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Imagine a giant 15,000-piece jigsaw puzzle in a big cardboard box. Now imagine a married couple locked up in a room together where the only way out is to solve this jigsaw puzzle without the box top.

Without the box top, they won’t know what the finished puzzle is supposed to look like. Does it sound stressful, even impossible? I imagine it could possibly lead to murder!

Unfortunately, many marriages are just like that – not murder, but the jigsaw puzzle.

When Tonya and I got married, we each brought a variety of puzzle pieces into our marriage – ideas about how marriage works, who would do what, how to do holidays. Although we came from a similar background and upbringing, we still had work to do.

Making it even more difficult is that we live in a culture that no longer agrees what the finished puzzle should look like.

If you were asked, “What is your view of marriage?” your immediate reaction to that question would be colored by your personal experience.

  • Some of you are the product of a broken home or have been through a divorce.
  • Others of you are struggling through a difficult marriage.
  • Some of you have never been married.
  • Maybe you have a “marriage made in heaven.”

Regardless of your experience, I want you to dive in with me to what the Bible says about how God designed marriage to be.

Many people don’t know that the institution of marriage goes back to the very beginning of the Bible. There is a reason why we have referenced Genesis 2 in each of the first three messages. In first two chapters of Bible, we see creation as God intended it to be – before sin and our disobedience messed things up.

Genesis 2:20-25 has the first reference to marriage:

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

As we start this discussion, here’s something important to remember: God always does what he does for his own glory. This includes why he designed marriage the way he did.

What does this design look like?

God designed us to need companionship. This is why it’s natural for us to leave our fathers and mothers. While there are many levels of companionship, our ultimate needs for human intimacy are best met within a marriage relationship.

Which is why God also designed marriage to be a covenant relationship between a man and a woman. Adam was united to his wife. Whenever the Bible speaks of marriage, it is always between a man and a woman.

This is why some people ask, “Isn’t the Christian view of traditional marriage rooted in an outdated culture and need to change with the times?”

First of all, it’s misleading to speak of a Christian view of marriage. In many respects, the Christian view of marriage is rooted in the Old Testament – the Jewish view of marriage. Which is really another way of saying “God’s view of marriage.”

“Yeah, but what about all those wives that Solomon had?”

It’s true that God allowed polygamy in the Old Testament. But a better question would be how does God view polygamy today? Even while allowing polygamy, the Bible clearly presents monogamy as God’s ideal for marriage. Where does this start? In Genesis 2. When the New Testamnet talks about the characteristics of church elders, refers to “husband of one wife”, which literally means “one woman man.”

Even before the birth of Jesus, marriage as one husband-one wife was the norm among Jews. In fact, it is from the last book of the Old Testament that we see an important aspect of how God designed marriage.

The book of Malachi was written some 400 years before the birth of Jesus. After living in captivity in Babylon, the Jews had returned home to Jerusalem. But there was a problem: the religious leaders were all too ready to make ethical compromises when it came to following God. One example of that dealt with the topic of marriage.

The principle of faithfulness to one’s marriage vows was as much under attack in Malachi’s day as it is in our own.

13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. 15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. 16“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful. – Malachi 2:13-16

In today’s culture, marriage means finding someone that’s fun to be with and you can have really good sex and they don’t bug you too much. In other words, it’s a consumer relationship.

Because of that many people view marriage to be a “contract” which can be easily broken. When we said “until death do us part” what we really meant was “until I feel like giving up and getting out.”

In contrast, God’s design for marriage was for it to be a holy covenant. A contract is a two-way relationship between two people. A covenant is a three-way relationship between husband and wife and God.

I find it insightful that when God accuses the husbands of Israel of being unfaithful he doesn’t say they were unfaithful to their lovers – but to their partners. God’s design for marriage is for it to be a life-long commitment of unconditional love toward an imperfect person. One man, one woman, together, forever.

Somehow, from this high view of marriage as a covenant we have descended to the idea of prenuptial agreements.

Nowadays the only document most couples sign is the marriage license. We also have driver’s licenses, fishing and hunting licenses, automobile licenses, and professional licenses. All these expire and are renewable.

Unfortunately, for too many people, the wedding license fits in that category — a commitment that one can either renew or revoke. That was never God’s design.

Let me close with a word to a few groups of people:

To my single friends: there is nothing wrong with being single. Jesus was single. The Apostle Paul was single. If you believe marriage is in your future, spend more time preparing yourself to be the right kind of spouse rather than looking for the right partner.

To my married friends: you are in a covenant relationship that involves God himself. God is more interested in being your helper than your supervisor. Never leave him out of your marriage.

To my divorced friends: divorce is not the unpardonable sin. If you will let him, Jesus can restore you to health and wholeness. Before you enter into another significant relationship, I’d encourage you to take time to review and reflect on how the next relationship will be different.

To my widowed friends: I know whenever the topic turns to marriage, it may bring up a bit of sadness, even tears. Let me encourage you to share your marriage experiences with a younger couple. Come alongside them and share your struggles and victories.