Hi y'all, my apologies for falling behind on this. My computer's HD crashed last week and I have been working on re-loading everything after replacing the HD.
I must say that I think so far that this is one of my favorite lessons in this study so far and certainly gives much food for thought. (And HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to all the wonderful dads out there!)
(You can read the introduction to this 8 week study here. You can also click the tag at the bottom of this post and all of the Biblical Motherhood posts will be shown to you.)
Invite the Lord to speak to you as you study this morning. His Word brings refreshment to a dry and weary soul!
“Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding,” Proverbs 4:1.
Our own physical marriages are an illustration of our spiritual relationship with Jesus. Though human marriage is imperfect, we still can see a picture of our relationship with our bridegroom, Jesus, through it (Ephesians 5:22-33).
We will always find encouragement and instruction from God’s Word in all of our relationships, and we will always have reason to seek the Lord for counsel, and even for correction. In Christ this is not a shameful, condemning admittance, but because of the cross it is an acceptance of the offer of hope and healing!
Today we will look at raising our children to know of marriage the way God intended for it to take place. Our culture is saturated with worldly ideas. The only way to see this issue from the perspective of eternity is to seek the Lord in His Word.
Our God describes His heart on the matter in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. This passage is not included in order to berate or to condemn, but in order to make evident God’s desire for those who follow Him. Know that the Lord only opens a wound where there is need for healing. While we are hearing from the Lord we learn to trust that He will tell us the whole truth, but always in the light of hope. Here God (through Paul) asks questions designed to clarify the issue for us. Please list the comparisons He makes (verses 14-16):
From verse 16, why are we called to be separate?
Please confirm how God directs us to obey Him in this from verse 17.
Because the process can be painful, He gives us a promise in verse 18. Please tell what God is saying to His people (to you, Sister in the Lord)!
God is the perfect Father to His children, and He knows that in order to separate ourselves unto Him, we need to know Him and be close to Him. This is true for our children as well. If we will follow Him in this, we will be able to avoid yoking together with those who would work against His life in us.
And so today you can ask the Lord, “What do you want me to learn about yoking together, especially in marriage, for these children, Father? Will you show me in Your Word?” Ask in confidence!
Please turn to Ezra chapter 9. Ezra had come to Jerusalem with many Jews out of exile in Babylon (Persia). They had rebuilt the temple, the place of worship, in their midst and had even celebrated the Passover together again! After 70 years of slavery, most of the people had only heard wonderful stories of God and the feast of Passover, and now they were actually able to experience it themselves! To worship God in freedom was their privilege! Maybe you have come to a place like that yourself, a time of seeing God for who He is and worshiping Him as the center in your home, along with special times of feasting and celebration that you are now able to do for God’s glory in your heart!
But we see a problem arise even in the city where worship has been reestablished. Ezra 9 tells us of the hearts of the people being softened against their call to separation, and intermarrying with the people who did not worship God. We are often encouraged in God’s Word to reach out to the people around us to love them and show them our wonderful God! In that process we will be refined, our motives revealed, and there will be much opportunity for fellowship with God to grow and for us to mature in our faith. But if we neglect our relationship with God in our dealings with people (possibly faithfully continuing to read the Bible and pray, but with a dryness that we accept without crying out to God), we will begin a descent in our view of people, and we will become about our own business instead of the Lord’s, promoting ourselves instead of Him.
From Ezra 9:1,2 what did not separating themselves lead the people to do?
Please read verses 10-11. How does the condition of their culture reflect the condition of our own (for Christians and the unsaved alike)?
After we confess to God our heart’s condition, there must be a remedy in our actions. This is how the Lord draws us back to Him and sets us free from our unholiness (lack of separation). The ones Ezra addresses first are not the children, but the parents! From verse 12, please tell what the work of these parents included:
Lest we think of this as only Old Testament doctrine, we will look at a father’s responsibility for his daughter written in 1 Corinthians 7:38. From the Amplified Bible (which uses more words as it gives a fuller original meaning to our English words): “So also then, he (the father) who gives his virgin (his daughter) in marriage does well, and he (the father) who does not give (her) in marriage does better.”
From this verse, in God’s family, who is given guardianship over the acceptance of a marriage partner for his children?
As the Lord draws us to love our family, we will not want to control this situation and expect that our children should “obey our choice” for them and neglect God's desire. But a father who loves his child will be prayerful and watchful, listening for the heart of God in the heart of his child before he seeks to give him or her over to another.
Once again, please read 2 Corinthians 6:16,17 and compare it with Ezra 9:12. To truly seek someone’s (spiritual) peace and prosperity is to win them to Christ and see their faith grow. Does it please God to keep romantic company with someone of the opposite sex in order to tell them about Jesus?
Seeking someone’s (physical) peace and prosperity comes by joining together with them to help them. In marriage, from Genesis 2:18, what is a wife’s work?
