Because You Have Done This

So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
(Genesis 22:14-18)

“Because you have done this” – That statement could be in between a bad choice leading to a awful consequence, but for Abraham it was quite the opposite. Abraham made a choice to obey God even when it would cost him his son Isaac. Because Abraham made this choice to obey God even through extreme sacrifice of what he held most dear, God would richly bless him and his family for generations to come.

We studied this chapter last night in a Bible study at someone’s home, and it really caused us to reflect upon the faith and trust that Abraham had in God’s promises. That trust in God’s promises led him to the conclusion that if he killed Isaac, then God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). He knew that God would provide, even if Abraham gave up the very things God promised him.

What a great example for leaders of homes, and what an encouragement to know that if we make the commitment to follow God fully, God will be there in our homes blessing us and providing us with wisdom and strength. Abraham said, “The Lord will provide,” and that is just as true for us today as it was for Abraham. Our job is to fully obey His voice. The calling for us is the same as it was for Abraham; don’t withhold anything from God. Don’t let anything be so valuable to us that we would not give it over to Jesus.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
(James 2:19-24)

The Proverbs 31 Husband

I’m looking at Proverbs 31 today with a perspective not on the virtuous woman but on the husband who loved and supported her. Take some time to read through the chapter and learn about the man who was married to this wonderful woman. What kind of man was he?

He was a husband who has been taught and come to understand the precious value of a woman who fears God and walks with Him.

The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him:
(Proverbs 31:1)

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
(Proverbs 31:10)

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
(Proverbs 31:30)

He was a husband who “safely trusted” in his wife. As a husband, he did not hold her back or discourage her from expressing her talents and pursuing her dreams. This man fanned the flames of encouragement. She knew he trusted her. It was clear that he supported her and was her biggest fan. He took leadership in the home among his children; those kids saw their father praising and lifting up their mother. The kids followed suit by imitating their father in praising their mother.

The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.
(Proverbs 31:11)

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
(Proverbs 31:23)

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.”
(Proverbs 31:28-29)

In verses 28-29, the husband is comparing his wife to other women, but notice how he is doing it. He doesn’t point out how other women are doing things she isn’t or that they are doing it better. He lifts her up on a pedestal and makes her the queen of the castle with his words.

Look at the verbs connected to the virtuous woman. She seeks, works, brings, rises, provides, considers, buys, plants, girds, strengthens, perceives, stretches, holds, extends, reaches, is not afraid, makes, supplies, opens her mouth with kindness (vs. 12-27). As this godly wife was doing all these things, her husband trusted her, supported her and praised her.

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:31)

She may not be sitting in the gates with her husband and the other leaders/officials of the land, but her influence is truly felt there. Her own works praise her in the gates.

How do we talk to and about our wives? Do our children see an example of a man who rises up and calls her blessed? When we are “in the gates” are we lifting up our wives in praise? Do our wives know and fully understand that our hearts safely trust in them?

A Rat Wall

As many of you know we are in the process of building a new barn. The barn is a pole-barn structure. According to our township ordinance, we have to dig and pour a concrete “rat wall.” This is a 4 inch thick by 24 in deep concrete barrier that goes underground from post to post. As the name suggests, it’s intended purpose is to keep varmints and rodents from burrowing underground into the barn. Our concrete guy says its pointless and it just makes him more money, but we have to do it.

It was a lot of work, too, to dig that rat wall. Anna gathered the nephews, nieces and friends, and they worked hard for a whole day digging that trench for the rat wall. We have a lot of clay to dig through, so it can really get exhausting doing all that digging.

But it got me to thinking. The concept of creating a barrier that keeps bad critters from coming in is certainly a good idea, at least in theory. Our 5 barn cats are probably the best “rat wall” we have, though.

In our marriages, we need to think of the barrier that must be created to help keep the Devil’s varmints from invading and destroying our space. The rat wall will take a lot of hard work, and we have to dig deep and sometimes it is exhausting to go through the effort. In the end, however, it’s worth all the hard work.

In order to put a good barrier down to critter proof your marriage from Satan’s rats, here are a few things we need in that rat wall.

We need honesty and openness.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
(James 5:16)

We need love.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
(Galatians 5:14-15)

We need forgiveness and freedom from bitterness.

