The Wrong Way to Start a Marriage
October 03, 2004 | Randy Smith
The Wrong Way to Start a MarriageMalachi 2:10-12
Sunday, October 3, 2004
Pastor Randy Smith
We are beginning to see from our study the past three weeks that God used the prophet Malachi to deliver a scathing rebuke to the nation of Israel for her heartless worship and disobedient living. About 300 years earlier, God used another prophet named Hosea in a different way. The heart of Hosea's message would not center on his words, but rather his actions - actions that would also radically confront the Jews for their sins. In unparalleled fashion, Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute (Hos. 1:2-3). His life was to be an illustration, a living parable of God's marriage relationship to Israel. Hosea would play the part of God, the loving and forgiving husband. Gomer would play the part of Israel, the unholy and disloyal bride. And the more unfaithful Gomer got, the more Hosea was to love her to demonstrate God's faithfulness.
Many verses speak of this marriage relationship God has with the nation Israel. In Malachi 1:2 we read, "I have loved you," says the LORD. We learned how God chose to by-pass all the other nations to carve out a special relationship with the descendents of Jacob. Through the prophet Isaiah God spoke of this spiritual marriage. "'For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth. For the LORD has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one's youth when she is rejected,' says your God" (Isa. 54:5-6; cf. Mt. 12:39).
Because of this special union, God, no different from any spouse, expected fidelity from His marriage partner. As we learned last week, He expected wholehearted loyalty from Israel. He wanted their heart above all things.
But despite being married to the perfect spiritual husband, Israel reneged on her responsibilities in the covenant. In Jeremiah 3:20 we read, "'Surely, as a woman treacherously departs from her lover, so you have dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,' declares the LORD." Through Hosea, God says, "They turn to other gods and love raisin cakes" (Hos. 3:2). They abandon the lover of their souls for "raisin cakes!" In reality, they forsake the true God for other gods. Their heart goes after other lovers. Henceforth they commit spiritual adultery.
In the New Testament this marriage relationship between God and His elect people is even more pronounced. Quite often the church is called the "bride of Christ." This doctrine is the crux of the New Testament teaching. All that we stand for hinges upon Jesus Christ being our spiritual Husband. We have been redeemed from the auction block of slavery to sin. We have been betrothed to one spiritual Man (2 Cor. 11:2-3). We have been engrafted into a marriage union. We have been washed clean through His work. We have been loved and forgiven. We will enjoy this unbreakable union throughout eternity.
We would all agree that Jesus has been a faithful Husband to His bride. In the same way, we the church, are called to reciprocate in our faithfulness to Him. Therefore when we flirt with the other idolatrous lovers in the world that gain the primacy of our affections, like Israel, we commit spiritual adultery. God will not remain indifferent to this great offense. Our jealous Husband said through James, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4). God expects wholehearted fidelity.
God has a special union with His people, the church. And like God did with Hosea, He calls all of us to illustrate this special relationship. We too are to illustrate it through the institution of marriage between one man and one woman. In Ephesians 5:31-32 the Apostle Paul said a marriage between one man and one woman is to illustrate the relationship between Jesus Christ (the faithful husband) and the church (His bride), "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church."
Our Christian marriages are to be a visual picture to the world that displays the union between Jesus Christ and His church. The love, the fellowship, the faithfulness, the unending commitment we exercise with our spouses, pictures the awesome marriage union between Jesus Christ and His church to the world.
So in this regard, we do have a commission similar to Hosea, but there is one noticeable difference. Hosea was called to marry a harlot, one from outside the covenant. We are called to marry a Christian, one from inside the covenant. The only way we can rightly model Christ's union with His church in our marriages is to marry another also in union with Christ and intent on following Him as Lord.
Here's where Israel failed. They failed to model God's relationship to them in their own marriages. Their actions brought severe judgment from the Lord. First, they were divorcing their wives of the covenant. In Malachi 2:16 God had to say, "I hate divorce." Divorce not only hurts others through selfishness, but it also fails to demonstrate the eternality of our union with God. Would Jesus ever divorce His church? We'll cover that topic next week. This week, we'll examine the reason for their divorces, which was their desire to forsake their Jewish wives to marry foreigners from outside the covenant involved in pagan religions. Spiritually mixed (unequally yoked) marriages were also detestable to the Lord.
Often I receive the question from people within the church: "Why is it wrong to marry a non-Christian?" This morning as we prepared for the Lord's Supper I'll attempt to provide an answer.
1. REASONS TO AVOID THE SIN (verse 10)
In verse 10, God expresses His displeasure regarding the unbiblical divorces and unequally yoked unions by asking three rhetorical questions through Malachi.
