Tag: marraige

Story 40: Rebekah Comes Home

Genesis 24:28-67

 

Abraham sent his chief servant to find a wife for Isaac. It was important that Isaac’s wife come from the same family… those who God had set apart in a covenant in order to bless the world.  The servant travelled back to the land that Abraham and Sarah had left behind so many years before.  The Lord guided him to a beautiful young virgin named Rebekah as she took water from the village well.  He knew she was the one for Isaac, and so he gave her bracelets of precious gold and asked to be taken back to her home.  She ran ahead and told her mother everything that had happened during her time at the well.

Rebekah’s brother, Laban, heard what happened, too.  He saw the expensive gold bracelets and the nose ring, and he knew that this stranger was a making a serious marriage offer for his sister.   He went out to meet Abraham’s servant at the well.  “‘Come, you are blessed by the Lord,’” he said.  “‘Why are you standing out here?  I have prepared the house and a place for your camels.’”

Nahor’s family treated Abraham’s chief servant very well.  They brought him into the house and washed his feet and the feet of his men.  As they set supper out for him to eat, he stopped them and said, “‘I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.’”  The importance of this meeting was too great!  He did not want to wait another minute until he had settled everything.

 

“‘The LORD has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy.  He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, and camels and donkeys.  My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns.  And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, but go to my father’s family and to my own clan, and get a wife for my son.’”

“‘Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’

“‘He replied, The Lord,  before whom I have walked, will send His angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from  my own clan, you will be released from my oath even if they refuse to give her to you-you will be released from my oath.’

 

Then the servant told them how he had come into their town.  He told how he had prayed that God would show him who the right girl was by having her offer not only to give him a drink of water, but by offering to water his camels.  He explained how that was exactly what Rebekah did.  God had answered his prayer very clearly.  And after journeying for days over many miles, the girl the LORD had brought him was the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother!

Abraham’s servant told the whole story, making sure they understood how God had guided him to Rebekah.  Then he said, “‘Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.’”

Laban and Rebekah’s mother Bethuel said, “‘This is from the LORD, we can say nothing to you one way or the other.  Here is Rebekah, take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has directed.’”

When the servant heard that he would be allowed to bring this beautiful, chosen daughter to be Isaac’s wife, he bowed down before the LORD, rejoicing at His goodness.  This was all the work of God, who designed everything with such care for His chosen ones.

The servant got up from his praise to the LORD and began to celebrate by bringing out the great riches given to him by Abraham to pour out on Rebekah, the bride, and her family.  Rebekah was given treasures of gold and silver jewelry and beautiful clothes to wear as the wife of Isaac.  Her family received lavish and beautiful gifts as well as they prepared to say goodbye to their beloved child and sister.

The next morning, Abraham’s servant asked to leave and return to Abraham with Isaac’s new bride.  But they did not want to see her go so soon.  They knew they would probably never see her again.  “‘Let the girl remain with us ten days or so; then you may go,’” they said.

But the servant was ready to return.  “‘Do not detain me, now that the LORD has granted success to my journey.  Send me on my way so I may go to my master.’”

They said, “‘Let’s call the girl and ask her about it.’”  They called for Rebekah and asked her if she would go with Abraham’s servant right away or not.

Rebekah said, “‘I will go.’”  Wow.  What stunning faith!  While her family was reluctant, she was bold.  And so they sent her on her way.  The nurse that had raised her since she was a little girl went along with her, as did several other maidservants from the house.  She was not alone as she journeyed towards the home of Abraham and Isaac.  As she left, her family said;

 

“‘Our sister, may you increase

to thousands upon thousands;

may your offspring possess

the gates of their enemies.’”

 

Consider the courage of Rebekah!  She left everything she knew to go with a host of strange men to marry a groom she had never met!  On and on they journeyed across wilderness and desert through regions Rebekah had never seen before.  One evening, as the caravan of Abraham’s servant was getting close to home, Isaac was sitting out in the middle of a field.  It was evening, and he was meditating.  Out in the distance, he saw camels coming towards him.  It was a caravan.  He got up and started walking towards it.  Rebekah was on one of those camels, and as they crossed the field, she looked up and saw a man standing there.  It was Isaac.  She climbed down from her camel and said, “‘Who is that man in the field coming the field.’”

