When couples are struggling to keep their marriage from crumbling around them, it often comes as a surprise to those around them when it finally comes out. Not members of their household, but friends, neighbors, relatives, even best friends are often kept in the dark until it is impossible to hide any longer. I don’t know if it is because of shame or just the fear of having failed at one of life’s most precious and important endeavors. For the Jews who were going about the business of rebuilding the altar of worship and sacrifice, they too feared what the reaction by their neighbors might be, but, “Despite their fear of the people around them, they built the altar on its foundation (Ezra 3:3).” Fear of how others might react, fear of failure and the fear making a mistake in the process can be a real deterrent or hindrance to the rebuilding process. However, just as the Israelites learned, wives and husbands have been given a formula for success in restoring their relationship with each other and with God.
This formula can be found in verses 4 and 5 of chapter three of Ezra’s account. The first is that we are to do what is “in accordance with what is written.” The Jews were not without a plan or blue print, anymore than we are today. The plan is plainly set out in the Word of God and the words of our Lord and His Apostles. All that is required of us is to read and listen to what is being said and follow His instructions. God’s word is often referred to by some as a guiding principle or even collection helpful suggestions, with no more weight or authority than some self-help book written by a philosopher or ethicist. Nothing could be further from the truth. The bible is the word of GOD and as such, free of contradiction or error. It can be relied on to provide ultimate truth and teachings that will always provide the right solution at the right time. It is best summarized by the apostle John, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1).” John goes on to teach that the Word was made manifest in the Lord Jesus Christ, “He was with God in the beginning (v. 2).” For a time, the Word became flesh and lived among us, in the person of Jesus Christ.
Ezra continues saying that the Israelites then did what was “required and prescribed for each day.” Anyone who has gone through treatment for what is often called “lifestyle” diseases, such as obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure, knows that if they wish to get better and restore themselves to health, then they must do what is required and prescribed. If they choose to delay or are unfaithful in following the regiment, then the treatment will be ineffective and the outcome will be less than successful. In fact, it most likely will lead to an early death. The treatments required and prescribed in the Word to restore spiritual health to a marriage, that is ill due to an unhealthy lifestyle, requires the same kind of discipline and if ignored will lead to an early death of the relationship.
The third element in God’s formula, presented to us by Ezra, is that what we offer to each other and to God must be “a freewill offering.” God created each us with freewill, which means that we have been given the ability to choose the direction we will take and the steps to get us there. God provided us a map or plan but how we get to where we are going and the final destination is in our hands and is our responsibility. The same can be said of a marriage, whether or not it is to be fruitful and sustained is up to us and dependent on the choices we make along the way. Now God could have created us in such a way that we would have no choice but to obey him but how would that be to His glory? We give glory to God when we choose him instead of the alternatives the world places in front of us. His greatest glory is when we choose to place our trust in His Son, Jesus and follow Him. The offering and sacrifices we make for our wife or husband must also be done freely and not begrudgingly or having been coerced by our circumstances. They are to be given and made out of love, the sacrificial love that God showed us by sending His Son to make the ultimate offering and sacrifice for us at the altar, the cross of Christ.
The apostle Peter explains for us specifically how these offering are to be given and what sacrifices need to be made in order to grow and sustain a marriage. We will look to Peter tomorrow for answers.
Tool #274 Learn what has been written, do what is required and prescribed by God, and make it a freewill offering. This is the formula for success in marriage.