Purity and Timing
On October 31, a plethora of American children will take part in the long-standing custom of dressing in costume, ringing doorbells, and seeking candy. Hearing the infamous words “trick or treat,” smiling adults will gladly participate, all the while admiring the cuteness of the children and the creativity of the costumes. Imagine, however, that the doorbell rings on November 23. Hurrying from preparation of the Thanksgiving feast, the frazzled chef expects to welcome family for an afternoon of food and fun; instead, she finds the porch filled with unknown children dressed as ghosts, skeletons, and Ninja Turtles who, in unison, express their desire for candy with the words “trick or treat.” There is no smile, participation, or admiration of costume from the adult on the other side of the door. In fact, there is a bit of fear and confusion as she determines whether to call neighborhood parents or police. Interestingly, the two events described are identical, save one major difference – timing. What was fully acceptable at one time is out of place at another. The same can be said concerning God’s gift of physical intimacy between a man and woman.
From the beginning of time, God intended husband and wife to share an intimate bond. After the creation of Adam and Eve, God said, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 ESV). One of the purposes of this relationship serves as a means of procreation. After destroying the earth by flood, the Lord commanded Noah and his family to again populate the earth: “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). Earlier, the text explains that each man had a wife (Genesis 7:7); therefore, each couple would fulfill this command given by God through their relationship with one another. The great wisdom of God is evident in this plan; children are born to a man and woman united in the covenant established at Eden.
Procreation is not the only reason for God’s gift to husband and wife. As Solomon wrote the first seven chapters of Proverbs, he invoked the style of a father imparting wisdom to his sons. Turning his attention to the joy he wants his sons to find in marriage, he admonishes, “Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth […] be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:18-19). In his “Song of Songs,” Solomon pictures the blossoming of a love story. From the introduction forward, there is no doubt that the two main characters are in love and have physical desire for one another. Following the marriage ceremony (3:6-11), this desire is fulfilled as Solomon poetically describes the joy they find in sharing this God-given relationship. The timing is right! With God’s plan being followed, His blessings are enjoyed by two who refused to “stir up love” before its time.
As the apostle Paul admonished the saints in Galatia toward righteousness, he warned about giving one’s life to pursuit of fleshly desire. He warned, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (5:16). In illustrating the characteristics associated with a fleshly walk, he lists “sexual immorality” (“fornication and adultery” as translated in the King James Version) as the first sin in his vice list. Interestingly, the same activity the apostle viewed as sin was viewed as beautiful by Solomon; so, what is the difference? Timing! What creates immorality in the sexual relationship is refusal to follow the pattern laid down by the Lord. While this can certainly include perversions, it most definitely includes involvement with someone who God has declared “off limits;” in particular, two people who have not been joined in the covenant of marriage by God.
A reading of the Bible will leave no doubt concerning God’s attitude toward pollution of His gift to husband and wife. With the number of divine warnings, one learns two things: 1. God is serious about purity; 2. God knows the great temptation into which men and woman can fall. Early in the Bible story, God demonstrates the sobriety shown by one of His saints when tempted. The young man Joseph was placed in a situation where normal desires could have been satisfied by the wife of his master; yet, he refused. When she sought to seduce him, he replied, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9b) He entertained no excuses and refused to compromise. Certainly, the words of Paul ring true in Joseph when the apostle admonished the Corinthians to “flee sexual immorality” (I Corinthians 6:18). Joseph illustrated the character that must be displayed by every man and woman serious about his or her relationship with God.
Marriage is not an outdated notion and sexual purity is not simply for the old fashioned. Concerning this, the Hebrew writer admonished, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (13:4). Every male and female of age should understand that it takes strength to maintain purity. As well, they should understand that God provides strength; He will allow no temptation that cannot be overcome (I Corinthians 10:13). Through the years young people have been told, “On your wedding night, purity is the best gift you can give to your husband/wife.” This is more than quaint words from old women; this is the plan of God. In this case, timing really is everything.