20th Sunday after Pentecost
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His own blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father, to Him be glory forever and ever Amen! Do you have a priceless gift? Name whatever price you want, I’m never selling you the rifle my father-in-law (who’s in heaven now) gave me. Not doing it. You can offer me whatever you want but I’m not going to sell you the wood plaque my Grandpa gave me for my confirmation nor his 1935 postage stamp album. Offer to trade me whatever you want but I’m not giving up the office desk my dad gave me when he retired. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand those are just things and should God in His wisdom decide that I don’t need them anymore, I’ll continue to trust in His wisdom. But do you have any priceless gifts? Gifts you’re not willing to give up no matter what’s offered? Interestingly, it’s not so much the inherent value of any of those objects that give them their value to me, but the person who gave them to me. All those objects will one day go away, but for this life they’re precious to me because the people who gave them to me are precious to me.
Isn’t that same thing true about the gift of marriage? What is your view of marriage? If you’re married, how do you view God’s gift of your marriage? If you’re not married, how will you view your future marriage or how do you view the marriages of other people?
When we’re looking at marriage it’s good for us to start at the very beginning, when God first gave marriage to the top of His creation, humans. What did He intend it to be? God has made the entire world, he made the first human male, placed him in the garden of Eden, gave him a living soul, even gave him a way to show his love for God by refusing to eat from a specific tree in the garden. But there is something that is not good. In fact, the way it is presented in the original is that it is the very opposite of God: Man is alone. Notice who it is that recognizes this, it’s God. Notice who doesn’t even know that he’s missing something? Adam! Adam is missing a helper “suitable” for him. He’s missing someone who corresponds to him physically, emotionally, spiritually. But he doesn’t even know it yet! But God knows. So what does God do next? We might think that if something’s not good that God would immediately do something to make it good. But notice what God does. He then brought all the animals to Adam to have him name them. What’s God doing by that? What is Adam going to notice as he sees all these animals? Perhaps two things: one – all the animals have a mate corresponding to them, second – none of these animals could be a helper corresponding to him. Do you see what God is doing? God awakens in Adam’s heart a conscious longing for the solution that God is about to provide.
Isn’t that how God works? God sees the need even before Adam realizes that there is a need, God then shows Adam the need that Adam didn’t know about, so that God can fill the need that He already knew about according to the plan that He already had in place! Doesn’t God do the same in our lives? He first allows us to see a need in our lives so that we know that there is a need so that we can appreciate how He fills that need when He provides the solution.
So here God causes Adam to fall into a deep sleep and he took a rib from Adam’s side or a part of Adam’s side out. Then the LORD God “made” a woman from it. Literally, it says that God “built” a woman out of the part of Adam’s side. It’s really a neat picture. Picture a fine craftsman who is constructing his dreamhouse – carefully picking out the best material, with interest and joy putting everything together just right, constructing ornate cabinetry, building it just the way he wants – that’s how God makes the first woman. And then God “brought her to the man.” Think about that. God could have simply turned the two loose in the garden and they would have figured it out sooner or later, but He didn’t! HE brought the two together. It’s as if God is saying, “Adam, here’s the perfect gift that I am giving to you. Eve, here’s the perfect gift that I’m giving to you.” In marriage, God takes a man and a woman and HE brings them together as His perfect gifts to each. Wow!
And how does Adam react to this gift from God? “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” Can you picture the joy and excitement as He receives exactly what he was missing? He’s certainly not treating her as inferior or less important, nor as someone identical to him, but just the right answer from God for what he was lacking, a perfect complement to him.
And what was God hereby establishing? He was establishing the marriage bond. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Marriage is not a product of human progress or social development. It’s not something that humans can modify, change, terminate at will, or develop alternate lifestyles to take its place. Marriage is established before God by an unconditional mutual commitment of a man and a woman to each other to be husband and wife.
What’s the whole impact of these verses? 4 times throughout these verses we hear God’s name repeated: the LORD God. That’s LORD capitalized and throughout the Bible that’s God’s name that refers to Him as the God of full and free faithful love. In faithful love and grace and joy God brings a man and a woman together in marriage. What a sacred gift! What an awesome present from God! What an incredible treasure He gives to both of them!!
But as you know, in the very next chapter, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned, what happened to God’s precious gift? What do we see in our world and society? This sacred gift of God is maligned, trashed, ridiculed, mocked, degraded, and abused in countless ways. Whatever God establishes, Satan seeks to destroy. So what do we see in our world? The devil tries with all his might to get people to have sex outside of marriage and to get married people to stop being intimate with their God-given spouse. Pornography is a trillion dollar industry – wrecking lives, marriages, and minds. Homosexuality is not only accepted but publicly promoted. Divorce for any and every reason is the norm.
