Dear radio friends,
It is not uncommon for husbands and wives to have pet names for each other, private and exclusive terms of endearment.
So does God for us, His bride, the church. Read the book of the Song of Solomon in Scripture, where God speaks of His love and His delight in His beloved people in terms which almost make us blush. “My dear one,” “my fair one.” We almost blush, just like a child when he sees his Mom and Dad hug and be “silly.” A smile comes over the child’s face when he sees that true and wonderful love. So also God has a name of endearment for us, the church, as He sees us in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
That name of endearment is “Hephzibah,” which means, “My delight is in her.” Isaiah 62:4, “Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.” God calls His church “Hephzibah,” My delight is in her.
That word “Hephzibah” is found in two places in the Bible. It was what the God-fearing Hezekiah called his wife: Hephzibah, my delight is in her. Then, as we read in Isaiah 62:4, God says that He will take away our rightful name, which is “Forsaken,” and He will call us by a new name, which He will choose: Hephzibah.
We read in Psalm 149:4, “For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.” Again, Isaiah 43:4, “Since thou wast precious in my sight, … and I have loved thee.” God loves His church. He called her “My delight, My delight is in My church.” And God intends that His church be blessed, that you and I be given to know of His love, grace, and faithfulness. The love of God, you see, is not simply something that God has treasured up in His own heart, bursting full. But it is something that He conveys to us. The blessedness of the church is exactly this: we are given to know the eternal, matchless love of God for us.
This truth of which I have been speaking is also a truth which must be reflected in our marriages. A godly marriage is to be a blessing, a spiritual blessing. Do you experience that blessing in your marriage? If not, why not? And if so, why? Is yours a happy marriage? Or have you secretly at times given up and resigned yourself to a life of disappointment in each other? Have you said to yourself, maybe not to each other, maybe not even out loud, but have you said, “Well, I can’t change her (him),” and you find instead resentment, frustration, distance, inability to communicate. You feel trapped within your marriage.
The Word of God says that He intends our marriages to be a means in His hand to teach us and to convey to our hearts something of the truth that God takes pleasure, God has a delight, in His people. That is the blessing of a Christian marriage: that God gives us to delight in one another.
Perhaps nothing in this life has such potential to bring blessing, or to bring woe, as marriage. The tremendous power and influence of marriage in our lives is seen in that nothing can bring such bitterness as when a marriage goes sour.
It is not the experiences outside of the home, but it is especially those experiences within the home that can leave the deepest scars. There are the home crosses. There is the cross of rebellious children. There is the cross of separation and breakdown. Some of the deepest woes that we can ever experience happen right within our home in the most intimate parts of our life. To a great extent there are men and women who more and more say, “Well, if I had known that this would happen I would have run away on that day of marriage instead of walking to the altar of marriage.”
But under the grace of God and with the holy Word of God embraced, marriage is a blessing. It is the way whereby God brings great blessings from His storehouse into our lives. Now those blessings are not cotton-candy blessings – something that looks really good and is soon gone. That is what the world wants – instant gratification. These are not, necessarily, instant gratification blessings. These are deep, these are abiding, and therefore sometimes slow working. They are blessings that are forged. And forging takes much trial and heat and pounding. God blesses you in your marriage in this way, deep ways. And He does this more than you realize. For God has blessed you more than you know. If you take stock and inventory as a child of God today, you will say “Yes” to that.
We must first of all be persuaded by faith that God’s blessing and our happiness are to be found in marriage. We will find blessing there in the way of obedience to God. That is God’s Word. That is true. And that needs to be shouted from the housetops and constantly brought to our remembrance. Proverbs 18:22, “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.”
The world does not believe that. The world looks at marriage as God has designed it – sacrificial, exclusive, lifelong, a relationship involving headship of a loving husband and subjection (obedience) of a submissive wife – the world looks at that and sees bondage! They say that is demeaning, that is oppressive, that is terrible; and so the world wants to remake marriage in a way that they think is going to make them happy. They are going to do it better than God. “We’re not going to have commitment. We’re going to redefine the roles. No more of this headship and submissiveness. No, we’re just going to agree vaguely to support each other in some way or some how. No faithfulness when something more appealing comes along. And no changing one’s career, no sacrificing for the marriage. The marriage cannot stand in the way of our own advancement.” This is the way they design marriage. And designing marriage this way, they plunge themselves into ruin and misery.
No, we must be fully convicted that marriage, exactly as it is handed down from God, is good, very good. And it brings, in the way of obedience, blessing and happiness to the child of God.
We can be just as guilty in our thinking as the world. Our attitudes also so often fall far short of what they ought to be. So often, we think that satisfaction is going to be found somewhere else than in giving ourselves wholly to our marriage. Satan is always tempting us to seek our happiness and contentment and fulfillment somewhere else than in the home and in the marriage. The proof is found in just this one telling point: more and more, no one is at home. We are all out. No one is there. Husbands allow work to swallow up more and more time. Women can become intent upon a career. Entertainment and recreation gobble up more and more time and money. Young people, who come by their attitudes very honestly from their parents, think that they have got to get out for a good time. Then, when the family is finally at home, television and videos dominate the precious time. Family night is now getting a video to watch. That will be family time, quality family time, it is said.
