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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Marriage Advice

The first nine chapters of Proverbs are a father's advice to a son. They include a lot of stuff about wisdom (of course), especially how a proper relationship with God works toward that. They also include substantial marital advice. One that struck me the other day is from chapter 5.
Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress, And embrace the bosom of a foreigner? For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He watches all his paths. His own iniquities will capture the wicked, And he will be held with the cords of his sin. He will die for lack of instruction, And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray (Prov 5:15-23).
I thought I'd pull out a few choice bits for today.

"Drink water from your own cistern" (Prov 5:15). How appropriate for today, when we have so many cisterns to choose from. We have billboards and commercials, television shows and movies, offerings in the office and even in our churches that promise a fresh drink. No need to be satisfied with what you have at home when there is so much available everywhere. And the wise (and God-breathed) father says, "Don't do it! Be satisfied with the spouse God has given you." In an attention-deficit prone world, we are urged to search for the "next big thing" without gratitude for the gifts in hand. That wife, that husband, is God's gift. It should be treasured.

For those who are arguing today that the Bible favors polygamy, try fitting that paradigm into Proverbs 5:18. "Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth." What, did Solomon mean wives of your youth? Still, even though we are not a polygamous society, how do you measure up? Do you still rejoice (rather than endure or tolerate) the wife (or husband) of your youth? Or are you one of those looking for a replacement? If you've ever said with your spouse in mind, "I deserve better", you're not on the right side of that question.

I found the next phrase to be intriguing. "As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love" (Pro 5:19). I thought it was fascinating on two counts. First, what is the idea behind "a loving hind and a graceful doe"? "Well," you might be tempted to say, "they're pretty animals. Think of your wife as a pretty animal." Does that work for you? Not for long, does it? Yes, these are graceful creatures, partly the point, but they weren't just for looking at. They were for hunting. Now, in our experience the concept we carry around is the game begins when we meet and ends when we wed. Everyone knows that you have to work hard at coming across as a "good catch" while you're courting and wooing. Finally, when the wedding takes place, you can put all those fronts to rest and be yourself. You can stop pursuing and start living. The wise father here tells his son, "Don't give up the hunt. Don't stop pursuing her. Don't ... settle." While most of our love stories end, "and they married and lived happily ever after", the truth is that "they married" is the beginning. Imagine a marriage lived in constant wooing, constant care, constant pursuit. Suddenly it becomes a little more interesting, doesn't it?

The other part that was fascinating to me is the word here translated "exhilarated". The King James says "ravished". Young's Literal Translation says, "In her love magnify thyself continually." Okay ... so what is it and why is it so hard? Well, the word used is a little odd, you see. The Hebrew, shagah, means "to stray". Oh, good, thanks, that helps. It is also translated as "to reel" (like when you are reeling from a blow). And now the idea starts to solidify. The Douay-Rheims Bible says, "Let her breasts inebriate thee at all times: be thou delighted continually with her love." And that's a lot closer to the idea. Be "exhilarated", "ravished", "magnified", "delighted" -- be drunk on her love. The ESV says just that: "be intoxicated always in her love." There, my friends, is a wonderful piece of advice for your marriage.

The passage has many good pointers on marriage from father to son. Remember that "the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD" (Prov 5:21). You never sin alone. Remember to keep secrets between just the two of you (Prov 5:17), your personal little treasures. Remember the cost of failure (Prov 5:22-23). It isn't short term. Good ideas for all married people. Sometimes, you know, fathers (inspired by God) can give good advice.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I've had this link in my "to review" file and forgot all about it!

Excellent article, Stan. This one is a keeper for future reference.

Stan said...

You have a "to review" file? :)

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Yeah, sometimes I'm short on time when I go through my e-mails and blog updates, etc, and I just cull. Anything I want to take a good look at, I just same the link in a bookmark. Once in a while I forget to go back to the bookmark!