Thoroughly Equipped: The Covenant of Marriage

Today’s reading is Genesis 13:5-15:21, Matthew 5:27-48, Psalm 6:1-10, Proverbs 1:29-33.

Today we find Jesus still on the mountain, teaching to the great crowd who were following him.  And though His ministry was new, and most likely many were there to simply check out the new guy, He addressed them as a Father—or big brother—may address someone He loves.  He is imparting life lessons and wisdom.  These concepts go against what the world says is success, what the world says is appropriate response to difficult situations.  Blessed are those who mourn?  Really?  Jesus says yes!  Why?  Because they can experience the love, healing, and comfort that only God can provide.

This concept of mourning transitions my thoughts to the next chapter—and it is about marriage.  Yes, there are times of mourning in marriage.  Sometimes there is death in marriage—either physical death or death of love that, once warm and alive, has now grown cold.  Let me stop and say that this post comes with zero judgement.  With divorce rate being 50%, even among Christians, we must understand that God loving offers His perfect comfort and redemption to those who mourn through the death of marriage.  But for those of us who are married (or those who are considering getting married), it would benefit us to think for a moment about what the scriptures teach us about God’s view of marriage.

First, from the very beginning, God was huge fan of marriage.  He created it for intimacy, procreation, fulfillment, and comfort. He said that the two become one through marriage and that we should cling to each other.

Secondly, God created marriage to be made in binding covenant.  What is covenant?  You remember from our study of the Old Testament, covenant is a never-ending promise.  Covenant is for life and even extends into the next generations.  When a covenant was made, a sacrifice was cut into two pieces.  Those who were making the covenant walked between the two pieces, which literally meant, “May this happen to me if I break this covenant.”  Now, think about a marriage ceremony.  The officiant speaks words of covenant, not just commitment.  It is the covenant of marriage.  And the two making this covenant walk between the two sides of family and friends who have sacrificed on their behalf to get them to this day.  And they speak not just words, or even promises, but they speak vows.  Vows are a big deal. Covenants are a huge deal.  And breaking them only brings a deep cutting of the heart to those who made that covenant, as well as to the generations behind them.

Thirdly, we must know how God feels about divorce.  He is very clear and does not mince words concerning this topic.

16 “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty, ” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”

Malachi 2:16

Please note that it says God hates divorce.  He does not hate divorced people.  In fact, He loves, adores, comforts, and understands divorced people.  And I can imagine that those who are divorced also hate divorce, having experienced its pain and grief.  But there is hope and healing and relief and understanding and comfort all found in Jesus.

In this passage, we find a warning to those who have not yet experienced the pain of divorce.  There are strategies here to prevent it.  And it all starts with remembering that marriage should be a faithful covenant, not a feeling of love.  Jesus is pretty clear where the problems begin—in the mind.  Unfaithfulness, whether directed toward another person or whether it is simply imagining a life without your spouse, always begins in your mind.  To look at another with lust, to think about another with lust, to even lust after a life of being single—all that is unfaithfulness, all that is adultery.  And Jesus tells us that entertaining these thoughts is not only adultery, but is also the first step toward divorce.  And this is very serious and can be fatal to the covenant of marriage.

In Biblical times divorce was easy.  Just a written notice could get you a no-fault divorce.  And yes, there are biblical grounds for divorce which made it acceptable.  But even if it is acceptable, that does not mean it is best.  Even today, it is fairly easy to get a divorce.  But just because it is easy, or even acceptable, does not mean it is best.

It makes sense to me that Jesus quickly transitions into instructions about vows.  And He tells us that we should be such covenant minded people that we don’t even have to make vows.  Our yes is yes and our no is no.  We must keep our words in big ways and in small ways.

And it also makes sense to me that Jesus then transitions into instructions about loving our enemies.  If you are having marital problems your spouse may seem like your great enemy. And how should we respond?  Go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, pray for our enemy, be kind anyway, let the perfection of Jesus reign in our hearts.

Mont and I have been married for 26 years.  You can’t be married for that long and not have difficult times.  Most of our years have been wonderful, but that is only because of hard work, determination, forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and going the extra mile.  Our most difficult years were in the early years.

I remember after getting through the refining fire of a very difficult time, I had a friend come to me and say, “Sara, my husband and I aren’t as close as you and Mont are. We don’t have the intimacy that I see in you two.”

My reply was prefaced by a small laugh and a great sense of peace.  “Well, I said, I think that if you really want to have intimacy in your marriage, you have to be willing to walk through the refining fire of adversity.”

You know, I don’t even recognize that young, selfish married couple of our early days.  We have both changed a lot.  And we don’t take it for granted either. We fight for a good marriage, we fiercely protect it.  There is so much at stake and we are better together.  Besides that, we have made a covenant.  And that is a big deal.

So friends, let’s pray for each other.  Let’s be honest with each other.  Let’s comfort each other.  If you are divorced, remember what Isaiah 54:5 says:

For your Maker is your Husband — “the Lord of hosts is His name — “and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth He is called.

If you are married, hang in there.  Ask the Lord to give you eyes to see your spouse as He sees them.  Ask Him to give you a heart to love him as He loves him—with compassionate forgiveness and unending covenantal love.

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