First he asks, "Do we not all have one Father" (cf. Mal. 1:6a; also see Dt. 32:6; Isa. 64:8)? In other words, in speaking to Israel, if God is their Father, isn't it important for them to understand their union with each other? Shouldn't they have higher regard for their spiritual Father and their spiritual siblings in the covenant community? Shouldn't they act as the family of God and seek to bring honor to their Father's name?
Then he asks, "Has not one God created us?" Doesn't Israel owe her origin as God's children to His creating work? Didn't the one God who created them expect a oneness from among them? Is there not a defined set of requirements that the Creator expects from His creatures?
Finally he asks, "Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?" Why does Israel treat her spiritual siblings treacherously (or faithlessly) by such conduct to their spouses? Do they not realize that such disregard toward their marriages "profane(s) the covenant of (their) fathers?" Do they not realize that their marriages are to be an illustration of the holy covenant (that God made with Moses at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:5-6; 24:8))?
2. IDENTIFICATION OF THE SIN (verse 11)
God, as we move to the second point is about to identify the first of Israel's sins. Although He begins verse 11 still on general terms. "Judah has dealt treacherously (or faithlessly), and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD which He loves?"
What is the "abomination" that they committed in the Promised Land and Holy City? How have they "profaned the sanctuary of the Lord?" What have these people done to desecrate their holy allegiance with God and bring about such strong displeasure? We must know! The verse continues, "(They have) married the daughter of a foreign god." Simply put, this means they have married a person from outside God's family. This is not an ethnically or culturally mixed marriage. Immediately I think of the Gentile women in the Bible, like Ruth, who married the Jews with God's blessings. Here we're talking about a spiritually mixed marriage between one who loves God and one who loves idols.
As I have mentioned, God has carved out a people to be His own possession. They were to be united to Him. What does it say about our understanding of this special relationship when we would wish to intimately link ourselves to a "daughter of a foreign god?" How can we claim to be devoted to the true God when the one we wish to marry is devoted to idols? If we love our holy allegiance with God, isn't it only natural that we should desire a similar holy allegiance with another person? We would never dream of joining God our Father with a pagan god, but aren't we doing just that if God dwells within us and we marry the "daughter of a foreign god" (cf. 1Cor. 6:15-17)? How can we expect God to bless our union when we bring an idolater into the relationship?
John Piper once said, "When we claim to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and then willfully choose to unite ourselves with an unbeliever in the most intimate personal union on earth we profane the holiness of God. We act as though our emotional drive for human intimacy is more important than affirming the preciousness of God's holiness and nearness" (Let None be Faithless to the Wife of his Youth, Sermon, Nov. 22, 1987, www.desiringGod.org, Used by Permission).
The need to have pure, equally yoked marriages is mentioned throughout the Scripture:
- Exodus 34:14-16, "For you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God - otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also >to play the harlot with their gods."
- Deuteronomy 7:1-4, "When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you."
- Ezra 9:1-2, "Now when these things had been completed, the princes approached me, saying, 'The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, according to their abominations, those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has intermingled with the peoples of the lands; indeed, the hands of the princes and the rulers have been foremost in this unfaithfulness'" (cf. Ez. 10:1-4).
- Nehemiah 13:25-27, "So I contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, 'You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take of their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin regarding these things? Yet among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless the foreign women caused even him to sin. Do we then hear about you that you have committed all this great evil by acting unfaithfully against our God by marrying foreign women?'"
- 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.' Therefore, 'Come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord.' And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. 'And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' Says the Lord Almighty."
3. CONSEQUENCES FOR THE SIN (verse 12)
Well, maybe you are indifferent to the command in God's Word to be equally yoked with another Christian. Maybe you think it's really not that big of a deal in the heart of God as to whom you choose to marry. If so, follow along as I read Malachi 2:12. "As for the man who does this, may the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob everyone who awakes and answers, or who presents an offering to the LORD of hosts."
There were to be no exceptions. Spiritual intermarriage meant excommunication. Whether we choose to accept it or not, God has a high view of His intentions for the institution He created called marriage. He is serious about His standards. Mixed marriages violate the holy covenant we have with God and make a mockery of illustrating our spiritual union with Him.
Additionally, like any sin, spiritually mixed marriages bring devastating consequences to our own lives as well.
The Lord provided us an example in the Scriptures. Few have ever had a future more promising than Solomon. Born to King David. Endowed with wisdom. Blessed with riches. King over Israel and esteemed by God. Solomon had everything going for him, but he lost it all by making one tragic mistake (or maybe I should saw 700 mistakes) - Marrying the daughters of a foreign god.
