Marriage: How It Should Be Contracted
By Ronald E Williams
I. Marriage is Commended by God
Solomon boldly states: ” Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord ” (Proverbs 18:22). Though our Lord Jesus states that there are some eunuchs (Matthew 19:12), most folks will undoubtedly marry. God approves of marriage rightly entered (I Corinthians 7:2, 23, 39; II Corinthians 6:14).
Even in adverse circumstances, such as the Jewish captivity in Babylon, God commanded His people through a letter from the prophet Jeremiah to marry (Jeremiah 29:6) He gave as his reasoning that He wanted them to increase in captivity. The ideas of Planned Parenthood notwithstanding, God believes that married parents should not only have enough children to replace themselves (two children), but that they should ordinarily have enough for the nation to increase in number. This is in keeping with God’s unchanged creation ordinance, Be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). See especially Psalms 127:3-5 for the Divine perspective on begetting children. I doubt that the counselors at Planned Parenthood Centers consult this Psalm for their guidance!
Though many voices are heard to say. I can’t bear to bring a child into such a world of problems, it is interesting to note that God commands marriage and begetting under the most severe of human conditions: abject slavery (Jeremiah 29:6).
II. Marriage is an Important Basis for Other Successful Relationships
In his letter to Timothy, Paul enunciates a principle to which we all would do well to listen: We cannot succeed in extra-family responsibilities, if we have not first succeeded in that family ( Timothy 3:4, 5, 12).
I am confident many modern women would have a problem with Paul’s letters to his sons in the faith concerning the normal and appropriate goals a woman ought to have (I Timothy 5:14, Titus 2:4, 5) Marriage, bearing children, and guiding the house are still lofty and noble goals for a young woman; calling on them to prepare in practical ways for these duties learning to cook sew, care for children, etc.
Those women whose goals are careers, love affairs, business and freedom from what they call household drudgery are seeking fulfillment at the temporal flesh-pots of Egypt
III. Marriage is the Only Moral Sexual Outlet
The writer to the Hebrews declares the marriage bed to be undefiled and honorable, whereas, sexual activity outside of the life-long marriage covenant is a sin worthy of God’s judgment (Hebrews 13:4) Solomon colorfully adds to this picture of a happy, regular physical relationship in Proverbs 5:15-23. Paul encouraged marriage as a sinless and even holy sexual outlet for those burning with physical desire (I Corinthians 7:1-9)
A careful reading of these passages reveals that sexual activity permitted by God is never a solitary and self-centered means of gratifying one’s desire, but is instead primarily designed to meet the needs of the other partner (see especially I Corinthians 7:3-5) It is as the Lord Jesus said, It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). This design clearly and implicitly prohibits the use of extra- marital sex (adultery, fornication), sodomite sex and self-sex (masturbation).
IV. Marriage Choices are Prescribed and Limited
Abraham, Isaac and other Old Testament personalities seeking to please God, were careful to narrowly limit potential marriage candidates to a relatively small group: from among God’s people. Paul prescribes the same rule for New Testament believers (I Corinthians 7:39) and then later explains the reasons why (I Corinthians 6:14-7:1) A careful observance of this principle could eliminate most from those with whom a believer lives, and may mean a rigorous far-reaching search for the right candidate (as in the case of finding Rebecca)
Not only must the potential candidate be genuinely and obviously from among God’s family, they must also be free of any other marriage vow Specifically, a person whose spouse is still alive, though legally divorced by civil statute, is not a Biblical candidate for remarriage unless and until their prior spouse is deceased. To marry such a person the Bible declares, is to commit the sin of adultery (Romans 7:2, 3: I Corinthians 7:39) As Paul so clearly explains death of a spouse is the only lawful way for a marriage to end with the blessing of God and this alone trees the surviving spouse to remarry another
Obviously, people will, because of the hardness of their hearts, divorce their spouses no matter what God says (Matthew 19:8). However, those hardhearted people should then be prepared to accept the only three lawful alternatives they have left: reconciliation with their spouse, celibacy with no remarriage, or remarriage to another only after their spouse dies (I Corinthians 7:11 Romans 7:2, 3).
