Last week, you will remember, we were considering the truth of the blessings of a godly marriage. We looked into the Scriptures and saw that God refers to His people as Hephzibah, my delight is in her. The love that God has for His church in Jesus Christ causes Him delight. So also a Christian marriage must be one in which, before the face of God, the husband and the wife are able to say concerning each other, My delight is in him/her.
If this is to be the case, we saw last week, it must first of all be out of a firm belief that God’s blessing is to be enjoyed in marriage as God has designed it. We also saw that it must be in godliness.
There are three graces that we must practice if we are to experience the blessings of God in our marriages. The first one we considered last week: obedience. I am not going to repeat what we said then. We saw, last week, that, first of all, we must be committed to be obedient to God’s Word, specifically to the calling that He gives us as a husband and wife. And in that way we shall have blessing.
The second thing we must practice, if we are to have God’s blessing in our marriage, is contentment.
Turn in your Bible to Hebrews 13:5, where we have one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible on contentment. Is it not interesting that it follows immediately on a verse concerning marriage? In verse 4 we read: “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” Then we read, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” We must practice the grace of contentment if we are to experience God’s blessing in a Christian marriage. Contentment is the grace of being satisfied in the Lord’s provision and having our hearts set upon the kingdom of God and its peace. We have so much. And we must understand that discontentment and covetousness lock out of our marriage God’s blessing. A covetous man and a covetous woman can never see God’s blessing. Covetous men and women are angry men and women, because they cannot have what they want. They are constantly blaming each other as the reason why they cannot have what they want. And, having their hearts set upon earthly things and money, they lead their marriage into much strife.
Turn in your Bible with me to the Word of God in Proverbs 17:1. Here we read, “Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.” This house is a house which has abundance. It is able to bring all kinds of sacrifices to the temple. Yet, it is a house filled with strife because the house is set upon earthly, covetous things.
In Proverbs 15:17 we read: “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.” I am going to explain to you what that means. Pretend there is a little boy named Bobby. He comes home from school on a winter afternoon and asks his mother, “Mom, want’s for supper?” She responds, “Well, dear, all we have is a few herbs that your father has gathered out of the garden last fall. A few roots and herbs and I am making them into a soup. But that is all that we have.” Little Bobby says, “Oh, I’m hungry, Mom. I can’t wait,” because he knows that at that table, though it is only a dinner of herbs, there will be love there between husband and wife. There will be talk and conversation.
Now, go next door, to Bobby’s friend Johnny. He comes in that winter afternoon and asks his mother, “What’s for dinner, Mom?” He is greeted with bitter tones: “Oh, your father has been keeping that stalled ox, that ox stalled up in the barn. He has been feeding it special grains and it is now ready to be butchered. We’re going to have prime rib of stalled ox and all the trimmings with it.” The little boy asks his mother, “But Mom, are you going to talk with Dad today at the table? Or are you and Dad going to be bitter against each other and are you going to say to me, ‘Pass the potatoes to that man!'” That is a house that is filled with hatred. Then we hear little Johnny saying, “Mom, can I go over to Bobby’s house for supper tonight?”
Contentment with each other. Do you have that? Do you have contentment with your husband and your wife, born out of a meekness before God? Are you dissatisfied with the wife that God gave you, or with that husband? So long as that proud dissatisfaction and that unloving criticism remains, you cannot expect God’s blessing.
If you are bored with your spouse, if you look over the fence, if you have a critical attitude, if you are unbending before the other person’s personality, you can never experience God’s blessing. I have seen husbands and wives who knew better, who have been married for more years that I have lived, one eating in the kitchen and the other in the dining room, each accusing the other, both maintaining that they were right. I sincerely believe that both of them were God’s children. And yet, so consumed with dissatisfaction for each, they told me that if only I knew what the other person was like, I would understand how much they have to suffer.
And it was nothing but pride and discontentment with what God had given to them.
So we must have obedience and we must have contentment.
