I recently noticed a sweet little summary of marriage in the Bible, that I had not noticed before. I like what it says and it gives me a fresh handle on some things I have been teaching and new things I need to bring out in my teaching. So, here’s a look at “Marriage in Two Easy Lessons”.
The passage which caught my attention is in the last book in the Old Testament, the book of Malachi, written by one of the prophets at the close of the Old Testament era. Malachi is a prophet who challenged the backslidden attitudes of the people in his day. Malachi was preoccupied with challenging God’s people, including the religious leaders, about the fact that they were going through the motions but were missing the core essence of many godly things. One of those things Malachi addressed was marriage.
I was struck by the way Malachi summarised marriage in two simple descriptors. Have a look at the verse and see if you can see the two key points that impressed me. Malachi 2:14 “the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously: yet is she your companion, and the wife of your covenant.” Can you see in that verse that marriage is described as both a ‘companionship’ and a ‘covenant’?
Here we have marriage in two easy lessons. Let me unpack these two lessons for you. I’ll start with the second one, since it is something I have had a beef about more recently on this blog.
Marriage is a ‘covenant’. That means it is something which God created for us. We didn’t invent it and we don’t get to make of it what we want to. It is a divine creation to be operated and explored by God’s rules and for His purposes. I have spoken out already about how people try to make marriage into a product of their liking. They may choose to have consensus instead of headship. They may choose to have shared roles instead of God’s specifications for their roles. They may choose to allow things in their relationship which God does not allow. They may deem for their relationship to be temporary and transient when God declares that it is permanent.
By being a ‘covenant’, marriage is not something we can tamper with. God will judge us, as He did in Malachi’s day, on the basis of how we have treated the special relationship which He created. We cannot get off by saying, “Oh, we decided to make marriage into something more modern and more acceptable to our cultural values.” That just doesn’t wash with God. Marriage is what He made it to be. Your wife is the wife of your covenant, even if you don’t know what a covenant is. Husbands must love their wife. Wives must submit to their husband. The husband must be the head. The husband must perfect his wife and rule over her.
When a man says, “I don’t go in for that headship stuff”, he is defying God and rejecting the gift of marriage which God created for him and his wife. When a man says, “I won’t rule over my wife”, he is denying the wife any opportunity to prove herself as submissive, so he is denying her the chance to be a truly godly wife.
At the same time, given equal weight in Malachi’s summary, is the fact that marriage is a ‘companionship’. Husbands and wives are travelling companions. They are privileged with a close friendship relationship. The formal, by the book, covenant relationship is not the whole story. A couple could have a correct ‘covenant’ relationship and yet not even be good friends. Malachi rescues marriage from that sterility by giving equal weight to the fact that the couple are ‘companions’.
I find that exciting. While I am a strong contender for the covenant roles and model of marriage, I am delighted with having a bride who is my life-long companion. To see that companionship role enshrined so worthily in scripture seems completely fitting to me. Susan is my best friend, my partner, my lover, my travelling companion. She is the one who shares the happy moments with me and who blesses me like no other.
Also, by bringing companionship into focus, we can look at those things which spoil the journey – such as resentment, nagging, contention, unforgiveness, neglect, competition, and the like. When we see those things come between us we know that we have a divine mandate to remove them. Susan is not just my companion because she is my wife, but she is my companion because God declares it so! I have no right to have her as anything other than my companion. When either husband or wife would rather be on their own than with the ‘companion’, there may be something that is spoiling the divine quality which God intends every couple to enjoy.
Now, two cannot walk together except they are agreed (Amos 3:3). So couples may have to work at preserving companionship, just as we may have to work at the covenant aspects of our relationship. We can now do both of those things with a sense of divine injunction and authority, and with the clarity that these are the two broad lessons of marriage.