Cultivating Your Marriage
We’re just over half way through our study of the ancient, yet incredibly relevant, book of Proverbs. The primary theme of Proverbs is wisdom, but the wisdom of Proverbs (and the Bible) has nothing to do with IQ or life experience, though those are good and helpful. Rather, this wisdom finds it source in letting the living God be the living God to you in every corner of your life (cf 1:7). Today we get to what Proverbs says about cultivating your marriage.
We’re just over half way through our study of the ancient, yet incredibly relevant, book of Proverbs. The primary theme of Proverbs is wisdom. The wisdom of Proverbs (and the Bible) has nothing to do with IQ or life experience, though those are good and helpful. Rather, this wisdom finds it source in letting the living God be the living God to you in every corner of your life (cf 1:7). If you’re just joining us, we have spent the last two weeks carefully walking through the biblical foundation of marriage, gender, husband and wives. You can listen to those sermons (or read the notes) online HERE as helpful background for todays sermon. Today we get to what Proverbs actually says about marriage.
Recap: One of the things that we have seen is that we can only understand the covenant of marriage in light Jesus’ covenant with his people, the church. Marriage was not man’s idea nor the result of random, blind, impersonal forces of nature. Marriage is God’s idea. The scriptures show us that God created marriage (Eph 5:22f) to serve as a living drama of Jesus’ unchanging, covenant-keeping love with his people. Just as Jesus came to sacrificially love, protect and provide for his people, so husbands are to love their wives. Just as the church responds to Jesus with free, glad, helpful trust and submission, so wive are to submit to their husbands. As we’ve seen, this submission is not slavish, coerced, and cowering. Rather, biblical submission is a life-giving posture of affirmation, love, and respect of your husband, while trusting Jesus. Together, marriage becomes a living parable of the gospel, breathing and walking around. Marriages like this serve as a window into restored and redeemed humanity, in Christ.
Q#1: HOW DOES PROVERBS DESCRIBE HUSBANDSAND WIVES?
Wives (cf Pr 31:10-31)
Proverbs 31 is the climax of the book, a praise of the excellent wife (= “strong woman). She is offered up here as a role model.
How? Works hard. Helps poor. Fearless re: future. Speaks wisely. Helps family. Yet, importantly, even though she is busy, working and getting a lot done it is important to highlight that she is not competing w/ her husband, nor domineering nor dominating. “She is not going through an identity crisis over sexual politics. She is beyond that.” What is the pinciple here? Did you see it? She is giving herself away to her family and community selflessly.
Couple things to keep in mind here…
#1 Acrostic. Each new thought begins w/ new letter of Hebrew alphabet. The author is stacking up praise of this woman. Being an acrostic, we can only take it so literally. It is said in poetical form to higlight the principle (per above) not serve as an exact model.
#2 She is not a new wife. This is an experienced wife and mother, with her fair share of failures and victories. No wife starts out like this (or husband for that matter).
#3 Women: “Seems so unfair. What about husbands?” Remember original audience! = Father to son. Technically, while Pr 31 written to the wives, Pr 1-30 written for men and husbands. Though clearly today, its for all of us.
#4 At times I’ll hear guys say, “I want a Proverbs 31 wife.” but, look you don’t order one of these on Amazon. What this demonstrates is the potential of a well-loved woman. Men: You pursue being Prov 1-30 man and, by God’s grace, you’ll end up with a Prov 31 woman.
Husbands (cf Pr 1-30; Ps 112) To get at what Proverbs says about husbands we could read everything in Proverbs 1-30 or we could read Psalm 112 (a great summation of what it means to be a husband and suprisingly similar to Pr 31). This husband and father is gracious, merciful, righteous, generous. Children blessed. Financially stable. Lends freely. Gives to poor.
Q: What does the word “husband” mean? Related English word, “husbandry” – that is, cultivation. Do you know that means? If you are a husband, your job is to cultivate and nurture your wife. In other words, your wife should increasingly flourish under your leadership. Your wife should become all that God wants for her under your leadership. Your job is to give her a life she looks back on, “What a great life I’ve had! Loved, protected, provided, pointed to Jesus.” By the title alone, “husband”, we learn that good marriages do not just happen. Good, biblical, robust, grace-filled, redemptive marriages are cultivated in faith, repentance, love, sacrifice, grace.
Q#2: HOW DO WE CULTIVATE MARRIAGES LIKE THAT?
#1 MARITAL AWE
Q: What is it that makes a wife like that? Look at vs 30, “charm is deceptive, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised…” Answer? Awe of the Lord.
Q: What is it tha makes a husband like that?
