Looking for a marriage that’s not just fulfilling but also overrun with joy and blessing?
God’s promise for experiencing this comes when we do his instructions.
“All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God” Deuteronomy 28:2 (NASB unless noted)
“If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love… I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.” John 15:10-11 (NET)
Obeying those who are motivated by their own interests (politicians) is tantamount to slavery. However, choosing to obey someone, like God, who has demonstrated a devotion to your best interests and to harmony with others, is freedom. If you believe that obeying God's instructions is demeaning or sexist you don't really know Him.
God has demonstrated, via Jesus’ sacrifice, an unwavering devotion to our well-being—our best in every way. Those who are wise and aware of this find obeying His instruction very rewarding.1
As our Creator, He understands and incorporates the limitations and impediments of our fallen nature in forming His directives. By this I mean His directives make us aware of the encumbrances of our fallen nature in the hope that we will seek His help to overcome them. Denying the existence of that fallen nature ensures we never escape its clutches nor will we ever experience the joy of life free of it—our lack of joy, happiness, success will always be seen as the fault of others—blame.
A scorpion approaches a frog, “Will you give me a ride across the river?”
“No,” said the frog, “you will sting me.”
“Why would I do that to you when you’re helping me across?” argues the scorpion.
After considering, the frog answers, “In that case, okay. I’ll ferry you across.”
They set out, but before they reach the other side the frog feels a sharp sting in its back.
“Why did you sting me?" screamed the frog in pain.
“I’m sorry, I can’t help it. I guess it’s just in my nature,” pled the scorpion.
God’s directives for harmonious and fulfilling relationships lead us to face our fallen nature. Although well aware of our short comings, God will never impose Himself on us, rather, He waits for our invitation of Him to help. It is beyond our means to overcome that nature, but when we become aware of it we need only to acknowledge and yield the issue to Him asking for His help in progressively ending its influence in our lives. This is the process called sanctification. A process that God has predestined (Romans 8:29) for us.
If we acknowledge our fallen nature He is faithful and just... to cleanse us of it. (my rendition of 1 John 1:9)
Marriage is, I believe, God’s primary workbench for revealing, confronting, addressing, and correcting issues of our fallen nature and encouraging our progressive sanctification—the process of being free of it.
As to His directives for a fulfilling marriage, God has few, very basic, yet 'linchpin' instructions. Determined obedience will bring results:
- love your wife as much as you love yourself
- treat her as you would treat a prized, delicate, and precious artifact
- keep placing yourself under your husband’s authority
- fear—revere and respect—him since God has appointed him as overseer (see Spiritual Authority)
These instructions, specific to our gender, begin to make sense when viewed in the light of the events of the fall at Eden in Genesis 3. If you feel they are restrictive or show gender bias you don't really know God.
In the Garden of Eden, the serpent approached the woman (later named Eve) in the garden. We are not told that it hadn’t earlier approached Adam, but if so, it was not successful. Against Eve it was. Had Adam failed to protect Eve by being off consumed with another interest? Perhaps. Most Bible translations read that Adam was 'with her,' however, those words are not there, it is a deduction from the serpent's use of the plural form for 'you'. This reasoning seems, to me, to be shallow. More likely the serpent was being inclusive as in, 'when you both eat the fruit.' To say, "I'd like to invite you and your husband to dinner," is not proof that both are present to hear the invitation. Using the plural form may have motivated Eve to believe that it was necessary for also Adam to eat for the 'god-like' effect to be effective. To suggest that Adam was beside her during this conversation would bring into question the truth of Paul's statement:
“And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” 1 Timothy 2:14, 2 Corinthians 11:3
What made Eve more vulnerable? Again, we are not given much detail, perhaps she felt inferior having been made almost as an afterthought God's last creation. Could Eve have felt like a ‘third party', a 'fifth wheel’ or disadvantaged being new to the environment? We are not told.
What aspect of the serpent’s persuasion enticed her, was it that the fruit was pleasing to the eye or that, by eating it, she could be like God?
We can deduce the latter—becoming like God—when we 'reverse engineer' God’s judgement against her.
We read two aspects of God’s judgement against Eve The first being against her physically, i.e. that she would experience pain in childbirth. The second was not directly against her body but involved relating to her man.
It’s this last one that warrants a closer look.
Many translations read:
“Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16
Having a desire for your husband seems lacking as a divine revelation, especially after the invitation to be fruitful and multiply. Perhaps more information hinges on the word, 'desire'.
