Plain and Simple

I’m a simple guy who likes plain talk and simple solutions.  I know that life in general and married life specifically, can get complicated. For married couples these complications or points of contention usually include some combination of financial struggles, children and their impact, substance abuse, infidelity, or just learning to live everyday with someone you thought was perfect (or nearly so) but have since found out is not.  Over the past few months Cindy and I have listened to a number of excellent sermons and attended a Christian marriage seminar, all targeted at helping husbands and wives reorder their lives and modify behavior in order manage all the issues.  I too have written hundreds of words and quoted scores of bible verses toward that same end, but honestly sometimes I think the solutions can become as complicated as the problems themselves.  So, if you will bear with me, I’m going to attempt to simplify and amplify what has been previously said and taught on the subject marriage and what steps we should take so that we “would love life and see good days.” (1Peter 3:10, Psalm 34:12)

We will address two short bible verses, one from the Old and one from the New Testament, they are:

“Therefore stand in awe of God.”  Ecclesiastes 5:7

“Submit yourselves, then to God” James 4:7

 A Christian, just like God’s chosen people of the Old Testament, is expected to live their life in awe of God.  As Solomon puts it in Ecclesiastes, it is how we are to stand before God today; because we can be assured that we will stand before Him in the future and be judged.  What is awe?  It is an attitude of respect brought about by a combination reverence, fear, and wonder, a response to who God is and what He does.  Now, you may have had what you might call an incomparable life experience, such as standing before the minister when you were married, looking at some marvel of nature or even watching the miracle of birth.  Yet, none of these can even remotely compare to standing alone before the creator of the universe.  “But I don’t feel that way, so what am I supposed to do, fake it?”  A reasonable and honest question for sure.  Solomon answers it by saying that it is by what we do and for what purpose.  If what we do is consistent with God’s teaching, as recorded for us in the bible, for the purpose of honoring Him, then our actions are acceptable and give Him the glory that He expects and is due, if not our actions are, “meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:16)

Solomon provides us Godly advice and wisdom in verse one of chapter five telling us how we are to approach God. The first is, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.” For the Jews of the Old Testament this was how they were to approach the temple, where sacrifice would be made on their behalf by the temple priest.  For us, there is no mediator required because Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for our sin on the cross.  The presence of God is no longer found in the temple or tabernacle but lives in the hearts of all who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  When we, as Christians, approach the “house of God” it is in the quiet of our hearts, as we pray, praise and worship Him either collectively with other believers or simply by ourselves.

We “guard our steps” by going “near to listen” to his instruction, by hearing the Word preached in church and by devoting time daily to reading the bible while asking the Holy Spirit to convict us of its truth and effectiveness.  Solomon also warns us not “to offer the sacrifice of fools.” A fool comes before God thinking that he can hide the sin that holds him captive and instead of seeking forgiveness and reconciliations through Christ; continues in his foolish deception thinking that he has done nothing wrong. (5:1) Do you go near to listen?  Do you confess your sin and ask God for forgiveness?

Solomon goes on to teach about vows made before God.  What exactly is a vow?  A vow is a solemn promise made to or before God.  The term is most often used to describe a promise of fidelity and love, and is why the term is applied to our commitment to each other in marriage.  Regarding your vow, Solomon warns, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty with your heart to utter anything before God.” In other words if you are going to make a vow before God, carefully consider what is in your heart and how that translates into words.  Marriage is a commitment made not only with your spouse but also includes Almighty God who binds you together permanently in this life.  Solomon puts a sharp point on it saying, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it; He has no pleasure in fools.  It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.  Do not let your mouth lead you into sin (5:4-6).”  The wisdom of God spoke through Solomon not only applies to the initial act of making a vow but equally important is continuing to be vigilant in keeping it and not allowing hasty words and a heart darkened by sin make you into a fool.

A final warning is issued by Solomon to those who want to go back on their solemn pledge of fidelity and love. It will profit you nothing by protesting before God, “My vow was a mistake.”  This invites anger from the Lord, instead of blessing and your protests will be meaningless as you stand before the awesome God, creator of heaven and earth.

Tool #259  Your marriage vow is unlike any promise you will ever make.  Once made you not only are accountable to your husband or wife but to God who made you one flesh.

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