More Valuable than Life: The Constitution of Marriage
“Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money. And Naboth said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.” (1 Kings 21:1-3) This inheritance was the fulfillment of the promise of God to the forefathers of Naboth, and he valued it accordingly.
Man is so constituted that he needs something greater and bigger than himself upon which to build his life. “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Man was so created to need something outside of himself, something higher, finer, nobler than his own natural qualities and gifts. He was made to be a partaker of the Divine nature, to receive and accept the wisdom of God (2 Peter 1:4). Man was created to walk with God. What a wonderful vocation! What a precious privilege!
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” (Ephesians 4:1) When Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee,” he was walking worthy of this high calling. He put the value of the inheritance of his fathers above his safety. That vineyard meant more to him than a valuable piece of real estate. More than an income. More than any expediency. Ahab, who offered him money, or a better vineyard, did not understand Naboth. Ahab felt he was being generous. Ahab lived for the things of time and place, and he was greatly tried at what he perceived to be Naboth’s stubbornness. It irritated him that Naboth did not value his offer. Ahab was of the earth, earthly; while Naboth had built his life on things from above, the heavenly.
God instituted marriage, family government, and the care and nurture of children. It is not an arrangement of man’s choosing. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:27-28); “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” (Psa. 127:3)
The entire concept is higher than man. It is our vineyard, instituted of God, and He has designed it to yield happiness and fulfillment to those who take hold of his covenant. “And God blessed them.” When a man or a woman dedicate themselves to marriage, they are dedicating themselves to something higher than just their feelings or desires. They are putting those feelings and desires into a framework of Divine design. Because marriage is of God, it has vast potential for good. This potential is there even when the ties and bonds of marriage are abused and twisted by men.
The understanding that the concept of marriage is higher than the desires of the individual is the key to comprehending our times and the exceeding sinfulness of sin that is all around us. “For the land is full of adulterers.” (Jeremiah 23:10) The perilous times are upon us, and men and women are lovers of their own selves, more than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-7). God designed in marriage and the raising of children a need for unselfishness that would put a restraint on the carnality of fallen man. When people imagine vain things and endeavor to cast away these cords and bands (Psalms 2:1-3), they no longer get the benefit inherent in responsible behavior. Selfishness flourishes and natural affection becomes perverted. Adultery and neglect of the young are the result. This leads in turn to a complete breakdown of government and order. Perilous times, indeed.
Marriage is a commitment of a man to a woman (and vice-versa). From the beginning, God ordained that a man should leave his parents and be joined unto his wife (Matthew 19:4-5). This leaving and this joining are full of implications which are profound and vital. It is the establishment of a new family unit, dedicated to the nurture of the young. God designed the process of parenting to have a profound effect on the couple (and everyone else in society as well). “She shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” (1 Timothy 2:15) This scripture is not speaking of the change of heart that is effected by the blood of Jesus. It is addressing the positive and beneficial effects of an unselfish dedication—the consecration of a mother to her children. God meant for us to take on the care of others besides ourselves. He wants us to learn to love others (Titus 2:4). It is important that we learn to do so. If we do not learn to love our children—our husbands—our wives—then we are greatly at a disadvantage. It is our vineyard, the inheritance of our spiritual fathers and mothers, instituted by God Himself. If our vines are not doing so well, let us take courage and petition the Comforter to dig about us and dung us, that we may bear fruit in the vineyard of our fathers.
When the walls of marriage have been breached and the enemy has come in like a flood, the inhabitants thereof suffer fearfully, and great havoc is wrought. The situation calls for a great humbling. Perhaps you were not responsible for what happened, and you are a victim of sin and the consequences of sin. The root of bitterness may plague you. You may find it nearly impossible to forgive. Perhaps you are tempted to throw it all away—to conclude that there must be a better way than marriage.
I knew a young woman who suffered bitterly from her parents’ failure. She told me once that she didn’t play as other children did—she sat and brooded. When she came to mature years, she deliberately turned away from marriage. She met a boy, devoid of understanding like herself. They experienced some feelings toward each other and began to live together as husband and wife. They did not make a consecration, “till death do us part.” She was fearful of such a consecration. Although they did not realize it, they made another consecration, a thin and shabby one. “Till feelings do us part.” This turned out about how you would expect. His feelings changed; hers had not. She was deeply hurt—again. What do you think she is like now?
Would she not have been exceeding wise to have humbled herself before God? “Lord, my father and my mother have made a failure. Sin did it—sin between each of them and You. I see that it might happen to me—so easily. Lord, please help me.” I tell you again, the situation calls for a great humbling.
The Lord can break the divorce-distrust cycle in our lives if we will let Him. He will help us to dig deep and get down to the bedrock of His truth. God has been helping people to get established on His truth all down through the centuries. He will help you and me, too.
When Daniel realized how his people had been carried into captivity in Babylon, he humbled himself before God. “In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.” (Daniel 9:2-6) Note the manner of his prayer. Although he was not personally responsible at all for the judgment that befell his people, yet he said, “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled… neither have we hearkened.” As if to say, we are all in the same boat. The wickedness which is our common characterization has brought us to this. There is no evidence at all that Daniel himself had rebelled or not hearkened, but he realized that the sin of his people had an effect on every individual, including himself.
If mother or daddy has not lived right, this has an effect on me. I am not personally responsible for their sin, but I must deal with its effect on me. If I do not humble myself and acknowledge the reality of the sin that has been done, I am liable to do as they did in one way or another, or to get into something else wrong in my efforts to avoid their error. By acknowledging “we have sinned,” Daniel was avoiding the attitude of heart of which his people were guilty. It was his way of escape.
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.” (Proverbs 21:2) We are conditioned by something, and because that conditioning is typically all that we have known, it seems right (familiar) to us. “As is the mother, so is her daughter.” (Ezekiel 16:44) We got the feelings and values that we have from somewhere, and there is no real changing until we acknowledge our condition, renounce what is wrong, and call on God to teach us His ways and help us to do differently.
If you were raised in a home where covetousness was given place, it has an effect on you. If your background involves high-mindedness, you have it to face. If irreverence was practiced, if pride was manifest, if a sectarian loyalty was there, if lust was given a place, if vain and foolish things were there, if skepticism was characteristic, if laziness was a feature, or any other thing contrary to godliness and every good work, then you must confront the fact that this was your background. You must “ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:26-27)
To the extent that you give place to sin, it will ruin you. The more restrained one is in giving place to sin, the more profitable and blessed is the life. This is what a good moral life is—a life in which as much sin is avoided as possible. A spiritual life is vastly better—a life in which the works of the devil are destroyed in you, you are delivered, and you are one of those just persons which need no repentance (Luke 15:7; 1 John 3:6-10).
If the foundations have been removed in your life (Psalms 11:3), the Lord can rebuild them in you. Listen to this scripture, “And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” (Isaiah 58:12) Stone by stone, the Lord will build a vision of the truth within you, and He will establish you on the Rock. He will so teach you the truth of His Word and so guide you with the Comforter that your life will blend with all the others who are His. Yea, the Lord knoweth them that are His. He will help you to discern and escape everything that is not of Him, and He will guide you to heaven in the end.
God is not experimenting with us. He knows what He is doing. When He designed the entire relationship of human marriage, He knew the end from the beginning. In spite of all the ruined homes, the devastated lives, the dashed hopes, the debilitating despair, and the wrecked and broken dreams, marriage still has the potential for blessings and joy that God created. He knows how to make the very best of your life that it can be. “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.” (Hebrews 10:35) “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)