Category Archives: Marriage

Imagine a marriage of liberty

Imagine a marriage of liberty.

He loves Jesus and prays through the power of the Spirit. If he sins, he confesses his sins to the ones he sinned against and brings his faults to the throne of grace.

His sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ.

He uses his mind and his body for good. He works diligently so he might have to give to those in need.

He knows how to wash a dish and do his laundry and go shopping. He knows what bills are due and how to pay them.

He understands the condition of his flocks and herds.

When there is disaster, he prays. His Father in heaven hears because he stands in Christ as an heir of eternal life. When life is prosperous, he gives thanks and bends the knee to his Father in heaven.

Imagine he meets a woman.

She loves Jesus and prays through the power of the Spirit. If she sins, she confesses her sins to the ones she sinned against and brings her faults to the throne of grace.

Her sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ.

She uses her mind and her body for good. She works diligently so she might have to give to those in need.

She knows how to wash a dish and do her laundry and go shopping. She knows what bills are due and how to pay them.

She understands the condition of her flocks and herds.

When there is disaster, she prays. Her Father in heaven hears because she stands in Christ as an heir of eternal life. When life is prosperous, she gives thanks and bends the knee to her Father in heaven.

His eyes catch hers from across the room. He goes and introduces himself. They talk about rationalism and irrationalism and textual criticism and colors and poetry. They talk of wisdom and flowers and sixteenth century Italian poets.

He thinks that she is beautiful and she thinks that he is handsome, but they aren’t trying to dominate or control or use each other. They are just dreaming and talking and sharing and learning what it means to love.

Sometimes they agree. Sometimes they don’t. And their love grows.

They get married, not because he needs someone to cook and clean and do laundry. But because he loves her and the yoke is easier if you pull it together.

They get married, not because she needs a provider and a protector, but because she loves him and the yoke is easier if you pull it together.

She has been hurt before so her natural inclination is to be guarded and closed off, but she opens to him because she trusts him with her heart and her body and her mind. She knows that he is in Christ and she is in Christ so she opens to him in love and joy.

He has been taught his whole life that he is to lead her and rule over her to keep her from getting out of control – but he knows that she is in Christ and he is in Christ and that they both have the Holy Spirit and the word of God, so he just loves her and longs to understand her more every day. He opens to her and she opens to him and as their trust grows their love grows.

She sins and she confesses her faults to God because she is an heir of eternal life. He hears her and forgives.

He sins and he confesses his faults to God because he is an heir of eternal life. God hears and forgives.

And they grow closer.

He still thinks that she is beautiful and she still thinks that he is handsome, but they aren’t trying to dominate or control or use each other. They are still just dreaming and talking and sharing and learning what it means to love, and doing it together.

Now imagine another scenario. Imagine a church that does not use fear to keep marriages together.

Imagine civil laws that impose no penalties on divorce.

Imagine that either the man or the woman could leave and divorce anytime they choose without shame, without penalty, without consequence (this is an “unreal condition” for grammarians. That means it does not exist, nor should it necessarily exist, but for the sake of this argument we are imagining that it exists).

Neither the husband nor the wife even consider divorcing, nor does adultery ever enter the heart – not because they are afraid of consequences, but because their love is so complete and perfect.

THIS, it seems to me, is what it means to be sanctified. It should be the goal of our marriage, and it should be the goal of our life.

To be made perfect in love.

‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Because sin and treachery are still in the world, we still need the sanctions of the state. We need to regulate and protect the weak from the strong. We need to punish those who act treacherously.

But that is not the goal of humanity, nor is it the goal of the new birth.

The goal is to be made perfect in love, where not even the least thought or inclination of our hearts even consider acting treacherously towards our God.

8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

1 Timothy 1:8-11

It should also be the goal of our marriages.

I can never understand why a man desires a marriage based on fear.

Why would you want your wife to stay simply because she is afraid to leave?

Perhaps our focus should be elsewhere as husbands. Perhaps our focus should be to love our wives as Christ loved the church. To provide the atmosphere together with your wife for both of you to prosper, to freely love, to plan, to dream, to live freely as joint-heirs of Christ.

Isn’t this what we were all made for? Why settle for fear and coercion when the feast of love is promised and offered to all who will submit to Christ? Learn from him, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

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“I hate divorce” follow up…

Sometimes I use this platform so I don’t have to keep typing the same thing over and over.

