The Ten – A Covenant Worth Keeping
In 1985 Universal Pictures released a movie based on the life and early death of Roy L. "Rocky" Dennis. Rocky was a young man that suffered from an extremely rare disorder that disfigured and enlarged the bones in his head and his face. The movie, titled Mask, followed Rocky through Junior High and High School.
I mention the movie this morning because there is a beautiful scene that takes place the summer after Rocky graduated Junior High. At his principal’s suggestion he accepts a job as a counselor's aide at Camp Bloomfield; a summer camp for blind children. While at camp Rocky meets a young girl Diana who has been blind since birth. He is struggling to describe all of the things that she has never been able to see, and then he gets an idea. He puts cotton balls in her hand and explains that this is what billowy clouds look like. He puts a warm rock in her hand and tells her this is the color red, and then replaces that rock with a frozen rock and says that’s the color blue. For the first time, this young girl who have never been able to see, can understand colors.
I still remember that scene 30 years later, because of it’s brilliance. Have you ever tried to describe something to someone who doesn't have a point of reference? It’s rather difficult. How do you describe the sound and force of a thunder storm coming off the water, or the brightness of the sun peaking over the mountains, or the cold breeze coming out of the north to someone who hasn't experienced it?
That is the problem that God faced when He was introducing this new relationship to the Children of Israel. For the last 400 years they had been slaves, property, of the Egyptians. But God has invited them into a new standing and a new relationship. The question God faced is how do you describe that relationship to a people who only knew slavery?
God chooses to use an illustration that shows both the depth and the seriousness of this relationship. God says we are no longer slaves, but He presents Himself as a Bridegroom seeking a Bride. Throughout the Old Testament the Lord uses marriage language when He talks about Israel. Many of the Prophets refer to the relationship between God and Israel in terminology that is normally reserved for marriage.
God explicitly declares Himself to be Israel’s Husband in several places; Isaiah 54:5 For your Maker is your husband — the LORD Almighty is his name. Jeremiah also points to the Lord as Israel’s Husband, Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband. Jeremiah 3:14
It makes sense that if God is going to describe our relationship with Him as a marriage that He would have included the seventh commandment about staying pure in our earthly relationship. Remember that God invited us into a relationship with Him and then He gave us these commandments for our benefit.
Simply put, adultery is a mockery of God’s design for a man and a woman. It’s infidelity or being unfaithful to your wife or your husband. The seventh command is intended to preserve the sanctity of marriage. God wants everybody to realize that marriage is special and it requires a life-long commitment on the part of both people, to give ourselves wholly and completely to one another.
When you commit adultery you violate more than an oath, you violate another person. You break the bond of trust. You desecrate the vow of marriage, and you violate everything that God holds sacred in this relationship that is to be shared between husband and wife.
I’ve watched men and women who have tried to readjust to life after their spouses have died. And I’ve watched men and women who tried to readjust to life after their spouses were unfaithful to them and they were divorced. Without fail someone always moves to their new normal much quicker after a death than after a divorce because of unfaithfulness.
Kids are the collateral damage when parents treat their marriage vows like a lease agreement. Ask any teacher to tell you stories about their students who parents are divorcing. Kids who have been good students suddenly start failing tests, neglecting homework and suddenly start spending time in detention. Ask little league coaches which kids require the most attention and cause the most problems. Ask police officers and judges.
Adultery in the work place has an economic impact. People who are spending their energy to cover their tracks always become less productive at work. Coworkers are forced to pick up the slack. Resentment and distrust erupt.
Friendships are collateral damage in an affair. When two people have an affair, every relationship they have is betrayed. Friends are forced to choose sides. Who do you sit with a ball games, concerts or theatrical performances? When a husband and wife divorce because of an affair, which friendship do you keep? Which do you try to maintain? One or the other or both will suffer in some way.
The truth is, there are no winners when someone commits adultery. It is relational nuclear warfare. Everyone is affected by the fallout.
What we often don’t realize the personal collateral damage that occurs with the breaking of this commandment. In 2008 Dr. McIlhaney and Dr. Bush released the book Hooked, New Science On How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children. In this seminal work they released their finding on how sex effects the brain.
I won’t bore you with all of the details, but let me share a mustard seed of what they discovered. Your brain produces Neurochemicals, dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin. These chemicals do a few different things for you. They make you feel good, they drive you to seek more of an experience, and they bond you to another person. They are all produced by human contact.
So there is no such thing as a one night stand, everyone you spend time with is not only remembered in you sub conscience but it also creates a life long bond. The more people you are joined with, the less chance you have to find happiness and fulfillment with any single person.
Ok let’s get out of the Psychological talk and look at it a different way. In my garage I have this stuff called J.B. Weld. When you buy it, it comes in two tubes, and you are supposed to squeeze a little bit out of each tube and mix them together for the magic to happen. As long as they are separate nothing happens except they just dry out. But if you mix the two together they form a bond that can hold a diesel engine together. Separate they are nothing special, but when you join them together they become unbreakable because of a chemical reaction that takes place when the two are mixed.
We tend to forget that sex was God’s idea. In His grand design, God created sex to be sort of like the chemical reaction that allows two people to become one durable substance. It solidifies two people into one flesh. It bonds them emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically. It sets and strengthens the relationship between husband and wife, that’s the purpose of a sexual relationship.
Because it was God’s idea from the beginning, He would lead the Apostle Paul, who was very single, to write in 1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control. While sex is a physical act, God’s intention and design is for it to be so much more. When we reduce it to just a physical act it becomes nothing more than a fatal attraction between two people.
