The Covenant of One Flesh
Our marriage is of God. He designed it, blessed it, and has made Himself accountable for it. A good marriage is one of the blessings we can enjoy because of Christ’s death on the cross. But we often view God as so remote—not part of our daily lives—that we don’t walk with Him daily through the ins and outs of our marriage.
Let me ask you what it was that united you two as you said “I do”? Was it because you were in a church? The vows that were spoken? The people in attendance? The pastor? We could go on and on, but it wasn’t any of those things. It was God! God Himself who formed us from the dust of the earth and breathed life into us. He formed your union and did the miraculous work of making two become one. Only God can do this work of cleaving. Your marriage is a miracle. Do you think of it that way today?
Now, my wife and I have individual thoughts. We may want to parent our kids in different ways at times. Our ideas about where to vacation may be different. But our whole life now is lived out with the idea that God views us as one, and we best function when we strive to live in unity—as one.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus what His thoughts on divorce were, quoting that Moses had “permitted a man to give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away” (Mark 10:4), Jesus answered by taking them back to Genesis, giving them God’s intention.
“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
What God has done, He Who joined them, let no man separate! But their hearts were hard. They hadn’t been saved. They didn’t have the Holy Spirit. And they didn’t have access to God the way we do today. Romans 5:20 says, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more,” speaking of the grace we have access to today to overcome sin and not be so hardhearted.
I’ve seen many couples face hard times, serious disconnection, disagreements, and even infidelity. Yet, I still counsel them to do all that they can, by God’s power, to make it work, to begin to live for Him. God has performed miracles, and He will not take His hand off your marriage as you keep turning to Him.
If there is confession, repentance, and a commitment to following Christ, even if there has been infidelity, a godly marriage is possible, if the offended spouse can forgive. Your marriage may be the worst it has ever been, and maybe this book is your last hope, but I can say with all confidence that the pastor, facilitator, and Father of you both, God Almighty, is still for you. He will give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
Power of Covenant
The reason He is for you is because your marriage is not only a covenant between you and your spouse, but with God. Today, the world views the vows and ceremony, even the layout of the church, as traditional. It’s far from that. It’s a demonstration of covenant.
When God said “yes” to our marriage, He said yes to a covenant, a forever commitment. But in most marriages today, people are often just saying yes to a contract; there is a big difference.
A contract, by definition, protects each member of the agreement. If you and I sign a contract for you to fix my garage, upon finishing it, I am also contracted to pay you what we agreed. A contract looks out for you, guaranteeing that as long as you do your part, I will do mine. We have an agreement. We often view our marriages in that same way. We view what our spouses should be doing as keeping to the contract.
But a covenant in marriage says regardless of what you do, I am going to love you and keep my commitment. God’s covenant says that though you were born in sin, He sent Jesus to save you. Regardless of your bailing in the garden or your rebellion in the Old Testament, He lived and died for you. Covenant says, “I will be your God and you will be My people; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (see Leviticus 26:12 and Joshua 1:5).
You see, we stand before our family members and friends on our wedding day, dressed in our perfect suits, fulfilling childhood dreams, reciting our vows, and looking into our future. Yet sadly, once the romance and emotions fade, we default to the contract we made, not the covenant that only God’s love can enable us to keep. Do you see how even our idea of marriage is contractual, as opposed to covenantal?
I never wanted to divorce my wife, but we were living on contractual terms, based on what we expected of one another. When we finally failed each other enough times, turned our heads in other directions, because there was no covenant, we both gave in and each found an out in our “contract.”
It’s here that the words of Proverbs and Malachi would have spoken to us. May they speak to you today:
“Who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.”
You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
We could have stepped back and said, ‘Yes, this is tough. Yes, everything doesn’t make sense to us, but we serve a God of covenant, a God who is still here and eager to see this thing through.” If we had focused on the covenant, our marriage would have made it through, guaranteed. This isn’t just an observation—this is a fact.
You see, one of the things about God’s marriage covenant is this: even though we are included, and we can add our two cents so to speak, His covenants, as far as His helping us, are always with Himself. We are not really part of the equation. Since God is all knowing, He knew that Tracy and I would fail each other and would see divorce as the way out. But He made a covenant with Himself to eagerly be available to help us. Yes, the God of all things is eager to honor His covenant today.
We see a picture of this covenant relationship in the Old Testament. God promised Abraham that He would grant him a child and even land to possess. And although we see many people who doubt throughout the pages of Scripture, it is when a person believes that we see God most glorified in their lives. Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” What was it that Abraham believed? He knew God was a just God—a God who keeps His covenants, one who never breaks His promises.
Going back to our story in Genesis, we see God setting the scene. He tells Abraham to lay various animas out and cut them in half. Then, “When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram” (Genesis 15:17–18). God shows up between the animals, treads the bloodline, and takes the responsibility, so should anything happen, the consequences fall on Him.
God did this for our marriage; as two families sat on either side, we walked the aisle between them, a bloodline if you like, binding them, a passing of a surname, a unity, bonding. “One Flesh” being formed. What’s different for our marriage covenant is that we walked this bloodline with God, making ourselves accountable for what happens. “Ouch!” You guessed it! Just as the animals were cut in two, the ancient idea was that should we break the covenant, what was done to these animals should be done to us. Or as Jesus put it, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9).
God has not given up and will not give up on your marriage because God cannot lie. He saw that it was bad that man was alone, so He brought Adam a wife and blessed the marriage. He is still in covenant with believers because in making this covenant, He didn’t swear by what you would do, but what He would do. Hebrews 6:13 says, “When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself.” He swore by Himself, made a covenant with Himself to be there for your marriage, as you walk in this covenant with God.
The fact that you are in covenant with both God and your spouse should help you to eradicate such words as divorce or separation. It should help you automatically do away with things and situations that you would treat like conditions in a contract. In the story of the great flood, did God shine His rainbow as evidence He wouldn’t flood the earth again because of something Noah did? Did Jesus say He chose us based upon our jumping through hoops to gain salvation? God is for your marriage and nothing can stop that, but that doesn’t mean you guys can’t stop your marriage, give up on covenant, and fall into the contractual relationship again.
Have you put upon your spouse any rules or conditions, like a contract, that are hindering your covenant?
Are you aware that every day God intends to be part of every area of your marriage, and it’s His covenant power that will sustain you?
“Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.”
Philippians 2:13, The Message
Why not spend some time with your spouse in prayer, giving things over to the Lord, confessing where you are, and asking Him to be the center of this marriage covenant. Do it today.