A BLESSED MARRIAGE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-15-89 7:30 p.m.
In our preaching through the Book of Genesis, we have been in these chapters that describe the life of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel [Genesis 32:28]. And in following his experience with our Lord, there are several things that command our attention and will bless us if we would listen to the Holy Scriptures as they pertain to our own lives.
First of all, Jacob’s marriage: next to the love of God, the love of a man and a woman is the most precious experience that one can ever know in this life. It will make us. It will transfigurate us, or it will degrade us; one or the other. And the vast importance of that devotion is found here in the life of the patriarchs recorded in the Book of Genesis; Abraham for Sarah, and Isaac and then the seeking of Rebekah and the children that were born to them, and finally Jacob and the building of his home in Padan-aram.
As I look through the twenty-ninth and twenty-eighth chapters of Genesis, there are four conditions of a blessed home and a blessed marriage. One is a supreme affection for one another. In chapter 29:18, “And Jacob loved Rachel; and said,” to Laban, her father, “I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter” [Genesis 29:18]. That meant fourteen years he labored for Rachel [Genesis 29:18-30].
When people marry, why do they marry? Some for the thrill of it; some for monetary reasons; some for personal advancement; some to escape uncongenial surroundings in the home in which they live; there are so many reasons why people marry. There is one reason that you ought to marry, and that is—Jacob loved Rachel, “I’ll serve thee seven more years for her” [Genesis 29:30]—the supreme love in your heart for that somebody; that’s the first.
The second thing that enters into a beautiful marriage, an ideal marriage, is the blessing and the good will of the parents and of the friends. In chapter 28:1-2:
Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, You are not to marry one of the daughters of the Canaanites.
You go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.
And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;
And give thee the blessing of Abraham…and to thy seed; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.
So Jacob made that journey to Padan-aram [Genesis 28:1-7] and there he found Rachel, his wife [Genesis 29:1-30], under the blessing of Isaac and Rebekah, his father and his mother [Genesis 28:3-4]. It’s a beautiful thing when your marriage can be in the circle of the love and good will and blessing of those who know you best.
A third ingredient, facet, of a beautiful marriage: the prospect of a livelihood and a willingness to devote yourself to it. It is a fine thing for a young couple when they marry to have before them a life of support. He’s got a job; she’s got a job; they have jobs. And they have every opportunity to believe that God will prosper them in their work. If you are married and you don’t have a visible means of support, it’s just one heartache after another.
I received a letter this afternoon, read it this afternoon. Dear me, I don’t know what to do. Here is a member of our church and the wife is pleading to me for food. And why a couple marry, have a home, and don’t provide for the household? It’s just a matter of deepest prayer and intercession, “Lord God, this is our house, this is our home. And, Lord, we need clothing to wear and food to eat and a domicile in which to rest and abide.” And it is a vital part of the building of a happy marriage and a beautiful home.
And the fourth one is, as Paul would say: we are to marry only in the Lord. That’s much emphasized in Scripture such as 1 Corinthians 7:39, and 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, and Deuteronomy 7:3. A mixed marriage is a prolific source of misery as Nehemiah 13:23-26 avows.
And if I can read from this Holy Book, listen to Rebekah, “And Rebekah said to Isaac,” this is the last verse in chapter 27:
I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth:
if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land—
and such as Esau married [Genesis 36:2]—
what good shall my life do me?
“Lord, I’d rather die,” said Rebekah. “I’d rather die” [Genesis 27:46]. Marry only in the Lord, not outside [1 Corinthians 7:39; 2 Corinthians 6:14-15]. If that somebody is not a Christian and will not give heart and life to Jesus, don’t marry! Marry only in the Lord.
One of the most beautiful verses I think in this passage is 29:20, “And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had for her” [Genesis 29:20]. Man alive! That girl must have been the most ravishing looking critter that God ever made. I just can’t imagine what Rachel must have looked like. Ah! He had already worked seven years, and he worked seven more years, “And they seemed to him like a few days because of the love he had for her” [Genesis 29:18-30]. That’s just wonderful, “For the love that he had for her” [Genesis 29:20]. Oh, how beautiful!
