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In the very short book of Obadiah, this little known prophet speaks a word of both judgement and encouragement.  Obadiah’s book is only one chapter but R.C. Sproul notes that the authority of his message is seated in the authority of God rather than the prominence, or lack thereof, of this messenger.  Sproul’s observation is something we can put into our pocket and remember when a word of truth comes to us from an unknown or unlikely source.

Obadiah writes his prophesy primarily for two reasons or to two groups of people.  He begins:

The vision of Obadiah.

Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom:
We have heard a report from the Lord,
    and a messenger has been sent among the nations:
“Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!”

Obadiah is writing about Edom.  Edom took part in a military assault on Jerusalem.  Judah was defeated and Edom prospered.  Both were covenant people of God.  Justice was not obvious during this time and it could easily have seemed to the people of Judah that they were living in opposite world.  We often feel the same way, too, when evil triumphs over good and wrongdoers win while the innocent suffer.  This is where Judah was.  Obadiah writes this message to make clear to both the people of Judah and the people of Edom that justice was coming.  God used Obadiah to convey also that he had great concern and compassion for the people of Judah.  He is writing to his people for both warning and encouragement, respectively.  Both groups needed this message.

God’s people of Judah needed to hear and understand that they were not forgotten and that God did indeed see their suffering.  They needed to know that God was deeply concerned for them and that it doubtless would be made right in time.

God’s people of Edom needed to hear that God was not pleased and their their victory and prosperity was soon coming to an end.  They needed to remember that God punishes injury – especially injury done to his own people.

Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
    you shall be utterly despised.
The pride of your heart has deceived you,
    you who live in the clefts of the rock,
    in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
    “Who will bring me down to the ground?”
Though you soar aloft like the eagle,
    though your nest is set among the stars,
    from there I will bring you down,
declares the Lord. ~Obadiah 1:2-4

Here, in verses 2-4, God is saying, “Hey Edomites – hey group of people who hurt my people, who by the way are your people too – I am going to make you small among the nations.  Maybe your brothers could not overcome you but I can.  I can and I will.  And God does do just that and fulfill this prophesy.

Why?

Your pride, Edom.  The reason you are being brought low by God himself is because of your pride.  Your pride has deceived your heart.  You may think you’re safe and high and mighty but I – the God of the universe – remember me? – I will bring you down and make you small.  Maybe your brother could not succeed against you and your pride but I can.

Furthermore, in verses 5-9 God goes on to share some more bad news with the people of Edom.  Obadiah assures them that the very people they trusted in – the worldly friends they made at the expense of their brothers – those guys were not their friends at all.  The prophet tells them that the worldly people they trusted in and used to hurt their brothers would be used by God to bring them down.  The ones they trust will be the ones who will conspire against them.  This is justice.  Edom betrayed his brothers so he would be betrayed by those he trusts.

“Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob,
    shame shall cover you,
    and you shall be cut off forever.
11 On the day that you stood aloof,
    on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
    and cast lots for Jerusalem,
    you were like one of them.
12 But do not gloat over the day of your brother
    in the day of his misfortune;
do not rejoice over the people of Judah
    in the day of their ruin;
do not boast[e]
    in the day of distress.
13 Do not enter the gate of my people
    in the day of their calamity;
do not gloat over his disaster
    in the day of his calamity;
do not loot his wealth
    in the day of his calamity.
14 Do not stand at the crossroads
    to cut off his fugitives;
do not hand over his survivors
    in the day of distress.

15 For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations.

As you have done, it shall be done to you;
    your deeds shall return on your own head. ~Obadiah 1:10-15

The prophet goes on saying that Edom will be ashamed and cut off forever.  That is a pretty harsh word and the reason given for it is the violence done to their brothers.  God is saying that this injustice they have done has not gone unnoticed.  It is not a small matter.  God is not about to overlook their treachery.  They joined the enemy in order to get ahead and they injured their own people on purpose all for their own benefit and false security.  God is saying, “I saw what you did and judgement is coming.”

Consider verse 11.

