Posts Tagged ‘sexual sin’

2 Samuel 3:2-5
David’s Sons Born in Hebron

Who says the Bible is not current? Just look at this passage for today, 2 Samuel 3:2-5. Though it is short, it gives us a glimpse into one of David’s flaws. He loved women just a little too much! In this short passage we see that his six sons were by six different women. Whoa! Talk about getting around! David knew that this was against God’s Word but he justified it by the culture in which he lived. In the ancient Middle East, kings could take as many women as they wanted – wives, concubines, whatever. So, does this passage justify the sexual revolution that we have seen in our culture. Does it validate that you can have sex with as many women as you want? Does it validate alternative sexual behaviors since this is clearly anti-law here. Or is there something greater going on here? Is this the seed of the troubles that David will experience in governing later in the Old Testament? Do we see parallels into the ills of our society today because of freedom to have sex with whomever we want? Let us read this passage and then think about that concept.

2 These are the sons who were born to David in Hebron:

The oldest was Amnon, whose mother was Ahinoam from Jezreel.
The second was Daniel, whose mother was Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel.
The third was Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur.
The fourth was Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith.
The fifth was Shephatiah, whose mother was Abital.
The sixth was Ithream, whose mother was Eglah, David’s wife.

These sons were all born to David in Hebron.

In this passage, we see that each one of David’s sons were born of a different mother. As we progress through the life of David in the Old Testament, we are going to see that David suffered much heartache because of his many wives. Polygamy was a socially acceptable practice for kings in the ancient Middle East at this time in human history. David’s practices with regard to taking many wives was reflective of the times in which he lived, although God specifically warned against it (see Deuteronomy 17:14-17). Sadly, the numerous sons born to David’s wives caused him great trouble. Rape (2 Samuel 13:14), murder (2 Samuel 13:28) rebellion and civil war (2 Samuel 15:13) and greed (1 Kings 1:5-6) all resulted from the jealous rivalries among the half-brothers, all sons of David. Solomon, one of David’s sons born later after this passage was written, when he ascended to the throne after his father, David, passed away also took many wives (some of whom were pagan women) eventually got Solomon so wracked in sin that he wandered away from God (see 1 Kings 11:3-4).

Just because the culture says it is OK and other people are doing it does not mean that we should join in with the practices that are considered acceptable by the culture. Our first measure as to whether a cultural practice is something we should participate in should be God’s Word. If God’s Word prohibits or warns against the practice directly or by inference, we should stand against the practice and not participate in it. God’s laws are not intended to inhibit us but rather protect us from that which is harmful to us. Many cultural practices today are now considered fashionable and OK though the Bible stands against such things. In order to say such things are OK, you either have to say that the Bible is old-fashioned and out of date and out of step with the times and thus no longer valid and applicable to our times. Alternatively, you have to play academic and theological gymnastics to interpret passages in such a way that support that the social practice is, indeed, “biblical.”

As we can see here in this passage, David probably had a really good time bouncing around from woman to woman. Mel Brooks in his movie, “History of the World”, a hilarious and by today’s standards politically incorrect satire on the history of the western world, coined the phrase, “it’s good to be the king!” every time he would as King Louis of France make a flirtation or sexual advance toward a beautiful woman in his court. I am sure David would have used this phrase when thinking about the women he had sex with to produce these sons. However, it is clear from God’s Word that sex should be confined to one man and one woman in a marriage covenant. The weight of biblical evidence in this regard is heavy. To use this passage as support for sexual freedom is to take it out of context of the biblical narrative of David’s life. It was his willingness to have sex with as many women as possible and sire sons by these women that almost brings down his kingdom. Further, even after all the stuff that happened because of these rivalries born of David’s multiple sex partners permanent crippled David’s kingdom after the civil war that was the culmination of these rivalries. The kingdom of Israel went into maintenance mode after that and was finally split in two within one generation after David’s death.

I think all of us in the church have seen the effects of the sexual revolution on our culture. You sometimes have to have a playbill to know what kids belong to who nowadays. Daddies, wives, and children all with different names. The destructiveness of divorce and remarriage on our culture is tangibly real in crime statistics, drug abuse, and so on. It is clear that though we can have sex with whomever we want (there is nothing stopping us from doing so) but that does not mean it is we can or should.

Let us become a nation that turns back to God because we realize that his prohibitions and warnings against certain behaviors are not mean to hold us back from what we want but rather to protect us from the effects “of eating such fruit”! Let us become a nation where we think long and hard before we marry. Let us become a nation where we work our problems out instead of changing spouses like we change underwear. Let us become a nation that makes our marriages comply with biblical standards. Let us become a nation where we place our marriages above our won personal desires. Let us become a nation that sees the Bible’s guidance as valuable, timeless, and for our protection from our own foolishness.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 16:1-22
Samson & Delilah

In my blogs over these past few years that I have been doing them, you know that my past was ruled with the pursuit of female pleasures. Pursuing it. Maintaining it. Worshiping it. It was my god. That has been well-documented here. So, for today, I am not going to spend a great deal of time rehashing that past. Just know that when I read about Samson and Delilah, I can just so so so see myself. Samson is me and I am Samson. The Samson and Delilah story is my story. You would think that Samson would have caught on to the deceptions of Delilah the second time around, but, geez, he kept letting himself be fooled. Over and over again. Why? Because Samson worshiped passion more than he worshiped God. It was his idol. The passage starts out with his pursuit of passion and it ends with the pursuit of passion causing Samson’s downfall. Let’s read about in Judges 16:1-22:

16 One day Samson went to the Philistine town of Gaza and spent the night with a prostitute. 2 Word soon spread[a] that Samson was there, so the men of Gaza gathered together and waited all night at the town gates. They kept quiet during the night, saying to themselves, “When the light of morning comes, we will kill him.”

3 But Samson stayed in bed only until midnight. Then he got up, took hold of the doors of the town gate, including the two posts, and lifted them up, bar and all. He put them on his shoulders and carried them all the way to the top of the hill across from Hebron.

4 Some time later Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek. 5 The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “Entice Samson to tell you what makes him so strong and how he can be overpowered and tied up securely. Then each of us will give you 1,100 pieces[b] of silver.”

6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me what makes you so strong and what it would take to tie you up securely.”

7 Samson replied, “If I were tied up with seven new bowstrings that have not yet been dried, I would become as weak as anyone else.”

8 So the Philistine rulers brought Delilah seven new bowstrings, and she tied Samson up with them. 9 She had hidden some men in one of the inner rooms of her house, and she cried out, “Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!” But Samson snapped the bowstrings as a piece of string snaps when it is burned by a fire. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.

10 Afterward Delilah said to him, “You’ve been making fun of me and telling me lies! Now please tell me how you can be tied up securely.”

11 Samson replied, “If I were tied up with brand-new ropes that had never been used, I would become as weak as anyone else.”

12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him up with them. The men were hiding in the inner room as before, and again Delilah cried out, “Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!” But again Samson snapped the ropes from his arms as if they were thread.

13 Then Delilah said, “You’ve been making fun of me and telling me lies! Now tell me how you can be tied up securely.”

Samson replied, “If you were to weave the seven braids of my hair into the fabric on your loom and tighten it with the loom shuttle, I would become as weak as anyone else.”

So while he slept, Delilah wove the seven braids of his hair into the fabric. 14 Then she tightened it with the loom shuttle.[c] Again she cried out, “Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!” But Samson woke up, pulled back the loom shuttle, and yanked his hair away from the loom and the fabric.

15 Then Delilah pouted, “How can you tell me, ‘I love you,’ when you don’t share your secrets with me? You’ve made fun of me three times now, and you still haven’t told me what makes you so strong!” 16 She tormented him with her nagging day after day until he was sick to death of it.

17 Finally, Samson shared his secret with her. “My hair has never been cut,” he confessed, “for I was dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as anyone else.”

18 Delilah realized he had finally told her the truth, so she sent for the Philistine rulers. “Come back one more time,” she said, “for he has finally told me his secret.” So the Philistine rulers returned with the money in their hands. 19 Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she began to bring him down,[d] and his strength left him.

20 Then she cried out, “Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!”

When he woke up, he thought, “I will do as before and shake myself free.” But he didn’t realize the Lord had left him.

21 So the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes. They took him to Gaza, where he was bound with bronze chains and forced to grind grain in the prison.

22 But before long, his hair began to grow back.

Here, in this passage, we see that Samson was deceived because he wanted to believe Delilah’s lies. Although he could strangle a lion, he could not control his burning lust for women. When the passage opens, he has spent the night with a prostitute. Next, he finds Delilah and his lust for the pleasures of women blinds him, pardon the pun, to who Delilah really was. Delilah was a deceitful woman with honey on her lips and poison in her heart. Cold and calculating, she toyed with Samson, pretending to love him (realizing his lust for the pleasures of women) while looking for personal gain. Four times, Delilah took advantage of him. If he didn’t realize after the first, or second, or third time she fooled him surely he should have understood the situation by the fourth time, right? We think Samson is foolish but how many times do we allow ourselves to be fooled by flattery and give in to temptation and wrong actions and event accepting behaviors that we know to be wrong. Sexual desire can lead us to do many stupid things that we would not ordinarily do or accept things we would not ordinarily accept. How can we keep our desire for sexual pleasure and the acceptance and validation that it may temporarily bring us from deceiving us? First, we must decide in advance what kind of person you will be willing to fall in love with before you allow passion to take over. Second, because most of the time that you will spend with your spouse will be NOT having sex, determine if your lover’s personality, temperament, interests, quirks, habits, etc. are as gratifying to you as the sexual encounters that you desire to have with that person after marriage. Third, take your time. Observe your potential mate over time. Over time, our potential mate will inevitably begin revealing more than just the seductive touches and kisses and their best behavior. Fourth, and most importantly, do they have a relationship with Jesus Christ or are they at least open to talking about Him?

Sexual desire is the most powerful of human urges and it can blind us to many things about our potential mate. Sexual desire without discernment can destroy our lives when we let it rule our lives. I can personally vouch for that. My life has been dominated in the past by the quest for sexual pleasure. I was ruled by the pursuit of it, the thinking of the pursuit of it, and it nearly ruined my life. When I look back on the stupid things that I did, the money I spent, the mistakes with money that I made, and poor moral choices that I had made, it was all in pursuit of obtaining or maintaining access that god I worshiped which was desire.

My momma always said to me when I was a young man and I just blew it off at the time as an old woman just spouting off. However, my mom may have not had a doctoral degree like my dad but she was a wise woman. She always told me that I needed a woman in my life that I could be friends with in the living room just as much or more than I could be friends with her in the bedroom. What that meant was that you spend a hell of a lot more time with the woman in your life NOT having sex than you do having sex so you damn sure better be able to get along with her outside those brief times that you have sexual intercourse. Wise words, mom! Wise words. Elena has told that her mother had a wise saying about that too. Her mom would say don’t accept even one time what you are not willing to put up with the rest of your life. These are wise words, momacita! Wise words. These are things we must get through our heads when we are measuring our success in life by sex and the validation that it brings. We often mistake passion for love, especially when you worship passion and get your personal value from passion. That was Samson’s downfall. He found value and personal validation from the pursuit and conquest of women. He did not find his full value in the Lord. His desire and passion led him to make stupid mistakes and make them over and over again. It is my story as well. It was not until I had been a Christ follower for quite some time that the Holy Spirit finally wrestled and vanquished that demon in my soul.

I am now married to a woman that our marriage is not based on putting up with crap 99% of the time just so we can have that 1% of the time that sex actually takes place. I am friends with her in the living room. We have the same goals in life. We both love the Lord. We both have courtesy for each other. We both forgive quickly. We both allow the other to be themselves. We both don’t require the other one to jump through hoops to be accepted by the other. We are just good friends who enjoy spending time together. Sure, the sex is there and it is good, but it is not the measure of our relationship. Sex is not used as a weapon in our marriage. Our marriage is one that is about loving each other and making each other better as a result of being together. This marriage has been a long-time coming. It took a lifetime of being Samson to figure out that I needed an Elena instead of all the Delilahs that have littered my life’s path. I pray that you have that. I pray that you have honest conversations with your spouse if you do not. If you are single, please, please be discerning about the men you date (if a woman) or the women you date (if a man). Don’t put up with for one minute what you are not willing to put up with for a lifetime. Make sure that the passion that you feel for this one girl or guy of this moment doesn’t blind you to a lifetime of putting up with what you said you would never put up with. Make sure that this girl or this guy is someone that you can be friends with for a lifetime outside the bedroom as much as you can easily be friends with them in the bedroom. You spend a hell of a lot more time in the living room than you do the bedroom. Think with your brain rather than just the passion burning in your loins. Do not let that burning desire make you accept things that are not of God, not good for you, and just plain wrong.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 6:1-32 (Part 1 of 5)
Gideon Becomes Israel’s Judge

Back when we were living in California in 2009 and 2010, we were active members of a great start-up church called Livermore Alive Community Church (LACC) in Livermore, CA. It was there while we were at LACC that Elena accepted Christ as her Savior and Lord. And, it was there that I finally began to grow up as a Christ follower (after accepting Christ as my Savior and Lord in December 2001). Up to that point, I had been a spiritual baby unwilling to mature or simply failing to see the need to mature. I thought I was good just having accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord. That way, I could keep dabbling in my what I considered my justifiable sins. The ones that were OK for me to commit because of the rationalizations that I had developed for them.