Several years ago, I posted about Malachi 2:16 “God hates divorce?”

And I followed it up here:

Every few years, someone brings up objections to my exegesis. If they are not reviling me (which is fairly common) I answer them. Generally like this:

Every translator translated it like I mentioned until the King James, and then they all followed suit. It became hallowed with use, but it, respectfully, is wrong.

The KJV also translated it assuming that the word “to send away” was an infinitive construct, as you do.

The problem is that the hebrew almost always uses the preposition “lamed” attached to the verb to indicate it as a helping verb. For an infinitive construct to stand alone without a preposition (as is the case here) it only admits of a very few uses, and a helping verb is not one of them. The infinitive construct without a verb is relatively rare in Hebrew.

So, when I translated this some years ago, I struggled with it. It was awkward, it wasn’t how Hebrew was normally used.

And then it occured to me – the 2s imperative has the exact same spelling and vowel points. Why do we assume it is an infinitive construct when the imperative is spelled exactly the same?

So I looked at the semantics that way

“Because” – or “that” (depends on context)

“He hates” – really can’t be translated honestly any other way – but I’ve read comments that say that it is a mistake, and the first person consonant dropped off by scribes centuries ago….)

Let go.

Run a quick search, with vowel points, on the word “send away” with the exact same spelling.

it comes up about 10 times, if I remember, and every time it means “set loose” send away, and almost always it was used by Moses while speaking to Pharaoh.

Thus sayeth the Lord “Let my people go”

Translated, let go, in this instance.

In Deuteromony 24 – the word to send away and the word “divorce” are contrasted to one another and not identical.

Quite frankly it just doesn’t mean what the KJV said it meant – other modern translations kept it the same because most evangelicals (those who buy bibles) don’t want to hear it. It is their favorite verse.

I know that I lost friends, lost church members, and was reviled publicly because of it. That is hard to go through.

But the Hebrew says what it says.

And thank you for the discussion. I have been reviled on it so many times, that an honest and intelligent discussion on it is a breath of fresh air.

Anyway, one other point – the “he”, which is the subject of “hates” can only refer to the treacherous man.

If it is referring to God, why does the Lord God refer to himself in the third person? Sometimes that is the case, but then it is clear that he is speaking of his triune persons. Here it is not at all that clear.

Also, if the first clause IS referring to God, “he hates”, then why does the second clause revert back to the treacherous man “For he covers violence with his garment…”

So the whole context – he is speaking in the third person of the treacherous man and then, all of the sudden, for three words, he is referring to the Lord God of Israel, and then back to the treacherous man.

It is just awkward.

This is why one grammar that I was checking on it posited that the “aleph” indicating first person must have dropped off in the copying process over the centuries and it REALLY says, “For I hate (to send away) – which, by the way, STILL doesn’t say, I hate divorce.

You would then have to change the infinitive construct to a participle to get it there and say, For I hate THE sending away – )

And that is closer, but still not there….so let’s make “send away” the same as “divorce”

For I hate divorce…”

And now you have something that isn’t there at all, but is repeated over and over and over again until it is believed to be biblical.

A couple of final points:

It matters. If you translate it correctly, you have not become a “liberal”, you have not become a white knight, and you are not, all of the sudden, against marriage and for easy divorce. Please try to separate what the scripture says from your modern social agenda.

What God hates is the treachery that leads up to divorce. What God hates is covenant breaking and hard hearts that sometimes makes divorce necessary.

What God hates is twisting his words to call the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent.

When you translate the verse correctly, you see God’s heart in this difficult passage. God hates treachery, violence, and hatred and he will come to judge the living and the dead. He is giving the opportunity for repentance, “Take heed to your spirit and do not act treacherously.”

To twist this around to “God hates divorce”, you turn it into a catch phrase to turn against the suffering and to send them back to their abuser.

“God hates divorce. So you have to suffer for his sake, just like Jesus did.”

Absolutely horrible and it really has to stop. WE’VE become the treacherous man that God is so strongly condemning.

Why do you think so many are willing to suffer so much reviling to get this passage right?

It matters.

