God's Covenant Love - Our Foundation for Marriage
"What a joy and privilege it is to speak a few words from the Scriptures into your lives today as you reflect on the vows you are about to make...
Ryan and Melanie,
the commitment of love in covenant you are making today, has not been made easily by either of you, because you know something of the depth and cost of that commitment, and that is good.
You know the depth and cost of God's love for you as demonstrated on the cross of Jesus Christ given for us, and
you know the depth and cost of human love, often challenging, always costly, in marriage and ministry relationships in the world.
God's love is an amazing love, summarized in the words of Hosea the prophet in which God is speaking to Israel and to us:
2:19 " I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In lovingkindness and mercy;
20 I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the LORD.
The word betroth is not a familiar word, partly because the covenant commitment which it speaks of is not a familiar concept or commitment in our world, but betrothal is the covenant which will define and shape your marriage.
It is a covenant, not only between the two of you, but extended in grace by the Lord and accepted by the two of you, making the covenant a three-fold cord which is not easily broken. A covenant between two people is only as strong as those people, but a covenant initiated and sustained by the Lord is as strong as the One who has given it.
Ryan and Melanie, the covenant you are making with each other today has its root and foundation and reality in the covenant which God initiated with the Patriarchs and Israel in the Old Testament and consumated in His covenant-love in Christ.
The covanent you are making today involves love, but is based on on God's covenant-faithfulness.
Notice first that God's love is eternal, saying to each of you today:
"I will betroth you to me forever..."
In response to and conseqence of the covenant you are making today, Melanie and Ryan, you are covenanting with each other for life.
Not only does the Lord say, "I will betroth you to me forever..."
But a special kind of forever
"I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice
Righteousness has to do with a right relationship: a relationship which is sound, wholesome, respectful, just, fair, without power-plays or manipulation.
It is a relationship which is forgiving and self-giving - holding nothing back...
and based on God's laws of justice and righteousness.
The Lord says to your Ryan and Melanie, "I will betroth you to me in love and compassion..."
God's covanent to us is the love self-sacrifice, the love of the cross.
It is a tender love, full of compassion and loving-kindness.
It is a love which is not based on the intrinsic worthiness of the loved one, but on the love of the lover, ultimately Christ himself.
Ryan, a word to you.
The love with which you are to love Melanie is an unconditional love.
You do not love her, if she is who you hope her to be, or because of her beauty or capacities, but unconditionally.
"Husbands, love your wife, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her."
How did Christ love the church?
He loved the church by laying down His life for her, and nurtures and cares for her.
You are so to cherish Melanie, placing her ahead of yourself in preferring love.
And Melanie, scripture calls to be a helpmate to Ryan, and so to serve him who so cares for you.
Your love for Ryan must be an accepting/receptive love,
a holy love
(which is pure & purposeful)
an unblemished love
(unmixed by higher goals).
You are to submit to one another in servanthood out of reverence for Christ.
Your love for one another is to be testimony and demonstration, in microcosm, of the love of Christ for those for whom He gave His life.
Thirdly the Lord says "I will betroth you to me in lovingkindness and mercy
There is no adequate english translation for the word rendered ‚loving-kindness' - the original word is hesed - the central covenant word of the Old Testment used by God for his intention towards us.
Hesed means love and compassion..." It means "steadfast, loyal, unbreakably covenanted, tender, it means the intention of loving-kindness" and more ...
It is the nature of your covenant with each other. You will continue to plumb and discover the depths of hesed all of your lives.
Fourthly the Lord says, "I will betroth you to me in faithfulness..."
God's covenant with you will never fail.
And the vows you will speak to one another must never fail.
Ryan and Melanie, this is not because you are perfect or will never need to ask for forgiveness, (you will need to do so often, and you already know that), but because the vows you've made, and the life you share, flows from Christ alone at the center of that covenant as your helper & provider and He will never fail.
Finally the Lord says in this expression of covenant:
„and you will know and acknowledge Me, the Lord"
It's in covenant that we grow in our knowledge and experience of God. This walking with the Lord, through the ups and downs, challenges and blessings of life is ultimately the greatest blessing.
To know God is an intimate reality, as is you knowing one another in the Biblical sense.
?(The covenant and love rooted in knowing God in the context of His hesed covenant is the strength and reality of love in your experience of Him and in your marriage.
Melanie and Ryan, you can't do marriage yourselves. You know that, and that's why you, like the couple in John 2, have invited Christ to the wedding and to your marriage. The Lord is the one living out His love and life in us, is love and is our hope of glory.)
Mom and I and Ryan's parents wish you
§ an abundance of love, faith and hope;
§ grace and joy and the days ahead.
Ryan and Melanie,
as you express your vows to one another now before God, your family, and this gathered community of those who love you,
do so, mindful of the faithfulness of God,
of your utter dependence upon Him, and
of the nature of true love as He says of you:
"I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD."