Summary: A topical study on commitment in marriage including a consideration of divorce and remarriage
Foundation Three: Commitment in Marriage
Many marriages were destined for trouble from the utterance of the words “I do.” When the couple publicly declared, “I do”, they really didn’t understand what they were committing to. They had no comprehension of what true commitment was. They entered marriage thinking that divorce was a viable option in their pursuit of self-fulfillment and happiness, or they naively thought that it could never happen to them. For many there isn’t much difference between their commitment in dating and their commitment in marriage. Marriage is just another way to express how much they love someone.
In many cultures, including the biblical culture, they practice arranged marriages, which typically has a very low divorce rate. In those cultures, “love” is more than just feelings; it means commitment. Love as a feeling will have seasons of strength and seasons where it seems to diminish totally. Marriages based primarily on one’s feelings will have the consistency of the ocean during a lunar eclipse. This is why you often hear people say, “We just fell out of love,” when divorcing, which means they lost the early feelings they had in the marriage.
In this session, we will consider love as a form of commitment. My favorite definition of love is “to give not caring what one gets in return.” Many would call this love, agape, the Greek term for God’s love for us. To agape means a married person is saying to his or her mate, “If at some point I don’t have loving feelings for you, I will still love you. If you get sick and can’t respond in love towards me, I will still love you. If you treat me unlovingly, I will still respond in love towards you.” This type of love is divine, and it is this love God originally meant to be experienced in marriages.
God’s Covenant Faithfulness with Abraham
He also said to him, ‘I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.’ But Abram said, ‘O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?’ So the LORD said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.’ Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.’ When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates.”
Do you know anything about a blood covenant? A covenant is simply a binding agreement between two or more people. But, often in ancient times, they would seal the covenant in blood. In fact, the word “covenant” really means “to cut”. They would take a few animals, most likely cattle and birds, and cut them in half. One person would walk through the sliced pieces essentially saying, “Let this happen to me if I break this covenant.” Then the others would do the same.
In this story, God promised to give Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan. Abraham replied to God in verse 8, “How can I know that I will gain possession of it?” God responded by initiating a blood covenant with Abraham. However, what makes this covenant interesting is that in verse 17 God walks through the pieces by himself without Abraham. He virtually said, “Let this happen to me if I don’t fulfill this covenant.” He put the ownership of completing the plan exclusively on himself, apart from Abraham’s compliance.