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Men, women and sex

things on my mind today…

For those who haven’t read it, here is what this verse says:

4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Cor. 7:4)

When you read the whole verse, you can see something jump right out at you off the page. It is NOT saying that it is the woman’s duty to have sex on demand whenever the husband desires it. According to the text, her right to say “no”, or “yes” for that matter, is as absolute as the husband’s.

It does not say that the husband has a sex drive and the wife does not. It does not say that the wife has to put up with the lust of her husband and satisfy it or she is to blame if he turns to porn.

So, that being said, take all of your “Christian” sex books and throw them away.

What this verse means is this: God designed sex to be mutual, exclusive, egalitarian – the joining of two into one flesh. Two bodies, male and female, exploring, joining, touching, giving pleasure, receiving pleasure. Neither is “in charge” in the bedroom, for both have “authority” over the body of the other. They truly become “one flesh”.

Both the husband and the wife have equal authority when it comes to sexuality. This means one flesh, not dominance. This frees the body and the soul to explore, to love, to truly unite, to be free.

Explore this. Think about it. Learn how your wife ticks, what she feels, how she loves. Learn what her triggers are, learn what she fears, what she loves. Wives, explore your husband, learn what his fears are, what his triggers are, what he fears. What causes him shame. What causes her shame. How can you make the other safe in the midst of the greatest vulnerability there is.

When she is safe with you and when you are safe with her, then you can truly know what it means to be naked and not ashamed, as you were created to be.

For this reason, most of what passes for marriage counseling misses the mark completely. It is so frequently taught that sex is just for the man, and it is the wife’s duty to perform.

But, men, if the only reason your wife is having sex with you is because you are making her, that is not Biblical sexual morality. That is called “rape”.

If you are using this verse (the first part of it) to manipulate or coerce your wife into having sex with you, that is also called “rape” and it is the worst kind – cruelty under the name of “Biblical womanhood”.

True sexuality is not coerced, not manipulated, not used as reward for good behavior. True sexuality is not “for the man”. It is not something that the wife has to endure. It is mutual, joyful, fulfilling, intoxicating, loving.

But first, you have to pursue it diligently. You have to put aside all ideas as to “Who’s in charge, here” and simply learn to love her. Find out what makes her rejoice.

Women, if you have never enjoyed sex before, there is help available. If there is pain, if there is trauma, if there is anything getting in the way between you and your husband, this is not how God intended you to live. There is help available.

If you have never had a mutual, fulfilling sex life, there is help available.

Start with Sheila Wray Gregoire’s book “The Great Sex Rescue”.

By the way, men. Learning how to please your wife isn’t a suggestion. It is a command from God. When you obey this command, implied in the seventh commandment, you will be surprised at how much more responsive your wife will be.

A word to the wise is enough.

(Deu 24:5)   “When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.

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Filed under Marriage, Men and women, Sex

Marriage is not a cure

One of the most pernicious lies to come out of the “purity” movement is the lie that a young man can cure his ungodly lusts by getting married.

The damage that this has done to marriage is astounding. All false doctrine destroys in one way or another.

Young women are guilted into marriage, and the subjected to all sorts of abuse inflicted on them. And then they are denied any sort of help or relief, because “God hates divorce”, which isn’t even in the Bible.

So let me give you a interpretive guide. According to Jesus, everything in the scripture is for the purpose of increasing our love for God and our love for our neighbor. (Matthew 22:36-40)

So if you believe that Scripture is giving you a justification for marital rape, abuse, assault, neglect and any other forms of hatred, I am here to warn you and to disabuse you of that notion.

God hates pride, scorning, reviling and the twisting of sexuality into a weapon of hatred.

So, where does the idea come from that if a man is burning with ungodly lust, then he is to get married and inflicted it on his wife?

From this passage:

8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.
9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn. (1 Cor. 7:8-9)

Is Paul really teaching that self-control comes from pouring your lust upon your spouse? That cleansing and healing come another way than by the gospel?

Certainly not.

Paul is answering a specific question. First century Christians had a lot of questions about life and how to live now that Christ has come. Some early Christians were plaguing the church by teaching that really holy Christians didn’t get married. Others taught that really holy Christians were always married. Paul answers one of these questions, and then another.

In our text, he is responding to the accusation that he wasn’t really an apostle because God intended people to be married, and Paul wasn’t married. Paul is answering that accusation.