In the years in between the end of my second marriage and the beginning of a committed relationship with Elena. I went through a series of relationships that all became sexual at some point in those relationships whether they were a one-time date or a relationship that lasted a few months. I thought that sex outside the confines of marriage was OK for me. I had been through two tough marriages and I deserved this freedom and the rewards that it brought. Besides as you have read here many times, even after salvation there was a lot of sanctification to be done (not that the Holy Spirit’s job is finished now by a long shot!) and it took a long time for the Lord to rid me of the god that sexual validation was for me. Because that was my pet sin, validation of my value as a person through something other than God (in this case, validation through sex), it stunted my spiritual growth. It was my pet sin and our pet sins push us away from reading God’s Word. We steer clear of God’s convicting Word when we have active sin in our lives. We may read about the Bible but hardly ever read the Bible. We pick and choose the things that we read about the Bible too. Only those things that keep us clear of God’s Word convicting us of our sin.

God was able to tame me down in this lost world of seeking that perfect relationship when he gave me Elena. She didn’t want a relationship with me. But there was something about her, the challenge of her that kept me around her. Strangely enough for me, we became friends first. Our porch conversations in those days in Rock Hill before we became a real couple are legendary memories in our relationship. It was a first for me for me to be real friends with a woman without sex being a part of the equation. It was only after we became friends that we became lovers. Yes, we became committed to each other and we became exclusive to one another. Even when I had to move to California, we remained committed. Finally, when my temporary assignment out there became a permanent one, she decided to move out to California to be with me. We lived together but we were not married. We were engaged and that was good enough for us. We both had been married twice and justified not getting married again on those grounds. We were committed to each other but we were living together and we were good with that. We weren’t much on reading the Bible back then so we avoided the whole issue of our sexual relationship being outside the boundaries for it set by God. We were committed to each other, right! So, it was OK, right! Allowing that sin to stand was OK, right?

It was not until several months in at LACC that we got confronted with our sin of sex outside of the marriage covenant. Our pastor who was the planting pastor of our church was developing an elder team to come alongside him in the governance of the church. I felt that because we had become so involved in the church and its activities and because we had become such close friends with the pastor and his wife and because we, Elena and I, had grown so much spiritually since we came there, it would be slam dunk for me to be part of the elder team.

One night when I had my interview with the pastor (to me it was just two buddies getting together as he and I were close), he confronted me with my sin. He said that he would love for me to be on the elder team but our interview could not even start. He said how can you be an elder in the church if you are living with a woman to whom you are not married. How can you be an elder if you are having sex with a woman that is not your wife. Bombshell dropped. Sin confronted. Plain and simple. You have unrepentant sin in your life that you don’t even recognize as sin. You cannot be a leader in our church EVER until you see your publicly flaunted, unrepentant sin for what it is. You need to seek forgiveness from the Lord and stop the sin. You must stamp it out from your life. You must destroy it. Drive it out. Turn around from it and run. Within two weeks, Elena and I were married because our pastor loved us enough to confront us about our sin. Our sins will destroy us if we do not stamp them out of our lives. First, we must identify it as sin and then stamp it out.

The irony of that confrontation was that my pastor had his own unconfessed and unrepentant sin that he kept hidden and ultimately destroyed his ministry in that church about a year and half later and it imploded the entire church. It almost destroyed his marriage. His marriage is still reeling from the effects of his pornography addiction. His unconfessed and unrepented sin came out and it changed everything. It came back to haunt him. Sexual sin is one of the sins that in our modern culture we as Christians are often like the culture. It is OK now to have sex any way you want it. It is OK for people sitting in church to be living together outside of wedlock. It is OK for us as Christians to be having sex with everyone we date. It is OK for us as Christian men to be looking at soft porn or even hard core porn because we say there are no victims. It is OK because the culture says it is OK.

We avoid reading through the Bible in its entirety. We avoid reading through complete books of the Bible so that we don’t have to run across convicting passages. We look up themes that we like in the Bible and just read those passages so we don’t have to address the real issue of sexual sin. I was that way about sexual sin. God just wants me to be happy, right? It’s OK for me. God makes an exception for me. It’s all sin, bro! No justifications. No exceptions. We wonder why our families in today’s culture are a complete mess. Sexual sin is at the root of it. My life, until I married Elena, is a testimony to that fact. Our sins always, always, always come back to haunt us.

Today as we begin our five-part look at Judges 6:1-32, let us focus on the first seven (7) verses for this devotional. Here, we need to think about who the Midianites are and how that relates to my opening illustration. Sometimes, it seems harsh to us that the God often called Israel to completely wipe out a group of people. It seemed almost generous of the Israelites not to carry out the total judgment called for by God. Sometimes, we are the same way about sin. This sin is OK to allow to continue. Look God, I have repented of this sin, but you gotta let me keep that one.
6 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.

7 When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”

11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.”

19 Gideon went inside, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah[a] of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak.

20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”

23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

24 So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

25 That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old.[b] Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole[c] beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of[d] altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second[e] bull as a burnt offering.”

27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.

28 In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!

29 They asked each other, “Who did this?”

When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”

30 The people of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”

31 But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” 32 So because Gideon broke down Baal’s altar, they gave him the name Jerub-Baal[f] that day, saying, “Let Baal contend with him.”

In this passage, we must remember some things. First, we must remember that the Bible is a continuous story of the history of God’s people. It has a progression. It is not just a collection of disjointed books that are really standalone. No. The books of the Bible are all interconnected and relate to the ongoing history of God’s people and God’s interaction with them. This passage is a reminder of that progression. Second, because of that progression from past to present to future, that history, we should remember that the Midianites were desert people descended from Abraham’s second wife, Keturah, as noted in Genesis 25:1-2. Midian was one of the six children that Keturah bore for Abraham. From this relationship, the descendants of Midian, the Midianites, became a nation that was always a source of conflict for Israel. Years earlier, while Israel was still wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites battled the Midianites and almost destroyed them (see Numbers 31:1-20). Notice I said, almost. Because of their failure to completely destroy them, the Midianites repopulated into to an even larger nation of people. And, here we are again where the Midianites are in conflict with Israel. Here, though, they have through their constant raiding and marauding oppressed the Israelite nation. In a sense, they are ruling over them. So, from this passage, we see something that we can use in our daily lives today. I think the point being that we must eradicate sin completely from our lives when God commands us to do so. We cannot allow it to be something we do halfheartedly as unrepentant sin will come back with a vengeance to destroy us.

