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Exodus 20:14; Word # 7 Covenant Fidelity

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110828_exodus20_14.mp3

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.

Deuteronomy 4:13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.

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:

Exodus 6:7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

After bringing them out of slavery, and taking his people to himself, he says:

Exodus 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…

God is initiating an exclusive intimate covenant relationship with his people. And in chapter 20 he gives himself to them in covenant relationship:

Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

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:

Exodus 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery.

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 2:13 And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who hates and divorces, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

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:

Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.

21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

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.

1 Corinthians 7:2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self–control.

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:

Matthew 19:6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

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.

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

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:

Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

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.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not associate with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

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:

Ephesians 5:18 …but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

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.

Jeremiah 31:32 …the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.

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.

James says:

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

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

1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

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:

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

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!

1Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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August 28, 2011 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast

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