For the next few weeks, we’re going to focus on what, for MOST of us, is the most SIGNIFICANT earthly relationship we have. Our MARRIAGE.
But for those of us who AREN’T married, I’m hoping this series will still be useful. Perhaps to PREPARE for being married one day. Make some notes on how to be a good husband or good wife. And how to build a strong marriage.
Or even for NOW as you help your married friends. Recognise the struggles they have. Help share the load. Encourage them to be the godly husband or wife God wants them to be. And to intelligently PRAY for them.
I think, for many of us, our marriage is A BLIND SPOT.
Our spouse is the person we spend most of our TIME with, the one we VALUE MOST, the one we most ENJOY spending time with.
And yet, the reality is, to our SHAME, we spend more energy and effort working on the OTHER relationships in our life. And take our spouse FOR GRANTED.
We take management courses on how to deal with work colleagues. Uni courses for our jobs. We take our kids shopping, or book up golf or fishing or coffee with mates, we look after our parents when they need help.
And our spouses are left with CRUMBS. The crumbs of our time, of our energy, our conversation. The crumbs of our AFFECTION.
We think we can get away with it because they LOVE us, and they’ll always be there. And, friends, it shouldn’t BE like that!
An old married were sitting on their verandah as the sun was setting. After a few moments of silence, the wife’s gaze dropped to the floor, and she started quietly sobbing.
“What’s wrong, dear?” asks the concerned husband.
“We used to be so passionate,” she said, a tear rolling down her cheek, “You’d bring me flowers, and you couldn’t keep your hands off me. I know I’m old now, I’ve got more wrinkles and gravity’s taking its toll. I just want to know, do you still love me?”
Her husband looked at her lovingly, “You silly old thing! I told you I loved you on the day we were married… And if anything changes on that front I’ll be sure to let you know.”
We laugh at the foolishness of that husband. But, for many of us, it’s a slightly NERVOUS laugh. Because, while we mightn’t be quite as bad as THIS husband, we recognise something of ourselves in him. We realise how little effort we make on our marriage. How few words we use, how little energy we spend, or little thought we give/ to fan the flames of our marriage.
Let me say from the outset that I’m not preaching to you from the high ground here. I’ve got a LONG way to go when it comes to being a good husband. Caron will let you know that. These are all lessons I need to be putting into practice every day. Some of them are lessons I’ve learned the HARD way. That I’m STIL learning.
But the good news is that it’s not simply about MY opinion. GOD HIMSELF is giving us the inside information on how to have a good marriage.
The manufacturer’s instructions. The optimum operating conditions.
Steve Bamford was telling me about working on some of the Air Force planes. Every tiny maintenance job has a step by step manufacturer’s instruction sheet that has to be followed TO THE LETTER. Might be 50 or 60 steps long. “Lubricate THIS joint. Tighten THIS screw to THIS torque. Do it all in THIS order.” That’s the way to make sure the plane is working at peak performance. All according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
And it’s the same with our marriage. Faithfully follow GOD’S instructions, even when it seems to be the opposite of what TV or movies or magazines tell you. That’s the way to have the best marriage in your street. The best communication, the best enjoyment and satisfaction, the best .
TODAY we’re looking at Proverbs. Which has LOTS of good advice on marriage. Written, for the most part, by King Solomon. And the situation we see is of a father giving good advice to his son. WISDOM to live his life by.
Like Ch 1 v8.
8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 9 They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
In other words, Valuable information. Worth listening to. But not just from Solomon. From God himself, So listen up.
Marriage is a good gift from God.
First thing God wants you to know is that marriage is A GOOD GIFT. A gift from God himself. Have a look at Prov 19: 14
Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a p nt wife is FROM THE LORD.
A wise wife or husband is much more important for a good home life than a nice house, new furniture, a home theatre system, or plenty in the bank. And it’s GOD who brings a partner like that along.
It’s God’s DESIGN for man and woman to be MARRIED. Right back in Gen 2, that was the PLAN. God, man and woman in a perfect, innocent, intimate relationship.
And the traditional marriage service makes THIS STATEMENT about marriage. “Society works BEST when the foundation of marriage is respected.”
Let me just stop for a moment, And say a word to SINGLE people.
Marriage is a good gift from God. Which DOESN’T mean that if you’re single, you’re somehow outside God’s plan. And you need to desperately go looking for it. God MAY have marriage planned for you, but he also may NOT.
It’s important to realise, as good as marriage can be, as much as marriage is a gift from God. That singleness is better than a BAD marriage. And that God can, and does, give the gift of singleness to people ALSO.
The attitude God wants ALL of us to have is to TRUST him. Whether marriage or single. To be CONTENT where He’s placed you. Trust his timing and plans. Be God’s person whatever your situation.
(pause) Marriage is God’s GIFT. And it’s a GOOD one too. Prov 18:22.
He who finds a wife finds what is GOOD and receives FAVOR from the LORD.
We can see something of WHY it’s good in Prov 12:4
A wife of noble character is HER HUSBAND’S CROWN, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.
