(From Forerunner Commentary)
Exodus 20:12 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
No less than three of the Ten Commandments—the fifth, seventh, and tenth—directly involve strengthening marriages and families and preserving their unity and sacredness. Of course, all of God's commands, if followed, will work to strengthen man's relationship with God and fellow man, but these three are aimed directly at securing these sacred bonds. When considering any of God's commands, we find that they are broad in scope and ordained, not just to regulate our physical relationships, but also our spiritual one with Christ.
The fifth commandment speaks directly to parents and children, laying the foundation of responsibility that each has to the other. When children submit to their parents, and parents provide a loving environment to nurture their children in lawful living, the children and society directly benefit from this command. Home government is the cornerstone of national government, and when the home is right, the social structure follows. When marriage and family unity are held in high esteem and a fear of violating God's standards is instilled, sin can be held in check. Hebrews 12:11 declares, "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
The seventh commandment—forbidding adultery, unfaithfulness by either spouse—stands against anyone who would defile the sanctity of the marriage covenant through sexual sins. Adultery is probably the most dishonest act against the binding contract of the marriage relationship; it is a betrayal of a most sacred trust. Not only is it a sin against one's companion, but as Paul teaches in I Corinthians 6:18, it is a sin against one's own flesh. It has destroyed many marriages and families. A marriage can stand against many adversities from without, but this sin destroys it from within, and few, if any, marriages can truly recover from such infidelity.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:28 that adultery begins in the heart. It is more than an outward action, but a lust that comes from within. Christ teaches us how broad the law is, and sexual acts outside of the marriage covenant—even just the desire for them—breaks this command. In other words, if the desire is there, yet only lack of opportunity has kept a person from this sin, the law has still been broken.
The tenth commandment—"You shall not covet your neighbor's wife" (Deuteronomy 5:21)—is likely a precursor for warnings against many other sins. It defends against anyone who would come between a man and his wife, and like the seventh, its breaking also begins in the heart. Unlike the seventh commandment, which looks to protect the marriage from within, in the tenth commandment God protects it from without.
Strong marriages can stand up to outside pressures of this sort, but weak marriages that are battling other issues may not. How many marriages have been defiled or destroyed by the coveting of another cannot be known, but since God included it in the Ten Commandments, its potential harm against the sacred bond of marriage must be high.
When he coveted Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, King David assaulted the marriage covenant, and disaster soon followed. Breaking this commandment led to adultery and then to murder. In our society today, similar lusts are leaving destroyed families in their wake.
The Sacredness of Marriage
Jeremiah 2:2 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
The Revised Standard Version, in the middle of verse two, read, "I remember your early devotion, the love of your bridal days." God uses the bridegroom and bride analogies because they picture the kind of fervent relationship He desires with us. Fervency is warmth of spirit. It is an attitude.
Does a person desire a relationship with somebody who shows no interest in him? There is a possibility that something like that might occur because someone could be attracted to another, but the other is not paying any attention. So, unless the attracted person makes a move to build a relationship, the other will never notice him. He has to seek the other out.
Now, we need to put God into this scenario. He does not need us in any way, and we are not holy like He is. We do not have the mind He has or His character. In fact, we know almost nothing about Him at the time He begins to make the effort to have a relationship with us. He would like to have one with us because He can see where it can go.
But what kind of reaction will He get from us? He wants the reaction of two people in love. It is helpful to look at this from God's point of view in terms of the end of the relationship. If we were God, would we desire to have a relationship with one who is not showing any interest in us? We would not want to marry anybody who did not have as much interest in us as we have in them. Marriage should be made on the basis of equal, fervent, mutual interest. It occurs because of a desire to be together, to do things together, to accomplish things together, to build a family together, even a desire to mature and grow old together.
This is exactly the kind of relationship that God wants. In several places, He specifically says, "I remember what it was like in our bridal days," because there was heat in the relationship. Each was truly seeking the other out.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Seeking God
Jeremiah 3:8-10 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
God is speaking about the two nations, Israel and Judah. Israel had gone into captivity over a hundred years before Jeremiah came along. God is relating what Judah did after it saw that Israel had gone into captivity for its sins.
He uses marriage as an analogy of His relationship with His people—first with Israel and Judah and later with the church—in order to help us see clearly what is required of us. He calls Israel His wife, but Israel was not faithful in that the people committed idolatry. God considers this spiritual idolatry as being the same as, or similar to, the committing of adultery in a human marriage.
This is why He calls idolatry "adultery." It is unfaithfulness to a vow, a contract, a covenant, or an agreement. The two partners in the agreement, God and Israel, said, "I do" to be Husband and wife. God was faithful, upholding His part of that relationship, but Israel was unfaithful to those vows, committing adultery through idolatry, by worshiping other gods.
Notice how strong God's language is: He uses the word "treacherous." He calls Judah's unfaithfulness, her idolatry, her spiritual adultery "treachery." It is a word that is reserved for the most despicable breaches of trust. We do not like to use it even when speaking of adultery, so we soften it, using a euphemism like saying he or she "had an affair." God calls it what it is—treachery, an egregious violation of allegiance, of trust.