Ps 112:1 “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments.
Ps 112:7 He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
Some couples, “Well, we’re not really into God.” That’s fine if you’re not Christians or followers of Jesus. But, if you claim to follow Jesus you should know that God is not a hobby. He’s not something you “get into” or “out of”. Jesus never said “Would you guys mind aligning yourselves with Me in some way? I don’t actually care if you do anything I do or change your lifestyle at all. I’m just looking for people who are willing to say they believe in Me and call themselves Christians.” (Chan) No one would say that’s what it means to be a Christian, but that’s how many live.
Every human hardwired by God to live in daily awe of him. If you’re not living for God – in awe of God – the only alternative is to live for yourself – in awe of yourself. Awe of God is the primary thing that prevents your life and marriage from going sideways. At the heart of stable, joy-filled family is husband and wife committed to one another in awe of the Lord. God comes first in life and all these other things flow out of that. First things first.
Here’s the point: How you see God will show up in how you treat your spouse and family. You can fake it on Sunday, but you cannot fake it at home. Overtime your faking will be found out. That’s not a threat. That’s reality. How you see God – what you really believe – shows up at home/marriage. This is why nearly all qualifications for pastor (1Ti3; Titus1) deal w/ home life. Why? Because the hardest place to be a Christian is at home.Singles: Marriage fixes nothing that is wrong with you, only amplifies it.
If you see God wrongly, then you will see your spouse wrongly.
Often, it is not your spouse that is the problem. The real problem is that the Jesus you believe in is not the real Jesus. Your Jesus is not big enough to actually enable and motivate you to give grace, be patient, sacrifically serve. If you can’t do those things there is a reason – and that reason is that you don’t see Jesus rightly.
You might think Jesus is fine. No objections. Nice. Cute. Quaint. But, if you have no passion for him its because you don’t see him rightly and all that he offers you rightly. Only when you are more gripped by him and gospel will it change how you treat your spouse – and rest of your life. How? Fly to him for grace right now. Ask to see him rightly, as he is. Prioritize. Church. Bible. Study. Share. Thanks!
Single Christians: Don’t marry anyone you don’t see their quality of awe of Lord, love for him and love for you.
#2 MARITAL HOMEBUILDING
31:15 “Provides food 4 her household”
31:21 “all her household are clothed”
31:27 “she looks well to the ways of her household”
14:1 The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.
24:3 By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established…
Ps 112:3 Wealth and riches are in his house…
What we see here is that both spouses are involved in home-building, but in different ways, as a team. It takes a lot to build a home/family. The two are not doing own thing and going own way; but giving 100% together, in same direction w/ distinct roles.
Q: Practically, how does get worked out @ home? How do we build our homes and not tear them down? Ok, well lets start with what we do know:
Husbands initiate w/ sacrificial love, protection and provision for his wife/family > JESUSdoes Church.
Wives respond w/ free, glad, helpful submission to her husband > Church does JESUS
But, beyond that Bible gives almost no concrete things husbands/wives must and must not do. Why is that? Bible written for all centuries and all cultures.
Instead, what the Bible does give us is principles and priorities… (OR, spheres of responsibility) Given the principles and priorities we then are called to determine how best to exercise those principles and live them out in our context. Tangential note, we must view all of this in the context of creation and covenant (last two weeks)
HUSBANDS are more directly involved in the provision and protection of family. We’ve seen this over the last two weeks from creation and in covenant. We also see it inferred here.
31:23 “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.”
18:9 “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.”
12:11 “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread…”
Ps 112:3 “Wealth and riches are in his house…”
1Tim 5:8 “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith…”
Generally, husband should be primary financial provider and physical/spiritual protector family. Husband is primarily homeward-oriented around provision and protection. That is his God-given sphere of responsibility.
WIVES are more directly involved with home life and children.
Proverbs 31 (per above, it is clear that her primary motive/goal was to serve family and build the home)
Titus 2:1,4-5,8,10 “Teach what accords with sound doctrine…so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled…(8) so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us…(10) so that in everything [we] may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”
1Ti 5:14 “Younger widows marry, bear children, manage their household, and give the adversary no occasion for slander…”
Wife’s sphere of God-given responsibility:
It is important to note that the wife is not commanded to love husbands/families due to out-dated cultural model. Rather, she is called to live in this way in order to reflect the gospel. So, this means that being homeward oriented is not about personal fulfillment or preference, but about the world seeing God rightly in/thru marriages!
Wives are primarily homeward oriented around kids and care of the home. That is her God-given sphere of responsibility. The Bible does not say that wives/mothers are never allowed to work outside, (i.e. Pr31) but never to neglect of families/homes.