What is your unconfessed sin? What is your pet sin that you do not want to let go of? What consequences of this sin are you blaming on randomness or blaming on others that are a result of not seeing your sin as sin? What consequences are haunting you because you do not see your pet sin as sin? Sin always has consequences and the lie that Satan tells us that these consequences are either OK or that they are somebody else’s fault! What sins am I still harboring today that I consider not to be sins? What is my favorite sin now that I do not see as a sin?

Let us examine ourselves, brothers and sisters! Let us ask God to confront us with our sins. Let us repent from them and no longer justify them. Let us walk away from them and return to a God that is just but yet willing to forgive a penitent heart. Let us walk in the grace of Jesus Christ. There is grace for our sin but we must turn away from it and leave it at the cross. We must run from our sin. We must first see our sin as sin and WANT to run from it.

Just as the Midianites should have been wiped away completely by the Israelites but were not and became a constant source of tyranny for the Israelites, we too must stamp out our sins when the Holy Spirit shows us our sins. Destroy them or they will destroy you.

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 7:1-15 (Part 3 of 4)

Ai Defeats the Israelites

Sin has its consequences. Just look at our society. We tolerate sin now that was not tolerated by a society as short as a generation ago. We call it enlightened reason now.


Multiple marriages among heterosexuals is considered commonplace. Tired of your wife or husband. Get a new one. It is how we feel that is important. If you and I are dissatisfied with our marriage, we have affairs and we get divorced. We don’t care about the consequences of that. Adultery is a sin no matter how you slice it. God has made that pretty clear in His Word. There are no occasions where adultery is given an OK by God. The result of adultery and multiple marriages is that we have children being raised, typically, by single moms. They have been left burdened with raising children in ways that they were not equipped by God to handle alone. Moms are forced to be moms and dads all rolled up into one and moms are simply not wired for the dad role. US Census bureau statistics reveal that 80% of single parent homes are headed by moms. Today, you have to have a diagram to see what kids belong to what parents because of differences in last names. Sons of single mom homes are twice as likely to get into trouble with the law. Daughters of single mom homes are twice as likely to engage in sexual activity before age 16 and twice as like to become pregnant before graduating high school. Statistics for single dad homes are only slightly better but such homes are rare because men seemed to have vacated their responsibilities for parenting once a divorce occurs. Where are the fathers? The sexual revolution, the break with the old-fashioned moral absolutes of the Bible about sex, has had its consequences on our society. We have moms doing jobs of fathers that they are not equipped to handle and fathers have found pursuit of sex more important than parenting.


We live in a society now that glorifies male sexual conquests? Why get married these days? Sex before and sex outside of marriage is commonplace. Our music and our television shows and all forms of media blast us with the fact that sex outside marriage is not only OK but it is glorified. Listen to any popular music radio station today and the songs are about sexual conquests and how many babes you can bag. We have sexualized women to the point that they dress in such provocative ways that we wonder why there is so much sex outside of wedlock. There is a generation of women being culturalized to believe that sex is the measuring stick of their value in the world. In today’s world, a second date means sexual intercourse, if not on the first date. Sexual intercourse is a recreation sport in Western culture. The sexual revolution of the 1970s has evolved into what we see now among generations of men and women. The fallout is broken homes, children of divorce, increased crime rates among boys from fatherless homes, increased sexual activity and pregnancies among teen girls. But we are enlightened! Sexual freedom is what we were after and anything less than that is old fashioned and square.


Don’t get me wrong as a person who is standing in sanitized bubble and preaching because I have some moral high ground. I am a product of this society of heterosexual freedom. Affairs and divorce and single parent homes are just as prevalent among Christians as the general society. Sex outside of marriage is just as prevalent in Christian circles as it in the general population. I was no different. I rationalized away or just plain out ignored the portions of the Bible that condemned fornication, adultery, and divorce. When I look back on my sexual conquests of the past that were not in the confines of marriage, I feel ashamed that I actually rationalized it away as OK. Three of those relationships ended up in marriage but think of the ones that did not. Those broken relationships leave scars on us all especially our children. How can we preach to them about not having sex with their latest boyfriend or girlfriend if we have had a sordid sexual history often played out before their eyes, metaphorically speaking? But we are enlightened!


Another form of sexual relationships that has become en-vogue. Homosexuality is clearly stated as a sinful sexual activity just as much as fornication and adultery in both the Old Testament and the New. Even Jesus himself said that marriage is between one man and one woman. But now it is enlightened to say that it is OK. Anyone who steps out against homosexuality as being sinful behavior is blasted as being a cultural Neanderthal. Homosexuality has become so commonplace now and so accepted by society that the government has legally sanctioned marriages between people of the same sex. And this right is a protected right and any abridging of it is a discriminatory offense. We have gone so far as to say that it is OK to raise children in homes where the marriage partners cannot produce children on their own because they are of the same sex. The homosexual community will spout statistics of how children of gay marriages are no different than children from intact biological family units. And there are studies, too, that say just the opposite such the study by Mark Regenerus of the University of Texas. That study found that children of gay parents have more sexual partners as teenagers than children of biological heterosexual parents. They four times more like to become homosexual or bi-sexual. They are significantly more likely to have been sexually abused in some way. But my contention would be that it is really too soon to draw statistically valid comparisons since adoption by same sex parents is such a recent phenomenon. We will not know the impact for another generation. My contention though is as with the heterosexual “sexual revolution”, the impact of gay marriage and gay parenting will not be entirely positive and the subtle social effects will be dealt with by churches, governments, medical community, etc. Society will pay these costs not because we call these sinful behaviors but because we call it enlightened.


That idea of sin having its consequences is what I thought of this morning as I read through Joshua 7:1-15 for the third of four times that we will read through it. Let’s read it together, now:


7 But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things[a]; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri,[b] the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.


2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.


3 When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” 4 So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 5 who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.


6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! 8 Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? 9 The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”


10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.


13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.


14 “‘In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord chooses shall come forward clan by clan; the clan the Lord chooses shall come forward family by family; and the family the Lord chooses shall come forward man by man. 15 Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and has done an outrageous thing in Israel!’”


In this passage, for this morning, we must ask the question, “Why did Achan’s sin bring judgment on the entire nation?” Although it was one man’s failure, God saw it as national disobedience to a national law. God needed the entire nation to be committed to the job they had agreed to do – conquer the land. Thus, when one person failed, everyone failed. If Achan’s sin went unpunished, unlimited looting could break out. The nation as a whole had to take responsibility for preventing this undisciplined disobedience. Achan’s sin was not merely his keeping some of the captured goods, but, more importantly, it was his disobeying God’s explicit command to destroy everything connected with Jericho. Achan’s sin was indifference to the evil and idolatry of the city, not just a desire for wealth. God would not protect Israel’s army again until the sin was removed and the army returned to obeying Him without reservation. God is not content with our doing what is right some of the time. We are under orders from Him to root out any thoughts, practices, or possessions that hinder our devotion to Him.


