THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY Marriages in the Bible, part 4

Learn from the mistakes of others, you won’t live long enough to make them all yourself. Anonymous

When you think of a bad or ugly marriage, what comes to your mind?

We amy think of someone with a lot of irritations or disagreements or conflict. We all have problems and conflicts in marriage. As a young married couple, we may think that we are the only one that has that problem. Or only bad marriages have our problem.

Even couples with great marriages experience problems or irritations in their marriage. In fact, the majority of ALL marriages experience problems. Having a problem or conflict doesn't mean that something is wrong with my marriage. They mean that we are part of the human race.

After many years of marriage and many years of giving marriage counsel to other couples, we chuckle on the inside when we hear the complaints that people have. We have personally experienced most of the common problems and we have certainly heard all of them voiced by others. However, many people carry the burden of that problem alone, not knowing that it is very common.

The Top Ten Problems for Married Couples compiled from research compiled by Prepare-Enrich in 2008 (over 50,000 couples) are listed below. Each quality is followed by the percent of people who identified with the statement.

Top Ten Problems for Married Couples
  1. My partner is sometimes too stubborn. 84%
  2. Having children reduced our marital satisfaction. 81%
  3. My partner is sometimes too negative or critical. 78%
  4. During an argument, one person ends up feeling responsible for the problem. 77%
  5. My partner does not have enough time and energy for me. 77%
  6. I go out of my way to avoid conflict with my partner. 76%
  7. I wish my partner were more willing to share feelings. 76%
  8. My partner has some personal habits that bother me. 75%
  9. I have difficulty dealing with my partner’s moodiness. 73% 
  10. My partner and I have dissimilar recreational interests. 73% 
Knowing that these problems are common to thousands of marriages, we know that we aren’t the only one experiencing these issues.

The critical issue between couples who have strong marriages and those who don’t is their commitment to each other and their responses to the issues that bother them. The issues can be obstacles in marriage but they don’t have to be.

A block of granite, which is an obstacle on the path of the weak, becomes a stepping stone on the path of the strong.   Thomas Carlyle

Unfortunately, when we read about marriages in the Bible, God doesn't give us a little side commentary with an explanation of what went wrong, what they should have done, and how they should work it out.

What He does give us though are principles of how to relate to others (all of which also apply to the marriage relationship) and specific instructions to husbands and wives. And He gives us the Holy Spirit to show us how and when to apply them to our situation.

One very interesting example of marriage in the Old Testament is that of Nabal and Abigail. Their story is recounted in 1 Samuel 25. We don't pretend to know all of the in's and out's of what was happening between them or in their culture at that time.

The story centers around Nabal who is a very wealthy but foolish man. After David and his men had protected Nabal's workers in the fields, David requested some provisions from Nabal. David was on the run, trying to avoid Saul. They were in the desert and probably out of supplies. Nabal denies David (through his messengers) any food or other provisions.

Nabal doesn't know who David is, doesn't care, and, basically, tells him to get lost. Nabal had plenty but didn't even bother to check out David's account of the situation or who he was. Nabal's men knew that Nabal had offended David and his men. They appealed to Abigail, hoping she could smooth over the situation.

Even if we didn't know any more of the story, it is obvious that Nabal is greedy and brash. It appears that Abigail had smoothed things over more than once. She probably had at least eight out of ten to those "top ten problems." The guys knew who to go to about the situation.

Nabal's offense made David so angry that he was about to go kill Nabal and all of his men. Sounds really ugly.

When Abigail heard what had happened, she jumped into action. She went to David with  two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep, roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins, and two hundred cakes of pressed figs. She approached David humbly and took responsibility for the whole problem. She knew all about David and offered an apology and praise to him.

David accepted her apology and the provisions. It probably didn't hurt that she was also beautiful and intelligent (1 Samuel 25:3). Abigail did all of this on her own. She didn't talk to Nabal first but she didn't hide it from him. When she got back that night, he was drunk. She waited until the next morning and told him. After hearing the situation, Nabal went into shock or a coma. He died 10 days later.

