Whom Should I Marry?
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 3 February 2001
Two of the most difficult decisions that almost everyone has to make in this life, apart from choosing to follow God or not, are deciding what career to pursue and which person to marry. Recently my eldest son had to decide which direction he wanted to go down career-wise and luckily for him he really only had two choices to make because there were only two things that really interested him: building and electronics. There are many who have absolutely no idea what career to follow and who virtually pull one out of a hat. And many who find it easy to choose what career they want to follow find out they were doing the wrong thing. Fortunately, you can retrain later if you want to, though it may cost you a bit of money and a lot of time. But when it comes to choosing the right partner in marriage, you cannot just dump someone you feel unsuited to, because to do so is to commit the sin of adultery which can cost you your salvation in the eternities.
Today I want to show you that many of the decisions we agonise over can be made so much simpler if only we would do things God's way. Every believing and obedient Christian has the promise that they will be led by the Holy Spirit to make the right choices in life, especially those which are important. And getting your marriage right is one of them.
If you ask the average person on the street what it was that attracted them to their marriage partner you will probably get a variety of different reasons from goosebumps to an unquenchable desire that they could not get rid of. People get married for all kinds of reasons - shared interests, sexual attraction, money, strong emotional feelings, or any number of combinations of these plus other things. Some marriages are arranged, some appear accidental. For most people it's a pretty haphazard affair finding your life partner though with the advent of cyberspace people are meeting up in the most unusual ways.
To these questions we me add others. How hard should I look for my hoped-for partner? Should I wait for him to come to me, or should I go and chase after him? How should I present myself - dress up nicely, put on an act, be seductive, try to be sophisticated, educate myself well in order to impress, try to get a lot of money to make myself desirable? Should I buy a fancy car to impress the girls or expose as much of my body as I dare to attract the boys? If you as a Christian are approaching seeking a mate in this fashion, you are surely headed on the road to disaster. Today I want to especially guide those who are single by showing you the way Yahweh, our Father in Heaven, has provided in this area of your life.
The problem that young people face today is that attitudes to marriage have changed enormously. Most young people no longer see sex as the act of marriage but as something recreational, and the majority view pregnancies as something that can be terminated at a whim. A century ago, when the Western world in particular was more moral, marriage was rightly regarded as something sacred and not to played around with. But what we've got to do is find out what God's view of marriage is as well as discover how it is he leads single people to their right mates.
Marrying for the wrong reasons is one of the easiest things to do. Some do so on the basis of romantic feelings, others on the basis of cold facts. Most try to mix the two together a little. Your average person today, believer as well as unbeliever, would probably tell you that emotions are the major deciding factor with looks, personality traits, and other things secondary. Interview anyone who is married and they will probably give you slightly different reasons. Part of the problem is that so many view marriage as casually as they do sex, namely, that it is something that can be ended if it doesn't work out.
There was once a very young woman who was young and beautiful, and had grown up in a small town. He was wealthy, an only child, 40 years old, and worked in his father's livestock business. Their homes were separated by more than 400 miles, and their eyes had never met before that day they became man and wife.
An old man was, who had worked for many years as the employee of the groom's father, was called to act as matchmaker. On the day he arrived in the young woman's town, he walked up to her, asked her a few questions, talked to her relatives, and then knew that she was the one to marry his employer's son. This old man "popped the question" to her father and then made arrangements to take her back for the marriage - and she willingly went. The moment the two sets eyes on each other they loved one another and settled down to a very happy marriage all their lives.
Does that sound like a dream fairy-tale marriage to you - something that could never happen? Well, it did happen, and it's recorded in the 24th chapter of the Book of Genesis. It's the story of Isaac and Rebekah. And what is remarkable about this story if you read it carefully in the Bible is that God was in control the whole time.
Now, of course, not all marriages take place in this way in the Christian community - probably very few, in fact. And this isn't so say that there aren't other ways that couples can find each other in the Lord's will. But what we do have to ask ourselves are these questions: Why is this story recorded in the Bible? and What principles about matchmaking can we learn from it? It was purposefully put in there by God to teach believers in all generations about the spiritual ingredients of finding a marriage partner.
There are five principles that we can successfully use in examining not only the story of Isaac and Rebekah but in many other marriages in the Bible and they are these:
1. Choose a Believer
Common sense alone should tell you that if you choose someone who does not believe in the same way that you do, or who does not share your same values, that you are creating inevitable tensions and trouble. Oil and water do not mix, and a rabbit and a fox would not make the best of friends. If you are afraid of heights you would be unwise to become the climbing partner of a mountaineer. A communist and a conservative wouldn't make good partners. You couldn't tie a husky together with a dachshund on a sled in the Antarctic. And a follower of Christ would not make a good marriage partner with an unbeliever.
