Divorce is on the decline in the U.S.—but before anyone out there starts declaring the beginning of a national spiritual transformation, it’s important to note that marriage is on the decline as well.
In a recent study by the Marriage Project in association with the University of Virginia, the annual number of marriages per 1,000 unmarried women has declined by about 50 percent since 1970. Delaying the age of getting married contributes to this number, to be sure, but frankly, people are choosing cohabitation over wedded bliss.
No one needs to wave some statistics in front of me that bear out these numbers. I see it all around.
Rather than criticize people who make these choices, I’d like to take a moment to examine if it’s really that big of a deal.
Please join me as we explore this in our daily Bible Conversation.
JOIN US NEXT WEEK AT THE NEIGHBORHOOD CAFÉ
At the end of this week we begin the new year—which also means we’ll inaugurate a slight change in format. This Friday we’ll conclude our Daily Bible Conversation and then Monday morning you’ll be welcomed to The Neighborhood Café: A Faithblog Community. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday you’ll be invited to join us for a cup of coffee and conversation.
Don’t concern yourself with finding us on a new website because you’ll still be able to find us at http://www.bibleconversation.com. You’ll also meet Jadell Foreman who will contribute to our blog along with Eugene and me.
Thank you for joining us in the conversation.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Zechariah 12:1-13:9. The crucifixion of Jesus is foretold in 12:10-14. Zechariah prophesies that the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will “look on me, the one they have pierced.” Since God is speaking, this is a reference to killing God. Yet after committing this deed, they will repent for what they have done.
It’s interesting that this verse is prefaced by the words, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.” In the midst of Israel’s judgment, God gives them a spirit of grace and supplication, which means “a willingness to show kindness to others and to ask pardon from God.” So, in order to reach the people’s hearts, God allowed his only son to die for us. What great love.
Proverbs 31:1-7. This last chapter in Proverbs was written by King Lemuel. We know virtually nothing about him—except that he wasn’t a king of Israel. Because the name means “spoken by God,” it’s possible that it is a pseudonym, perhaps for King Solomon.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
In Revelation 19, we’re given an astonishing visual: the marriage supper of the Lamb…
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
To be honest, a wedding ceremony comprising a lamb (an underage sheep!) and a human being sounds a bit strange. But of course, prophecy is saturated with symbolism, so we don’t need to take this literally.
The lamb, of course, points to Jesus. John the Baptist called Jesus “the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The sacrificial lamb symbolized the closest picture of innocence to sullied people in need of forgiveness.
And who is betrothed to Jesus? Everyone who seeks his forgiveness for their sin. The bride isn’t defined by individuals who seek to find their own way, but rather, it is defined as the church of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul understood this as well. He instructed husbands to love their wives (a reference to marriage) saying:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Again, the reference to marriage is unmistakable.
Imagine how the above reference would sound if we substituted “boyfriends” and “girlfriends”. “Boyfriends, love your girlfriends, just as Christ loved the church…” Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Or how about this: “People in a committed relationship, love each other as Christ loved the church…” It just doesn’t “ring” true (I couldn’t resist the pun!).
Something is missing here. What is it? A love that never gives up. We all know that something changes when a couple makes a marital commitment. The “easy out” no longer exists. For thousands of years, couples have entered into the covenant of marriage. Every covenant ceremony included an exchange of gifts and the understanding that the covenant would remain in force as long as both parties were alive. Once the husband or wife died, the covenant no longer existed.
But in the marriage supper of the Lamb, both parties will live forever. Jesus is eternal (Hebrews 13:8), but because the lamb was slain for us, everyone who receives him is given eternal life as well. The covenant will never come to an end!
So what does this share in common with marriage in this mortal life? A great deal. The marriage supper of the lamb is the reality (see Isaiah 25:6-8). Marriage in this life is the shadow, pointing to ultimate reality. God has given us the covenant of marriage to whet our taste for the real thing. Committed relationships that act like marriage are a poor example of reality.
Call it old-fashioned, outdated, or irrelevant, I believe in marriage because I believe in God’s covenant love for us.
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.