14 “You must not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14 New Living Translation)
Okay, before you "check this one off" and move on, you know from my introduction there may be more to this one than first meets the eye! In fact, throughout the scriptures, this word not only implies the action of adultery (having sex with a married man/woman), but it also implies an attitude of heart and an action of our minds!
In a very real sense, the "action" of adultery is evident throughout scripture with some accounts so familiar to us we can recite them from memory. We have the account of David and Bathsheba - David took Bathsheba in a moment of lustful indulgence, then regretted it dearly when the "consequences" of his actions became known through the conception of a child. Reuben, one of the sons of Jacob was not able to keep his hands off one of the concubines his father kept. Eli was a great priest in the land of Israel - both of his sons found delight in committing adultery with the women who came to the temple to worship. These are but a few accounts recorded in the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, we see the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. She had been married five times, was now with another man, and he was not even her husband! The woman without a name brought by the Pharisees in a moment of righteous anger to be judged for having been caught in the very act of adultery stood before Jesus in the temple one day. To his credit, and to the dismay of the Pharisees who brought her, his response was one of mercy.
These are examples of what NOT to do! Yet Jesus raised the bar a little when he said, " But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:28 New Living Translation) Uh oh! Now here is another "kink" to consider - our thoughts! So, not only does this "adultery thing" involve action - it involves our thought life! Yep, and an emotion we commonly refer to as "lust". So, adultery is not only action, it is emotion and thought based activities, as well.
In another sense, adultery was also used to describe an attitude of heart toward God. When a people turned their backs on God, choosing to live by their own rules, seeking their own pleasures, he referred to this as "adultery". Here we see a condition of the heart which really gets at the crux of why God forbids adultery - it is based in self-motivated thoughts, selfish actions, and self-preserving justifications.
But...don't lose sight of the examples we see in scripture of God's forgiveness and mercy for those who wander away - choosing to live for self instead of God. Hosea was a prophet of old. Asked to take an adulteress as his wife! He was used as an example of God's mercy and grace - to restore the wandering nation of Israel to a place of relationship with him once again! So, although we are warned about the dangers of adultery - spiritual, physical, and emotional - we are also embraced by the tremendous love of our God who stands ready to restore those who have been led astray by their own lusts!
We serve an awesome God! He never gives us license to sin - but he does stand at the ready to restore whenever our minds, hearts, or emotions lead us down the wrong path. He opens up to bring us close to him when we realize the futility of following our own plans in life! This is indeed good news!