Military Marriage Seminar – Part 2
|By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2005|
|A marriage made in Eden is one that worships the God of heaven. It’s not merely for my happiness, or my spouse’s happiness. My spouse is helping me as God’s co-heir in our relationship.|
Military Marriage Seminar – Part 2
This message was recorded at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. Through the ministry of The Cove we’re training people in God’s Word to win others to Christ. It’s our goal to develop Christians who experience God through knowing Him better, knowing His Word, building godly relationships and helping others know Him. We trust that this message will strengthen your walk with God and help you experience Him right where you are.
Dr. Michael Easley: Well, it is great to be here. Did you get a good night’s sleep? A little bit better this morning. Last night some of you were sleeping and that is because you had both a boring preacher and a long day. My greatest fear in life is to be fat old boring preacher, and I’m halfway there.
Anyway, we thought last night a little bit about this whole intention of how God designed this relationship in the biggest picture. And when we’re attracted to one another, when we meet each other, when we say, “Let’s get married,” we do it for lots of different reasons. Rarely, rarely are they biblical reasons. I mean, sometimes some of you were smarter than others. Cindy and I were in lust and in love.
So I don’t know how you guys met or how your marriage began, but for many of us we didn’t have a very clear plan. We might have had some designs and intentions, expectations, from where we have come, but we didn’t have a very good plan. When you think about your marriage today, what would it be like if the two of you were completely at ease, if the two of you completely trusted one another, there was no fear, no shame and yet, you completed each other, strengths, liabilities, weaknesses? What would it be like to have a marriage like that? And on top of all that, with that union somehow mirrored, reflected the image of God? That’s the goal of marriage.
As I suggested last night, Gary Thompson was the one who said it best, so I must attribute it to him, “What if God meant for you to be holy, not merely happy?” You may have happiness and joy, and I hope and pray you will, but it’s the transforming us into what we’re not and it takes another person to pull that into our lives. Socrates said, “By all means marry. If you get a good wife you will be happy. If you get a bad one you will become a philosopher.” And, of course, the same could be said for the wife.
Open your Bible to Genesis 2. Genesis 2 begins with a recounting of creation. We looked at some of the image bearing aspects last night. I want to continue in this, to look at our plan that God has for our marriage which is simply this; we’re to be naked and not ashamed. And we’ll look at what that means in this text. Let’s pick up the narrative in chapter 2 of Genesis, verse 21, “So the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man and he slept. And He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man and brought her to the man, and the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined [or cleave] to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and not ashamed.”
The creation of the first woman is remarkably in contrast to everything else in the creative order so far; the way God has designed this for the man. Victor Hamilton, a Hebrew scholar, writes, “None of Israel’s neighbors had a tradition of a separate account involving the creation of a woman.” Dr. Allen Ross, “The emphasis of the meaning of woman is unique in ancient near-eastern text,” meaning as they study period literature of the time that explains different origins and theories of origins, there is no distinction between how the woman comes about. It’s another unique part of Scripture, another unique part of God’s Word that the way woman is created is unique to all literature around the world.
Now, in these cultures they had a high value or a low value of woman, depending on the culture. Today we have certain religious cultures where women are certainly second-class citizens. I’ve traveled to counties, I’ve been in Nigeria, for example, where the women are in one room doing the cooking and cleaning and the shepherding and the taking care of, and the men are in another eating. And they don’t eat until the men finish, and they get what’s left over. And many cultures in the world even today, this is an issue.
The foundational passage is, a marriage made in Eden is one that worships the God of heaven. It’s not merely for my happiness, or Cindy’s happiness, or for her to, you know, to be my helper in the sense of do things I don’t want to do. She’s helping me as God’s co-heir in our relationship where my liabilities come in and you the same as husband and wife.
Now, remember verse 2:18. The problem was it was not good for the man to be alone. Let’s go back and get the picture a little bit. When God creates the animals He brings them in front of the man, and whatever the man called that living thing was its name. I want to you look at the words. Let’s go back to verse 19 and I’ll show it to you again: “Out of the ground,” verse 19, “the Lord God formed every beast of the field.” And I would argue again in my sanctified imagination Jesus Christ is on His hands and knees making these sand creatures out of dirt, and then they’re given life. “He brought them to the man,” verse 19, “to see what the man would call them; whatever the man called a living creature that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle,” and so forth and so on. So there’s this naming and calling. So you see as they each parade before him he assigns them a designation. He gives them a name.
This word, “called” is a dominion word. When you have child you’re going to name him or her. I talked to two couples this morning; both were expecting. And we didn’t get to talk about names, but they’re going to pick a name, maybe a family name, maybe it’s a name you’ve always wanted to call a child. And so you’ve got this name in mind, and maybe you argue about the name. But you’re going to name that son or daughter. And we look through baby name books. We flip through them or we heard a name we liked one time. The Hebrew culture had a very different view of names. Names were to give observations and characteristics to a thing. We have the species and genus classification of species. The reason names are given is they observe something and they assign a name to it. Scientists are still doing this. Biologists are still doing this as they study things and find new organisms, new creatures from time to time, new viruses are given new names. And so when you designate it, you have a power and a dominion over it in the sense that I’m the one that gave them that name. So this begins his demonstration of this.
