Dear radio friends,
It is not uncommon for husbands and wives to have pet names for each other — what are called terms of endearment, private and exclusive names of love: Honey, Punkin, or whatever one that you have in your marriage. So also God, for His bride the church. Proof? Read the book of the Song of Solomon. There God speaks of His love for and His delight in His beloved people, His church, in terms that sometimes make us blush. “My love, my dove, my undefiled.” It is almost like when your children see you as a husband and wife hugging and being silly and smooching and they blush. And they say, “Stop! Don’t do that.” So also God has tender and precious names expressing His love for His bride the church. He has names of endearment for us as He sees us in the righteousness of His Son Jesus Christ.
For instance, Isaiah 62 — where God calls us Hephzibah, which means, My delight is in her. We read in verse 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.” There God says He will take away our rightful name (Forsaken) and call us by a new name, which He would choose (Hephzibah). Why? For the Lord delighteth in thee. God delights in His church, He loves her. Psalm 149:4, “For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.” Isaiah 43:4, “Since thou wast precious in my sight, … and I have loved thee.” In His love for us, God intends that we be blest and that we know that we are His special precious children in the blood of Jesus Christ, chosen from an eternal, gracious love and saved in the precious blood of His own Son. God has determined that you and I, as His children, might know His love and His grace and His faithfulness, know the tenderness of His love to us.
One way in which He conveys the blessing and the tenderness of His love to us His children is through a godly marriage. Marriage is intended by God to be a picture of His bond to us His church and also, then, to be a picture of the blessings that come to us in the love of God.
Do you experience that blessing of the love of God in your marriage — that precious, faithful, dear, and enduring love of God? If you do, you thank God, do you not? If you do not, why not? Is yours what could be called a happy marriage, or have you today secretly, and at times even openly, given up and resigned yourself to a life of disappointment in each other? Have you said to yourself and have you concluded that your marriage was a mistake? Do you say, “I can’t change her (I can’t change him)”? And do you find in yourself resentment, frustration, distance, inability to communicate? Do you feel trapped in your own marriage?
The Word of God teaches us that God intends the marriages of His children to be a means from His hand to teach them and to convey to their hearts something of the truth that God takes pleasure, that God delights in them. Therefore, He calls marriage a blessed state in which He promises to His children, in the way of obedience, fullness of joy. Marriage is blessed of God.
Because marriage is an institution that God has made Himself, and it is therefore God’s will that a man and a woman live together in the bond of marriage, marriage has great potential to bring His blessings. But marriage also, if we live in it in a sinful way, has great potential to bring us woe. The tremendous power and the influence of marriage in our own lives is seen in that perhaps nothing can bring such bitterness and such woe as when a marriage goes sour and goes astray. It is not really the experiences that you have outside of the home that hurt so deeply. But it can be marital strife that leaves the deepest scars. It is the home cross — perhaps rebellious children, or separation, breakdown, and distance in the marriage, unfaithfulness. Oh, what heavy crosses. Oh, what heavy woe this brings upon the hearts of God’s dear children. In marriage some of the deepest woes that can be experienced in this life are brought to us because our sinful flesh has the potential to destroy. Sometimes a man or woman might even say, “If I had known that this would happen, I would have run away the day before I got married instead of walking to the altar of marriage.”
That is looking at it not from reality, but from the point of view of our own sins. We must look at it from the point of view of the grace of God. Looking at it through the Word of God and through the cross of Jesus Christ, and when, by faith, four believing hands lay hold of God’s Word, then marriage has great potential in the hands of God to bring the greatest blessings, blessings from the storehouse of Jesus Christ.
We must understand, however, that the blessings that God promises in marriage are not cotton candy blessings. They are not those blessings that look so good but are so soon gone. They are not instant gratification blessings. They are deep blessings. They are abiding blessings. They are blessings that God forges. He works slowly, but He works them. He blesses you in marriage more than you realize, perhaps, and more than you could ever know.
