The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

God's Model for Marriage and Family

“But if anyone does not provide for . . . those of his own household, he has denied the faith”

God created the family unit. Family is very important to God. He wants us to consistently care for the family unit. But the family unit of today is falling apart. Just as sin brought pain to the human race, it has brought pain to the family. Over the years family has been redefined by those who think they know better than God. God has been cut out of the family equation. The result is ever-increasing disruption, divorce, abuse, and more fractured families. We need to get back to the fundamentals of family. To build a firm foundation for a family we have to go back to the Source and Author of the family, God.

The place where we can find a model or blueprint for family is in the word of God. Without God and His word, our labor to build a family is vain. God in His word states:

· Psalm 127:1 - Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.

There are all kinds of theories about what a family should be, but if you want a family that is all it should be and was meant to be, you have to consistently follow God’s model for family.

God’s Model for Marriage and the Family

Marriage is where family is meant to begin. In our day there are families made up of those who are not married. There are single parent families and blended families and all different kinds of families. God can and does bless such family situations if its members turn to Him for salvation and help. But marriage is where God ordained a family should begin.

Marriage is under attack today. Marriage is a much maligned and misunderstood God ordained institution. Marriage is not merely a means for people to properly satisfy their sexual desires. Marriage is so much more than that. As we scan the pages of the Bible we find some foundational truths revealed by God for us to follow in constructing the family unit. Let’s look at some of these foundational truths of God’s model for marriage and family.

First, God created human beings with a sexual attraction for one another. It is not wrong or sinful to be attracted to the opposite sex. If it weren’t for physical attraction to the opposite sex, the human race would become extinct. Adam expressed his affection and desire for Eve when God created Eve from his is own flesh:

· Genesis 2:20-23 - 20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. 21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. 23 And 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.”

God revealed Adam’s attraction to the human opposite sex by parading other created creatures before him. God knew Adam wouldn’t be satisfied by animals. So God created Eve and that certainly got Adam’s attention. When God presented Eve to Adam, there was an almost instant attraction, an instant connection. There was a yearning, a desire to become one. God’s intended natural inherent desire was for people of the opposite sex to be attracted to one another. Sin has marred this and the philosophy of the world is more and more trying to discount God’s intended natural attraction between the opposite sexes. But true God ordained sexual fulfillment comes within the boundaries of a God ordained marriage; not before marriage and not outside of marriage; but in God ordained marriage.

Second, marriage is God’s creation. Marriage is not merely something thought up or evolved by societies, governments or the people in them. Marriage was created by God. Once God had created Adam and presented him with Eve and the attraction of the two was obvious, God ordained the proper relationship in which to fulfill their love and desire for one another, marriage. In Genesis this marriage relationship is described as:

· Genesis 2:24-25 - 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

God created marriage. Marriage is a wonderful gift of God. God’s marriage model is between two people of the opposite sex. God’s plan is not for two people of the same sex. It is not for a group of people or one man and multiple wives or one woman and multiple husbands. God’s marriage model involves one man and one woman; that’s it.

Third, marriage is the only proper God ordained arrangement in which sexual interaction takes place. Marriage is the proper environment for two people of the opposite sex to grow in an intimate relationship. The words, “they shall become one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” refer to sexual interaction, (i.e. sexual intercourse - Genesis 2:24-25)

Marriage is the place where two people can be naked and unashamed. There should be no guilt connected with sex between two married people (as long as they are interacting with who they are married to). In the New Testament this is expressed in the following words:

· Hebrews 13:4 - 4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

Sex is also a gift of God and for sexual fulfillment to occur, it needs to be experienced in the way prescribed by the Creator.

Fourth, marriage is made by God for a man and a woman. God ordained the marriage relationship for Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve or Eve and Evelyn. There is no Biblical precedent or alternative to a male and a female being married. That didn’t always have to be stated, but in our present day with the movement to approve same-sex marriages it needs to be stated that not only is homosexuality and lesbianism not ordained by God, but same-sex marriages are not ordained by God either (see Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Nowhere in scripture does God approve same-sex marriages. There are other guidelines for marriage.

Polygamy is prohibited by God (Deuteronomy 17:17; Leviticus 18:18). Just because we see kings and others enter into polygamous marriages in the Bible does not mean God ordains or approves of them. His original plan and model was for one man to marry one woman. Anything other than that is outside God’s ordained plans.

