Let's pray together. Lord, once again we recognize that part of our worship includes our willingness to listen. To be in one place fixed to the truth of Your Word without distraction, without movement. And that's where we're committed to here this morning. We really want to be distracted by nothing or anyone else except for You. We're giving You permission to take our full attention. And we pray, Lord, that as we consider the principles that are found in holy Scripture, even though there's a very weak vessel that's delivering the goods, we pray that You would somehow deal with us, speak to us, draw our very being, Lord, into Your presence, where we're confronted with You and we make the decision whether or not we're gonna cooperate with You and Your will for us or not. That's a very real encounter we're speaking about and we pray that it would happen. In Jesus' name, amen.
Well, we've been doing is series since last week called Keep Calm and Marry On, and this is our second study in the series, "The First Wedding." This last week I celebrated my, er, we celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary. Thirty-one years married. Thank you. And I remember something Ann Landers once said. Ann Landers of course was the gal who for years wrote advice columns in newspapers. She was a syndicated columnist and she wrote advice on everything, including marriage. She once wrote that a successful marriage is not a gift, it's an achievement. I believe that. I don't think it's a gift. I think it's an achievement. You've got to invest in it. You have to deposit into it before you can withdraw anything out of it.
What's ironic about that statement by Ann Landers is that in 1975, she wrote in her column on what would have been her 36th wedding anniversary that she could offer no answer as to why her own marriage was breaking apart. She wrote that in her column. That after 36 years, her and her husband decided to break up their marriage and she could offer no reason why. We all know that the statistics of marital breakup is high. Exactly how high, I can't be sure because it depends where you look for statistics. You'll find different ones. Some are higher, some are lower. It does vary from region to region and from demographic to demographic. No need to get into that, but just to say, "It's pretty high." Some will even say as high as 50% of marriages end in divorce.
I'm not sure, but if that's true, let's just say it's higher than it is lower. That makes marriage a pretty hard sell, wouldn't you say? How would you like to try to sell a product that only works half the time? You would have a tough time selling it. "Here, buy this car. Half the time it'll run. The other half the time, it's just broken down on the side of the road. But ought to buy it." "No, thanks."
What about a phone service that drops your call half the time? You go, "I've got one of those. Thanks." No, I mean half the time. Half the time, it doesn't work. You're not gonna be a subscriber. Would you go to a restaurant that offers a 50% mortality rate? Half the time, it's a real good experience, great green chile. Other half the time, they kill you. They're not gonna stay in business. Or an airline that 50% of the time doesn't crash. Or a doctor that kills only half his patients.
Now, when we talk about marriage and tell people they ought to get married, they're thinking, "Wait a minute. You're telling me this thing only works 50% of the time? No, thank you." And you have to understand the reason I begin with that today is because that is exactly the sentiment that many singles are experiencing and expressing. More and more single people today are opting not to get married because of the statistic that I just shared with you. More than ever before in history, we're seeing that. In fact, since 1960 the number of married couples has dropped 20 percentage points.
Half of all American adults are opting to stay single and not to be married. In one report, this is the Pew Research Report, 40% of people studied overall said they believe that marriage is obsolete. Including 31% of married couples. Obsolete, 50% rate obsolete. "No, thank you. Not going there. I'll try my bet somewhere else." If you were to ask kids about marriage, you would get a variety of responses. One school asked kids a simple question, "Is it better to stay single or to get married?" Five-year-old Bert said, "As soon as I'm done with kindergarten, I'm gonna get me a wife." Very optimistic young man. But his older, you would think more wiser, classmate, seven-year-old Will said, "It gives me a headache to think about that stuff. I'm just a kid. I don't need this kind of trouble." It's a seven year old.
There's a lot of people that grow up thinking exactly like Will thinks. "I don't need this trouble." But I'm here to tell you something. I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be the case. It doesn't have to be the case for one basic, simple reason, because God has given us a blueprint. You may not want to follow that blueprint, that's your prerogative. You can do whatever you want, you're an adult. But God has given us His blueprint, and I will tell you, if you follow God's blueprint, you don't have to end up like one of those people who wonders why something that started so good could end so bad.