In our society today, we do not really see the problem with our society is the breakdown of the family. We call recreational sex good. We call homosexuality good. We call multiple marriages good. We call homosexual wedlock good. All in the name of enlightenment and the pursuit of self! The values of the past are old-fashioned and binding to the free expression of who we are. We want to do what we want when we want and how we want. In order to do that, we must erase certain specifically identified sins as not being sins anymore. We logically breakdown the Bible as being old fashioned and that a belief in an extraterrestrial God is simply foolish. We have to do this because if we admit His existence then we have to admit that there are sins. Even if we admit there is a God we have made Him in to our buddy that simply wants us to be happy and fulfill our most passionate desires. He no longer is a God who has standards of behavior. Everything we do is OK by Him.


The consequences of sins of heterosexual promiscuity are everywhere and are well documented after two generations of heterosexual free love. It is alarming. Add to that the homosexual revolution of this generation will have its effects that we will only begin to see in the next generation.


The point here is not that I am some sexual prude. I have participated in this society’s brand of sexual freedom and the consequences of it all on my own life are profound. What I am saying here is like Achan rationalized away a direct order from God and called a sin not sin and it had mighty, mighty consequence on his life. As Western culture and particularly in America, we are just beginning to see that calling things that are sins no longer sins has had and will continue to have its consequences on our nation.


It is Isaiah 5:20-21 that says it most clearly, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight!”


May we one day as a nation and a culture realize that we have sinned. May we not rationalize our sexual sins as good. May we realize the consequences of saying that which is evil is no longer evil. May we realize that God did actually have our best interest at heart. May we be a nation that no longer hides its sins but admits them to the Lord and repents and turns away from them. May we be a nation that sees God not as our enemy but as our Father who wants the best for us and obey Him out of love and honor. May we quit shaking our fist at Him as disobedient Achans who rationalize away our sins as no longer sins.


Amen and Amen.

Numbers 25:1-18 (Part 1)

Moab Seduces Israel

It was 1991. Dunlop Slazenger Corporation, the golf and tennis company, my employer, had just moved into its brand new headquarters on Pleasantburg Drive in Greenville just the year before. The corporate headquarters was a bunch of twenty and thirty somethings. We were all a group of young bucks that enjoyed working together. We were made closer as we were all going through QIP (Quality Improvement Program) training once a week for a whole afternoon. There were two sets of classes. Those classes seemed to draw us all closer together. We were all learning to work collaboratively to solve problems in the company. Relationships began there. It seemed that everybody was having affairs within our organization. Up to that point in my life, I was the clean cut, altar boy type. Naïve as hell.


I had my reasons. My first wife had put me through my own living hell of her drug abuse. Two stints in rehab. She had her own affair during all that craziness that was her period of drug abuse that changed our marriage forever. There was this martyred hatred that I had for her for what she had put me through. After she had gotten clean though, she had transferred addictions in that she had transferred addictions to spending money. I never knew how much money we really had at any given time. Add to that, she was the only woman I had ever been with. I was angry and was looking for something to happen in a place that was ripe for it. A bunch of young folks at place where the senior management was not setting the example but participating in the whole who is having an affair with who mentality. I wanted some of the thrilling action. I did want to be left out. As well, I had been through hell in my marriage and I deserved it. Then, as part of the quality program classes, I met a woman that found me attractive, found me funny, who was living in a physically abusive relationship with her husband. And it happened. I began an affair with the woman who would become my second wife eventually. I felt so alive again. She was sane and inviting and warm and loving where my first wife was somebody that I had to clean up after, make exceptions for, was such a demanding person to be in a relationship with. I was young and grabbing for a life I had never experienced before. She was normal and she had desire, serious desire for me. It all was justified in my mind. I deserved this happiness and this passionate desire that I felt. With all the trouble that I had put up with in my first marriage, how could this affair be wrong. I deserved it. I deserved to be happy. I had been through so much with my first wife that I would go into great detail here, but even my church friends at my wife’s family church took great pity on me for the things I had been through with their niece, cousin, etc. It was the first justifiable adultery in the world as far as I was concerned. Torrid moments stolen away together, secret phone calls from pay phones (back in the day when we had pay phones), wishing and wanting to be together. Daydreams of a life together. Sneaking away for real life moments together. Voice mail messages. It was all very exciting, dangerous, and thrilling. I deserved it. I deserved to follow the desires of my heart. How could it be wrong? Right?


That was my life from 1991-1993, living the affair life. Living the double life. Justifying in my mind why it was right. I was in love, really in love, with another woman. Anybody who knew my first wife and my first marriage was not surprised when it all became known. I literally had been through hell and back with my first wife. I got my freedom from that through that affair. But I only thought those years of my first wife’s drug abuse was hell. From 1993-1996 to a major extent and throughout my second marriage (1995-2004), my first wife made my life away from her even worse that it was being with her. The second marriage, with the woman with whom I had the affair, had its own problems where I was so dependent on her that I made her my god and she saw my past life and anything to do with it as a threat to what she could have for herself and her kids. My kids were a threat. It was all a big fat mess. My first wife and her hatred for me and my second wife and the whole my kids vs. your kids issue with my second wife all played major roles in making me second marriage work its way toward its ugly end in 2004. Not to mention the financial pressures of alimony and child support. Those pressures and my willingness to do anything to keep my second wife happy led me to make some incredibly foolish decisions about money. Because of the pressures, jealousies, and my mistakes with money (justified in my mind as the right thing to do to keep my second wife, my god, happy) ended up being her justification for stepping out on our marriage. The old saying “if they will do it with you, they will do it to you”  was true in the second marriage.


I was an altar boy type at one time, always doing the right things. I was a preacher’s kid who lived a sheltered life of doing the right thing. Being a dependable sort. I was good egg. Never straying from the straight and narrow. By the end of my second marriage, I had slid so far down the moral scale that I was aghast at what my life had become. I was no longer an altar boy. I was a morally bankrupt man. I was so far beyond the line, the line was a dot in the rear view mirror. Sure, I could sit back and justify how the affair with the woman who became my second wife was OK. I could justify it because of the craziness of my first wife and her vindictive nature. I could justify how I was just trying to keep my goddess happy in my second marriage by ignoring my kids and making foolish mistakes with money as doing what it took to keep my marriage together. I could justify how I was the victim in all of it. But, bottom line, I played a role is the desert wasteland I found myself in 2004 after my second marriage ended. I could blame others but I had committed sins of all kinds that led me to the place I was then. My sins. My sins. Nobody else’s sins. My life was a result of my sins. It was only when I realized my role in my life and the decisions to follow sin’s siren call that my life became what it had become by 2004. Alone and thrown away. Sin’s slippery slope. Once you get on the slide, it’s hard to get off of it. Sin’s siren call will crash you into the rocky shore and leave you lost and alone when it’s done.


