Dozen Foundational Elements
doesn't take a scientist to see today that families aren't what they
used to be. Here are some
statistics that came from some research done about 15 years ago: 45% of
Americans believe that most marriages will end in divorce; 45% believe
there's really no good reason to get married; 35% of spouses believed
their mates were having affairs, and 30% of Americans confessed they
were; 60% of Americans think there's nothing morally wrong with affairs;
20% of teens lose their virginity by age 13, and that jumps to 60% by
age 16; many girls by age 13 are spending $250 a year on adult
cosmetics; 14% of Americans have been sexually abused and 20% say they
were date raped (Patterson and Kim).
A Christian psychologist gave these negative factors in our
culture that have had a great impact upon the family: the media
encourages us to think about ourselves and has redefined love as being
almost totally physical; popular psychology stresses that everybody has
a right to be happy, and all can do whatever it takes to maintain that
happiness; a valueless society teaches that everything should come
easily and quickly, and nothing is wrong or sinful; mobility has caused
families to separate and no longer to stay together; there is very
little, if any, positive education for marriage in homes, in schools, or
in churches (Mitchell). Certainly,
Christian families are not immune to what's happening in our culture.
Italians have an expression: “Non mettere il dito fra moglie e marito”
which means basically “Don't stick your nose in the business of a
married couple.” It would
be easier to just leave families alone and mind our own business, but
with such shocking statistics and moral decadence touching us all, we
must try to look at God's Word to restore some sanity to America's sad
situation. So let's “blow
the dust off God's original blueprint for marriage and the home.
Our greatest need is to hear what He has to say to His people
about His design. After all,
marriage was His invention. It
is obvious that He understands it best since He holds the patent on it.
As the Master Architect, God is the most qualified authority, so
let's seek His counsel first and foremost.
Let's hear what He has to say about His invention” (Swindoll).
This morning we want to look at two passages that reveal a dozen
foundational elements for a good marriage.
first passage is Genesis 2:18-25: “And the Lord God said, ‘It is
not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper compatible
to him.’ Out of the ground
the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air,
and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them.
And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.
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.
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. Then the rib which
the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her
to Adam. 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.’
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined
to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not
first element is support. Our
text tells us that God saw much in His creation was good, but verse 18
introduces us to something that was flawed: “And then the Lord God
said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper
comparable to him.” Man
alone was not good; he needed a companion, a partner, or someone who
could offer him support. Ecclesiastes
4:9ff following affirms that two are better than one and a threefold
cord is not quickly broken. When
there are two, each can help the other when they fall, when they need
warmth, and when they must resist attack.
When we bring Christ into our marriages, then they can be
stronger because now there is that threefold cord.
If we strive to be Christ’s servants, then we recognize the
importance of serving Him through serving our families.
We all need support to endure the struggles of life.
Praise the Lord that He provides such support through marriage!
Support is a foundational element for a good marriage.
second element is gratitude. Are
we thankful and appreciative of our mates?
Our text points out that God paraded all the animals in pairs
before Adam for him to name. Adam
not only got some sex education but also he discovered that nothing in
the animal world was satisfactory for his needs: “there was not found
a helper comparable to him.” So
God creates woman from man, and He brings her to him.
Then we see Adam rubbing his eyes and pinching himself.
Is there really this dazzling creature standing before him?
And then there's the world's first poem in praise and thanks of
what has God done! Now Adam
is filled with joy and in essence proclaims: “Alright, Lord, finally;
this is more like it! Here
is someone fit for me! Thank
you, God, for giving Eve!” Adam
knew that he needed a female partner who was like himself, and God
provided it! Are we thankful
and appreciative of the mate that God has provided us?
We all desire to be recognized and appreciated.
One of our church leaders explained that he makes it practice to
sit down twice a year and write a lengthy letter to his wife thanking
her for all the specific small things that she does daily to help their
family function smoothly! May
his tribe increase! Let’s
thank God for the provision of our mates, and let’s tell them often
that we appreciate them! Gratitude
is a foundational element for a good marriage.
third element is severance: “A man shall leave his father and
mother.” Leaving one's
family is not so much a matter of physical separation as an emotional
separation of turning from parental dependency and accountability to
independence and couple-reliance. We
don't lose our identity in our original family, but our status must
change. A new family is
being created, and the couple must be free to make all of the decisions
and accept all the responsibilities involved.
Parents must be willing to release their children and allow the
new family to make their own decisions with regards to financial,
physical, sexual, and spiritual needs.
A couple cannot develop a healthy and serious relationship with
their mate if they are still holding on to their parents' apron strings.
A Christian family therapist says that he has seen many problems
when either the parents or the children or both try to continue to be
dependent upon each other and prohibit the severance that should take
place, a severance that our text says was really the Master Architect's
intention from the beginning for marriage.
Severance is a foundational element for a good marriage.
fourth element is permanence: “and be joined to his wife.” “Leave
and cleave. Sever and bond.
