SOAP Journal – 12 December 2016 (Exodus 20:14)

“You shall not commit adultery.”

Exodus 20:14

Command number seven. God tells the Israelites that adultery is out of bounds. There has been some debate about what the working definition of adultery is. The obvious answer is having sex with another person’s spouse. But Jesus took this to another place entirely when He said that just looking at a woman and lusting after her was tantamount to committing adultery with her (Matthew 5:27-28). It looks like Jesus sets a much higher bar. But is that so?

If I look through the Old Testament, I find that adultery was not limited to sex with another person’s spouse, but was used to describe the Israelites worshiping other gods. To give affection or attention that was rightfully God’s to some idol is seen as adultery in the OT. Taken in this context, it would seem that the bar Jesus sets is precisely the same bar that had been set in the first place. One’s spouse is the only person legitimately deserving of a certain level of one’s affections and attentions and desire.

At its most basic and uninterpreted level, this command is that I have sex with my wife and only with my wife and that she do likewise — i.e. have sex only with her husband. God only ever legitimizes the male-female, husband-wife form of marriage in The Bible, so there is no need to even go down the same-sex marriage question rabbit trail. One level beyond that, this is a command that neither husband nor wife even look at another person to consider them as a sexual partner.

What I am to do with this command depends entirely on how far I think the interpretation goes. If I stick to the obvious; the uninterpreted command, then I am to have sex with my wife and only with my wife. That interpretation leaves me to look all I want and wonder all I want and seems to me to be dangerously lax. I can take it as far as Jesus did and determine that I am to, as Job said, make a covenant with my eyes to not even look at another woman with the idea of sex in my mind. This, to me, seems better.

To sum up …

What the verse says: No sex with anyone except my spouse.

What Jesus said about it: Do not even look at another person with lust in your heart.

Father, thank You for this reminder that there is a proper place for sex. Society too often tells me — via media and whatnot — that sex is a casual pleasure to be enjoyed between consenting adults whenever the mood strikes them. You call those who are Your won to something higher. Please work in me to make this calling my way of life.

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