“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4)
Not too long ago, while driving down the Interstate in a large city, my husband and I noticed a billboard that caught our eye. There, pictured in a sun-lit field of wild flowers, sat a happy young couple holding hands and smiling at one another. Their expressions communicated love and respect; their wardrobes embodied an image of prosperity and happiness.
At first, the clean, wholesome image fooled us. We thought perhaps a local church was promoting an upcoming marriage seminar. But, what they were selling turned our stomachs. The ad was for an “adult bookstore,” conveniently located at the next exit. The image was trying to fool the average American family into believing that pornography and perversion could make their marriage more satisfying.
I hate to break it to them, but the smutty movies and dime store gadgets found in some pervert shack are like licking an ash tray in comparison to God’s idea of sexual intimacy—a song filled with passion, security, excitement, satisfaction, oneness, and mystery. Couples who reject the cheap and ugly aren’t being prudish; they’re protecting their treasure.
I like the way John Denver’s poetry captures some of the purity and passion of marital love in Annie’s Song (And please don’t ruin it for me by telling me about the singer’s personal failures). 🙂
Come, my beloved, let us go forth to the field…there I will give you my love…which I have laid up for you… (Song of Solomon 7:11–13)
Perversion is nothing new. Satan, the Deceiver, is still trying to sanitize and normalize sin—still trying to twist the beauty, passion, and purity of sexual intimacy into something hedonistic and crass. In our country, pornography used to be something people shamefully hid. Now it’s sold openly in grocery stores and visits us, often uninvited, on our computer screens.
It used to be that taking your clothes off for money was called prostitution. Now, if you’re young enough, and invest in enough plastic surgery, disrobing for the public can earn you a six figure income, help win you an Emmy, and give you idol status on television….until you get old. Then you’re treated like yesterday’s garbage on the front page of the tabloids.
Never before in our country’s history has the dignity of women and the holiness and beauty of marriage been under such open attack. The family is under fire like never before and our children are the prime targets. Pornography, homosexuality, promiscuity, fornication, adultery, teen pregnancy, gender confusion, child molestation, abortion, STDs, teen suicide…these tragic symptoms are the result of a people who have turned their back on God, and they are becoming epidemic in our modern culture.
Treachery in Love
Yet, our problems are nothing new. God’s people have a history of unfaithfulness that goes back many centuries. In the second chapter of Malachi, the Israelites weep and groan over the fact that God has rejected their offerings. God seems to be turning His back on His covenant people. When they arrogantly question why God would treat them in such a way, Malachi points out:
“Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” (Malachi 2:14)
Covenant breaking is no small thing to God. Many have felt the sting of treachery at the hand of the one they love most. Today, single-parent homes are a cultural norm, and the news of a husband’s infidelity and the abandonment of his family may barely earn a yawn.
Sadly, a man may even “deal treacherously” with his wife without ever physically leaving his home. A husband’s refusal to provide for the physical, spiritual, or emotional needs of his family is becoming more common as men today are discouraged from biblically leading their wives.
In addition, since absolute fidelity is considered old fashioned (“A guy can look, can’t he?”), men aren’t taught to guard their eyes from dangerous situations and sights; so, they are drawn into more subtle ways of betraying their wives.
Sadly, sin has caused some men to deal treacherously with their wives in more life shattering ways. One may trade in the wife of his youth for a “newer model,” while another may be abusive or defile the marriage so badly that she flees in despair. There is nothing new under the sun and sin still lurks in the hearts of men.
However, adultery and neglect are not sins limited to men. Women have also betrayed their husbands and rejected their vows. Wives have left their own children to chase after the deceptive and insatiable fiend, “self fulfillment.” And the children grow up looking for role models and confidants who understand their loneliness. The honor of marriage takes another hit.
“My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, None at all exalt Him.” (Hosea 11:7, NKJV)
Ever since women began en masse to buy the lie that they could and should be all they wished their husbands were, our children have paid the price and the biblical family has withered into an anemic shell of what could have been.
In addition, an unrealistic desire for a fantastical romance, power, or endless excitement has effectively beguiled some women away from a desire for hearth and home, and into the “fast and easy” life glamorized by Hollywood, soap operas, and women’s magazines, shattering countless lives. (And, for the record, I am not implying that any woman who works outside the home is guilty of this.)
One woman I knew personally as a child, when her children reached their teens, decided to leave her husband of twenty years because their marriage was no longer “romantic and exciting.” She determined that she needed to get out now while she was still young enough to attract a man that would meet her expectations. What she did was alienate her devastated children and crush her devoted husband who had rightly assumed they would grow old together. Ironically, he eventually remarried; she did not.
God Himself knows the excruciating pain and injustice of unfaithfulness.
“Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,” says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 3:20, NKJV)
Just as a man can push away his wife without ever leaving the home, a woman can alienate her husband from the other side of the room. A woman’s tongue can be a fiercer weapon than the sharpest sword (Proverbs 21:19, Psalm 52:2), while a meek and quiet spirit may disarm him without a fight—or, as Scripture points out, without a word (1 Peter 3:1-4).
The Book of Wisdom tells us that a wise woman builds up her house, but a foolish one can single-handedly destroy her own family (Proverbs 14:1). When a woman neglects or rejects hearth and home, ultimately, marriage is again dishonored.
For marriage to be honored at all, a correct view of God and a proper understanding of His Word is crucial. As Matthew Henry points out in his commentary on Malachi, the reason we deal falsely with one another is because we think falsely of our God.
If we truly believed what we say we believe about Him, His love and His holiness, we would not deal treacherously with one another; rather, we would love one another—and live like it. Obeying God and living according to His ways would keep us from our current state, where our marriages are upside down and inside out.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of my 3-Part series, Stained Sheets, where we will discuss oneness and biblical order in marriage.