how
will you be faithful to the God you do not?
Lord, we acknowledge that we are to be holy, for you are holy.
Yet we are not holy; the lure of the world is very strong upon us.
Reform your church, Lord—beginning with me.
A Strange Tale
The tale seems a strange one to us. We live in a time where a
woman would be told simply to get out and socialize more. It is a
time when “romantic love” is the ideal. We are very, very
different—and yet much the same.
It was the custom of the time that a man’s widow would become the
wife of his oldest brother, assuming he was of age. Multiple wives
were a commonplace at the time. But Judah is reluctant; his oldest
son was married to the widow. His second son died at God’s command
because he refused to have sex with her. So Judah tells her to
wait—in her father’s house, and at his expense, of course.
The rationale behind this is essentially financial. In a woman’s
old age she was to be cared for by her sons. She was not allowed to
inherit property, in general. So this duty of the brother was to
raise up sons for her. It sounds strange to us; they would probably
marvel at Social Security.
One thing has remained the same: the double standard. It’s quite
acceptable for Judah to pay for a little fling with a shrine
prostitute (despite the idolatry of it) but Tamar should be executed
for her lack of chastity. Judah is single at the time; but then, so
is Tamar. Her salvation is in identifying him for the hypocrite he
Why is this form of sex so popular? I submit it is not a need to
stimulate the local economy. Men choose this form of sex for a
number of reasons:
· It is sex without obligations. When it’s over, it’s over.
· It is sex without memories. She’s just a body.
· It is sex without friendship. She is just another night.
Sadly, women have now taken up this form of sex as being the
essential social skill. Sex on the first date; knowing all the men,
and being terribly alone.
The saddest part of this today is that women see no way out. It
is socially acceptable to sleep with every man you see, but the
yearning for companionship must be rejected; otherwise, you’re old
fashioned. It is the great lie of our time.
Lord, so often life looks so empty and shallow—another night,
another man. There seems no way out; no light at the end of the
tunnel. But you are light; the light of the world. May your children
be polished mirrors of your true light.
A Great Love
It is a fact: there is very little straight theology in the
Bible. God prefers to teach his lessons in ways more memorable—pithy
proverbs, parables and occasionally even an allegory. Hosea is just
such an allegory.
Allegory: the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures
and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence. So
says the dictionary; but Hosea is not fictional. But he does
represent part of the story God wants to tell. He represents God in
this story. His wife, Gomer, represents Israel. Her adultery
represents the idolatry of Israel.
So, that’s the story. But note this: God commanded Hosea to marry
this woman—even though he knew she was a prostitute. Most marriage
counselors would not consider this the best possible match. Worse,
after they are married she takes what he provides for her—and still
goes out and works as a prostitute.
Well, the book itself is a love story—the love of God for Israel,
and indeed all his children. It is also part of the prophetic
record; it tells of Israel’s exile and ultimate return.
But let’s go back to this marriage. Nothing, absolutely nothing,
has the same effect on a marriage that adultery does. It is the
source of murder, rage and some of the most vicious words the human
tongue can form. Our Lord considered it the only reason which
And yet—so great is the love of God for his people—that he
commands Hosea to take her back. To do this, Hosea must purchase her
out of slavery. It is interesting to see that the price is about
half that fixed by the law for a female slave. Not just a slave;
Even more surprising is this: Hosea doesn’t argue with God about
it; he just goes and does it. It is a reminder of the obedience of
Christ to the will of the Father—but it is also a testament to the
power of love that God puts into his people. Christ bought us at the
Cross—and put just that love within us.
The grace of God is overwhelming. Can you imagine the look on
Gomer’s face when she was purchased by the husband she had despised?
It is grace; unmerited favor. Perhaps Hosea was so close to God that
some of it rubbed off.
Lord, your grace is indeed amazing. May we stop justifying
ourselves and our lusts, and accept your forgiveness.
A Hard Saying
It usually comes as a surprise to couples in argument that
divorce is very much a question of authority. The husband is given
authority over his wife’s body; she may no longer use it as she
pleases. Likewise, the wife is given authority over the husband’s
body; it is not his to do with as he pleases.
So, with my tongue firmly in cheek, here’s what it takes to get
yours truly into bed with someone other than my wife:
· She’s got to be no worse than third runner up in the Miss
· She has to adore fat, bald married men.
· She also needs my wife’s permission.
(And if this ever happens, look for the sun to rise in the west.)