 On the day that you stood aloof,
    on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
    and cast lots for Jerusalem,
    you were like one of them.

Remember when you acted like you didn’t see foreigners taking everything from your own brother’s house?  Remember when you sided with the enemy against him and participated in their assault against your own people?  Well don’t gloat about your victory.  Don’t rejoice.  Don’t boast.  Don’t loot.  Because guess what?  The day of the Lord is near.  God’s justice is coming, boys.  As you have done, it shall be done to you.

The house of Jacob shall be a fire,
    and the house of Joseph a flame,
    and the house of Esau stubble;
they shall burn them and consume them,
    and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau,
for the Lord has spoken. ~Obadiah 1:18

Esau.  Esau, this is what happens when you sell your brother out for a bowl of soup; for worldly gain; for selfish ambition; for self-centered self-worship.  You lose.  God sees.  God’s wrath repays.  R.C. Sproul puts it this way: “Edom is doomed because they broke the law of brotherly compassion by joining, in malicious merriment, with God’s enemies as they destroyed Judah…The exploitation of a brother’s adversity showed that Edom’s true loyalty was toward getting ahead in the world, in disregard of moral and spiritual absolutes. The seeds of Edom’s moral character were sown by their ancestor Esau, who shows that he cares more for earthly enjoyment than for God’s kingdom by despising his birthright of covenant blessings and marrying Hittite wives.”

Wow.  Think how encouraging it would be for the people of Judah to hear this in their place of felt betrayal, defeat, and humiliation.  Friends, God sees the injustices done to us.  He sees when your own friends and family betray, injure, and side with the enemy for their own advancement and benefit.  God is concerned about that kind of thing.  Even in the dark places of loss, loneliness, and rejection dealt by those who should have loved and protected us, God is working.  He will bring justice and appropriate discipline to those who wrong his own people.

Therefore, we must take Obadiah;s words to heart lest we begin to doubt God’s goodness in those times.  May our brothers who betray us repent before they are judged and may we know God’s love for us as we wait for either his justice or their repentance.  Amen.

 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. ~ Acts 18:1

Let’s begin with Paul.  Here’s a guy who used to be the poster child for religious hypocrisy.  He had been passionate about rules, manmade regulations, and punishing, disgracing, and even approving of the murder of anyone who did not submit to and obey those practices.  He was the epitome of self-righteousness.  That is what he was.  This is exactly who he was before his conversion.

Miraculously, Paul was changed by none other than the power of God.  Here, now, in our eighteenth chapter of Acts, we find him Paul the missionary rather than Saul the murderer.  Now, he is traveling from place to place sharing the gospel with whomever he can whenever possible.   Now, he was a great evangelist missionary.  He went to people who were just like he had been previously to try and show them the truth of the gospel.

That’s what we find him doing in Acts chapter 18.  Verse one says he left Athens and went to Corinth.  In Athens he had preached in the synagogue and the marketplace every day.  (Acts 17:17) Every.  Single.  Day.  He points everyone in the vicinity to Christ.  He understands exactly how to answer them.  He knows all their objections and arguments before they even make them because, remember, he was what they were not too very long ago – lost.

He lands in Corinth and what does he do?

And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. ~Acts 18:2-4

First Paul makes some Jewish friends.  He gets to know some people who are in his line of work and he stays with them.  Then, he goes to the synagogue.  He goes into the most religious place of his time and the text says he “reasoned.”  He reasoned with everyone there every…single…week.  This would be like one of us going to a church who was operating in error every week and trying to explain to the leaders what the Bible actually teaches.

How did these very religious men react to his weekly gospel preaching and repetitive apologetics lessons?

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. ~Acts 18:5-7

Paul is testifying about Christ and the religious people “opposed and reviled him.”  In other words, they called him a liar.  They publicly slandered and abused him any way they could.  They did all they possibly could to hate him and rid their religious club of his true words and his teaching.

So, Paul leaves – but not without shaking the dust from his clothing and publicly denouncing their abuse and unbelief while professing his innocence as well.  Then what?

