It is the central duty of every Christian preacher to preach Christ, and to do so in way that cannot be confused with anything else. Our normal procedure for doing this is to work through a portion of Scripture, expositing it, then drawing out the applications, and then showing how those applications point to Christ and not to themselves. That is our normal procedure, and it is the good old path. But it is not the only path.
In this message, the text will highlight what I am going to attempt to do, together with you, over these three weeks. We will then look at our current diseased culture in the light of a biblical worldview, and then we will turn to look to Christ. The text will therefore be the same text for all three messages in this series.
“And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do . . .” (1 Chron. 12:32).
Summary of the Text
The Word of God is given to men, meaning it is not delivered into the Void. In order to understand the Word, it is necessary to understand how it applies, and that requires exegesis of the times. A preacher who understands the text only, and not the culture he is preaching to, is a preacher who understands nothing that really matters. He is called to be a messenger between worlds, but he only knows one of them. He is a builder of bridges over chasms, but one who never makes it more than a third of the way across. The men of Issachar were wise, and they understood the times they were living in. They consequently knew what Israel ought to do. Because they understood the law, they knew what direction to go. Because they understood the times, they knew what their point of departure was.
Marriage in Crisis
Now marriage is a creation ordinance, established by God at the beginning of the world (Gen. 1:27-28). The Fall did affect it profoundly, as it affected everything, but we must distinguish ordinary marriage, damaged and dented by sin, from what our current full-scale high revolt against marriage is attempting. In our day, we are dealing with same sex mirage, we are dealing with the tranny-lie, we are dealing with the pornification of everything, we are dealing with the broad cultural ramifications of birth control, we are dealing the mainstreaming of pedophilia, and we are also dealing with the related crisis that this series of messages is seeking to address—the marked downgrade of marriage in conservative evangelical circles. This is evidenced by the nature of the misplaced priorities that are placed upon getting married by Christian young people and their parents.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age for “first marriage” in 1950 was 23 for men and 20 for women. In 1975, the year Nancy and I got married, it was 23 for men and 21 for women. Last year, in 2019, it was just shy of 30 for men, and 28 for women. And because the evangelical world is apparently a firm believer in “monkey see, monkey do,” the same trends are evident throughout the Christian world. When you factor in why this is happening—meaning our culture’s contemporary revolt against maturity—the thing has to be considered a dumpster fire crisis.
The Villain of the Piece
In the course of these messages, I am going to say some particular things that will rub the fur the wrong way, and this is going to happen because the evangelical world has generally imbibed a lot more of the world’s toxic unbelief than we think we have. There are many places where we think we are in the army across the way from the devil’s forces, but where the reality is that we are simply the stragglers at the tail end of the devil’s column. We are not against so much as we are behind.
“Worldliness is what makes sin look normal in any age and righteousness seem odd. Modernity is worldliness, and it has concealed its values so adroitly in the abundance, the comfort, and the wizardry of our age that even those who call themselves the people of God seldom recognize them for what they are.”David Wells, God in the Wasteland
So the villain of this particular piece is something I am calling “entitled egalitarianism.” This entitled egalitarianism has spread a form of soft feminism (called soft complementarianism by its advocates) throughout the conservative church. This neutering service manufactures beta males, and calls the end product Servant Leadership®. And this approach flatters and manipulates young women the same way Emma flattered Harriet in Austen’s novel, and with similar bad results.
To put it another way, the assumptions of feminism are not just a problem for us when it comes to the specific questions of women being ordained to the ministry, or serving in combat roles in the military. Feminism is a corrosive disaster across the board, in every aspect of human life, and the etiolated male response to it is the other half of that disaster.
Not the Villain of the Piece
The problem of devalued marriage has been noticed and discussed by many Christians. And one of the most standard responses is to ask, sometimes in a loud voice, why the young men don’t get off the dime. Now there is a very limited place for this question, but we are dealing with a massive civilization-wide crisis, one caused by our endemic hostility to genuine masculinity. You have never encountered any form of true masculinity that our culture does not consider to be what they now call “toxic.” This is not a situation where all the young men mysteriously got cold feet for no particular reason, but where everything else is fine. No, this is something that all of us are doing. And besides, if the entire culture treats the young men with contempt, why on earth would the young women want to have anything to do with them? In a biblical response to the crisis, one of the things that we must figure out is how to respect the young men.
Singleness as Affliction
But let us go back to the villain of the piece. Entitled egalitarianism is like the Dodo in Alice. “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.” This thinking has crept into absolutely everything. If you are obviously deficient in one area, you must be assumed to be making up for it elsewhere, because life is supposed to be like both sides of an algebraic equation, where both sides of the equation must be equal. Thus we no longer have cripples; we have people who are “differently abled.”
In a world where God designed marriage and family to be at the social center, if someone is single contrary to their own desires for marriage, this is not a “gift” from God—except in the larger theological sense that everything is in some manner from God. Paul’s celibacy was a gift (1 Cor. 7:7); Paul’s thorn in the flesh was an affliction (2 Cor. 12:7). The fact that both were in the hand of God does not change the nature of the reality on the ground. Belief in the sovereignty of God enables us to deal with our afflictions, which is not the same thing as confusing them with straight-up blessings.
So if you are gifted with celibacy, you are freed from distractions. If you are married, then you are occupied with your domestic duties. If you are single, but not gifted with celibacy, your unmarried status is as much of a distraction (if not more) than being married would be. That is, unless you are making a poor set of accommodations with the single state. Never forget that bachelors turn into old maids faster than women do.
A Cluster of Problems
Allow me to ruffle a few more feathers without resolving anything just yet. This is simply to maintain your interest in the topic for the next two messages. This is to pique your interest. Group standards can be dangerous—a guy who is not good enough for the best in your group is not good enough for the least? And the false chick flick doctrine of the “right one” is also a major problem—that is not how we understand living in the will of God. In another area, quite a few girls, and let us not leave out quite a few guys, do not understand what league they are in (Rom. 12:3). And we shouldn’t forget those parents who would care more about their kid finishing school than their kid avoiding sexual immorality. Career pressures are a thing.
But with all of this said, I do want to say on the record that arranged marriages would result in a whole lot of sorrow, sadness and heartache. That would be a really bad idea. But it wouldn’t be as bad as what is happening now.
Christ and the Conclusion of the Matter
Sons of Issachar don’t come from nowhere. They are a gift from God. And when they are given to us, they know what Israel should do. So successful marriages form in a particular kind of climate. Successful marrying-off is something that blessed cultures do. And so a climate conducive to biblical marriage is formed by a culture or subculture, not by individuals alone, and that only happens when Christ has given reformation and revival to a people. Try as you might, you won’t be able to grow orchids above the Colorado tree line.
This means we always come back to basics. Christ died and rose. Christ is therefore Lord. And this means that Christ is the Lord of all our sexual assumptions. And He has far more to say on the subject than the handful of things that modern Christians want to limit Him to. So believe in Him. Trust in Him. Follow Him.