But he doesn’t want the “anti-marriage” party to have ammunition either. He is promoting love, not quarrels over the law.

So now, suppose there are two young people who have fallen in love. Both are believers. They can hardly sleep at night. They long to hold one another and live together as husband and wife.

And someone tells them that they can’t marry because…whatever reason they wish to insert here.

Paul is teaching them that marriage is good, designed by God. Sexuality is created by God and is good. A whole book in the Bible is about godly sexuality and how it is a picture of Christ and his church.

When we deny the right of  lovers to marry in the Lord, we are needlessly putting them at risk of fornication, but far worse than that, we are denying the goodness of God’s creation, teaching them that there is something about their bodies that is evil and wrong. False teaching about sexuality always increase shame and guilt and drive us into hiding, just as it did with our first parents in the Garden.

Even if they manage to avoid sinning against God, they are burning with passion with no relief in sight. It is like telling a starving man that food is a sin. It is not only wrong, it increases the torment of the conscience with no relief.

This is Paul’s concern. Let them marry!

He does not at all mean that a man who is addicted to pornography, violence, ungodly lusts and other sins can be “cured” by inflicting them on his wife.

There is only one cure for that. Repentance and faith and crying out daily for the gift of the Spirit.

Jesus died for us so that we might live. He did not die that we might continue in our pursuit of death.

Marriage is about love and unity, becoming “one flesh”. Sex is powerful and can become a tremendous weapon of hatred against those who are supposed to be safe. Love is safe, affirming, mutual and life-giving. Hatred destroys.

Don’t use the Bible to justify hatred.

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Male Headship again

I believe that the Scripture teaches that the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church.

I do not, however, identify with Complementarianism, believing that it, as formulized by John Piper, Wayne Grudem, et al., is a corruption of the Bible’s teaching.

That being said, it is curious to me that some of the Complementarian persuasion tend to emphasize the headship of the husband when it involves authority, making the rules, deciding all issues and demanding unquestioning obedience – but his headship is strangely missing when involving culpability.

For example, the male (according to many CBMW writers and bloggers) is the rational one, the one able to separate emotion from reason and therefore the one capable of making decisions. The woman is easily deceived, emotional, irrational, and therefore built for submission and nurturing.

And yet, at the same time, a male cannot be expected to control himself when a young girl happens to wear a sleeveless blouse. He cannot be trusted to dine with a female business colleague alone, and must be chaperoned when he is courting a young woman, and is excused from culpability in sexual assault if his victim is:

  1. not dressed right
  2. drinking too much
  3. in the wrong place at the wrong time
  4. straying from home
  5. bathing in the courtyard behind the walls of her home but visible from the neighbor’s roof.
  6. or being too attractive
  7. or simply being too feminine.
  8. or simply being a woman.

A man, according to some in the CBMW movement, is the natural authority and leader, according to nature and the Bible – unless it involves his own sexuality, in which case he is not in control at all. It seem strangely backwards to me.

In fact, it doesn’t take much research to see that whenever there is great sin involved, everyone is responsible except for the male in “authority”.

It seems to me that it goes back to the fall, with “the woman thou gavest me…”

And it also seems to me that the responsibility of headship involves, at the very least, the spiritual gift of self-control. Is not our example of headship Christ himself?

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Filed under Marriage, Men and women, Patriarchy

Born of the flesh…

Before Christ came into the world, God promised that the seed of the woman, which was to come through Abraham, Judah, David, and so on – would redeem the world.

For this reason, the genealogies were so, so important and the scripture is full of them. God would fulfil his promise, and the genealogies were given to trace God’s working through history as he brings forth the promised seed.

Until Christ. After Christ, there are no more genealogies.

What the Jews missed is the same thing that the modern patriarchalists miss – salvation isn’t in the family after the flesh. All that we inherit from the flesh is the corruption of Adam. All that we inherited from our fathers is the corruption of Adam.

Jesus corrected this way of thinking when he said to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh…you must be born again.”

Nicodemus, like every good Pharisee, looked for salvation in the genealogy, rather than in the promised seed. But our earthly families mean nothing if we are not born again. Not even Abraham’s physical seed would inherit anything if they were not engrafted into Christ (Romans 11)

This is why Jesus said that unless we hate our fathers and our mothers and our earthly families, and our own lives we cannot see the kingdom of God.