My own slide into sin’s snare is exactly what I thought of when I read today’s passage, Numbers 25:1-18, and how it seems so innocent and justifiable when listen to Satan’s call:


25 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.


4 The Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the Lord’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel.”


5 So Moses said to Israel’s judges, “Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.”


6 Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.


10 The Lord said to Moses, 11 “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. 12 Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. 13 He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”


14 The name of the Israelite who was killed with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, the leader of a Simeonite family. 15 And the name of the Midianite woman who was put to death was Kozbi daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family.


16 The Lord said to Moses, 17 “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. 18 They treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the Peor incident involving their sister Kozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed when the plague came as a result of that incident.”


The passage doesn’t tell us how the Israelite men became involved in sexual immorality just that they did. We do know that sacred prostitution was a common practice of the pagan god worship of the ancient Middle East. At first, I bet, the Israelite men did not think about worshiping the idols of these women, they were just interested in sex. Before long, they started attending local feasts with their licentious sexual escapades, and idol worship. Soon they were in over their heads and absorbed into the practices of the idol worshiping culture. Their desire for sex and fun and pleasure was all justifiable to them I bet. It caused them to loosen their commitment to God and the ways that He had prescribed them to live. How often does our dabbling in sin seem OK at first? How many times do we, as we slide into immorality try to justify it as being OK? How many times does our dabbling become full blown participation and justification? How often does it become our ruin?


If you find yourself drawn to sexual immorality right now, end it. If you find your innocent flirtations beginning to go beyond the innocent stage and your thoughts are going to that place with that woman who is not your wife, flee! If you find yourself in an affair right now and you are justifying it in your mind as OK right now, stop it. No matter how you slice it, it is sin. Sure, you may have very valid reasons to your being in an affair right now. Maybe, your wife is a mean, vengeful, scorekeeping, vindictive, you are for me or you are against me type. Maybe even she has had an affair that you have forgiven. But, my friend, sin is sin. No sin is justifiable. When we stand before the pure and holy God, we will not be able to rationalize away our sin crimes as justifiable. Sin is sin. Sin destroys. I can stand here today and tell you that it is true. I have lived it. I am finally in a good marriage to a good woman and we together try to live our lives God’s way and in so doing, God has richly blessed us in more ways than we can count. My life is settled now and I know it and appreciate it. My sins, no matter how justified they were, caused a whirlwind of trouble in my life that I did not truly did begin recovering from until 2009. My slippery slope into sexual immorality that began in 1991 had it long ranging effects of an ever increasing spiral of the effects and reactions and other sins. I was a tempest sea my friends. I survived it only through God’s grace and forgiveness. It was only when I decided to start giving up each area of my life to God starting with my salvation in late 2001 and the painful process of letting go of my justifiable sins that I can stand on the shore today and say that I did not drown from it and it was only because of the grace of God and His nature of forgiveness.


I am no altar boy today. I am just a sinner in recovery. I am still a man who enjoys looking at a beautiful when she passes by. However, the difference now is I know that devastation was wrought in my life by choosing to follow the desires of the male mind. I do not want to live that way again. Those thoughts get taken captive quickly when the flashes of the pain that was my life living with results of sexual sin. No matter how you slice it. No matter how you justify. Sin is sin is sin is sin. If you find yourself there, run for the hills. Flee young man! Flee! God has a way out for you. When we stand before the throne of God, there will be no one around to blame our sins on. It will be just us and Him. Not to mention the fact that what seems so wonderful when sin’s siren call comes will destroy you. You sit there and say right now. It’s all right. My circumstances are different! No they are not. Sin is sin no matter what the justifications are. Flee! Run Forrest run! Get away. It will bring about your destruction my friend. Bank on it. Know it. Learn it. It will happen. Everytime. All the time. Without fail.


Lay down at the Father’s feet. Beg him to forgive you. And flee from the justifications of the rightness of your sins. Satan is a seductress who calls sailors to the shore only to crash them on the rocks. Flee from him. Do not listen. Steer your ship away from his rocky shores.


Amen and Amen.

Numbers 5:11-31 (Part 3)

Protecting Marital Faithfulness

Evvvvverybody loves Raymond. It was famous sarcastic line of Raymond’s brother, Robert, when it seemed to him that Ray was living a charmed life compared to him or that he was getting the short end of the stick in life compared to Ray. It was even the title of the show. As most people who watched the show, one of Ray’s most consistent complaints on the show was the lack of frequent sexual relations with his wife, Debra. She complains most often that after a day of taking care of three children all day long and then taking care of Ray, she is frequently too tired for sex. It is a common complaint among mothers with small children and validly so. It’s God form of birth control! Tiredness from taking care of little ones. In an episode recently that I saw that I had forgotten about where the kids are a little older and can more easily take care of themselves than earlier in the show’s run, Debra seems inordinately, how should I put it, “frisky”. At first, Ray is enjoying the extra “attention” but, being a comedy show, his brother and some of his buddies start to put ideas in Ray’s head about why she is so suddenly frisky. They ask him if anything has changed in their routine of life. Ray thinks for a bit and says that Debra had recently been going to an aerobics class at the local fitness club or YMCA or something. After finding a brochure from the class, he sees that the instructor for the class is young, buffed, chiseled looking young dude. The hilarity of the episode is how Ray becomes jealous and busts into her class and, of course, being Ray of Everybody Loves Raymond, he makes a complete fool of himself. The irony of the episode is that throughout most of the series, he complains about not getting enough sex but never questions Debra’s loyalty to him, but in this episode he’s is getting what he always wanted but it makes him suspicious that Debra has designs on the aerobics instructor and is just using him as the release for her desires for the instructor. Being a comedy show though, Ray and Debra resolve the issue where Debra says that getting more exercise and getting back into shape makes her feel better about herself and when she feels better about herself she feels better about other things, if ya know what I mean. They make up and the last thing we see as the episode fades out is Debra and Ray racing up the steps to the bedroom.


Everybody Loves Raymond was one of the funniest and most popular shows of its day. It was funny because it made fun of real life situations. The sexual politics of marriage when you have small children was always one of the real life issues that they dealt with in the show and they did so in a light-hearted and funny way. In the real world, sex is a real issue in marriages and it does not always get resolved in a single episode of life. Sexual fidelity, infidelity, and sexual jealousies are real things and real issues in marriages. But let us drift back in time to the biblical era and look at what is happening in our text.


