A friend told me that the marriage covenant is between God and the people involved, not between the actual people involved. You know by now that I’m someone who wants to know God’s ways and conform myself to what He says, so I needed to look into this! 🙂
I’m so glad I did look into this. Right away I found that there is more than I had expected to covenants and the marriage covenant. This post is not at all exhaustive. I think it will be useful for me (as a long standing single guy) and useful for men and women considering marriage and also for those who are IN a marriage and could do with a refresher.
Marriage by definition is
- A holy covenant
- Initiated by God
- Conditioned on an irrevocable agreement and promises
- Oneness with an imperfect person of the opposite sex
- For a lifetime
- To glorify God
When I read this what immediately jumped out at me is:
- the marriage is initiated by God, and
- there is an opportunity for BOTH parties to come to an agreement about what each is going to do for the other, which is useful because different people have different strengths and globally there are different cultures with different expectations, and
- the marriage is to glorify God which means the couple has a calling and pulls together in the same direction.
Divorce (release from the marriage covenant)
Now… before we go too far and place people into life-long legalistic bondage, always bear in mind that if you are in a marriage where the covenant has been broken – through abuse or adultery for example – then your covenant is broken and (unless there is repentance and a change of behaviour) you are released from your covenant.
To know if you are released, you need to think through what covenant is that you made with the other person. A covenant is binding when both people keep their end of the agreement. It is no longer binding if one side refuses to keep their side of the covenant.
Abuse and adultery break the covenant. People do make mistakes in this fallen world, so we must be open to forgive but we must expect better behaviour from that time onwards. We can’t expect perfect behaviour, since everyone is fallen and we live in a fallen world… but we can and must expect the other person to get the help they may need in order to be able to keep their side of the covenant that you guys agreed on.
It’s also possible that a couple were immature when they got married and came in with wrong expectations. Things change or time. In olden days may have only lived to an average age of 25, women were pregnant with kids most of the time, families were big and they lived with the danger of dying from disease most of the time. Now in some cultures we have birth control and we might live to 80 years old with small families. Things change… so over time you may need to renegotiate what each other wants from the other person.
But still… at the end of the day what God says in scripture does not change… Jesus said that divorce happens because of hardness of heart… God’s basic plan is that we love one another…
What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar. – Proverb 19:22
”As in water face reflects face, So a man’s heart reveals the man” Proverbs 27:19
It’s a covenant relationship
God considers marriage to be a covenant relationship.
Furthermore marriage is a God-sealed Covenant for in (Mark 10:8, 9)
Jesus teaches that God Himself joins the husband and the wife together.
AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together (suzeugnumi yoked together as oxen and so coupled together as a team), let no man separate (put space between, isolate one from the other).
The verb “joined together” is in the aorist tense which speaks of a definite completed action (in context in the past) and active voice indicates He (God) actually did this!
The husband accepts certain marital responsibilities, such as the provision of food, shelter and clothing for his wife, and promises to care for her emotional needs as well.
NOTE: I think in modern society the details of the contract need to be discussed and agreed, rather than the man pre-suppose what he thinks he should be doing for his wife-to-be. She may have very different ideas about who is going to handle the money and raise the kids etc.
- This Jewish contract is so important that the marriage ceremony is not complete until it is signed by the groom and presented to the bride.
- This demonstrates that both husband and wife see marriage as more than just a physical and emotional union, but also as a moral and legal commitment.
- The Ketubah is also signed by two witnesses, and considered a legally binding agreement.
- It is forbidden for Jewish couples to live together without this document.
For Jews, the marriage covenant symbolically represents the covenant between God and his people, Israel.
For Christians, marriage goes beyond the earthly covenant also, as a divine picture of the relationship between Christ and his Bride, the Church.
in several other posts on this blog I describe different aspects of the Christ-to-church relationship which is a metaphor (example) of how a man is to be towards his wife.