“Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 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. Has not one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:13-14)
The Bible has a lot to teach us about marriage. In the New Testament, for example, we learn that Christian marriage is supposed to reflect Christ’s marriage to the church. That’s why husbands should love their wives and wives should submit to their husbands: because Christ himself loves the church and the church in turn submits to Christ.
The Old Testament too has a lot to teach us about marriage. This passage is one of them. But it’s not a very popular passage of Scripture; and that’s unfortunate because here we discover a very important reason why God is so interested in marriage and so protective of it. He’s seeking godly offspring! On the surface, this passage is about marital faithfulness, and yes, it’s about that also. But it seems marital faithfulness – although that’s important in and of itself – is a means to something else: producing godly offspring!
Why is God so interested in this? Actually, that has been his plan all along. That’s one of the things foremost in his mind even before he created the world: he wants a people created in his image who could have fellowship with him throughout eternity! You read about that in Ephesians 1:4-5. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
So I daresay that’s one of the reasons he created the universe in the first place, so that this godly offspring whom he wanted to produce would have a home to live in.
It’s also for the sake of these godly offspring that Christ came to die. You can read about that in Isaiah 53:10. “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.”
That’s essentially the message too of Titus 3:14. “[Jesus Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
God wants a people for himself, a people he can have fellowship with for all eternity. That’s the point of creation and redemption, as we’ve just learned. It’s also the point of evangelism and discipleship: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3) And that too is the point of marriage: God is seeking godly offspring with whom he could have fellowship for all eternity. In other words, God is not thinking only of your family; he’s thinking of his heavenly family of which he intends your family to be a part. Family is God’s priority!
This changes how we view marriage, does it not? It’s not just about the romance between the husband and the wife. It’s also about having children who will love God and obey God and who will spend eternity having fellowship with God. This means –
1. We should be thankful if God blesses our marriage with children. “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3)
2. We should take seriously our responsibility to train up our children in the fear of the Lord. “Fathers, do not exasperate you children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7) One of the reasons why Timothy was saved and became a pastor was because at least one of his parents brought him up in the fear of the Lord. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5) “ . . . and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15)
So how do we put this into practice? Here are some tips suggested by Aaron Hecht:
1. Have daily family devotional time.
2. Pray daily for your own children, your children’s future spouse, your children’s friends and their parents and families and their teachers.
3. Be part of a congregation which makes ministering to the children a priority.
4. Be as involved as possible in the school where your children attend.
It would not be fair to end this devotional without saying something of encouragement to childless couples. I know that some have to struggle with this painful reality. Rachel faced this too: “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” (Genesis 30:1-2)
Rachel eventually had children, but that’s beside the point. The point is: Jacob was right. It’s the Lord who blesses us with children, and sometimes it is his will not to do so. What can I say to couples who are struggling in this way?
1. Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not on your understanding. (Proverbs 3:5, 6).
There’s a song that goes this way:
God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When you don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His Heart
2. Claim Romans 8:28. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to his purpose.”
3. Consider adopting. It may be that God allowed you to be in the situation you are in because you have a very special role to play in the life of a very special child from whom God has a very special plan. We should never forget that we too are adopted. Adoption if a very biblical practice: We are imitating God when we do so. “In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ . . .” (Ephesians 1: 5)
4. Consider becoming more involved in ministry. Just like singleness, childlessness can be a calling from God. More often than not, in such a situation you have more time and resources to devote to ministry. I know of an American missionary couple who chose not to have any children so that they could devote themselves more to ministry.
There’s a very curious verse in Isaiah (54:1): “‘Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord.”
What does this verse mean? I think the answer to that question can be found in Mark 10:29, 30. “‘Truly, I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers and sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – along with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life.’ “
Children by the barren woman, a hundredfold more than others have! What mystery is this? It is the mystery of the gospel. Because of the gospel even those who are barren can produce godly offspring for the glory of God.
Let us pray.