It is true that many of us “inherited” the covenant of grace by the teaching of godly fathers, but this did not come through the flesh, but through the promise of the Spirit (Romans 9) – but that is another story.

As Christians, on the one hand we appreciate and strive for strong, godly families. But too often, we look for salvation there rather than in the seed. We repeat the same error as the Pharisees of old. We are not saved because of our physical descent. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. God calls his people from every family – the traditional one, the untraditional one. Single mothers, single fathers, divorced parents – to show us that he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.

When the modern patriarchalists speak of the father as the priest of the home, they deliberately forget that fathers have not been priests since the book of Exodus. The priesthood was given to Aaron and his sons and from that point, no father EVER sacrificed for his family in a manner acceptable to God. God, by the process of revelation, pointed to only ONE priest, and only one acceptable sacrifice – Jesus Christ.

Our whole salvation consists of this: we are taken OUT of our families according to the flesh and engrafted into Christ’s “family tree” by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3-4) and thus we are children of Abraham.

This is not to deny the 5th commandment. As children, we heed all their good instruction and correction, as the Heidelberg Catechism puts is. And as parents, we are to raise them in the Lord, not according to the flesh. Our boast is not in our family tree, but in Christ alone.

Sometimes we hear “As the family goes, so goes the church. As the church goes, there goes the world. But this is a misunderstanding of scripture. Righteousness will never come by the law, even the good laws. This is simply works righteousness, and we fall for it because who doesn’t want a happy family. But the teaching points us to the law, not to Christ. If the family performs right, the church will perform right and then society will perform right.

This is no different, in effect, then Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, or any other ism.

This is a big topic, but one I’ve been mulling over lately.

It is why Jesus was born of a virgin. Salvation is in the promise, not in the flesh.

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The Banner of Love

I’m preparing for Bible study tonight. God reveals himself to us by his names. His name revealed in Exodus 17 is “Jehovah-nissi” – which means, “Jehovah my banner”.

So I am doing a study on the word “banner” and got sidetracked by the Song of Songs.

3 As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. (Cant. 2:3-4)

In the history of the church, it has been noticed that there is a parallel between God’s love for his bride and a man’s love for his bride. This parallel is seen in the Song of Songs. In order to understand it, one first has to understand the ordinary language. This is a bride in love, praising her groom and overwhelmed with his love for her.

She sings, “His banner over me is love.” “Banner” in this instance is a flag. It is used as the flag identifying the tribes as they journeyed through Israel, similar to state flags today. A flag is a rallying point, an identification, a symbol that symbolizes the essence of the social structure.

Think about these words. His banner over me is love. Run it through your brain for a moment. Think about a man and a woman in love. Now think about the basis of a marriage covenant. What flag would you put over your covenant that sums it up completely – Authority and submission? Command and obedience? “Two ships that pass in the night?” “Two separate flags” “The male flag held up by a tired woman?”

Or “love”?

Maybe a quick example. Most frequently in CBMW circles, you hear this advice concerning wives and husbands. “A woman gets her say, but if the man and the woman can’t come to an agreement, then she must submit to what he says.” It sounds like good advice. And I know that I am finite and can’t possibly exhaust every possibility, but I cannot, for the life of me, think of an example of how this would work.

When I ask, I get something like this. “He wants to buy a motorcycle. She thinks it is dangerous and a waste of money. They can’t agree. Eventually, she must submit.”

Hmmmm. I guess I see things differently. If the banner over her is love, that brings to mind another question to the husband. “Why do you hate your wife so much that you are willing to cause her so much unrest and unease over something so trivial as a motorcycle?”

Take another example. “He thinks we must homeschool the children. This causes her great anxiety and she does not believe she can do it. They do not agree. She must submit.”

Really? If the banner over her is love, why doesn’t he love her enough to listen to her concerns? Is she not also a believer led by the Holy Spirit? Do her gifts and abilities matter so little to him? Is his commitment to a principle so important that he is willing to sacrifice his wife on that altar?

Do you see where I am going? It changes the question from authority and submission to one of love.

And a simple reading of the Song of Songs will show that true love of a woman is not the same thing as love for a pet or love for a possession. Love is not the attachment one has to property, but value, honor, respect, attraction, desire, longing. It upholds personhood and dignity, choice and opinion. Love desires communication and connection.