The servant answered, “‘He is my master.’”

Rebekah  realized that this was the man she was about to marry.  She covered her face with a veil.

The servant told Isaac all that had happened.  Isaac took her into his tent.  He married Rebekah and lifted her veil to look upon the girl that God had prepared just for him.  The Bible says: “‘She became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.’”

 

Story 38: For the Love of Sarah

Genesis 26

Abraham and his entire tribe continued to move as nomads through the land, waiting on and trusting in the promises of God.  Someday, God would fulfill his covenant and give all the land to Abraham’s descendants, and they would fill the land like the stars fill the sky.

While they were staying in the region of Hebron, which is a part of Canaan, Abraham’s beloved wife died.  She was one hundred and twenty seven years old.

Sarah had stood by Abraham in faith, venturing out into unknown and dangerous lands with him as they waited on the promises of God together.   When Abraham asked her to protect him by telling kings that she was his sister, she submitted to her husband, and she saw God protect her from her husband’s mistakes.

Sarah was a woman of great beauty, not only with her outward feminine grace that so beguiled kings, but through the dignity and strength of how she carried herself through life.  She waited in patient faith as she bore the disgrace and pain of being childless for twenty five years.  All the while, she trusted God’s promise for the heir that her body had not provided.   Mistake though it was, she was willing to give another woman to her husband in hopes of seeing God’s promise fulfilled.  But God had his own plan to provide, in just the time and way he said he would: through Sarah, the wife of Abraham’s own flesh.  Sarah lived to see her one and only son grow to the age of thirty seven.

The impact of Sarah’s faith on history is something so great that we can’t measure it.  Two thousand years after she died, Peter, the disciple of Jesus, wrote about her.  Here is what he said:

“Wives, in the same way submit to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.   They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.  You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”

1 Peter 3:1-6

Peter described Sarah’s faithful life as his prime example of what is truly beautiful.  Those who have faith and do not fear, doing what is right, are Sarah’s spiritual daughters.  They become part of her family and her heritage of beauty to the world.  That was true during the time of Sarah and when Peter wrote those words two thousand years later.  Two thousand more years have passed and they are still true today.  God’s image of womanly beauty through the life of Sarah has stood true for four thousand years and counting.

In our story, the life of Sarah, Abraham’s great love, had come to an end.  Abraham went to her body and bowed over it in grief.  He wept and wept with sorrow.  He wanted to provide a secure and honored place to bury her in the Land of Promise, where they had journeyed so many years together.  The land was not his yet, but he had faith that it would be…it was the relentless, underlying belief that decided every choice he made.

Abraham rose from his place beside his wife and ventured out to visit the Hittites.  At the time, they were among the people who owned the Land of Promise, which they called Canaan.  Abraham went to see if he could purchase a piece of the land from them so he could lay his wife to rest.

God had blessed Abraham over many years of faithfulness.  He had great herds of animals and hundreds of servants that made up one of the most powerful, well trained armies in the region.    God had blessed him with great wealth through gifts from kings and the plunders of war.  Many of the wells for precious water throughout the region had been dug by Abraham and his servants over decades as they roamed the land.   Abraham and Sarah and all the people of their travelling clan had lived among the other nations for over fifty years.  The Hittite people of the region saw Abraham as a great prince, and Sarah was his queenly wife.  The death of this great man’s spouse was a very big deal to the Hittites.

When Abraham went to the gate of the Hittite village where business was done, the Hittite people gathered, eager to hear the famed man speak.  Abraham gave his request,  “‘I am an alien and a stranger among you,’”  he said.  “‘Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.’”

The Hittites replied, “‘Sir, listen to us.  You are a mighty prince among us.  Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs.  None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.’”

The Hittites gave Abraham, the princely foreigner, the right to bury his wife within the boundaries of their land.  That was a major victory for Abraham.  The people of each of these cities and clans held on tightly to their territory. Yet they graciously offered Abraham the right to choose from any of the tombs of their own families to take as his own.  They considered it an honor that this great man would have the grave of his family among them.