The fact of that matter is that as a Christian nothing should be more important to you than your spiritual well-being. Time and time again I have met couples who had opposite religious beliefs who came to grief. Only the other day a man emailed me and told me the sorry story of what happened when he married an unbeliever. His wife has now gone because she wanted him to compromise his beliefs for the sake of the marriage. Abraham understood that well when he sent his servant Eliezer over a long distance to find his son a bride. It wasn't at all that Abraham was an overprotective or controlling father - he knew the lasting significance of marriage And Genesis 24 helps us understand why.
When Abraham gave his servant his orders he said most emphatically that he was not to find a bride from amongst the pagan Canaanites but only someone who was kin. The Canaanites were the worst kind of idolaters imaginable. I'm sure he could have found a wife for Isaac next door - there were plenty of available women - but to find the right one Abraham knew that he would have to go much farther afield.
The trouble with modern-day Canaanites is that they are not so obviously pagan. They can even appear religious in a positive sense, but being religious isn't enough.
The apostle Paul says quite clearly: "Do not be yoked together [in marriage] with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial [Satan]? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?" (2 Cor.6:14-15)
The issue Paul is talking about is not whether believers or unbelievers are "good", "kind", or "nice" because God has said clearly that all unbelief is wickedness. The only goodness that anyone has is through faith in Christ. Human judge goodness and evil relatively. God sees all men and women as evil because they are filled with sin. Only those who are in Christ, the only sinless man, are counted as righteous. The light and goodness that we have is all derived, meaning that it is something that we don't create ourselves but comes from God. The Bible makes it clear that those who are not trusting in the salvation of Christ and walking in His commandments are already cut off and lost. Their doom is sealed. Would you marry someone whom you knew for sure would leave you? At the resurrection the believer and unbeliever will be forever separated because they will belong to two entirely different resurrections. And those who are unbelievers will be single in any case.
In choosing a marriage companion we should be looking for someone whose spiritual direction we can trust. Recently we learned of the divorce of a former neighbour in Norway, and though I was saddened, I was not surprised. When I once heard him say that he wouldn't mind betraying his marriage covenant by messing around with other women I knew that that marriage was in trouble. I remember the hurt look on his wife's face too.
The Law of God not only advises against marrying unbelievers but actually forbids it because God knows that unbelievers will, with few exceptions, influence believers to compromise their faith. And those who "live and let live" when it comes to spiritual faith often drift apart - there's a big area in their lives where they can never meet and never share in the blessedness that comes from spiritual union in marriage. There marriage is never complete.
If our feelings towards another person lead us to trample on our relationship with the Lord then you have a sure sign that you are not in His will. God must be first in everything. And only when He's first will He lead you to the right person.
As you read the Bible you will find that time and time again a cause for apostasy and national destruction was intermarrying with unbelievers. You will remember when the Jews came back from captivity to Jerusalem and how the Lord had to rebuke them through the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah for their mixed marriages (Ezra 9-10; Neh.13:23-27) and later by Malachi (Mal.2:11-12). Love, lust and circumstances blinded them to what they knew was right and wrong.
It requires self-discipline to do so but just because someone is gorgeous, a hunk, kind and considerate or seems to be genuinely in love with you, doesn't mean that the relationship was right.
When I was in my early 20's I fell in love with a Scottish woman. Thank goodness it didn't work out because years later the Lord showed me in a dream what marriage to her would have been like - loveless and cold. She was very nice, decent, well educated, well brought-up and physically attractive. But the match wasn't right.
Of course, there is always a remote possibility to winning an unbelieving husband or wife to the Lord (1 Cor.7:12-16; 1 Pet.3:1-2). It does happen, but it's so rare statistically that it's a terrible gamble. And the examples that are given in the New Testament concern unbelieving partners when one converts to Christ. Nowhere in the Scriptures are we remotely encouraged to marry an unbeliever. Rather, we are told to avoid them like the plague, because that's in our best interests.
Feelings and physical attraction are only two components of the marriage equation and neither of them are the most important. Doing God's will is. And yet it's amazing how many people marry even when they know it's not right. All reason seems to desert them as they plunge into the swirling waters of chaos and hurt.
Before anyone gets married, they should carefully think over a number of basic questions like: what areas of conflict could develop in a marriage if the two are not believers? What sort of effect would this relationship have on the faith of their children as they grew up? Would you want your children to grow up seeing one parent smoking, drinking to access, swearing, mocking God, or being unfaithful? A little simple logic might save a lot of people a lot of pain and distress. Marriage is never worth rushing into.
