Adapted from a sermon at a recent Foundations wedding.
Both nationally and globally, we live in the most perilous and precarious hour in human history. Truly every compartment of human living has been affected. The paradigms, the foundations, and patterns of living in all compartments of humanity are radically shifting, forcing upon us new perspectives of human existence. Even the ideological powers of the government now have shifted into realms that refuse to acknowledge God and His Word. Epistemology (the study of all knowledge) has entered into a wasteland, where man has enthroned himself as God. In our pluralistic society, truth is no longer believed to be absolute; postmodernism has forsaken reason. All institutions of history are now being abandoned or redefined. The saddest paradigm shift is found in Christianity, as it is being redefined without the inclusion of the deity of Christ and the inerrancy of the Bible. Contextualization is now the norm of Christianity; it seeks to globally accommodate these changes while denying the fundamentals of the historic Christian Faith.
Even the institutions that God Himself has divinely ordained are being radically redefined in order to alienate these institutions from any identification with God. One of these institutions is the precious, divine appointment of marriage.
For each of the days of Creation, the Bible records that God declared it and in a moment of time it was fulfilled. On the sixth day, the Bible reveals a sequence to several things God created. Initially, three segments of the animal kingdom were created. Secondly, He created the man. But later that day He created the woman. In the creation of woman, God placed Adam into a deep sleep and chose one of the twenty-four ribs of the man, along with the flesh surrounding that rib, and made, formed, and fashioned the woman. God did not make another man for Adam; He made a woman. Only two genders did God make that day: male and female. As a tender, loving Father, God then brought the woman to Adam, thus appointing the divine institution of marriage.
One of the purposes of marriage was to populate the earth; this would be realized in the intimate union of a man and woman, or what the Bible later calls the “duty of marriage.” God never intended for the duty of marriage to be known outside of marriage. However, because of the sin and wickedness of man, man has separated this union from the singular identification with marriage. Sin took this sacred union from the blessing of marriage turning it to what the Scripture declares as fornication. We have come to a time in history when this separation of the intimate union from marriage has become casual, common thinking of society.
The prophet Malachi (whose name means “My Messenger”) reveals the falling away of the offspring of the remnant that returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity. There were three returns of the remnant: one in 536 BC, under Zerubbabel; a second in 458 BC, under Ezra; and a third in 444 BC, under Nehemiah. In the last return led by Nehemiah, the city of Jerusalem was rebuilt. Eventually, Nehemiah had to return to the King of Persia, leaving the work and the people for a season of time. The last chapter of Nehemiah and the Book of Malachi both declare the great sins of the offspring of the remnant. Malachi is a final word about this offspring of the remnant in their unfaithfulness to God. He speaks of their failures to the Covenant that God had made with them. The descriptions of their apostasy and these failures are found in Malachi, especially in chapter 2 which reveals failures within their marriages. In this context the failures were among the men who were leaving their wives for the strange wives of the nations that surrounded Jerusalem.
In Malachi 2:10–16, the word treacherously is mentioned five times; it is a word that means “deception.” It is a deception empowered by unfaithfulness. In this context this word is used not only in the physical aspect of infidelity but also in the broadest sense of heart infidelity. It is a key word in the failure of the offspring of the remnant.
It is clear that what prompted their deceptive unfaithfulness in their marriages was their unfaithfulness to God. Such unfaithfulness became the root-sin of all other forms of infidelity. In this context, the faltering and failure of the heart before God is betrayed in the glaring acts of wrong against the nearest and dearest on earth . . . one’s wife.
In Malachi 2:14 the word wife is mentioned in two contexts: “the wife of thy youth” and “the wife of thy covenant.” Several men, including those among the leaders, were leaving the wives of their youth. This phrase “wife of thy youth” is a precious title that even in old age is ever identified with that first wife. The title reveals that when they entered marriage, love’s affections were fresh and strong; man was in the virility of youth; and it was the time of the greatest physical manifestation of love between them. But years later, as age increased and physical strength waned, these men were looking to the strange women of the land; they were leaving their wives who were identified with the prime of their youth. Such men were treating treacherously, deceptively, and unfaithfully the precious wife who had been faithful to her husband over the years.