Now, when the woman is brought to him there are five phases, and in the Hebrew poetry,… I wish we could all read Hebrew and Greek and Aramaic fluently because it’s so difficult to see it in our English text. But our English translators worked very hard to do it. I’m going to give you five terms. You can see them in verses 21-22, “caused, took, closed up, fashioned, brought.” Each of these verbal forces is very poignant in the way the story or the poem or the lyric is written. “He caused a deep sleep. He took a rib. He closed the flesh. He fashioned into a woman and He brought.” So you have caused, took, closed up, fashioned, and brought. So He causes a deep sleep to fall upon the man. And some wife has said, “and he’s been sleeping ever since.”
When my first daughter was young we had to play with Barbie’s. I never have liked Barbie’s before, during, since or after. Barbie’s have everything, if you haven’t noticed. They have the condo, the corvette, the townhouse, the pool. And Ken, in our house, had no clothes and one leg, absolutely true. And Hanna would want to play Barbie’s and I would lay on the basement floor and pretend we were playing Barbie’s and I’d say, “Ken wants to take a nap.” [Snore] “No, dad, that’s not how you play Barbie’s.” You know, it starts early in life, you know. Barbie has everything. Poor Ken is probably still cold in the basement somewhere.
When you study your Bibles if you look at Genesis 2 on your own you’ll find 11 times in this text God is the One who is the agent. The Lord God caused; the Lord God did something; the Lord God,… So we saw 32, I would argue 38, references to God in the first chapter, and now we have 11 more activities of God, the sovereign Creator-Sustainer who has created man and put him in a context so we can worship Him. That’s the big high goal. I know it’s a little heady, but that’s the big high goal. So the sovereign creates the first anesthesia. He takes a rib. He closes up the flesh and He fashions a woman.
The word “rib” is a fascinating word in Scripture. In Exodus 26:26 the bars of the part of the tabernacle complex, it’s the same word. Think of it like a skeletal structure. It was used to frame up something. It was used to be sort of the, we might say, the studs in a wall. So the rib has a term of being the side of the tabernacle. In fact, that’s actually the way it’s used. It’s the side of the tabernacle complex. Of course you had the tabernacle complex which was the portable version of the worship center through the wilderness. And then you find out the temple complex that Solomon would build. But this term, for the Hebrew ear, they would hear the connection. That’s just like the framing, we would say, the bars of the tabernacle complex in the Old Testament.
Verse 22: “He fashions a women.” Now, this word is a fascinating word because it means He has made something specifically for the man. You think of a hand and glove, that glove is designed to fit your hand perfectly, or it should fit you well. And when just the biological differences of the physiology of a man and women, we fit, and the sexual overtures are clear in the text, that these two beings fit together. And that’s the way God intended and designed them. And so the word “fashioned” really means that, it really means in the Hebrew to build something. So you can look at your wife later and say, “Honey, you are really built.” And you are biblically, theologically affirming her the way God’s designed her and the way God’s designed you. She’s built for you. Calvin observed, “The incompleteness of Adam’s being was like an unfinished building until she was formed.” Not good for the man to be alone.
Now, from the creation aspect, the narrative suggests no millions and millions of years; in fact, it suggest that there’s no time frame at all between after Adam’s created and there is some interval of him naming the species of animals, which, by the way, could number in less than hundreds. Good scientists who believe in the Bible and creation have argued that there’s a lot of species that could come out of, but even the secular scientists in National Geographic, the AKC registry of dogs, they all acknowledge there was one dog. Remember when they found Eve, the skeleton Eve? They found a skull in Africa and said this is the first woman from which all women came. Well, they can’t have it both ways, but they try to. And so we have this creation order of the image-bearer. And notice, she is of him, for him, to him, to be an image-bearer, to reflect God’s image in the created order as well in their worshipful order.
The deep sleep is a perplexing problem for all Bible students or readers. Why the deep sleep? And I have no clear answer for you other than a sanctified speculation that the Creator pulls the curtain when He fashions the woman. We’re told out of the ground, the animals; out of the “adm, He made adm;” but when He fashions the woman, the curtain’s closed, and the man’s asleep. When he awakes, of course, he’s got acknowledgment that something has happened to him. Why the rib? Chrysostom, the fifth century writer, says, “Let us remember God did not take the woman from man’s feet that she should be trampled upon or enslaved. Nor did He take her from his head that she should dominate him, but from his side to be his companion, from underneath his arm to receive his protection, from near his heart to have his love and affection.” Isn’t that great? That’s why He chose the rib perhaps in Chrysostom’s language.
Well, He brings her to the man. Now, if we were in a church setting, I would have—and I’ve done this before—have “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” playing when I talk right now, because He brings her to the man. Now, most of us in this room probably had a wedding that had something in preacher-worlds called the Declaration of Intent. That usually happens when, if the family’s intact, and if the father’s giving his daughter away. And how does it work? All the groomsmen and the bridesmaids have come in and the preacher, the minister standing up beside the groom, and then the music plays and everybody stands up and all eyes are trained to the woman in the dress. And when you rehearsed the night before you say, “Guys, you always look at the bride, always look at the bride, always look at the bride. Your whole goal, you’re looking at the bride the whole time because this is her day.”
And the music plays and he comes front and then the father has got his daughter by her arm and then the preacher says to the couple, “Is it your intent before God and these witnesses to pledge yourself as husband and wife?” And they murmur something unutterable. And then you look at the father and you say, “Who then gives this woman to be married to this man?” Now, what did we used to say historically? “I do.” What do we say now? “Her mother and I.” Now, this has nothing to do with politically correctness or chauvinism. The reason the father says, “I do,” is because he and his wife;… When I gave Jessie away, I was trying to think how we did it, because I both officiated and gave her away. It was an interesting service. But when I gave Jessie away I am representing Cindy and me as one.