If you are to have a blessed marriage, your marriage must be built upon some presuppositions or some basic principles that we are to believe from the Scriptures and believe them with all our hearts. Especially today it is important to hold fast to these principles. Let me mention just a few of them today. What are the principles undergirding a blessed marriage? What are the truths, then, that husband and wife must firmly believe from God’s Word if they are to experience the blessing of God in their marriage?
First of all, simply this. We are to understand and firmly believe in our hearts that marriage is a lifelong bond created by God. Sitting down at your computer, you see advertisements pop up. I saw one the other day. It said: “Simple divorce — online — low cost — fast — easy — guaranteed.” Another offered a great bargain: “No fault divorce — only $25.95.” Divorce, apparently, is a booming business. But divorce is not God’s will. God wills that we live together in a lifelong bond of marriage.
You know that the Scriptures speak of this especially in a passage recorded in Matthew 19. There the Pharisees came to the Lord Jesus Christ asking Him these questions about divorce. “Is it OK to divorce someone because you want to? Is it OK to divorce a man because he annoys you or your wife because she’s gained twenty pounds and you want to marry someone more attractive? Is it OK to divorce your husband if he watches too many sports programs on TV? Is it OK to get a divorce because your marriage simply is not going along very well and it is too much of a burden, and it would be better for both of you to seek your happiness somewhere else? Does God approve of divorce and of putting each other away?”
The answer of the Jews in Jesus’ day was, “Yes.” Many of them held to the teaching of a certain school that took a very permissive view of divorce. There were others present in Jesus’ day who had a stricter view. But most of them followed the teaching that a man could divorce his wife for nearly any reason at all. If she did not cook well, he could divorce her with God’s approval, they said. If he found a more beautiful woman, he could divorce his wife and marry the more beautiful woman. Many in Jesus’ day said this was OK as long as there was a proper certificate of divorce. They found in the Old Testament a little snippet from the law of Moses that, they claimed, supported this permissive view of divorce as long as one’s paperwork was properly filed.
So they bring to Jesus the question: “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” The Lord responded, teaching them the permanency, the lifelong bond of marriage. The Lord is not ignorant of or unsympathetic concerning the difficulties that married people experience. He knows all of those things. And His grace is there and sufficient for us in every trial of our marriage. But the Lord knows the truth and knows that the truth of a happy marriage is this: God calls us to a lifelong bond of commitment to each other. Jesus answered and said in Matthew 19:4-6, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” There Jesus is teaching in unmistakable terms that God, the Creator, the One who made marriage, had from the beginning a design for marriage. That design was to unite two persons, a male and a female, a man and a woman, in a lifelong bond of marriage — to make them one in body and purpose and that no one has the right to tear that union apart. What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
From the rest of the Scriptures we understand the reason why God has done this. I hinted at it at the beginning. It is because God has created marriage in the beginning to be a picture of His union to His church, of His covenant love, of the bond of fellowship through the cross of Christ with His chosen people, a bond that is enduring and eternal, a love that does not fail. And God says, “Now, I want your marriage to look like My marriage. Though you are sinful, though you are weak, I have loved you. Now, so live in marriage, in this permanent commitment one to another.”
That is the first principle of a happy marriage. It is an indispensable principle of a happy marriage. Forsake that principle and believe in the back of your skull that there might be a possibility for you to get out of your marriage if you discover that you are not very happy, and you are going to have many troubles in your marriage. Believe this with your heart! Believe that this is the sovereign and wise will of our heavenly Father — that marriage is a lifelong bond.
But there are other principles that we have to believe firmly. Another principle is this: that we must be fully persuaded that God’s blessing and our happiness are to be found in marriage. I refer you to Psalm 128. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord. Then the psalm goes on to say that his blessedness will consist in his life with his wife and with him home and with his children. God says in this psalm, “My blessings are going to be found in your marriage.” We have to believe that. That needs to be shouted from the housetops and must be constantly brought to our remembrance, because the world and our own flesh of sin does not believe that. The world looks at marriage as God has designed it (as a sacrificial, exclusive love — seen in the headship of a loving husband and the subjection of a submissive wife) and sees bondage, oppression. So the world wants to remake marriage in a way that they think will make them happy. Their marriages, then, must have no commitment. There must be a prenuptial agreement, a no-fault marriage and divorce, no defined roles of husband and wife except that somehow they are to support each other in some way or manner — no faithfulness when something more appealing comes along. They want to change God’s design. And when they change God’s design, they plunge themselves into misery and woe. Not only a misery in their own life, but a misery brought now upon their children.
