Tag Archives: Adultery

Spiritual Pivot-Point

Spiritual Pivot-Point (CaD Ps 32) Wayfarer

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Psalm 32:5 (NRSVCE)

It’s good to be back!

While I was on hiatus the past few weeks, Wendy and I were able to enjoy some time with friends. Over dinner one night, I was asked to share some of my life story. Parts that my friends didn’t know much about. I shared. They asked questions. I found myself recounting things I hadn’t thought too much about in a long time.

I generally like to let “old things pass away” as Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, and dwell in the “new things” and new places God has led in my journey. There is, however, no escaping the fact that, like all good stories, my life has its chapters of shortcomings, moral failure, bad choices, and the tragic consequences that result. My story includes tragic flaws, secrets, addiction, adultery, and divorce. These things are not secret, and I’ve been publicly honest in owning my own personal failures and their tragic consequences.

But, that’s not the end of my story. And, that’s the point.

Today’s psalm contains the lyrics of another song penned by King David. It’s a before-and-after song. It is a tale with two halves. It’s the song of David’s own personal journey.

Like most of David’s songs, it begins with a one verse introduction letting us know that he is looking back in time and writing the song from a place of redemption further down the road. He then confesses to have at one time kept secrets and sins locked up inside. The consequences were guilt, shame, weakness, struggle, heaviness, and waste.

Then, David came clean. He confessed. He owned up to his mistakes, weaknesses, and shortcomings. David’s own personal story, by the way, includes top-line shortcomings including, but not limited to, adultery, deceit, murder, and gross parental failure. He, however, confessed this, owned it, stopped hiding it, came clean, and sought God’s forgiveness.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

That’s the pivot point of David’s song, just as it is the pivot point of David’s spiritual journey. What comes after, in the second half of the song? Forgiveness, protection, safety, security, deliverance, instruction, guidance, wisdom, steadfast love, and out of these things comes David’s song of joy that we now call Psalm 32.

In the quiet this morning I am reminded that the Great Story is quite clear about the individual spiritual journey having a pivot point. For Paul, it was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). For Peter, it was along the shore of Galilee (John 21). For David, it was being confronted by God’s prophet in his throne room (2 Samuel 12). For me, it was a series of events over a five-year period.

Without coming clean and owning my failings I don’t truly experience the pivot-point that opens the floodgates of grace and forgiveness. Without experiencing the powerful current of grace and forgiveness I don’t truly experience flow of spiritual transformation truly moving me forward toward maturity. Without that flow of spiritual transformation moving me forward, the spiritual journey remains mired in stagnant and shallow religion which Jesus described as being like a gorgeous, marble tomb sitting in a pristine, manicured cemetery. It may look wonderful on the outside, but the reality is that once you get past the manufactured exterior appearances, all you find is death, rot, and decay.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Sex and a Larger Wisdom

Keep to a path far from her,
    do not go near the door of her house

Proverbs 5:8 (NIV)

One of the challenges in the reading of ancient wisdom is embracing the historical, cultural, and social differences I find rather than letting them get in the way. In our current culture of reactivity and the quick dismissal of anything that doesn’t fit neatly in the personal box of my world view, I’m afraid many miss out on the larger wisdom that is still there for anyone willing to see it.

The role and status of women in ancient cultures is a fascinating study. Just a few chapters ago I wrote about the fact that when the ancients personified wisdom she was a woman. Contrasting that honoring celebration of the feminine, today’s chapter is a head-scratching corollary. Solomon warns his son to beware of a caricatured predator: the adulterous woman.

It seems hypocritical for King Solomon to preach such monogamous virtue to his son, given the fact that the “wise” King was recorded to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Of course, it could also be argued that he was writing out of the pain of his own folly, as it is also recorded that he was “led astray” by having 1000 women at his disposal (though I doubt he was an unwilling victim).

Along my life journey, I’ve experienced that it takes two to do the tango of adultery. The peddling of forbidden sexual fruit is not discriminatory by gender, nor is the temptation to taste its pleasures. It is also my observation that gender is inconsequential when it comes to matters of seduction, sexual temptation, sexual surrender, promiscuous relationships and the bitter consequences typically experienced at the dead-end of those paths. It would be foolish of me not to look past the cultural differences between the ancient Hebrews and my own time to see the larger wisdom that Sophia has to share for anyone willing to listen to what she has to say about the foolishness of sexual promiscuity.

In the quiet this morning I find folly and wisdom in multiple layers. There is the obvious folly of promiscuity and the wisdom of relational fidelity presented in the text. I also find the folly of what I see on both sides of our current cultural discourse, in which I can easily be dismissive of others who don’t comfortably fit inside the box of my comfortable world-view. I find there is typically larger wisdom present if I’m willing to seek her out.

