The Wisdom of Marriage (Proverbs 18:22)


     
 Alexander Pope said of Isaac Newton, “Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.” Isaac Newton has been credited in discovering the theory of gravity. Many earlier scientists believed the Sun revolved around the Earth, but we now know that the sun is the center of our solar system. Every planet in our solar system rotates around the sun and is held in its orbit by the sun’s gravitational pull. The sun is by far the heaviest object in our solar system. The sun is 300,000 times heavier than the Earth. The lighter planets orbit around the heaviest planet. The weight of the sun places a gravitational pull on every other planet.
        
    The gravitational center of marriage has shifted in recent years. The new view of marriage is pulling people to a new gravitational center. People are changing their long-held traditional and historical views of marriage. We should not be surprised by this recent shift on marriage as we have seen our nation move away from a biblical worldview over the last 40 years. We are bearing the fruit of a nation that has rejected the straightforward testimony of the Bible. We talk most often about the change in perspective of same-sex marriage, but there have been many other shifts in how people approach marriage. People are getting married later and later. Most couples are choosing to live together before they get married, while divorce continues to be a legitimate way to solve marital conflict.

Our constant language of what we are against has obscured the beauty and gift of marriage. Non-Christians typically know more of what the church is against than what the church is for. They hear us being against a particular kind of marriage rather than seeing us being for godly marriages. We have been so focused on what we oppose that we have forgotten to cherish and treasure what we have in God’s gift of marriage. We must rejoice in our marriages. We must apply God’s wisdom in our marriages. The world needs it now more than ever.

The Wisdom of Marriage Choice

Before we dive into Solomon’s exhortation for a healthy marriage, we have to first establish the importance of choosing the right person. There are many marriages begin at a disadvantage because people are foolish in their choice of a mate. If you are not married, you have most likely asked, “Who should I marry?” If you are already married, you could probably help someone someday answer the question, “Should I marry this person?” As Christians, what are things that we should consider when choosing a spouse? Does God have any particular advice for Christians in choosing a spouse?

It is dangerous to preach about marriage in America. Americans love their personal autonomy. Even the Supreme Court this past week made a declaration that individual autonomy of a marital choice is a fundamental right. We are taught that our personal choices should not have any restrictions. We do have freedom to make our own choices, but those choices have consequences. We can chose to honor God with our choices or to dishonor God with our choices. The question is not whether we have freedom, but whether we are using our freedom to honor the Lord. The apostle Peter encourages the 1st century Christians to “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” We have freedom of choice, but as Christians our choices should honor God and be governed by his Word.

      First, Christians must consider if they should marry at all. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” (1 Corinthians 7:8). Singleness is not a curse, but should be commended, for those who are single have the unique opportunity to have a singular focus on the Lord. They are not bound by other responsibilities and can give themselves to the service of the Lord and His church. Singleness is a gift and should not be squandered with a constant longing for spouse. The desire to be married is a healthy desire, but can also dominate a person’s life, clouding them from seeing the tremendous opportunity that singleness provides.

      Secondly, if a Christian is going to be married, then they should marry a Christian. Christians singles should not enter into a romantic relationship with a non-believer. I have asked many young Christians that start a dating relationship about the spiritual state of their partner and many times they respond, “We have discussed that yet.” If you haven’t discussed it, then how do you know if you should be in that relationship? 2 Corinthians 6 is not explicitly about marriage, but I believe it is appropriate to apply to the marriage relationship. Paul writes,

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ” (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1)

Paul makes the biblical application from the Law that believers should not yoke themselves or intimately connect themselves with an unbeliever. This does not mean we should not be friends with unbelievers, but our closest relationships should be believers as they will encourage our walks with the Lord.

      Let me add a caveat. I know a number of marriages where one of the spouses was a non-believer when they were married and the testimony of the spouse won them to the Lord. We should praise God for his kindness for using those spouses to draw their partners to the Lord. And yet for as many positive stories we hear, there are countless others of those whose faith was shipwrecked because of the influence of an unbelieving spouse. And there are many others who experienced tremendous hardships in their marriage because they married someone outside the faith. We cannot base our choices on anecdotal evidence, but on the Word of God.

      Solomon is exhorting young men in Proverbs to choice a mate wisely, because he knows of the powerful influence of a spouse, 1 Kings 11:6-8,

So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.

Beloved, trust God’s Word in your marital choice.

