Last week I started my high school class by writing these words on the board, “Does God care about marriage?” At first the students seemed to think the question was obvious–of course God cares about marriage. But I pressed them to defend their intuition with Scripture. What they found surprised them.
First, the Bible begins and ends with a marriage. In the beginning, Genesis 2:24 describes how the man leaves his father and mother and becomes “one-flesh” with his wife. The word wife makes it clear that the context is marriage. The Bible also ends with the “marriage of the Lamb” in which the Church (the “Bride”) is beautifully presented to Christ (the “Lamb”).
Second, the longest chapter in the Torah is about marriage. Genesis 24 records the story of Isaac and Rebekah. These sixty-seven verses describe how the servant finds and convinces Rebekah to go with him to become Isaac’s wife. This chapter is longer than any other in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy.
Third, the ten commandments value marriage. The fifth commandment is the first that involves human-to-human relationships: “Honor your father and your mother.” The seventh commandment is not to commit adultery, which was between a woman and anyone else besides her husband. And the tenth commandment, which is to not covet, specifically mentions “your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17). These three commandments indirectly highlight the nature of marriage and its importance for a civil society.
Fourth, Jesus believes God designed marriage. When asked about divorce, Jesus responds by pointing back to God’s original design for marriage in the Garden (Matthew 19:3-6). After citing Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, Jesus concludes, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (v. 6b). Jesus affirms that God intended marriage between a man and a woman to be for life.
Fifth, God chose marriage as the primary metaphor to describe His love for the church. In the Old Testament, marriage is a metaphor describing God’s relationship to Israel. God did not merely have a legal contract with Israel, but He created a loving covenant with them that was depicted through marriage. This is why Israel’s unfaithfulness to God is often compared to adultery.
Yet in the New Testament era, marriage between a husband and wife serves to depict Christ and His love for the church. The union of a man and a woman depict the greater union of Christ and His followers. The apostle Paul cites Genesis 2:24 and indicates that there is a mystery behind the marital union:
“‘Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:31-32)
Yes, Marriage Matters to God
Since marriage matters to God, it should matter to believers too. For starters, we need to get the nature of marriage right. If we misrepresent God’s design for marriage, then we distort His means of revealing His love for the church. Second, if we want the world to understand God’s faithful love, we need to model that faithful love in our marriages.
Marriage matters a great deal.
If you’re looking for a biblically-based and timely resource on sex, love, and marriage, check out my latest book for students: Chasing Love: Sex, Love, and Relationships in A Confused Culture.