Now it’s not like you know, any egregious thing to say, “Her mother and I,” but “I do” is a solidarity of Cindy and I, being one, giving our daughter to this gorilla. I mean, I’ve raised these little girls from, you know, this big and now some, you know, guy’s going to take her away from me and paw her to death and treat her unkindly. And, you know, that’s my little girl. I’ve been working all these years to protect her and love and she, you know, they still call me daddy. My 27-year-old called me last night, “Daddy!” Boy, they’ve got me wrapped around both fingers, around the neck, around the wallet. I mean, there’s not anything I won’t do for those girls.
But when he gives her away he says, “I do.” Now, do we find this in some Western book on how to do marriages? Is there some, you know, is the wedding planner thing? It’s a reenactment of the creation account. Because the man’s asleep, he is awakened to this creature who stands in front of him. The Father, God in the person Jesus Christ, is presenting to him, from him, of him, to him, for him, a companion, because it’s not good for him to be alone. So even when a secular wedding occurs, they’re reenacting the presentation of the Old Testament Scripture. That’s the reason the father gives the bride away, not because somebody said, “It’d be a good idea to have the father walk his daughter down the aisle.” And then in most church settings, depending on how your wedding occurs, that transpires on the ground, and then the couple will move up with the wedding party.
And whenever I officiate a wedding I play a number of trump cards. Usually I ask the bride, “You tell me what you want; I can be the bad guy to your future mother-in-law or your step-mother or whomever has a stake in the wedding and they can be mad at me and they can love the wedding.” So I have a great role that day, like a counselor. I get walked on between two people, not a problem. I’m happy to serve that role because somebody needs to take that attention away so the bride and groom can enjoy their wedding. So in that process I say, “You know, dad, I’d like you to say ‘I do,’ not ‘her mother and I’. Now, if it really gives you angst don’t worry about it. I’ll explain it in the ceremony just like I am now why we do that,” and I’ll tell people that.
But when they come forward they are also enacting something. They’re leaving. And now these couples have left their family of origin metaphorically. A number of things I do in a wedding ceremony; one of which, I encourage them to write a tribute to their parents. And we do this in secret. It’s not in the program. So that once they have gone through the Declaration of Intent and then the dad kisses his daughter, that’s his daughter for the very last time. Now she’ll be his daughter, but she’s going to be married to a man. And then I have them come forward and turn around. And I’ll hand them a piece of paper and they’ll read their tribute to their parents and they tell them thank you. And I then come back in the ceremony and say, “Part of this process,” I explain all of this in Genesis “as you’re leaving your family of origin. And they’re giving you an honorable tribute saying thank you for the way you….” Even in troubled families this is very powerful, because you can always choose to thank your parents for something, can’t you? You can always choose to find something.
I mean, my dad taught me to work. I will never ever, ever, ever be thankless because he taught me the value of hard work, and never to be afraid to roll up your sleeves and try to do something, to get back up on the horse, try, try, try again. I mean, he beat it into the three Easley children. All of us are hard workers. And I thank God for that. But you can always find something to thank your parents for. So we give a tribute to esteem them.
Now, when we read the passage, look again at verse 25. We’ve got these five clauses that prepare us for this passage. And each of these—cause, took, closed up, fashioned, and brought—are now culminated in this passage in verse 23. “And the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’”
Now, a couple of things here before I look at the passage in some detail. Bone of my bone, what? Compared to the other creatures that God formed out of the dirt and brought, this one’s different. Flesh of my flesh; we’ve got a connective relationship. We are one in nature because we’re image-bearers of God, not from the dirt like Adam was. Adam is given the image of God when He breathes the breath of life and makes him in His image. But now this woman is unique and set apart for him. In God’s plan for oneness it becomes these three phrases, “leave, cleave, become one flesh.” That is your plan for your marriage, to leave, cleave and become one flesh.
In the English translation to me it says something like, you know, “This one. At last, this one is the one for me.” I mean, think about poor Adam in the context of naming all the animals. At some juncture the most brilliant man who has ever walked the planet in my opinion, Adam and the woman, no sin nature, had intimacy with God unparalleled in all of time and space. They are image-bearers in a pre-fallen context. They know everything He’s told them. I think they’re brilliant people. And he’s going to name what he sees, classify it. And now he’s presented with this woman of equal image-bearing, but completely different, fashioned exclusively for him as a demonstration. “This one’s bone of my bones;” because Adam saw, “You know, there’s two of every animal but me here.” It wouldn’t take the smartest man in the world a long time to figure that out after he’s named a few animals. Well, where’s mine? And so he takes a nap.
Now, I wish I had James Earl Jones voice to read this passage. Cindy wishes I had Tom Hanks voice, but. Some months ago I put on Facebook, if you could pick like the most powerful strong romantic male voice who would you pick? And it was fun to watch it on my Facebook. Some included Anthony Hopkins, Luther Vandross, one of the Oak Ridge Boys. You can take your pick. Sam Elliot, Tom Selleck. One person was trying to be funny and said the car talk guys. You know who they are? Click and Clack the Tappet brothers. Best radio in the world. Sean Connery, that’s pretty good. Gregory Peck, and that was sort of running in my lead until one person put Morgan Freeman. I thought, that’s it! Now, I don’t have any of those voices, but pretend. Pick the one you like.
