“You shall not commit adultery.
Good morning, brethren. It is common knowledge or common wisdom that history repeats itself, especially for those who don’t learn from the past or study the past. It is also common knowledge that our modern society—Western civilization—is in deep trouble at this point in history.
We can’t seem to go a single day without hearing of some current or looming crisis or some disaster that is taking place somewhere. There are constant warnings from many experts of dire consequences if we pursue the course we are on. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about economics, fiscal policy, health policy, agricultural policy, global warming, or whatever. There are dire consequences if we continue down the road we are going.
I think this drum beat of doom and gloom, much of it warranted, is increasingly leading to a feeling of despair and even hopelessness among people in civilized societies. The “experts” warn of impending disaster, and they offer their opinions as to solutions, each expert according to their field of expertise.
In the case of the United States and most Western countries it is burgeoning national debts or the spread of poverty. There are more and more people who are falling from the middle class into poverty. It is the education deficit. People are not getting the education they need for the jobs of the future. It is unemployment. Jobs are disappearing. People are dropping out of the labor force. Or it is the bubble that is student loan debt, saddling the next generation with enormous debts that they can’t repay. Or it is the health care crisis, whether it is the financial aspect where the countries can’t afford it much longer, or the spread of disease that seems unstoppable. There is also a huge problem with mental illness and suicide. People are very depressed, anxious, and very worried. We have over-crowded prisons that we cannot afford to maintain.
Literally we are talking about the collapse of our society. We see in the news other nations that have become failed states, and we are worried that some of our most developed countries could eventually become failed states. By a failed state, that means no governance and no rule of law. The countries that are undergoing that right now are really horrific places in which to live. People are afraid and ask, can it happen in the United States or Canada or Australia or England or any of the European nations?
You and I indeed are living through what I would like to characterize as the rapid collapse of Western civilization as we have come to know it. I add that phrase, “as we have come to know it” because there are vast changes coming to Western civilization. If we don’t change the course we are on, they are not going to be good, either.
The very underpinnings of our society have broken loose. Many Americans sense that the ship of state is headed for the rocky shoals. The ship will break up when it hits the rocks. It will sink and take all of us with it. People are scared. They are grasping at straws for solutions. We can see it in our election processes here and in England and other places. People are grasping at anybody who thinks they can turn it around, even when we can tell that likely they can’t.
We have chosen the direction we are headed in, but there is still time to change course. There is still time to avoid the consequences of our actions if we head it off at the pass, for we are reaping what we have sown. Our country is reaping what we have sown, and we have no one else to blame but ourselves.
You often hear the verse referenced in Christian groups II Chronicles 7:14 that our country needs to humble itself and go back to God. Let’s go to II Chronicles in the Old Testament, chapter 7. II Chronicles 7, verse 14: “…if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
We want our land healed. We want our society healed, but are we willing to do the first part and humble ourselves? Are we willing to admit our sins and ask for forgiveness? God gave us ten simple answers. He is the expert of all experts. He is our Creator. He gave us the Ten Commandments. They are literally the solution to the problems that we face. Today we are talking about one that could literally save our societies and save civilization. It is the Seventh Commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery.
MARRIAGE IS THE FOUNDATION OF SOCIETY
Marriage is the foundation of a healthy society. This is something that has been talked about for a long time and is well known. I would like to quote from a recently written book called Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 by Charles Murray (first paperback edition, 2013). I want to start by reading a quote on page 138, Coming Apart page 138, under the heading of “Marriage”
“The founders [it is speaking of the founders of the United States] took for granted that marriage was the bedrock institution of society. One of the few explicit discussions during the Revolutionary era is found in James Wilsons’s Lectures on Law…”
Quoting Mr. Wilson: “Whether we consult the soundest deductions of reason, or resort to the best information conveyed to us by history, or listen to the undoubted intelligence communicated in holy writ, we shall find, that to the institution of marriage the true origin of society must be traced…To that institution, more than to any other, have mankind been indebted for the share of peace and harmony which has been distributed among them. ‘Prima societas in ipso conjugio est,’ (‘The first bond of society is marriage’) says Cicero in his book of offices; a work which does honor to the human understanding and the human heart.”
James Wilson quotes Cicero, and James Wilson was writing in the Revolutionary times.
We can see that marriage was considered the bedrock of society 240 years ago at our nation’s founding. It was also considered the bedrock of Roman society 2,100 years ago by the famous orator Cicero. This is not something new. Are we going to learn from the lessons of Rome, or are we going to go the way of Rome? We know what happened to Rome. Their empire is gone. Their society fell apart as family fell apart.