In this physical life, it is important to God that our children join together with those who are walking the same walk in this life, by the same Spirit. That walk will mean life work, interests, and goals and, in the Lord, a person’s focus is totally different than the focus of living for this life.
The last part of Ezra 9:12 says: “that you may be strong and eat the good of the land, and leave it as an inheritance to your children forever.” The physical interpretation had to do with an actual land and food to eat grown on that land which would make them strong in life. What does this mean as a spiritual reality for us? (See Galatians 5:22-24.)
What importance does God put on our children marrying someone who loves Him?
God’s desire is for His people to ask Him for the person He will bring into our child’s life. What would be some long-term affects from the obedience of this command?
Galatians 4:1,2 tells us that a child is under guard by stewards until he is ready to manage his inheritance. How might this shed some light on why God instructs parents to be involved in the choice of company their children keep?
The Jews were God’s set-apart people. They had to be set-apart in order for God to give the Messiah through them to the whole world. Remember that God uses His creation to reveal Himself (Romans 1:20). He would give the Jews the privilege of enjoying His blessings in order that they might know Him and worship Him, so that the Gentiles could know Him through their lives, and that Jesus could be born through a people who could trace their ancestry and find that it matched the predictions perfectly. The Messiah’s identity would be proof positive, and through His sacrifice upon the cross and His resurrection, provide eternal life to all who would believe.
Because there was purpose to the nation, they must be able to raise up their children to know this God who desired to win their hearts. The Word of God shows the character of God, and we know by this that He wrote these things not only for the Jews, but also for all of His people. In the following passage, please mark those phrases which give instruction to you.
“Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb, when the Lord said to me, “Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children,” Deuteronomy 4:9,10.
Mount Horeb is also called Mount Sinai. We read in Exodus 19 and 20 that God gave the Law, the Ten Commandments, to Moses on Mt. Sinai. His Law is perfect love in action. They are how it would look to love God wholeheartedly and see that flow out to love others around us. It is the way we come to Christ for forgiveness, seeing that we have failed the test! We cry out to God for mercy, and receive the sacrifice He made for us.
Have you told your children and grandchildren about the Lord, “especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb”?
You don’t need to go into detail about your sin, but they need to know that you are leading them to where you are yourself; to find mercy at the cross of the God who died for sinners. This is authenticity. To admit your sin in Christ is to be able to extend mercy to others!
Please read Deuteronomy 7:3-6.
What can happen to our children’s heart for God if they marry someone who is not saved from spiritual death? (verse 4)
What should our dedication be like to see that we will not worship what our society (and our old nature) worships? (verse 5)
What is our motivation? (Fear? Anger?) (verse 6)
Because our obedience is what God uses to keep us free, He would desire first that we obey Him out of love, but if we cannot do that yet, He will accept our obedience out of fear of His judgment. True, we will not face eternal judgment, but we do understand that He judges our sin even now to cleanse it from us. If we fear God, we have the beginning of His wisdom (Psalm 111:10)! To have greater wisdom is to begin to obey God out of love! The process is His to accomplish.
It is a godly mother who will be in prayer for the Lord to accomplish this through her life and her husband’s first, and then to reach their family. It is a wise youth who humbles himself in the sight of the Lord, seeks the Lord’s direction for his own life through prayer and His Word, and who listens carefully to the counsel of his parents, especially to parents who are led of the Lord. Seeking the Lord together is so important. God is not looking for parents to usurp authority over a grown child’s life, nor for a child to go his or her own way, but for them to ask the Lord in prayer, waiting on Him so that they will recognize whatever it is He chooses to do.
In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah we read how God moved the heart of a Persian king to set free the captive nation of Israel so they could live in their own land once again! It is a book filled with pictures of faith for us as mothers. As the Jews build the temple (in Ezra), we learn that God is our Beautiful Place of worship! As the Jews build the wall (Nehemiah), we learn that He is also our Surrounding Protector! He wants us to learn how to join Him in the work He is doing.
We find that the people lost vision after years went by. The work took so much time and they wanted to live life for a few of their own interests. There were friendships made with the pagan communities that led into marriages, and because of their lack of dedication to God and for their people, while some felt apprehensive about the direction things were going, no one took any action against it.
But Nehemiah came to check on the Jews who were rebuilding Jerusalem, from his residence in Persia, from where the taste of slavery could not be washed from his mouth. From this perspective, he takes inventory of the situation and holds it to the light of God’s Word!
Read Nehemiah 13:23-27. If you wonder the level of effect you really have as a wife and mother in your home, though it is a negative example, take this to heart!
With what fervency Nehemiah sought to do what was right before the eyes of God! Use his intensity against your own old sin nature. Be that dedicated to God! Humble yourself before the Lord! Seek Him to cleanse you and your family that you may love Him faithfully in all you say and do!
Don’t wait until you sense an urgency. If you are at that desperate place, by all means, cry out to God! But if you see early signs of trouble, begin then to humble yourself before the Lord on behalf of your loved ones.
“With my soul I have desired You in the night, yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; for when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness,” Isaiah 26:9.