That, however, should give you an idea of just how permanent God
intends that bond of marriage to be. Consider, please, the
seriousness of getting married. In any other major decision in your
life, you would seek the counsel of those you consider wise, those
you think have your interests at heart. In our case, no seeking was
required. Upon the announcement of our intentions, my father took my
bride-to-be aside and explained, at great length, why this was not a
good idea. When he gave up, Mom started in. By the grace of God, my
wife was not listening. But it gives you the idea. Getting married
Then consider the seriousness of staying married. The bond is
life long; what happens when he says north and she south? Separation
is not an option. Therefore, someone must be in charge; the senior
partner. God has assigned this to the male. It is fashionable now to
decry this, but to deny this is to face two options:
· Either the marriage gives way at the first serious argument, or
· She wears the pants in the family.
I will leave it to the women: what do you think of the man in
such a marriage? This staying married is neither easy nor trivial.
But it is God’s intention that marriage be life long. It is his
picture of Christ’s love for the church. Love should be answered
with faithfulness—husband and Christ both.
Lord, all seems rosy on the wedding day—but you desire the roses
to last a lifetime. May we grow such roses in our marriages.
Those As I Am
1 Corinthians 7:7
This is one of those passages in the New Testament which
Protestants find “curious.” Paul says it would be good to be like
him: he is single; he is fully dedicated to the cause of Christ as a
full time worker, even when he supports himself; even though others
among the Apostles are married (for example, Peter.) Given the fuss
over priestly celibacy, most evangelical Christians ignore this
verse. But it has its lessons.
First, it teaches us that in the church one size does not fit
all. Each of us is given differing gifts by the Holy Spirit. My
gifts are not necessarily better or worse than yours; just
different. They are given at the pleasure of the Holy Spirit for the
purpose of building up the church. For example, some people are
given the gift of writing daily devotionals. As far as the American
publishing establishment is concerned, I’m not one of them.
But we can make this principle with application to love and
marriage. Paul is celibate; but he recognizes that others may not
have that gift. He also recognizes that this may be a gift given in
times of great persecution but not in other times. The Holy Spirit
equips the church to meet the world of its time.
Here is another example of “judge not.” Not everyone can be
celibate; if it seems a good thing at the time, those who are not
capable of it should not be looked down upon. Similarly, at other
times, those who are called to celibacy should not be condemned
either. How do you know what God may have called that man or woman
to do? It is admirable to have such self-denial; not all of us can
Indeed, God has other purposes for most of us—especially the
raising of children in the church. It is possible, however, that
after this the Spirit may call you to celibacy for the purposes of
God. Many a church has been blessed by godly widows.
Those who deny themselves in this fashion are relatively few in
number. But we should not misunderstand them. If this is their call,
then we should honor that call. We should support them in it—in
other words, no blind dates with your cousin. Mindful of their
sacrifice, we should willingly render assistance to them. Their
devotion is a model to the rest of us.
Lord, we live in a time when celibate devotion to you is taken as
a sign of mental illness—or worse. Grant us your eyes to see the
sacrifices being made to honor your name.
The Woman Taken In Adultery
It should be noted, first, that this passage does not appear in
the oldest known manuscripts of the New Testament. The explanation
is rather simple; the early church did not want it published because
to some it seemed to condone adultery. After the canon of Scripture
was firmly established, it was placed in John’s Gospel. There is
some doubt as to exactly where it should go, but this is of no
importance to us.
May I take you back to the night before this incident? We know
quite well what the woman was doing the night before. Jesus,
however, spent the entire night in prayer. He then arrived at dawn
in the Temple courts. There’s a lesson in that.
The Pharisees have constructed a clever trap. It would seem that
Jesus has only two options:
· He can condemn her to death—and lose his reputation as being
the friend of the sinner.
· He can be merciful to her—and lose his reputation for
But there is a third, more subtle, option. He could say that it
is such a shame that the Romans won’t let us stone her; but this is
God’s punishment for Israel’s idolatry. If he does, it seems he
maintains his reputation—but at the cost of becoming nothing more
than one in a long line of clever rabbis. But none of these courses
is the Father’s will.
Instead, Jesus writes on the ground with his finger. Was he, as
tradition holds, writing out the sins of her accusers? They keep
questioning him until he renders his judgment. Note that all go
away—even the crowd. There is conviction in those words.
Jesus then turns to the sinner. In no way does God condone
adultery; a point that is common between Jesus, the Pharisees and
indeed this woman. But condemnation requires an accuser; there is
none left. Jesus sends her away without condemning her—but warning
her to sin no more.
Can it be that simple? Repent; sin no more; accept the
forgiveness of God? It can; it is. It is called grace. It is
interesting to note that there are only two times when God wrote
with his finger. For Moses, the Ten Commandments. For us, the grace
Lord, forgiveness is not earned but given by your grace. May our
hearts accept this and treat others the same way.