The Covenant of Marriage
I read a post the other day on a local social media page where a young married man was asking for advice on whether he should buy a house in his name only, or have his wife on the mortgage with him.
He explained how his wife is financially irresponsible, her bank account is usually empty near the end of the month as she shops frivolously, and has large payments a fancy newer-model car she can’t afford. He, on the other hand, has a higher income, but drives and older vehicle, does not spend much money, and has built a large enough savings account to make the down payment on the new home by himself.
While I was saddened enough by the situation, I lost even more faith in humanity by reading the comments section… “Divorce her” was the most popular comment, while many others offered opinions as to how he should protect his financial assets from her.
In our modern world, the sacred institution of marriage has undergone a significant transformation. Rather than the profound and solemn covenant that God intended, it has been reduced to a contractual arrangement, often defined by convenience and temporal considerations. The story of the young married man seeking advice about his financially irresponsible wife is but one example of the erosion of the sacred nature of marriage.
God's plan for marriage, as outlined in the Bible, is that it should be a covenant. In the ancient Hebrew tradition, a covenant, known as "ברית" or "berit" in Hebrew, was an agreement of paramount importance. It was a binding contract, established with religious and legal implications, that symbolized the closest, most enduring, most solemn, and most sacred of all contracts.
In this ancient tradition, the terms of a covenant were not just about financial agreements; they encompassed a deep sense of mutual responsibility and protection. If one party or their family was under attack, both parties were considered to be under attack, and they vowed to defend or avenge each other. Financial difficulties were not solved by one partner alone; rather, they sought the financial well-being of the entire covenant partnership.
Covenants were never taken lightly. They were established in the presence of witnesses and accompanied by formal ceremonies, often involving the offering of sacrifices. These rituals underscored the gravity of the agreement and the unwavering commitment of the parties involved. Specific terms, conditions, and promises were meticulously outlined, and both parties were bound to fulfill their obligations. Failure to uphold their part of the covenant had consequences, sometimes involving divine judgment.
Moreover, Hebrew covenants emphasized the concept of reciprocal responsibility. Both parties had duties to fulfill, and there were penalties for failing to meet these responsibilities. Symbolism also played a significant role in these covenants, as they often involved the exchange of gifts, the creation of memorials, or the establishment of physical symbols to serve as reminders of the covenant's sacred nature.
The significance of these covenants in Hebrew tradition cannot be overstated. They were deeply woven into the religious and cultural fabric of the ancient Hebrews, shaping their identity and guiding their moral and religious life. These covenants were instrumental in the relationship between God and the Hebrew people.
All of this is undeniably familiar because it mirrors God's intended design for marriage. As Malachi 2:14 states, marriage is meant to be a blood covenant. In a Biblical marriage, a man and a woman become one person, not merely two individuals sharing a household. The concept of separate possessions does not apply, just as one arm does not harm the other, nor does one leg detach itself from the other.
Marriage, as God designed it, is not something disposable or conditional. It is a lifelong commitment between two people that no circumstance should be allowed to overturn. This deep and abiding bond is beautifully exemplified in the relationship between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20. David remained in the Lord's favor because he honored the covenant promise he had made to Jonathan, demonstrating the enduring nature of a true, God-ordained marriage covenant.
In this era of shifting values and attitudes towards marriage, it is crucial to reawaken the sacred understanding of this institution. A marriage built on the foundation of a covenant, where both partners embrace mutual responsibility, unwavering commitment, and the sacred bond of becoming one, is a testament to God's divine plan for this holy union.
My challenge to you is that you reflect upon the covenants outlined in the Bible and reevaluate your marriage in comparison to God’s covenant plan. Here are a few examples to get you started:
Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9:8-17): God's Promise: After the flood, God made a covenant with Noah, promising never to destroy the earth again with a flood. The sign of this covenant is the rainbow, which serves as a reminder of God's promise.
Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:18-21, 17:1-14): God's Promise: God made a series of covenants with Abraham, promising to make him a great nation, bless his descendants, and give them the land of Canaan as an inheritance. The sign of this covenant is circumcision.
Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19-24): God's Promise: God made a covenant with the Israelites through Moses on Mount Sinai. This covenant included the Ten Commandments and the entire system of laws and regulations for the Israelites. It outlined their responsibilities and God's promise to protect and bless them if they obeyed.
Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-16): God's Promise: God made a covenant with King David, promising that one of his descendants would establish an eternal kingdom. This covenant ultimately finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, who is the Messiah.
New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34): God's Promise: God prophesied a new covenant that would be made in the future, one that would not be written on stone tablets but on the hearts of His people. This covenant is realized in the New Testament through Jesus Christ, who inaugurated it with His sacrifice, offering forgiveness and a personal relationship with God to all who believe.
Covenant with the Patriarchs (Genesis 35:9-15): God's Promise: This covenant reaffirms God's promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (the patriarchs of Israel), and their descendants to give them the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession.
The Covenant of Salt (Numbers 18:19, 2 Chronicles 13:5): The term "covenant of salt" is mentioned in reference to God's enduring commitment and faithfulness. Salt was seen as a symbol of preservation and permanence.
Covenant with the Levites (Malachi 2:4-5): God's Promise: God made a covenant with the tribe of Levi, designating them as priests to serve in the temple and maintain the teachings of God's law. This covenant was an extension of the Mosaic Covenant.
Each Biblical covenant has its own distinct purpose and significance in God's relationship with His people. These covenants not only serve as a framework for understanding God's faithfulness but also provide valuable lessons about the nature of covenants and the responsibilities that come with them. How can you apply them to your personal relationships?