Marriage to close relatives is prohibited by God (Leviticus 18:6-18). Incest is prohibited by God as a perversion. This included a prohibition for people to marry: their mother; their stepmother, (e.g. Reuben with Bilhah - Genesis 35:22; Absalom with David’s wives - 2 Samuel 16:21, 22); their sister; granddaughter; half sister on the father’s side; paternal aunt; maternal aunt; paternal uncle’s wife; daughter-in-law; brother’s wife; stepdaughter or step-granddaughter; or a wife’s sister.[1]

Fifth, marriage is the starting point for the creation of family. Earlier in Genesis it states:

· Genesis 1:27-28 - 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Marriage is God’s ordained relationship in which to fulfill His command to be fruitful and multiply. God did not ordain the procreation of offspring to just anyone. He ordained that people of the opposite sex in a loyal-for-life relationship made in the sight of God are those best suited and acceptable to God to have children. God is able to bless single parent families, but His ideal is for a family unit to consist of one mother and one father. Death and divorce creates single parent families. A single parent can be used by God to adopt a child in certain circumstances. Such family units, by God’s grace, can be strong nurturing and loving environments for its members. But God’s ideal is a mother and father and children.

It is not God’s plan for parents to merely produce children. God’s plan is for a married couple to produce godly children. This is spelled out in the last book of the Old Testament where it states:

· Malachi 2:14-15 - Yet you say, “For what reason?” 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.15 But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.”16

Family is meant by God to be the place where discipleship training is to take place (see also Deuteronomy 6). The family unit is a place where children can be taught to follow the Lord. It is where children can be trained in God’s word (see 2 Timothy 3:15-17). The training children receive is not only to be secular, but it needs to be spiritual too. The family unit is the first place where the Great Commission of Jesus is to be fulfilled (Matthew 28:18-20). It’s tragic when ministers spend all their time seeking to make disciples in the world and forget to make disciples in their own families. The family is the best place to make disciples. No other setting has the contact and intimacy and closeness to mold disciples.

Sixth, married couples who cannot have children can still be righteous before God. There are many couples who desire to have children, but who cannot. We live in a fallen world and our bodies are frequently affected by the planetary effects of sin in nature. To be barren does not necessarily mean one is cursed by God. When we look in the New Testament, the parents of John the Baptist were originally childless. But the Bible still describes them as righteous. Zacharias and Elizabeth are described as follows by Luke:

· Luke 1:5-7 - 5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.

Zacharias and Elizabeth are described as “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” They eventually did have a child, John the Baptist, but the important thing to note here is that they were righteous, walking in God’s commandments and blameless, before they had a child. Having children or not having children does not make people more or less righteous before God. The Christian’s righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). God has a reason for everything and those who are unable to physically have children should perhaps look to adopt a child who is in need. Adoptive families can be mightily used by God.

Seventh, marriage is God’s means to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the Church. In the New Testament we see that marriage is not only a God ordained relationship for two people to enter into an intimate relationship and to create a family, but marriage is a life illustration of the close relationship between Jesus and His Bride, the Church

· Ephesians 5:22-32 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

God chose the closest of human relationships, marriage; to portray the loving relationship His only Son has for His Bride the Church. It should be mentioned that God used marriage in the Old Testament to illustrate His relationship with Israel (Isaiah 54:5).

When we look at marriage as an illustration of Christ and the church we realize that there are roles in the marriage and family unit. These roles of husband and wife are meant to illustrate the love of Jesus to His bride the church and His bride’s submission to Him. There is a movement both outside and inside the church to eliminate roles in the family unit. But if roles ordained by God are removed from the family unit, then His intended illustration of the relationship between Christ and the church is degraded and lost. In the Old Testament Moses was barred from the Promised Land because he misrepresented God and in so doing desecrated a typology of the Lord (i.e. the rock as Christ, being struck more than once; Numbers 20; 1 Corinthians 10). If people misrepresent God’s intended illustration in marriage by removing His ordained roles they may experience a similar fate to that of Moses.

Marriage is God’s ordained and approved means for two people of the opposite sex to grow close in love (which includes sexual activity). Marriage is God’s ordained and approved means to start a family. And marriage is God’s ordained and approved means to illustrate the love of Jesus for those in His Church. Marriage God’s way leads to our happiness (Genesis 2:18), and complete satisfaction (Proverbs 5:19; 1 Timothy 5:14).

God’s Priority of the Family

Ministry is important, but ministry begins in the marriage and family first, and then moves outside the home. Paul instructed Timothy to this end when he was inspired to write:

1 Timothy 5:8 - 8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

The context of this verse is Paul’s discussion of the responsibility families have to care for their members, especially the elderly and widowed. It is a gross inconsistency for those in ministry or who call themselves Christian to serve in any way that is neglectful of the marriage or family God has given them and in His sovereign grace has placed them.