Now I am going to go to page 141 of the same book. “American marriages were different from European ones (or so both Americans and foreign observers seemed to agree) in the solemnity of the marital bond. Americans ‘consider marriage as a covenant which is often onerous, but every condition of which the parties are strictly bound to fulfill, because they knew all those conditions beforehand, and were perfectly free not to have contracted them.”
That’s a quote from Alexis de Tocqueville in which he said that our marriages and the quality of those marriages is the bedrock of American society.
Another man writing at about the same time was Francis Grund. He presented a similar analysis when he visited the United States from Europe. Then he summarized the effects of strong marriages in America life.
Quoting Grund from the same book, Mr. Murray says: “I consider the domestic virtue of the Americans as the principal source of all their other qualities.”
Did you notice that? This man found that the strength of our families was where all our other strengths came from.
Continuing with the quote: “It acts as a promoter of industry, as a stimulus to enterprise, and as the most powerful restrainer of public vice. It reduces life to its simplest elements, and makes happiness less dependent on precarious circumstances; it ensures the proper education of children, and acts, by the force of example, on the morals of the rising generation; in short, it does more for the preservation of peace and good order, than all the laws enacted for that purpose; and is a better guarantee for the permanency of the American government, than any written instrument, the Constitution itself not excepted.”
It was the character of our people and the strength of our families and marriages that made the United States what it is today and made it a powerhouse. That made it wealthy. It gave our citizens a free country in which to dwell.
Continuing in the book Mr. Murray says: “The American concept of marriage demanded a lot of both parties, but it was seen as the fundamental institution of civil society in a free nation.”
The last quote I want to read from the book is on page 162 where Mr. Murray summarizes what he found in many studies, many statistics, and many grafts. The book is replete of all kinds of truly scientific studies that point to a very dismal future if we don’t change course.
Here on page 162 he writes: “Trends in marriage are important not just with regard to the organization of communities, but because they are associated with large effects on the socialization of the next generation. No matter what the outcome being examined—the quality of the mother-infant relationship, externalizing behavior in childhood (aggression, delinquency, and hyperactivity), delinquency in adolescence, criminality as adults, illness and injury in childhood, early mortality, sexual decision making in adolescence, school problems and dropping out, emotional health, or any other measure of how well or poorly children do in life—the family structure that produces the best outcomes for children, on average, are two biological parents who remain married.”
That is a significant statement, and it covers all the societal ills that you read about on the news every day. When done properly, marriage and family would turn the tide for America’s future. It would get us on a better road.
OLD TESTAMENT FORBIDS ADULTERY
God warns in many places in His word, and we will read a couple of them, about the destructive influence of adultery, failing marriages, and failing families. I want to go to Proverbs chapter 6. It is the book of wisdom.
Proverbs 6, verse 32: “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul. Wounds and dishonor he will get, and his reproach will not be wiped away. For jealousy is a husband’s fury; therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will accept no recompense, nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts.”
There are penalties to be paid for adultery that cause tremendous scars and damages the souls of those who do it. Ultimately when enough people engage in this kind of activity, society itself breaks down. That’s why the punishments for adultery were so severe. Punishments were severe in the Old Testament for twisted and perverted marriage and family.
I want to go to Leviticus chapter 20. We are going to read what God felt needed to be done when people destroy families. This is how seriously we should be taking marriage, not that we should do these things, as you will see as we go through this message. This was an Old Testament statute. But the effects that He was trying to prevent are the same today. God has given us Christ’s blood to deal with it today. In the Old Testament, here is what God had to say.
We’re in Leviticus chapter 20, verse 10: “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death. The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death. They have committed perversion. Their blood shall be upon them. If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.”
It sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But God knew if this went unchecked, it would destroy the nation He was building with ancient Israel. It would tear it apart, by tearing apart marriage and family. It would lead to all the problems that it eventually did lead to with the collapse of the Israelite society back in the day. It’s the same thing that crushed the Roman society. The Roman Empire collapse was in no small part due to the break down of marriage and family. We are witnessing history repeating itself today.
I want to go to another Old Testament book, the Book of Hosea. Go to Hosea chapter 4. We will read a few verses there. God spells out the consequences for breaking His laws. Hosea chapter 4, verse 1: “Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel, for the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: ‘There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed. Therefore the land will mourn; and everyone who dwells there will waste away with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air; even the fish of the sea will be taken away.’”
The consequences of breaking God’s law, and here specifically we are talking about damage to the family through adultery, is so pervasive that it leads to the collapse of society. It was understood by Cicero. It was understood by our Founding Fathers. It should be understood by us today.