But honestly the reality is, we don’t have to look too far away from our own hearts to see the trashing of God’s gift either, do we? Imagine giving someone close to you, someone you love, something incredibly special to you as a precious gift to that person. That person at first received the gift with joy and excitement, “Thank you so much! I’m going to treasure this gift for the rest of my life! I’m going to be faithful with this gift! I’m not going to damage it in any way. I’m going to hold this gift up as a true treasure in my life.” You go away feeling really good about the giving this wonderful gift to your loved one. But a couple of weeks later you stop by. And what do you find? You find that this gift tossed around, walked all over on the floor, disregarded, abused, broken and the person is about to take it to the pawn shop to get rid of it so he or she could get what they really wanted. What would you think? How would you feel?
Does God not have a right to be righteously angry with us for how we treat marriage? For how we treat the opposite sex? How is it different when we pollute our minds with lust or when we say unkind things to our spouse or when we get easily angered with our spouse – how is that different from taking God’s precious gift and trampling it all over the floor! How is it different when we get angry and use the silent treatment or some other device in order to “punish” our spouse for the hurt they’ve caused us, how is that different from taking God’s precious gift and spitting on it? How is it different when husbands not only NOT show love to their wives but rather act in incredibly selfish and unloving ways? How is it different when wives not only NOT respect their husbands but act in very disrespectful ways to the head of their family? How is that different from taking God’s precious gift and wiping your feet all over it? How is it different when one spouse or both destroys a marriage by being unfaithful or deserting the marriage not willing to put any effort into improving the marriage and wanting a divorce, how is that not different than taking God’s treasured gift and pawning it off? May God lead us to repent of our sin, our abuse of His precious gift of marriage, our neglect of the sacredness of holy matrimony, our disregard of God’s precious gift of family!
But perhaps the worst casualty of our disregard of God’s gift of marriage is the beautiful illustration that God provides us in Ephesians between marriage and the relationship of Christ and the Church. (Wives, ignore this part) When husbands are not self-sacrificing, when husbands’ work or hobbies or interests are more important to them than their wives they are trashing and spoiling the awesome picture God wants marriage to be. When husbands lose the godly priority system of God first, wife second, children third, and everything else last, then everything else in life is skewed. God’s design for husbands is that by their self-sacrificing example they might model for people the incredible love Christ has for the Church. That means willing to give up themselves for their wives, willing to rearrange their entire lives to keep God first and their wife second – yes, even above themselves. That means husbands are to lead their families in the best interest of their wife and children. You know what that means? I see it in myself and I see it you: husbands that care only about their own wants, their own dreams, their own plans, they don’t think about their wives, they don’t communicate with their wives, they don’t think about what’s best for their wives. Again, that’s smearing mud all over the beautiful picture God wants husbands to be of Christ loving the Church.
And then there’s wives (husbands ignore this part). Again, God wants the way wives interact with their husbands to provide an awesome picture of how we, the Church, respect Jesus. When wives complain or nag or try to control their husbands is that not trashing the picture of the church willingly submitting to Christ? When wives use the bedroom to try to control, punish or manipulate their husbands is that not smearing and trashing God’s precious gift?
And perhaps it all comes down to this: we look to our spouse to give us what only God can give. We create an ideal in our mind of the perfect wife or the perfect husband, we expect them to meet certain expectations that they can’t possibly meet. We’re not in Eden anymore. God didn’t make Eve to replace Him, nor did He make Adam to replace Him. But when we look to our spouse to fulfill what only God can – we doom them to failure and we doom ourselves to misery!
Wow! How God ought to be done with each of us! How He ought to get rid of us and find other people who will actually do what He wants! How He ought to abandon us to our own self-focused destruction in hell!
The reality is, you can never be saved by being a good wife or being a good husband or being a good single person. Marriage is a gift that we didn’t ask for or deserve. But God’s given us a far more precious gift. For unloving husbands, for disrespecting wives, for rebellious children, for sinners, God sent His own Son. Who with a self-less love that could originate only in God He offered Himself up for every sin of all time – yours included. Jesus won your salvation by His death on a cross and by His rising from the dead! So that you could be His true bride, so that He could look at you and see not your sins, but His righteousness that covers you and say to you: You are “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” He did for you what your wife cannot do for you, He did what your husband cannot do for you. He did what He alone could do for you.
A Christian marriage is something absolutely unique in this sinful world. In the world, marriage is simply a contract – you fulfill my needs and I will in turn fulfill yours. It’s based on pure selfishness. Well, what more can we expect from the world? But a Christian marriage is something entirely different. A Christian marriage is based on Christ and His love. I love my spouse – not because of who she is or what she can do for me – but I love her because in marriage I have an opportunity to reflect the unconditional love of Christ for me to another fellow human being. My love for my wife isn’t based on her and what she does for me, it’s based on the unchanging, unconditional love of Christ and what He’s already done and continues to do for me.
Treasure first God’s precious gift of your salvation and through it be filled with joy and excitement to treasure God’s precious gift of marriage! Amen.