The first priority of every Christian is their own personal relationship with God. This relationship alone takes priority over even family (cf. Matthew 10:37-39). There is a good reason for this. The person who neglects their relationship with the Lord will be less of what they could be in all other aspects of life. But the person who has a solid strong and vital personal saving relationship with God will, for instance, be a better father, husband, or wife, mother, or daughter or son. And such a person will be better in all other roles of life.

But ministry or Christian service should never be an excuse to neglect the family. Ministry begins in the home. This is one good reason to have a family devotional time in the home. This time of gathering the family together can be a real blessing. The danger is that the one leading the devotional become a tyrant or stern discerner of the efforts of other family members. It takes prayer and skill to have successful and edifying family devotions and unfortunately there are too many who have thrown in the towel and given up because it is just too much work. Someone has said, blessed are the flexible for they will not be broken. Devotionals need to change with the stages and ages of those in the family. Don’t shoot too high or settle for something too low; but prayerfully seek to be on target so that the needs of those in the family are met. Starting out when the children are really is helpful because it gets them into a pattern. Spouses should read or discuss the word of God together and partner in ministry to the family. But this doesn’t mean fathers should just throw the responsibility for the spiritual nurture of the children into the lap of the mother under the idea of delegation. The father is the primary spiritual leader and priest of the household. He is the one who is the primary overseer of the spiritual lives of those in the family. It’s easy to go out and work and be a bread winner. It takes more effort to dig into God’s word and prepare a meal that consists of the Bread of Life Jesus. The first has temporal rewards, the latter has eternal rewards. You tell me which is more important.

Now there are those who abuse such a truth. There are those who are actually jealous of the close saving relationship their fellow family member has with God. They seek to be the center of the solid Christians’ attention and compete with God. Such an attitude is like cutting one’s nose off to spite your face. The spouse, parent or child that discourages the close abiding relationship of another family member with God is only guaranteeing they will have less of what they are truly seeking. The solid consistent Christian makes for a much better companion and family member than the one who is shallow and inconsistent in their walk with the Lord.

How A Family Falters and How to Fix It

The Bible gives us a perfect picture of problems and inconsistencies that lead to division in the family unit. A family doesn’t “fall” apart, but breaks apart due to some common problems. An early church father made the insightful remark, “You have to know the poison before you can prescribe the antidote.” Therefore, if we can examine how a family comes apart, we can prescribe an antidote to fix it too.

In Genesis 27 we are given the picture of Isaac’s family. Isaac was one of the three foundational patriarchs of the Old Testament (along with Abraham and Jacob). But Isaac’s family faltered and had some serious problems. Isaac was a deficient family leader. When we look at him we see the first thing that led to this faltering family was that Isaac, the head of the household, contradicted God’s will (Genesis 27:1-4, 26-29). When Isaac’s sons Jacob and Esau were in the womb of his wife Rebekah, they struggled within her so much that Rebekah went to the Lord and asked why this was so. God told her that two nations were in her and that the older Esau would serve the younger Jacob (Genesis 25:19-26). This was a word of prophecy from the Lord that Rebekah must have shared with Isaac. And yet when Isaac was old and it came time to bless his sons, he meant to bless Esau over Jacob neglecting the prophetic word of the Lord (Genesis 27:1-4; 26-29). Isaac was therefore delinquent in his attentiveness to the Lord’s will as well as not passing on to his offspring what the will of the Lord was. This caused great division in the family later on.

What does the Bible say about Fathers being the head of the household? What is their duty, responsibility and privilege in that position? Fathers should train and disciple the family in God’s word and ways (Deuteronomy 6; Ephesians 6:4). Fathers need to provide for the material needs of the family (Matthew 7:8-11; 1 Timothy 5:8). But their responsibility does not at all stop at providing for mere material needs.

Husbands and or fathers are instructed to love their wives and the mothers of their children (Ephesians 5:21-33). Whatever instruction is given is always to be in love (Ephesians 4:15). Fathers should not be harsh with family members (Ephesians 6:4). The instruction given in the household should be given in understanding of their wives and or mothers of their children (1 Peter 3:7) guiding and warning family members from God’s word (1 Thessalonians 2:11) and correcting family members when and if necessary (1 Samuel 3:11-14). It is Fathers who should teach and require respect from children (Ephesians 6:1-3). Father’s should take primary responsibility for training in the family (Ephesians 6:4).

The second problem that led to this faltering family was that, the parents worked against each other (Genesis 27:5a). Rebekah eaves dropped on Isaac’s conversation with Esau and connived to get Isaac’s blessing for her favorite son Jacob instead of Esau. Jesus said a house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25). The Biblical model for family involves parents working consistently in tandem and cooperation with one another (Genesis 2:23; Ephesians 5:21-29). When parents are at odds with one another division and problems result. Parents need to come together before God in prayer and seeking His will to be done, not their will to be done (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Mathew 26:36-46). The eventual divisions and discord in Isaac’s family could have been avoided if Isaac and Rebekah were working together.