Verse 23: “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.’” We read this Bible like we read some, we sort of go through it. This one, “Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh;” “she shall be called,” not like the animals, “Woman because she was taken out of Man.” Now the poetry of this thing is unbelievable. What has he done when God has brought animals to them? He’s called the thing and named it. Whatever he called it became its name. What does he do? He names her. “This one, finally, this one is for me, bone of my bones, not like everything else.” In fact, the Hebrew is beautiful. It’s ishah. Ish is three letters in Hebrew, which means man and, ishah, the ah sound ending means the woman. But he’s making up a word, if you will. So it’s ish me-ish; she’s from me.
And so the politically-correct cops of the world say, well, you can’t just read man when you read. You have to say men and women because you’re excluding woman. The last time I heard, the word “woman” had the word “man” in it. Mankind is an inclusive term. But no, it’s not politically correct. Don’t let the world teach you theology. We are mankind. We’re not man and woman kind, because we’re ish, ishah. We’re of the same substance and nature, image-bearers of God. It’s not a chauvinistic thing to be called mankind.
Now the sound for the Hebrew ear would lilt in their memory. It conveys covenant. It conveys solidarity and it conveys oneness. She’s from me. She’s of me. She’s for me. We are the same. Now, why does a wife in western culture take her husband’s name? It’s not chauvinism; it’s not tradition; it’s solidarity. So when Cindy Scherwitz, Cindy Jean Scherwitz, married Michael Easley, she became Cindy Scherwitz Easley or Cindy Jean Easley, depending on the document she signs. She did not hyphenate her last name. And I’ve talked to many women who were very upset with me when I bring this point up and say, “Well, I want to keep my maiden name.” And I say, “That’s fine, but you’re maiden name is your father’s name.” And they go “Huh?” You can’t escape a chauvinistic culture if that’s how you view it. You just got your dad’s name. Where, it’s not an issue of chauvinism. It’s an issue of solidarity. We’re becoming one, and so we take a common name together, ish ishah. Don’t let the world teach you theology.
Now for those of you who hyphen your last name don’t be guilty and don’t feel bad about it, don’t go and change it. I’m just saying this is what happens culturally, contextually as to why we do certain things. Because with the, “Oh, I’m going to hang on to my name,” well, you’re kind of working against the whole marriage concept, and that’s your dad’s name anyway. And your grandma’s name was her husband’s name. I mean, you can’t go back and find your name. It’s sort of silly, isn’t it? But this is the way we do so many things.
We have the epilogue in verses 24-25, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and not ashamed.” “For this reason.” This is the explanation as to why this happens, “For this reason,” the marriage institution is explained. So from Moses on, the reason a man leaves his father and mother,… and the word “cleave” in Hebrew, by the way, means to glue something together, and they become one flesh. Leaving is to be done honorably. It’s to be done kindly, but it’s to be done. I’ve seen this problem in a marriage that’s one year old, and a marriage that’s 20 years old, that one of them has not left home.
We had a couple friend in one of the churches we served, whether they had a three-day weekend or a four-day weekend they were going home to her momma. And it didn’t matter what the occasion was, there wasn’t any discussion about, you know, it was her momma. She never left. Now for Cindy and me it was a little easier. We’re both the youngest. She’s the youngest of five; I’m the youngest of three, and our parents were in good form. They were in good form about it and we do every other Thanksgiving, every other,… And Christmas was easy because her family did Christmas Eve; mine did Christmas day. We were both in Houston at the time and so we had about an hour commute between the two homes and it worked pretty well.
And when, I think there’s what, 17 or 21 grandchildren on your side? You know, her parents weren’t all that enamored with one more grandchild. It was like, oh, one more, here we go. You know, put it on the calendar, send them $20, you know. It was just, you know, a lot of grandkids to keep up with, a lot of moving parts. There were only five on my side, so it was a little easier for them to keep up with, and they got a little more doting on my side than they did on the other. But it was pretty easy for Cindy and me to leave. Some couples this is very hard. And as our daughter got married this June, trying to encourage her, and, you know, that first six months for a lot of couples is really hard. And they’re having some struggles and they’re having some challenges. And he moved into her world.
When Cindy and I were married, I moved her into my world. And I had a bunch of single guys and we went riding motorcycles and we went and played basketball and we went and did all sorts of things. And I had my trophy bride at home. And she had moved into my world and she said, “You all are a bunch of college guys that hung out together and never grew up. And I had gotten a real job and lived in the real world as a single woman in Houston.” And I brought her back to Nacogdoches, Texas, into my college sphere of guy friends. And it was our move after our first year, to go to Dallas when I began graduate school, that we started to cleave, because we did not have the connected tissues of my friends to go hang out with. And my poor wife is sitting at home crying because what has she done marrying this idiot? “He’s always gone. He plays with his friends.”
One of my single friends who needed a place to stay, we had a two-bedroom studio, I said, “Well, sure, Bill can stay with us.” It was a long four months he stayed with us. I try not to bring that up too often, because then she remembers about it and then we have to talk about it again. One parent-in-law can ruin a marriage. One parent-in-law can ruin your marriage. Maybe when this weekend is over the one so-what point of action you need to do is to go home and process what does it mean to leave? It doesn’t mean you never see them or you throw them under the bus. But it means you draw a line and say, “We’re a family.”
I remember the first time we stayed home for the holidays with children and had our own Christmas, our own Thanksgiving, our own thing. Her parents were cool, like I said. We can’t count the number of grandchildren. My parents were a little, my mom a little upset. “Well, you’re not coming here for Thanksgiving?” “We’re going to have our own, mom.” “Well, it’s just the three of you.” “Well, we’re going to start our own traditions. And love you, mom, love you like crazy. We’ll see you again, we’ll see you soon, but we’re doing this.”