Those three mighty men of David brought him water from the well of Bethlehem for the love they had for David [2 Samuel 23:15-17]. And Jesus bore the cross for the love that He had for us [John 15:13]. And the martyrs died for the love they had for the gospel of Christ. And a wife and a mother—such as this appeal for prayer tonight, a Caesarean—waiting in days of illness for the love of that child; for the love of a friend, sometime.
I received a telephone call from a wonderful pastor this afternoon, and his wonderful deacon whom I know, a glorious man of God, had died. And the pastor was there when his wonderful deacon died. And the deacon said to him, the pastor, he said to him, “Pastor, I’ll be reserving a seat for you. I’ll be keeping a place for you at the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Isn’t that a beautiful thing? “I’m going on. I’ll be preceding you. But I’ll be holding a place for you at the marriage supper of the Lamb” [Revelation 19:7-9]. It’s a wonderful thing, a beautiful thing, that kind of love.
Now, scheming leads to all kinds of a heartache, and how in the earth that Jacob, the night of their honeymoon—Laban, instead of giving him Rachel, gave him Leah—and the night of the honeymoon, he spent with Leah and thought it was Rachel [Genesis 29:21-23]. Now, I want you to explain that to me; anybody that knows that, I want you to explain that to me. I have read that, the Lord only knows how many times, and I still can’t understand how that guy spent his honeymoon night with that woman, and didn’t know that it wasn’t Rachel until the next morning. I just need instruction; I just do.
But the sorrow of that is almost unbelievable. For Leah was not the one that he loved, and when I read of her children, the last part of Genesis 29:
When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, He opened her womb . . .
And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me—
she hoped, now look at the next one:
She conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, He hath therefore given me this son also: so she called his name Simeon.
Now look at the next verse:
And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.
It’s just one of the most pitiful, sad depictions that I could think for. Reuben means “See, a son,” Simeon means “God hears,” and Levi means “Joined.” The sadness of her life, oh dear! That’s what can come when you don’t love somebody.
Now may I conclude with Jacob’s call to return in Genesis 31:3, “And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.” They were strangers and pilgrims in the land [Hebrews 11:13]. And God called Jacob to go back, back where he came from, back to his father’s house, back to the days of remembrance in the household of Isaac and Rebekah. And God promised to care for him. “And I will be with thee” [Genesis 31:3], the divine promise. God’s care for us is always evident when we listen to His precious voice and follow close in His steps.
Oh! I could wish, I could wish that every young man that marries could marry a girl that he loves with all of his heart, and with the passing of the years, grow more tenderly close together, and that the children see that in their parents, and that they find strength and encouragement in one another and in the Lord.
That’s why God admonishes us to build our homes in the faith, in the love of God, in the strength and blessing of the precious Jesus [1 Corinthians 7:39; 2 Corinthians 6:14-15]. And to give your heart and life to that glorious Savior is more than all the riches in the world.
And that’s the appeal we make tonight. In this moment that we sing us a song, if there’s a couple to give themselves to the Lord, if there is a family to join heart and soul with us in our dear church, if there is someone who tonight for a special reason, answers God’s call in life, whatever the Spirit would place upon your heart, you come and stand by me. And the Lord bless you in the way as you listen to His voice and respond with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
A BLESSED MARRIAGE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Jacob’s marriage
1. Next to the love of God, love of a man and woman is most precious experience
2. Jacob loved Rebekah, worked fourteen years to get Rebekah; Genesis 29:20
II. Four conditions of a blessed, loving marriage
1. Genesis 29:18; supreme affection
2. Genesis 28:1-2; good will of parents, friends
3. Genesis 29:18; prospect of livelihood and devotion to it
4. Genesis 28:3-4; only in the Lord
III. Laban’s scheming lead to:
1. Heartache in Jacob’s heart
2. Duplicity in business; pay for one thing, get something different
IV. Jacob’s case to return
1. God’s call to become a sojourner, a stranger
2. Drag of worldly circumstances
3. Divine care Genesis 31:24, 29; 32:1-2