The third problem that led to this faltering family was that god was not the Lord of this family (Genesis 27:7, 20). When a son and his mother are able to lie to the father of the house and use the Lord’s name in the process, the LORD is not the Lord of that family. When we look at this family we see that Isaac sought to bend God to his will, he sought “My will be done,” rather than “Thy will be done” (27:7, 27-29; Matthew 6:10; 26:39). Rebekah relied on carnal means rather than prayerfully depending on God. “. . . obey my voice according to what I command you.” (27:8). Jacob used “God” as a means of manipulation to see his selfish will done (27:20). And

Esau was grieved over his material loss not his spiritual loss (27:34; Hebrews 12:15-17). This was a family sorely in need of spiritual life! And yet God did work through them. There is always hope in the Lord. If your family is a spiritual wasteland, there’s no better time than the present to repent, get down on your knees and seek the Lord’s help. Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

The Fourth problem this faltering family had was that, they functioned in their flesh, their own strength and not the strength of the Lord. Look at what they did to one another. They deceived one another (27:9-12). They lied to one another (27:24). They preyed on each other’s weaknesses (27:1, 15-16). They focused on blessing rather than birthright of God. i.e. material rather than spiritual things (25:29-34; 27:34; Hebrews 12:151-7). They hated one another (27:41). They feared one another (41-45; 32:7). And they were divided from one another – 27:41-45. This is a family that was carnal to the core. But the Bible tells us there is an alternative.

For a family to function effectively and survive; for a family to be fixed and prevented from falling apart, they need to consistently:

  • Be Christ-centered – 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17
  • Be in the Spirit – Galatians 5
  • Be loving to each other – 1 Corinthians 13
  • Be speaking the truth in love to each other – Ephesians 4:17
  • Be encouraging to each other – Ephesians 4:29
  • Be gracious to each other – Ephesians 4:29
  • Be kind and forgiving in Christ to each other – Ephesians 4:32
  • Be richly in the word and worship – Colossians 3:16
  • Be in church together – Ezra 10:1
  • Be true to each other – Ezra 10:2ff.

Make these things a goal for your family on a consistent basis and even the worst of family situations can be transformed by the Lord. If God can use Isaac’s family despite all its faltering, He can still use yours, if you turn to Him.

How to Bring Your Family to Christ

Okay, let’s say the Lord has really dealt with you and put a burden on your heart to see your family come to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. What can you do to see this happen? What’s the bottom line? The first thing that needs to be sought is that you have to begin setting a Christlike example. The Bible states:

o 1 Peter 2:21 - For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

o 1 John 2:6 - He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

If you consistently walk as Jesus walked and seek His help to do so, His work in you will rub off on other family members. Do this prayerfully and you will experience a revival in your home.

Once you’ve made a commitment to consistently walk as Jesus walked, you need to establish a family altar or have family devotions (Deuteronomy 6). Some practical suggestions in this regard are:

· Set a regular time for Family devotions

· Be consistent in having the devotions

· Don’t be too long

· Begin and close in prayer

· Be creative in how Family devotions are done:

o Read through the Bible

o Memorize scripture

o Act out Bible stories

o Use anecdotes

o Use humor

Lastly, begin to saturate your home with the word of God. Encourage the taking in of God’s word by reading it, studying it or listening to is. Model scripture memorization and do it together as family. When my children were younger I would get them together and put verses to music and make a scripture song. For instance, when my kids were fighting (yes, even my kids fought at times), I brought them together and we made up a song with Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ has forgiven you, Ephesians four thirty-two; Ephesians four thirty-two.” You’d be amazed at how doing this changes the entire environment in your home. Other verses we did were 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all else, have a fervent love, for one another, because love covers a multitude of sin, First Peter four eight, HAH!” When one of my children had a hard time controlling themselves we made a song for Proverbs 25:28, “The man who can’t control his own spirit is like a city fallen down; fallen down; fallen down; fallen down; without walls.” Make it fun and your kids will remember God’s word for the rest of their lives. My kids still remember those songs and their teenagers.

Teach your kids the Law of God too because it is the Law of God that brings conviction for sin. Without conviction for sin, there is no reason to repent (Romans 7:7; Galatians 3:10-13, 24). There are a lot of things you can do to minister God’s word to your family and create a positive discipleship environment. Each home is different, but God is the same. If you seek Him in prayer He will help you be creative and He will help you be consistent in the home.

[1]King James Version study Bible. 1997, c1988 (electronic ed.). Thomas Nelson: Nashville

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