The third thing we must have to experience God’s blessing is commitment.
Turn in your Bibles to Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament, chapter 2:14. In the context God is decrying divorce. He says, “Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.” Your wife is your companion. That word refers to a fellow traveler, someone with whom you have entered into a contract and a covenant to walk unto Zion, helping each other so long as God gives you breath. In the context the prophet is decrying “treachery,” when husbands are playing the part of a friend and yet working the destruction and ruin of their wives by seeking heathen and younger wives.
We must be committed to our marriages. We must see each other as fellow companions, that we are traveling together to heaven, and that we have entered into a covenant and oath with each other unto death.
We made a vow before God when we married. And that vow is not spoken lightly. We sign a marriage contract or a license because we realize that there will be periods of conflict and boredom and monotony. Marriage is a room in which there is no exit except the door that is marked Death. For better or worse, till death us do part. We bind ourselves before God in an unconditional covenant witnessed by God. Looking into the future on our wedding day, and with the Word of God opened before us, and with rings of pledge upon our fingers, we vow that no matter what comes in that future we will be faithful to love each other. And we do that not in ourselves, but in God, looking to God who is great in faithfulness and whose mercies we Every struggle from that moment on can be used to create separation, as an excuse to draw back from each other. But God intends that those very struggles be the material He uses to create intimacy in our marriage, to create a blessing beyond our ability to understand on our wedding day. A blessing awaits us in the years of our married life of intimacy with God. But, you see, it comes through commitment. Commitment through struggle. It comes by hammer and heat and anvil. Good marriages, like strong steel, are always forged.
In the way of obedience, contentment, and commitment we will experience the blessings of God.
What are the blessings of God in a marriage?
First of all, the blessing is to grow together in the love of God. Marriage, according to the Bible, is not an end in itself. It has been given of God, first of all, for this purpose: that we might taste the love of God, that we may understand what it means when He says, You are My Hephzibah, My delight is in you. If you read the Word of God in Ephesians 5 where Paul talks about marriage, Paul says there in verse 32 that although he is talking about marriage, he is not really talking about marriage at all. I speak, he says, concerning Christ and the church. Constantly he falls into Christ and the church. He says that that is the reality. That is the abiding blessing of Christ’s work on the cross. In verses 26 and 27 he says that Christ may sanctify and cleanse the church. The house of your marriage has been erected in order that you might focus on the reality of a redeemed church and the love that God has for it.
Marriage is a private school in which you are taught of God the love of God, and grow in that love. A love of God which says, I will accept you even if, at times, you frustrate Me, even though you come to Me with a sign on your chest, “Deny yourself, wash my feet.” You learn the meaning of the true love of God hashing through the daily realities of life together, through the joys and sorrows, good times and hard times. Not a love that flickers like a candle. Not a love that seeks only what I can get. Not a false, fake love. But a love of God. And you emerge from that school better equipped to love the saints outside of your home.
You must study your partner. What are her greatest needs? What do his moods revolve around? How can we bring conflicts to a mutual resolution? Your paramount passion will be: How can I satisfy my wife? Your sole aim will be: How can I please my husband? And both of you are sold out to pleasing God. There you have the ingredients for blessing. God says, I will show you My blessing, My covenant. I will give you to know what it means when I call you Hephzibah.
Another blessing that God gives to us in marriage is that we witness God’s faithfulness in the gift of children. Now I choose those words carefully. I did not simply say the blessing of children. But the blessing is in what those children represent: God’s faithfulness to us to bring forth and to rear the children of His kingdom. Now this is not an essential blessing of marriage. That is, it is not first. If God withholds children from us, if God makes that physically impossible, it does not mean that our marriage is unfulfilled. God’s will for our lives never leaves us unfulfilled. There is the notion, even among Christians, that if a couple cannot have children, then the purpose for their marriage is somehow not attained. That is not so. Sometimes God works His way with us in ways which are past our comprehending and in ways which are apparently going to crush our hearts. There is a Psalter number that comes to mind: “Thy way was in the sea, O God; through mighty waters deep and broad. None understood but God alone; to man Thy footsteps were unknown. But safe Thy people Thou didst keep, Almighty Shepherd of the sheep.” Then we must bear with the burdens of the childless couple.
