In my last blog I talked about the blessings of this life that God lines up for us when we walk before Him in His Covenant. It is the blessings of the good relationships that come alive when we abide by the “formula” of living according to His Covenant both with Him and those around us. This relationship with those around us must begin with our family.
It is the relationship between the husband and the wife that we should find the closest bonding of individual service to each other and the unique dedication to the needs of the other that is to represent our relationship with God Himself.
We must serve each other, trust each, and enjoy each other!
Where does the enjoyment of society begin? (Clue: it is the same place where the destruction of a society may start.)
It is within the relationship between a man and a woman – a husband and wife. It is not an easy subject to write about.
A unique relationship
I have been married to Gina for the last 29 years. It does not make me the perfect person to write about marriage – I know some, but I also know nothing!
Relationships are about the ‘relations’ between two people, and just like our relationship with God must be, our marriages must be individual and unique to be real.
Each is special: full of joy, but also pain. There are victories but also defeats.
Let’s look at God’s instructions about this special relationship. If we trust God’s word implicitly, it can lead us out of the even darkest woods in terms of our marriages.
A quick recap
We are still in the Fifth Commandment:
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you” (Exodus 20:12).
I would like to take the time to remind us on why we are examining His Covenant to this extent. To be His people we must listen and obey His Covenant with a circumcised heart. To do this we must view His commandments through the eyes of faith wholeheartedly seeking to understand to the fullest extent each commandment according to an honest examination of His word that makes no provision for what we want or desire but only what He wants and desires for our lives. In other words, asking God to show us in His word the complete picture of what He is trying to get us to understand in His Covenant about serving Him and those around us.
Inside the Fifth Commandment, God has us focus on the most important of our human relationships, our family.
In our previous blog, about the family we highlighted the role of the father and the mother in a family. We discussed what attributes God intended for each of the parents to have to raise a Godly family.
But a ‘father’ and a ‘mother’ are also a ‘husband’ and a ‘wife.’ I feel we need to delve a bit deeper into the marriage relationship to understand the Fifth Commandment in the fullest possible way.
In this blog, we’ll look at the very basics of marriage. My next blog will focus on the individual roles of the husband and wife.
Inside His Covenant are our blessings and its curses
Marriage: it should be a high and honored institution, the archetype of an adult relationship!
Marriage is the essence of everything enjoyable and worthwhile in this life. It is the relationship that binds two people together in intimacy and love. It is two people brought together to watch out for one another and take care of each other. It is a safe place where two people can find reprieve against the dangers and the harshness of the world.
Marriage and the covenant
When we are part of God’s covenant, He blesses and protects us. Deuteronomy 28:1-2, states:
“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God:”
He then goes on to list the blessings that He will bestow on His people who follow His covenant.
Deuteronomy 28:4-6 describes what could only be the blessings of a loving family:
“Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.”
Next we see the curses of not walking in His Covenant ways. God begins His description of the curses that will fall upon us in Deuteronomy 28:15: “But it shall come about, if you do not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:”
Deuteronomy 28:30-32 describes what could only be the destruction and the breakdown of the family:
“You shall betroth a wife, but another man will violate her; you shall build a house, but you will not live in it; you shall plant a vineyard, but you will not use its fruit. Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you will not eat of it; your donkey shall be torn away from you, and will not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given to your enemies, and you will have none to save you. Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and yearn for them continually; but there will be nothing you can do.”
These are harsh words!
In the first two verses, we can see the wonderful, loving, caring and protective attributes of a marriage founded within God’s covenant. If we walk within His Covenant, not only will our relationship with Him be good, but also our other significant relationships in this world will be blessed.
If we don’t adhere to the Covenant, Deuteronomy 28 paints a bleak picture.
God restores us to Him, and He will restore our marriages to one another if we only find the faith in Him and His word listen to what He wants to tell us.
Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”
I would define one flesh as no longer individually seeking our own flesh but coming together to seek the fulfillment of a common mission or goal and the service of each other and maybe eventually the service of our children.
Essentially self-seeking at first
Before you are a child of God, you are mostly still ‘self-seeking.’ You are set on ‘finding happiness’ or making yourself happy.
God wants to transform us
But, when we choose a relationship with God, this changes. The focus shifts to ‘making God happy.’ We become transformed not because He forces this upon us but because of our faith in Him and His word which causes us to seek His will in our lives. We seek to love Him according to His word and He seeks to fulfill our needs according to His word. To do this properly, we need to know God (so we can serve Him) and to trust Him (have faith in Him that He will provide all our needs).
The same rules count for marriage: our focus must shift from ourselves to our spouse. We cannot be “one flesh” if we are in a relationship to satisfy our own desires. Our focus must shift to a joint goal of serving the common good of the relationship. A relationship can only be properly built when both parties are willing, able, and actively seeking to serve the common good of both parties, or “the one flesh.”
In both relationships (with God and our spouse), each must learn to trust each other and we must learn how to properly serve each other, these are the keys to it’s success.
If we do not change from a self-seeking individual to a loving servant of God or our spouse, a “one flesh” relationship will be impossible.