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
(Colossians 3:19)

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
(Hebrews 12:15)

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:31-32)

Men, are you willing to dig deep with your wives and create an open and honest environment with them? Are you willing to pour that barrier of love that will protect against the biting and devouring rats of sarcasm, cynicism and cheap shots? Don’t we all need a good foundation of forgiveness and love to keep our hearts from becoming bitter from past hurts?

I may not be convinced that a rat wall is needed in a barn, but I certainly know we need to dig down a create a solid barrier in our marriages to shelter our precious and sacred relationship from the Devil’s critters.

Holy Ground – Marriage

In Monday’s article, we looked at the event in Joshua’s life when he was asked to remove his sandals from his feet because he stood on holy ground. Here are three observations we made Monday:

  1. God is holy.
  2. Wherever God’s presence dwells is to be regarded as holy.
  3. Changes must be made to recognize and honor the holiness of God.

Today we are going to take those concepts and apply it to how we view marriage.

But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
(Malachi 2:14-16)

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
(Hebrews 13:4)

Do we look at marriage, and our wives as holy ground?

The very idea of marriage is to be held in high honor (Hebrews 13:4). Why? Because God is in it. He serves as witness to the covenant between the husband and the wife. As you read in Malachi, a portion of His Spirit is in the union.

Your wife is to be treated in high honor (1 Peter 3:7). She is created in the image of God. Her body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and she was bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). The way we think of her, touch her, talk to her, etc., should all be in harmony with the truth that she is very precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4).

The marriage bed is to be undefiled. Marriage is holy because it is set apart for a union that is dedicated to and governed by God. Only a husband and his wife can be holy while participating in sexual relations. Any other sexual behavior is called fornication and adultery and will be judged by God. Also, husbands, we must remember not to defile the marriage bed by bringing in worldly thoughts and defilement into our minds that will corrupt and pervert our marriage bed (Titus 1:15). God said, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

God’s marriage relationship that He created for us is a beautiful and very special thing. Just as Joshua was told to remove his sandals to recognize the holy presence of God, we must transform our lives and thinking to recognize God’s holy presence in our marriages.

Be nice

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

I like what Albert Barnes said about “being kind” from this verse.

Christianity produces true courteousness, or politeness. It does not make one rough, crabby, or sour; nor does it dispose its followers to violate the proper rules of social contact.

Being a Christian should produce a polite spirit. As Barnes said, we should not become rough, crabby or sour. But that happens, doesn’t it, men? We get into the busy-ness of life and things keep piling on, and sometimes we get cranky with those we love the most.

That’s when we may hear something from those wonderful wives of ours…something like, “Be nice.”

Guys, don’t forget to be nice. Even in all the crazy twists and turns of life, saying nice and kind things to your family members is not only helpful for having peace and harmony, it is what God expects of us. Being too tired or “stressed” to be nice is not a good excuse.

Can you imagine if God barked at us like we sometimes snap at others? Yikes, we couldn’t survive that. But God is at His core a kind being. So, just like at the gym, it’s time to work on your core.

It helps sometimes to stop, breathe a little bit, say a prayer for God to help you to chill out, and look at your wife and kids and just smile.

Be nice.

Therefore from one man

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore (Hebrews 11:11-12).

I was always taught that when there is a “therefore” in a Bible verse you need to find out what it’s “there for.” This “therefore” in Hebrews 11:11-12 connects the faith of Sarah to the innumerable multitude that came from the loins of Abraham. It was not just Abraham’s faith and Abraham’s relationship with God that brought forth these amazing blessings from God upon generations to come.

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who promised. THEREFORE…

Sarah’s faith gave her power to conceive. See the “therefore”? Therefore Abraham became a father of multitudes. Yes God promised it, and Abraham believed it, but Sarah became pregnant because she believed it, too.

Sarah grew in faith to reach this conclusion. She had at times considered her own age and physical ability to conceive a child. When we look at passages like Genesis 16 and 18 we know that Sarah had her own growth process that she had to go through to come to the faith we see mentioned in Hebrews 11:11. Remember that Sarah gave her handmaid Hagar into the embrace of Abraham because she thought that would be the way to make God’s blessings and promises a reality (Genesis 16). It was Sarah who laughed inside her tent when she heard the men talking about her having a baby the next year (Genesis 18).

If that’s all you knew about Sarah would you have called her a strong woman of faith? If you were Abraham would you be tempted to think you are the strong one in this relationship and are carrying her along? Sarah had her moments of weakness, and she had need of growth, but look at what God did through Sarah.