Thirdly, Christians should marry only those who are free to marry. We live in a fallen world, so people are going to experience broken relationships. Marriages are going to end. Brokenness is woven throughout our lives. Everyone has been affected by divorce. We cannot escape its reach. It is a very present reality. There is a debate among conservative biblical scholars of what qualifies as a biblical divorce and a biblical remarriage. There were debates in Jesus day on what constituted a biblical divorce between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Although there is a debate, there are only two agreed upon reasons for a divorce in the Scriptures: sexual immorality and desertion (Matthew 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:15).

Before you engage in a dating relationship, be sure you are only entering into a relationship with someone that is free to marry. If you are not careful before you enter the relationship, you may find yourself in a very difficult predicate as time goes on.

There are many other things to consider when choosing a spouse: sense of humor, physical attraction, personality, worldview, etc. Bring your friends and spiritual mentors into your life before you enter into a dating relationship. Let them help you ask the tough questions so you can honor the Lord with your choice of a spouse.

The Wisdom of Marriage Contentment

     Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” Marriage is awesome!! Marriage is a good thing. God loves marriage and wants us to delight in our marriage. One of the reasons that the gravitational center of marriage has changed is because there are a lot of people discontented in their marriages. Discontentment seeps into a marriage in many forms.

Comparison – Comparing your spouse to others breeds discontentment. Even comparing your spouse to themselves 5 to 10 years earlier. Comparison can make us long for someone other than our spouse.

Unrealistic Expectations – This is comparison’s ugly twin. We often place too much on our spouse. We expect them to meet the demands of our souls that only God can meet.

Sin – We are sinners who married sinners. We sin against our spouse which can drive them away from us. We are sinned against by our spouse which can drive us away from them. We need to see sin through the eyes Christ. Jesus did not lay his life down for perfect people, but for sinners. Romans 5:8, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” We are called to treat our spouse with the grace they do not deserve. We treat them as Christ has treated us. God gives us grace to deal with the sin of our spouse. Yet there are times when the sin is so severe it cannot be dealt with alone. If you are in an abusive situation or know someone who is, please find help. We are here for you. You do not have to walk through it alone.

There are a myriad of different reasons discontentment can grow in your marriage which is why Solomon encourages you to delight in your wife. Solomon gives three long discourses in Proverbs 5-7 warning of the dangers of the adulterous woman. She is the picture of folly, inviting men into ruin and destruction. Folly’s call may come from a co-worker, neighbor, a website or a chatroom, but the call will come. How does one stand against folly’s call? It is easy to stand against it if we are delight in our spouse. We must be content with the good gift God has given us.

Marriage is a blessing. Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” God wants his people to delight themselves in their spouse because marriage is a sweet and precious gift of God. Solomon gives strong warnings to avoid the adulteress because she leads to death. Listen to the outcome of those who are lured to find satisfaction outside of their marriage.

Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. (Proverbs 5:5-6)
He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. (Proverbs 6:32-33)
With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life. And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.  (Proverbs 7:21-27)

The way of folly leads to death. Do not be deceived to think you will find satisfaction outside your marriage. This admonition is both for the married and the single. True intimacy is reserved for marriage.

The key to protecting your marriage is to cultivate contentment within your marriage or your singleness and rejoice in the good gift given by God’s hand. He who finds a wife finds what is good. She who finds a husband finds what is good. Marriage is good. Solomon makes his case in Proverbs 5:15-19,

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.

Listen to the words Solomon uses to describe one’s satisfaction with one’s wife: rejoice, delight, and intoxicated. The key to healthy marriage is to rejoice and delight in the gift of your spouse. Do you realize how amazing marriage is? Marriage is a gift and all good gifts come from above.

      The key to a healthy marriage is profoundly simple and yet excruciating hard. Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The key is a healthy marriage is oneness. God desires a husband and wife to be one. Contentment is a fruit of oneness. If couples work to cultivate a one flesh union, they will be content with one another. Marriages fall apart because couples drift away from each other rather than working to remain close to one another. Analyze your marriage with the “oneness test.” Do activities promote oneness or division? Are you “one” in your finances, raising of children, communication, intimacy, time, and/or hobbies? If you are not growing in oneness, there may be gaps of discontentment growing.

      Beloved, marriage is good. Guard you’re the oneness of your marriage with contentment.

The Wisdom of Marriage Peace

      Solomon wants marriages to be at peace. Solomon spends a considerable amount of time warning young men to avoid adultery because its pull is very strong. As men may be drawn away from oneness through sexual temptation and passivity, women are tempted to divide oneness with a critical, quarrelsome spirit.

      Husbands need to take responsibility to lead their marriage in peace. Husbands are called to lay down their lives for their wives to cherish and nourish their souls with the Word of God. Many wives become quarrelsome because husbands abdicate their responsibilities to lead. Imagine a husband and wife on a field playing soccer. An often typical response of a husband is take off his jersey and go sit in the stands. He stops intentionally engaging with his wife, but chooses to passively watch from the distance. Wives, on the other hand, trade jerseys with the referees and start blowing the whistle at their husbands.

