They say that the first thing that a public speaker must do is capture the attention of his audience. Well, I think I got it.
Today’s message is another one of those messages that you might feel like it needs a Parental Guidance warning. It reminds me of what the Rabbi’s used to say about the Song of Solomon. They said that no one under 30 years of age should be permitted to read it.
I would assume that you’re not used to this kind of language being used, let alone here in church! It is rather sensual, to the point of making one blush. But at the same time, as we read it, we find that the language is refreshingly direct, isn’t it?
The topic addressed here is one that needs to be spoken to just as directly too. The temptation to an extra-marital affair is a powerful temptation, particularly in today’s sex crazed culture. It is one we can face, whether we are male or female. And many Christian people have fallen into adultery because of this temptation.
The topic is just as necessary today, as it was thousands of years ago. The church is filled with all sorts of immorality. Statistics show that the difference between the church and the rest of the culture with regard to sexual practices is relatively slim.
I have to admit, we as ministers are partially to blame for this. We have not taught what God has called us to teach. As a church, we have been embarrassed to talk about sex. We have seen it as inappropriate to talk about from the pulpit, and we have not spoken about it as openly and frankly as God does here.
But our Heavenly Father does not avoid the subject. He knows how powerful the temptation is. So our God talks candidly about it. God does not want us to fall into the sin of adultery. And in order to help us avoid falling into sexual sin our Lord identifies for us its cause, consequences, and cures.
If you are going to avoid falling into adultery one thing you must understand is adultery’s primary cause.
I. The primary cause of adultery: [1-6]
Looking at verses 1-6 we can ask ourselves, “What causes adultery?”
Well, our first instinct is perhaps to put the blame on the woman who intrudes on the marriage vows. And you can make a strong case for this. I mean just look at her. Look at how our Father describes here in verse 3. She is said to have “lips that drip honey,” and speech that is “smoother than oil.”
In other words, she is a talker, and she is most persuasive. She is described as one who not only let’s her intentions be known, but she comes on strong. Her whole goal is to tantalize and ultimately seduce. She might not be as bold as Potifire’s wife who called out to Joseph “come to bed with me.” She might be more subtle, perhaps starting out with a flirt and then getting stronger as she lures you in.
While it’s no doubt she is in no way innocent in the matter, she is not the main cause of adultery. She’s crafty, yes; she’s implicated in the evil, yes; but the bible does not pinpoint her as the source of blame.
Well, if it is not the woman that is to blame, maybe the cause is the man’s strong sex drive. We all know well a man’s proclivity toward sex. When it comes to physical attraction, we all know that a man’s desires are much stronger than a woman’s. And her words wouldn’t be much bait if he was not drawn in by them, right?
But when you look at our passage you see not even a mention of the man’s sex drive. Certainly, it is assumed. But the passage does not identify it as the real cause of adultery.
If it is not the woman and it is not the man’s sexual urges, what is the primary cause of adultery? You might find this a bit odd (even laughable), but the real cause of adultery is Ignorance.
Look at verses 1-2. We have heard these words over and over, “My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge.”
When it comes to adultery, the problem does not reside in our bodies or in someone else’s body, the problem is in our minds (or perhaps better said: what is not in our minds). We develop an unlawful relationship or practice some deviant sexual behavior, because we have not the considered the Word of God. It is in the Word of God that we “gain discretion.”
Now, again, that may sound completely idiotic, but think it through with me. When we listen to God’s word, what do we hear? We hear about God’s holiness don’t we? When we hear things like “Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, etc. we are told something about God, are we not? We are told that he is pure—that he is holy. And we should understand that he has ordered things in a certain way—things are supposed to operate according to his design.
Our problem is not a sex problem, it is a God problem. If we do not incline ourselves towards God’s word, we will not understand what is right and what is wrong. But when we do we will understand. And we will see that any other is “forbidden” (or “strange”) as it says in verse 3.
