Tuesday, October 8

The importance of a God-first marriage

Scripture: Ezra 9-10, Psalm 131, Luke 21

Observation

When Ezra discovers that many Jewish leaders and people are in mixed marriages, he grieves and repents and prays, and then orders them to send away their unbelieving spouses and children.  I find this problematic.  What would happen to these women and children?  Why do this?  Some thoughts:

First, the issue was spiritual, not ethnic or racial.  The problem was that these Gentiles worshipped other gods and introduced this worship into their families—it was idolatry and broke Israel’s covenant with God.  In Ezra 6:21, Gentiles who had abandoned their gods and were seeking God were included in the community celebration of the Passover.  So the issue was spiritual, not racial.  Anyone who was willing to seek God was happily included.  This means that not every mixed marriage would be forcibly ended; when the Gentile spouse worshipped God, there was no need to send them away.

Second, because the issue was spiritual and central to Israel’s existence (and survival), it took precedence over the most important human relations, the family.  God first, then family.  These idolatrous marriages were not “God-first”. 

Third, no instructions are given for the ongoing treatment of the spouse and children that were sent away.  It’s possible (even probable) that some kind of support was offered—particularly from those who loved their spouse and kids.   

Fourth, there is evidence in the text that the leaders considered each family on a case by case basis.  

Fifth, this passage is descriptive not proscriptive.  This tells what Israel did in this unique situation, and is not proscribing what Christians in an unequal marriage should do today.  In fact, the apostle Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 7 and gives the opposite instruction: Christians who are married to unbelievers are not to divorce them, but live in peace.  God may use you to save your spouse!

Application

This is one of many passages that indicate how important it is to marry someone who shares your faith.  

When I was a young single believer, I made a vow to God to not date or marry someone who didn’t love Jesus as much or more than me.  I understood how important it was for my marriage to be Jesus-centered and to support a God-first life.  (I hit the jackpot when I married Laina!)

Marriage is one of the most important human relationships, but it is second to our relationship with God, and it should support and enhance that primary relationship.  Build your marriage around Jesus, and you’ll not only be closer to Him, but you’ll have a better marriage!

Prayer: Lord, help us to make better disciples who build strong marriages around You.