A Voice in the Wilderness - Observations and Excursions of a Christian Zealot

Terry Walker's Weblog --- Occasional articles on the Christian Ethic

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Unequal Yoke!

Is it just me or does there seem to be a flurry of marriages lately? In the last year I can think of at least a couple I have already missed, three or four coming up in the next few months, and another three during which I was given the honor to serve my Lord Jesus.

During one such marriage, I wondered just what criteria all these individuals used to justify there choice of marital partners. I say justify because I believe that as a Christian you should be able to justify, to give an account as it were, for whatever you are doing, or you shouldn’t be doing it at all!

Some time ago I had a great and challenging opportunity to counsel a group of 6 women, who were all in various stages of divorce. They all claimed to be Christian, and all but one had children. Some were recently separated, having “fallen out of love,” whatever that means. Some had filed for a divorce, which had not yet been granted by the courts. And some had already divorced their husbands, who, according to the wives, possessed various “unforgivable” habits. And one, the one without children, had separated from a wife beating, cheater.

During our group lunchroom “sessions,” these women asked many questions concerning marriage, dating, love, and the roles of men and women, and I would read various verses that related to their questions. Often they found themselves in conflict with the Bible, which oddly didn’t seem to bother them. They simply attributed the problem to whatever version of the Bible I happened to be using. It quickly became obvious that all but one of them could not biblically justify their divorce. But worse yet, was that they could not biblically justify their marriages to begin with.

There choice of spouses was based almost entirely on physical attraction, emotional choice, or temporal security. Yet the more I read to them, the more it became apparent to me, that these were entirely useless criteria by which to judge a potential mate. At best these criterions are icing on a cake, not a reason to buy the cake.

Two of the women were of particular biblical interest. One was a Pentecostal who was certain the God had already chosen her “next” husband, and of course, she felt God had already divinely revealed his name to her. Many hours and many, many verses later, the Lord moved, and she realized the only voices she heard were the ones she created in her own mind, to allow her to continue living in her own sinful lifestyle. By grace, she finally saw this contradiction to Scripture and she went back to her husband, repented, reconciled and remarried him.

I had never seen a woman in such a rush to find a husband as the second lady. She was a very recent divorcee on a mission. Each week she had a new “Beau” and each week’s pick was “The one!” I told her that as a Christian, she had no biblical right to date as she was doing, because to do so contradicts the very thing she claims to be. I said, “As a Christian you must be reconciled to your husband, or remain single, and to do otherwise clearly demonstrates that you should consider whether you are a Christian at all.” She rejected this counsel on the basis of her lack of love for her “X” husband and their mutual growing apart. Christians surely do not classify divorce as growing, so I assumed a lost condition and started evangelizing. But in her haste, my time ran out, when she met a military man over the internet, “visited” him over several weekends, and within a few months she married him, because he was “attractive” and they had “things in common.”

There is certainly one thing these two have in common, without Christ’s salvific mercy, they will spend eternity in the same place. But inadvertently and incorrectly, these two have stumbled on the most essential criterion for choosing a mate. That criterion is the question, “Where will you and your potential partner spend eternity?” So important is this question, that it should be incorporated into a Christian’s justification of any dating choices they make. As a Christian, you must not yoke yourself to an unsaved spouse. This is so significant that it is commanded by God in both the old and new covenants. It is so critical and of utmost importance, because the marital decision you make has eternal consequences.

Now you may be thinking that I have gone a little overboard because your marriage, regardless of its condition, dissolves at your death, so even an unequally yoked marriage eventually experiences relief. So how can an unequally yoked marriage have eternal consequences? Because Ecclesiastes says that your work, what you do while alive on this earth, is your heritage. It is also your witness for Christ. That is why we should take the suspension of our Christian liberties so seriously, because we want to be faithful and maintain a good and prosperous image of Christ in the face of the unsaved masses. But as an unequally yoked spouse, your Christian witness is not the only witness in your household. And that unequal witness can have disastrous results. How? Let’s look at a biblical example.

Short of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, your unsaved spouse will unrepentantly, continuously, sin throughout his/her life against you and God. Everything he does, even falsely worshiping God, is sin. If it were possible your spouse would even take you to Hell with him. (Proverbs 7:27) Not out of a deliberate conscience, but because sin is only natural for him, and sin loves company. (Proverbs 4:16) Sure, general grace may stem the brunt of your partner’s sin against you, but becoming one will be impossible, because to do so requires two spiritual beings. In spiritual matters your unsaved partner will be unable to lift his part of the load, and the yoke will be entirely on your neck, to insure the family’s spiritual direction. And what if you are a Christian woman, married to a heathen man, (like Abigail), to whom you are commanded to submit. As the spiritual head of your household, what direction will your unsaved husband lead you and your children? If you are a Christian who unknowing marries a heathen, the Holy Spirit will continue His work in you, and you will come to a realization of your marital condition, and you will persevere as best you can. But the consequence of your unequally yoked marriage will be encumber you “till death do you part”. With such significant consequences, it is in your best interest as a single person to discern wisely before making any marital choices.

Now let’s compare a few examples of women in the bible and see if we can discern the spiritual differences between these spouses. As a man, would you rather be married to Hosea’s wife or Ruth? How about Job’s wife or Esther? How about Delilah or Sarah? How about Abigail or Shelomith?