Whether a person is treacherous, that is, unfaithful, or whether he is faithful to his vows, both results have to be worked at, but the former comes easier than the latter because treachery follows the natural course of human nature. We have all done what Israel and Judea did through sin, alienating ourselves from Him.
God does with us individually as He was willing to do with Israel and Judea as nations. He says, "Yes, you've committed these unfaithful sins, but if you'll just return to Me, I'll still accept you as my wife." He is willing to forgive. The condition, however, is repentance—real change in attitude and behavior.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Works
Romans 1:24-32 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
The apostle's words are playing out openly in our daily news as marriage loses its traditional value in this society. In this passage, Paul describes the current generation—how men have rejected God's will and supplanted it with gross idolatry and how they have become lovers of themselves, exalting the creation and their desires above the Creator. With this foundation and with God allowing mankind to pursue its own course for the present, human nature desires to remake all of God's institutions in its own image, and the marriage covenant is in its cross-hairs.
Marriage and family are the foundations of any healthy society, and these two bedrocks of civilization are slowly being dismantled before our eyes. When these foundations, which God formed in righteousness, are weakened further, it will prepare for a different foundation—one formed in unrighteousness to support the coming of the lawless one, the son of perdition, as II Thessalonians 2:3-10 foretells.
Marriage and family were undefiled when God gave them as a gift to mankind before sin entered the world. In Genesis 2:18, God enacted the first social foundation for mankind: "And the LORD God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'" Then, in verse 24, God sanctifies Adam's relationship with Eve by declaring that the two would be joined together as one flesh, that a man and his wife should leave mother and father, cling to each other, and become their own family unit. In other words, marriage was dignified and defined by God as a joining of one man and one woman.
Why did God do it this way? He could have just kept on creating one man after another to populate the earth. It was unlikely that He would run out of the dust of the earth. However, He made them male and female for a reason.
The prophet Malachi reveals a major reason why God created man and woman to become one flesh. The answer is part of God's castigation of Judah for tolerating easy divorce laws. In Malachi 2:11, He says that by doing so, the Jews had profaned the holy institution of marriage that God so dearly loves.
Yet you say, "For what reason [are you angry]?" Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. "For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence," says the LORD of hosts. (verses 14-16)
Because He wants godly children, God made humans male and female. Within the structure of a proper, married family life, strong in unity and free from worries of separation, it would produce the best results.
From this comes a second reason why God made them male and female. With the blessing of children, God has bestowed on mankind the gift of allowing parents to become His partners in His creative works by rearing children who are prepared to answer His calling. This spiritual reproductive process will one day bring many sons and daughters into God's Family. This realization places families and marriage far above what most in the world consider them to be. It elevates them to a moral level unrecognizable in this world of sin.
The wisdom and depths of love that God has for mankind are beyond our abilities to know fully, but it is clear that marriage and family are prominent in God's plan. Any changes to the divine structure are an affront to God and His plan. Marriage is of divine origin, and changes to it are nothing less than man's rebellion against his Creator.
The Sacredness of Marriage
1 Thessalonians 4:4-5 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
This does not remove the tremendous pleasure, fun, joy, and satisfaction from marriage! God created men and women in such a way that in marriage they can bond to each other as one flesh, sharing the fullness of emotions and intimacy.
Sex, Sin and Marriage
Revelation 11:18 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
We need to expand our thinking on the word "earth" and understand that it figuratively, metaphorically, represents all of creation. It is not just the earth, the orb that is spinning around through space on its appointed path, but all of the things that are on the earth. Above all, it refers to mankind, which lives on the earth.
God says He will destroy those who destroy the creation, and that includes themselves. When man does that, he is telling God that we do not appreciate what He has given us. We have a love of beauty without the love of doing what is right in order to maintain correctly what He has given to us.
By far and away, the most important abuse in all of creation deals with man's relationships with God and fellow man. We abuse our relationships because we do not love righteousness along with beauty. Rather than dressing and keeping the relationships through a love of righteousness, we use and abuse them, too.
We can see this in the divorce rate. People do not get divorces because they love one another. It is because one or the other spouse, or both, have abused the relationship. So the marriage, which was created by God to be the environment in which His spiritual creation would be carried out, is destroyed! Again, God is going to destroy those who destroy the earth, His creation.
The basic reason this occurs is addressed in I John. It is the lack of love for God and of God that is causing this. Loving God is a choice that is open to all Christians. If one does not consider God beautiful and choose to love Him, the only alternative is self-centeredness.
We turn our love in on ourselves, and instead of seeking to please God within a relationship with Him, we instead choose unrighteousness or sin, abusing the relationship between Him and us. All love for fellow man begins first with the love for God. This is why I John tells us it is impossible to love man without loving God first.
We must start thinking about what are we doing in our lives to build our relationship with God, because that relationship is salvation! Is God beautiful to us? Is God's way beautiful to us? If it is not, the self-centeredness will lead to abuse. Self-centeredness is the hallmark of worldliness.
John W. Ritenbaugh
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