And our traditions are very different than our families’ traditions. We have done this Thanksgiving thing for years where we call them the highways and byways. We invite the people that have no place to go for Thanksgiving. When I was serving a small church in Grand Prairie, Texas, we had a lot of single elderly widows and some young singles and people that had no family to go to. We said, “You all come over.” The first time we did this we had a tiny, tiny house. We probably had 15 people over there, and, I mean, it was really elbow to elbow. And at 10:00 that night we’re pulling out the Thanksgiving leftovers and eating again and I felt like saying, “Honey, I’m going to go get the floss, put my pajamas on so these people will know it’s time for them to go home.” You know, I mean they stayed all day long.
And so the next year we did it, the next year we did it. And one year Hanna said, “You know, I would really rather have just Thanksgiving just our family.” I said, “Cool.” So the next year we did that and I have a smoker. You know, hickory, and I smoke turkeys for 12 hours. And we had all these, you know, comfort foods we make for Thanksgiving, and so we do all that work. And it’s Hanna and Jessie, and we’re sitting at our little tiny table that barely seats four. And we did all that work and preparation and you eat it in 20 minutes and you’re done, and you look at each other. And Hanna goes, “This is really boring.” And she was maybe six or seven at the time; I forget. And so ever since then we’ve got 30 people at our house on Thanksgiving because that’s how we do Thanksgiving. My kids don’t know any different. That’s what they look forward to. Who are we going to have for Thanksgiving?
And we play, you know, what’s the hot potato game today? It’s Catch Phrase, you know, it’s hot potato. But we play Catch Phrase and all these things you know, that games that costs nothing, now are $50, but anyway, you know, Dictionary games and we have teams and we have a lot of fun. And they won’t let Cindy and me be on the same team because we’re like one brain. I say one word, she gets it. They go that’s not fair. You know, your 31 years of marriage, we kind of know each other a little bit, and it doesn’t take much to sort of win the game, which, we’re not competitive; we just always win. Got to keep your kids in place while you can.
“Cleave” is the covenant word that means to glue. You’re leaving your family of origin and you’re cleaving. It’s a covenant language. You’re gluing together. Some of you, any of you guys like Westerns besides me? I love Westerns. Of course, the military, you’ve got to love Westerns, come on, man. You’ve got to love Westerns. Remember the Indian and the cowboy would cut their hands and they’d shake their hands and they became blood brothers? The word in Hebrew to cut, berith, is to cut a covenant. Remember Abram; he takes the animals according to God’s instructions. He cuts them. He binds them up and he waits all day long and finally the Lord comes in the flame of fire and he walks through, remember, the divided animals and consumes them all, remember. Are you awake?
Remember the story, and what’s he doing in that covenant? He’s not making a covenant with Abraham. Abraham is the recipient of the covenant, because He can only make the covenant with Himself. It’s called a unilateral covenant. But the covenant was cut, illustrated by the animals. Now, all the other covenants are bilateral. If you do this, then I will do that. If you don’t do this, then I will bring the plagues of Egypt on you. And they broke the bilateral covenants whether they were the Davidic, so on and so forth, they broke all of them. But the unilateral covenant was made there with Abram, with Noah, and the new covenant.
To cut a covenant meant you were committed to that thing, and the cutting action in the Old Testament meant I’m going to cut you; and cut you not to be blood brothers, because if you don’t keep your end of the bargain I’m going to kill you. And if I don’t keep my end of the bargain you can kill me. So when you vow a vow before God and these witnesses you’re making a covenant. I find it fascinating that God does not ask us to keep our own salvation. He doesn’t ask us to covenant in anything in life except marriage. I find that mindboggling. I want you not do these 10 things in your life, and if you keep those covenants you’ll be good enough to get to heaven. Well, let’s see that didn’t work so well in the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, the do’s and don’ts. I’ll give you more explanation. I’ll give you prophets and judges and kings to help you interpret it. And the more We give you and help you, the more you muck it up. So He’ll come and be what? The new covenant in His blood. We’ll talk a little bit more about that later today and tomorrow.
So you’re cleaving together; you’re becoming one, not his friends, her friends. Now, let me just give you a little piece of advice here. In the military you have a great network on bases with other friends, military spouses, you’ve got a connection. It’s like police officers; you’ve got a connection. It’s like preachers; they’ve got a connection. Like doctors, they’ve got a connection because you understand each other’s worlds. Fight against the temptation to segregate your relationships: his friends, her friends. Fight against the temptation. Find couples that are interested in cleaving. That doesn’t mean you never have a guy’s night out or a girl’s night out. I’m not saying that. But don’t make that the mainstay. Now it’s hard to find another couple where all four of you get along, isn’t it. I mean, usually, you know, I like her, I like my wife, I don’t so much like him. We have nothing in common or I can’t stand the wife or whatever, you know. I’m just being transparent. It’s hard to find where all four click.
And what we have decided early in marriage is we pursue, pursue, pursue, pursue. We don’t play tit for tat where we’re in relationships. We want to find couples that we want to do life with, old cliché. I want to find couples I want to hang with. And in God’s kindness over the years we’ve got couples in Texas, couples in Virginia, couples in Tennessee now, that if, let’s call Barry and Melissa, let’s call David and Sharon, let’s see if we can go do such and such with Bill and Hillary. Let’s go, and it’s like we can’t wait to be with them. Each of them, well—that’s really their name, Bill and Hillary, not the other one, but this is a great godly couple. Sorry, that was cheap. I shouldn’t have said that. Forgive me, forgive me— They’re all different. They have different strengths and liabilities and interests. But can I move into that?
