Proverbs 17:17 (NASB95):
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Genesis 29:18–20 (NASB95):
Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.
God’s design for relationships is that they be characterized by love (Mt. 22:36-40; 1 Cor. 16:14). A sacrificial, giving kind of love that esteems the other person as more important than yourself (Phil. 2:3-8). One of the best places to put that kind of love on display is in marriage. Knowing that the love of God is poured out in our hearts (Rom. 5:5), and that the Holy Spirit is producing the fruit of love in our lives (Gal. 5:22), it is a privilege to share that love with a spouse for a lifetime. And the watching world desperately needs to see it! As we saw in our study on biblical sexual morality, the deadly lies of Satan have permeated our culture and the consequences both temporally and eternally are devastating.
Last week I presented the first of three principles from Proverbs that I want us to focus on in our marriages:
1. Marriage is a Covenant, not a contract. It requires a sacrificial, permanent, sanctifying, and grace-filled commitment. Because of that covenant for life, we don’t need to fear if we will be loved tomorrow, next week, or next year. We can be open and honest, knowing that we have covenanted to love each other in plenty or in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, we will keep ourselves for one another as long as we both shall live. Covenant love empowers us to help each other grow and change for the better, and to develop an ever-deepening love for the glory of God. Which leads to principle #2:
2. Marriage is the Most Intimate of Friendships. Friends love at all times, and marriage provides the opportunity to experience the most intimate friendship ever.
The Hebrew language has different words for love and for friendship. The strongest word for friendship is usually translated companion. It could be defined as a “bosom companion,” and it is so precious that in the Old Testament it usually is used in situations where someone has been betrayed. One example is in Prov. 2:16-17 where godly wisdom and discretion is able “To deliver you from the strange woman, from the adulteress who flatters with her words; that leaves the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God…” The adulteress forgets the covenant she made with God and her husband when she got married, abandons her husband who has been her bosom friend and lover for years, and trades all of that for a momentary pleasure. A tragic choice that she will regret for a lifetime. [See also Prov. 16:28 and 17:9 and how slander and gossip can separate companions (intimate friends).]
The Greek language of the New Testament speaks of the companionship we should have in marriage. 1 Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands LIVE WITH your wife in an UNDERSTANDING WAY…” The words “live with” speak of a close companionship where you share your lives intimately. It’s descriptive of people who are best friends. And to do it in an “understanding way” means to develop that friendship according to knowledge. A godly husband will study his wife to learn everything he possibly can about her. He finds out what the Bible says about women generally, and then he observes his wife and asks a lot of questions to find out about his wife specifically. He wants to know what makes her tick and what makes her ticked. He wants to know how to be sensitive to her in the moment and respond in a way that would communicate to her that she is his favorite person on the planet and one he loves to love. He wants to learn how to communicate with her according to her love language, not necessarily his. And as Peter goes on to say, he wants to “show her honor as a fellow-heir of the grace of life.” This means he wants to put her on a pedestal and treat her like a queen.
Proverbs describes friendship in a number of ways. A friend:
- Is one who is constant (not a fair-weather friend – 14:20; 19:4, 6, 7).
- Is closer than a brother (18:24) and one who loves at all times (17:17).
- Is loyal to old friends of the family (27:10).
- Is faithful no matter what. Willing to be hurt to help someone else (27:6; 29:5), and willing to wait until later for thanks (28:23).
- Is willing to give counsel. Sometimes to encourage a friend and cheer them on (27:9 cf. 1 Sam. 23:16), and sometimes to give a different viewpoint that refines the other person (27:17).
- Is tactful. He doesn’t outstay a welcome or force a friendship (25:17). Isn’t hearty at the wrong time or when it isn’t desired (27:14). Isn’t cruel (25:20). And knows when a joke has gone too far (26:18f).
A covenant-marriage gives you the greatest opportunity to develop that kind of intimate friendship with your spouse. Protect it and pursue it with all your might. Invest the time, money, and creativity necessary to make your marriage the most intimate friendship that you have. Yes it will be hard work. But at the end of a 50, 60, or 70-year marriage, you will look back and it will seem like but a few days because of your love for one another.
Speaking of the One who loves like that better than anyone in the universe, this Sunday we will look at several passages of Scripture that highlight the fact that Jesus is coming back for us, and it could be soon. We will consider some of the signs (birth pangs) of His coming. Could we be in the Last of the Last Days? I look forward to studying that with you in person this Sunday morning.