Dear couple, years down the road if the Lord should tarry in His coming and years increase in your marriage, the husband must never forget the “wife of his youth,” who has remained true to him in love. Even in old age, she will ever be known as the “wife of thy youth.”
In Malachi 2:14, the wife is additionally called “the wife of thy covenant.” Today in this wedding, your love for one another enters a “covenant of love.” It will be based on faith in one another, and a commitment of faithfulness to one another. Faith is a crucial term in the Bible; it is tied in with the word believe. When we become a Christian, we enter the “new covenant” of Christ through the wonder of the New Birth. We must have faith in God’s Word, faith in the work of Christ, and faith in the promises of God. We are justified by faith; we must live the Christian life by faith. Faith is the realm of the Christian’s heart existence in God and with God. And God calls upon us to live by “The Faith,” the Bible. There is no Christian life in the New Covenant without faith.
And so, it is with marriage. There is no marriage of living without faith: faith in one another, trust in one another, and belief in one another. Unfaithfulness is a word that we always want to be careful not to create in our marriage. Protecting from a final unfaithfulness in breaking the marriage union, we must guard against other forms of unfaithfulness creeping into this marriage. Oh, the great enemy within marriage of unfaithfulness! When we marry, we marry with the belief that we trust one another; we believe we will be faithful to one another.
Unfaithfulness comes in many forms. Over the years I have heard wives in grief declare, “I can’t trust him; I don’t believe he is true with me.” This must never be in a marriage. But, to the contrary, what does faithfulness include?
(1) Faithfulness in Words of Truth. We must be faithful to one another in words of love and in our words concerning daily living. On our wedding day we entered a covenant of love with one another, having come to fully trust one another that we would be faithful in our words to one another for as long as we lived.
(2) Faithfulness in our Actions. Our actions must be true to one another. There can be no deception in our actions, whether in actions of love, in kindness, in tenderness, or in appreciation. Yes, the variety of actions displayed in marriage must be clear, so it can be said, “I know he means it” or “I know she means it.”
(3) Faithfulness in Affections. Our manifested expressions of affection to one another must be true in this covenant we make with one another. There are so many other things that prove the husband means what he says. His affections are true, they are genuine and from the heart, with no reservation or deception.
(4) Faithfulness before Others. How he or she speaks of the other before others is additionally important. Can one trust the other with their weaknesses, not speaking of them to others? Can I trust him in my absence? Will he remain faithful to me? When his family members talk, can I trust him to defend me and protect my integrity? Yes, this is also most important.
(5) Faithfulness to Our Vows. The vows today are vows “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Will we be faithful to one another when the trials deepen and when the years physically begin to take their toll on us?
Yes, infidelity to the vows taken in a ceremony comes in many forms. It can come in unkindness or neglect. Even our worship services can be affected by such unkindness or neglect of the husband getting things right with his wife. The apostle Peter declared:
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them [the wife] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered (1 Pet. 2:7).
Yes, even the prayers of a husband and wife can be hindered by an unfaithful mood, word, action, or hurt against the other. This is why it is important to get things right and to keep things right between a husband and wife. For how does a wife pray when her husband has not lived well with her? What does she pray for? How does she ask God about the need in the light of the unfaithful situations that have never been resolved? And how does a wife pray who has been so hurt that she cries for God to avenge her of the unkindness, especially when the one who did to her the wrong was her own spouse of life? God desires unity and peace in our marriage so that our prayers are not hindered. Sometimes the wife may be at fault, and she needs to make things right with the husband. But most of the time, the husband tends to do the bruising: mentally, emotionally, and verbally.
Dear couple, remember, God is here today. He is a witness of every word and vow in this wedding ceremony. In the coming years the Lord will note how these vows and promises have been kept. Today, this woman becomes the “wife of thy youth” and the “wife of thy covenant” of love.
There are two primary principles in Malachi 2 that are made clear about this covenant taken today. In verse 14, marriage is a covenant made before God and man; we are all witnesses today of these vows. Then in verse 15, it is this covenant that God blesses by making the two as one. Today, a life commitment of love and faithfulness will be made; this woman will now be the wife of thy youth and the wife of thy covenant.
May your living of life together unveil the precious faithfulness of these vows taken today to one another.