OUR COVENANT, Part 2
October 11, 2019
We will come back to the example of Covenant in Abraham’s life – the very first real picture in detail of what Covenant means from God’s perspective – but I felt like I needed to deviate a bit today and talk about a different aspect of Covenant where most of us have had little understanding. I’m talking about the Covenant of Marriage.
The whole picture of Marriage has been so corrupted in modern society such that many people have become jaded to the idea. The understanding of what Marriage really represents in God’s eyes is rarely taught. People get married for all the wrong reasons. Let’s see if we can unfold this concept today.
We have talked in time past about the three dimensions of love, agapé, phileo, and epithumia. Today, by the grace of God, I will share with you – carefully, I hope – just how critical our marriage choices are, how and why God approves and ordains some marriages, and how and why He rejects others.
Our society today has a warped understanding of marriage. One of the tragedies of the modern churches is that they gladly teach about divorce, how God hates divorce, and all the tribulations we get ourselves into when we used divorce as a solution to marriage problems. Pastors and church leaders are quick to teach that “all divorce is wrong,” yet they fail to teach what marriage really is, and what God approves. It’s important to understand how God views marriage in the first place, and just why He hates divorce.
Marriage is a covenant. It is (supposed to be) a solemn vow between equals. The Greek text of the New Testament uses the word, suzeugnumi, meaning: to conjoin, to yoke together.
Part of the common marriage vow is stated, “in the company of God and these witnesses.” Thus, by making a marriage covenant “in the company of God,” we seek to add His blessing, His approval, and His glue to our “conjoining.”
Question. Do we add His blessing, His approval or His glue to our covenant?
The answer is not so simple as some would like to believe. Much of the time, I believe the answer is a resounding, Yes! Some of the time, however, it is an abrupt, No!
Let me explain.
As God began to unfold His covenant with His people, Israel, He gave them specific orders about whom they could marry and not marry. A pattern was established for Israel. They were to be God’s chosen people, His representatives in the earth. They were to illustrate a marriage covenant He would make with them. He would be their husband. They would be His bride.
As the years and centuries passed, Israel began to worship other gods. Despite their harlotry, God continued to woo them and express His love to them in ways that transcend human understanding. The day came, however, when Israel had totally abandoned God. And God divorced Israel. To use the Hebraism, He “put Israel away.”
Both Isaiah and Jeremiah cried out to Israel. Jeremiah’s lament was, “And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery, I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.”
Isaiah prophesied to Judah, “Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.”
It was clear that Israel had been given a “bill of divorcement” by the Lord. Yet He hated divorce. Why? Because He was forced to divorce a people who had been the object of His love, His affection, His blessing. He didn’t want the divorce. He wanted the union – the marriage – to flourish in the earth.
So He sent Hosea, the prophet, to live out in their midst the picture of a man who goes and chooses a woman to become his wife. By Law, Hosea could not marry the woman because she was a whore. Yet, God directed Hosea to marry her in order to show His people, Israel, that He yet wanted Israel to return to Him, and that He would marry Israel in spite of the divorce she had been given.
What happened? Hosea’s wife did exactly what Israel had done. She cheated on Hosea, ultimately going and living with another man. Hosea went and retrieved her – at God’s direction – and brought her back as his wife with complete forgiveness. It was a prophetic illustration to Israel that God would take Israel back also. Yet Israel ignored the picture and the message of the prophet.
When Nehemiah and Ezra returned to Jerusalem during Israel’s captivity to rebuild the walls of the city, and to restore the Temple, they found that the priests and Levites had married women whom God had specifically forbidden them to marry. Chapter 10 of Ezra recounts how Ezra commanded the priests and Levites to divorce the women they had married. It also recounts the sorrow and weeping that accompanied their obedience.
The consequences of their disobedience and marrying women whom God had forbidden them to marry, cost them emotionally, spiritually, and relationally (on a human level). The priests had covenanted with these women. They had married them. They even had families. But God did not recognize those marriages. Thus, their covenants were null and void.
The pain and suffering wrought by those covenants was almost incomprehensible. No doubt, the priests loved their wives. They had enjoyed a phileo relationship with them. But the agape relationship with God was missing. The priests had been called by God. They had been chosen by Him to serve as His representatives, his mediators with His people.
