The Merry-God-Round of Marriage

The oldest divinely established institution known to man is marriage. It began in the Garden and will continue to be the divine arrangement for happy and holy living as long as men live on this earth.

The institution as such has been the recipient of the onslaught of Satan since earth’s earliest days. Divorce, polygamy, homosexuality, hedonism, socialism and communism have been prominent foes of the institution of marriage from time immemorial.

And today, Satan’s attacks have not been diminished, but rather they have been accelerated. Famous Fabian Socialist Bertrand Russell voiced the opinion of many of his contemporaries when he said, “The influence of the home is obtrusive.” A socialist publication was quoted in 1969, “The family will undoubtedly continue briefly after the overthrow of capitalism—free day care and free boarding schools will liberate women…marriage will lose its sanctity.”

The modern materialistic world view has already taken its toll on the home, and the institution of marriage, as demonstrated by generally known statistics on divorce, is not looked upon with the reverence that it once commonly enjoyed.

Solomon, the world’s wisest man, wrote in Eccl.9:9, “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity….”

To do so is becoming ever increasingly difficult. So much so that one writer almost marveled at his own happy marriage when he said, “I have been married 18 years and still adore my wife; I have no hunger for another woman, and I’m content to be faithful.  I am resigned to decency; I actually think I have found love and life! What’s wrong with me?”

The Indianapolis Star, in 2010 wrote an article about the well-known Henry Winkler (Fonzie) who at that time was 64 and had been married to his wife for 32 years. Asked the secret to a successful marriage, he said, “It doesn’t have to do with the heart.  It has to do with hearing, listening to what the other person is saying. The same goes for your children. Listen to what they say.”

That kind of response in today’s quickie divorce world seems almost foreign! In the book of Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 4, the Bible says, “Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled.” Not only is it possible to be “Happy though Married” it should be the norm for every couple. Reading Hebrews chapter 13 one might wonder why verse 4 is included in the list of miscellaneous exhortations given in this chapter. But a closer study of the context of the passage will, I believe, reveal a careful continuity of the exhortations. Here they are in order of their appearance, minus the one in verse four about the marriage bed being undefiled: (1) Let brotherly love continue; (2) Practice hospitality; (3) Show compassion toward others; (4) Be content with what you have; (5) Be subject to spiritual leaders; (6) Be satisfied with the plain Word of God; (7) Be thankful for all that you have.

I submit to you that a person who has an unhappy marriage relationship can do none of the above mentioned things as God would have him/her to do. He/she cannot show love to his brother if he cannot show love to his spouse; He cannot practice hospitality if his house is in a perpetual state of war; he cannot be compassionate to others if he cannot sympathetically relate to the needs of his mate; He cannot be content with what he has if he lives in a state of marital discontent; He cannot be subject to spiritual leadership if he is not the spiritual leader of his own home; or if, as a wife, she is not submissive to the leader in her own home; He cannot be satisfied with the plain teachings of the Word of God if he cannot be satisfied with the spouse God has given him and he cannot be thankful for all things if he is not thankful for his marriage.

Sadly, Barna Research Group has reported that a survey of 4,000 adults found that 27 percent of born-again Christians have been divorced, compared to 24 percent of non-Christians.

What’s the problem? Howard Hendricks opined that “Marriage is not finding the person with whom you can live, but finding the person with whom you cannot live without.” (Did he talk with my mom?)

Perhaps a back to the basics review would be helpful. It would begin with the proposition that marriage was designed for a couple of fundamental reasons: (1) Consummation: the man is not complete without the woman. Man in the Hebrew language is “ish,” while woman is “isha.” (Gen.2:23) The very names of God’s male and female created human beings suggest “We are equal, the only difference is I am a man and you are a woman.” The woman is not fulfilled without the man and the man is not fulfilled without the woman. In Genesis 1 it is “male and female;” and in  Gen.2 it is “man and woman.” There is a biological (sexual) and spiritual unity between the two. God’s principle was plainly stated at the end of the brief Biblical dissertation on marriage as recorded in Genesis 2: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen.2:24)

Shakespeare weighed in on this: “He is the half part of a blessed man, left to be finished by such as she; She is a fair, divided excellence, whose fulness of perfection lies in him.”

(2) God designed marriage for Communication. Adam needed a companion to answer to his needs as a creature of higher intelligence. God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit communed with one another “Let us make man in our own image….;” and Adam named the animals but none of them afforded this man of a higher intelligence any communication, so God put Adam to sleep and of his own being he made a woman, custom-built and a help, meet for him in every way. The man needed a helpmeet for communion but also to enable him to obey God’s command, to tend to the lush Garden of Eden but to do so without eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which was in the midst of the Garden on penalty of physical and spiritual death should he not keep God’s first commandment. Seeing that it was not good that man should be alone, God made him a helpmeet. As one reads chapter three, the subtle Serpent deceived the woman and rather than helping Adam keep God’s commandment, she convinced her husband to join her in disobedience, and he did. Paul tells us in his epistle to Timothy that though Eve failed in this critical assignment, she, the “mother of all living,” would be salvaged for glorifying God as she would give birth to children whom she would rear in the faith. (I Tim.2:13-15)

(To be continued.)

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