Joseph and Monique

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One of the great errors of our day regarding marriage is the idea that the sentiments of this wonderful day are somehow lasting in themselves. But they are not. This is not to disparage the sentiments associated with a time of celebration like this, but rather to put them in their proper place.

When a marriage ceremony takes place, a covenant is being formed. That covenant is foundational to everything else, and this is a metaphor that works even if we extend it. Go down in the basement of a house with straight lines along the roof, and one of the reasons for those straight lines would be the straight lines you find down in the basement. The concrete is the basis for everything else, but it is not welcoming in itself. It is cold, and gray, and . . . cold. But because it was poured well, the lines in the living room are welcoming, and that living room may be decorated as warmly as you please, —with curtains, and cushions, and carpet.

These are to be enjoyed where you live— — but are a poor foundation for the whole. You cannot take the couch cushions, and the carpet rolled up, and the curtains, and then erect a stud wall on them. These things make the interior of the house livable, but they do not make the house stand.

The vows that are being exchanged here in just a few moments are not being erected on affection or sentiment. Rather, the sentiment and affection will be built over a lifetime on the basis of the covenant oaths exchanged. God is here, witnessing these vows, and we are here to do the same thing. All the affection and sentiment we might wish for are here, but that is not what we are witnessing.

You should notice this in the very form the vows take—in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, and so forth. These are all ways of saying “”when you feel like it, and when you don’t feel like it.””

With a biblical approach, our covenant commitments are a safe in which we may keep our affections. Our affections are protected by these commitments, and we may learn how to do this— — even in this fallen and sinful world—by imitating our God, who is a covenant-keeping God. He keeps His word; He keeps covenant.

Because He does, He provides us with the grace to imitate Him. The fact that we may learn how to keep covenant is the result of Him showing kindness to us, which is Him keeping covenant.

In the book of Hosea, we have the story of a marriage gone wrong, between the prophet Hosea, and his wife Gomer. This sad state of affairs was a metaphor for the relationship of God to his bride, Israel. In the course of describing this, the text says this: “”My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee”” (Hos. 4:6).

When we don’t have biblical knowledge about the nature of the world, and the nature of marriage, our tendency is to trust in the wrong things to sustain and keep us. We assume that our feelings will hold everything together— — but if we have the knowledge God offers, we know that our feelings must be held together. They do not hold anything; they are of a nature where they must be held.

What holds them is covenant loyalty. In the New Testament, the apostle Peter says something to husbands, and note again the emphasis on knowledge. “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” (1 Pet. 3:7).

This word is not just to the men. In the verses preceding, Peter gives the wives various instructions, and telling them to remain free of fear and so on, but then the word to the husbands begins with the word likewise. This links the instructions together. Peter tells the husbands to likewise dwell with their wives according to knowledge.

Not only must husbands know their wives, and wives their husbands, but both of them must know God and His ways. Fortunately, He has not left us in the dark— — He has given us His Word.

Joseph, in order to know a woman, you must study her. You must study her as a subject you love, in imitation of the Lord Jesus. Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. You are to love her, and you are to learn her.

What you must not do is what many husbands tend to do, which to assume that they know already, or that any necessary knowledge will come automatically with time. Not surprisingly, they are often surprised by things they ought not to have been surprised by. Many husbands are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge, just as we saw from the passage in Hosea. No, Scripture charges us to get wisdom — —with all our getting, we must get wisdom. Love and knowledge must be pursued.

Monique, you are called to be a disciple of Jesus also. You are called to a life of marital knowledge also. You must study your husband, imitating him as he studies you. Your knowledge is not the same as his—it obviously cannot be—but it is complementary and reciprocal. He initiates and you respond. He initiates in knowledge and you respond in knowledge.

The apostle Paul tells us there is a kind of knowledge that puffs up, and I am obviously not talking about that kind of thing at all. He says in the same place that love builds up, and I am talking about knowledge as love with information. Love seeks to know, not from vain conceit, but so that the gift might be informed.  

To the both of you, this knowledge is firm and straight at the foundational level, where God gives hard-headed grace, at the level of sacrificial concrete, and it is as welcoming as the hearth of Heaven, where God gives tender-hearted grace, and peace, and joy, and love, in the day-to-day conduct of your life together. With that said, prepare yourselves for a life of delight together.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen.

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