Because marriage is boldly and clearly presented in the Bible as a life-long commitment, it obviously is a union that should not be entered into on the basis of romantic sentiment, careless thinking, or careless desire. To put it another way, love is a lousy basis for marriage! As hoary-headed married couples with decades of marriage together would tell you, love is learned primarily after marriage. They would testify of how genuine Bible love was learned, and that it grew as their years together passed
For an interesting Biblical illustration of this principal, see Genesis 24:67 In this context, Abraham’s faithful servant has just returned from his successful sojourn in Mesopatamia, where he convinced Rebecca to return with him to be the Bride of Isaac. Isaac and Rebecca had never met or even had opportunity to “fall in love ” prior to their marriage, they simply trusted the providence of God in the wise counsel of their respective families.
Notice the progression of thought: 1. “She became his wife; 2. “and he loved her” Please note that Isaac loved Rebecca after they were married He then found out what Bible love for a spouse really meant. Any hoary-headed wife or husband who has spent several generations with his or her spouse would tell us the same fact; love came later.
It is a rare, if not non-existent, young person who is wholly and completely prepared to consider this vital decision free from flesh, romance, desire and sentiment. Whereas Hollywood, movie magazines, and most of society would have us believe good marriages are based on modern romance; decades of disastrous divorce statistics made up from the shattered homes and lives of its unwitting disciples are the awful evidence of its utter failure.
Scripture presents an alternative to modern romance in the formulation of marriages.
V. Marriage is to be Contracted With the Guidance of Parents or Parent-Figures
For a parent to possibly take the initiative in arranging marriage for his son or daughter would seem old-fashioned in the extreme to most. To some it would seem laughable, out-of-touch, or even cruel. But I would suggest that the arrangement of marriage by parents’ guidance is God’s best for those willing to obey this scriptural and logical principle.
May I suggest that the Father of our faith, Abraham, would have been horrified to even think of his son, Isaac, indulging in what most Christian and pagan young people consider a vital part of their lives: modern dating.
Conversely, even the most spiritual” contemporary Christian young person would be horrified to think of not having a single date before marriage as Isaac did Moreover, when one considers that Isaac was probably at least 40 before he married (Jacob was probably well past social security age when he married): this would throw most young people into laughter of unbelief or despair if they thought the principle would be applied to them!
Modern dating is characterized primarily by emotion, flesh and desire, with some logic and morality, depending on the spirituality and maturity of those involved. This highly emotional, erratic and sentimental system has been made almost a cultural norm, it has been around so long. Despite its utter failure in producing Godly marriages (those that are produced are done so by an admixture of scriptural principle woven into the process by hearts seeking to please God; it is not due to the system of dating): the dating system enjoys tremendous popularity among pagans and believers alike I see no signs whatsoever that this romantic system of dating is declining. On the contrary it is strengthening and is characterized increasingly by fleshly values of the world. It is heading often toward an outright ;” barnyard morality ” where bestial desire and selfish interest predominate
OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS
The reason Isaac and Jacob were not driving their camels up and down the sandy boulevards of Palestine to see who they could “pick up” was because such a thing would have been unthinkable to them and their families. Nor would they have been concerned about whom to ask out for the weekend or for the big events at their school or church. The approach the Old Testament Saints (and maybe the New Testament) had toward dating was don’t!
Believe it or not, God’s people in that day believed that Mom and Dad (and especially Dad) should be involved in helping to arrange marriages This was a responsibility undertaken very seriously by level-headed believers.
For example, Abraham was still waiting and looking for a suitable wife for Isaac when he thought he himself would die (Genesis 24:1-4) Sarah had already died at age 127 without seeing her son married. Isaac was finally presented with his bride and married Rebecca at age 40 (Genesis 25-20) They enjoyed a blessed marriage together.
There did not seem to be a normative age for the Old Testament believer at marriage, but was apparently decided by the individual parents as they assessed the maturity and need of their child Some married early as some verses show: Proverbs 2:17, 5:18: Isaiah 62:5.
Scriptures give evidence that marriages contracted with the guidance of parents were not only normative, but were God ordained In Deuteronomy 7:3, God prohibits parents from arranging marriages for their children with pagans that parents had the right and responsibility to have a part in arranging marriages was not in dispute and is implicit in the verse.
