May 11, 1997; No. 2835
It is not uncommon for husbands and wives to have pet names for each other. Terms of endearment. Words that are very exclusive and private. Terms which would be inappropriate for anyone else to use.
So also does God, for us His bride, the church. He has a word which expresses the tenderness of His love for us. It is "Hephzibah," which means, "my delight is in her." The love that God has to His bride, the church, gives Him delight.
When you read in the Bible in the book of the Song of Solomon, you read of God's love and His delight for His church in terms which almost make us blush. Just like your children, perhaps, when they see Mom and Dad hug and "be silly," and a smile comes over their face when they see the tenderness of that love, so also God has a tender and wonderful love for His people. He calls us "Hephzibah, my delight is in her."
The word "Hephzibah" is found in only two places in the Bible. It was, first, what the God-fearing Hezekiah called his wife. In II Kings 21 we learn that Hezekiah's wife was called "Hephzibah." And Hezekiah could say concerning his wife, "My delight is in her."
The second time that we find the word "Hephzibah" is where God calls His people by that name. That is in Isaiah 62:4. In the context God has said that He would take away our rightful name which is "Forsaken," and would call us by a new name, a name which He would choose. That name will be "Hephzibah." We read, "Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah." And again, that word means, My delight is in her.
Out of His love the Lord delights in His church. Psalm 149:4, "For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation." Isaiah 43:4, "Since thou wast precious in my sight, I have loved thee." God intends that we be blessed. God intends that we know that we are His delight, that we enjoy His love and grace and faithfulness.
This is also the truth which must be reflected in a Christian's marriage. Also the Christian man and the Christian wife, before the face of God, are to say concerning each other, My delight is in her/him.
Do you experience that blessing? That your love for each other causes a delight to be in your heart, a joy? If not, why not? Is yours a happy marriage? Or have you secretly, at times, given up and resigned yourself to a life of disappointment in each other and perhaps said that to yourself and maybe even verbally to each other? Have you concluded, "Well, I can't change her/him"? Do you find yourself living with resentment, frustration, distance, the inability to communicate? Do you feel trapped in your marriage? God intends that the marriages of His children be a means in His hand to teach us and to convey to our hearts something of the truth that God takes pleasure in us - that He loves us, not only, but that He delights in us and is speeding the days when we shall be with Him in fullness of joy, in the fullness of His joy.
That is the blessing, also, of a godly marriage.
Perhaps there is nothing in this life which has such a potential to bring blessing or woe as marriage. The tremendous power and the influence of marriage in our lives is seen in that perhaps nothing can bring greater bitterness and woe than when a marriage goes sour and astray. It is not the experiences that you have outside of the home which bring the deepest scars, but those within the home. Marital strife can leave the deepest scars. Rebellious children, separation in the home, breakdown - these are some of the deepest woes that anyone could ever experience. And not any of us are exempt. Not any of us are exempt in ourselves. We have, in our own flesh, the potential to destroy. And that potential is so great that a man or a woman may even say, "If I had known that this would happen, I would have run away that day instead of walking to the altar of marriage."
But it is under the grace of God, with the holy Word of God embraced by four hands - your two hands and the two hands of your spouse - that marriage has the potential in the hand of God to bring the greatest blessings from the storehouse of Jesus Christ. You need to understand that those blessings are not cotton-candy blessings. They are not like cotton-candy which looks so good but is filled with air, and the moment you have it in your mouth it almost evaporates and is gone. The blessings coveted by so many today, the instant-gratification blessings of what this person does to me in the thrill of a moment - these are not the blessings that God has in store for a Christian marriage.
No, the blessings of God in a Christian marriage are deep. They are abiding. And, therefore, they are slow-working. They are forged blessings. God blesses you, as a child of God, in your marriage. He blesses you more than you realize. God has blessed you more than you even know.
But when we consider the blessing of a godly marriage, we see that there are two things which we must firmly believe. Those two things stand as the foundation of a Christian marriage.
The first is this. That we are fully persuaded from God's Word that the blessing of God and our happiness are indeed to be found in marriage. We are fully persuaded by faith that we will find happiness and blessing there. That needs to be shouted from the housetops and constantly be brought to our remembrance today. We read in Proverbs 18:22, "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD." The world does not believe that. The world looks at marriage as God has designed it, and looks upon that as a house of horror, because God has designed marriage in a specific way - that it be filled with sacrificial, exclusive love seen in the headship of a loving, sacrificial husband and the subjection of a submissive and loving wife. The world looks at that and says, That's bondage, that's demeaning, that's oppressive. So the world, casting away God's design for marriage, attempts to remake marriage in a way that they think is going to make them happy. They say, No commitment, no defined roles, except to support each other some way or some how to some extent, no faithfulness when something else more appealing comes along. And, changing the design of God for marriage, they plunge themselves into misery.
We can be guilty in our thinking and in our attitudes also as believers, guilty in our thinking that true pleasure and true satisfaction are found somewhere else than in giving ourselves completely to our marriages. Satan, you know, always tries to make efforts to have us seek happiness and contentment and fulfillment somewhere else than where God intends to give it to us. So he directs us away from marriage and away from the home. The proof that these temptations filter into our thinking is found in just one telling point: more and more, no one is at home. We are out; night after night we are not together. Husbands allow their work to swallow up more and more and more time. Women become enamored with and intent upon a career. Entertainment and recreation gobble up more and more time and money. It becomes the direction of a marriage, a home. We cannot have children until we have the things of this world first. Perhaps we cannot give support to the kingdom of God because there are other things that are first. We are saying that the blessing of God is not to be found in a marriage but in other things. And young people, who come by their attitudes very honestly (they come by their attitudes from their parents), think that they have to be out, away from the home. And when the family is at home, TV and videos dominate the precious time. Now a "family-night" is being defined as getting a video and watching that in stupefied wonder.