The Importance of the Backstory

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 (NRSV)

Over recent months I have been reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. It is not an easy read. Rather than a simple and continuous narrative, The Silmarillion is a collection of stories that, together, create the cosmology of Tolkien’s fictional universe from its creation.  Having a lot of excellent on-line reference material has been extremely helpful.

Slogging my way through The Silmarillion I am constantly inspired as I make connections and gain a broader understanding of the backstory of The Lord of the Rings. Knowing the backstory makes the story I know so well even more colorful and thought provoking. I better understand why the elves are leaving Middle Earth and where they are going. I better understand exactly what the “Three rings of elven kings” really are and represent. I learn the skinny on Shelob the giant spider and the evil Sauron, the scary faces in the Dead Marshes, all the obscure references made by the hobbits and about hoard they find with the barrow wights in the Old Forest, and the song Aragorn sings as he and the hobbits camp on the road to Rivendell.

In many ways The Silmarillion parallels the loose collection of history, poetry, prophecy, and legal text that make up what is commonly known as the Old Testament. For many people these ancient writings are difficult to wade through and understand. Nevertheless, I’ve always found that without them I have an incomplete view of who Jesus is, what His message was about, and why things happened the way they did. The stories of Jesus suddenly gain more color and depth in context with the backstory.

One such example struck me this morning. According to Levitical law in today’s chapter, those who committed adultery were to be put to death – both the man and the woman who committed the deed. I then thought about the story in John’s biography in which the religious leaders, seeking to trap Jesus and discredit him, bring a woman to Him. She had been caught “in the act” of adultery and deserved the death penalty. They wanted Jesus to render the verdict. If He let them kill her then it would be unpopular with the crowds, but if He let her off then they could accuse Him of being a lawbreaker.

But Jesus knew today’s chapter as well as they did. If she was caught “in the act” then where was the man who was committing adultery with her? He was to be put to death as well. The story said that Jesus sat doodling in the dirt as the religious leaders were making their case. Perhaps Jesus was symbolically writing the name of the woman’s lover into “the record.” Knowing the law, I begin to understand how hypocritical, misogynistic, and crooked these religious leaders proved themselves to be with their accusations. Without even saying a word, Jesus’ brilliant response called the leaders to a legal point-of-order. His gracious forgiveness of the woman means even more to me in light of this context. [Note: you can read the brief story in John 8]

This morning I’m thinking about backstories. Beyond The Silmarillion and the Old Testament, there are also backstories to our lives, our families, our communities, our nation, and our world. I realize, once again, this morning why I love history. Knowing backstories helps me better perceive and understand things in the present. With that, I can made better decisions and judgements in the present just as Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery.

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Context and Color

If a man is caught lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman as well as the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.
Deuteronomy 22:22 (NRSV)

The ancient books of law are not always an easy, inspirational read. I like it, however, when I come across something that provides a layer of context and color to other stories in God’s Message. Today is a good example. The law of the ancient Hebrews was  that when a man and woman committed adultery they were both guilty and were to be punished by being stoned to death.

In John’s biography of Jesus there is the story of a woman caught in adultery. The religious leaders brought the woman before Jesus, stones in hand, asking Jesus to render judgment whether they should stone her to death. But, according to the law we read into today’s chapter, both the man and woman were to be stoned. So, where was the man?

The context helps provide evidence of why Jesus was so angry with the religious leaders of that day who liked to use the letter of the law when it worked to their own advantage, while they conveniently ignored the parts that weren’t. Jesus deftly handles the situation by telling the religious leaders that whichever one of them is without sin could cast the first stone. The religious leaders split and Jesus forgave the woman and sent her on her way.

Today, I’m thinking about my own heart and life. Who do I most resemble in the story? The religious hypocrite using God’s Message for my own advantage? The disgraced sinner doomed to die? Or am I like Jesus, extending grace and mercy to the condemned? As I sit here in the morning quiet I must admit that I am a mixture of all three. Today, I want to be more the latter and less the former.

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featured image by Rembrandt van Rijn (wikipedia)

Marriage as Metaphor

Michael Buesking illustrates another prophet, Hosea, whose adulterous marriage became a word picture of God's relationship with His people. Buesking's artwork can be found by clicking on the image or at prophetasartist.com
Michael Buesking illustrates another prophet, Hosea, whose adulterous marriage became a word picture of God’s relationship with His people. Buesking’s artwork can be found by clicking on the image or at prophetasartist.com

“Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.” Ezekiel 16:8 (NIV)

Across all human relationships, the marital relationship is unique in many respects. Two people choose to enter into a covenant relationship with one another, to be exclusively faithful and more completely intimate with that person than with any other. Marriage is the closest thing we have on Earth to embody the relationship God desires to have with each of us, and God uses the marriage relationship over and over again to embody the intimate relationship He desires to have with each of us.

