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"Foster Faith"

Palm/Passion Sunday - Mar.29, 2015 Gen.2:15-25

(adapted from The Song movie event kit by Kyle Idleman; used with permission)


Is there someone in your family that just loves to put together picture puzzles - you know, the big 500- or thousand piecers? They can be really beautiful and impressive when all complete. But what would happen if one day, that puzzle enthusiast had the pieces all spread out on the table, and while they were out of the room you surreptitiously hid one of the puzzle pieces? Can you imagine the disappointment of getting 999 pieces all together properly, only to discover 1 little bitty piece was missing? They would get close to that thrill of completing it just to be thwarted by that one missing piece. That single piece would make all the difference, wouldn't it? The picture wouldn't be complete, the puzzle wouldn't be finished, and all the hours of work wouldn't be worth it until the one missing piece was put in place.

As we've looked through the Song of Solomon these past 6 weeks and seen attraction, romance, love, conflict, and a reminder of the hard work that marriage can be, we've seen each week that without the single most important piece of the puzzle, the marriage can't truly sing. And what is that most important piece? The one that relates to God - the faith piece.

This was true for Solomon. His marriage that we get a glimpse into in Song of Songs was beautiful. Passionate; romantic; a model of a marriage. It's been, in a lot of ways, a template for an ideal love story for us. Solomon had God-given wisdom, but what his life as recorded elsewhere in Scripture teaches us is that even wise people can err and make foolish choices. 1Kings 11:3-9: "He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines, and his wives led him astray.As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites.So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites.He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice."

Solomon's heart was led away from God by all of his other wives who worshiped other gods. His love life began to crumble, his kingdom began to disintegrate, and even his incredible wisdom couldn't prevent the downfall that would come, and the failure that would follow him.

Without the single most important piece of the puzzle - without trusting God enough to follow His directions - the hard work of laying a strong foundation for marriage can't stand up to the pressure of a life apart from God. But with God as the cornerstone of life and marriage, the puzzle is complete. He's the one who gives the wisdom, the right words for the right time, the motivation to confess and forgive, the example of love and sacrifice. Without that, the marriage is susceptible to falling and shattering, and the rest of life tends to follow.

When meeting with a couple for premarital counselling, I often use the analogy of a three-legged milk stool. A stool with just 2 legs is bound to topple. For a young couple as soon as the honeymoon wears off, conflicts and arguments will arise. If there's no divine entity outside the relationship to pull you back together, conflict tends to make things fly apart with centrifugal force. But if God is part of your marriage, the Holy Spirit will convict you when you're being unloving. The example of Jesus, hanging on the cross as we're going to focus on this coming Friday, will remind you that you need to confess and ask forgiveness. And the Father's supernatural love and grace will help draw you back together again. He's the "third leg" on the milkstool that helps keep things upright and on an even keel.

It's easy to take our marriage into our own hands. We think we see the picture clearly; we think we know where the pieces fit. "We can take care of it," we tell ourselves. Our 'old man' or sinful nature tends to leave God out of the puzzle. We tend to let our flesh, our culture, our circumstances, and our convenience dictate whether or not God gets to be involved in our marriages and, if so, to what extent. But that's not how God plays the game. God, to be God - Lord, Sovereign - wants to be "all in". And, as we saw with Solomon, when you try to leave God out of the puzzle and ignore His ways, your relationship starts to crumble around you.

So here's why we can trust God with our marriage: God MADE marriage.


Genesis 2 tells the part in the creation story where God had made Adam, but that wasn't enough. There was something missing - and that was not good! After the 6 days of creation, 1:31 tells us "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good." But partway through the second chapter there's something singled out as "not good" - Gen.2:18 "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone.I will make a helper suitable for him."" Then we read about God's solution in 2:19-22: "Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air.He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh.Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man."

God made Eve for Adam. He knew it wasn't good for Adam to be alone--for any number of reasons. So God gave Adam the gift of Eve, and marriage began. This whole thing was God's idea! And throughout Scripture, we see God continue to teach his people how it should work - and He should know: after all, it was His idea!

There's more to the story of Adam and Eve. Look at the next couple of verses: Gen.2:23-25 "The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman', for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."

Adam's excitement couldn't be contained! He was completely captivated by this gift from God because it was just that - a gift. God made Eve especially for Adam. The animals in the Garden of Eden each had a mate, but the relationship between Adam and Eve was unique. God gave Adam an amazing gift, and it came in the form of a woman. And the relationship became what we recognize as marriage. If you try to separate the idea of marriage from the hand of God, the puzzle won't be complete.