I understand that I'm speaking to a group of adults and I understand that not everyone in this room or listening to my voice buys into all of the principles we're talking about or we're gonna talk about this morning. I understand that. But I will tell you, if you don't go with God's principles, you are looking at a world of hurt. Let me explain. We've done this a while. We have a pastoral staff that every week for years and years and years have talked to couples in different stages of marriage. So we have a pretty good handle on how things work or don't work. And I'll tell you that almost without exception, every successful married couple I've ever spoken to has the principles we're going to look at today firmly intact. Whereas those who have trouble after trouble after trouble have messed with these principles or taken them out of their lives.
So it's your prerogative whether you and I are going to take these principles to heart or not. Somebody once said that marriage is like a violin, it doesn't work without strings. And once the music stops, the strings are still attached. So when we look at marriage from a biblical perspective, we know that a lifetime can be a long time. The question then becomes to us, "How do we make it work so that it produces our marriages long-lasting music, beautiful music."
And we come to God's principles. We come to Genesis chapter 2, where we started last week. This week, we begin in verse 23. The Lord has made man and a woman, brought them together, introduced them to each other. Now, He gives us the principles for that relationship staying together. There's three of them because there are three verses, each containing a separate principle. The principles are written out in your worship folder, you can follow along.
The first principle is that marriage begins with identity, a new identity. Whatever identity you have as a single person changes when you enter into this relationship. It's a new identity. If you look at verse 23 it says, Adam said--this is after God brought the woman to the man--Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken out of man." I know some of you are thinking, "What kind of a reaction is that? He sees his wife come down the aisle and he says, 'bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.'" Could you imagine a groom on a wedding day looking to his best man and going, "Hey, check out bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh coming down the aisle"? What is that?
This is ancient poetry, that's what that is. This is the first poetic couplet in the Bible. Did you know that? Scholars tell us it is framed in Hebrew parallelism.
That is thoughts that rhyme, not words, thoughts that rhyme or build upon another thought. Moreover, bare with me, there's rhythm in what Adam said. According to scholars, the first line has a two-beat rhythm, one, two. Whereas the second line has a three-beat rhythm. Interesting, isn't it? That his reaction is poetic and rhythmic. Almost like ancient rap. Bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. Adam had fun with that. You can see I'm having fun with that as well.
What we are reading here is an ancient idiomatic expression of delight. That's why some commentators say and Adam looked at his wife and said, "Wow! At last!" Or, "This is it!" We would say, "Where have you been all my life?" Even though he is only been around a few days. He understands something. When he sees that woman coming, that idiomatic expression, "Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh." In other words, you're different from all the other creations. You came out of me.
Now, here's something I want you to notice. Up until this point in the book of Genesis, in the Hebrew when the English word, "man" appears, the Hebrew word is "adam," "adam" or Adam. It comes from the Hebrew word "adamah," which means the earth or the ground because Adam was made from the earth or the ground. All the other animals and Adam were created as God fashioned them from the earth.
Now, it's different. Now, because the woman comes not out of the earth but out of the side of the man, God gives them new names. And it's not Adam, but the word for man is "ish", I-S-H and "isha" for woman, I-S-H-A. In other words, their names correspond to one another. There's a whole new identity. It's as if Adam sees Eve and he sees a mirror image of himself in feminine form. Calvin translates the verse: "Now at length, I have obtained a suitable companion, who is part of the substance of my flesh, and in whom I behold, as it were, another self."
So it's not just Adam. Now, he notices, "Hmm, Mrs. Adam." This is the Adams family in the truest sense that they identify with one another. Marriage begins with a new identity, a unit. In fact, listen, I'm calling it "covenant unit." They're about to make a covenant with each other and God will sanctify the covenant unit. You say, "Covenant, what does that mean?" Covenant is simply an agreement or an arrangement. Technically speaking, a covenant is a binding arrangement that commits two or more parties to perform certain actions. When God calls a man to marry a woman, they enter into that agreement, a covenant agreement. A solemn, formal arrangement whereby those two parties promise to perform certain actions.