Loosen and secure. The
Hebrew term translated ‘cleave’ in the King James Version means
‘to glue or to cling’. . . . Today’s problem is largely explained
by the fact that couples enter the marriage relationship believing it is
terminable. ‘Till death do
us part’ has been reinterpreted to mean ‘Till disagreement or other
interests do us part.’ . . . Winston
Churchill had a six word philosophy about winning wars: ‘Wars are not
won by evacuations’” (Swindoll)!
The same idea is true for a good marriage.
A lifetime commitment is what God wanted in the original match.
How else do we know that permanence was His ideal?
Our Lord, who has all authority, put it this way: “Therefore
what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6).
Permanence is a foundational element for a good marriage.
fifth element is unity: “They shall become one flesh.”
When we hear this expression, what tends immediately to come
to mind is the sexual union. The
idea of becoming one flesh, however, goes far beyond that.
“Shall become” implies a process that takes time, a lifelong
project that requires wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.
Unity should not be confused with uniformity.
God did not make Eve to be Adam's clone.
No, she was expected to see and to do things differently because
she was created differently. “Becoming
one flesh” includes these ideas: mutual acceptance, listening, giving,
belonging, forgiving, and sharing. The
apostle Peter said it this way in 1 Peter 3:1 and 7: “Wives,
likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not
obey the word, they may be won by conduct of their wives without a word
. . . Husbands, likewise, dwell with them [or your wives] with
understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as
being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be
hindered.” We see two
adults willingly blending into each other's lives.
It's like two rivers which merge together; it not only flows into
a single direction but also increases its strength.
The picture is one of total unselfishness.
How rare in our culture today!
Have you ever thought that when we see a husband, a wife, and
their spirit of oneness, we are seeing a miniature portrait of the
oneness found in the Godhead or Trinity?
Unity is a foundational element for a good marriage.
sixth element is transparency: “And they were both naked, the man
and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
“That last expression means they were not ashamed before or
with each other” (Swindoll). Remember,
they did not have any clue as to what was right and what was wrong at
this point in their lives. So,
there was a complete absence of self-consciousness.
They had no hidden areas, no hang-ups, no fears, no
embarrassments (Ibid). Because
of the other foundational elements we have seen—support, gratitude,
severance, permanence, and unity, they were perfectly as ease with one
another and had nothing to prove to each other.
There was an unrestrained openness and an unhindered disclosure
of themselves with one another. Mistrust
and the fear of being so vulnerable never crossed their minds.
And this was exactly as God meant it to be!
different and difficult we see it is in our culture today!
People wrestle desperately to relate freely and openly (Ibid).
A California bachelor in the banking business had a beach
apartment, had beauty queens at his place each night, had sex every day,
had it made by the world's standards!
Or did he? Listen to
what he confessed one day to a co-worker: “Something is really
bothering me and I can't figure it out.
Every morning as I get dressed for work, I look into the mirror
and think: 'What was last night's sexy little game all about?
Sure, the gal was good looking.
She was good in bed, and she left this morning without bugging
me, but is that all there is in life?
If this lifestyle is what every guy thinks he wants, why am I so
depressed? Why do I feel a
cold nothingness all the time?' I
know the guys here think it would be fantastic to have this kind of
liberated freedom but honestly, Dick, I hate this life.
You know what'd I really like?
I'd like to go home tonight, smell dinner cooking, hug my wife
hello, and spend the evening telling her and showing her how much I love
her. I'd like to go to bed
with her and not have to prove my virility, not have to sexually perform
above the call of duty, but just give her love, and go to sleep knowing
she'd be there in the morning” (Ibid).
It sounds like here was a fellow who was missing transparency in
his relationships. Transparency
is a foundational element for a good marriage.
turn over to Hosea 2:19-20 where we'll discover six more elements.
These elements are amazing because Hollywood and most modern
psychologists would not ever associate them with a good marriage.
The context for this passage is that God is going “to court”
unfaithful Israel and woo her back to Himself.
During their engagement, He states these elements.
Now let's read verse 19: “I will betroth you to Me forever
(Remember permanence?). Yes,
I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice.”
In the Jewish culture, a betrothal involved giving gifts for the
bride. So God is saying:
“Here are the gifts with which I'll purchase Israel again.”
Now these gifts may sound unusual to us, but they really make
good sense when we think about them.
seventh element is righteousness. How
have we experienced God's righteousness?
Hasn't He accepted us and forgiven our shortcomings time and time
again? Well, think about
this for a marriage. Don't
husbands and wives have to accept and forgive each other time and time
again? God's righteousness
also means doing that which is holy, doing that which is morally right.
The apostle Paul said it this way in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8: “For
this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain
from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his
own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust. like the
Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and
defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of
all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.
For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
Therefore, he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who
has also given us His Holy Spirit.” Righteousness is a
foundational element for a good marriage.
eighth element is justice. When
we think of God's justice, we think of upholding law, being impartial,
stressing fairness, and treating others with respect.
How do these ideas work in a marriage?
A couple will probably formulate a few rules, and they had better
formulate a few more when their children come along.
Will we uphold such rules? Can
we try to treat each child with impartiality? Ever
try to resolve a sibling argument with total fairness?
Do children see their parents respecting one another and do they
feel respected themselves? The
greatest model of justice is Jesus, and the greatest book about justice
is the Bible. Looking at
Jesus and reading the Bible can help us grow in our sense of justice.
