Lecture 20: Wise Spouses
Lecture: Wise Spouses
I. Introduction – God’s Social Institutions
This and the next lecture are about the home; first wise spouses and then wise parents. In studying these proverbs, I didn’t want to minimize the value of reading an individual proverb; it is indeed of great value. There is another dimension to it beyond the obvious. I am always trying to get you to go deeper into the text of Proverbs. Note that this lecture on wise spouses is divided into three parts: Introduction, introducing the topic of marriage and then looking at the husband and the wife together. This is God’s social institution; one of three; afterwards I will cover the need for this study as the institution of marriage is indeed in serious trouble today in western civilization. There is also a need for direction and then I want to show that marriage is a most holy institution. There is the home and then the state and then the church; these are the three social institutions. The home was there to increase the human race within a context of a nuclear community of mutual love and support; two ideas here are of pro-creation and the context of love and commitment and fidelity and values of wisdom. It has a third person to show permanence as that marriage is a strong metaphor of the relationship of God to his people and Christ to his church. The State was created to restrain evil and also to promote peace where we can live Godly and Holy lives. The third community is the church which is to create a community of love. As under the home, Augustine spoke of three ‘goods’ of marriage: children which is procreation and education. You can see that in the Book Proverbs. It is also for fidelity where we learn not to be selfish but sharing and sacrifice for the other person so that marriage is redemptive. And the reason we have divorce, we are not really trained in love within our culture as we want things in our own way. This is due to pride and selfishness. The third good from Augustine is the permanence of marriage as we see in Proverbs 2:17, ‘who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.’ The adulteress violates the covenant of God. For God is the author and guarantor of the marriage obligation. At a marriage God presides and requires a mutual pledge. This is the only institution that existed before the fall; it was not created as a result of the fall. So God restrains evil and promotes peace for the state and the church created a community to worship God and to love one another. This is from the two great commandments of loving God and one another.
II. Marriage is Under attack
A. The Foundation of Marriage
Marriage is the foundation of a just and stable society. But in our times, this institution has weakened by the sexual revolution and the damage it has done to marriage and the family. There is widespread divorce; the dramatic increase in out-of-wedlock births; the casual acceptance of premarital sex and cohabitation; and a contraceptive mentality which insists that sex has an arbitrary relation to procreation. In this environment, families fragment, the poor suffer, and children are especially vulnerable and at risk. The decline of the marriage culture is evident throughout the world, and where it is evident, the common good is imperiled. (Evangelical and Catholics Together – Mar 2015) This began in the mid 60’s and continues today. The well-educated and well off usually don’t divorce, but it is the poor. And it is the marriage that is basic to their economic well-being and children are especially at risk. In the 1900’s the divorce rate was 1 in 12 and then in 1920 it was 1 in 6 and in 1970 and present it is 1in 2. The more education and better income with older people, there is less divorce. It was also the sexual revolution where the expectation of companionship shifted from sharing mutual love toward one another to self-actualization in thinking that I should be all I can be; looking selfishly. Partnership without marriage is growing and now has reached 54% of which these 50% will eventually separate. This is a result of taking the Bible out of the school and thus taking Christ out of the culture. Fifty years ago, some 70 percent of American adults were married; today the figure is just over 50 percent. Thus, close to 90 percent of children lived with their natural parents then; today less than two-thirds do. The birth rate has declined, and the abortion rate has climbed from less than one percent to over 20 percent. I remember before that, over 50 years back as my wife and I were married in 1953 so that has been 62 years ago. When we left to go to Dallas and since I didn’t wear a wedding ring, we couldn’t get a room on the way until I put my wedding ring on.
That was back then but today is different. During my parent’s generation, faith is now undermined with criticism of the Bible, atheistic evolution and so the foundations were being destroyed back then. They were able to cast a shadow over Christian Education to my generation. Historically, we had no firm foundation and then my generation, there was shadow for the next generation to follow and now we see the fruit of a shadow ethic. So divorce and cohabitation without marriage are sins against God and neighbor and so will be judged by God. The 7th commandment is, thy shall not commit adultery. That includes everything to do with sexuality outside of marriage. God says in Malachi, I hate divorce and Paul says, do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanders nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God … You say, ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.’ The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body (1 Cor 6:9-13). The erosion of marriage degrades our common culture. A contraceptive mentality encourages the notion of sex as purely recreational, a matter of private pleasure. Widespread divorce and serial cohabitation undermine our sense of stability and commitment in human relations as stated by Neuhaus and Colson. It is important to note that homosexuality is listed along with all the other sins and we should speak against all sin and all impurity.
Also note that in Deut 22:5-8, there are Ten Commandments and three of them are to protect future life. The first is against transvestites which includes homosexuality, ‘A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this. If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tress or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life. When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof. These laws are preserving future life. We have to have offspring to survive. The Book of Proverbs is more about adultery than it is about homosexuality.