The priests contaminated the process by making marriage covenants with women to whom God had said, “No.” He wasn’t going to suddenly change His mind and put his stamp of approval on these marriages because they (the priests) were His chosen and called representatives.
When I faced the same situation, and the Lord clearly spoke to me and said, “I will not approve what I have said, No, to,” it scared the living daylights out of me. The thought of the pain that would arise from a divorce was hard for me to conceive. I still dragged my feet for another two years and meanwhile, my wife left me for the third time.
I argued with the Lord. I quoted Matthew 5:31 to Him. His response was, “You are the one living in fornication. Don’t point your fingers at your wife. You are living with someone I specifically forbid you to marry. You have been cheating on me.”
The grief I felt in my soul knew no boundaries. When I heard those words from the Lord, I wept. The weeping and grieving within went on for months. I loved the Lord with my entire being. My whole existence was for His pleasure. The dawning and realization that I had displeased Him and was living in sin in a marriage He not only didn’t approve of but had forbidden ate at my innards in ways I can’t even begin to describe.
God’s divorce from Israel was grievous to him. The priests’ divorce from their wives caused pain to them and their ex-spouses in ways hard to describe. The grief and self-recrimination I went through during my unfolding divorce affected me so deeply that it ultimately caused me to suffer a massive heart attack and drop dead.
“Till death do you part” took on a whole new perspective to me. Looking back, I realize that it was the grace of God that permitted the heart attack. I had made my vows to my first wife in good conscience – despite the fact that God had not approved the marriage. Had death not occurred, those vows would have haunted me continuously. The fact that I was raised back to life gave impetus and understanding to a new marriage and a covenant ordered by God.
Lots of things happened surrounding that death and resurrection that I don’t have time to go into today. I was dead for some 15 minutes before the Lord brought me back. It was my new wife, Della, who spoke life back into me. It was God’s covenant with her, and with me. The Lord had given me to her, and her to me (and that was going on 37 years ago!)
As Della and I repeated our vows to each other in marriage, we realized that the Lord was doing something absolutely sovereign. What we experienced transcended anything we had ever known. For the first time in my life, I began to understand covenant.
The body of Christ has sadly lacked in teaching and understanding concerning marriage, and the covenant that God seeks to establish in marriage. Marriage was designed by God to illustrate His union, His joining, His covenant with a holy people set apart unto Him. We have cheapened marriage into a contract between equals with provisions for the severing of that contract with one party to the contract violates it in some way.
The Lord Jesus Christ seeks a union with a people to whom He makes unconditional promises. He covenants with us to perform His word. What is required of us is that we walk with Him, that we love Him, that we keep His commandments. He is merciful and quick to forgive our transgressions when we repent and turn from those transgressions, and He continues to keep His covenant with us despite our violations.
Marriage has been designed in such a way that God has instilled within us a search for the one who is our counterpart, our other self. (I refer you back to a Coffee Break I did on Metaphors.) He has designed us in such a way that we are completed when we are joined to the one whom He has chosen. Once we are completed, the search ends. We no longer have a need to look at or for someone else as a prospective mate.
Society has so contaminated this that we pick and choose mates according to the delights of our eyes, the emotions of the moment, or the needs that exist at that time in our lives. We don’t wait for the Lord to bring us to our counterpart or bring our counterpart to us – in His time! Then, when things go wrong, and we realize that we’ve really blown it, we call out to the Lord to “fix it.”
I never cease to be amazed at the grace of the Lord to “fix” broken relationships and to join folks together in His covenant – after the fact. But why do we do it backwards? Why can’t we be patient? Why can’t we wait for the Lord to choose for us? Why do we jump into marriages of our choosing, and then expect God to put His stamp of approval just because we say that we do this “in the sight of God and this company?”
The answer is simple. Sin. Sin corrupts the whole marriage covenant. Sin corrupts the process of choosing. Sin corrupts the joining. Sin causes us to choose marriage partners whom God has neither chosen nor approved. Sin produces an environment in which we begin to look around for someone else who will complete us. Sin prevents us from being completed. Sin abrogates the marriage covenant, making it null and void.
