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The Peril of Adultery (Proverbs 5-6)
There once was a time when Americans took adultery very seriously. But that seems to have changed, at least if you believe what you see on TV and in the movies! You don't have to flip the remote control too many times to discover adultery. Name a night, name a popular show, and you'll see someone sleeping with another person's spouse!
Intellectually, we know what adultery means. It is, as the dictionary plainly says, "violation of the marriage vow." Adultery is sexual intercourse of two persons, either of whom is married to a third.
Biblically, we know what is taught about adultery (Exodus 20:14). Elsewhere, the Old Testament teaches that "If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death" (Leviticus 20:10).
The Book of Job refers to adultery as "a heinous crime" and an "iniquity to be punished" (Job 31:11). And Jesus said, "I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).
Henry Ward Beecher was pastor of the Plymouth Congregational Church of Brooklyn, New York, for 40 years. A great preacher, writer, and social reformer in the 1800s, Beecher was accused of being involved in an extra-marital affair. It was a topic not simply for New York gossip but for national discussion. Today, it would have been on CNN every day!
A public trial for adultery was held and eventually Beecher was cleared of the accusations. But the scandal did him no good and much of what he had accomplished and had stood for was tainted.
The Book of Proverbs uses straight-forward language in talking about adultery. In fact, Proverbs repeatedly flashes warning signals -- trying to alert us to the peril of adultery.
I. The Peril of Adultery Includes Destruction
In Proverbs 5:4-6, we can see how adultery ushers destruction into our lives. Words and phrases we find there are: "bitter as gall"; "double-edged sword"; "death"; and "the grave." All of those are clearly suggestive of destruction.
Also in Proverbs 5:23, we read that the adulterer will "die for lack of discipline." In Proverbs 6:32, we can see that one who commits adultery "destroys himself." The adulterer is described in Proverbs 7:22-23 as being "like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose."
Pick up a Crayola and color the life of the adulterer the color of destruction!
In Scott Turow's best seller Presumed Innocent, a married man became involved in an affair. Later the woman with whom he'd been involved was murdered. He was charged with having committed the crime. In the end, he was cleared of the charges, but destruction was all around him -- a woman's life was gone; his marriage was destroyed; his child was moved to another state; life was shattered like so many shards of glass!
The question arises sometimes of an adulterous affair, "Who is it going to hurt?" The answer is that it's going to hurt everyone -- the man and woman who have the affair, their spouses, their children, their friends, their business associates, their neighbors, everyone!
In corporate America, many persons are away from home great lengths of time "on business." Their lives are made up of hotel room, rental cars, airports, American Express cards, restaurants, boardrooms, and the like. The business is done from 9 to 6, and then these business persons are alone! Their spouses are a thousand miles away. Loneliness invades. Temptation lurks. The questions are asked, "Who's it going to hurt?" and "Who will ever find out?"
Back home, wives are alone. Their weeks may be filled with carting children off to school and to dance lessons and to baseball practice, but that doesn't eliminate the ache of loneliness. Temptation can come to the spouse in the subdivision as easily as it arrives at the room of the corporate executive at the Marriott!
However, God calls us to say no to those temptations. He calls us to honor that marriage vow which says to forsake all others and to keep ourselves only for our marriage partner. God calls us to a high and noble standard: "For God has not called us for uncleanness, but in holiness" (1 Thessalonians 4:7). "Abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
II. The Peril of Adultery Also Includes Shame and Regret.
Frank Sinatra sang "My Way", one line of which says, "Regrets -- I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention."
In an adulterous relationship, regrets and shame are involved, sooner or later. We may be tempted to think that the regret and shame never will reach us, but -- like acid slowly eating through metal -- the effects of shame and regret show up!
Proverbs points out some of the ill effects: "At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, 'How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teacher, or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin..."" (Proverbs 5:11-14).
I was on the phone talking to a friend. He was telling me the awful story -- one we've heard too often in recent years. A pastor in another city who lost his church and his family because of his own adultery!
Certainly, we know the reality of God's teaching about forgiveness: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
But there are consequences of our sin with which we have to deal after we've been forgiven. Often, those consequences are ones of shame and of regret. If we think about that shame ahead of time, if we realize the seriousness of adultery before we give into temptation, we may be able to steer clear of this life-shattering mistake!
If the Adversary, Satan, can ensnare us in adultery, he can cause the loss of all our most precious gifts -- our marriages, members of our families, and our good influence.
III. The Peril of Adultery Includes Punishment.
Proverbs 6:27-29 asks some poignant questions: "Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?"
The obvious answer to both question is no. And the Scripture goes on to say, "So is he who sleeps with another man's wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished."
The punishment may take one of several forms:
Mental. The adulterer in his mind may be tormented; the question always lurks, "Does someone know?" That sort of punishment can be devastating.
Physical. Sexually-transmitted disease can be a consequence of an affair. Another kind of physical consequence can be the literal break-up of your family.
Spiritual. The person who commits adultery knows in his or her heart that God's command has been violated. The consequence of the adultery can be made worse if that individual refuses to ask God for forgiveness.
We're all aware of David's adultery with a beautiful woman named Bathsheba. After being confronted with his sin, David wrote Psalms 51, a portion of which says, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to they abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and sin is ever before me ...Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me."
We need to "own" -- to acknowledge -- our sin, just like David did, and be willing to take it to God. We need to lay our sin before the Father, and leave it there. When we are pardoned, we don't have to pick up the sin and take it back home with us!
Let the Lord protect you from the perils of adultery.
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