Now, why am I going on about this? You always need couples in your life to walk along with you that have the same goals and objectives. It’s just like the military. The men and women who are causing the trouble for the fringe element, who complain, who are always pushing the envelope, that’s going to mess up your career. You’re done. But if you’re tracking with those who are tracking in the right direction, more than likely when opportunities,… it’s like I said at the church all the time; if you’re a complaining, whining, late chronically, underperforming employee, and I’ve got another one who’s working hard and doing a good job and happy to serve me, who am I going to give a raise to or a promotion to? This is not rocket theology. So in marriage do you find couples who are a couple of years ahead of you? And then as you get older, if you’re over 45, you ought to have some younger couples you’re reaching back and helping them with their cleaving part. So when you have the little;… one girl we talked to said their 18-month-old was at home, three and a half year old was at home with his mom. And her smile was this big because she’s free of her little child for a little while.
Cindy talks a lot about the different phases of what it’s like to raise children. And she often says the zero to elementary are the physically exhausting years. We had a family with us not too long ago; they had two little kids. The firstborn, compliant, girl’s real sweet. And the little boy. Is he two? You never could tell if he was whining or happy the entire time, and he never stopped for four days. My son Devin is great with kids and he was helping so much. The only time the boy was happy, we have a trampoline in our backyard because in Tennessee you can have trampolines. What a novel idea! Can’t have them in most states. Now you’ve got to have the fences around them, you know. You can have a trampoline and you might fall off. Anyway, but we’re out there and they’re running around the trampoline and Cindy and Devin and I are kind of fielding it, and Devin is the happiest kid out there. And they’re having fun and he’s having fun with this little guy.
The night before they left he set him beside me in the den because the little guy’s just loud! And after a while it’s like, you know, fingernails on the chalkboard times 10. And I said, “Hey, Devin, why don’t you put your headphones on?” “Great idea!” Went and got his headphones and plugged them into the computer and had music on drowning out the noise. At times it’s just hard. You need couples around you that have been a little down the road that say, you know what, this is going to pass. And you know what? You probably should let him cry himself to sleep.
Now, of course, I need to be careful how I say this. But technology is both a blessing a curse. When we put our kids to bed we close the door for a reason. You all use baby monitors. Why? Why? And they had a baby. We sent them away, and they put a baby monitor on our island, and we listened to this kid cry for an hour. I said, turn the monitor off. He’ll be fine. No, no we can’t do that. I’m leaving. The kid will eventually fall asleep or not and then you get him up. I mean, it sort of gets to a point where who’s controlling the relationship? Moms need a break, especially from that age. You know, the grandchildren are God’s rewards to you for not killing your teenager that you hold out hope for.
Become one flesh. The culmination, the phrase here is sexual in nature, naked and not ashamed. It’s not a spiritual issue. It’s not become one spirit; it’s not be one in spirit. It’s become one flesh in the physical union of naked and not ashamed is what is here. Leave your family of origin, cleave to your wife and you have sexual intimacy, becoming one flesh, naked and not ashamed. You know the difference between naked and nekkid is? Do you know? In the south, if you’re naked it means you don’t have clothes on. If you’re nekkid it means you don’t have clothes on and you’re up to something.
They were sinless. They were unashamed. There was a perfect spiritual unity. There was no aloneness. There was no imagery of whether their body images were right or wrong or comparative to some heroin-laden skinny model who has anorexia and bulimia and looks transgendered. There no Vogue. There was no catalog. There was no billboard. There was no shopping mall. There was Eden. God made man and woman in His image to leave, cleave and become one flesh.
There’s one person in the world with whom you can be naked and not ashamed and you’re sitting right beside him or he. Not the couple next to you, not the couple next to you. If you cannot be naked and not ashamed with that person there will be a lonely part of your soul that will never be filled, and you will try to fill it with other things, with work, with accomplishment, with things, acquisition of stuff, with power. Only one person with whom you can be naked and not ashamed, and the one you said I do to is that one. And some of you need to work on this. Some of you need to understand what it means to have that level of intimacy, not just sexual intimacy, but all that surrounds it.
I think it was Ken Leman wrote a book years ago called Sex Begins at Breakfast. The average guy here is, man, I’d like to start sex at breakfast. Yeah. What he means is you set the tone all day long for the sexual intimacy of your marriage. Martin Luther said that a good Christian should have sex twice a week. And some are thinking, you know, I always admired the Lutheran Church. And others are thinking, how often should you have sex and can you have sex more than that?
Cindy gave me a card years ago, and it says, what women say and what men hear. “What women say: why don’t we just stay home tonight? What men hear: let’s have sex. What women say: we need to communicate better. What men hear: let’s have sex. What women say: darn, I broke a nail. What men hear: let’s have sex.” Makes perfect sense to me. I don’t see any problem with that. We are wired very differently. And Cindy and I, I haven’t shared my affair with you, but I live with chronic pain 24/7. I’ve had three major back surgeries. There’s not a day I don’t live with pain. Some days are better than others. Last night and today are miserable days. She’s married to a tenth of the man she married to 31 years ago, who could fix anything and do anything from cars to sheetrock, the yards to water heaters to water pumps to, you know, plumbing fixtures, electrical stuff, ceiling fans. There’s nothing I couldn’t do. And now I’ve got to pay somebody else to it poorly and I hate it.
