Summary: Deuteronomy 4 helps us understand the importance of putting God first in the home.

Every so often, somebody calls to ask if we will marry them. We always say, “We’ll be glad to talk with you about it.” In some cases they are just thinking about marriage. In other cases they have already purchased their marriage license and have the date set. So, we get together to talk. And we ask them how they met and what makes them think they want to get married and why they want us to marry them instead of the justice of peace.

Then we explain our expectations. One of those expectations is that they commit to several sessions of pre-marital counseling. But another condition we have begun to make in recent years is that they attend several worship services before we agree to marry them. We do this for several reasons.

• First, if they are going to get married at our church, we think they should know something about the people who attend here and what goes on here.

• Second, we use this as a secret test. We want to see if they can keep a promise. If they say, “Oh, sure, no problem. We’ll be there,” and then don’t show up, we wonder what that means for promises they make to each other.

• But, third, and most important, we believe that marriage is meant to have a spiritual foundation. For a marriage to succeed, God must be at the center and this is one opportunity to help them get their marriage off to a good start. We set these conditions without apology. God must come first in the home.

I can think of two cases recently in which the couples agreed to the conditions but have not met them. In one case, they had the wedding date set several months in advance, but we finally had to tell them that we need to put the plans on hold.

Unfortunately, many couples want to get married in a church for a blessing from God, as though it comes automatically. But Deuteronomy tells us that God’s blessing on families comes as a result of obedience. That’s what we want to make clear to young couples and to all of us again during this series of messages. God ordained marriage and families and he also provides the guidelines for family living. As pastors, we have an obligation to make clear what His word teaches. We have a deep concern about helping families become God-honoring, wholesome, supportive units.

Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Anyone who wants to establish a home through marriage needs to remember that family life begins with God.

For the past several years here at Elm Street, we have focused on family issues during the month of May and we do that in two ways. First, instead of our regular Sunday school classes, we bring adults and kids together for that hour, kind of like a big family that has young and old people in it, so we can talk together. Then during the worship service we try to understand what God’s Word might have to say to families today. So, we are glad that you are here this morning. If you have other members of your family who aren’t here, why not invite them to participate with us for this series?

As announced, we are going to be looking at the book of Deuteronomy this month, book number five on our journey through the Bible. Depending what you know about Deuteronomy, you may wonder if we have lost our marbles. But the more we studied Deuteronomy, the more we realized that there is a lot in this book that can guide Christian families in their life together.

Several things in Deuteronomy help us understand the importance of God first in the home.

1. Family. In Deuteronomy, I find it amazing how often family is mentioned: parents, children, grandchildren, ancestors. Notice in 1:31 how the writer describes what God did for his people. It says “You saw how the Lord God carried you, just as one carries a child.” And how will the next generation find out about the things God has done? Chapter 4 says you should “Make them known to your children and your grandchildren.” The home is the place where children should find out who God is and what he does. The home is God’s incubator for the Gospel.

2. Covenant. A covenant is a promise between two parties. Marriage is a covenant. It is a close relationship tied up with the promise that each person makes to be faithful to the other. We get the idea of that close relationship from God. Deuteronomy retells the story of God’s promise to his people and the people’s promise to God. Covenant is at the heart of family life.

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