We can be guilty in our thinking, too, of the notion that blessing is not really found in marriage, and true pleasure is not found under all the sacrifices that are involved in maintaining a home. We begin to think that, perhaps, satisfaction is found elsewhere. Slowly we begin to give our energy elsewhere and not to our marriages. Satan makes many efforts to have us seek our happiness and our contentment somewhere other than in the marriage state or in our own home. Proof? Proof is found in just this one telling point. More and more no one is at home. Everyone is out. We live in a world that is utterly devoid of sense. The homes that are being guilt are bigger and bigger with more and more rooms — and less and less time is being spent in them. Husbands allow work to swallow up more and more time. Women can become intent on their own careers. Entertainment and recreation gobble up more and more time and money. Young people, who come by their attitudes honestly (they get them from you, Dad and Mom), think that they have got to be out, that real happiness and joy is not found just with the family. And when the family is finally at home, it is the TV and the videos that are dominating the precious time. Family night now is defined as getting a video. No conversation. No, we bring in the world and watch what the world has to offer. That is family night!
Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, we must believe that God’s blessing is to be found in marriage and in the family life of communication and love, activities with our own children and husbands and wives. Blessing is to be found in a husband coming home at night to be with his wife and to spend an evening with his family talking and folding the laundry or whatever else, the children around the table, homework being done, games being played, catechism being taught, discussion taking place. Right there, in that, is God’s rich blessings. Do you believe that?
We must be firmly committed to the principle that God’s blessing and happiness are found in the marriage and home.
There is a third principle that I want to refer to just briefly — that we are to be godly. We are to practice godliness. A godly marriage is a marriage in which everything is done out of the motive to please God — when husband and wife do not look at each other first, but look at God first and primarily and ask, “What will God have me do?” This is very important.
There is a passage that we ought to glue somehow to our eyes as husbands and wives today. The passage I refer to is I Samuel 2:30, “For them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” The goal of our marriage must be to honor God. That means that you must marry in the Lord. And that means that you must place the Lord and His unconditional love before you every day of your life. Are you godly? Is your wife today a believer? Is your husband a believer? Do you thank God for that? Do you see that that is an indispensable, a great necessity for the building of a happy life together? Do you see that, as a young person? Or are you so foolish and so self-centered that you do not realize that you must establish your marriage and future life on the basis of one faith and one love in God? Do you see that, do you believe that with all your heart?
If your husband or wife today is godly, do you thank God? Or do you sit back and begin to complain in your own self-pity about all the habits that you see in them now that really irk you? Do not do that. You ought to get down on your knees and thank God for a believing spouse. Do not take this for granted. After a few years of marriage and the honeymoon is over, we begin to know each other in ways that we did not know each other when we were dating or in the first days of our marriage. Do we thank God for a believing husband and a believing wife?
There are many obstacles that we must face in our married life. There are financial obstacles. There are obstacles with the children and with their health and with their needs. And there are aplenty difficult issues confronting married couples today. They are multiplying and they are great difficulties. But do not ever conclude that marriage is not worth it, that your marriage is not worth it, that maintaining your marriage is not worth it. Do not ever conclude that, child of God. But believing this, believe it with all your heart because it is true, it is found in the Book, the Holy Bible, it comes from the Word of God: that God has sworn to open heaven’s blessings to two of His children whom He has united in the bond of marriage, who together confess their sins. Look to Him and be thankful for His unfailing love.
We will come back to the subject next week. We would like to have you join us again as we talk of the blessings of marriage.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the Word. We pray that it may enter into our hearts. Remember us in our marriages. We need Thee. Bless us in the truth of Thy Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.