When David heard about what happened to Nabal, he didn't hestitate to ask Abigail to marry him. He ended up with a beautiful, intelligent, and wealthy woman.

So ..... what do we learn from that marriage story? At least, these three principles:
  • First, a wife sometimes has to balance her husband's surliness. Food helps.
  • Second, humility smooths over lots of offenses.
  • Third, God honors our faithfulness to Him and generosity with others.
We are not suggesting that God is going strike your spouse dead if he acts foolish. We all act foolish at times. We can still have a godly and respectful response.

Good marriages don’t just happen; they take work. They take commitment. They take humilty.

More GOOD, BAD, and UGLY to come.

For other posts in this series:
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - The First Marriage, The Good
Part 3 - Adam and Eve, The Bad
Part 4 - Nabal and Abigail
Part 5 - Mary and Joseph
Part 6 - Priscilla and Aquila
Part 7 - Hosea and Gomer

THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY Marriages in the Bible, part3

As we continue to look at THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY Marriages in the Bible, we can learn from them.

Adam and Eve had the first marriage in the Bible. They had a perfect environment to succeed. They walked with God in the garden. In the last post, we saw the principles of marriage, which God have them.

But something went terribly wrong. Satan came to divide and destroy their relationship with God and with each other. They believed his lies and sin entered their lives and the earth. Unfortunately, most of us still believe those same lies and still suffer the consequences.

Problems that occurred in their marriage and still happen today:
  1. Lack of leadership
    As Eve and Satan have this dialogue, Adam says NOTHING.

    She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6b

    God held Adam responsible for the sin. He was with her and also ate the fruit. We see God address Adam first about the sin. Also, in Romans 5 in the New Testament, the Bible says that sin entered through the first Adam.
  2. Shame
    Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:7

    Before the fall, they were not ashamed but now they feel shame. Shame is a result of the fall and sin and is not from God. God’s intent is not for us to try to shame another person. The emotion of shame is from the enemy. Godly marriages and healthy relationships are not built on using shame to motivate another person, our spouse or our kids.
  3. Fear
    Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:8-10

    They hid because they were afraid of God. God does not want us to be afraid of Him. In fact, several places in Scripture, he tells us not to be afraid of Him.

    This emotion of fear was never intended to be part of our relationships with other people or with God. That kind of fear is from the enemy. Fear is on the opposite end of the spectrum from faith.

    We are not to use fear as our motive for how we interact with God or with other people. Using fear or anger to get a behavior we desire is not a godly way of relating to others.

    When Adam said he was afraid of God, we know that Adam now has a distorted view of God.
  4. Blame
     And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? ” The man said, “The woman you put here with me —she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:11-12

    God addresses the sin with Adam first. When he asked Adam about it, what did Adam do? He blamed Eve and God for giving Eve to him.

    Sin – blame – shame is a pattern in life. This pattern is not from God; it is from the enemy.


    If we blame whatever has happened on another person, what are we saying?

    We are saying that it is not my fault; I didn’t do anything wrong. If I blame others for what happens, I do not take responsibility for what I have done, for my part. If I don’t think that I have done anything wrong or take responsibility, how teachable am I? Not at all teachable. I don’t need to learn anything if I didn’t do anything wrong.
  5. Life is Hard
    No matter who we are or what our role is in life, it is going to be hard. For Eve, her role in life is that of a wife and mother – she was about to undertake the task of populating the earth. Sin gave her something hard to drive her back to Him.

    To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Genesis 3:16

    She was to have an increase in pain in childbearing as a mother. As a wife, she would have a desire to control her husband and he would try to rule over her (not lead). She would have no other option but to cry out to God in her pain.

    Adam’s role was that of being a farmer to provide for his family.

    To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:17-19

    God gave him the garden to tend even before sin entered. The hard part is not just working but now the work would be extra hard. Now, when he farmed, he would have to contend with weeds. At some point, bugs become part of the challenge and, then, the weather.

    He now has to work hard to farm – by the sweat of his brow. When Adam had to contend with all of these weeds, he would remember what it was like in the garden and cry out to God for help.