Adultery should be taken very, very seriously. Our society literally spreads and condones adultery in many ways, if you think about it! Our television shows make fun of marriage. The sitcoms and reality TV pose temptations to marriage to people who are happily married. Stars and actors constantly parade themselves on the screen enticing people into temptation. They make perversion look like fun without consequences. Provocative entertainment is not good. It rots the soul.
Immodest dress and behavior is very damaging to young people and old people alike. It is not good to tempt your neighbor into something that could lead into adultery. But that’s what we do on a regular basis. We pay people to entertain us with programs, games, and movies that do just that. That filth is destroying marriages and families in the United States.
Shattered marriages and broken homes are what is leading to our societal ills. There are experts who say, here’s how we deal with joblessness, here’s how we deal with poverty, and here’s how we deal with the financial crisis that’s coming because of our debt. They need to talk about the root cause. The number one cause and one of the largest causes of poverty is divorce. Poverty leads to crime. Adultery is no laughing matter, and it’s certainly not something we should support with our dollars and be entertained by such things. Our country is going down the road that leads to more crime, more poverty, and to the societal type ills that can literally do us in like the Roman Empire.
CHRIST EXPANDED THE COMMANDMENTS
In the New Testament, Christ expanded the Ten Commandments to give us more understanding of the harms, but He also gave us tremendous hope. Let’s look at a few Scriptures from Jesus Christ in which He talked in a more complete definition of adultery. Let’s go to Matthew chapter 5.
Matthew chapter 5, verse 27: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’” This is quoting the Seventh Commandment.
Verse 28: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”
But there are two sides to this coin. How irresponsible is it for women to parade themselves in front of men in such a way to encourage them to lust? Christ said, this causes adultery. Modesty in dress is a beautiful thing.
They were showing in the newspaper USA Today one day last week how there are a few stand-out women in the world who dress modestly and are good examples. I am trying to remember which day that was. I can’t remember all three, but I remember one of them was Princess Kate in England. She dresses modestly, and she looks beautiful. She doesn’t have to expose herself to look beautiful. I don’t understand why so many of our women think they have to expose themselves to look beautiful. That’s not the case.
I want to go to Mark chapter 10 now where it is speaking of Christ. Mark chapter 10, verse 1: “Then He arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan. And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again. The Pharisees came and asked Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ testing Him. And He answered and said to them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God “made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife [called his wife, this is where marriage began back in the Book of Genesis], and the two shall become one flesh;” so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’ In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. So He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’”
How many people inadvertently are committing adultery when they think they have gone about the legal system to divorce their spouse? But they are breaking God’s law and harming their family.
There are a certain few limited cases when a divorce is essential. I am not going to go into them now, but they preclude re-marrying. You cannot divorce with the intention of ever marrying someone else. That would be the same as Jesus Christ saying I am not going to marry My church. I am going to choose a different bride. He wants the church to come back to Him. He wants His people to come back, which was the point of II Chronicles 7:14.
Let’s go to Luke chapter 16, verse 17 where Christ is speaking of the law, and He says: “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail [speaking here now of the Seventh Commandment in this message]. Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.”
GO BACK TO THE COMMANDMENTS
Now you see here that a person shouldn’t even marry someone who is divorced, even if you’ve never been married. If we followed these dictates, we would have very strong families. Divorce would not be running rampant. Marriages and families would not be becoming dysfunctional and failed, leading to eventually a failed state. Marriage is that important. Family is that important.
Now we have tens of millions of Americans and other people in Western civilization who have done these things. Christ knows that. That’s why II Chronicles 7:14 is so hopeful. He says, turn from your wickedness. Humble yourself. We need to do that, and go back to the commandments. But let’s look at how merciful God the Father and Jesus Christ are by turning to John chapter 8. This is the gospel of John, chapter 8.
John 8, beginning in verse 1: “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught then. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’ Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’”
There is hope for all of us who have broken the Ten Commandments. There is speculation that what Jesus Christ was writing in the dirt were the sins of those present. The oldest ones had the wisdom to see, oh yes, I have sinned. I have committed adultery. I have lusted after a woman, or I have stolen, or I have whatever. For any one of the Ten Commandments that have been broken, the wages is death. They realized they were being hypocritical.
Christ, of course, knew He was going to die for our sins, and He had the power at that time to forgive this woman of her sins. Notice He said, go and sin no more. He didn’t say, the next time you commit adultery, come right back here. He said, go and sin no more. That is II Chronicles 7:14 being fulfilled.
Now let’s learn some lessons from history before it’s too late. Let’s strive to keep the Seventh Commandment. Let’s remember, thou shalt not commit adultery, and remember how Jesus Christ expanded that beyond the letter to the spiritual intention of the law. Let’s remember our responsibility to be modest and respectful toward each other to help each other keep the Seventh Commandment.