Later in Israel’s history during the captivity, God again indirectly validates that parents are to have a part in the arranging of marriages, ‘. . take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands . . . ‘ (Jeremiah 29 6)
Judah took a wife for his firstborn son (Genesis 38:6). Isaac forbade Jacob to marry pagans and prescribed limits on whom he could marry (Genesis 28:11 2). The New Testament also validates this principle in Corinthians 7:36-38. There Paul stresses that a father makes the choice about his daughter being married or not.
MODERN DATING PORTRAYED IN THE BIBLE
Scriptures also present a typical picture of how many young people enter marriage today Samson, a judge in Israel, was a Nazarite, and supposedly devoted to God: however, his life was sadly lacking in key spiritual areas. His life presents for us an Old Testament picture of modern dating and romance (Judges 14:1-3).
In seeking a wife, Samson, like many youth of today had no carefully thought out set of rules, principles and guidelines that would fence in his emotions God’s law and equity was evidently not given its due in his marriage plans. Samson saw something he liked in the outward beauty of a young woman in Timnath (Judges 14 1, 2) Rather than looking for character. Spiritual life, similarity of purpose, goals, and commitment to God in this girl, Samson “saw” a way to gratify his carnal desire. Whether or not the two families were compatible did not seem to be a decisive factor.
His desires, being in full control of his life at this point, compelled him to “legalize” the gratification of his lust, and he sought to marry the girl (Judges 14.2) Although Samson’s parents reminded him of God’s laws and principles concerning marriage, he did not care for principle, once desire had taken control (verse 3).
Once principle is denied and conscience seared and suppressed, we are capable of continued and deeper sin Samson had allowed his fleshly desire to reject God’s law in the matter of whom he would seek to marry: it is not surprising then to see another sad step backwards for this man of God.
On his way to consummate this unholy marriage, Samson (who was now seemingly allowing his flesh to control other areas of his life) defiled himself as a Jew, by not only touching the dead body of a lion, but eating some honey that wild bees had deposited there (Judges 14:89). Jews were not to purposely touch dead bodies since they would be defiled and, therefore, unclean. This was especially true of Nazarites! The life and career of Samson is a sad commentary on how carnal desire robs a believer of power, testimony and even ministry .
Many Christian youth are repeating Samson’s sin today in how they arrange marriage. Like Samson, many seem oblivious to Scripture principle and God’s law in seeking a spouse. In fact, most seem to be enthusiastically caught up in Samson’s way of doing things: letting the flesh control and predominate.
Notice that even in his carnal state, Samson recognized his parents were the ones who needed to authorize and guide his marriage (Judges 14:2. Because he short- circuited God’s ways refused his parents’ counsel and took matters n his own hands, Samson paid the rest of his life for his sin. The desire that seemed so pleasurable proved to be a light on his soul. Once lust is gratified, then what? Sorrow and great misery, knowing God’s best has been lost?
Another typical personality in Scripture portraying so much of what is called romance today is Esau. Esau is the picture of the soul, living according to his belly (his desires), living on a very low spiritual plane in a bestial way (Hebrewsl2:16) Esau determined to gratify his lust also, and chose for himself what he thought would make him happy (Genesis 26:34, 35).
His pagan, Godless wives (he even became a polygamist in his lust) were a burden and grief to Isaac and Rebecca. These girls were so contrary to Godliness that Rebecca grew weary of her life (Genesis 27:46).
Young people must remember that in contracting a marriage, two families are being joined together, not just two people Esau’s selfish, lustful choice of wives may have given him pleasure temporarily, but it forever destroyed the peace of his family and the relationship he once enjoyed with his parents. Incidentally, Esau never found repentance after that because he was in an awful spiritual state (Hebrews 12:17)
PRACTICAL AND SPIRITUAL BENEFITS
Some would ask a legitimate question. Why should a father be involved in picking a spouse for his child? Let me suggest possibilities:
1. This type of marriage arrangement is a blessed copy of what the Heavenly Father did for his son (Adam) in the garden. There, God provided a wife for Adam who was specifically chosen to complement him, meet his needs, and who would best help to serve God.
2. The blessing of parents is vital to the destiny of a child and his children (Jacob vs. Esau) Many parents have bravely stood at the wedding of a son or daughter with broken grieving hearts because they could not enthusiastically bless that marriage. May I suggest that that marriage will never be what it could have been without their enthusiastic blessing.