Abraham was deeply respectful of their offer.  He bowed down before the Hittite people who had gathered and said, “‘If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field.  Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.’”

Abraham would not let them give him a tomb for free.  If it came freely, they might take it back one day!  For Abraham, this tomb was a way of claiming the promises of God.  He wanted to establish a place in the Land of Promise that was the permanent resting place for his descendants, starting with the mother of the nation God had promised.  Abraham told the townspeople that he had found a piece of land he liked, and it belonged to a man named Ephron.  Ephron said to Abraham, “‘Listen to me, my lord, the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver, but what is that between me and you?  Bury your dead.’”

Wow.  Four hundred shekels was a lot of money.  In those days, a normal farm laborer might

make ten shekels of silver a year for his work.  He could work his whole life and never make four hundred shekels!  This was very valuable land, and Ephron had given a very high price.   Yet Abraham agreed to pay it.  He bowed low before the people to show his respect and thankfulness.  Then he weighed out four hundred shekels of silver so he could bury his Sarah in a place of honor and dignity.  Abraham had not only purchased the tomb, but all the land around it with a field of grass and tall trees.  Then he took the body of his beloved wife into the cave and laid her there.

God had promised Abraham the land, but the Lord had not given it yet.  Abraham had waited in faith all of those years, depending on God.  The first piece of the Land of Promise that belonged to Abraham was purchased for the love of Sarah.  By faith, he believed that one day, her burial site would be surrounded by the towns and fields of their offspring.

Story 152: Sacred Romance

Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12

Couple holding hand at sun rise

As Jesus finished His astonishing teachings about prayer (see Story 151), He moved on from the region in the north and worked His way through Perea. He journeyed as far as the region of Judea, on the far side of the Jordan.   Still the crowds gathered around Him, and He went on healing one person after another. Imagine the people as they watched His glorious miracles, the shouts from thrill and amazement as broken people were made whole! Imagine them listening intently to His teaching.  Surely nothing like this had been seen in Israel for hundreds of years. Who could this Man be?

In the midst of His bright, beautiful Kingdom work, some Pharisees came to Jesus. They had carefully crafted questions to catch Him in a trap. If they could get Jesus to say something that went against the Law, they would have a good reason to arrest Him.

It might be worthwhile at this point to consider what other choices these leaders had. They could have looked around at all the people who had been healed and rejoiced. They could have asked Jesus questions to help them understand why He was doing things that seemed to violate what they thought God wanted them to do. They could have bowed down in worshipful repentance before Him, just as Peter had done at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (see Story 37). They could have declared to the nation that He was the Messiah and encouraged the people to follow Him. But they didn’t, and that tells us a lot about their hearts.

Instead, they asked Jesus, “‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’” This was a question that the people of their own time argued over. It was difficult because there were different passages of the Old Testament that seemed to give different answers. But Jesus wrote the Old Testament, so it wasn’t a challenge for Him.

Jesus answered:

“‘Haven’t you read that from the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate”’”

Matthew 19:4-6

What a pure and holy ideal! What a beautiful truth! It was straight from the story of Creation. Marriage was designed at the beginning of time to make two souls one. It is part of who we were made to be as humans. In God’s perfect Garden, He brought Adam and Eve together for a perfect love. Imagine being a part of a romance where there is total acceptance and love that never fades.  Imagine a marriage where there is no failure, disappointment, or sin.  That is what we were created for.  That is why it hurts when sin and brokenness damage love…something in us knows that this is not how things were meant to be.  The Lord continues to call His children to strive for the goodness of what was meant to be in paradise, and He uses the challenges that our broken souls in this broken world bring to marriage to transform us.

But the Pharisees weren’t interested in pondering the good things of God. They were too busy trying to catch His Son in a mistake. Imagine the crowds of people as they listened to their elite leaders try to stump Jesus once again.   “‘Why, then,’” asked the Pharisees, “‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’”

Now they were trying to pit Jesus against Moses! It wasn’t going to work. Jesus said:

“‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.’”