So God made marriage. "Well that's fine," you might be thinking, "but God's perfect.God's not human. If you could see my spouse when they wake up first thing in the morning, it's obvious they didn't just walk out of the Garden of Eden! God doesn't know what this is like. It's not always a gift. Why should we do marriage God's way when it obviously didn't work for Adam and Eve? They didn't even help each other avoid sin, right? Obviously, this whole idea of God making marriage falls short because, while He might be right about a lot of the ideal ways we should do things, we're imperfect human beings. We can't expect to do it His way all the time. We all fall short."

That's understandable, we hear you. Most of us who are married can relate to that rant! But there's another reason why we can trust God with our marriage.


God understands marriage! He does. God gets it. D'you know something? Marriage is one of the dominant metaphors throughout Scripture for the way God loves his people. His people are compared to a wife and God to a husband. God has been telling us throughout Biblical history that he gets it; he knows what it's like.

In the book of Hosea, God told his prophet to marry a prostitute because then he'd know what it's like for God to be "married" to such fickle folk as the nation of Israel. Hosea 1:2 "When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD."" God compared Israel's worship of idols with a bride who gets bored and commits adultery.

God has seen the worst of it. He's been "jilted" just as Hosea was dealt with unfaithfully by Gomer. So when God tells us to love our wife or husband sacrificially, we can trust that He knows that it's hard sometimes. And when He tells us to serve one another with no thought to our reward, we understand from Scripture that the Lord knows what that's like. When He tells us to forgive each other, the Bible shows us He is the king of forgiveness and that, on the individual level, He has forgiven me enough for me to owe grace to every person I come across - especially my wife.

God knows what relationship's like at its best and at its worst. God understands marriage. Paul talked about this in Ephesians 5:25: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." Jesus at the cross has made the greatest of sacrifices to make the relationship [the 'marriage', if you will] work, and we know that without that love, sacrifice, forgiveness procured at Golgotha, without that once-and-for-all second chance, we would be lost - consigned to an eternity cut off from a holy God, unfit for heaven, tormented and alone.

And, best of all, John wrote about this when he wrote the last book in the Bible, namely Revelation. He described the church--all of God's people--as a bride suitably adorned to greet her husband. Rev.21:2 "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." And the groom, Jesus Christ, will be waiting, as it were smiling ear-to-ear to take us to be with him forever, to be our God; v4 "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." And we know what it took - the pain, the suffering, the beatings and whippings and passion - for Jesus to get his imperfect, dirty bride to be spotless and beautiful. We know because of Good Friday what it took for Him to take away the sin of the bride and wash her clean. We know the hard work of endurance even unto death, the grace, the mercy He gave so that each of us would have a chance to make it to that wedding someday.

So we know that when God says to love your wife, men, we'll do it: because He knows relationships aren't easy; He knows what it takes. And when He says, ladies, to respect your husband and encourage him, He knows what it's like. And when He talks about selflessness, He knows.

We can trust God to be the last, perfect piece of our marriage that makes it all complete because He made the perfect marriage - that of the Lamb and His bride, and he made it work - even though we all have given him every reason to give up on us.

So, wherever you find your marriage:

1.whether the Song of Solomon sounds very familiar to you and you're writing love poetry all the time, OR you're at the end of your rope wondering how you can make it;

2.whether you are newlyweds OR celebrating decades of marriage;

3.whether it's better OR worse, richer OR poorer, in sickness OR in health;

4.whether you wake up every morning thrilled at who's next to you OR wake up every morning dreading the morning breath, the dreaded "jungle mouth";

5.whether you find yourself trying to forgive your spouse OR begging for forgiveness;

...wherever you find yourself in these scenarios - God's story of marriage is for you!

And the truth is that no marriage in itself, no matter how great it might be, is enough to satisfy your life. You might have the best, happiest, most loving marriage in the world, but if God's not the centre of it - it's not complete. You need that faith element, that bonding of shared belief. Even if all the questions aren't answered and there's still a lot of mystery, a lot we don't understand - the person of Jesus draws us to the cross, and to live lives marked by grace and faithfulness. [Video clip, Fostering Faith]

God wants to show you how good it can be when you try it His way; when you choose forgiveness; when you put in the last piece of the puzzle and all the hard work suddenly seems worth it.

He wants to show you what it's like to be in a marriage in which HE (not you!) is in control.

And most of all, married or single - this applies to everybody - Jesus wants to invite you to be part of His "bride", to connect, receive Him by trusting in Him and become part of His people, the church. To kneel before Him, yielding totally, and become one with Him in Spirit by faith. The only hope we have for succeeding at our marriages is by learning together what it means to be forgiven, loved, and chosen by - precious to - the King of the universe. He wants to love you with the kind of love that won't stop, won't run out, won't keep a record of wrongs, and never lets go. Let's pray.