When we consider how sacred the covenant of marriage is to God we will understand an “innocent flirtation” is not in any way “innocent.” And we will understand that no matter what he or she says, he or she is to be considered an intruder into the bonds of marriage.
If I might speak to you parents in regards to this: If it is true that ignorance is the chief cause of sexual infidelity, then consider how important it is for you to teach your children about who God is and what he says about marriage and sex. If you don’t talk to them, they will not have this first and primary wall of defense fortified.
Our culture gets embarrassed about having “the talk”, but we as Christians are not to have just one “talk” about sex. It is to be a regular part of our parental curriculum. We need not just one talk, but many talks. We don't want them learning what they learn from the world, be it NBC or the locker room. Neither do we want them to hear nothing at all! That's a real and present danger. If your child is ignorant of what God has to say, then you are preparing them for immorality.
And that goes for all of us: We all must incline our ears to what God has to say so that we can really see what is right and wrong. Fidelity to one’s wife begins with fidelity to God. If you are going to avoid falling into that temptation, you have to listen to His word.
When it comes to adultery we must not only though consider its cause, we must also consider its consequences.
II. The painful consequences of adultery: [4-14]
One of the ways we protect ourselves from adultery is by identifying the costs of such an affair. Whenever we have a decision to make we make a list of Pro’s and Con’s. After making such a list we weigh whether or not it would be wise to pursue whatever it is before us.
At first you may see a lot of benefits to an extra-marital affair. But you could say that our Heavenly Father helps us to “see the other side” by putting before us a thought provoking list of Con’s.
Some have deduced more, but I see that there are at least 3 that should make you consider how foolish a choice adultery is. The first con is that adultery has the power to…
A. diminish your life 
You see in verse 9 that it says, don’t do this “lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless.”
These two lines are parallel and you have to see them together. In this verse a person’s honor is his youthful years. When we start getting old we feel the affects of age, and we lose the grandeur of youthfulness.
As younger people we have more vitality and zest for life. But we may be robbed of that if we choose to give ourselves over to immorality.
We live in a sex crazed culture. People are living promiscuously all over the place. And we see how much that is promoted (on the TV, in music, etc.), what we don’t often see is how the bloom of youth is wilted by sexual promiscuity.
Let me expose a lie you see on TV too. Illicit affairs are always portrayed in such a way that it gives you more out of life. But that’s wrong. It will do just the opposite, it can rob you of some of the best years of your life.
Not only may adultery diminish your life, it may…
B. diminish your wealth
Verse 10 says, “lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
Now I want to admit that I do not know the full import of this verse. We can understand what it means, but I’m not sure we can understand all it’s implications. One’s strength is the means to their financial well being. You work and you get paid for your energies. And the earnings you gain from those labors will likely end up being depleted if you fall into an affair.
Now again, I don’t know all that this implies: Perhaps back then it had to do with paying room and board for your mistress. Perhaps it has to do with funds that might be forfeited due to legal procedures. Maybe it means having to pay alimony if your spouse leaves you. Who knows? But you think about it, you can see a lot of ways that you can loose money over a one night stand. You must remember: if you fill your lusts, but you may be drained financially.
You may diminish your youth, and you may diminish your wealth. But you may also…
C. diminish your joy [11-14]
This is what verses 11-14 speak about. Read with me about the personal grief you may experience:
“and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed. and you say, "How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation."
Here you are projected into the future and made to look at yourself agonizing in your later years. You can imagine yourself on your bed, with one foot in the grave groaning. You say, “I’m a fool! I should have listened!”
This is not limited to those who have received sexually transmitted diseases, but it is most vividly portrayed in them. These are people who have really diminished their life, aren’t they? But the one thing they really are deprived of is their joy.
You may have even seen such persons grieving over their exploits. How they are filled with pain because of a foolish choice to live licentiously.
That may be an extreme example. But it is an example that can show you how you can loose your joy when you commit adultery.
Before you go out and have an affair, you need to weigh the costs. And right now, you need to make the decision. Don’t wait until you have been put in a situation where you have to decide. Consider right now the consequences, and make your decision. Is it really worth it?