Instead of hopping right into another synagogue, Paul goes next door to the house of a man named Titius Justus.  So, next door to the synagogue he just got hated out of, he plants a church of pagans – well, Gentiles – who generally did not know God at least in any formal way.  But Justus did.  This house church becomes the seed of none other than the Corinthian Church.

This is truly amazing.  It is encouraging to know that justice took place in the house of a man who just happened to be named “Justus.”  It is in Justus’ house that God begins a great work in a city in desperate need of the gospel.  Awesome.

Next, the ruler of the synagogue gets saved along with his whole family.  The Holy Spirit comes to Paul and tells him to keep speaking and teaching.  The Holy Spirit encourages Paul and he continues in Corinth for a year and a half.

Later, the Jews gang up on him again and bring him before the civil authorities.  Verse 12 says they “made a united attack.”  All the unbelieving Jews band together to falsely accuse and discredit Paul.  It doesn’t work out well for them because the authorities end up beating the new synagogue ruler, Sosthenes, and dismissing the case.  (Acts 18:17)

What goes around comes around, folks.  These guys hated Paul and abused him for loving them enough to tell them the truth and the gospel faithfully – week after week – and they reaped exactly what they sowed.  Paul, on the other hand, planted a successful church by the hand of God.  The reason he succeeded is because he obeyed the Holy Spirit and because he absolutely, positively refused to compromise with religious regimes and falseness that centered on man’s work and self-sufficiency.

The gospel is all about God’s work.  Religion is all about man’s work.  I don’t know about you, but I am not the slight bit interested in the latter.

Be encouraged.  If religious people hate you, and they will if you tell them the truth – especially when they are operating in gross error, you are in good company.  They hated Paul, too, and he was the greatest missionary who ever lived.  And, of course, we can’t forget how much they hated Jesus.  With that, I leave you with Jesus’s words to the religious pretenders of his day:

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” ~John 8:39-47

 

“You shall not steal.” ~ Exodus 20:15

This command is pretty self-explanatory.  I think we all know what stealing is – taking something that belongs to someone else.  I have not really struggled with stealing in my life but I have stolen things before.

The two instances I can distinctly remember were both when I was young.  The first, I was about six years old and my friend had a doll I wanted.  I stuck it in my shirt and thought no one would notice as I was leaving her house.  I was caught.  The second time I stole lipstick from a store because my friend encouraged me to and when I walked out the alarms went off.  I am pretty sure that is the last time I ever tried stealing anything that did not belong to me.

Still, as I meditated on this verse this morning, I began to consider ways in which “good moral Christian people” do steal from one another in ways we may not realize.  Not materially – other ways.

I looked at the other commandments in order to put it in perspective.

With the first and second commands, if we break them we steal what belongs only to God – namely our worship – and give it away to other, lesser things, people, etc.  When we take the name of the Lord in vain we steal God’s honor by failing to respect him appropriately.  When we refuse to rest we steal God’s time filling it with earthly things or work in our own strength apart from him.  It is pride that causes us to steal time from God and refuse to rest in Him.  We steal honor from our parents when we break the fifth command.  We steal life when we break the sixth command.  We steal someone else’s spouse when we break the seventh command.  We may also steal another’s purity or steal affections and attention that belong to someone else.  When we bear false witness we steal another’s good name and reputation by the evils of slander, gossip, misrepresentation, and purposefully misleading others concerning their character.  Lasting, when we covet we steal the encouragement and love we should for others and fail to give it to them out of jealousy.  Jealous people always seek to bring down, discourage, avoid and injure the party of whom they are jealous.  I have encountered many jealous people who refuse to build up, love, or even know others simply due to their own covetousness.

Therefore, stealing is so much more than taking material things – although it is that.  I personally would rather have my lipstick stolen before my reputation.  But the latter is what “good moral Christians” in the church do again and again to one another by gossip, slander, and jealousy.  God help us.

Amen.

 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. ~1 Corinthians 10:1-5

Paul is writing to the Corinthian Church and he is telling them that spiritual blessings, advantages, and even membership with God’s people do not automatically equal God’s favor.  He points them back to their ancestors in the wilderness and proves that though they had every spiritual blessing and advantage, they did not please God.