    No matter what our role in life is – husband, wife, father, mother, or whatever kind of work we do – life is hard. Life is painful. God wants us to cry out to Him when the marriage is hard. He wants us to come to Him when we are hurt or we are in pain. 
What do we learn from The Good and The Bad of the first marriage?

We learn God’s principles of marriage; his perfect design – leave, unite, oneness, intimacy.

We learn some common problems that now occur in all marriages. We have identified them. That gives us hope – it’s not just my marriage; it’s very common in marriages.

But we don’t have to keep repeating those problems. We know the root source; we can see avenues to deal with them through God’s word. We have his Presence. He has promised to be a part of this covenant relationship. As we allow Him to work in us and through us, we can be successful! We can each have a good marriage.

Good marriages don’t just happen; they take work. They take commitment.

More GOOD, BAD, and UGLY to come .....

For other posts in this series:
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - The First Marriage, The Good
Part 3 - Adam and Eve, The Bad
Part 4 - Nabal and Abigail
Part 5 - Mary and Joseph
Part 6 - Priscilla and Aquila
Part 7 - Hosea and Gomer

THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY Marriages in the Bible, part2


THE GOOD - ADAM AND EVE


The Bible starts with a marriage and ends with a marriage. The place to start in contemplating marriages in the Bible is the first marriage. The marriage started good; God designed it and put it into place.

In the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7, 21-22a), God made man and woman in His image. He hand-made each of them, not just speaking them into existence.

God put humans (men and women) at the top of His creation. He put the highest value on us – not based on what we do or don’t do – just because He made us. He chose humans to be created in His image.

THE FIRST MARRIAGE

Man and God had a relationship. But God said that man needed a relationship with other humans too. He needed a physical earthly family. He helped man to see his own need by parading the animals by – none were like him. Then he made man’s perfect complement and brought her to the man.

Adam was excited about Eve. He received Eve as God’s perfect gift. Not based on anything she had done, but on his confidence in God as a giver of good gifts.

Creation of Adam and Eve
by Jean Fouquet
We now have the first wedding and marriage. (Genesis 2:18-20, 22b)

We see in this first marriage the principles that God gives us for a good marriage – and a godly marriage.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.  Genesis 2:24-25

1. Leave – we leave our family of origin (the family we grew up in) and form a new family unit. It doesn’t mean that we don’t still love our parents and siblings or that we don’t respect them or spend time with them. But it does mean that our new family comes first, before our family of origin. My spouse is my first place to share emotional ups and downs. We are independent from our families financially.

2. Unite – or cleave. We join together into a new family unit. A husband and wife become a family. Whether you have children or not, you are a family. We are to be united for life.

We can only stay united for life if we are committed. Commitment is the key not only for staying married but for having a good marriage. Commitment means that I am committed to the very best for my spouse.

If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by.   F. Burton Howard

3. One flesh – that phrase “one flesh” carries the idea of “one life lived together.” We are still two individuals with different personalities, but we live our lives together.

As God by creation made two of one, so again by marriage He made one of two. Thomas Adams

One illustration of that would be a “three legged race.” You have two people, joined together, going the same direction, towards the same goal. You run in harmony; you run with a rhythm. The race isn’t a sprint; you can’t see the goal line. The race is a marathon. Sometimes one of you may need to support the other one more. Then at another time the other one may be more of the strong support for the pair.

If you don’t agree on the goal or direction for the race, the marriage, you will head in different directions and not make progress, you won’t be moving forward. If you are going in the same direction but you don’t work together, you may get to the goal but you will have done it at your own pace, with your own rhythm, without supporting each other, without communicating. The race will be harder; you will be more fatigued. You will feel alone, not part of a team.

One flesh is the oneness of marriage. You are not alike, but you are like-minded. The oneness of marriage is part of the covenant relationship that God has joined together.