      The lack of peace in a marriage is never one-sided. There is sin on both sides of marriage. And if marriages are full of strife, it will be unpleasant for both parties. Solomon writes,

A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain. House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD. (Proverbs 19:13-14)
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. (Proverbs 21:9)
It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. (Proverbs 21:19)
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. (Proverbs 25:24)
A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one's right hand. (Proverbs 27:15-16)

It is not pleasant to live with a quarrelsome wife. God’s desires marriage to be peaceful. Wives have to strive to be at peace with their husbands. Husbands have to strive to be at peace with their wives. Solomon talks often about the quarrelsome wife, but remember both parties may be responsible for the quarreling. Paul gives two main exhortations in Ephesians 5. He tells husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. I believe he gives those exhortations because those are the areas that men and women need to be reminded. Men need to be exhorted to love their wives and women need to be exhorted to respect their husbands.

      A quarrelsome wife may not respect and honor her husband. Wives need to work to cultivate peace in their marriage by addressing the discontentment in their hearts that spills out to discontented speech. But a quarrelsome wife may have a husband that is passive and lazy. The main issue is the “why” a home is quarrelsome. Wives, must first ask if you they are quarrelsome. And if they answer yes, then deal with their heart before the Lord. Lean on other women in the church to help diagnose your own heart. Pray and ask God for help to reveal the reasons for you’re a quarrelsome spirit. And remember an excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but it is not natural to our fallen world. If it was, Solomon would not say, “An excellent wife who can find?” (Prov. 31:10) A prudent wife comes from the Lord.

      If husbands believe their wife to be quarrelsome, they must first ask how they are contributing to her quarrelsome spirit. Wives may appear like the constant drip of the rain because husbands are not talking responsibility to lead their families in word and deed. Husbands may need to get in the game. A husband can help his wife by serving her in a manner that does not invite criticism. Husbands need to intentionally engage in family life so that the wife does not have to feel it is her responsibility to nag her husband. Husbands have to fight to lead while wives have to fight to let them lead. Be patient with each other and fight for peace.

The Wisdom of Marriage Power

        The power of marriage is the gospel. Husbands and wives have to view their spouse through the lenses of Jesus Christ. There are no perfect marriages this side of heaven, but we have the power through Christ to cultivate godly marriages. Every believer in Jesus Christ has been given the Holy Spirit to overcome the flesh and to live in righteousness. Jesus Christ died for sinners. God is not surprised by your sin. If you are struggling in your marriage, there is hope for you. If you are struggling with discontentment, there is hope for you. If you are a quarrelsome wife or a wayward husband, there is hope for you. If you have been divorced, there is hope for you. Jesus Christ died to pay for you. He is calling you to come to Him. He died that you may live. We all have failed in our marriages. We all have been discontented or quarrelsome. Our failures should remind us of the hope we have in Jesus. Jesus died for us. Our only hope in our failures is to cling to Jesus who has made a way for us to be reconciled to God. His grace is greater than our failures. And we do not have to remain failures because God gives us power to overcome our sin.

      The power that God offers sinners is His resurrection power. Christians can overcome temptation because Jesus Christ overcame the grave. Romans 8:10-11, “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” God will give life to our marriages if we trust in Him. God wants our marriages to be a reflection of the gospel. He wants husbands to love their wives as Christ has loved the church. He wants wives to respect and submit their husbands as the church submits to Christ. He wants our marriages to be a fragrant aroma that leads people to the gospel of grace.

      There will be much conversation regarding the Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage this past week, but our calling has not changed. We are called to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ through word and deed. Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, summarizes this well,

In one sense, everything has changed. And yet, nothing has changed. The cultural and legal landscape has changed, as we believe this will lead to very real harms to our neighbors. But our Christian responsibility has not changed. We are charged to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman and to speak the truth in love. We are also commanded to uphold the truth about marriage in our own lives, in our own marriages, in our own families, and in our own churches.

We are called to be the people of the truth, even when the truth is not popular and even when the truth is denied by the culture around us.  Christians have found themselves in this position before, and we will again. God’s truth has not changed. The Holy Scriptures have not changed. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has not changed. The church’s mission has not changed. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.[1]

Beloved, God desires godly marriages. The world needs godly marriages. We have a great opportunity to display God’s wisdom to the world in our marriage. Let us cultivate godly marriages so the world will see and savor the beauty of God’s wisdom.

Steven Brazzell

Charlotte, NC