In today’s chapter, God once again instructs Ezekiel to use marriage as a metaphor describing God’s relationship with the people of Israel. He uses imagery around the marital traditions of that day. God chooses Israel as His bride and enters into a marriage covenant, but Israel commits adultery by chasing after other lovers in the form of the many gods and idols that were popular in that culture.

God makes it prophetically clear that He will not ignore the unfaithfulness of His bride. There will be disgrace and consequences in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. Yet, in the end of the chapter God makes it clear that He will continue to honor His covenant; There will be a remnant who will survive and return to Jerusalem. God says he will make atonement for the adulterous sins committed; He will send His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for sin, once for all.

Today I am struck that God, through Ezekiel, has been speaking the same message in many different metaphors and word pictures. I find that in the human experience not everyone “gets” a message the same way. Some people connect with one medium, some with another. A word picture may be profoundly revelatory to one person while another person remains blind to the message. Across the book of Ezekiel I am impressed at how God is desperately trying to get through to His people, His spouse. He keeps trying to get through.

Burning Down the House

Can a man scoop a flame into his lap
    and not have his clothes catch on fire?
Can he walk on hot coals
    and not blister his feet?
Proverbs 6:27-28 (NLT)

I still have a vivid memory of our daughter Madison reaching for a red hot burner when she was only a few years old. Fortunately, I reached her before her little mits fell on the searing coil. It was the classic scenario of teaching a child to keep away from that which will burn her. She learned the lesson, as most of us do. But, this nearly universal childhood lesson becomes an apt word picture for other life dangers.

Solomon uses the word picture as he asks the poignant questions above in addressing the topic of adultery. Along my journey, however, I’ve found that the same questions can be asked of any illicit behavior that results from indulging the sexual appetite. So I’d like to broaden the topic this morning from simple adultery to things like lustful thoughts, pornography (romance novels and erotica can prove just as spiritually deadly as hard core internet porn, by the way), extramarital flirtations, prostitution, and etc.

Please understand that I am not going on some puritanical, Focus on the Family rant. This is actually a very simple spiritual principle and it’s intensely personal. My life bears the scars from these flames and I write that which I know from personal experience. So listen up, my friend and hear me when I say: If you play games with the dangerous flames of sexual appetites you’ll eventually get burned. It might not happen right away. Like a drug, the aphrodisiac of sexual lust offers a potent high for seemingly little risk. At least, it seems that way at the beginning. But once you start chasing that high and the flames intensify you will not escape without getting burned.

At best your own spiritual life will be slowly reduced to the ashes of a desperate loop of guilt, shame and despair while you struggle to hold together and maintain a spit-polished facade for the rest of the world. At worst, you will burn down your house and scorch your loved ones with you.

Avoid the flames. Learn to control your sexual appetite. If you’re in the midst of the fire and your life is burning down around you then run for help today. It’s not too late. God is a God of grace, forgiveness and redemption who offers springs of living water in exchange for the destructive flames. It may not be easy, but it will be good.

 

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 7

Bathsheba Observed by King David
Image via Wikipedia

Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her.
      Don’t wander down her wayward path.
Proverbs 7:25 (NLT)

As one who has been journeying through God’s Message for many years, please know that head scratching and the occasional fit of confusion is a natural part of the sojourn. Through the first several chapters of Proverbs I can appreciate King Solomon’s repeated warnings about avoiding the temptations of an immoral and adulterous woman and how he literarily contrasts that (briefly) with embracing wisdom who is also personified as a woman.

What will forever have me scratching my head as I read Proverbs are two questions.

 First, history records that Solomon himself had 700 wives and 300 concubines. That means that the dude could sleep with a different woman every night for roughly three years before he’d have to see the same woman twice. It seems to me if that is your reality and you’re still warning your son about being tempted by a woman who is not your wife (or concubine), you’ve got issues. I’m just saying.

Second, and while I appreciate that Solomon was writing in a male dominated culture from thousands of years ago, it seems to me that for every female temptress there is at least one smarmy adulteror guy preying on unsuspecting women. Solomon, whose dad seduced his married mother (Bathsheba) and had her husband whacked, seems eerily silent on that subject. Of course, with 1000 women to satisfy, he was probably busy.

I appreciate the truth of what today’s chapter is communicating. Nevertheless, I do have a few questions for God when I reach the journey’s end.

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