Didn’t Abraham have to grow too? Abraham laughed too! When offered the handmaid Hagar, he went into her. He listened to Sarah instead of God. Abraham had his own process of growth he was going through.

All of this to say, men, that when we look at our wives who are following Jesus, know that God is doing a great work within them, and He will accomplish it (Philippians 1:6). Also know that because of that growth of faith within her, you and generations to come will be blessed immensely.

Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:28-31).

 

 

 

How Many Lessons Have You Learned?

So, I Googled “lessons on marriage” to look for ideas and resources, and I just thought it was interesting what titles I saw on the first page.

Link #1 – “40 Lessons from 40 Years of Marriage”

Link #3 – “12 Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Marriage”

Link #4 – “20 Marriage Lessons after 20 Years of Marriage”

Link #6 – “8 Lessons That Surprised Me After 8 Years of Marriage”

Hmmm…is there a pattern here?

Then there are those oddballs who apparently had more lessons per year:

Link #5 – 23 Marriage Lessons We’ve Learned Over the Last 15 Years

Link #8 – 20 Marriage Lessons We Learned From Our First Year of Marriage

So, what would your list look like? If we were to list the most fundamental lessons we have learned in our marriages, what would we write?

Another question is really, “Have I learned?” or “Am I Learning?” Do I have 20+ years of learning, or one year repeated 20+ times because I have not grown?

If you were to learn one lesson per year like these folks above, what would you say your lesson this year would be? What is the lesson you are being taught this year in your marriage?

Here’s a lesson I’m learning right now:

Don’t get so caught up in the “business” of doing that you forget to have fun and talk about the lighter things. Anna has been saying to me lately, “Give me the fluff!” In other words, don’t just talk business, schedules and to-do-lists.

This is one of those lessons that I have to keep re-learning over time. I wish I could say I learned this lesson during the first year of marriage and never had to revisit it, but that just isn’t the case.

We’ve started going out on a weekly basis with another couple from our congregation. This has been such a great time for us in our marriage, and in our relationship with two very special Christians we love dearly. Not only do we get to have some fun with each other as a couple, we get to grow in our relationship with a brother and sister in Christ. They encourage us and we encourage them, and we have fun along the way.

Along with this thought is a passage from Solomon about enjoying life and enjoying it with your wife.

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-9

Sarah shall be her name

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
(Genesis 17:15-21)

We were studying and discussing Genesis 17 last night. In this study, we have been going through Genesis. Right now Genesis is focusing on the relationship God had with Abraham and his family. “Abraham is the father of us all,” Paul wrote (Romans 4:16). We sure can learn a lot from Abraham and how his faith in God grew and was continually challenged. But we can also learn about God and His awesome nature and character. He loves us. God keeps His promises. His blessings have no parallel in what the world can offer us.

God promised an old man and an old woman past the age of childbearing that they would have a child. He changed their names to forever memorialize that promise being fulfilled. “Sarah” would be a princess for God the sovereign King will bless her and kings would come from her. “Abraham” will become a father of multitudes, because his family will become like the stars and sands…innumerable.

Abraham fell on his face and laughed (Genesis 17:17). In the next chapter Sarah laughed (Genesis 18:12). What did God name the son to come? “Isaac” which means laughter! I love that.

I think about this in connection to our marriages. Here are just a few thoughts to consider:

  • Genesis 17 begins with God’s call to Abraham to walk before Him and be blameless (Genesis 17:1). The chapter concludes with a 99-year old man being circumcised in the flesh of his foreskins, along with all his household. If I want God to bless my marriage like God blessed Abraham and Sarah, then I must walk before the Lord and be blameless. We as husbands must commit to doing whatever God tells us to do, whatever is required, however difficult it may be.
  • God blessed Sarah. Men, are we praying for God to bless our wives? God reassured Abraham that He deeply cared for Sarah and was going to bless her richly. God called her princess. Think about that husbands. Do you and I view our wives as that princess whom God deeply loves?
  • The Lord can resurrect what is dead. He is the God of the impossible. In Romans 4:26-25 we learn a lesson in faith from Abraham and Sarah. God brings to life what was dead! If God can make an old man and old woman past the age of childbearing to have a baby, and if God can bring a man (Jesus) who was in the grave 3 days back to life, when what can God do for us today? Can God resurrect a dead marriage? With God’s help we can revive and rebuild what we and others around us may count as impossible!
  • God can make you laugh. Finally, just a thought to consider that God wanted this baby to be named Isaac. Whenever they cuddled that baby or called that son to dinner, they said “laughter.” Remember that the “joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). When God makes you rejoice, there is no one who can take away your joy (John 16:22).

