GOD-CENTRED MARRIAGE (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12):
“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work
(the investment they put into their relationship):
(1) If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
(2) Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
(3) Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
“Two are better than one” (if they are united that is!). This picture of Marriage is of two intertwined strands of rope, each with their own individuality and limitations, but they are better when joined and working together. If they pull in opposite directions that is different of course! However, if they wrap themselves around each other , through their union they form something stronger than 2 individual strands, for they give strength to each other through their union. Thus husband and wife are to wrap them themselves around each other, emotionally and physically, giving love and support “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall CLEAVE (be united) unto his wife: and they shall be ONE flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
That which binds the strands is LOVE – the KEY to a SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE. This is an unconditional Covenant Love, that they vow to give each other, making Marriage stronger than all other relationships. By their vows each promises to lay their own life down for the other, an absolute commitment to love the other person, independant of their performance. The basis now for how they relate is not how loving the other person is, but their Covenant Vows. They are committed to love the other whatever happens. Love is not just given because the other has given first, but because of the Covenant they have freely made. They love because the Covenant requires it, not because the other deserves it. Perfect Love gives freely without strings, giving itself continually, but not demanding anything in return. It guarantees the feelings stay alive and protects the relationship from a downward spiral of each withdrawing love in revenge against the other being selfish. Instead they inspire one another to greater things by their love. This kind of love is as interested in what I can give as I can get. If you think: “I’m giving more to this relationship than he/she is” -then good. It should be a competition to outgive the other.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their WORK (labour).” This is not speaking of your work to earn money, but the work you put into the relationship. Yes, you have to work at the Marriage, to keep the harmony, and make compromises, but it will pay off for whatever you put into it, you will get a good return. It will be a good investment.
Return 1: “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (v10). In bad times the other is there to help you. When one falls (in sin or discouragement), others may kick him when he is down, but his partner should restore him (lift him up) in a spirit of gentleness (Gal 6:1). Love is accepting and forgiving (knowing how much we need forgiveness helps us forgive). It knows that the beloved is not perfect and will make mistakes. It accepts the beloved as he or she is, and is patient and kind, giving them time to change. Love does not keep a list of their faults and failures, for both bring strengths and weaknesses to the relationship. In fact, the very nature of Marriage is that two very different people are joined, so that each one gives of their strengths to fill the others’ weaknesseses. A weakness in the other is not for you to judge and feel superior, but is instead an opportunity to show your love in giving help. The response to their weakness is to offer your strength to fill that gap. This is how it should be for no-one is complete in themselves. It is in the fulfilling of each others needs and the completing of each other that the relationship is strengthened (if they had no weakness they would not need you and then the relationship would be weak!) If you work at giving your strength where they are weak, you will recieve a good return from their strength.
Return 2: “Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” (v11). We are to give warmth to each other, giving hugs (physically and emotionally). This speaks of emotional support that we need to give when the other needs it. If we give it then when we need it they will be disposed to also give it to us (the good return)!
Return 3: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves” (v12). As two stand together under pressure and attack, they are much stronger. As we offer our protection, strength, support, help and loyalty to the other in their time of need, stress and pressure, so we will receive a good return when we are under fire, for they will be there for us too.
The GREATEST KEY to a successful Marriage is in the final mysterious statement:
“A cord of 3 strands is not quickly broken.”
This is scientifically accurate (3 intertwined strands, no more, no less, is the strongest kind of rope). Two strands alone are limited, and not stable for they can easily unravel under pressure, and slide over each other with friction, but the 3rd stand fixes the other two into place and adds its strength to them, that 3 intertwined strands are bound firmly together. So, who is this 3rd Strand, who will make all the difference? IT IS GOD HIMSELF! In fact He has revealed His inner nature as being 3 Persons (Father, Son and Spirit) intertwined together in one (as one Being), bound together in unity in perfect Love, just like a rope of 3 strands. This is a picture of the Trinity and in a godly Marriage, we comes the closest to fulfilling His call to be the image of God. Marriage is God’s idea: to reflect His nature.
This is stated in Genesis 1:27: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Together man and woman make up a more complete image, as the two are joined together in unity; and if they are also both spiritually joined to God (the 3rd Strand) in faith and love, then together their Marriage forms an image of the perfect and unbreakable union of our Triune God. It will be strong, stable and full of love. Thus God’s purpose in Marriage is that it should reflect the glory of the Triune God. As God is 3 Persons, yet is so united in love as to be One Being, so God made the man and woman to be distinct personalities, yet through their union of love they become as one in love, loyalty and purpose. Fulfilling this they are the image of God and glorify Him in their union.
The kind of love needed for a lasting Marriage is a selfless, self-giving, committed, love, that puts the other first. God is Love (1John 4:8). God’s infinite unselfish Love is shown in that He gave His Son to us to save us when we only deserved His judgement (John 3:16). He has loved us with an everlasting, unconditional love (Jeremiah 31:3). This is the kind of love that God has for us. And He makes this kind of love available to us, so that we can love like Him. As Christians we have all the material we need to build a strong Marriage. We have our love for one other enhanced by God’s love, that is continually being poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
This Love is deeper than a feeling – it is a commitment, a covenant commitment. This kind of Love is impossible for us in our own strength, but when it seems hard we can turn to God – the Source of all Love and by faith receive an infilling of His Love. He makes His love available to all. Now we must avail themselves of His love to build our lives together.
Thus, for a truly successful Marriage, we are not just to wrap ourselves around each other, but around the Living God, whose strength will fill up our weakness when we are weary. He supplies us with all the Love we need for our Marriage, especially in the hard times. If we stay close to Him, we will form a 3-Stranded Rope that cannot be broken:
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who wait on (literally: ‘intertwine themselves around’) the Lord will renew their strength (and love). They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31).
Faith is not just believing in a God out there somewhere, but in a God who is real and here for us, Whom we trust in, and wrap our heart and personality around. Whatever hardships we face, our Marriage will be a success, if we turn to God in the good and bad times, asking for His help and to fill us with His Love, and then respond to each other consistently in unconditional Love. When we move in that God-kind of Love, it never fails to turn the situation around for good.