And I can’t take care of her the way I used to take care of her. In sickness and in health. I didn’t bargain for this side of it. I’d much rather be taking care of her, than her have to do stuff for me. It’s hard. When I live in Chicago, I was facing my second back surgery and I was driving home from work and I spent most of my life on the Eisenhower. If you all know Chicago, the Eisenhower is close to purgatory. And you just sit there for, you know, an hour. And I called her on the phone. “How you doing, honey?” She goes, “Well, I just finished mowing the yard.” And I don’t know what that would do to you, guys, but I just felt emasculated and gut shot, that my poor wife has to mow her own yard because her husband is incapable of cutting the grass. Maybe a small thing to you, but it was huge thing to me. I don’t want this.
I don’t want this. I don’t have a choice. She’s the only person with whom I can be naked and not ashamed. And to watch how she’s responded over the years with a husband who lives with chronic pain, and how she compensates, and what she does and never complains, not once, never. I’m sure she complains to God, but she never says it out loud.
Let me give you some concluding thoughts on this. Number one: God instituted marriage. This is a “duh” statement, but you need to write it down and think about it. God instituted marriage, not you and me, not some Western tradition; God instituted it.
Number two: He intended marriage to be one man, one woman for life. Do not let the culture tell you otherwise.
Number three: marriage involves intimacy, emotional, physical, and spiritual. And again, in 31 years of marriage Cindy and I are at a very different place we were at one, two, five, ten years of marriage. We’ve grown. We talked almost nonstop for the six and a half plus hours we were in the car yesterday, almost nonstop. And some of you, that’s not, you’re not there yet. That’s okay. You can get there. You can get there if you make some changes, course changes. Six hours of conversation, you can get there, you can get there.
Four: Since the fall we must have the Holy Spirit’s power. I had a professor at seminary that said when Adam fell he fell far. And we need God’s power. Marriage is not hard. Marriage is impossible. It is. Two sinners glued together. Oh joy, this’ll be fun. And so now you’re going to fight the rest of your life like I said last night. Let me find a person I can argue with for 40 years and die. Oh, joy. No, there should be some intimacy that leads us to something bigger than ourselves. And I need the Spirit of God’s power to transform me to be the husband and the father and the man I’m to be. Cindy needs God’s Spirit to make her the woman, the wife, the mother, that she needs to be, because in our flesh;… by the way, you cannot make your flesh better. You cannot be more disciplined. This is a military issue: You do the right thing the right way, the career goes up. It doesn’t work in marriage and the spiritual life. Doing the right thing in the right way may put you in a posture for God to use you. It is not a promise that God will use you. He is more interested in your relationship not the rules. And how you relate to God’s Spirit is not checking a box. It is a relationship, not a religion. That’s the distinction, right.
Five: Marriage is the most profound expression of the body of Christ. It is the most profound expression of the body of Christ. We’ll talk about this more, but in Ephesians we read about no spot, no wrinkle, nor any such thing. We’ll look at that tomorrow. What number am I on?
Six: All of us can encourage one another in our marriages and we need encouragement. You need to run with people who have a high view of marriage, not a low view of marriage. And that works like this, be careful at work. You travel with women, be very careful, gentlemen. Women, you travel with men, be very careful. Put up props and borders and boundaries.
We had a woman, a friend of ours from DC, that was staying with us, spent the Super Bowl with us. And she said, “I have to go. At 9:30 Don and I have an appointment.” And Don’s in DC and she’s in Nashville, Tennessee. And she goes, “Every night at 9:30 we talk on the phone for 30 minutes to an hour.” They got married later in life. They’ll never have children and they have one of the most phenomenal relationships I’ve ever seen. They love each other madly and they have two very busy careers. But every night at 9:30 they’re on the phone. Pretty cool, pretty clever, good way to do it. You need to travel in teams if you have be in that situation.
I would say also here about encouragement, speak well of your wife and well of your husband. Even in our home, we have a marriage enrichment group that runs for two years. We own seven couples for two years. They come into our home, one to four years of marriage, no children, first marriage. They’re in our home every Sunday night for two years. We make them read like graduate level books and do homework like you wouldn’t believe. We set the bar very high because we’ve learned if you don’t they’ll quit. We had 41 couples apply; we took seven in our group. Two years later, to see the transformation in those young couples from when they started our group to when they finished, is nothing short of a God remarkable thing. They have grown so much one another with the Lord. And part of it, a small part of it, is we’re looking at another couple that’s further; in fact, we’re older, they could be our kids. That’s their age group. And so in a way we’re the surrogate parent. And Cindy still hangs out with the girls.
All seven couples, six of them have babies. Had none when they started. And who do they talk to about their babies? And each other. And they’ve become friends, and we beat it into them, you’ve got to have other people to go through life. And they come into our home, the guys are in the kitchen and the girls are over all talking about girlie things. Happens every time. Now it’s not bad, but you’re on the alert for it. And I have this habit of going and standing by my wife, which means I’m with the women, which is not always fun. I don’t want to talk about baby showers and, you know, throwing up children, and pacifiers and, you know, the latest and greatest events of dollology. I want to hang out with the guys and talk about guns and knives and killing things, you know. But I’m with her and we go into a room, we try to stay together. It’s a small thing but it’s a big thing.