And when we have this straight, we have a tiny glimpse into who God is and what Christ has done for us. He also longs for us as we long for him. His banner over ME is love. And yes, this love changes my nature and my affections so that I more and more die unto sin because I know that my beloved hates it. But that is not the same as “authority/submission”. That dynamic was the dynamic of the Old Covenant, which was broken (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

And so, as the great Song prophesied, the Groom comes for his Bride, and his banner over us is love.

Like marriage, this dynamic changes everything.

How you think of your marriage will affect how you think of Jesus. How you think of Jesus will affect how you think of marriage. They go together.

And the question for both is this: Whom do you truly love? Yourself, or your wife?

Yourself, or Jesus Christ. Is your faith simply a love affair that you are having with your own sense of superiority? Or is it a living faith in a living savior? Do you long for the coming of the bridegroom, or are you more concerned about losing your position and your social status.

It’s something to think about, anyway.

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The Woman and the Vow

Having heard yet again that Numbers 30 teaches that every woman is under a “covenant head” who has absolute authority over every decision she makes, I decided to correct that and draw your attention to the text itself.

Before my meager comments, I would suggest that you read the passage for yourself. I’ll wait.

Now, you may have heard it taught that this means that a woman under her father’s headship until she is married and then that transfers to her husband. You may have heard it said that this teaches that a father can annul a marriage or a credit application or a rental agreement.

You may have heard that it teaches a thing called “covenantal headship”, even though the scripture only speaks of Adam and Christ as covenant heads.

But a simple reading of the passage shows that it teaches no such thing.

First, notice that it is said twice that it refers to young women still at home, or married women. God specifically, by name, excludes widows and divorced or otherwise single women, (verse 9-10; verse 16) assuming that they have enough wisdom and understanding to make their own vows. They are bound to their vows, which shows that God values the voice of a woman far more than most patriarchialists.

Second, this is a passage that has to do with vows. A vow had a specific religious meaning in scripture. To quote from Nelson’s dictionary (or any other bible dictionary you might have),

A vow is “a solemn promise or pledge that binds a person to perform a specified act or behave in a certain manner….All vows were made to God as a promise in expectation of his favor (Gen. 28:20) or in thanksgiving for his blessing (Psalm 119:12-14)…Vowing is joyful worship in faith and love (Psalm 61:4-5, 8)”

In other words, a vow is a specific act of worship. The whole point of Numbers 30 (and you can also look at Eccl. 5:4-6) is that when one makes a vow, one is bound to perform it, for God has no pleasure in fools. This is important to remember. Look again at Numbers 30 verse 2 for the context of what I am about to say.

Scripture gives several examples of these kinds of vows. Jacob took one. Jephthah took a foolish one. Even the Apostle Paul took a vow and traveled to Jerusalem to perform it (Acts 18:18). A vow is a specific act of worship and devotion.

But there is one example of a vow taken by a woman married to a husband that would be very helpful to analyze for this discussion. Hannah took a vow that if the Lord opened her womb, she would dedicate the child to the Lord to serve in the Temple every day of his life (1 Sam. 1). It was a vow of faith by a woman who was a prophet. In her mouth and in her heart, she longed for a redeemer to come out of Zion and she knew somehow that the child that the Lord would give her would lead to that end (See her song in 1 Sam. 2).

This was a vow of worship made by a woman of faith, who was also living with a husband, Elkanah. This would be a direct application of Numbers 30. So let’s look at it from that perspective.

A vow made in the temple before the Lord is a serious thing, and Hannah is bound to perform it. But the vow also involved Elkanah. After all, it was his child as well. Suppose he was furious, and absolutely refused to give his son to the Lord. That would be his right to do so. Vows, after all, were voluntary. If Elkanah was adamantly opposed to the vow, this could cause great trouble to Hannah.

What could she do? She could infuriate, disappoint, frustrate, anger her husband and live with the consequences, or she could go back on her vow and disobey God – which, as we have said, is an offense that God does not take lightly.

It would seem that she would be in a horrible mess.

And this is where Numbers 30 comes in. If the woman is still under her father’s roof, or has a husband, her vow does not just affect her. If the father or husband refuse, she is no longer bound to her vow. God accepts her and loves her and honors her and wants her to be at peace in her home.