Wow! Guess I got a bit carried away, there. I’m trying to draw you a picture of God’s plan and purpose in marriage.
Agapé is a love that should encompass marriage. It is supposed to be part of the picture – part of the whole package. When it is, something happens to that union that the whole world recognizes. The presence of the Lord accompanies you. The presence of the Lord fills the marriage. The authority of the Lord goes with you because you are in total agreement together – not just with each other, but with Him! Whatever you speak in that place of agreement together carries with it the force of God’s creative power.
You become a threat to Satan and his dominions. You become a force for Godly change in the earth. You become a force for righteousness.
These things have come to fruition for Della and me in the past 36+ years. No matter where we go, no matter what we do, no matter who sees us, the presence and authority of the Lord is recognized.
In those 36+ years, we have had Hell pitted against us. We have gone through persecution, opposition, public ridicule – you name it. Every experience has drawn us closer together. Every experience has provided evidence of the glue the Lord provides when He ordains a marriage.
During those same 36+ years, however, we have seen the blessings of the Lord in ways far too numerous to recount. We have seen the authority of the Lord working with us. We have seen the power of God manifested on our behalf, and seen His love and grace extended through us to thousands of people.
One of the pictures the apostle Paul drew in his frequent metaphors was a picture of submission we rarely hear of. Taken from a picture of a Roman household, the word draws a picture of a family whose servants deeply love their masters. Though the word implies “stepping aside,” in the more traditional sense, it also carries with it “transparency.”
Agapé brings with it “transparency.” It brings into a marriage a sense of stepping aside for the other. It brings what I would call “competition,” but not competition in the framework of contests or games. It brings a desire to do for one another – to almost compete in seeing who can do the most for each other.
Della and I have enjoyed this kind of competition with each other from time to time. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her. There is nothing she wouldn’t do for me. In fact, we often try to surprise one another with things the other doesn’t expect. We have had some spectacular fun in trying to outdo one another in our expressions of love.
When you begin to apply this concept to the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and His chosen counterpart, His other self, you see a picture of a people who can (and ultimately will) change the face of this earth. It is an aspect of covenant sadly lacking in today’s world with many people, but it is an aspect that God’s people are beginning to come to grips with.
Covenant is not a word. It is not something you decide to do and then expect God to bless it. Covenant is a way of life. It is a union and an agreement that incorporates the plan, the purposes and the choices of the Lord as they are integrated into our plans, purposes and choices. With His prior approval and choosing, our covenants can be, and often are, nullified.
Della and I have watched throughout the years as the Lord has marvelously repaired and restored relationships that began without His prior approval. We have also watched in some cases as the decisions of men and women have been nullified because the Lord was not in their choices and covenants.
We don’t preach divorce. We preach covenant. It’s a way of life. It is also an experience in the Lord that
often defies explanation.
In case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:30AM Pacific. That conference number is (712) 770-4160, and the access code is 308640#. We are now making these gatherings available on video using ZOOM. If you wish to participate by video on ZOOM, our login ID is 835-926-513. If you miss the live voice-only call, you can dial (712) 770-4169, enter the same access code and listen in later. The video call, of course, is not recorded – not yet, anyway.
Blessings on you!
Regner A. Capener
RIVER WORSHIP CENTER
Temple, Texas 76504
Email Contact: CapenerMinistries@protonmail.com
All Coffee Break articles are
copyright by Regner A. Capener, but authorization for reprinting, reposting,
copying or re-use, in whole or in part, is granted –provided proper attribution
and this notice are included intact. Older Coffee Break archives are available . Coffee Break articles are normally published
If you would like to have these articles arrive each morning in your email, please send a blank email to: AnotherCoffeeBreak@protonmail.com with the word, “Subscribe” in the subject line. To remove yourself from the mailing list, please send a blank email to AnotherCoffeeBreak@protonmail.com with the word “Unsubscribe” in the subject line.
CAPENER MINISTRIES is a tax-exempt church ministry. Should you desire to participate and covenant with us as partners in this ministry, please contact us at either of the above email or physical addresses, or visit: http://www.RiverWorshipCenter.org.