When God brought Adam and Eve together in the Garden of Eden, The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, ’for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:23-25). You probably didn’t know that statement was so important that it is repeated 4 times in the Bible, twice by Jesus. And when Jesus repeats it, He adds, Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate (Mark 10:9).
I love the fact that this passage in Genesis occurs before there’s any sin in the world, so this is human sexuality in its most pure, undefiled form. What we have here is life before sin, and this passage is foundational for understanding biblical human relationships.
God created marriage, where a man and a woman leave their own families and enter into a special relationship. The hebrew word "be united" here means to establish and maintain a special covenant relationship. This is so much more than a social contract, it’s a covenant relationship, where the man and the woman literally "cleave" to each other in mutual commitment and faithfulness. This word expresses a state of loyalty, affection, and closeness. This results in the two being one flesh.
What strikes me in this part of the Genesis text is verse 25: The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. This seems to be what all the popular books and magazines about sexuality are trying to achieve. Do this, try that, go here, and in the end of the discussion we find that this experience of sexual fulfillment and enjoyment is something only achieved in relationship with God. Are you beginning to see why this is such a huge deal?
God created marriage to be a covenant relationship. This is a creation ordinance that’s given to the entire human race. It doesn’t say, For this reason a Christian man will leave his father and his mother or for this reason religious people will leave their parents. This is something God gave to all of humanity and because of that God is against any sexual activity that undermines marriage.
The point and purpose of sexuality is intimacy, we’re not only united in body, but we’re also united in soul and spirit. No matter how much people might try, when they sleep with someone, they don’t leave their soul at the door or out in the car. They’re united not only physically, but also spiritually.
This is why sexual sin has such devastating effects and the hurt goes much deeper than any other kind of sin. God created our sexuality for our enjoyment. Sex is God’s wedding gift at every marriage, and most serious of all covenant relationships.
The Old Testament book Song of Solomon is an entire book that celebrates the enjoyment of sexual love in the context of marriage. And it is something that we good church folks would rather not talk about. But the truth is that God designed it for a purpose and He desires for His children to be blessed by this beautiful gift.
Remember that Genesis 2 is the model. Sex outside of God’s boundaries isn’t sinful because it’s dirty or shameful. According to the Bible, every sex act that’s called a sin is sinful because it’s a violation of marriage. God’s not against sex, He is pro marriage.
The sad truth is that adultery never begins with sex. No one wakes up on a Tuesday morning and says, Today is a great day to break the seventh commandment. Usually it begins with friendship. A man and a woman meet each other at work or at the little league field where their kids play ball, or through school or church involvements.
They develop a friendship, nothing more, at first. But they bring to this friendship all their dreams and disappointments, their joys and frustrations, their hopes and all their cynicisms. In the course of time they share bits and pieces of their stories with each other. She learns of his frustrations with his wife. He listens to her as she laments the shortcomings of her husband. They sympathize with each other. They empathize.
One day, when neither of them were expecting it or planning for it to happen, they cross a line. Walter Wangerin calls it the moment of maybe. Up till now this person has been nothing more than a friend. Now there is the possibility that maybe more than friendship can be shared. That's when the fantasies begin. That's when the unfair comparisons between your spouse and the new object of your affections begin.
And these comparisons are unfair because you live with your spouse. You see him or her in the best of times and in the worst of times. You see the bad hair days, or weeks. You smell the morning breath. You experience the bad moods and the ill tempers. But you rarely see the other person in these ways. You see them only when he or she is dressed up to be out and about. Only when they are projecting a good image. Only when they are smiling and kind and friendly. And you begin to wonder, why can't my spouse be like that?
The truth is you are seeing the lie that we all project to one another. What you have done is created an image that no one can live up to. That’s why we must be alert, and pay attention in all of our relationships. Because I know far too many good people that have been seduced by the though of something better and allowed a single decision to cause everyone else in their lives to be collateral damage.
I have lots of friends who were involved in some kind of pre-marital or extra-marital sex who deeply regret it. But I have never met a single person who waited until they were married to have sex, or ran from a temptation to stray, who regrets waiting or remaining faithful. The peace that exists when we live under God’s desire and design cannot be equaled by another feeling this passing world has to offer.
Very quickly as we close this morning I don’t want to just leave it here. Because God has invited us into a relationship and His greatest desire is to draw us back to Himself again and again. One more text and this one is found in John 8. (Read John 8:1-11)
Let me share two very quick thoughts from this passage. The enemies of Jesus have caught this poor woman in the very act of adultery. According to the letter of the law, the 10 commandments, she should be taken outside of the city and stoned. The good, God fearing religious folks saw sin and were only interested in keeping the camp clean of all this riffraff.
But Jesus has always seen us as brothers and sisters. God calls us His own and looks beyond our brokenness into what we were created to be. So Jesus begins to write in the dirt while the religious folks realize that they have their own sins to deal with. They may not be guilty of breaking the seventh command, but they are all broken in one way or another. And only after they have all left, Jesus finally addresses this poor woman.
Where are the other broken people who were just here to condemn you? Her response was that there was no one left. So the only one who has the right to be the judge, jury, and executioner in this woman’s life offers her what her soul longed to hear. Neither do I, go on your way. From now on, don't sin.
That is the same offer that Jesus makes to you this morning. Whether you are guilty of breaking the seventh commandment or any of the other 9, Jesus says if you are willing to come back into a relationship with me then I am willing to offer grace and peace. Its a loving offer from a loving Savior.