3. Marriage is a spiritual picture of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5: 31, 32) The Father is busily preparing a bride right now for his Son (Ephesians 5:27) Is it not possible God wants earthly fathers involved in seeking a spotless and pure bride for their sons?
4. It is practically wise for parents to help make the choice. It would be a very rare young person who would seek character, conviction, principle, compatibility similarity of goals and purpose, etc. in a potential spouse. Young men characteristically look at externals and use carnal reasoning in looking over the field of possible choices. Young women, well aware of the externals boys are looking at emphasize the externals in their lives: figure, walk dress (or lack of it), make- up, wrong character, etc.: whatever will attract his eye and not his spirit or Scripture-enlightened conscience.
Parents have the advantage of a blessing called the wisdom of years. They have gained this wisdom through experiencing life for at least 20 years longer than their children. They are older, wiser, and most will be far more objective and level-headed than their child in choosing a marriage partner. They will look for: Is she a servant? Can she cook, clean, sew, guide a house, care for children? What are her goals? Is her family compatible with ours? Will she submit to a husband? What is her relationship to God? etc.
We already know girls dress and act the way they do to attract boys. Do you suppose if they knew a boy’s parents were going to help make the marriage choices, that they may act and dress differently? There are many highly educated, pretty girls in the world who would be poor wives and mothers. They are visibly impressive but inwardly empty of Godly character and not prepared to be domestic.
Even the perfect marriage (Adam and Eve), had problems, but may I suggest that if Adam had made the choice of his wife, there would have been far greater problems! If loving, wise, parents help choose the spouse, this is no guarantee of a perfect marriage, but will be far more likely to succeed than if the children boycott the input of parents, and pick their own based on romantic ideals.
VI. Practical Advantages of Parent-Guided Marriages
Young people are under tremendous social pressure today to have “boy friends” and ‘girl friends ” their peer groups look down on, ridicule, and intimidate in other ways those hapless youngsters who do not (for one reason or another) get on the romantic boy-girl merry-go-round of dating and social relationships. A youngster not involved in this frantic, fleshly game of emotions is tempted to think of himself as being a misfit and potentially develop a very low self -image.
What a relief from this tremendous peer pressure to conform to a set of parents very early in that child’s life explains that no “dating” will be allowed at all. Most of the pressure and responsibility for discerning a life partner is where it rightfully beings, on the shoulders of Mom and Dad. All the energy that would have been used trying to fit into the romantic merry-go-round of boy/girl relationships can be used in developing character, principle and practical knowledge of how to be a successful spouse and parent.
There would be far less problems of marriage of divorcees, and a host of other practical marriage problems if parents were guiding the choices instead of starry-eyed, desire oriented youngsters.
How many married people today, laboring to overcome sinful choices in their marriages are asking the question ” I wonder how it would have been for me if I would have done it God’s way?” Many modern Samson’s and Esau’s are paying the price of their rebellious, fleshly choices in their problematic unions, whereas few Isaacs are enjoying the security and peace of a God-ordained home in which the spouse was chosen by parents’ guidance.
Young person, your emotions and your heart will deceive you. (Jeremiah 17:9): You must diligently make preparation for the second most important decision in your life (salvation being of primary importance), or your feelings will predominate. Tell your parents you want and need them to guide this choice for you to give you careful assistance in the matter.
If your parents are unable or unwilling to assume this vital responsibility for you, seek help from your father-figure, or spiritual leader. There is nothing wrong whatsoever for you, in the absence of input from your natural father, to ask your Godly Pastor and church officers to give you help in this matter of choosing a spouse. They can function as an older brother on your behalf.
We are so far removed from Scripture principle in this matter of contracting marriage, that the Bible plan seems ludicrous to most young people. If you disagree with your parents guiding the choice of your spouse, as the Bible declares ought to be done, you may take comfort in the fact that you are in the vast majority. But you are also wrong!
You may date around, have your own way choose your spouse for yourself, if you wish, but this is not God’s best for you. I pray that you may be one of the select few who would be willing to obey God, even in this matter of choosing a life partner. You see, to seek guidance on this decision from your parents is to actually trust God to guide you. This is an act of faith that most will not do. Moreover many parents will not readily do this; we are so far removed from God’s ways, it will seem unnatural to them.
What will you do?
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