1 Kings 11, beginning in verse 1 we read, "Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, 'You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.' Solomon held fast to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods" (1 Ki. 11:1-8)
Over and over in Scripture God warns us that unequally yoked unions will turn our hearts away from Him and over and over again I see Christians ignoring this command and oftentimes shipwrecking their spiritual life. "Oh, he will get saved after our wedding" (marriage evangelism if you will) - well, often times he doesn't. "Oh, she has no problem with me going to church" - well, just wait a few months and I promise you that will change.
How can we expect someone who is spiritually dead to help us mature in our walk with Christ? Almost always the unbeliever will exert a greater influence on the believer. How can we expect someone who is spiritually dead to agree with us on how we spend our time and money and how we raise our children and establish guidelines for our home? Why would we ever want to marry someone who doesn't give a hill of beans for that which is most important to us? How can we dream about spending the rest of our life with someone who is unwilling to talk about the things we cherished most deeply in our hearts? Can we ever expect to see our marital relationship grow if our spouse is unconcerned (or often hostile) to discussing the things of God?
I am appalled with the spiritual immaturity of the church that a Christian man or woman would even consider marrying the son or daughter of a foreign go and see absolutely nothing wrong with it! Singles, if you choose to make this foolish and sinful decision, don't expect me to perform the wedding ceremony. But please tell me in advance so I can begin reserving the hours now for the many counseling appointments you will be requesting. We have many in our church from personal experience who can address this issue a whole lot better than I.
Listen beloved, the ultimate fulfillment in marriage is achieved when a man and women grow in their relationship with the Lord as they grow in their relationship with each other! The two feed of one another.
If you are already married to an unbeliever, I understand that your situation could be difficult. Possibly you chose to marry an unbeliever either intentionally or unwittingly. Possibly you were saved some time after the wedding. I encourage you to trust God. Believe that He will minister to your needs and make the most out of the relationship. He is able to restore the years the locusts have eaten. Nevertheless, God's Word pertaining to your marriage is clear. "And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away" (1 Cor. 7:13). Pray for the conversion of your spouse. Seek to win your spouse to the Lord through your words and your actions (1 Pet. 3:1-6)
But if you are current unmarried, I urge you with the authority of God's Word to marry only another who truly loves Jesus Christ. Make this a sealed conviction in your heart. Guard your romantic affections by only dating Christians. Don't settle for what comes along but wait for God to give you His best. We do have singles in our church that live by this conviction and I respect them tremendously! Their commitment to Jesus Christ is a great encouragement to my heart!
Parents, it's never too soon to teach this to your children and pray even when they are young for their future spouse. When I recall the primary prayers Julie and I have offered for our daughters they've not been for athletic or academic success. Second to them coming to know the Lord Jesus, we pray that each of these three precious girls will marry a man who not just claims to be a Christian, but one who is a man after God's own heart.
When I first came to the Lord fifteen years ago, I was single and hoping to be married in the near future. Not knowing any better, I continued my trips to the various nightclubs until another brother pulled me aside and offered some timely advice. I'm glad he loved me enough to reprove me. He said, "Randy, if you wished to purchase a nice house would you go shopping in the slums?" He made his point!
Soon I realized not only the need to marry a Christian woman, but also that the bars wouldn't be the most likely place to meet one. There aren't many godly women hanging around the bars on Rush Street in downtown Chicago at two in the morning! Eventually I concluded that the church would be the place I'd meet my future spouse. So every time I went to church, I made sure to look for any new single women that may have appeared in the congregation. Again, I stood corrected. I felt the Lord clearly speaking to my heart. "Randy, are you coming this morning to find a wife or are you coming to worship Me?"
Years went by and my desire to find that special woman was never fulfilled. The prayers seemed unanswered and I knew it was beginning to adversely affect my walk with the Lord. The desire for a wife was becoming an idol. I can still distinctively remember the day when I prayed, "Lord, if you want me to be married in the future help me to trust in Your timetable and if not, please take away from my heart the desire to be married so I may have a single-focus in serving You." That was a tough prayer. But when I gave it all to Him and surrendered my will to His and by faith trusted His plan to be the best plan for my life, He blessed me with true freedom and peace that surpasses all understanding. I believe God will always bless this prayer in the way He deems best. Here's how He chose to answer mine. Within months He brought the most righteous babe my way. Within a year we were walking down the aisle. I received God's best and it was well worth the wait. Marriage is infinitely better that I ever thought it would be!
God's Word is clear. In order to rightly illustrate Christ's holy union with the church and receive the fulfillment that God intends in a marriage relationship, Christians must pursue Christians as their spouses. Singles must adopt this commitment. Parents must teach this commitment. And the church must hold one another accountable to this commitment. And may we as much as possible see our marriages (our second most important relationship) exalt our most important relationship which is our union with our spiritual husband, the Lord Jesus Christ.