“This Great Wickedness Against God” (Part 1)

Genesis 39:1-20

A young Bible class student was once called upon to define the term “adultery”. He said, “Adultery is when a kid lies about his age. So others will think he is all grown up.” Of course, adultery is more serious than that. But not to be too hard on the young man, when I was young and heard someone taking about adultery, I thought they were discussing a mature tree.

Our world is pregnant with an obsession over sex. Fornication has become an acceptable way of life. In a survey done by Christianity Today, one out of four survey participants admitted to having committed adultery.

How does one overcome the temptations to sexual sins like adultery and fornication in such a permissive environment? Perhaps young Joseph in Genesis 39 can be of some assistance. Nearly twenty-five percent of the first book of Moses is about the life of Joseph. He went from being the favorite son in his father’s house to being the favorite head-servant in his Egyptian master’s home and to become the favorite sex object of this master’s wife.  When propositioned by Potiphar’s wife asking Joseph to “lie with me”, he replied, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9).

Why Is Adultery A “Great Wickedness”?

There is a growing tolerance for adultery today. It is called “having an affair” as if it is nothing more than a casual adult activity. Some argue that it’s a show of maturity over jealousy and an aid to strengthen marriage itself. It is a constant part of entertainment on television shows and the movies.

Adultery is a Sin Against God

“An old story tells how when Joseph began to talk about God to the temptress, she flung her skirt over the bust of the god that stood in the chamber and said, ‘Now, God will not see.’ But Joseph answered, ‘My God sees!’” (Swindoll 28). This is correct, “the eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). What does God have to do with a relationship between two consenting adults? God created marriage as the only lawful means of fulfilling natural sexual desires. “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2).

Adultery is a Violation of a Covenant

God is a witness to this covenant. “the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Mal. 2:14). In marriage, husband and wife enter into a covenant with one another and God. Marriage binds the husband and wife together as “one flesh” for life (Mt. 19:5,6; Rom. 7:2,3). God expects couples to keep their promise no matter what. “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Ps. 15:4b). “For better or for worse” are the oft heard vows in a wedding.

Adultery is Theft

Part of Joseph’s reasoning to Potiphar’s wife has to do with not taking or stealing another man’s wife. He said, “There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife” (Gen. 39:9a). David stole Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba (1 Sam. 12). Paul said the wife belongs to her husband and the husband belongs to his wife (1 Cor. 7:1f) A husband does not have the right to give his body to another woman, nor does a wife have the right to give her body to another man. Although the theft of a car can be repented of by restoring the stolen car, in adultery there is no way restitution can be made.

When one takes another’s wife and daughter to engage in any form of sexual immorality, he robs others of their sexual purity. It is like stealing their property and destroying their rights. In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul wrote, “that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter” (4:6a).

Adultery is a “Heinous Crime”

In 1991 while working for a few weeks evangelizing in the country of South Korea, an article in the paper explained that the government had just reduced the amount of time to be spent in prison by adulterers to just a one-year prison term. What, adultery is a crime? Job told his friends that if he had been guilty of the sin of adultery, “that would be wickedness; yes, it would be iniquity worthy of judgment” (Job 31:11). Anything that threatens the stability of the home is a crime against society. Adultery destroys marriage and homes every day. In the Old Testament, adultery was punished by death. “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” (Lev. 20:10). God pronounced the sentence of death upon Abimelech, the king of Gerar, for taking Abraham’s wife Sarah. Although God stopped the king before he touched her (Gen. 20:1-6).

Regardless of the laws of the land, the law of God is that all adulterers will be judged by Him. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).

Adultery is the Only Cause for Divorce

When asked by the Pharisees if a man could divorce his wife for just any cause or reason, He replied, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). Marriage is a permanent lifelong relationship as far as the Creator is concerned. However, He has only allowed one reason for this lifelong contract to be broken – adultery. Therefore, adultery must be a very grave wickedness for it to be the only exception.

Adultery is the Source of Many Consequences

Adultery causes many tears and deals much treachery. The Lord told Israel, “And this is the second thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with good will from your hands. For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously’” (Mal. 2:13,16).

Those who commit adultery with prostitutes know all too well the negative fringe benefits of their sin. “For a harlot is a deep pit, and a seductress is a narrow well” (Prov. 23:27). Adultery cost more than most men and women will ever want to pay. Money is spent on obtaining a divorce, alimony, child support, counseling, maintaining two residences, etc. It has cost many the loss of physical health. Sexually transmitted diseases and other ailments and infections are contracted through this behavior, and sometimes even brought back to the innocent spouse!

There is also the personnel casualty of one’s mental health. Loss of reputation is still common. If one has lied to his spouse and violated his marriage vows, he has proven himself untrustworthy in less important matters. One’s reputation in the workplace, the community, and church, etc. is changed. The emotional damage is seen in one’s fear, depression anger and inability to trust. These are just a few of the many emotions which will haunt both spouses. Proverbs 6:32 mentions the spiritual damage done to the soul: “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul” The innocent children who suffer from living in broken homes, the unwanted pregnancies, the abortions, etc. all speak to the treacherous nature of this sin.

Some believe they can commit adultery and somehow escape the many consequences. However, Proverbs 6:27-29 asks, “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent.”

The greatest consequence of all is the fact that adultery can cost a sinner his eternal soul. “But…the sexually immoral…their place will be the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Rev 21:8).

– Daniel R. Vess

2023-02-12 - Should a Christian Attend a Gay Wedding? (Part 2)
2022-02-26 - “This Great Wickedness Against God” (Part 2)
Categories: The Forum