Questions about trust
The questions arise: Can we really trust God to be His? Will He forgive us when we break our side of the bargain – which we will do? Will He continue to serve us as we serve Him? It is through our faith in God that we find the answers to these questions.
In the same way, can you trust your marriage partner and properly serve them in your relationship with them? What happens when this trust is broken? As servants of God it is important that we seek to serve God first and then to serve our spouse according to His word and the common good of each other. If the trust of the “one flesh” is broken we must forgive (as He forgave us), pray, and continue to serve according to God’s word while at the same time not standing for the practice of behavior that is deviant from the word of God to the detriment of the common good of the relationship. That is as a servant of God we must continue to seek to fulfill our individual commitment to the “one flesh” for as long it is possible while at the same time seeking to avoid and to deter the deviant behavior while we continue to walk according to God’s word.
Picking our Spouse
It is because of this “one flesh” principle that we must be very careful in choosing a spouse who has faith and trust in God and His word, in their heart. Not a faith that exists sometimes or for some words but all the time for all His words.
An excellent place to start would be to find a person who exhibits the characteristics of Galatians 5:22-24 in all situations:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
People worth marrying should have the fruits of the spirit as part of their character, along with a strong desire to walk within the boundaries of God’s covenant.
Ask God about the long-term prospects for your girlfriend or boyfriend. Ask other Godly people. Take your time to get to know the other person. It is going to be the most critical relationship in your life! You should evaluate the person according to God’s word and the nature of people.
If we could learn to step back away from our feelings, anxieties, and self-absorbed concerns to focus on seeing and discerning who God is and who our potential mates are, then our relationships with both God and people will be much more successful. This takes a maturity of faith, practice, and an understanding of God’s word to the degree that we set the truth of God’s word above our feelings and emotions.
On a lighter note: It is important to read! It allows our minds to stay sharp and be able to notice and critique those around us. I love reading Jane Austen – if only to witness the care in which the nature, temperament, and disposition of each character is examined and evaluated by the heroine.
Picking a God-fearing spouse might be one of the most important decisions of your life.
Maturing in God’s word
This level of commitment is not always present when people first get married or are being drawn in to be joined to God.
However, service to the other in a true faith that drives us to know the other, is committed to properly serve the other in that knowledge, and the love that we develop when we see their service back to ourselves is the only way we can truly become “one flesh” with our spouse and with God.
1 Corinthians 6:17-19: “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
When we are joined to God and (to our spouses), we are no longer our own.
We give ourselves to God and our spouse in the same spirit. This is the seriousness of what is happening when we become “one flesh.”
Falling in love
I would like to stress that this is not ‘Falling in love’. The world’s idea of falling in love is all about feelings and emotions and the thought of being served by finding someone who can fulfill us or make us happy. Unfortunately this is the same self-seeking service that stops us from seeing the attributes that we should be looking for that would honor God and His word.
People can be drawn together for a variety of reasons including the desire for romance, out of loneliness, the desire to start a family, or even just being impulsive. However, it is these very things that can make us act upon our emotions and clouds our judgment. We should be looking with a clear head to find someone that we can jointly work together towards a common mission with the idea that we seek to serve our partner while at the same time trusting them to serve us and the common good of the relationship and the mission we are trying to serve. Finding that someone whose heart truly belongs to God and whose common mission is to serve God with their whole heart and to bring honor to God’s name will give that relationship the solid foundation that it needs to last a lifetime.
Another important decision would be to watch the family as a way to understand their relationship with God by seeing the commitment of their family to God’s word and to honoring God’s name that their family has and they were raised with.
What we should be doing is finding someone who when we are joined together with we can walk together towards the same mission and goal in the service of God as “one flesh.” Some of the most important attributes we should look for in a partner is someone who not only loves God truly in their heart, but has enough faith in His word to actively seek it out and to follow it, and the humbleness to be able to see His word and to recognize if they need to change when His word reveals it.
True love is unselfishly serving God and others in faith, knowledge, commitment, and love. It is not a feeling or an emotion that can change in time.
A Jewish marriage contract
In Jewish culture, a marriage contract or ‘Ketubah’ is given to a prospective wife as a proposal of marriage.
The definition of which I like best is at chabad.org: “It is a statement of law that provides the framework of love.”
In other words, it is the law that frames or equates to the act of love. So, joining together as one flesh is not just giving of ourselves to the other, it is the giving of ourselves to another according to the instructions of love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
If we cannot give of ourselves to each other according to these instructions that define love, then our relationships are for our service only.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3:
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
All our service for God and others must boil down to its unselfish performance according to these instructions with an underlying commitment to serving our lover as ourselves as “one flesh.”
Now we have the basis for which a marriage can and will work.
The foundation of marriage
In this blog, we’ve looked at the basics that are needed for a good marriage – the foundation, so to speak.
If your relationship with God and serving Him according to His will, which is His Covenant instructions, is a priority for you and your spouse, it will be much easier to build one of the most important relationships of your life: your marriage.
What makes the picture of Godly marriages so important is that it is also a picture of how our relationship with God should look.
In our next blog, we move on beyond the foundation of marriage to its physical structure when we look at the individual roles of the husband and wife and their service to one another.