These God-given spheres of responsibility have nothing to do with education, skills, biggest salary, but God-given roles. When both husband and wife are taking responsiblity for these spheres they are, in fact, building their home – not tearing it down.
Q: “What does this look like today in Seattle?”
What to consider when applying your sphere of God-given responsibility today:
#1 Priorities: Begin w/ God’s word. Align your life priorities with God’s priorities, per above. Start here.
#2 Seasons: Given that, how do wife and husband live out their God-given spheres in the particular season they find themselves in? Every season is different, so the exact way that you live out your sphere of responsibility will change.i.e. seasons of marriage: No kids + pre-school-aged kids + school-aged + empty-nest + school + injury
#3 Capacities: Given priorities and season, can the husband/wife do any more w/out sacrificing primary responsibilities? For example, at times I will be asked, “Should I work while my kids are little?” Technically, if you can work while your kids are little without sacrificing your primary responsiblities given you by God, then sure, but it’d be hard to do.
Important questions for wives when considering opportunities outside the home, consider (1) consequences to the family and (2) your motives(the culture exerts tremendous pressure to work outside the home)
- What are my reasons for considering this opportunity? For me or for my family?
- Will pursuing this opportunity glorify God and honor the gospel?
- Will it help or hurt my husband?
- Will it enhance and enrich the lives of my family?
- Does this opportunity hinder my ability to be primarily homeward oriented?
#3 MARITAL ONENESS
The essence of marriage is oneness (Gen 2:24). While it is true that only God can change hearts, he uses means – every day, non-glamourous means to do that. The same is true for cultivating oneness in our marriages. There are things that we can do to help cultivate oneness in our marriage. Let’s look at some of them.
15:17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
Love is an action (verb), not a feeling. When you choose to love, the feelings will follow. Q: How can you intentionally, specifically love your spouse in action differently today? (ask every day)
21:9 (25:24;19:13) It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
31:28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.
Look @ difference between these. This is not just about wife, but the husband too. Quarreling tears down + praise builds up home.Her children rise up, respect, encourage her. Where did they learn that? From dad. One of the practical ways that a husband can cultivate his wife is by cultivating a tone of praise in his home – particularly towards his wife. This means: no putdowns + fault-finding + sarcasm + insults + neutral silence.
Q: So, husband, ask yourself: How does your wife excel? Then, tell her. Tell her tonight over dinner in front of the kids. If you can’t think of any way your wife excels and deserves praise, then the reality is that it is your fault. “How coud you say that?” Men/husbands, God called you to husband her into excellence. Is she becoming more beautiful b/c she married you? God wants to see your wife blossom b/c of your influence in her life.
LOVE-MAKING & FAITHFULNESS (5:15-19)
5:15-20 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. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace and bosom of an adulteress?
Proverbs, and the Bible, encourages frequent, passionate marital intimacy within the context of marriage covenant. The essence of covenant of marriage is oneness. In the act of arital intimacy, two people can’t get any closer, they’re one. In this way, the act of marital intimacy is much like a covenant renewal ceremony.You should be renewing your covenant regularly. Talk w/ your spouse about that. Marital intimacy is about total life entrustment, covenant, which is why sexual sin in context is portrayed in the darkest colors.
It doesn’t take generations for your family to change. By grace, you change it now. Start change today. Cutlivate marital awe, marital homebuilding and marital oneness. Take some time to consider the following:
- Let’s repent of our silence, abdication, apathy and treating God like a hobby.
- Have we robbed our wives and families of love they deserve?
- Have we truly represented Christ to our families?
- Do we deny the gospel by our home life?
- Have we put any of the weight of our responsibilities on our wives? Have we put them in a position of taking our curse for us?
- Have you robbed your husbands and children of the help they need?
- Have you sacrificed your family on the altar of cultural norms?
- Have you bought into the lies of the culture that your family is not worth everything you have?
Jesus came to make us new: new marriages, new families, new cities, new futures, new hope, new reality. Families like this can serve as a window into restored and redeemed humanity, adorn the gospel. Our God is a good God. He loves us. Everything in the Bible is meant to help, not harm; to give life, not take it. We do ourselves a favor when we take a step back and ask, “Why are things the way they are?” God is not trying to pull a fast one on us. He is not trying to trick us, waste our years or steal our joy. In fact, it is just the opposite. But, we have to trust him. Jesus invites all of us to do just that today – to turn from our sin and receive him afresh as King. Some of you might ask, “I can’t do this!” The Lord will help and your family will rejoice – for generations to come.