Malachi chapter 2 verse 14 speaking to husbands says, "The Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth. She is your companion and your wife by covenant." Same word is used to woman in Proverbs 2:17. Speaking to the wife about her husband. It speaks of the covenant that she made before God. Why am I sharing that? Why is it important? Because the description covenant for a marriage relationship is the same where God uses of Himself when He makes a covenant with people.
Jeremiah 31, "Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel." An agreement. So understand that God takes marriage and raises it up to the level of sacredness that He Himself uses when He makes an agreement with mankind. And Adam sees her coming and goes, "I get it. Wow! At last! Yes! We are one covenant unit. I have a new identity."
You would do well to remember back to the feelings you had on your wedding day, try to do that. Try just now to get in touch with how you've felt. I remember when I woke up that day. My first thought was, "I'm going to be a husband today." And the weight of that word "husband" rested upon me. I told you before, I was scared to death on my wedding day. I understood this is a lifetime commitment. That weighed on me. At first thought, bing, eyes open, "I'm going to be a husband by the end of this day." But how excited I was when I saw her coming down the aisle.It was like Adam's response. When I saw Lenya in that white dress, I thought, "Wow!"
I stood here on this very spot next to a groom as his wife was coming down the aisle and he turned to me and said, "She is mine." He was excited. I'll guarantee you this. On your wedding day, when you saw that woman coming toward you, men, or wives, you are walking toward that man of your dreams. You didn't look at each other and go, "Oh great, you again." It was the recognition of two becoming one. You were becoming a covenant unit.
Somebody once said Adam and Eve had the ideal marriage. He didn't have to hear about all the other men she could have married. She didn't have to hear about how his mother would have cooked that meal. This was the prototype man. This was the first batch. Man and a woman brought together. And he said, "This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She will be called woman because she was taken out of man."
So marriage begins with identity. Here's the second principle found in the next verse. Marriage requires responsibility and here it is. Therefore, because of this reason, because I have brought the two, ish and isha, together. Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.
There's three parts of that directive. It's the best marriage counseling on the books, one short verse. Notice the process. First of all leaving. What that means is leaving father and mother. It means that one relationship must be severed in order to solidify another relationship. One must be severed in order to solidify. A man shall leave, in Hebrew "abandon."
Now, I need to explain something. It doesn't mean that you lose all contact with your parents. "Never call me again, I'm getting married today. Leave me alone. I'm moving away." It doesn't mean that. It means, essentially, cut the cord of dependence. It means your parents treat you, the newlywed couple, in an adult relationship now. It means the parents give the children the space to grow up and solidify their own relationship. I always ask a young couple when they come up to me and say, "We're getting married. See, look." She will go see. "Look at that ring. I'm getting married." I always say, "Congratulations, I'm excited for you." But somewhere in the conversation early on, I asked this question, "What do your parents think?" "Well, who cares what my parents think?" "No, I care. What do your parents think?" It usually, it's all "Oh, they're so excited." But sometimes I'll get, "They think he's a creep."
Well, that's important to me. It's important because maybe not at that point, but it could be that later on down the line, the parent would be persuasive toward that girl or guy. And you will seek to transform your mate into the image that your parents have for that one. I know some couples that never leave their father or mother. Their parents can be dead and they still haven't mother or father. That relationship has hijacked that new marriage. And so I'll say to you, parents, if you're having children get married, release your kids. Give them space. Don't try to run their lives. Your goal for your kids, even if you've just recently had children, your goal is to get that child ready to launch. They're not going to stay there forever. You are preparing that child to one day to launch.
And we make that a symbolic part of every wedding. We have the bride walk down the aisle typically, usually with her father. And I ask the question publicly, "Who brings this woman to be married to this man?" And he will typically say, "I do." Or, "We do." Or, "Her mother and I do." But it's the giving away of the bride that's symbolic, but all important.
