Series Title: Going Up with the Psalms of Ascent (chapter 17)
These edited transcripts are taken from Dwight's most loved audio series, Highways in Their Hearts. Click here to see the downloadable audio version in our online store.
In our journey of ascent, we have come to Psalms 127 and 128. These two psalms paint a priceless picture of family life in the biblical period. I want to emphasize some principles derived from these texts.
First and foremost, families should be the first order of ministry and maturity in our spiritual pilgrimage.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
- Psalm 127:3
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
- Psalm 128:3
Here, we glimpse the value of family life from God's point of view.
Marrying and bearing children is the first of the 613 commandments in Moses's Torah. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it" (Gen 1:28). Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, like Jesus himself. But the commandment points to God's ideal in creating male and female, underscoring how the institution of marriage is vitally important to Him and highly desirable for us.
From a Hebraic perspective, marriage is viewed as a partnership between the husband, wife, and God. It is a three-stranded cord meant to hold together through every challenge.
The union of Adam and Eve is the culminating act and apex of his creation.
Thus, marriage takes on a certain divine characteristic. The word for marriage in Hebrew is kiddushin, which comes from the same root as kadosh (holy). Because marriage is divinely created and sanctioned, it is holy. It is also holy in a practical sense.
Holiness means being set apart for sacred service. A wife is set apart from all other women in the world exclusively for her husband, and the husband is set apart from all other men in the world exclusively for his wife. That is what makes marriage holy and why sexual sins like adultery are so destructive. By violating the exclusivity and sanctity that the marriage covenant binds you to, the holiness of marriage is shattered.
A husband and wife in covenant partnership with God reflect on earth the oneness of God above.
Consider how family metaphors pervade the biblical text. The chosen people began as a family, Abraham and Sarah. Their offspring, Isaac and Jacob, are called patriarchs, not founders or leaders. And the nation they generated is spoken of as the children of Israel. You and I refer to one another as brother and sister in the Lord.
Marriage was the metaphor Israel's prophets found most suitable for describing the intimate covenant relationship between God and His people. God was the groom, and Israel was the bride, partnered in a special covenant union. That is why the prophets compared idolatry to adultery. Paul builds upon these themes in 2 Corinthians 11:2: For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
The highest metaphor related to the family used in the Bible is when God reveals Himself as a Father.
The phrase "children of Israel" used throughout the Hebrew scriptures implies this. Consider that the Temple in Jerusalem was called "the house of the LORD," amplified by the words of the young Messiah, My Father's house (Luke 2:49). And in the fullness of his adult ministry, Jesus taught us to pray, Our Father, in heaven.
In Jesus's Jewish world, the home was to be considered a small sanctuary. The Hebrew word for sanctuary is mikdash (again, from the root word for holy). In biblical tradition, the home is called a mikdash me'at (a little sanctuary). The table is compared to the altar of the LORD. As the family comes together and partakes with thanksgiving, say the sages, the glory of God (Shekinah) dwells in their presence.
The biblical ideal of marriage between a man and a woman is important for many reasons, including companionship. Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).
A helper fit or suitable for him is an interesting phrase in Hebrew. I discuss this at length in my audio seminar on marriage and the family [In His Image]. The language in Genesis speaks of one who is the identical corresponding counterpart. The woman is equal to and adequate for—in every respect.
A man and a woman are like the scales of justice, in perfect balance. Individually, they are independent and equal. Together, in the covenant of marriage, they are mutually submitted partners.
Companionship precedes procreation, and it is vitally important in the context of marriage. But that companionship does include sexual relations. The sexual component is spelled out in the biblical text as a legitimate end or purpose of marriage, Be fruitful and multiply.
The Song of Songs offers a frank and lovely description of marital love. The man says, How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights! And the woman responds, I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.
If you stop and think about it, it is quite remarkable (even shocking) that in the Hebrew Bible of Jesus, this very metaphor of sexual union is used to describe the intimacy between God and Israel. Marriage is holy.
There is a wonderful principle found in Deuteronomy 24:5 that highlights the sanctity of marriage in a very practical way. When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife.
Unfortunately, at certain times in Christian history, this high biblical view of sexual union has been greatly diminished and even distorted based on false theological premises. Contrary to what was taught by Augustine and others, the fall of man did not create passion, it perverted it.
Passion is God-given, it is vitally important. Sex is good and is commanded to be both a delight and a duty in the exclusive context of marriage. In some Christian traditions, celibacy has become the ideal. Yet it is virtually unknown in Israel during the biblical period and in the Jewish world of Jesus.
Sexual intimacy is never seen in the Bible as an end unto itself; it must never be separated from love and marriage, as is so often the way today. People are looking for love without commitment, for sex without any responsibilities which is foreign to the kingdom worldview. By divine design, marriage is the proper framework for sexual experience.
Husbands and wives are to be partners in life. The marriage covenant provides opportunities for us to express all aspects of our humanity and realize our potentialities. Not only are marriages divinely sanctioned, but they can sanctify our Father's Holy Name and give witness on earth to the oneness that is in heaven.
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.