They had a cloud and fire straight from God to follow.  They had miraculous provisions of food and drink.  We and the Corinthians have the sacraments, fellowship, membership, and provisions as well.  None of these things make us “good” with God.  None of these things make us right with God in and of themselves.  So if these things do not, what does?

The blood of Christ and obedience to him and his Word.  That is all that makes us right with God.  So, here is our warning:

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. ~1 Corinthians 10:6

These people were to serve as an example for us – so we might not stumble and fall as they did in the wilderness.  What evil is Paul speaking of?  What evil were they doing?  Because we know they were doing right things – things God honors and gives to his own people such as worship, community, baptism, spiritual things, and religious practices.  What evil were they doing in addition to the good things?  He goes on in verses 7-10 to elaborate for us.

Paul gives three main examples in verses 7-10: Idolatry, sexual immorality, and discontent and complaining.  They were worshiping false gods in addition to worshiping the One True God.  The false gods they were worshiping were self, sex, food, drink, pleasure, etc.

They were impure in sexuality – in thinking about, entertaining, and doing immoral things in regards to sexual practices.  They were not content with what God was providing – namely their own spouses, marriages and what God provided for their sexuality.  They were seeking other avenues and sexual outlets.  They were worshiping these other outlets and making them into gods by their lust and desire for them, their willingness to sacrifice to and for them, and their submission to them while failing to submit to the commands of Christ.

Furthermore, they were discontent with the food and drink provided and they were eating the food sacrificed to idols and likely participating in the idol worship itself.  They complained and grumbled generally never being satisfied with what God had provided for them so mercifully.  Just like in the desert with the manna.

In all these things – this sin they were doing right alongside their religious business – they were accused by Paul of testing Christ.  That’s why Paul takes the time to remind them of what happened to their ancestors when they did these same things testing God’s patience and grace.

He’s like hey guys…remember the snakes?  They came because the people were dissatisfied with all the great blessings God had given to them.  They were spoiled brats.  So God gave them some snakes to contend with.  He gave them something to complain about.  (Numbers 21)  They were destroyed by Satan because of their grumbling.

Why does Paul bring all this up?  He tells us in verse 11:

 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. ~1 Corinthians 10:11

These things happened for you, New Testament Church!  For you to learn from!  So you wouldn’t fall into the same temptations as those before you and be destroyed like they were!  Therefore…

THEREFORE!  Since this is for you and your instruction…

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ~1 Corinthians 10:12-13

In other words, don’t think you’re safe.  Don’t think you cannot be tempted to the point of falling into sin and being destroyed, too.  Be on guard!  Don’t just do whatever the world is doing.  Be careful!  Your God is faithful and you will be tempted but, if you are listening for him and trusting in his provision, he will show you how to resist, how to escape,  how to obey,  and how to not fall into things that will destroy you.

THEREFORE…because these things are true…

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:14

RUN!!! Run away from idolatry!  Run away from idolaters!  You are member of Christ!  Do not participate with demons!  You cannot do both!  You will not win!  You are no match for Satan no matter how strong you think you are in the faith.  Satan is stronger than you are.  God is stronger than you are.  Stop provoking and testing him!  He does not take lightly to idolatry.  He does not wink and smile at demonic idolatry, sexual immorality, and constant complaining.

Therefore…obey him.  Participate only in that which is good and you will be in his favor.  Be careful.  Be on guard.  Imitate Christ.  What a calling!  What a high calling to strive toward.  Walk as Jesus did.  Don’t be lax in your spiritual walk.  Work out your salvation with all you’ve got because that’s what it’s going to take to be pure, faithful, and victorious as a Christian.  Amen.

 

 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” ~John 3:1-2

We.  Nicodemus speaks in plural.  This religious leader is not just speaking for himself.  He says, “…we know…”  It is very likely he is speaking on behalf of himself and several, if not many, religious leaders of his day.  The Pharisees.  They knew.  They knew, at the very least, that Jesus was from God – yet – they still hated him.  They still sought ways to discredit and undermine him.  They still publicly challenged and slandered him.