B. A Holy Institution
Proverbs is the compass for the high seas of matrimony that gives us direction. And in Proverbs, success in marriage is much more than finding the right person; it is a matter of being the right person. And in that culture, marriages were arranged and thus you loved the person you married. So you love the person you marry and give yourself to that person. Marriage is a holy institution. It is part of the creation and redemption order. In Genesis 1:27-28, ‘so God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.’ Nature is all about self-preservation and hostility and we are to overcome it. The wife was created to help the man, and a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. This is part of the salvation history and order of redemption. Being fruitful is in the context of a loving companionship where the husband and wife need each other. The woman becomes one with the man and the man establishes a new family independently. Now the most holy person was the high priest and he had very strict qualifications in Leviticus but not celibacy as the most holy person marries which is a picture that marriage is a holy institution, set apart for God. The Nazirite was born to be the most holy person and chose to be set apart for God and couldn’t cut his hair because that symbolized he was set apart for God nor could he come upon a dead animal as that would put him in the realm of death. Again the Nazirite was married and as shown in Numbers 6. Celibacy wasn’t normal in the Old Testament but in the New Testament it was credited and being better but now you could serve the Lord. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 ‘I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided. An unmarried either a woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs. Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband. So this is the Introduction.
III. A Wise Husband
A. A Good Wife
The Fear of the Lord is the one who holds the keys to life and death. In Proverbs 1:7 we have ‘the fear of Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. In 18:22, he who finds a wife finds what is good and so receives favor from the Lord. The wife is her husband’s good fortune, his life, his wealth, and his crown. A wise husband values his good wife as Gods good gift to him. The words ‘a good’ wife is not in the Hebrew text but I think it means this. The Septuagint, the Vulgate and Syriac all add a good wife. He is talking about a good wife, not any other kind of wife and a wife who fears the Lord. This agrees with the creation account within salvation history, ‘The Lord said that it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. Now God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was it name… but as for Adam, he found no suitable helper. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.’ God said that it wasn’t good for man to be alone but the man doesn’t know it. And after he sorts the animals out, then he realizes that he (man) had no one like him. God wasn’t about to squander a gift like this on an unappreciative male. The man must be prepared to appreciate what God was about to do that God wants to give him. This would fit the profits that he finds what is good. He celebrates her equality with him because she was made from him. He sees her as his equal. Agur from Proverbs 30 mentions that the earth trembles under three things: an official who becomes king, a fool who is full of food, a contemptible woman who gets married, and a maidservant who displaces her mistress.
B. A Good Husband
He values his wife as something that is good and he values her as his equal and he praises his wife as shown in Proverbs 31:28-29. When she enters the room, her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Job said when he went to the gate of the city and took his seat in the public square, the young men saw me and stepped aside and the old men rose to their feet (Job 29:7-8). In Proverbs 4:1-3, the man is teachable as Solomon declares that his son should listen to his instruction and pay attention and gain understanding. A husband is righteous and serves others doing what is right and just and fair. He is a diligent worker, cool-tempered and sober. A husband doesn’t disadvantage others to his own advantage and this is righteousness; a good husband. He is also a diligent worker and cool-tempered. He is a provider and leader as he finishes the work set before him and then takes care of other things. He provides the economic foundation on which his wife can build. Building their family and house is an imperative in their lives. In Ephesians 5:25-33, ‘husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, on one has ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church. Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.’
IV. A Wise Wife
A. An Unchangeable Fear of the Lord
Again, she fears the Lord. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. The Fear of the Lord doesn’t change like the outward appearance. There are things that I don’t understand: the eagle in the sky, the snake in the rocks, the way of the ship on the sea and the way of a man with a virgin. There is also a way of an adulteress, she eats and wipes her mouth and says, I’ve done nothing wrong in Proverbs 30:18-20. She doesn’t see the sanctity of marriage; it is only a physical act. It’s like eating. There are people who do not have awe of God; they eat and drink and make merry. God died in the 19th century and humanity died in the 20th century. There was a debate in a university over the difference between a caterpillar and a human baby and it was declared that there was no difference as all were the same. A wise woman watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness (31:1-31). ‘A wife of noble character is difficult to find; she is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him only good, not harm, all the days of her life. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. There were exogamous marriages (marriage outside the ethic community) that were acceptable with foreign wives loyal to their husband such as Tamar, a Canaanite loyal to the house of Judah as was in the case of Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute who was converted and along with Bathsheba became part of Jesus’ lineage. Of course Ruth was included in on this. She was the Moabite in the famous book of Ruth. Bathsheba was a Hittite. They were all brought in because they all embraced Israel’s faith. They were loyal to their husbands but not Delilah. She retained her identity with the Philistines. Proverbs 14:21, ‘a wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.’
B. Submissive to God and Her Husband
Werner Meyer says that in the loving submission of the woman to the main is reflected the inner Trinitarian glory of the relationship of the Son to the Father. Could anything greater be said about a woman. 1 Peter 3:5-6 says that ‘for this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.’ This point is not popular in the church today and many try to get around it by strained exegesis. She displaces the love of the church so that she is submissive to her husband. And egalitarian model cannot picture the Gospel. The model of a husband and a wife is where the husband would die for his wife. In Genesis, God said to Cain, ‘but you Cain not do what is right, sin is at your door and its desire is for you.’ Sin’s desire is to rule you but you must rule over it. The battle between the sexes today is the result of the fall. But you are better off living on a corner of the roof, or in a desert than live with a quarrelsome wife. A good wife is entrepreneurial in helping earn money for the home to help the husband. In Ephesians 5:21-24 it says, ‘submit to one another (in the church) out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.’ A godly father’s prayer for his son, may your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth: a loving doe, a graceful deer – may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.’