How can this be accomplished? Here is basic counsel which, when lavished in prayer, God will use as you seek to obey Him.
1. Be active in the friendships and relationships that your children have. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to relationships that are harmful to your child’s character. To allow a daughter to pursue or to call a boy on the phone is to encourage her to usurp and disrespect the leadership role that God gave to her father, and to the boy who will one day be a husband. To allow our sons to receive those advances is to teach him to accept the take-over of his father's authority and his own future role as leader, provider and protector of his family. Teaching a son to be the head of his household and to love his wife, and a daughter to respect her husband must not be forsaken at the time of real life application!
While friendships with both sisters and brothers in the Lord are valuable, until a person is ready for marriage, it is not wise to have a romantic relationship. To set one's mind on Jesus and to give other thoughts to the Lord for His capture and control is crucial. “Do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases,” Song of Solomon 3:5. Waiting on God can be painful, but it is the only way to have His best!
2. Singleness should not be tolerated, but embraced! It is a special time to be lavished in the love of God, to draw near to God and spend time with Him, getting to a place of putting Him first in one’s heart.
A list of character traits of a godly personality is a good thing to consider at this time. What is important to Jesus, and so to your son or daughter? It is good for them to know what they value in another person, not just someone of the opposite sex, but in friendships as well; those are the things that will help them to recognize the mate the Lord has prepared for them. The desire for Jesus to lead is nourished as intimacy with Him grows!
Time with Jesus is so crucial, and when do you have more time than when you are single? Learning to watch for Him in life experiences, and to listen to His voice in His Word and by His Spirit, these are the things that single days are to be soaked in! Finding ways to serve Jesus among His people in the church, studying, and gaining interests and learning to use and refine skills that a person is acquiring takes energy and focus, and singleness is the time to give undivided attention to the Lord in this way.
3. If the Lord has designed your child for marriage, at just the right time, He will give direction toward a certain person! You may need to find out if a specific nudge is from Him or not.
Watch for the character of the person of interest: their response to Godgiven authority, the language they use, the way they help others (or don't), whether they are a person of integrity by how they act, whether they love truth. How do they treat their family members? Watch for the fruit of the Spirit, and discuss qualities with your child; how would this person speak to an elderly person, or to a little child? Will their humorous remarks at another's expense be funny if directed at your child for the next forty years? Does the person you see try to get attention for him/herself, or to love others for Jesus' sake? This is the time to stay alert!
And if you see strong evidence of the Lord and it seems good to all involved, pray for an opportunity, and then step out in faith, to discuss with the intended more directly the issues of life and specifics of faith. Do this before action is taken to move ahead with the relationship. If you are uncertain or can see that this relationship is not of the Lord, “go back to sleep” on the desire for marriage, as Adam did while God was forming Eve! (See Genesis 2:21,22.)
Our culture practices dating, a “try it out/break-up-if-it-doesn’t-work” mentality, which has the same thought pattern as “marriage/divorce”. Spending time together is essential, but is best guarded in the company of one or the other’s family, or with godly friends in a group, having time to talk together and to watch and learn how the other responds to situations.
But impress upon your child to stay alert, and pray for him or her to “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts,” Romans 13:14. Time alone together can be a time the flesh, which is weak, is tempted. Your advice should be for them to stay in the company of trustworthy people who love and care for their soul. As Dannah Gresh, author of And the Bride Wore White writes, “Stay public, stay vertical”! Physical contact creates an emotional bond, which is why some wisely keep even handholding for betrothal or marriage. Continue in prayer and don't compromise your walk with the Lord, but draw nearer to Him, and maintain the godly relationships He has graciously placed in your lives!
Suggested reading: I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl, both by Joshua Harris.
Pray these things in, ask the Lord to do in you what only He can do!
Reread the lesson if you want to understand this better. Pray for your child to embrace his or her singleness and to live it unto Jesus. This time of life is precious! Pray for discernment and for a godly mate for your child, if it is God's desire. Focus with your child on serving the Lord, finding creativity in this life of service! Be watchful and read and believe the Word of God!
The most important decision a person makes in this lifetime is whether or not to receive Jesus Christ’s payment for their sin. The second most important decision is the choosing of a marriage partner. When your child marries, you don’t want the walk down the aisle to be just a tradition, but a physical sign of a spiritual truth.
Will you join me in prayer?
Lord God, my Father, You are a Father who provides for His children. Please do what needs to be done inside of me so that I can be faithful to you in this area of my life. I ask You to work in my family, too. I know that Your Word brings death to my old nature, and life to my spirit. Cause me to so believe You that I will be fervent to speak of You to my children, and to obey You with joy. Go ahead of us to prepare our children and their spouses for one another. Protect their spouses from the entanglements of the world, and give them someone to teach them of You and to give them a good inheritance. Please help me to be faithful in prayer for our child’s future spouse. Thank You for betrothing me to Your only Son! In Jesus’ name, A-men!