 Once again, the Lord took the twisted words of the Pharisees and made them straight. The Pharisees were talking about Deut. 24:1-4.   In that command, Moses said that if a man divorced his wife for being unfaithful and she married another man and then he divorced her, her first husband was not allowed to remarry her. What a twisted possibility, creating confusion for families and children, wreaking havoc on emotional and financial stability, inviting jealousies and division at the very point where we are meant to feel the most united intimacy and security.  It was a detestable offense against what God meant marriage to be, so far from the splendor of the Garden!

The Pharisees used the very law that should have pointed the Jewish people away from divorce and towards God’s wonderful hope for marriage to justify divorce. Once again, Jesus held pure light up against the dark compromises of the Curse that were running rampant among God’s people.

Yet the compromises and teachings of the Pharisees ran deep in the Jewish people. Even His disciples were stunned by what Jesus said. Later on, after they had gone away from the crowds and into a house, they talked about it. “‘If this is the situation between a husband and a wife, it is better not to marry!’” they declared.  Jesus answered:

“‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the Kingdom of Heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.’”

Matthew 19:11-12

Wow. Jesus was issuing quite a challenge. When the disciples said, “It is better not to marry,” Jesus basically said, “You’re right!” In the paradise of the Garden, marriage was God’s ultimate plan to reflect His image. But many things were broken by the Fall. In the age of the Curse, there are many men and women who are called to be the Lord’s special servant warriors. They lay aside the wonderful gifts and treasures of marriage so they can live fully and completely for service to God’s Kingdom.   But humans are full of passions and emotions that God created for rich blessing in marriage. We were created for partnership, to become one soul with a husband or wife. Most people will not be able to accept giving up marriage. The power to accept a life apart from marriage is a sacred gift from God. It is part of a high and holy calling.  Imagine how it pleases the Lord.  Imagine how He blesses these set-apart ones with nearness to Him, the exclusive Lover of their souls.  Imagine the way their hearts are being prepared for eternity.  It is the richness of God’s Kingdom that the world does not understand.

As we look at the longer story of the lives of Jesus’ apostles, we see what a powerful gift it is. Men like the Apostle Paul had the freedom to go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel. When their lives were at risk, as they were beaten and stoned, and as they travelled all over the known world, they had no fear of abandoning a wife or children. They sacrificed many of the delights of this world, counting all things as nothing compared to winning victories for Christ and the greater glory ahead (check out 2 Corinthians 4Galatians 2:20, and Philippians 1:21-26).

As valuable as the men and women who give up marriage for the sake of the Gospel are to God , this in no way diminishes the goodness of marriage or God’s blessings and strengthening power to bring renewed love between a man and his wife. God hates divorce because He loves marriage.

It is interesting that this story came right after two stories about prayer…one was about praying relentlessly to God for justice, and the other was about praying with genuine humility and repentance over sin. For a man and wife, the desire for justice in the marriage and the challenge of having genuine humility about one’s weaknesses are great obstacles to loving each other for a lifetime. Jesus said that prayer is a powerful way to engage God’s heart and guidance.  Surely He will hear the prayers of those who come to Him like the persistent widow on behalf of their marriage.

Story 58: The Intoxicating Beauty of Romantic Love and It’s Dangers in a Fallen World

Matthew 5:27-48

romantic sunset couple silhouettes

Jesus was teaching the Sermon on the Mount. He explained what it means to be a member of God’s Kingdom. The key is found in qualities of the heart such as purity, mercy, and meekness. These rich inner qualities will show outwardly in the way Christ’s followers respond to life. Jesus demanded that the members of His Kingdom have a standard far higher and deeper than anything the world had ever heard before. It isn’t enough not to murder. Christ’s followers have to get rid of malice, contempt, and insults, too. The inner reality matters to God. He sees all of who we are, and He wants it all to be wholly devoted to Him.  He calls His children to love. It is higher and more pure than anything in this world because it is heavenly.

Through the empowerment of Christ, the thoughts and attitudes of their inner heart will change, and will transform their outward behavior in turn. When the law of God is lived out with such utter faithfulness in this world, the difference is so deeply beautiful that it exhibits the goodness of God.