When a couple speaks their vows, it is not a man or a woman or a pastor or parent who is the main actor – the main doer. God is. God joins a husband and a wife into a one-flesh union. God does that. The world does not know this, which is one of the reasons why marriage is treated so casually. And Christians often act like they don’t know it, which is one of the reasons marriage in the church is not seen as the wonder it is. Marriage is God’s doing because it is a one-flesh union that God Himself performs. John Piper

4. Intimacy – they were naked and not ashamed. There was an innocence in their lives. There was transparency between them, physically and emotionally. Spiritually, they displayed the character of God to each other.

You can go back and look at those qualities of strong marriages in the previous post and see that most of them fall under one of these four principles that we see in God’s design for marriage.

Adam and Eve’s marriage began as a good marriage – God’s best. God gave them and us the principles to be successful in marriage.

More GOOD, BAD, and UGLY to come...

For other posts in this series:
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - The First Marriage, The Good
Part 3 - Adam and Eve, The Bad
Part 4 - Nabal and Abigail
Part 5 - Mary and Joseph
Part 6 - Priscilla and Aquila
Part 7 - Hosea and Gomer

Marriages in the Bible, part 1


"They have a good marriage."

When we say that statement different images come to our minds. For some people, they think of a couple who talks to each other kindly or talks a lot to each other. To others, it means a couple that seem happy all the time.

When you think of a good marriage in the Bible, who comes to your mind?

Descriptions of marriages in the Bible are actually pretty much non-existent. What we do have are incidents that are recounted between husbands and wives – the good and the bad. Over the next few posts, we will look at several marriages in the Bible - the good, the bad, and the ugly. We will see what we can learn from them.

People have different definitions of what it means to be happy in their marriage. Obviously, even if both the husband and the wife had the same idea, it would be easier for them to be happy. Having a good marriage doesn't mean that you are happy all of the time though. You may even be unhappy with each other on a regular basis.

Here is what some research says. It is based on the findings from assessments of over 50,000 couples from all 50 states.

Top Ten Strengths of Happy Couples from research compiled by Prepare-Enrich in 2008. Each quality is followed by the percent of happy couples who agreed with the statement. [we will look at negative patterns later]

  1. We feel very close to each other. 93% of Happy Couples
  2. I am very satisfied with how we talk to each other. 95%
  3. When we discuss problems, my partner understands my opinions and ideas. 78%
  4. I can express my true feelings to my partner. 96%
  5. We compromise when problems arise. 83%
  6. Our togetherness is a top priority for me. 83%
  7. Even during disagreements, I can share my feelings and ideas with my partner. 78%
  8. I am satisfied with the amount of affection my partner gives. 68%
  9. We find it easy to think of things to do together. 81%
  10. My partner is reliable and follows through on most things. 75%
Each quality will look different in every couple. For example, the statement “I am very satisfied with how we talk to each other” does not describe how the couple talks to each other. We may be satisfied with the way we talk to each other, but someone else may not be satisfied if they had the same communication pattern that we have. It’s not necessary that we determine exactly what a good communication looks like. But we do know that there are principles that contribute to a good pattern.

However, more than that, the Bible gives us lots of guidelines about marriage relationships. Some of those guidelines include a description of what to get rid of in your language. So, whether I think it is necessary or even whether my spouse thinks it is necessary, God says it is.

For example, God says to do everything without complaining or criticizing. Both the husband and the wife may complain. They may think that it's okay to complain. But God says that it is not part of the behavior of some who follows Christ. So, it's not okay to complain. And we know His directions for our lives are always what are best for us, whether we realize it at the time or not.

All of that to say, when we look at marriages in the Bible, we will see some positives and we will see some problems. In those positives and those problems, there are Biblical principles that are connected to them. So, we will look at the principles as we go through the marriage examples.

In looking at a good marriage, we will start at the beginning – Adam and Eve. They had a good marriage that went bad. More to come ....

For other posts in this series:
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - The First Marriage, The Good
Part 3 - Adam and Eve, The Bad
Part 4 - Nabal and Abigail
Part 5 - Mary and Joseph
Part 6 - Priscilla and Aquila
Part 7 - Hosea and Gomer