Our passage gives us the causes and consequences of adultery. But it does not stop there. Our Heavenly Father goes so far as to give us cures.
III. Its prescribed cures [15-23]
By cures I mean “the remedies for adultery.” In other words: what will help you avoid falling into this temptation? What will cure you of any thought of following another man or woman. Verses 15-23 show us that if we are going to remain faithful we have to enjoy the pleasures of marriage
The passage almost makes you blush as you read it, doesn’t it? "Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love."
Our heavenly Father does not shy away from the fact that sex is to be a wonderful experience. God wants us to find our sexual satisfaction in our spouses, and that without reservation. He gives us no excuse for adulterous affairs, does he? We are virtually commanded to have sex. But he only gives one stipulation: That we satisfy our desires with the one he has given us.
I want to underscore here God’s joy in maritial intimcacy. He created it. And he found it so wonderful that he has even devoted a whole book of the Bible to the subject, wherein the joys of physical love are celebrated.
This is what led the Puritians of old to talk about “Keeping the marriage bed hot!” They knew the glory of what God had created. I know the puritans are typically thought of as prudes, but that’s not the case at all. There is even one case where they excommunicated a man for not fulfilling his marital duties!
I say that only to underscore how weighty a matter this is to God.
And we have to cherish and protect this wonderful institution of marriage. It is being criticized and attacked from every vantage point in our day. We all know the headlines with respect to gays and their (so-called) “Civil Unions.” But think also how marriage is often thought of as the “end of life” for a person. Even the joys of marital bliss are portrayed as “boring” but real excitement is found in promiscuity.
But that is to be the farthest thing from the truth. God created marriage as the appropriate environment for sexual gratification. God has blessed this institution, and has given us wonderful freedoms within it. And We are to take pleasure in it. I might go so far as to say that we are to replicate, in our small human way, the immense pleasure that he takes in his bride, the church.
Having said that, I’d like to take a moment to give a specific application. I would like to speak to you ladies. I know that this passage speaks most directly to the men, but I think that I need to speak to you ladies because very few have in this regard.
Ladies, I know that every bible study that you have done on womanhood has spoken about the importance of being a mother and a homemaker. And that’s good because those two things are despised in our day. But I don’t know of many that have dealt with the duty of being a wife and fulfilling the desires of your man. But this is one of the primary tasks that has been given to you.
As a matter of fact, I think that Paul gets at this in the NT. He says that the older women are to teach the younger women. And they are to teach them to “love their husbands.” I don’t think you can read that and simply talk about making a good meal!
So give attention to this ladies. I want you to understand that this passage is commanding you to go after your man. It’s encouraging you to come on to him and to give yourself whole heartedly to him. It’s telling you that sometimes you need to send the kids outside so that you can just save up energy and think about how you can make your husband intoxicated with your love.
Ladies, the men have a duty to stay faithful to you. I’m not downplaying that. But don’t forget you are his helpmate! So you have the responsibility of helping to keep him faithful. And the best way to do that is to be the lady that turns him on and satisfies his desires.
And let me say this too: I can speak for men since I am one. Men want to be wanted. A lot of men who fall into sexual sin have this as their excuse: “She wanted me” or “she made me feel young again.” A man wants to be desired, just as much as you want to be the object of your man’s affections. And his affections for you will be strengthened through the attention and affection you bestow upon him in the bedroom.
All that is to say that the bedroom is to be a place of physical pleasure. The language here is glorious. It is playful. It is sensual. It is language of pleasure and ecstasy. And we ought to replicate that in our relationships. And when we do, there will be no need for an adulterous relationship.
In sum, let me remind you that what is spoken of here is to replicate the relationship we have with Christ. The intimacy we have here in worship is something of the intimacy we should have in the bedroom. It is two people who adore each other coming together to celebrate their relationship.
Let our marriages be the same. Let us hear what God has to say about fidelity in marriage, and may we apply it to the glory of His name.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.