Isaiah 61:8: affirms: “For I, the Lord, love justice”
and Proverbs 28:5 notes: “Evil men do not understand justice, but
those who seek the Lord understand all.”
Justice is a foundational element for a good marriage.
ninth element is found in Hosea 2:19: “In lovingkindness.”
This word has relationship written all over it.
There is an open recognition of an existing bond that exists
between all the people that it embraces. Loyalty,
devotion, and constancy are concepts easily linked to this
word. The Old Testament uses
this word numerous times to show God's devoted, loyal, and steadfast
affection and favor towards Israel.
There are four words for love in Greek: eros refers to
sexual love, phileo refers to love among friends, storge
refers to love among kinfolk and family members, agape is the
selfless devotion and affection that puts another person's best interest
above your own. The Old
Testament's lovingkindness is most similar to the New Testament's agape.
The lovingkindness that God so richly bestows on us, He wants us
to bestow on others (Hosea 6:6). The
apostle Paul said it this way in Colossians 3:17-18: “Wives, submit
to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be bitter toward them.”
Lovingkindness will stick by you and see you through the storms.
Lovingkindness is a foundational element for a good marriage.
tenth element is in the same verse: “in mercy”.
These are God's tender yearnings over us, to the point that He
has compassion on our weaknesses. It
is the compassion that Jesus illustrated in some of His parables and in
His personal reactions to some people.
It is giving others some slack and having a long fuse.
None of us are perfect; especially in our families, that reality
sticks out like a sore thumb! Dads
need mercy, moms need mercy, children need mercy.
Are our tender yearnings so strong for others that they will
arouse compassion in dealing with weaknesses and forbearance when
dealing with habits and conflicts? The
elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son showed no mercy to his
brother while the father in the parable was abundant in mercy.
Perhaps Ephesians 4:32 should be practiced in our families as
well as in the local congregation: “Be kind to one another,
tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgave
you.” Isn't it
interesting how in all these elements from Hosea we are imitating God,
Christ, and the Spirit? And
can't we see how all these elements are greatly diminished or missing
when we marry someone who is not a Christian?
Mercy is a foundational element for a good marriage.
eleventh element is seen in verse 20: “I will betroth you to Me in
commentator made this observation: “Of all qualities, this is the one
most clearly lacking in a partner who has quit.
Other faults may put a marriage under strain, but this one is
decisive” (Kidner). We see
that God is bringing His faithfulness to His new relationship, but will
Israel or will she continue to treat the Lord in an unfaithful manner as
she goes about having affairs with foreign gods?
The same thing was happening in Hosea's own personal marriage.
He was still faithful to his wife, but would she be faithful to
him? Listen to this
interesting quotation: “A couple wrote a book entitled Open
Marriage, in which they counseled couples to be honest, straight,
out-front, give space, let the other partner do their own thing,
communicate, and confess your sexual encounters with others openly to
your mate. There were
couples I know that followed their advice to the tee, and initially it
was very exhilarating, but eventually all these couples split up.
There was something wrong. Invariably,
someone couldn't take it any more. It
had nothing to do with the head; everyone understood what was going on.
But it was the heart; you should pardon the expression, but it
was broken. It all made you
think. It made you think
that maybe there are things we still don't know about men and women, and
maybe before we spit in the eye of tradition, we ought to know what
we're doing. I have some
theories and one of them is that one of the ways you measure love is not
with words, but with actions—with commitment, with what you are
willing to give up, with what you are willing to share with no one
else” (Swindoll). It’s
what God calls “faithfulness” and remaining true to your vows.
Hebrews 13:4 boldly affirms: “Marriage is honorable among
all, and the bed undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers, God will
is a foundational element for a good marriage.
last element is also seen in v. 20: “And you shall know the
Lord.” This last
element is intimacy. The
word “know” is not just an intellectual acknowledgement; it goes
much deeper than that. It is
to understand someone through experiences with them.
You know their nature, their character, their warmth, their
embrace, their feelings. It
is not a superficial relationship or casual friendship, but an intimate
closeness which is comparable to the closeness that a husband and wife
share in the sexual union. God
is telling the Jews. In our
new marriage, “I will let you come to know me in a deep, profound, and
intimate way.” Are we
ready to bring that same attitude to our mate?
Are we willing to share ourselves so intimately?
Are we willing to let someone else get that close to us?
Sometimes that can be pretty scary, but sometimes it can be
refreshingly unique—the most unique relationship that can be found on
earth! One special person
with whom you have no secrets and lay bare your soul.
Intimacy is a foundational element for a good marriage.
Marriage was designed by the Master Architect. The original blueprint has shown us a dozen elements for a good marriage: support, gratitude, severance, permanence, unity, transparency, righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, mercy, faithfulness, and intimacy. “Perhaps some things are becoming more clear to you through this sermon. Perhaps God is helping you to see that your marriage is shaky because a poor foundation was poured. Perhaps some repairs are in order” (Swindoll). If we can assist you in any way or pray specifically that your marriage will be a stronger one, let us do that right now!