“You shall not commit adultery.” – Exodus 20:14
We continue our study of marriage from the book of Genesis. We have addressed the marriage of Adam and Eve, and last week began looking at Abraham and Sarah’s marriage. We are seeking to learn what God has to teach us from their unions about our own marriage.
This week we will find another sin committed in the marriage of Abraham and Sarah, and see the great trouble it caused. We will also see how God wants us to live so that our marriage is not negatively impacted by our own sin.
We begin reading about this event in Genesis 16:1-2a: “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.’”
God created marriage to be between one man and one woman for life (see Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6). If a married person has sex with anyone but his or her spouse, it is called adultery. This is strictly forbidden by God.
God is so adamant about it that He included it among the Ten Commandments. We read in Exodus 20:14: “You shall not commit adultery.” It comes right between “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) and “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15).
Jesus explained this command even further in Matthew 5:27-28: “‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’” God clearly forbids adultery.
Abraham should have responded to Sarah quickly and decisively, “Absolutely not.” He should have loved God and Sarah enough to do that. Yet look how Abraham responds to her request in Genesis 16:12b: “Abram agreed to what Sarai said.”
Just like Adam before him—just as he had done himself earlier—Abraham did not do what God teaches husbands in His Word. He did not love and lead Sarah according to what God teaches us (see Ephesians 5:25-26).
Abraham also did not trust God’s promise to him. We read this promise in Genesis 15:1-4: “After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’ 2 But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ 3 And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’ 4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’”
Abraham did not trust that God would be faithful to this promise while also remaining true to His command to be faithful to his one true wife, Sarah. Sarah was barren. It appeared to Abraham’s limited human mind that she obviously would not be the woman to bear him children.
Abraham had believed God would give him children (see Genesis 15:6). He simply could not look beyond the current situation with eyes of faith and see how Sarah could be the one to bear a son. (In fact, see how Abraham and Sarah did react when the fulfillment of this promise was finally announced to them in Genesis 17:17-19; 18:1-15. They were both incredulous.)
And so Abraham was open to Sarah’s suggestion to bypass God’s way and try to figure things out themselves.
The minute we do not trust God and His word we are headed down a destructive path. That is why we are commanded in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Abraham’s path was a destructive path. He did have a child through Hagar—Ishmael (see Genesis 16:4, 15). But Ismael was not the son God previously told him about. This caused much trouble in their family.
Unfaithfulness to our spouse will always lead to trouble.
Adultery does not even have to be physical. Recall what Jesus said in Matthew 5:28: “‘But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’”
This is because Jesus knew the pathway of sin that God would later reveal to us. That path is found in James 1:14-15: “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
The “evil desire” of adultery begins in our heart and our thoughts. Jesus warned in Matthew 15:19: “‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.’” So we must do as God says in Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
We guard our minds and hearts by filling them with God’s truth, not the world’s lies. Paul instructs us in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Abraham and Sarah’s sin led to trouble with everyone in the family. Sarah became jealous of Hagar and Ishmael. This led to them being sent away on their own by Abraham at Sarah’s request. Once again we observe that Abraham’s adultery and unwillingness to lead his family led to problems.
God took care of Hagar and Ishmael. But the animosity over this led to trouble for Israel to this day. Ishmael married an Egyptian woman (see Genesis 21:21), and they had twelve sons. (Sound familiar? See Genesis 25:12-16).
Those twelve sons became the leaders of twelve tribes that were a constant problem for the Israelites (see Genesis 25:18). The Muslim religion—an enemy of Israel today—was founded by Muhammed. Muhammed is said by the Muslims to be from the tribe of Quraysh, which came from the lineage of Kedar, one of Ishmael’s sons. So we can see how Abraham and Sarah’s sin continues to negatively impact Israel to this day.
God warns us of the negative impact our sin has on others. He told the Israelites the impact their sin would have on generations that came after them. We read in Exodus 20:4-5: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”
But God also has a wonderful promise for those who are faithful to Him. We read this in Exodus 20:6: “But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” This is because as Jesus said in John 14:15: “‘If you love me, keep my commands.’”
He then went on to teach in John 14:23-24: “Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.’”
The key to a God pleasing, joy-filled marriage is living by God’s Word. It is learning, trusting, and living by His truth found there. It is evidence of our love and trust in Him.
This could not be said of Abraham and Sarah. Can it be said of us?
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God spoke to you about through it.
♦ Are you guarding your hearts, minds, and marriage by faithfully studying, memorizing, and praying God’s Word? Commit to one another to do this individually and together. Help hold each other accountable. Husbands should lead in this.
♦ When you are faced with a dilemma or difficult decision, how do you handle it? Do you, like Abraham and Sarah, try to figure it out yourselves? Here are some suggestions based on this week’s teaching to consider.
◊ Determine to be patient. Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22; “forbearance” in some translations). Wait on God, rather than running ahead on your own. Keep praying and seeking as you wait. Here are some verses to help you in the waiting:
Isaiah 40:31: “But those who hope in (wait on) the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Psalm 27:13-14: “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
Psalm 130:5: “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”
Lamentations 3:22-26: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
Isaiah 30:18: “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
◊ Search to discover what God has to say about the situation in His Word. A good concordance in a book form, online, or even in some Bibles will help with this.
◊ Seek godly counsel. The key here is godly. Don’t turn to the world’s ideas or to people who simply give you worldly solutions, even if they say they are Christians.
◊ Look to God for the way, even if it seems to be the long way. Short term solutions are often not best. Think of the future and try to imagine the long-term ramifications of the choice you are making. I doubt that Abraham and Sarah ever thought that their choice would affect Jewish-Arab relations centuries later. Nearly every choice we face is one between our way or God’s way.
◊ Continue to trust God through the entire process. Never doubt His love for you, His wisdom, His ability to help you, or His desire to do so.
♦ Close your time together in prayer. Ask God to reveal His will for you in whatever situation that you are in. Ask Him to help you wait on Him and to follow His path as He reveals it to you, no matter how difficult it may seem. Ask Him to help you trust Him, even if it feels difficult. Praying God’s Word is always a good choice. If you are struggling with this, you might pray Mark 9:24: “‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’”
Next week we will examine the marriage of Jacob and Leah.
Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in THE GENESIS OF MARRIAGE series:
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Photo by Taylor L. Spurgeon on Unsplash (CC0), cropped/text added.