I'm fortunate. I have a father-in-law who understood this principle and he was at first service this morning. He typically is, and I got to thank him publically that early in our marriage when my wife Lenya would call him for advice, he was very cautious in giving advice. He would say, "What does Skip think about this before I answer the question? Have you talked it over with him first?" And he would be very cautious at dispensing advice and when he gave the advice, he would always give the caveat. "Now, that's just my opinion. If that's not what your husband agrees with, scrap what I just said." He was a wise man.
There's something else to note before we move on to the second. If we are to leave father and mother, the most important relationship we have as human beings until we get married, father and mother. If we're to sever that relationship to solidify the new one, that means that every other relationship in our lives must also take a backseat. That means our relationship with our career, with our friends, with our hobbies, with television, must be reprioritized according to the new ultimate relationship that we have on a human level with spouse and spouse. If we cut the ties with father and mother then other ties must be also be cut. A wise person once said, "A successful marriage demands a divorce, a divorce from your own self love."
That's the first directive, leaving. Here's the second, cleaving. "Therefore, a man will leave his father and mother and be joined..." That's the New King James. If you have an old King James it says "cleave." It means to be glued together or welded together, if I can take the liberties. It conveys the idea of permanence. Now, I do something when I perform a wedding ceremony. I never ask the couple to say, "I do" and I tell them this before the wedding. I say, "I'm gonna ask you a question and the answer is not I do." "It's not? I've been like working up my whole life to say that." "You're not going to say that. Because 'I do' means 'I do right now.' I want you to say 'I will.' Because 'I will' means I do now and I will continue to do that in the future.
So I'm gonna ask you the question, "Will you take this woman to be your God-given wife in this covenant of marriage? Will you love her, will you honor her and forsaking all others, will you live only unto her as long as you both shall live?" And I say, "I want you to say it loud." "I will." That's a statement. That's a commitment. That's the idea of cleaving, gluing, being welded together. It speaks of permanence. Permanence. Togetherness in a permanent situation. "Skip, does that mean that there can never be separation in a marriage relationship under any circumstance?" I'm not saying that. Because Jesus, in Matthew 19, gave the one exception and we covered that last Wednesday.
But, I'm going to say something you know is true. No matter what the circumstance is, there is never a separation without damage. Can you think of a single divorce where there has not been some damage? Can you think of one? Here's the idea. If I were to take two pieces paper and glue them together and let the glue dry, and a week later, or a month later, or five years later, or 20 years later say, "I've changed my mind. I want to separate those two pieces of paper," could you separate the two pieces of paper without damage? Will they look the same once they're separated? No they won't.
I may have changed my mind toward that union, but if I try to separate that it will not be done without much damage. And so Jesus Christ Himself said, "What God has joined together let not man put asunder." But here's the big rub. Here's the big problem for us. We live in a culture and a society where permanence isn't even part of our thinking system anymore. We've taken God's blueprint and essentially we have, we've re-drawn the blueprint. We've looked at God's blueprint in building the house of marriage and we go, "I don't like this blueprint. There's no back door in it. I gotta draw a backdoor in it." And you look at God's ideal and He has a front door and the door closes and that's it. You go, "Huh, I don't think so. I want to put a back door in this puppy."
And so every week, couples still come to the altar and they still say, "Oh, yes. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health, until death do us part." Ah ah ah the music, the beauty. But under their breath they're saying, "Unless there's a glitch." Because we have taken the idea of a permanent bond completely out of our thinking. May God put it back in as we look at his blueprints.
What this means on a practical level is that a husband promises to be faithful to his wife, "I will until death do us part." That means if she's not as pretty as she is on that wedding day; if she decides, "I'm not going to cook like I used to cook when the kids were younger. I'm not going to tidy up the house like we did earlier on." That he's gonna say, "I still am committed to you with as much love as I began." And if he, that guy that she's next to, gets a big gut, loses all of his hair, has bad breath—you'd be thinking, "Skip, you just described my husband." That the commitment of permanence doesn't change.