Shelomith? Who is Shelomith? Well, she was the Israelite woman who, contrary to the law, married an Egyptian. Egyptians worshiped pagan deities, and undoubtedly dad’s idolatry, influenced his children. You might recall in Leviticus 24:11 that Shelomith’s son, during a fight in the Hebrew camp, “blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed.” In so doing he broke the third commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” (Exodus 20:7) The meaning of the commandment and the incident itself is often misunderstood. The phrase “in vain” refers to a Hebrew word that indicates something that is empty or meaningless; it is frequently linked with idolatry. The “curse” mentioned here is not a swear word, but rather an occult curse: an attempt to invoke supernatural powers to harm an enemy. What Shelomith’s son did was to invoke God’s name in a curse hurled against his adversary in the same way pagans used the names of their demons and deities. This serious violation of the third commandment led to the execution of Shelomith’s son and should be an unforgettable reminder that God is to be honored always as real and present.

Society likes to blame parents, especially mothers, for all the faults of their children. But we must remember that our children have been given the choice to respond to authority or to rebel. Adam and Eve had the perfect Father, yet they chose to rebel. Surely, we do not hold God responsible for their sinful choices, and neither should we hold parents responsible for their children’s sin.

However, parents are responsible for the influence they wield upon their children, and there is no doubt that Shelomith’s choice to unequally yoke herself to a pagan worshiping Egyptian, certainly played a part in her son’s death and probable eternal damnation.

The truth of this story should ring hard and deep into the conscience of all single Christians. Your marital choice matters beyond your grave. You are not the only one who may be influenced by your poor choice of partner. If you yoke yourself to an attractive heathen, to whom you have all but salvation in common, how joyful will you be when your union starts to have damnable results in your children? Or do you believe good always wins over evil? Such is not taught in the Bible until Jesus comes back. In fact the Bible says “the sons of this world are shrewder in their generation than the sons of light.” Luke 16:8

So what is a young Christian man to do when he desires a wife, and feels he has found a young lady who seems to be a justifiable choice?

The Bible says that a man who finds a wife, finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22) This verse naturally assumes that this wife meets the minimum criteria for a Christian wife, that of being truly saved, reborn, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and living her life for Christ. When a Christian single man, desirous of marriage, finds such a woman, he should secure the assurance of at least a few wise and Godly men, capable of judging amongst the brethren, to render the same assurance, before he even considers consummating his marital intentions.

Now while this may sound utterly ridiculous by today’s standards, I believe it is both immensely wise and biblical. Are you willing to risk such an incredibly important decision based on your heart? A heart that is desperately wicked and can’t even know itself! Need I remind you that so-called Christian marriages are suffering a nearly 50% divorce rate, so it is obvious that our Christian choices could use some serious verification.

Once the necessities are out of the way a Christian man would be further wise to read and understand Proverbs 31:10 and beyond. Because any man who does not desire to marry such a woman, needs to seek biblical counseling immediately. The benefits of union with such a woman are utterly immeasurable.

Look at this man in Proverbs 31. He sits at the gate with the other civic leaders making decisions that affect the land, (v23) confident, that his wife has his back. (v11). One version says, such a woman will greatly enrich his life, another version says, he will have no lack of gain! (v11) Because such a wife does her husband good and not evil, all the days of her life. (v12) Yet in all things this woman honored and obeyed her husband and submitted to him. And as Sarah did, not seeing shame in even calling her husband “Lord”! (1 Peter 3:6) Talk about HONOR, this woman gives honor to her husband in heaps!

But many woman today seem more interested in living their own lives and making their money the old fashioned way, like Delilah, (Judges 16) who for 1,100 pieces of silver sold Samson to murderers (v5), took delight in vexing Samson’s soul to death (v16), and when he had lost his strength, she tormented him (v19).

So Christian man, think about Samson before you consider evangelistic dating, or even taking the chance of being unequally yoked with an unsaved woman. But don’t take my word for it, Proverbs 5 says:

My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen to my words of understanding. Be careful to use good sense, and watch what you say. The words of another man’s wife may seem sweet as honey; they may be as smooth as olive oil. But in the end she will bring you sorrow, causing you pain like a two-edged sword. She is on the way to death; her steps are headed straight to the grave. She gives little thought to life. She doesn’t even know that her ways are wrong. Now, my sons, listen to me, and don’t ignore what I say. Stay away from such a woman. Don’t even go near the door of her house, or you will give your riches to others, and the best years of your life will be given to someone cruel. Strangers will enjoy your wealth, and what you worked so hard for will go to someone else. You will groan at the end of your life when your health is gone. Then you will say, “I hated being told what to do! I would not listen to correction! I would not listen to my teachers or pay attention to my instructors. I came close to being completely ruined in front of a whole group of people.” Be faithful to your own wife, just as you drink water from your own well. Don’t pour your water in the streets; don’t give your love to just any woman. These things are yours alone and shouldn’t be shared with strangers. Be happy with the wife you married when you were young. She gives you joy, as your fountain gives you water. She is as lovely and graceful as a deer. Let her love always make you happy; let her love always hold you captive. My son, don’t be held captive by a woman who takes part in adultery. Don’t hug another man’s wife. The LORD sees everything you do, and he watches where you go. An evil man will be caught in his wicked ways; the ropes of his sins will tie him up. He will die because he does not control himself, and he will be held captive by his foolishness.

Interesting, isn’t it, when it says, “The ropes of his sins will tie him up. He will die because he does not control himself, and he will be held captive by his foolishness.” Samson spent much time chasing after foreign women. And the Philistines bound him up and killed him. King Solomon married a few foreign wives and they cost him the promise of long life. Abraham took a foreign woman and it likely caused the entire middle-east crisis. Now while these men died as Christians, their foreign women were the cause of horrific consequences.

So I beg you young men and women to control yourselves, lest you meet a person like the married woman, who speech is as sweet as honey, and become deceived, or worse, you wake up one day beside her with a ring on your finger and wonder who she has been with besides you. No doubt, as a Christian, you will persevere, but that is not what God has commanded you.

Brother Terry Walker
Providence Baptist Church
Greer, South Carolina