A good wife enables her husband to be BETTER than he was before. Like a crown on his head. Same with a good HUSBAND for that matter. A wife of noble character is the mirror that points out embarrassing faults, the sounding board to get ideas right, an encourager, a sharpening stone, a kick in the pants, a shoulder to cry on, a warm comforting pillow to relax against. A wife, or husband, of noble character is… HOME.
Like that memorable line from the movie Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.” That’s a wife of noble character. Her husband’s crown.
2. Marriage is hard work
That’s the first point. Marriage is a good gift from God.
But just in case you thought Proverbs was being a little unrealistic, the second point it makes is that Marriage is HARD WORK.
A wife of NOBLE character is her husband’s crown. But that’s not EVERY wife. As Solomon’s lived his life, he’s learned a thing or two. And he warns his son about a household where things aren’t going quite so well.
A household where there’s one hen pecked husband who’s not QUITE so convinced he’s wearing any sort of crown at all, unless it’s one with EARPLUGS fitted. A husband who’s not convinced he’s found favour with anyone.
His wife is clearly frustrated. And she says so. Over and over again. Always ready for a fight at the slightest provocation.. In fact, you meet this wife so often in Proverbs it’s almost a refrain.
Can you pick the common theme in these proverbs?
21:9: It’s better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
21:19: It’s better to live IN A DESERT than with a quarrelsome and ill tempered wife
25:24: It’s better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
It’s like living in a constant episode of Keeping up Appearances, that old English comedy with Mrs Hyacinth Bucket. Pronounced bouquet. With Richard, her poor hen-pecked husband, who’d rather be ANYWHERE ELSE than where Hyacinth is.
And we’re told in exactly the same words twice, this guy is on the verge of packing himself a sandwich and living on the roof.
This kind of wife is so persistent it’s like water torture. The constant dripping of a tap. Proverbs 27 verse 15:
A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day. Restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.
This woman is simply unstoppable. Like holding back the wind, or grabbing a handful of olive oil. No wonder he’s seeking refuge on the roof. He’d rather have blisters on HIS BACKSIDE, than blisters on his ears.
(pause) But it’s not one way traffic here. What MAKES for disappointment and broken expectations like that? Maybe there are reasons for her nagging. Maybe there’s a deep seated despair behind her quarreling. That’s got something to do with the flagging faithfulness of her husband.
Maybe it’s got something to do with Proverbs chapter 30. Which I think is maybe the saddest little saying of all. Proverbs 30, verse 21 to 23. Because what if she’s unloved?
See, there are three or four things that make the earth shake. Three or four things that so go against the order of things that the earth QUAKES when they happen. Take a look, 30:21:
Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up: a servant who becomes king, a fool who is full of food, AN UNLOVED WOMAN WHO IS MARRIED, and a maidservant who displaces her mistress.
It just isn’t . See, maybe at the heart of things, here’s a woman who’s unloved by her husband. Ok, maybe nagging isn’t the way things are meant to be. But it’s not for a marriage to be stone cold. How much does that describe YOUR marriage?
Men, how do you FEEL about your wife? Do you NOTICE her across a room? Do you still love BEING with her? And do you TELL her? Or are you just sort of COMFORTABLE with each other? Or worse, you TOLERATE each other because there’s no other choice.
It’s obviously not going to be the way it was when you first met. But in lots of ways it should be BETTER.
It’s not going to be easy. Perhaps it’s going to take some serious swallowing of PRIDE. Humble pie. Some apologising. Some mending fences. Some re-shaping ways of relating.
But let me ask you, Men, “Is she WORTH it?” Worth the hard work it’s going to need?
It’s UN for a married woman to be unloved.
But perhaps you’re thinking, “All very well pointing out the PROBLEMS, Dave. The QUESTIONS. But what about some ANSWERS. Some SOLUTIONS?” Enough generalities. What about some specifics. WHAT am I to be working hard on?
We need wisdom in our marriages
Point three. We need WISDOM in our marriages. Prov 24:3-4
By WISDOM a house is built, and through understanding it is established; 4 through knowledge its rooms are filled with RARE AND BEAUTIFUL TREASURES.
A marriage built on a solid foundation of God’s wisdom is much more valuable than the most expensive house in Bellevue Hill.
Prov 15:16-17 16 Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil. 17 Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.
And that’s a comparison we see played out in real life. The poor but contented family in the suburbs. They don’t have heaps, but they love each other and share what they’ve got.
Compared with the rich, bitter family in Double Bay. They’ve got everything they want, but they can’t stand being in the same room as each other.
Who’s got MORE?
Fear of God, and HIS WISDOM, is worth much more in a family than money and stuff.
Or Prov 14:1.
The WISE woman BUILDS HER HOUSE, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.
The WISE PERSON builds up their own house. She doesn’t TEAR IT DOWN. It seems obvious, but we all fall victim to this one. You fight with your spouse, and you give them the silent treatment. “I’ll show them. I’ll teach them to hurt me/ ignore me/ disappointment me” Whatever it might be.
