Exodus 20:14 ~ 20110828 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
08/28 Exodus 20:14 Word #7 Covenant Fidelity
In Exodus 20, God is outlining the requirements of his covenant agreement with his people.
In Deuteronomy 4, Moses refers to the ten commandments as God's covenant with his people.
A covenant is a formal and binding agreement or contract between two parties. It was often a contract between unequal parties, such as a conquering king and the people that now came under his rule. The king would agree to provide peace and protection in exchange for the payment of tribute and obedience to his laws from the people who were now under his rule. This is the type of covenant or contract we see in Exodus 20. God has set his people free. They have now become his subjects. He is giving himself to be their God, and declaring his expectations of them as he takes them to be his people.
Back in Exodus 6, while his people were still in bondage, he made this promise:
After bringing them out of slavery, and taking his people to himself, he says:
God is initiating an exclusive intimate covenant relationship with his people. And in chapter 20 he gives himself to them in covenant relationship:
And he lays out for them the terms of the agreement: you must worship me exclusively; you must not worship a misrepresentation of me; you must carry my name with proper honor; you must spend time enjoying your relationship with me. You must honor those I have placed in authority over you; you must value the life that I created, the life that bears my image.
And in this context of covenant comes the seventh command:
Adultery is the breaking of another binding covenant agreement, the covenant between a man and his wife.
Malachi refers to marriage as a covenant commitment. The people wondered why God did not seem to pay attention to their worship. Malachi says:
Malachi points the people to their unfaithfulness to the marriage covenant as a reason for God's ignoring their worship. When a marriage covenant is solemnized, witnesses sign their names. God says “I was witness between you. I made the two one. I blessed you with a portion of my Spirit in your union.” Honor God who makes the two one. Guard yourselves in your spirit. Don't you know your attitude toward your spouse will affect your children's relationship to me? Don't be faithless to your covenant relationship.
The seventh commandment is a command to be faithful to your marriage covenant, in the context of a covenant to be faithful to your God.
To get the background for this covenant of marriage, we need to go back to the creation account in the beginning of Genesis. Genesis 1 gives the broad outline of creation events, and chapter 2 zooms in on the details of the creation of man and woman in relationship:
God instituted the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman. God brought the woman and presented her to the man. The final statement is designed to include all future marriages, because Adam and Eve did not have father and mother to leave. “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” We learned in commandment 5 that even adult children are to continue to honor and care for their mother and father into old age, and yet this honoring is not incompatible with leaving father and mother and holding fast to a wife. There is something supernatural, something mystical that happens when God makes two people one. Certainly there is a physical element to it, as even the text in Genesis says “...they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Paul points to God's design of legitimate gratification of sexual desire within the covenant relationship of marriage.
This is the bible saying that a man an his wife should enjoy lots of good sex! God commands it! But there is a deeper spiritual reality to this one-flesh union that Malachi pointed to, and Jesus points us to when he tells us that God is the one who joins the two in marriage:
Jesus was talking about the separation that happens through divorce and remarriage which, like adultery, violates the marriage covenant to hold fast and be faithful to the one partner until death. The Pharisees were asking Jesus if it was OK to divorce for any reason, and Jesus points them back to God's part in the covenant of marriage, joining the two into one, and says that man must not divide what God has united.
Paul points to this supernatural one-flesh unity as a the reason why it is wrong for the Christian to engage in any form of sexual immorality.
God owns our bodies. He has the right to tell us what we can and cannot do with our bodies. He tells us we must flee from sexual immorality. Sexual intimacy is to be experienced only, exclusively within the covenant commitment of marriage.
Jesus drives this even deeper. Here are his comments on the seventh command:
God is not only concerned with what we do with our bodies, but what we do with our eyes and our hands and our minds and our hearts.
So what's the big deal? Why is God so prudish and restrictive about sex? Why does he come in with all these “Thou shalt not” commands that restrict our freedom to enjoy pleasure in this life?
The big deal is that our God is a covenant-keeping God, and he designed marriage and he invented sex to be a picture of our covenant intimacy with him. When we violate the covenant of marriage, we distort the picture and misrepresent him. Paul points us to this picture of how marriage reflects God's covenant with his people in Ephesians 5. I want to start in verse 1 to get the context.
He goes on to contrast a life lived to please the Lord with the unfruitful works of darkness. He picks up with some positive commands in verse 18:
The marriage covenant is meant to be a beautiful picture of God's intimate love relationship with his people. This passage points out several specific ways how the marriage relationship is to image our relationship with God, hinted at by the language 'as' or 'even as' or 'just as'. The wife is to submit to her husband as a reflection of how the church submits to the authority of Jesus. The husband is to sacrificially love his wife as a picture of how Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. The husband is to nourish and cherish his wife as a pointer to how Jesus cares for us and nurtures us and passionately pursues our growth in holiness.
This is why adultery is such a big deal. It defaces and distorts the picture God intended marriage to be of his unwavering covenant faithfulness to us, and our exclusive intimacy with him. God gave the gift of sex for our pleasure, but also to point to the even greater pleasures that come from knowing him and being in relationship with him.
In Jeremiah, God speaks of his covenant with his people in terms of the marriage relationship.
Throughout the bible God engages us viscerally with the powerful image of an unfaithful adulterous wife to help us empathize with his emotions when we are unfaithful to him and seek satisfaction in other places.
Adultery is disloyalty to our covenant vows of faithfulness to our spouse. Idolatry is adulterous disloyalty to our covenant to be loyal exclusively to our God who loves us with unfathomable love. God takes this issue very seriously. This is an issue that will exclude you from the presence of God. Paul says
And that's a terrifying statement, because when we understand Jesus' perfect standard of righteousness that extends even to the thoughts and intents of the heart, we all fall miserably short. Many will struggle with guilt over past failures. But remember, the law was never given as a ladder to climb to show God how righteous we are. God gave us the law as a mirror to show how desperately we fall short. And there is great hope for lawbreakers like us! Paul continues:
Through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, even sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers can be washed in the blood of Christ, transformed from the inside out by the Spirit of God, and clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ. Jesus bore even those sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1Pet.2:24). We can be healed and set free to glorify God with our bodies!