It is interesting that God does not forbid women from making vows. He assumes that she has property and goods and strength and the ability to keep the vow. He doesn’t even teach that she should “check with her husband first”.

God cares for the wives and daughters, who are in  his image and also called to have dominion. He honors their voice and their worship; he accepts their sacrifices of praise and he hears and honors their vows. They are called to take that very seriously.

But God also knows that a vow – since it usually involved money, goods, livestock or perhaps even children – also affected the husband or the father. If he was of the possessive sort or simply did not want to give up the goods, she was no longer bound, but free.

For God would have us be free, not in bondage.

On another note, since the Temple worship and the sacrifices and priesthood involved with it all are no longer part of the worship of God, having been abolished by Christ, the vow as practiced by Israel no longer applies. But we can still live in peace and freedom which is what God would have of us.

Never let anyone bring you back under the yoke of bondage, no matter how many letters they have on their name.

And one more thing, it is very beneficial to read the scripture for yourselves and see if it actually says what you have been told it says. Don’t be threatened by credentials. You also are led by the spirit. Search the scriptures, and see if these things be so (Acts 17:11).

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Filed under Marriage, Men and women, Patriarchy

Divorce and Tempting God

Today I am preparing for a Bible Study on the sixth commandment. I am looking at our Heidelberg Catechism, question 105:

105. What does God require in the sixth commandment?

That I do not revile, hate, insult or kill my neighbor either in thought, word, or gesture, much less in deed, whether by myself or by another, but lay aside all desire of revenge; moreover, that I do not harm myself, nor willfully run into any danger. Wherefore also to restrain murder the magistrate is armed with the sword.

I am specifically thinking about that phrase, “nor willfully run into any danger.” The footnote refers us to Matthew 4:7. To understand my point here, I would like to look at the whole context, and then see what Jesus is teaching us.

5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,
6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:`He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and,`In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again,`You shall not tempt the LORD your God.‘”
(Matt. 4:5-7 NKJ – emphasis mine)

Jesus answers the devil’s temptation by referring to scripture. The devil sought to convince Jesus to throw himself down. “Doesn’t the bible say that God will give his angels charge over you? Doesn’t the bible say that God will not allow any harm to come to you? Prove it. Throw yourself down. Be reckless. Put God to the test.”

And Jesus answered “Thou shalt not put the Lord God to the test.” (This is what “tempt the Lord your God” means).

By willfully putting himself in danger, demanding that God protect him, Jesus would be acting sinfully, just like Israel did in the wilderness.

And yet, this is the counsel that thousands and thousands of pastors and counselors give to women and children living in dangerous conditions.

I heard again today of a woman who has lost her Christian friends and her Church because she fled her abusive husband and filed for divorce. He is in prison for his horrible sins towards her and her children. He threatened her. She believed him. She told her counselor. He told her to return to her husband, that it might be necessary to “suffer a season”. But by her “meek and quiet spirit” she will redeem her husband.

The violence is not under question. So many men are in prison for their violence towards their wives and children, but the wives end up driven from the church anyway. They were commanded to put God to the test and refused to do so, and were punished for it.

When you hear this counsel, have the courage to say what Jesus said, “It is written, you shall not tempt the Lord your God.”

Wisdom dictates that a fool returns to his folly as a dog to his vomit. A violent man remains violent. A promiscuous man remains promiscuous. A murderer remains a murderer.

Can God grant new birth and new life? Of course he can. But thou shalt not put him to the test. Can God use suffering for our good? Of course he can, but thou shalt not put him to the test. Can God protect us from evil men? Of course he can. But thou shalt not put him to the test.

Repentance and faith are free gifts given from God’s mercy alone. They don’t come on demand. You must not willfully put yourself into danger and put God to the test.

When you tell someone to put themselves into danger in order to uphold your idolatry of marriage, you are violating the 6th commandment.

God despises murder of every kind. Your life is valuable to him. He is not cruel and is not capricious. He will not have you killed to uphold another man’s desire to build a kingdom for himself.

If you are in danger, please seek help. If you are in a place where you are commanded to put God to the test, resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Such counsel does not come from the Holy One.