In God's warning to Cain about his feelings toward Abel, we find the same word for 'desire' used:
"And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:7
The implication here is that it was sin's desire that Cain was to master. It follows that there was a struggle for control in that sin's desire was to persuade Cain to do wrong. The New English Translation (NET), “its desire is to control you,” is congruent with God’s directive that Cain "must master it", i.e. not let sin master you.
Applying that deduction to God's judgement against Eve's, some versions use the conjunction ‘but’ to infer a conflict between her ‘desire’ and God’s directive that “he will rule.” Other translations have interpreted this verse as:
“Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (ESV)
“You will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” (NLT, NET)
This now has the effect Jesus described as the intent of our enemy, namely to "steal, kill, and destroy"2 relationships.
This verse holds a revelation for Eve—and to wives in general—that their fallen nature will impose on them a desire 'be like God' over her husband conflicting with the fact that generally he is physically stronger and also mandated by God to rule. This desire to control the husband is one of the main reasons for failed marriages—driven by the belief that in fulfilling this desire she will finally have the joy she seeks.
New Testament writings confirm the struggle against Eve's fallen nature:
“The wives, be putting yourselves in subjection with implicit obedience to your own husbands as to the Lord” Ephesians 5:22, 24 (Wuest)
“Wives, be constantly subjecting yourselves with implicit obedience to your husbands as you ought to do in the Lord.” Colossians 3:18 (Wuest)
“women to… be… subject to their own husbands” Titus 2:5
As He did with Cain, God makes it the woman’s responsibility to master, overrule, or deliberately act contrary to that fallen desire within her nature—and to do so successfully when she asks for His help.
In Adam’s case, God’s judgement was not against him physically, but against the earth and Adam’s labour and efforts to produce food from it.
“Because you obeyed your wife... the ground is cursed... in painful toil... the sweat of your brow you will eat food" Genesis 3:17-19 (NET)
As a result of Adam’s part in the fall, it has become the husband’s sin to thrust himself with singular focus into tasks like work, golf, fishing, etc., leaving his wife feeling abandoned and not cherished (this feeding her efforts to control him). Is this why God commands the husband to love his wife to the same degree as he loves himself, or his interests?
Do men also have a propensity to obey the ‘voice’ of their wife, making necessary God's directive that he would/should rule? Or perhaps it's little boys who are trained to obey their mothers which carries over to their wives?
“For the husband is the head of the wife” Ephesian 5:23
“Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman” 1 Corinthians 11:3
Those relationship defects, fruit of the fall, continue to plague husbands and wives today empowering strife, feminism, machoism, and all manner social conflicts which destroy relationships, marriages, and families.
Once the fruit of the fall is finally dealt the death blow these inequalities in roles won't be necessary. Until then, that fruit remains active, in our nature, to undermine the peace and joy that marriage was designed to be—to the degree that we fail to master it and neglect to ask for God's help to do so.
The joy that Father intended in the marriage relationship comes when, in obedience to God, husbands treat their wives as precious and as equals and wives fear and give themselves in submission to their husbands. Can we pick and choose which of God's directives we will adhere to? Can we be partly committed or must it be total? The nature of salvation is that of an exchange, Jesus gave His all for us, in exchange we give our all to him. Anything less is not worthy of him.3
And the person who keeps his commandments resides in God, and God in him. 1 John 3:24 (NET)
If you find God's directives to be repulsive or sexist, you don't know God and are not mastering the "desire" which actually enslaves and robs you of what you seek most—Joy.
The book of Judges, in the Old Testament, provides us with many examples of benefits of doing what God directs. When we do what we think is right, implying it contrary to what God directs, we find ourselves under oppression, ill at ease, and without joy. When we repent and follow God's directives we prosper and rest in joy and peace.
God's directives are not interdependent, which means if one spouse is remiss in doing their part the other is not exempt from doing theirs, but neither is your reward dependent of their obedience—only on yours.
We can master these fallen nature issues through Christ who is our strength.
Again, it’s only in doing God’s word that we experience His joy, peace and abundant life and as with all of God's promises He tells us, "test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy." Malachi 3:10-11
©2022, Dr Steven Bydeley, a man.
All publishing rights reserved. Permission is herewith granted to reprint this article for personal use and to link or refer to it; however, no commercial re-publishing of the material in this article is permitted without prior written consent.
Steven is the author of Fathered by God and with his wife Dianne, co-author of Dream Dreams and Dreams the Heal and Counsel. He has been a guest on the Miracle Channel, Trinity Television, and Crossroads Communication, and have taught internationally on various topics.
Without Prejudice. © 2023, Steven., house of bij de Leij., of man.