Marriage - Part 4: The Covenant of Husband and Wife
The Bible refers to marriage as a "covenant before God." The word translated as "covenant" in the Old Testament comes from the word meaning "to cut." This is a reference to how covenants were made during that time. Clean animals were cut in two parts, and those making the covenant walked between them. This was a symbolism of the sacrifices that covenants entail and showed the dedication and commitment of both parties.
David Robert Reuben once said,
A marriage is like a long trip in a tiny rowboat: if one passenger starts to rock the boat, the other has to steady it; otherwise they will go to the bottom together.
Marriage Is a Joint Effort
Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:6 that, "Since they are no longer two, but one, let no one separate them, for God has joined them together." This entails great responsibilities because not only are you a representative of Christ, but you are a representative of your spouse.
Robert Browning reiterated this when he said,
Success in marriage is more than finding the right person: it is being the right person.
The Husband and Wife Roles
The word "husband" is actually an abbreviation for the phrase "house-band." By name alone, the husband is supposed to bind, secure, strengthen, and encircle his household.
1 Peter 3:7 says that,
In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat her with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life.
Matthew Henry stated it this way,
The woman was formed out of man-not out of his head to rule over him; not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him; but out of his side to be his equal, from beneath his arm to be protected, and from near his heart to be loved.
The Heart of Marriage Is Love
Ephesians 5 tells us that,
You husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God's word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man is actually loving himself when he loves his wife. No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body, which is the church. And we are his body.
Marriage at Creation
Upon the creation of man, God is pictured as noting man's incompleteness and lack of perfect happiness apart from woman. When God made woman He made her to be man's helper and companion. In the second chapter of Genesis, God refers to the woman's position as a "suitable helper;" this literally translates as a "helping counterpart." The word "counterpart" comes from two words. "Counter" means, "to act in response, move back and forth alternately, give and receive mutually, to be opposite in direction or position." The word "part" is defined as, "a distinct piece or portion that fulfills a specific function in the working of a whole, one's proper share of an obligation, performance, or participation."
The man makes up one side, the woman makes up the other side, and together they make a circle. The only way to fill that circle is with Christ. Without Christ, the circle is left frail, empty...hollow. Christ is the center, the very seal of the covenant. Without Christ as the center and seal, the marriage is no more than a contract...merely a fragile promise between two people. Hebrews 13:4 says to, "Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage." The word translated as "honored" means "being of exceptional value, precious, a high status that merits esteem and respect."
Martin Luther once said,
Let the wife make her husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave.
I end with a quote from Gina Cerminara.
Marriage is not for a moment; it is for a lifetime. It requires long and serious preparation. It is not to be leapt into, but entered with solemn steps of deliberation. For one of the most intimate and difficult of human relationships is that of marriage. Infinitely rewarding at best, unspeakably oppressive at its worst, marriage offers the uttermost extremes of human happiness and human bondage-with all the lesser degrees of felicity and restraint in-between.
Such a relationship then should not be entered into thoughtlessly, insincerely or indiscreetly, but advisedly, thoughtfully, and with reverence for God.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL 60189 USA. All rights reserved.