We must believe that God’s blessing is to be found in the home. That means being there. We must believe as husbands and wives that blessing is to be found in marriage, even if it is difficult. It is to be found there. Then dig for it as hid treasure. We must believe that blessing is to be found in a husband who comes home at night. He does not stop off somewhere for a beer. He comes home at night to be with his wife. And he spends the evening talking to her, folding laundry, being with the children around the table, not around the television, perhaps helping with homework, perhaps playing games, or teaching the catechism from the church, right there. We do not need all the modern media pouring into the home at night to keep us active and entertained. Right there – the old living room with old furniture. Right there God’s blessing is to be found.
We must also be convicted of godliness. A godly marriage is a marriage which does everything with a motive of pleasing God, honoring God. In this way, God also honors our marriages. “Those who honor Me,” says God, “shall I honor.”
I have witnessed the difficult and almost unbearable burden a believer experiences when his mate is unconverted. When God works His grace in drawing one person of a marriage out of unbelief, but not the other. What persecution and reproach is heaped upon the believing mate – the slow roasting of a father’s love for his children by an unbelieving wife, who ridicules him for the sake of Jesus Christ and often puts her foot down when it comes to the children.
Are you godly? Young people, are you committed by faith that you will marry a believer, of one faith with you? Do you think that that is just dressing on the top of your marriage? That is crucial for happiness and blessing in a marriage.
Are you thankful, wife, that your husband is a godly man, seeks to be a godly man, has the humility of godliness, so that you do not simply complain about his habits that irk you but on your knees you are thankful that you have a believing spouse? Do you take it for granted?
After a few years of marriage we say that the honeymoon is over. Then we begin to know each other in ways that we did not know on our wedding day. Do you, nevertheless, thank God for giving you a believing husband, a believing wife? Yes, perhaps your marriage has gone through many obstacles and many trials. Perhaps you are having them right now – financial, with the children. Or there are other difficult issues that you are confronted with. Do not ever conclude that yours is not a blessed marriage. If you are married to a believer, do not dare to conclude that! Will not God open the heavens and bless two of His children who confess their sins one to another and are thankful for their salvation? Nothing can prevent God’s blessing to be in their soul. Marriage, a Christian marriage, is a blessed thing.
But then we must be obedient to God, must we not? We must practice that obedience. That is a great principle of the Scriptures. Obedience does not earn anything from God. But it is God’s way of bestowing, in our experience, His blessing. God is pleased to show us His favor in the way of an obedient walk of life. Obedience is not a condition of His love. It is a response to His love, a response of thanks to God. Therefore, we obey Him. And in that way we experience the rich blessings of God. It is very important that that be clearly understood. Happiness is to be found in the way of obedience. Applied to the Christian marriage, happiness is to be found in the way of obedience. That is very important. Happiness does not come by seeking it or aiming at it. Happiness is a by-product of obedience. That is something that the world just cannot get straight. They cannot comprehend that. They think that they are going to be happy by aiming at it, by trying to get it. Happiness is the goal: “I must be happy. Certainly I cannot go through life not being happy. The object of my life is to be happy. That is the object that I have to seek. So, I’m going to divorce because I’m not very happy. And I have every right to be happy. Who can stand in the way of my happiness? I’ll find happiness with someone else.” Then, you see, that happiness becomes the proverbial carrot on the stick. You cannot ever get it. You are never happy.
Those who pursue happiness as their goal are the most unhappy people. Why? Because happiness is a fruit of obedience. It is a by-product. Obey God and He will bless you. Seek your own happiness and you will not be happy. Obey God. Do not look at the other person in your marriage and talk this way: “Well, I will if you will.” Do not make your obedience to God in marriage conditional on their action. “I could be more loving around here, dear, if you would …” or “I could submit to you if you would be more understanding and pleasant.” No! Obey the Word of God. The commands of God are very clear, are they not? There can be no mistake, can there? Husband, love your wife. Dwell with her, according to knowledge, as the weaker vessel, giving honor unto your wife as being a joint heir of the grace of God. Love your wife! How? Love her as Christ loved her. He sacrificed Himself for her. He emptied Himself for her. To what extent? He went to the cross, to death. You must love her that way. That is your calling. Do you have a question about what you are supposed to do towards your wife? Love her as Christ loves the church. You say, “You don’t know her. She’s not very easy to love sometimes.” Well, do you think that you are? Do you think the church is? He loved us for His name’s sake. Now, obey God. Love your wife. Obey Him.
Wives, submit to your husbands. That is the calling of God. Women who are apart from God have a controversy with God today. They rail against God. They blaspheme His holy name. They say, “Oh, how demeaning.” The Word of God is plain. There is nothing demeaning in God’s commandment. God says, “Submit to your husbands.” God says, “Obey them, in the Lord.” That is how you are to do that. To what extent? Even as the church obeys Christ. With all your heart and with all your soul. Live for them. Obey. Do that, not if you feel like it, do it for God’s sake. For the Lord’s sake! Do it.
Do not say, “Well, I’ll do it for a while if I see some changes. But if there are no changes, what’s the use?” No, do not talk like that. Do it. Obey God. That is your calling.
In the way of obedience comes blessing.
We will return to these things next week and continue our talk and study of the blessings of a godly marriage.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word. Direct us to Thy Word that we may, O Lord, walk in the light of Thy truth. Amen.