Song of Songs 2

Thanks again to Jason Salyers for writing this article. This is a follow-up to his article from two weeks ago on Song of Songs.


The end of chapter 1 of the Song of Solomon ends with the interaction of Solomon and his bride stating to one another, “You are Beautiful.” Chapter 2 begins with her saying to Solomon:

She: 2 1 I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

He: As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women.

She: As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

This is not a biblical example of “one-up-manship!” In these verses, similar thoughts to chapter one are brought out: the Bride continues to recognize her appearance and place with her husband, this couple communicates with each other in a way that recognizes the desire and confidence in their relationship, and they have the desire to communicate those feelings towards each other.

Before we progress any farther into our study, we should ask ourselves – “is there any value in communicating in this form?” Again, the design of this is not to make ourselves or our spouses uncomfortable. To compare our wives to varying forms of vegetation (or mountains, or animals) to proclaim their excellencies may not be in our repertoires. However, the Word of God does emphasize an effort on a man’s part to praise his wife:

In Proverbs 31:10-11 we read: “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”

Skip down to :23-29 “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

Do you have the excellent wife? Perhaps you do not have a farm, small business, or kingdom to rule, but you may still have a bride in which 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, or the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. In today’s society, and especially in the church, men need to tell their wives of the strengths in character they possess. Part of this recognition is certainly reflected in the actions of the worthy woman, but do not neglect what the Bible tells us of the man (Prov. 31:11): 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her. In our relationships with our spouses, do we have that form of trust?

Look back again at the recognition of both the woman and Solomon: chapter 2:11 I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys,’ and 2:2: ‘As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women’. Part of the communication demonstrated to us shows faithfulness and belief in the spouse. Have you ever encountered a man or a woman who just no longer trusts, or can no longer trust their spouse? Without the trust, without the belief in each other, there can be no recognition or acceptance of roles; certainly, there is very little praise; and communication limits itself to accusations or apathetic acceptance – our marriages are not to be this way.

Admittedly, this article is presented from one aspect: a man’s role towards his wife (both men and women have roles to fulfill in the Kingdom). There is value in following the entirety of God’s word. A Christian man should recognize and proclaim to their spouse: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

A Lesson from Song of Songs

Thanks to Jason Salyers for sharing these thoughts from Solomon’s Song of Songs.


Consider the Bride and Groom’s interaction (pulled out of poetic form for space, from the ESV).

She: Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine; 3 your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you. Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers.

Others: We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you.

She: I am very dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has looked upon me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept! Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock, where you make it lie down at noon; for why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?

He: If you do not know, O most beautiful among women, follow in the tracks of the flock, and pasture your young goats beside the shepherds’ tents. I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. 10 Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels.

Others: 11 We will make for you ornaments of gold, studded with silver.

She: 12 While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance. 13 My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh that lies between my breasts. 14 My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi.

He: 15 Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.

She: 16 Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful. Our couch is green; 17 the beams of our house are cedar; our rafters are pine. 2 1 I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). When we consider this first chapter of the Song of Songs, how do we teach or train ourselves and others with these verses? Unfortunately, for many, there is an “un-comfortability” factor with these verses because our own claims to propriety. “Men and women should not speak to each other in this way!” Out of context, that may be true, but in the context God has given us (Husband and Wife, Bride and Groom) we should reevaluate our own preferences versus God’s.

Consider how the woman refers to herself – she recognizes and accepts her appearance “I am very dark, but lovely.” This is not lascivious, prideful, or a striving for an adornment beyond the meek and quiet spirit. This is an interaction of a woman who knows herself and the place she has with husband.

Next Consider the words they are willing to say to one another, thoughts that reflect desire for one another, love of form and appearance, and a recognition and confidence in the place or position they have with their spouse. In Christianity today, this form of speech many would consider inappropriate, or even sinful. Yet, that takes the Word of God and uses it against itself. Christians must be careful not to pervert the Word of God for a desire to bind something God has not bound.

Finally, recognize they do have the desire to share their feelings with one another. You or I, we may not be capable of expressing these words in this form (the influence of our society removing our ability to speak as the Word of God speaks). However, the thoughts, intentions behind the words must still be brought forth, “Behold you are beautiful.”