Leaving, cleaving, here's the third, weaving. "Therefore, a man will leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife and they shall become one," one flesh. What does that mean? First of all on a primary, physical level, I guess it could mean that when a child is produced as a result of that union, you could look at that child and say, "We have become one flesh. We have merged two people into one unit." But I think it means more than that. I think it means, one flesh, that you share everything. You share bodies, yes. You share possessions. You share insights. You become one flesh.
In an excellent book, Wayne Mack describes the one flesh process when he writes, "It is the type of relationship that is shared with no one else other than one's mate. It is a partnership in every area of life for as long as both partners live. In other words, there's absolutely nothing about which one spouse may say to the other, 'That's none of your business.' The wife has complete and unfettered access to every area of her husband's life and so also the husband to every area of his wife's life. There are no locked doors or secret hiding places."
How does this happen? It takes a long time. It does. Notice what the text says. It doesn't say the two will be one flesh, it says the two will what? Become one flesh. That's a process. That's a process. It's a process of weaving. You see, marriage isn't held together by chains, but threads. Thousands of tiny little threads that you weave with your spouse every single day. Now if you go back to that analogy I brushed through moments ago that a couple is glued or welded together, you might get the picture.
A couple years ago, I was over in France and I stood in front of the Eiffel Tower and access was denied. The thing was closed down. I go, "Why is it closed?" They said, "Because they're welding it." I said, "Welding it? This thing's been up for over 100 years and now you are starting to weld it?" They go, "Oh no, no, no. We go over the joints every few years and we reapply weld and we reapply fastening bolts, et cetera. We make the joints that were originally there stronger, so it will last longer." And I thought, "That's a great analogy. Go back over the joints that brought you together that form strength in your marriage and build upon those things." Marriage is not held together by chains, but by threads. Many of them, thousands of them.
So a marriage begins with identity, ish and isha becoming a covenant unit. It requires your responsibility of leaving, reprioritizing, cleaving, a permanent bond, and weaving. And all of that leads to the third, the final, the apex. All of that forms the basis for intimacy. Verse 25 is the final principle. "And they were both naked, the man and his wife and were not ashamed."
The word "naked" means to lay bare and the idea of the language from my studies, it's a reciprocal idea. It's a limited reciprocal idea.
In other words, they are naked and laid bare with one another and before one another. And in that context is vulnerability. This is intimacy. This is what every couple longs for, intimacy. I didn't say, "Sex," I said, "Intimacy." Two different things. One leads to the other. Intimacy leads to sexuality. But it's interesting when I say the word "intimacy" to man, they'd think of one thing. If I say that word to woman, they're thinking on a whole different track. Intimacy, that open unguarded relationship, that transparent sharing where the couple shares a discussion and shares silence and shares history and shares joys and shares heartbreaks. All of that together is intimacy. They were both naked. They had nothing to be ashamed of. They were open. They were unguarded. They were vulnerable and it wasn't until sin entered into the relationship where that was spoiled, as we'll see in the coming studies.
So we can see then that marriage, on one hand, can be infinitely rewarding at its best and, on the other hand, unspeakably oppressive at its worst. And there's lot of stages in between. Here's God's principle. Here's God's pattern. Leaving, cleaving, weaving and when you leave, cleave, and weave, you achieve intimacy. That's His plan. That's His pattern. Very, very simple. Three short verses that will be replicated over and over again in the Scripture. And pointed back to the New Testament four times because of the place of primary reference.
I want to close with an illustration written by a young woman about her grandparents. She, in observing them, noted that all that we spoke about this morning was embodied in their lives and there's nothing like an example to speak to us. She writes, "My grandparents we're married for over a half a century and they played their own special game from time to time, a game that they began when they met each other. The goal of their game was to write the word "SHMILY" in a surprise place for the other to find. They took turns leaving SHMILY around the house. As soon as one of them discovered it, it was their turn to hide it once more. They dragged SHMILY with their fingers through the sugar and the flower containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal. They smeared it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio, where my grandma always fed us warm homemade pudding with blue food coloring.
