Sermon: Pure Covenant

Exodus 20:1-17

Today we are looking at the 7th commandment – verse 14 of Exodus 20 – “You shall not commit adultery”.

It’s also the sex commandment – and throughout the Bible God we see that God is deeply concerned about sexual relationships.

On the one hand, He blesses and honours sexual relationships – even celebrates it, as in the Song of Songs; while on the other He places severe restrictions and penalties on sexual relationships outside of marriage.

And these sexual relationships are not confined to physical encounters but also to fantasies.

Matthew 5:27          “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28   But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

And these sexual fantasies are not confined to men.

Isaiah 3:16 speaks of the daughters of Zion who walk around with wanton eyes.

We tend to focus on physical adultery (meaning a sexual relationship with someone who is not your marriage partner) and to some extent on mind adultery – fantasies, such as pornography.

But there is also spiritual adultery!

Ezekiel 16 is a tirade against the spiritual adultery of God’s people. Verse 32           “ ‘You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband! 33 Every prostitute receives a fee, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favors.

In Matthew 12:39 Jesus calls the Pharisees “a wicked and adulterous generation”.

Today I want to look further than sexual adultery – sexual relationships outside of the faithful marriage of one man and one woman.

However, because the Bible uses marriage to help us understand the sanctity of relationships – between husband and wife, friendships and between God and His people, I will use marriage to illustrate the depth of covenant between people and with God.

Our Father in heaven is a covenant making God. He is committed to the relationship with His creation and particularly with the people made in His image.

It begins in Genesis and continues through Revelation …

From the moment God brought the woman to Adam and the man said, “this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” to John’s vision of the Bride coming down from heaven beautifully dressed for her husband – we see God’s intense passion for pure covenant relationships.

The Bible refers to the ritual of covenant making in a number of places, perhaps most explicitly (but not completely) in Genesis 15 where God enters into covenant with Abram.

The ancient covenant making ceremonies involved the relationship between two people in which they gave themselves totally to one another.

  1. They exchanged their outer garments (which represented their status in the world),
  2. They exchanged their belts and weapons (which represented their individual strength),
  3. They incorporated their names into each other (eg Abram became Abra-ha-m, incorporating the “ha” from Yahweh),
  4. They cut their hands or wrists and clasped them together saying, ‘As our blood mingles so may our lives be mingled.’ (This signified the total togetherness of their lives – the subsequent scars were a sign to others that they were in covenant relationship with another person. Circumcision was later to become this sign of the ‘cutting of the flesh’).
  5. They slaughtered an animal and cut it in half down its length, circled them in a figure 8 and vowed before God that He could cut them in two if they failed to keep the covenant.
  6. They then shared a meal together to complete the covenant ceremony. (In Hebrew, the word for “covenant” is “b’rith” which means “to eat together.”)

Of course man can never enter into covenant with God on equal terms, which is why God put both Adam and Abram into a deep sleep when He entered into covenant with them. They were then unable to contribute anything to the covenant terms – it is all God’s grace.

When God made the covenant with Abram, it was choosing him to be the father of nations … that covenant still prevails today. We, as Christians, still worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who has been revealed in Jesus; and through Him a new covenant has been made.

We even see the covenant “marks” in what Jesus did for us: He gave us robes of righteousness in exchange for our filthy rags of sin, He, who could have called upon 12 legions of angels took our human weakness. there are the marks of the nails in his hands, He is the Lamb that was slain, the terms of the covenant are set out in Jeremiah 31:33            “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And we have the Communion meal as our b’rith –our eating together.

The covenant that God made with Adam was the forerunner of the marriage covenant and signifies to us that God is very much a part of it.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Gen 2:24

In fact the marriage ceremony still contains many aspects that relate back to the ancient covenant making ceremonies, eg the taking of the right hand, the vows, the ring (symbolising the scar), the change of the wife’s surname, the cutting of the wedding cake (symbolising the slaughtered animal, the cutting of the flesh and the covenant meal).

Covenants are lifelong commitments, our lives become intermingled: physically, emotionally and spiritually.

And God desires us to be faithful to our covenants: in marriage, in our friendships and in our relationship with Him.

And so when He gives us the 7th commandment and says, “You shall not commit adultery” He is calling us into faithful relationship, not only with our spouse, but also with God, and with each other.

Seen in this sense, the 7th commandment may well be the most important of all of these ten words – if it were at all possible to grade them.

By keeping our relationship right with God, our spouse and with each other we will automatically fulfil all of the other commands.

And the enemy understands this much more than we seem to. This is why we face a threat to our understanding of marriage, and the massive decline in sexual morality.

Click for CHART The Mortality Drift

God has set a Way before us in Covenant, in the Law and in Christ Jesus. These are not different ways, but the same Way expressed in different terms and becoming progressively more dependent on the grace of God, which, incidentally, is more than sufficient for us, because His power is made perfect in our weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

God’s Way is a straight path. In Matthew 7:13 Jesus says, “   “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14           But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Satan does not want us to walk in the Way of Christ and so he entices us into physical, mental and spiritual adultery. Our world is steadily drifting away from the Way of Christ.

And it is happening most obviously in the area of sexual sin – remember though that sex is not sinful, indeed it is wonderful – perhaps the most amazing gift which God has given us. And because of that, the evil one seeks to pervert it.

In the beginning, sexual union was the way in which a husband and wife consummated their covenant relationship. In Genesis 2:23 when it speaks of “a man being united with his wife, and they shall become one flesh” it refers directly to the physical act of sexual union. Today we call it “making love” because we have lost the meaning of love.

Love now becomes an embrace of anyone and anything. It is an acceptance of sin for grace, of evil for good and satisfaction in “whatever floats your boat”.

And in the process satan has quite efficiently destroyed relationships in marriages, relationships and with God.

So back to our chart …

Contraception

Lowering of age of consent

Paedophilia

Sexual intercourse before and outside marriage

Abortion

No fault divorce

De facto legal equality

Legal equality for same sex relationships

Same sex parenting

Gender selection of children

Personal choice for gender identity

Polyamorous marriages

I’m not sure where we go from here: Romans 1:24 onwards tells us that this is nothing new … They turned their hearts to sexual impurity, they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones, men committed indecent acts with other men, they have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity – they invent ways of doing evil!

But if the world is intent on following this drift, it does not mean that we have to.

I believe that God is calling us back to the Way.

He is challenging us to follow the path of righteousness and to return to Him.

He has given us this Way in Jesus Christ.

And the way of return is repentance.

This doesn’t mean that we go straight from now onwards.

It means that we must return to the Way of Christ.

And by our example in our homes, families, workplace and church we will show the world how it might recover from its foolishness, and find true meaning in the life God has given us, rather than in the relentless pursuit of desires which are never satisfied and which can never bring satisfaction.

Do not commit adultery against your husband or wife

– neither physically, nor in your mind

Do not commit adultery in other relationships

– not against your friends, your family nor your employer

Do not commit adultery against God

  • not in your faith, nor in your practice.

And if you have failed in any of these in the past, remember that we serve a loving Father who looks with grace upon those who return to Him, and will always restore the repentant heart!



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