By Derek Prince
So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:28-32 NKJV).
The Apostle Paul explains the Christian view of marriage by saying it was a mystery. In Paul’s time, the word mystery had religious associations. Its basic meaning is to introduce truth from the Old Testament that was to be completed or “unveiled” in the New – thus, a “mystery” was “solved.”
The “missing” area was the new and deeper meaning of covenant. Old Testament Israel knew about covenant (e.g., God and Abraham; David and Jonathan), but the concept of a covenant relationship between a specific husband and wife – and its being a picture of Christ and the Church – was unknown until revealed through Paul. Sadly, much of the wonderful “mystery” of covenant implications today has vanished from the Western world mindset. Instead, the Western mind thinks of “contracts,” which are agreements to protect one’s own interests. Contrary to that, in making covenant, both parties take full responsibility for what they give to the other.
In the book of Deuteronomy, when God’s people were ready to enter into their promised inheritance, Moses reviewed the kind of lifestyle God had planned for them in their new land. He promised them that if they obeyed, they would be abundantly blessed. In particular, Moses told them that their homes would be like “heaven upon…earth” (Deuteronomy 11:21 KJV). He painted a beautiful picture of contentment and harmony. This is a clear picture of covenant promises offered by God to His people.
About twelve hundred years later, through the prophet Malachi, God took stock of Israel’s conduct since they had entered into their inheritance. In general, they had failed to meet God’s conditions and therefore had not enjoyed the level of life He had planned for them. In His assessment, God pinpointed areas of failure. One was in the Israelites’ home lives, specifically in their marriages.
This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously though she is your companion and your wife by covenant…” (Malachi 2:13-14, Author’s translation from Hebrew text).
Obviously, Israel’s failure in this respect was not due to lack of religion. They were “cover[ing] the altar of the Lord with tears.” Yet, for all their prayers, many of their marriages were failures. The essence of Israel’s failure is contained in the closing phrase of Malachi 2:14: “…[even] though she is…your wife by covenant.”
Israel had come to view marriage as a relationship for which they might set their own standards, one which they were free to initiate or terminate on their own terms. God reminds them, however, that He views marriage quite differently. According to His unchanging purpose, marriage is a covenant, which is the ‘mystery’ that alone ensures the success of the marriage relationship.
Once this secret is forgotten or ignored, marriage inevitably loses its sanctity. With the loss of the sanctity of marriage, it also loses its strength and stability. Much of what we see in our contemporary civilization is closely parallel to the condition of Israel in Malachi’s day, and the root cause is the same – a wrong view of marriage.
What is the essence of covenant? In Psalm 25:14, David says, The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant (NKJV). The secret of covenant must be approached in the reverent fear of God. It is withheld from those who approach with any other attitude. Thus, the concept of covenant is central to the whole of divine revelation.
With God, covenant represents final, irrevocable commitment. Making covenant requires a sacrifice, so in marriage a man and a woman enter into a totally new life and a totally new relationship. Each lays down his life for the other, and each holds nothing back from the other. Everything the husband has is for the wife. Everything the wife has is for the husband. It is a merger, not a partnership. Each now lives a new life in and through the other. The husband says to the wife: “My life is in you. I am living out my life through you. You are the expression of what I am [and am to become].” Likewise, the wife says the same things to her husband.
The covenant is consummated by physical union. This in turn brings forth fruit, which continues the new life that each has been willing to share with the other. Without union, there can be no fruit. Covenant leads to shared life and fruitfulness.
This approach to marriage is very different from the attitude with which most people today enter into marriage. Basically, the attitude of our contemporary culture is, “What can I get? What is in it for me?” The one who approaches marriage as a covenant does not ask, “What can I get?” Rather, he asks, “What can I give?” And he goes on to answer his own question: “I give my life. I lay it down for you, and then I find my new life in you.” This applies to both the husband and to his wife. To the natural mind, this sounds ridiculous. Yet it is, in fact, the secret of real life, real happiness, and real love.
Derek Prince (1915-2003) was an internationally known Bible teacher with special emphasis on the Church and Israel. His ministry continues through Derek Prince Ministries. This devotional is excerpted from his book, The Marriage Covenant (Whitaker House, 1978), which IFA highly recommends. It is used with permission. For more of his teaching, go to http://www.derekprinceministries.com. The editing staff made adjustments for space and clarity.
For Personal Prayer:
1) Pray for a better understanding of covenant and the security this total commitment brings to marriage.
2) Pray that you and your spouse will grow in deeper understanding of how to give 100 percent of yourselves to each other.
3) If you have children who are approaching maturity, pray that you and your spouse will be able to impart covenant thinking in their quest for the “right” mate.
4) If you are unmarried, pray that you might be an example to friends or relatives contemplating marriage, as well as sharing this information with them,
For National Intercession:
1) In light of the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision (June 26, 2015), give thanks for President Trump’s choice of Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, a constitutionalist.
2) Pray for Church leaders to stand firm in their commitment to share the truth of God’s Word about gender differences, while at the same time showing compassion for all. Our pastors and youth leaders need wisdom in keeping the Gospel central and accessible.
3) In 2015, our Supreme Court attempted to redefine God’s form of marriage, but, as Jesus said, “…the Scripture cannot be broken…” (John 10:35), and God’s design cannot be set aside without dire consequences. Spend time asking the Lord how He wants you to pray about this.
Intercessors for America