This is amazing!  Jealousy makes power-hungry religious men do terrible things even though they know better.

Jesus takes Nicodemus immediately to the reason and the solution for why he doesn’t know him for who he actually is.  Jesus is not just from God – he is God.  The reason Nicodemus doesn’t know that is because he has not been regenerated by the power of God.  He is a just another guy who is interested in religion.  He lacks spiritual insight and wisdom precisely because he has not come to know Christ truly yet.  He knows all about religion.  He fails to know God.  This is tragic.

What does Jesus do?

He wastes no time explaining who he is or setting Nicodemus straight about his identity.  Jesus gives him the solution.  “You must be born again.”  He proceeds to preach the gospel to Nicodemus adding that it is quite peculiar that he is in a position and in fact is a teacher of God’s people and yet has no understanding of the things of God. (verse 10)

Nicodemus is bewildered.  He is confused.  He is astonished at what Jesus tells him saying, “How can these things be?” (verse 9)

After Jesus makes the point that a teacher of God’s people ought to know these things, he reveals the real issue in Nicodemus’s life.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”~ John 3:11-12

You don’t believe me, Nicodemus.  I have repeatedly told you and showed you the truth in simple, lisping lessons but you simply do not believe it.  If you don’t believe me about things on earth – things you can see – how will you believe about things in heaven – things you have not seen?!  He gives Nicodemus the gospel as well as the reason men just like Nicodemus do not believe it.

We tend to forget that this whole John 3:16 business is in the context of Jesus talking to one of the most religious men of his day.  Think about that.  Consider the implications of that truth.

So what does Jesus say to this very religious teacher guy?  Grace is here – but, as Jesus has already told this man, it is for those who believe.  You do not believe.  Light is here.  The problem is not that you do not have enough light.  You love darkness.  That is the problem.  And why do you love darkness?  Because you’re hiding.  You are afraid that your wrong deeds will be exposed.  You care more about how you look on the outside than you do about whether you are in God’s favor.  You would rather hide behind religion than come into the light and be made clean.

The main idea here is that Jesus is not the one hiding.  God is waiting and willing no matter how or when we come to inquire of him.  We are always the ones who hide from God.  Nicodemus comes at night because he is hiding.  Likely he fears his religious friends seeing him talk to Jesus – because God forbid one of them get to know Jesus rightly and for who he truly is.  They were much more content to make him who they needed him to be in order to keep their sin hidden and their people – their followers – deceived about who they really were.

Jesus is not the one hiding.  The religious men are hiding.  When asked indirectly who he really is, Jesus pulls no punches.  He tells the inquirer the solution and the problem for why he does not know the answer to his own question.  Jesus does not have to say, “I am God” because it is extremely clear that Nicodemus has already repeatedly refused to believe the truths that would lead to that conclusion.  Instead, Jesus mercifully gives him the solution.

Here’s your problem, Nicodemus.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, Nicodemus.  There’s grace, Nicodemus.  Believe and be saved, Nicodemus.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, Nicodemus.

Have you ever had someone try to be your friend secretly?  Or treat you differently when others were around vs. when they were not around?  Religious people are infamous for this kind of behavior because they not only fail to recognize and believe who God is, they fail to know who they themselves are.  Therefore, they are not genuine in their dealings.  Jesus shows us how to deal with this kind of pretense.  Say this:

Here’s your problem, religious man.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, religious man.  There’s grace, religious man.  Believe and be saved, religious man.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, religious man.

Jesus deals with pretense, fear, a religious spirit, and sin all in one blow.  He tells this spiritually impoverished soul the truth of the gospel and the solution to his sin problem.  He makes sure that guy knows exactly what is required of him and shows him that he has not yet been willing to do it.

God’s grace is waiting.  He wants people to come to the light.  We must believe, confess our sin in the light, and repent of our hiding it in the darkness.  God is faithful to meet us there and do a great work in our lives.  He will change us from religious pretenders – people who have (as the Bible says) a form of godliness but deny its power – and false friends to real sons and daughters; brothers and sisters of his very own.