We must believe that God's blessing is to be found in a marriage as God designed it - in a husband coming home at night to be with his wife and to talk to her and to spend the evening talking, perhaps folding the laundry, helping at home with the children. We must believe that the blessing of God is to be found in those children that we have right now at our table, helping them with their homework, playing games with them, doing things with them, teaching them their catechism. Right there God's blessing will be found.
Only, once again, it is not a blessing tailored to your flesh. It is not a cotton-candy blessing. But it is a blessing you will find in your soul.
There are two things we must firmly believe concerning the blessing of God in a home. The first is that it is to be found there. But secondly, the key to it is godliness. A godly marriage is a marriage which does everything with the motive of pleasing God, honoring God. Only then will God honor your marriage.
In past years I have witnessed the difficult and the almost unbearable burden a believer experiences when his or her mate is unconverted, when God has worked His wonderful grace in the heart of one, drawing one out of unbelief, but not yet in the heart of the other. There can often be persecution and reproach. There can be the slow-roasting of a father's love for his children by an unbelieving wife who ridicules him for the sake of Jesus Christ, who puts her foot down concerning the children and will not allow her children to be taken with him to church or to be taught the truths of God's precious Word.
I have also witnessed that when God converts a couple, husband and wife, to faith in Jesus Christ after, we'll say, fifteen or more years of marriage; though that conversion is wonderful and joyful, yet the baggage of a walk so many years apart from the Lord brings trials to their family life.
Are you godly? Really? Is your wife a believer? Is your husband a believer? Then don't you ever complain in your self-pity to God about their habits that irk you. You had better get on your knees and thank Him for a believing spouse. You had better never take that for granted. After a few years in marriage the honeymoon is, of course, over. You begin to know each other in ways that you did not know on your wedding day. Do you thank God for giving you a believing husband, for giving you a believing wife? Or in your mind are you constantly running them down for their faults?
There may be many obstacles in your marriage. There may be financial problems, problems with your children. There are difficult issues in the Christian home. But don't you ever conclude that yours is not a blessed home, a blessed marriage. Not if both of you are believers by the wonderful grace of God! Will not God open heaven to shower blessings upon two of His children who confess their sins and are thankful for their salvation?
The blessing of God is to be found in a marriage, in a godly marriage. But then to experience those blessings there are a number of things which we must follow.
The first is obedience. A principle of the Scriptures is that obedience is the way that God is pleased to show us His favor. Our obedience to His Word and commandments are not the condition of merit. We do not earn God's blessing by our obedience. Jesus Christ earns our blessing, alone on the cross. But our obedience is the response of thanks to God. To obey is the way whereby we thank Him and also the way whereby God is pleased to have us experience His blessings.
In the old covenant, Moses would remind the people of God in the book of Deuteronomy time after time in forceful words that the commands of God which were set before them must be obeyed in their life in Canaan. Then, in that way, God would shower heavens' blessings upon them.
There is an important truth here. The blessing of God is to be found in the way of humble obedience. The important truth is this: happiness never comes by seeking it. But happiness is always the by-product of obedience.
That is something that the world just cannot get straight. Happiness for the world must be the goal. They say it, too. I must be happy. Therefore, they countenance divorce. And they say that you have the right to be happy. Who in the world can stand in the way of their happiness. They are not happy in this marriage? They have a right to be happy! So, to be happy, they disobey and they divorce. But, you see, happiness becomes then the proverbial carrot on the stick. You cannot ever get it. You are never happy. And you are never happy because you are seeking happiness as your goal. You never obtain happiness that way.
Happiness is the fruit of obedience. Obey and you will be happy. But seek your own happiness, seek your own emotions, and you will not be happy. Obey your God. That means, do not look at the other person in your marriage and talk this way: I will, if you will. Do not make your obedience to God in marriage conditioned on the actions of the other. Have you ever said, "Well, I could be more loving, dear, if you "? Have you ever said, "Well, I could submit to you and I would be a whole lot more pleasant around this house if you "? Oh, no. The blessing of God is to be found in the way of obedience. And the commands of God are so very clear! Husbands, love your wives. What is the command of God? Love your wife. How? As Christ loved the church: sacrificially, exclusively. He loved the church. He gave His life for the church. He emptied Himself. To what extent are you to love your wife? In everything. That command is very clear. Now do that! Obey God without any conditions. Do that! Love your wife.
And the command of God for wives? That is very clear, too. Wives, submit to your own husbands. What? Submit. How? As unto the Lord, as the church submits to Christ. To what extent? In everything. Obey that. Not only if you feel like it first. Not conditioned, first of all, on the worthiness of your husband or wife because you think they are worthy to love or because you think he is worthy to be submitted unto. They are not worthy. There is not one husband, not one wife, who is worthy in himself or herself.
You must obey God even if there is no guarantee that the other person is going to change at all. Obey God. Trust and obey, for there is no other way; to be happy in Jesus is to trust and obey!
The Lord willing, next week we want to return to this subject of the blessings of God in a godly marriage. In the intervening week we hope that you will prayerfully consider some of the things that we have talked about today and that you also will invite some of your friends to listen with you, especially, perhaps, some young people who are contemplating marriage, who would be benefited by these words.
Let us pray.
Our Father in heaven, we thank Thee for Thy Word. And we pray that we may learn the wonder of grace when Thou didst call us Hephzibah, my delight is in her. Give us to delight in each other, Amen.