To our modern sensibilities this text seems extremely sexist. Twenty-first century American women want to cry foul when they read this text. Even men of today would look at this text and wonder why men were not subjected to the same test. To us, it seems extremely discriminatory toward women. One of the dangers of reading the Old Testament is that we come at it with our 21st century predispositions and worldviews. We must recalibrate when we read this text and read it with an understanding of the culture of the times. Let us remember that in most Old Testament era societies (and in a certain sense all the way up to the mid-20th century), woman were treated with far less respect than they are today. In cultures that surrounded the people of Israel, women were mere chattel. They were treated like possessions that could be treated any way men wanted to treat them. Women had no rights. Men could abuse them in any and all ways without punishment. A woman could be tossed to the street for no reason practically at all. With no rights to property, women were at the mercy of the men of their societies. Women put simply in biblical era societies that surrounded the people of Israel were treated no better than the family’s cattle.


However, God, with the people He called to be His own, the Israelites, was establishing a society that lived according to His rules. And, in progressing his people toward a society where women would eventually be considered equal to men, He understood the world as it was and put plans in place to begin protecting women from the ill treatment that they have received at the hands of men.


Even though this passage seems archaic and chauvinistic to us, it really was a protection put in place for women. In the absence of God’s law, the Israelites would have assumed the customs of the world at that time. If a man even simply suspected his wife of being unfaithful, he could toss her to the curb and replace her just like that. He could abuse her physically, emotionally and so on simply on suspicion without proof and could get away with it. God put this procedure in place to protect women not single them out. What we must take away is not viewing this as archaic but evidence of God’s desire to protect women, his most beautiful but yet most delicate of His creations.


For a man in Israelite society under God’s law, he would have to be really, really sure that his wife was being unfaithful to him to invoke this ritual at the tabernacle. Not only would he be testing God if he was wrong, he would, of course, alienate his wife if she was innocent. Not only would he be putting his family on public display before God and the entire Israelite society, but he would look like a complete and utter fool if his wife was innocent. A Israelite man would then have to think long and hard about this issue before invoking the ritual. This is a far cry from being sexist toward women. God is actually protecting them from unfounded jealousies. Further, the ritual would help control men too. If a woman was found guilty of her husband’s suspicions, the man with whom she was committing adultery would be exposed as well.


God’s interest here is not to expose women but to protect them. God’s interest here is to preserve marriage and to punish infidelity. God’s interest here was to produce and orderly society that is not consumed by sexual sin and the destruction that it causes.


These were the things that I thought about today when I read through this passage for the third consecutive day. Let’s re-read it again together here:



11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13 so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— 15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah[a] of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.


16 “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[b] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”


“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”


23 “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. 25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. 26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial[c] offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. 27 If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. 28 If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.


29 “‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband, 30 or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. 31 The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’”


Sexual sin is destructive to society. It is destructive to families. Just look at our world today. Single parent homes and blended families. Each of these types of situations are fraught with problems of their own. Children in single parent homes are more likely to get in trouble at school and with the law. Blended families have destructive forces working against them called my kids vs. your kids that lead to anger, jealousy and destruction. Sure there are marriages that split up for reasons such as physical and emotional abuse but the vast majority of marriages split up over sexual sin. It is considered the norm nowadays to have been married and divorced at least once. Kids with different names than the one on the mailbox. Moms with kids but multiple fathers. Dads with children by multiple mothers. Child support payments. Visitation rights. Whose got the kids this weekend. Kids watching parents battle over them as if they were a car or a boat, a possession. Figuring the logistics of holidays. Kids caught in the middle. It’s all insane. And I have lived it myself. Married. Had kids with my first wife. Divorced. Remarried to a woman with three small boys. Blended family. Jealousies ripping that marriage apart. Divorced again. Luckily, in my third, it is a marriage where we both have decided to live our marriage God’s way. But, I have lived the insanity of divorce and remarriage as the result of the sexual sins of myself and my previous wives. Neither myself or my previous spouses were immune to the rampant sexual sin of our day. And, we accept this as the norm of life now. And, we Christians are no better than anyone else in this regard. The divorce and remarriage rates among Christians are just as high as the general population. I have seen sexual sin destroy families, active families who served and cared, in our fellowship to the point that they no longer are willing to come to our church because of perceived shame.


So, to me, this passage is not some sexist, chauvinistic, archaic piece of God’s legislation for a time gone by that no longer applies to us. What we must take away from this passage is that God is serious about marriage and serious about the protection of the marriage estate. God shows us that marriage is His most important institution and that He wants it preserved. He wants us to think long and hard about the curses that come with sexual sin. It should make us think long and hard about marriage. God want our marriages to last so let us think long and hard about whether we truly love someone or are just sexually aroused by them. Sexual sin rips marriages apart. It wears on the fabric of society. It creates problems that destroy societies. The sanctity of marriage is important to God. It is the closest thing to our relationship with Him when marriage is done right by us. God takes marriage serious. So should we. Take that away with you when you read this. Don’t get hung up on reading 21st century sensibilities into the Old Testament era. Really look at what God is saying here. Take that away. Live that.


Amen and Amen.

Matthew 19:1-12
Jesus Teaches About Marriage & Divorce

Here we are! We move to Matthew 19. Jesus begins his journey toward His fate in Jerusalem. He is headed toward greater and greater controversy that will lead to His crucifixion. As soon as He crosses the Jordan, the controversies begin. This controversy that is brought before Him is one that we deal with today on so many levels.

And, one of the reasons that it is my preference to walk through books of the Bible from beginning to end instead of doing topical blogs as some do is that you cannot avoid the tough stuff when you do. It forces you to deal with the sometimes uncomfortable subjects of life that the Bible presents to us. When you write topically, you are controlling what you write about whereas when you follow a book from beginning to end, the Bible controls you. There are certainly room for both and there are times when topical preaching is a must. But it is my preference to let the Bible control what I write about. Today, we begin a passage that is like driving down the highway and you see a wreck ahead but yet you have no side roads to take and you must come upon the wreck. Here we are. We must stop and get out and examine the wreck and figure out what happened here. There are three topics that we must address when reading through this passage and we will take three blogs to do it. It’s going to be an uncomfortable ride for us but here we are at the scene of the wreck that Matthew has brought us to. We cannot avoid by switching to another book of the Bible. We are here and we must deal with these three topics – divorce, homosexuality, and the sexual aspects of being single. Wow! These are three hot button subjects that we must deal with and we begin with divorce.
19 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Divorce was an issue then and it is an issue now in today’s society. Here in this century, we have often heard the statistics. According to Psychology Today, in a 2012 study, they found that 50% of first marriages end in divorce. When we are talking second marriages, the statistics jump to 67% of marriages. If you are in your third marriage, the statistics jump to 73%. This is not the design for healthy societies that God desires for us. It was not what God desired for ancient Israelite society and it is not what He desires for us. We can learn much from what Jesus says here. The Pharisees’ question may reflect the opinion of Hillel, a rabbi who allowed divorce for the slightest reasons on the basis of Deut. 24:1–4. He was opposed by another teacher, Shammai, who regarded only gross indecency as proper grounds. Jesus’ answer transcends this debate about Deuteronomy and returns to the order of creation by God. Jesus views divorce as a fundamental denial of God’s created order and the nature of marriage.