2. Trust God
It isn't easy to wait for someone else to give you what you desperately long for. Marriage is one of the best gifts God has ever given and its understandably very attractive. No one enjoys waiting a long time for anything. But developing patience can help us develop the skill of listening carefully to God instead of our own unredeemed passions. The impatient invariably make mistakes, and in the realm of marriage it can be very, very costly. The Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf said: "The restless heart always takes the wrong path" (The Story of Gösta Berling) and I entirely agree with her. Only those who are calm, at peace, and prayerful usually make sound decisions. The passion of the moment is one of the worst guides to choosing a marriage companion imaginable.
The whole life is a process of learning to wait in dependence on others. Things rarely come how and when we want them to. It all begins when we are infants - we want our milk, our chocolate biscuit, our favourite stuffed animal, or a new nappy. We have to learn again and again that we can't have everything now. We have to wait for mother and father to provide what we need.
And that's true in adult life too. More importantly than that, we have to learn to wait on the Lord. You can't hurry Him. He provides all we need but when He wants to and how He wants to. And He always knows best. It's not an easy lesson to learn but the wise person learns it sooner rather than later. We discover as we mature that His timing is always best and that he has everything under control. For a man or woman who has an aching heart and longs to get married, the wait can be very, very hard. I know for sure that there are several people in this room who have experienced this in their own lives. And many of them will tell you that the things that come the hardest are often the best and worth the struggle and wait.
In the story of Isaac and Rebekah we can learn a wonderful lesson about trusting Yahweh. Abraham had complete confidence in his servant Eliezer to so what was right. He knew in His heart through the Spirit that this man would be led to the right woman. He trusted God to do it right. He was even given the promise that Yahweh would send an angel to guide Eliezer and that he would find a wife in that village. He knew it because he walked with God and had a close relationship with him as a faithful disciple. And that's why the counsel of mature Christians who know God is so very important even though the final decision has to be those concerned. Rebekah was not forced to marry Isaac but freely gave her consent in faith before she even met him.
Abraham was a living, breathing example of the truth of Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths". Abraham lived by faith and by obedience, and Yahweh blessed and guided him, even to finding the right wife for his son Isaac. A more caring and faithful father you could not hope to find, so much so that Isaac trusted him implicitly to do the right thing for him, even in so sensitive and important an area as marriage.
We can have the same quiet confidence and assurance in the Lord as the ancient patriarchs did. As long as we walk humbly, submissively, and obediently, we need not worry that we'll somehow miss God's direction about which way to turn. Just as Abraham humbled himself before the King of the Universe, so too we are to seek first the kingdom of God and He will take care of all we need (Mt.6:33), and that includes helping us to find a spouse. Is it any wonder that God commanded all Christians to do the works of Abraham? (Jn.8:39) The scriptures teach that those who truly believe and obey Christ are the children of Abraham (Gal.3:7). And do you know which three men in the Bible God is directly associated with? He is called again and again the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob".
When God delays sending us a marriage companion, it is not to torture us but to bless us. Sometimes people have to wait years, sometimes almost no time at all. What is important is to make what is probably the second most decision in your life right. God, marriage and career are the three most important, and in that order. Never try to find a "quick fix" for anything - it's not worth it, especially when it comes to marriage. Whoever you are, whatever your circumstances, God wants you to call on Him, walk close to Him, and wait on Him (Ps.27:13-14; Is.30:18). Be honest with Him about your desires to be married for the desire is good and wholesome. But don't lose patience and wander away from Him in your attempt to find someone to marry. It could cost you a lot more than a happy marriage.
If you are to trust God with such a big decision as marriage, then it follows that you must first trust him with the small day-to-day things of your life. Are you living in continual dependence on Him? Are you in the place and attitude where He can get your attention?
When Eliezer spoke to Rebekah he said very simply that the Lord had led Him to where he was at that very moment (Gen.24:27). He was in the right position to be able to receive God's instructions. We must do the same, walking in obedience to Yahweh, if we expect Him to lead us in the future.
Would you, for example, expect God to lead you to a good Christian made if you spent your days hanging around with people who don't have a good reputation? Where do you seriously think you would find a good believing husband or wife? In a bar? In a rock concert? In a boxing match? In a nazi rally? In a Buddhist temple? These questions may seem silly but you'd be surprised how contradictory some people can be. What about your own behaviour? Is a Christian man or woman going to be attracted by the kind of life you lead? Or are you expecting a carbon copy of yourself to turn up? Such people don't exist, thank goodness. Are you engaging in premarital sex with someone doing the same? Would you expect such a person to be faithful to you after marriage? And would the other person think you would be faithful? And are you prepared to remain single and chaste until He leads you to the right mate? If not, I guarantee He won't - you'll be left on your own to do your own rebellious thing.
Next week I will look at this subject further as it is so very important. In the meantime, I would like the unmarried to carefully think these things over. The investment of your time is more than worth it.
Click here to read Part 2
Martin R. De Haan II, How can I know Who to Marry? (RBC Discovery Series)
This page was created on 21 February 2001
Last updated on 21 February 2001
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