Domestic violence hotline: 1-800-799-7233

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As Christ loved the Church…

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Eph 5:25)

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1Pe 3:7)

There is a growing problem among young men today. Pornography is so available that a large majority of men are not able to love a real woman, even physically. A young woman is simply an object, whose sole purpose of existing is to cater to a man’s whims and moods. A real woman is to be understood and loved, and this is too much to ask for today’s young man.

It is easier to drop out of reality, turn on the screen and love a fantasy, which is simply another word for loving yourself.

This is not love.

Men have become perpetual children, demanding and petulant. A woman is seen as an impersonal collection of various body parts, designed to be used until she has no more to give – and then discarded.

A child demands sex; a man longs for intimacy. A child refuses to give anything; a man gives his heart.

So the streets and the clubs and the bars are filled with children, demanding satisfaction, searching for their next toy to use and destroy.

Some young men seek marriage, but are unwilling to give their heart. They play with a woman’s heart until they “find the right one” and then they inadvertently “fall in love” – Cupid’s next victims. But a victim of Cupid is a victim, not a man. He was not strong enough to choose a wife; he was not strong enough to love the one he chose. He simply allowed the currents of desire to carry him this way and that. He falls in love. He falls out of love. He leaves behind him the wreckage of broken and hurting young women who were naïve enough to believe him when he said, “I love you”.

This also is not love.

The question that I have for you is this: Are you strong enough to love a woman?

Are you strong enough to love your wife as Christ loved the church?

Are you strong enough to live with her with understanding; or do you simply wish to never be inconvenienced, smashing the vessel of her heart on the floor like a cantankerous child?

Are you strong enough to protect her heart? To never do anything that would damage her reputation?

Would you rather die yourself than do the least thing to damage the soul of the one you love?

Are you strong enough to ask forgiveness? Courageous enough to call her lovingly to repentance?

Are you bold enough to reconcile?

Are you strong enough to turn off the television and listen to her?

Do you understand her fears, her desires, her longings? Do you have the courage to hear her?

Do you have the courage to open up your heart to her?

Do you have the courage to talk to her about your fears, your desires and your longings?

Do you have the courage to admit that it is not good for you to be alone?

A child desires a mother. A man seeks a wife.

A mother is a tremendous blessing for a child. She nurtures, feeds, cleans, bathes and provides for the child’s every need.

But a mother is not a wife.

Are you strong enough to leave your mother and your father and cleave to your wife?

It is a great calling – but most are not strong enough, courageous enough or man enough to take a wife.

It is easier to turn on the computer and fantasize about pixels of ink, rather than love a woman, so most choose the fantasy.

They do not know that it is for their life.

But a woman desires a man.

A man is strong enough to give himself for his wife. He demands nothing; gives everything.

He is strong enough to make her place in his heart safe; he is strong enough to win her heart and trustworthy enough to keep it.

He is courageous enough to hear the question “What are you thinking?” and actually understand it and answer it.

He is courageous enough to hold her in his arms and wipe away her tears.

He is strong enough to see when she is at her end, and cook a meal, do the dishes, watch the kids, clean the house and still have enough left to hold her and pray for her and know the right things to say.

He is strong enough to understand her, without resentment, bitterness, impatience or rage. If he is a man, the understanding will come in time.

He is strong enough to forsake all others and cleave unto his wife.

He doesn’t whine and complain when there is dust on the windowsill or dinner is late – these are the actions of a child, not a man.

He has nothing to prove; he will not hide behind a façade of bluster and words; he never has to be the “man of the house” nor the “king of the castle”.

He is strong enough to take the lowest place; be the servant of all; wash the dirty feet himself.

For he is strong enough to know that being a leader doesn’t mean being the boss.

A child tells everyone what to do. A man leads the way by being the servant of all.

A man is strong enough to set his wife as a seal upon his heart, as a seal upon his arm:

For a man knows that love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. (Sol 8:6)

A man is strong enough to keep the flame going; bold enough to never play with a woman’s heart; courageous enough to never use a woman as a toy to be discarded at whim.

A man is one who trusts the Lord with his whole heart. He therefore does not seek proof of his manhood on the earth, for it is safe with his Lord.

The man who trusts the Lord is ready for a wife; for a man who trusts the Lord has nothing to prove to anyone.

Only then he is ready to love a woman.

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Filed under Love, Marriage, Men and women