The Pharisees were talking Deuteronomy and Jesus was talking early Genesis. The Pharisees were talking post-Fall of Man and Jesus was returning them to the ideal that God had for man in marriage before man screwed everything up. Genesis was the plan and Deuteronomy was the reaction to the screw up. Deuteronomy has trying to take a people out of an unholy world into a holy one. It is an attempt to clean man up and make him more holy. The sin in the garden sent things spiraling out of control in the world and God said in Deutoronomy, this is how you return to holiness. Jesus skillfully avoids the Hillelian camp vs. the Shammaian camp controversy over divorce by backing up the argument to God’s ideal. He did not get mired down in the controversy of who is right on divorce but rather He steps above the fray and says the real thing is this. It is like the parent who has to tell his kids that neither one of them is right as they point fingers at each other as to whose has committed the worse crime against parental rules. Dad has to say whoa, whoa, whoa. Both you kids know that “x” is the standard of behavior that I expect of you and you guys are arguing over who violated the “x” worse. God’s ideal for marriage is not that it would end in divorce. We may debate over divorce in churches and what is acceptable and what is not in divorce, but Jesus reminds us that divorce was never a part of God’s original pre-fall plan for our lives.

In ancient Israel around the time of Jesus’ ministry, divorce was a rampant problem and people were getting divorced just because. Sound familiar. Get tired of your wife or husband. Get a divorce. In Jesus’ day, it was particularly perilous for a woman to be thrown out and divorced by her husband. Women did not have property rights in those days and if they were without a husband they could become destitute if they did not have a husband and to return to have to return to one’s own family was considered shameful. Women could be thrown out on the street and end up dirt poor and potentially have to resort to prostitution to survive. So, Jesus reminds them that divorce was not part of God’s plan from the beginning and was not to institute divorce as an institution. Jesus shows that Moses in Deut. 24:1–4 was not giving a justification for divorce, but making provisions in the event of divorce. Malachi 2:16 tells us that God hates divorce but provision was made in Deut. 24:1-4 that, in a fallen world, it does exist. Where it does exist, God wanted to make sure that it was difficult to achieve. Only in cases of sexual sin was it to be allowed in Israelite society. The Greek word for what we call in English, “sexual immorality”, is fairly broad, including a number of sexual sins besides adultery. In this clause, Jesus recognizes that marital infidelity potentially destroys the marital tie between spouses and is, therefore, ground for legal divorce. However, divorce is not mandatory and reconciliation is what God desires.

In the book of Hosea, we see God’s plan of reconciliation and redemption. On a grand scale, the book of Hosea is symbolic of the relationship between Israel and God. The nation had “whored” itself out to other gods but God pursue Israel and wanted to redeem her from her idolatry and take her back to be His people again. On a personal level, you can also see God’s plan for marriage as well. We are to seek reconciliation. We are to demonstrate restraint when it comes to ending our marriages in the event of sexual sin. We have to put away our seemingly rightful indignation and wrath. We may even be ridiculed by others when we attempt to reconcile our marriages in the wake of sexual sin. Our pride may tell us to try to destroy the other person for having hurt us in this way. But if we have tried in every possible way to reconcile our marriages but one partner refuses to end their sexual sin, which happens in this fallen world in which we live, Jesus says that this and only this reason is grounds for divorce.

What does God want for marriage? He wants it to be something that lasts and endures like God’s love for us. God loves us even though we are not perfect. We should love our spouses even when they are not perfect or not meeting the standards we have set for them. We often have the idea in our minds of what our perfect spouse should be but we are human and we can never live up to some ideal of the perfect spouse. God’s love for us endures even though we are not perfect. So should we be about our spouses. God loves us even though we rebel against him. I am sure that it makes Him grieve at times to continue to love us when we act as if He is the farthest thing from our minds and when we seem to be blatantly thumbing our nose at Him. But He loves us anyway. Just as Hosea loved Gomer through her harlotry. We should be this way about our spouses. We should seek reconciliation before devastation. We should seek to repair before we destroy. We should seek to mend instead of rip. We should make every attempt possible to restore our marriages just as Hosea did with Gomer. That’s tall order. That is what God desires is forgiveness instead of pride. What God? Am I supposed to reconcile with my husband when he is actively having an affair with another woman? Am I supposed to reconcile with my wife when she is out living the party lifestyle and seems to be enjoying having different men in her life on an ongoing basis? We are called to grant forgiveness. We are called to try our best to save our marriages through loving responses to unloving situations. Only when our spouses are unrepentant and unwilling to give up their sinful sexual behavior are we allowed to divorce them. In those cases, the unrepentance may be a sign that our spouses were never Christ followers to begin with. That my friends is where we need to back up to. If Christ followers are supposed to seek reconciliation even in the face of hurt and we are to love like Hosea even in the face of that which hurts us to the core, we might ought to think long and hard about getting married or getting married again.

Maybe, just maybe, if we knew that God calls us to be as loving in our marriages as He is toward us even in our rebellious state, maybe we would think longer and harder about getting married. Maybe we should make our first test in seeking out a partner as to whether they are Christians or not. That should be the deal breaker of all deal breakers for us. For if our potential spouse is not a Christian, then, the likelihood that they will be unrepentant when it comes to marital problems is increased. We should make marriage hard to get into. We should have high standards for who we marry and marry because we love this person as friend not just because they give us sex. We should make sure that the person that we are dating is someone that we can be friends with outside the bedroom as well as inside. We must make sure that the person is of high character and one who sticks to his or her commitments. Let us make marriage hard to get into because it is God’s desire that it be for life. It is to be a symbol of God’s love for us. When we marry, it should be given the hardest consideration of any decision that we make in life. There are high standards that we must uphold as man and wife in marriage. Let us think long and hard before we do instead of doing it on a whim because of sexual desire as many people do today. The standard is expressly stated in 1 Corinthians 13 where it says:
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; 10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. 1 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. 13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Pretty high standards for marriage. The way it should be. May we think long and hard before we ask a woman to marry us and may women think long and hard before they accept any proposal of marriage. Let us make sure that when we marry it is to a person that we are willing to spend the rest of our days with. God desires that marriage reflect His love for us. That’s a pretty high standard. Amen and Amen.