Several of you asked if I could post this, so voila! Here it is.
April 11, 2015
Jacob and Elisa, at the outset of your marriage, I would like to tell you the story of the whole Bible.
I know what you are thinking: this does not sound like the 8 minute homily I promised you during premarital counseling. Well, marriage is full of surprises! But I also think the whole Bible can be summarized as the story of four marriages, each of which has a lesson for you as you start your married life together.
The first marriage is found in the creation story. The Bible opens with God making all kinds of good things, things that complement each other and go together: heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land, and of course man and woman, Adam and Eve, two people designed to be one and to work together. Right at the start of Genesis, the climax of God’s good creation is the marriage of man and woman.
Here is the first lesson: your marriage is a gift of God’s goodness. Scripture says it is not good to be alone. You were created for relationship, for companionship. God is good to let you share your lives together physically, emotionally, and spiritually. There will be many challenges in your future that will test your belief in God’s goodness. But you will face them together. Learn to see your marriage as one of the good gifts of your creator.
Of course, we know that the good relationships that God established in creation didn’t stay that way. They were broken by sin, by human pride, and the refusal to acknowledge God’s goodness. We call this the fall. After the fall, instead of judging humanity, God in his grace set out to restore humanity. He established a special relationship with Israel and that relationship is spoken of as a marriage, a covenant partnership, in which God the bridegroom takes Israel as his bride. Marriage becomes a sign that God is going to pursue sinners — take sinful and unworthy people and love them and make them his.
Here is the second lesson: Since God did not run away from sinners but pursued them, this is what you must do for each other. Because of sin your marriage will reveal that we live in a broken, fallen world. Marriage will reveal all kinds of sinful things about you and it will reveal all kinds of sinful things about your spouse. Many people run away from seeing the hard things that marriage reveals. But God is giving you marriage as the place where sin will be revealed and grace can be extended. Pursue one another in love and forgiveness, and as you do your marriage actually becomes part of the way that God is pursuing you to make you his.
This brings us to the third marriage (see how fast we’re moving!). God’s relationship with Israel reaches its fullness in the Messiah who is God’s own Son. Jesus will redeem his people by paying for their sins on the cross. In very striking language, Jesus redeeming sinners is presented again in the language of a marriage — Jesus the bridegroom lays down his life for his bride the church. The relationship of husband and wife is modeled on how Jesus has sacrificially loved and redeemed his beloved.
Here is the third lesson: your marriage is a call to sacrifice. The biblical pattern for marriage is hard to maintain. It is tough being a Christian, being a husband or wife, making family life work. Just as God’s marriage to his people cost God nothing less than the death of his only begotten son, it also costs you. You must learn to die daily to selfishness and pride, to be humble, forgiving, patient, generous, wise, etc. In the end, you must learn to lay down your lives for each other as Jesus has done for you. Marriage is the context in which so much of what Jesus has done for you is symbolized and reflected.
Finally, the bible ends with the consummation of all creation. God who made everything will restore everything that has been broken and marred by sin. The symbol for that reality is marriage. The Bible that begins with the marriage of the man and the woman ends this say: the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven like a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2). This is what God had in mind all along: that marriage would point to the coming together all of things in Christ.
Here is the last lesson: as good as your marriage can be, and I truly hope it’s the best marriage, it is not the place where you will find ultimate hope and fulfillment. We know this because part of the vows you will take is “as long as we both shall live.” Your marriage is temporary, but your marriage to Christ is eternal. You will not get all the satisfaction you need from your spouse, and marriage was never meant to carry that kind of weight. But when your spouse fails you, or when death eventually parts you, you are still married to your beloved Jesus. Let your earthly union be the place where together you both cultivate that heavenly and spiritual union with your savior. Let it be a foretaste of the eternal joy you will have with Jesus.
Well, that’s the whole Bible story — creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. I hope that’s also the story of your marriage: a place where you discover God’s goodness, his grace, his sacrifice, and the hope he has laid up for you in heaven.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.