"SHMILY was written in the steam left on the mirror after a hot shower, where it would reappear again and again bath after bath. At one point, my grandmother even unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave SHMILY on the very last sheet. There was no end to the place SHMILY would pop up. Little notes with SHMILY inscribe hurriedly were found on dashboards, car seats, or taped to steering wheels. The notes were stuffed inside shoes and left under pillows. SHMILY was writing in the dust upon the mantle and traced on the ashes of the fireplace. This mysterious word was as much a part of my grandparents' house as the furniture. It took me a long time before I was able to fully appreciate my grandparent's game.
"Skepticism had kept me from believing in true love—one that is pure and enduring. However, I never doubted by grandparents' relationship. They had love down pat. It was more than their flirtatious little games were all about. It was a way of life. Their relationship was based on a devotion and passionate affection, which not everyone is lucky enough to experience. Grandma and Grandpa held hands every chance they could, they stole kisses as they bumped into each other in their tiny little kitchen. They finished each other sentences and shared daily crossword puzzles and word jumble. My grandma whispered to me about how cute my grandpa was, how handsome and old man he grown to be. She claimed that she really knew how to pick 'em. Before every meal, they bow their heads and gave thanks marveling at their blessings, a wonderful family, good fortune, and thanks for each other.
"But there was a dark cloud in my grandparent's life. My grandmother had breast cancer. The disease had first appeared ten years earlier. As always, grandpa was with her every step of the way. He comforted her in their yellow room, painted that color so she could always surrounded by sunshine even when she was too sick to go outside.
"Now the cancer was once again attacking her body. With the help of a cane and my grandfather's steady hand, they still went to church every Sunday morning. But my grandmother grew steadily weaker until finally she could not leave the house anymore. For a while, grandpa would go to church alone praying to God to watch over his wife. And then one day, what we all dreaded finally happened. Grandma was gone. SHMILY, it was scrawled in yellow on the pink ribbons of my grandmother's funeral bouquet.
"As the crowed thinned and the last mourners turn to leave, my aunts and uncles, cousins and other family members came forward and gathered around. They gathered around grandma one last time. Grandpa stepped up to my grandmother's casket and taking a shaky breath, he began to sing to her. Through his tears and grief, the song came a deep, throaty lullaby. Shaking with my own sorrow, I will never forget that moment for I knew then that although I couldn't begin to fathom the depth of their love, I had been privileged to witness its unmatched beauty. And he sang, 'S-H-M-I-L-Y. See how much I love you, SHMILY.'"
What that man and that woman had was a legacy that was the greatest possible gift they could pass on to future generations. I know that I'm asking God for a tall order when I ask him that this wouldn't be just another marriage series. They're a dime a dozen. They're in every church across America. We've done them. I'm not praying for a great series, I'm praying for great results in humility, in changed lives, in changed marriages, so that generations to follow can feel the warmth from a flame that burns so brightly as our lives and our marriages.
Father in Heaven, the last thing I want is for this to be, in any sense of the imagination, condemning. I want it to be hopeful. That no matter who we are or what our past has yielded, that from this day onward, things would change, we would change and thus relationships around us would change. I think it's right. A successful marriage isn't a gift, it's an achievement. But we voice, in closing, our dependence upon you for that achievement. And, looking at something, that in our culture hasn't been working all that well in terms of percentages; we now come to a place where we say, "We need You. We depend upon You--Your principles in action in our lives on a daily basis in full commitment." You need a man and a woman who would say, "I'm all in and I'll do whatever it takes to make sure that in this new identity, I by God's grace take my responsibility to leave, cleave, and weave so that the result of that would be intimacy." That sharing openly with another person, where there is full access.
Would You do that? Would You help us? We pray now not as a formality, but as a necessity. We need You. Take that which is broken and mend it, that which is fallen and heal it. And help us to be part of the process, whether we have been married successfully or we have struggled and failed or we're single and pondering to be part of the solution. So that we never have to look back and say, "Something that started so good became not so good." That's where we leave it, Lord, with You. In Jesus' name, amen.