But God blesses our marriages with children. Those children witness to us His faithfulness, faithfulness to His promise to bring forth a church. And He gives us the blessing of a family-life. He entrusts to our care those children, and He calls us to rear those children in His name. That is a blessing. God brings to us through our children the reality of our being made His children. God teaches us something of His love for His children in giving us children. As you bear your child on your heart you learn something of what it must be that God bears His children on His. As you would suffer none to harm your child, you learn a little bit what it means when God says, I will suffer none to harm My church. That is the blessing of a Christian marriage.
And still more. The blessing of a Christian marriage is to be found in this, that a Christian, godly marriage will make the hope of eternal glory in Christ burn in your heart. Heaven is pictured to us as a marriage. Revelation 19 tells us that the marriage of the Lamb and of His bride shall have come. And that will be glory. Earthly marriage pictures a heavenly and an abiding truth. It pictures the perfect union of Jesus Christ and the glorified church. And that is why our marriages must pass away when the reality comes. There is in heaven no marriage of husband and wife. Earthly marriages do not continue there. That would make heaven earthly. But marriage is fulfilled in heaven, in the marriage of Christ and His church.
And our life now in marriage is given to stir up in us the eager anticipation of the perfect bond that we will enjoy in eternity as Christ’s redeemed bride. We are made companions now on this earth, spiritual pilgrims together. Our goal and our hope is not here. Our satisfaction cannot be found in homes and farms, possessions and businesses, pleasures and joys. Our fullness of joy can be found only at His right hand. There we will experience a perfect love which knows no end or measure. There all of our shortcomings, our tears, and our sorrows will be forever gone and wiped away. There in heaven we will be embraced by the Lamb of God. We will enjoy such pleasures which are beyond imagination. We will receive the richness of His mercy and grace. We will delight ourselves in the Lord.
Now, the sorrows of this life come upon our marriages: the death of a child, financial woes, sins and troubles, old man Adam in us bothering us. Our troubles come so thick and hard and difficult that we say there is no answer. We are ready to despair. Then we say to each other: “Honey, up. This world is not our home. We cannot stay here. Flee to the mountains. The Lord will destroy this place. We have a building not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” A godly marriage makes us eager for more, for the perfection of the love of Jesus Christ in heaven.
These are the blessings of a godly marriage. These blessings are not counted in terms of dollars, standard of living, style of house, the car you drive. You do not measure blessings in those things. No, these blessings are abiding. They are enduring. They are lasting. They are blessings which we will carry with us over the grave and into heaven. They are the beginning of eternal blessings. They are the blessings of knowing the wonderful love of God, that He actually delights in us in Jesus Christ.
Marriage has been compared to two streams which join. When those two streams join they converge at one point with great force. There is foam and spray. But eventually a river emerges, broad and deep, bringing blessings to those who live by its side.
God brings blessings. He merges two lives, but He brings a deep, broad, quiet, restful blessing of the soul. He gives you to understand after a life in marriage what it must mean that God calls us “Hephzibah,” my delight is in her.
Your marriage, which began at the altar, must end at the graveside. In between there will be laughter and tears, anger and joy, heartbreak and heartleap. As the Lord brought you together, He will see you through. May you ever turn to Him who was and who is and who is to come. And may your marriage give you to understand a little bit what it means when God calls you “Hephzibah.”
Let us pray.
Father, we do confess that we are but sinners in Thy sight, that we need Thy grace every moment. But Thy grace can see us through. And we are assured of that grace in Jesus Christ in the wonder of that love. And we pray, having received that abundant pardon and grace, may we so walk and so do as those who are in Jesus Christ. In His name do we pray, Amen.