Read a couple of books a year on marriage. View marriage as your ongoing graduate course. If you’ve not read Chapman’s Five Languages of Love; if you’ve not read Gary Thompson’s Sacred Marriage. I mean, look at some of the books and read them together. During our first year, I would read a book and I’d highlight in yellow and she’d read a book and highlight in blue, and then we would compare the green and we’d talk through it. And I write in the margins of the books when I either agree or disagree with the author. I write, because if I just read it I forget what I’ve read. So I have to interact with what I read, and so I write in the margins. And she’ll be laughing going “I love reading your comments when I’m reading the book.” And so we’ve read hundreds of books on marriage and parenting and other things over our years.
Readers are leaders. Readers grow. Most men do not read. The military is an exception for that because you are in a career that you have to learn to be educated. Read a couple books on marriage every year. Pick one out.
Now, there’s not a guy in this room that would not like his wife to read a book on sex. He won’t tell you. I’ll tell them for you. And there’s not a woman in this room who wouldn’t like her husband to read a book more on sort of the romance and the affection and the relationship side of it. Well, here’s a novel idea: Get a book on sexual intimacy and get a book on the overall of marriage and have the woman read the book on sex out loud. One night a week, read a chapter. And the next week you read a chapter of the book she wants to read out loud before you go to bed. A number of things will happen. You’ll be communicating about the same subject. You’ll get into a good habit of learning together. You might have sex a lot more often. You’ll be able to talk about sexual intimacy, which most couples have a very, very difficult time talking about.
We’re to leave, cleave. Become one flesh is where we trip. Only one person in the world I can be naked and not ashamed with; that’s Cindy. Our sex life has differed in our 20’s and our 50’s. And we have to talk about it. It gets real quiet because it’s real close to home. Can’t talk about it in church. I guess you can put a bed on the roof of your church, sorry.
Big picture: God has said I’ll give you all the resources you need for this relationship. They’re here. They’re here. They’re in the Spirit, His word and His people. I’ve created you in My image. I’ve designed you to worship God, Me, not the world, not each other. I’ve given you a partner to do this with, and he or she is My gift to you. And you have to leave, cleave and become one flesh for you to understand this, because I’m going to do in you something that I can’t do when you’re single and apart. The question becomes, do you believe Him at His Word?
I’ll finish with a story. Sulamith Ish-Kishor has written this. I have worked for years to find the precise attribution to the story and that’s as close as I have gotten. I first heard the story from David Augsburger, a friend of mine in California and I have done tons of research on it. It is a true story as far as we can tell; some of the details are hard to pin down. It’s about a young man named Lieutenant John Blanchard. John Blanchard was in Florida awaiting his next assignment, and one night he had a little time on the base and went over to a base library, if they have such things today.
On a shelf a leatherette book edging caught his attention, what it looked like. He pulled it off the shelf. It was a book of prose, of poetry, to which he didn’t have much interest. But when he opened it up there was this exquisite feminine penmanship written throughout the book. So he checked the book out, took it back to his room. The name in the front of the book was Miss Hollis Maynell with the date when she had purchased this book, and later at some point donated it to the library.
Well, on a whim, he wrote a letter to a Miss Hollis Maynell. The next week he was deployed overseas for 13 months, but the letter found its way to Hollis Maynell. And for 13 months they corresponded, no email, no texting, no phone calls. They corresponded longhand written letters back and forth. Blanchard was falling in love with her as he was writing her back and forth, no doubt lonely. And her comments in his letters as he read and reread were also intriguing to her. Blanchard asked several times for her to send a photograph to him and she refused. She later said in the letter, “If it’s really love it won’t matter what I look like.”
Now, I don’t know what self-respecting red blooded male would say amen to that. Sorry, just the way we’re wired. It does matter what we look like, right or wrong; it’s just.
Well, he comes home. They arrange to meet at the Grand Central Station, New York, 7 p.m. on the nose. He’ll be wearing his uniform, and he’ll have the book in his possession. She is to wear a yellow rose in the lapel of her coat to identify herself to him. In John Blanchard’s words, “A few minute before 7 I stood under the clock, watching the mass of people at Grand Central Station, anxious beyond measure, waiting for Miss Hollis Maynell. All of a sudden a young woman with long blonde hair curling around her chin and neck, bright red lipstick and a green dress that was like spring come alive, walked right in front of me and she said to me with a smile, ‘Going my way soldier?’ And with a wink she walked off to the side.
I began to take a step toward her and then I noticed behind her Miss Hollis Maynell; at least 40 years of age, gray hair tucked up under an old worn hat, a rumpled brown blazer, thick heeled shoes, baggy hose, with the unmistakable yellow rose. Choking back my disappointment I looked at her. This would not be love. This would not be marriage, but she had been a friend. She had written me. She had carried me through my lonely nights overseas. Choking back the disappointment, I saluted her. I said, ‘You must be Miss Hollis Maynell. I am John Blanchard. May I take you to dinner?’
With a quizzical look she said to me, ‘Sonny, I don’t know what in the world this is about. But that girl in the green dress that just walked by begged me to wear this rose. And she said, that if you were to ask me to dinner, I was to tell her she’d be in that diner across the street waiting for you, that it was some kind of test.’”
Would you pass the test? Leave, cleave and become one flesh. He’s given you all the resources you need, all of them, and He has a plan for you.
Prayer: Father I thank you for these men and women, for their commitment to country and to You. I pray You’d encourage them, especially those who are struggling and maybe a little hurt and wounded and limping right now, that You are their Redeemer and their King. May we all be a little more like Christ and a little less like self. In Christ’s name, amen.