The next thing Jesus taught was about sexual purity. The first story in the Bible is the story of how God created the entire universe. The second story is about how God made the first man and woman for each other. It’s that important. They were made in the image of God to have a sacred union. They become one soul, and their love for each other is shown in every way. They give to each other emotionally, spiritually, and physically. That physical union is something they cannot have with anyone else. And the amazing thing is, that union brings whole new souls into the world. The physical expression of love between a husband and wife is very powerful, and it was designed to be held as a sacred, creating act that is special and unique between each couple. It was given as a deeply rich, pleasurable, joyful gift from God.

And then came the Fall. The destructive power of sin became a part of life, and relationships between men and women became just as broken and distorted as everything else. And because sexual expression is powerful and full of pleasure and delight, it is gets misused in selfish, foolish ways that are powerfully destructive. Adultery is a grave sin, and God condemns it sternly in the seventh commandment. It isn’t because God hates the beauty and pleasure of the physical relationship between a man and a woman…it was His idea.  He just created it to be so much more. It’s like trading diamonds for bottle caps.

When Jesus taught about the right way to understand this seventh commandment, He said:

“‘…I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’”

Wow.

This is a very high, extreme standard. Only God Himself can know if someone is following it. But Jesus was very serious. He told His listeners that if their eye caused them to stumble into lust, they should gouge it out! If their hand caused them to sin, they should cut it off! Do you really think that Jesus meant that they should harm their bodies? Or do you think He was trying to show how  serious this command is to God? The Lord was using extreme examples of what to do to stop the sin of lust because He knew how deep and intoxicatingly powerful it is.

Jesus knew how brutally hard men and women would have to work to remain pure. This area of sin is so powerful that it has to be aggressively destroyed. It is not something that can be played with or indulged in. The result is amazing. When godly men and women stand in this honorable, dignified self-control and restraint, they change the world around them.

Imagine the impact that the lavish love that is possible in a marriage has on the children born into it.  What protective power and righteousness good men brings to their communities! How they preserve the safety and purity of all those around them! How protected and safe the women and girls feel when they sense the power of Christ in their leaders and in their Christian brothers! How different life feels for them when men are their protectors instead of their predators. What models of hope they are for younger men as they learn to control their desires in the power of God! And how powerful the example of godly men, purified in the manly dignity of self-restraint, to the men of this world who are out of control and flailing helplessly in the weakness of their sinful nature!

This world discounts and holds in contempt the importance of these things. But the world is wrong, and the evidence of it is all of the perverse abuse and degradation going on all around us.  The lies of the world are hurting everyone who follows their deceptive poverty of truth.  They learn to accept that infidelity, betrayal, selfish, limited love, divorce, and distorted, even abusive sexuality are not only inevitable, but the norm.  They forget to even hope for what their hearts were made for. Or worse, they feel ashamed and weak for wanting it.  The innocent suffer as well.

Just as salt awakens the flavor of food so that it can be truly enjoyed, godly, pure men and women awaken an understanding of healthy, right relationship.  And just as salt preserves, godly men and women preserve the goodness that becomes eroded and lost in a lustful, degraded world.

When an entire community is committed to the ways of Christ and is honest about the vulnerability that is caused by the intoxicating power of human sexuality, everyone can get on board to protect everyone else…protect the marriages of others, protect our own spouse through our committed love and devotion, protect the vulnerable from their own sin and our own desire to exploit it, etc.  A socially stable, secure environment with healthy boundaries develops from the collective faithfulness and love of brothers and sisters in Christ.

But when sexuality is treated loosely, when we are more committed to being gratified by a look or by being looked at, when we allow secrets to fester, when we demand our “right” to live out the patterns of this world that destroy ourselves and others, when we reject the ways of God as outdated, judgmental, or unnecessary, the followers of Christ lose their capacity to act as salt and light. It means we have already failed to mourn sin, to be poor in spirit, and to hunger and thirst after His righteousness. The purity of our hearts has been tainted. If we refuse to make the hard decisions of love for each other, we will have a compromised voice in our proclamation of Christ. It is dangerous, and Jesus made His solution very clear: Gouge it out and cut it off.  Wage war against violations of purity to create a place in your heart for the rich, sacred beauty of the deeply loyal, protected love of a Christ filled marriage.

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