Come to Jesus.  Confess your sin to him.  Ask forgiveness.  Allow his Holy Spirit to do his work in you and you will be a new creation.  You will be born again.  Amen.

adultery

The seventh commandment that God gives to Moses on Mt. Sinai concerns purity and chastity within marriage.

Adultery is generally defined as a married man or woman being sexually unfaithful to their spouse.  So, infidelity.  Jesus, however, defines adultery with more detail.  He says that unfaithfulness is found even in adulterous thoughts and gazes.

 “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. ~Matthew 5:27-30

Jesus knows our hearts.  He knows what is in a man (and a woman).  He knows how easily we are enticed and entangled in sin.  Jesus knows that thoughts often lead to actions and small errors often lead to big problems.  Jesus cares enough about us and our purity to tell us the truth.

Flirting with adulterous thoughts, flirting with anyone other than our spouses, and flirting with temptation on any level in word, thought, or deed is more than enough reason to be alarmed, take heed, and repent.  These seemingly “smaller” offenses are – according to Jesus – not small.

To look is to commit adultery.  To lust is to commit adultery.

If we consider the other offenses that we commit in this kind of sin, it is not hard to see why the seeds of adultery are so important to both understand and avoid at all costs.  Jesus’ advice is to pluck out our eye or cut of our hand!  It is that dangerous.  It is that important to avoid.

When we cheat on our spouse, we steal.  We lie.  We covet.  We worship another in place of God – ourselves and our forbidden partner.  We dishonor our parents.  We break almost every commandment God set before us when we sin in this way.  Men and women in the Old Testament were stoned to death for this.

“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. ~ Leviticus 20:10

Death!  The penalty was death for both the man and the woman.  Now, the Pharisees tried to make it as though only the woman should be stoned but Jesus – what did he do?

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ~John 8:1-11

We also have his example of the Samaritan woman, also known as the woman at the well, who had five husbands in John 4.  How did Jesus treat these women?  Or should I say, these kind of women?

In the first case he stood up to the bullies who hated her by stooping down in a public proclamation of his alliance with the sinner. In the second case he went the way everyone else always avoided and talked with a woman – a loose woman to boot – when it was taboo in order to teach her the truth and – get this – use her to save a whole town by her testimony!  Amazing!

Why?

Jesus knows that we are guilty of breaking this command.  The level of severity is the only difference between men.  Therefore, he does what God always does.  He gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud.  That’s why we see him siding with the adulterous women and making a point to go to the people and places others intentionally and painstakingly avoided out of superiority, pride, and religious condescension.

Yesterday my husband and I were talking about temptation.  We have both done our share of failing in this area.  Temptation is never going to go away until we die.  We talked about the verse in 1 Corinthians 10 about being careful when things seem calm and when we feel less tempted.  That’s when the enemy strikes.  But today the verse of the day on my Bible app was the following verse so I’ll just read them both.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ~1 Corinthians 10:12-13

You know what this means?  It means God is faithful.  You can trust him!  Even though we will be tempted to look, to lust, to think impure thoughts, to flirt, to act scandalously – we will also be given a way out.  Every.  Single.  Time.  The way will not be some religious pretense that shuns and avoids “sinners” in order to look pious and holy on the outside and impress our religious friends.  The way will be grace for us and for the other sinners he allows in close proximity to us.

We need to get that.  We need to get it deep down in our hearts.  Jesus does not shun and avoid sinners out of pride, pretense, preference, superiority, or self-preservation EVER.  Jesus goes to them purposefully and offers grace to the humble.  It is those who think themselves too high and holy to even be in the same town with “sinners” that he deals harshly with.

So, don’t commit adultery in thought, word, or deed.  Use the escape routes God is faithful to provide when tempted.  But don’t put on a religious show just to make others think you’re not guilty of this sin.  Confess it.  Don’t hide and pretend.  We are all guilty.  There is grace for the repentant and humble in heart.