The Adulterous Woman: We Are Her

August 12, 2014

How could those Jewish leaders in John 8 so mercilessly humiliate a woman caught in the act of adultery? Spend a little time reading the Old Testament prophets, and you’ll get a bit of a clue. Here’s a little sample from Ezekiel:

“The noise of a carefree crowd was around her; drunkards were brought from the desert along with men from the rabble, and they put bracelets on the wrists of the woman and her sister and beautiful crowns on their heads. Then I said about the one worn out by adultery, ‘Now let them use her as a prostitute, for that is all she is.’ And they slept with her. As men sleep with a prostitute, so they slept with those lewd women, Oholah and Oholibah. But righteous judges will sentence them to the punishment of women who commit adultery and shed blood, because they are adulterous and blood is on their hands.” (Ezekiel 23:42-45; read all of this chapter to get the full story)

Adultery was frequently the metaphor used by God for the idolatry of Israel and Judah. Hosea and Jeremiah used it too:

“They sacrifice on the mountaintops and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar and terebinth, where the shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery.” Hosea 4:13

“I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.” Jeremiah 3:8

Reading these passages (along with the warnings about adulterous women in Proverbs) can lead a reader who is so inclined to conclude that God hates women who commit adultery.

Although these passages sound harsh and unforgiving, we must consider the rest of the message. God was never happy about the broken relationship with His people, no matter how far they had strayed. The book written by the prophet Hosea is a great example of this truth. God actually commanded Hosea to marry an adulterous woman named Gomer. She soon left Hosea for other lovers, but God told him in chapter 3,

“Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods…”

Back in Hosea 2, God had made a plan for luring back his own wandering wife:

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.”

Review chapters 1-4, 11, and 14 in Hosea for more about this rocky relationship and the God who just doesn’t give up on the people he loves.

This theme runs throughout the prophets. Yes, God’s people are unfaithful—and he uses some very harsh figurative language to snap them out of their idolatrous stupor—but more than anything, he wants them back in a right relationship. All the threats of disaster are ultimately about restoring the relationship.

One day in first-century Palestine, God-in-the-flesh stood among a crowd of Jews and looked into the eyes of a woman caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Maybe—just maybe—she looked to Jesus like the proxy for the spiritually adulterous nation he had loved for so long.

“I don’t want to condemn you,”

he says to his people—to us—in this merciful moment.

“I just want you to leave your other lovers behind.”

The message God had for Israel and the message Jesus had for the woman caught in adultery is the same message for us.

You see, we are her.

Maybe sometime in your life you have been literally adulterous. Even more likely, you have been spiritually unfaithful, giving your time, money, adoration, and attention to someone or something other than God.

Please remember the face of Jesus as he looked with compassion at the woman in John 8. She was no metaphor but a living and breathing child of the Father. He knew her heart and her history, why she did what she did and what the natural consequences would be.

He loved her anyway.

Just as he loves you and is just waiting for you to accept his gift of forgiveness.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
(John 8:11)

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death…. Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.”
(Romans 8:1-2,33-34 NLT)

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