Or you get even with words.
Or you deliberately DON’T mow the lawn, or take out the bins.
Or forget the appointment.
To prove a point. To win an argument. To maintain your pride.
But what do you end up doing? Make yourself MISERABLE! You Lose! And you’ve CAUSED it. You’re tearing down YOUR OWN HOUSE. It’s called biting your nose to spite your face. That’s FOOLISHNESS – you’re destroying the peace of your home by your own hands!
But the WISE wife. Or husband. BUILDS their house.
So, do and say things that BUILD UP. Have attitudes. Use words. Have the servant heart that BUILDS your home, rather than tears it down. Only FOOLS do that.
Only fools console themselves with the thought, “But I showed her! But I was right!” And they take their aggrieved sense of self-justice all the way to the divorce courts.
(pause) So, what are some specifics for BUILDING your home?
Listen first, speak second
Proverbs says Listen first, speak second.
Prov 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Prov 13:3 He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.
Proverbs 17:27 “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered”.
Proverbs 10:19 “When words are MANY, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise”.
Listen first, speak second. You’ve got TWO ears, and ONE mouth for a reason! Ask questions. Reflect back what you’re hearing. Don’t assume you know what your partner is saying or feeling.
Put your brain into gear before your mouth. Count to ten before you let rip. Begin your sentences with “I” rather than “You”. It’s much harder to accuse and hurt when you start the sentence with “I”. “I feel taken for granted when you don’t clear the table after dinner.”
(pause) Listen first and speak second doesn’t mean that you can’t say anything at all. That can be more frustrating for wives than an argument. But think of words as GIFTS.
As you’re putting your brain in gear before your mouth. Ask yourself, How can what I’m about to say BUILD UP? Think about your words like THIS. Proverbs 16:23-24.
“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones”
Stop the merry go round
Another way you can BUILD your home is to stop the merry go round. In other words, if you’ve been hurt, let it go. Forgive. Don’t escalate or intensify arguments.
Prov 20:3 It is to a man’s HONOR to AVOID STRIFE, but every FOOL is quick to quarrel.
Prov 17:13-14 If a man pays back evil for good, evil will never leave his house. 14 Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; SO DROP THE MATTER BEFORE A DISPUTE BREAKS OUT.
Prov 26:20 Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.
Prov 17:9 He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
Be willing to lose the argument, or apologise first. It’s not WORTH IT. That’s WISDOM. It takes a bigger man to admit a mistake. It’s LITTLE men who have to keep PROVING THEMSELVES. Proving themselves always RIGHT. Justified in their anger, or their actions.
In Christ, you’ve been forgiven a HUGE debt. So let things go. Nothing else compares to that.
Eat at home
Another piece of wisdom for building up your home is to always EAT at home. Now, I’m not saying anything at all here about where you have dinner. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, from a husband caught looking at a pretty , “It doesn’t matter if I look at the MENU, as long as I always EAT AT HOME.”
Proverbs wants to say EVEN MORE, “Don’t eat out. In fact, don’t even look at the menu.”
I’m talking about where your needs are satisfied. In particular the needs marriage is designed to satisfy. Look to YOUR MARRIAGE ALONE to satisfy those needs. That’s the way of wisdom.
Listen to the advice the father gives his son in Prov 5:15-20. And I’ll just give a warning, just in case there’s any of you out there more sensitive than the Bible that this verse carries a M15+ rating.
15 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer– may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. 20 Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife ?
Obviously talking about a man. We NOTICE women. It’s almost an instinctive reaction. If you’re following a ute or van with some blokes in it, just watch what they do as they pass a woman walking in the street. Almost ANY woman will do. As they pass her, all heads in the cabin will automatically turn to the left. Just checking the menu.
Men, we’ve got to foster, or recover, the enjoyment we find in our wives. Write lists, or love letters, or poems. Think back to what drove you wild about your spouse when you first married. Tell her. Enjoy her. That’s God’s wise plan.
Looking at the menu might be a temptation for men, but it’s just as relevant to a woman. And, at the risk of stereotyping, women’s temptation is to check out the menu of another man who might meet their EMOTIONAL needs more than their husband. Someone at work, or the gym, who notices them, who seems to listen. Who understands them, who pays them attention. It might start out innocently enough.
But it’s YOUR HUSBAND who’s meant to provide those needs.
Don’t make do with him NOT meeting them. Tell him, invite him back. Encourage him. Be creative. Meet him half-way.
It might be an uncomfortable conversation, but it will be WORTH IT. REJOICE in the husband or wife of your youth. That’s God’s counsel.
And finally, perhaps most OBVIOUSLY, build your house, with GOD as the foundation. As the central beam that bears the load of the whole house. The central space that every other room joins. Prov 19: 21
19:21 Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
19:23 The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
Fearing God, honouring him Putting him first. In EVERY aspect of your marriage. That’s what leads to LIFE. TRUE life. Maximum life. A contented, peaceful, rich life.
And don’t we all want our homes and marriages to be like THAT? For God’s honour and glory.