On marriage and our culture

Marriage is still very popular[1], but it is increasingly reported that single Christians struggle to find suitable life partners[2], which is ironic in this information-age where a Google search for “dating web sites” return 122 million responses in under 1 second.  This seems to indicate that a multitude of possible life partners does not solve the problem of loneliness.  But why not?  Is it because there are too many options, or that a more perfect partner is perhaps one more click away…?

Another possible explanation why single people today struggle to find suitable life partners are due to unclear or unrealistic expectations from marriage and marriage partners.  The myriads of writings and  media resources[3] bring varied opinions and ideologies about marriage which leave a world in confusion about the essence and design of marriage as God intended it.  In particular three most destructive trends keep people from finding and enjoying fulfilled marital lives: firstly the culturally accepted norm of “falling in love”[4] where marital partners are selected (and de-selected) based primarily on emotions. Secondly, the belief that there is a “other half” or “soul-mate”[5] you need to find in order enjoy a fulfilled marriage relationship. Thirdly, the consumerist mindset that markets, searches and compares potential partners to seek an ideal fit, as we do with accessories, cars or clothes. These secular ideas are perpetually propagated and fueled by contemporary music, films and novels, and has become normative in our Christian thinking.

I believe that finding a marriage partner is not primarily about falling in love, not about finding my soul mate, and not at all about comparative shopping.  These ideas are foreign to Scripture and does not lead to fulfilled marriage.  This leaves us with the questions “what is marriage?” and “what makes marriage work?”

In the light of this confusion I find God’s message through the prophet Malachi refreshingly clear and concise.  Although the tone of the conversation we pick up is quite negative: God says that He has no interest in listening to the religious elite’s prayers because of their lack of respect for the institution of marriage and their marriage partners (Malachi 2:13).  Then the the Lord clarifies the intent and meaning of marriage, cautioning them regarding the destructiveness of promiscuity and divorce for both the couple and the children.  Malachi 2:14-16 reads as follows:

But you say, “Why does [God not hear our prayers]?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.  Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

The terms God uses to define marriage in and it’s intent in this passage are companionship, covenant, union, for children, and faithfulness.  Let’s look at each one of them to re-evaluate our understanding of marriage.

old-married-couple

  1. Marriage is companionship: she is your companion”

In definition and defense of marriage in Malachi 2:14-18, God first mentions companionship.  Here in Malachi 2:14-15 companion refers to the wife, but in Proverbs 2:17 it refers to the husband. Marriage is companionship.

The common interpretation of the role of the wife as “the helper” quoted from Genesis 2:18 is understood to mean that she should help in the purpose of the husband and running of the household.

However, that interpretation misses the intended meaning of Eve as helper, and the primary intent and definition of marriage.  Genesis 2:18 reads “LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’”  To understand the meaning of the term “helper”, one should ask “in what area did Adam need help when the Lord graciously sought to solve his problem?”  The answer is clear from the context: Adam was lonely – in the midst of a perfect world!  Adam needed someone to share life with, to take away the sting of loneliness.  Adam needed companionship, and the Lord gave him a helper, a companion.

This first picture of marriage is important since it reveals God’s design intent of marriage: to remove the sting of loneliness, so that man and woman may share the fullness of life together in intimate relationship.

Another important point to notice here is that while Adam was in a perfect environment, in a perfect relationship with God – with no sin and consequently no separation because of it ­­– Adam had a need for companionship which God recognized, God articulated, and God acted upon to solve.  (The solution was marriage).  I mention this because I have read and heard too many times that single people should “find their happiness and contentment in God.”  The sentiment is great, but it seems as though God did not meet that need for companionship in Adam, and that He was the one who recognized (and even created) that need in Adam, and provided that for that need in companionship.

Marriage is companionship.  Marriage is given to eradicate loneliness.  This is the primary task and responsibility of the marriage partner.  Every other motive for entering into marriage will set one up for disappointment and eventually marital failure.

Rings - the sign of the covenant
Rings – the sign of the covenant
  1. Marriage is covenant: she is …your wife by covenant”

In Christian circles we frequently hear that marriage is a covenant (legal promise).  But less frequently the covenant is defined.  We frequently read or hear about the ceremony regarding ancient vow-taking, but the essence of the vow is mentioned less frequently.

However, every person who contemplates divorce remembers his/ her vows to be something like “I will never leave you nor forsake you… in good times and bad… in sickness and health…” And that is the essence of the promise: marriage is a covenant of companionship[6]a promise to never allow the other person to feel lonely again.   Marriage is a promise which bind two people together in this life in mutual partnership.  Where two is better than one.[7]  It is not a contract of mutual performance (“you do this – i do that”) but rather a promise of companionship (“being with you always, regardless of your performance or state”) as Ruth did to Naomi. [8]

Marriage is covenant – a partnership by promise to remain together and share all “until death do us part”.  Marriage is a covenant of companionship.

  1. Marriage is unity: make them one”

One of the most frequently quoted Old Testament text by New Testament authors is Genesis 2:24, where we are reminded that the essence of marriage is to “leave” what is familiar and “cleave” your spouse, and “the two shall become one flesh.”  Thus the unity requires in part our participation (perpetual actions that move us towards our spouse (“cleave”) and move away from our old familiar life of singleness (“leave”).  But God’s strong hatred for the Israelite’s prevailing indifference and unfaithfulness towards marriage in Malachi 2:15 also reveals His part in marital union: “did not I make them one with a portion of the Spirit in their union?” 

This phrase shows the essence of marriage is a mystical, spiritual union of two people, brought about by God.  “Mystical” means something difficult to explain, but can be understood through participation.  This truth is also taught by Jesus when He is asked to comment on the practice of divorce made cheap in His day: “So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:8-9).    It is a mystical unity that speaks of a shared life, a shared identity.

Although the unity is difficult to observe, the effects of separation – what Malachi calls “violence to one’s flesh” (Malachi 2:16) – is observable.  The well-researched, traumatic effects of divorce affect the loss of identity, decreased emotional and physical health as well as shortened life expectancy, lowered social status, increased financial pressure and lowered relational attachment[9]. The devastation in children affected by divorce include behavioral problems such as aggression and rebellion, psychological effects such as depression,  anxiety and lowered concentration, followed lower academic achievement and poor self-esteem.[10]   These adverse effects in physical, emotional and spiritual well-being makes sense when one considers that divorce is a tearing apart of two people that have in reality become one, causing tremendous injury and death in all involved.

 holding baby

  1. Marriage is for Godly offspring: what was… God seeking? Godly offspring.”

Contemporary Western civilization is self-seeking, bent on entertainment and consumerism.  It is a culture that opposes long-term commitments, any difficulty and a sacrificial lifestyle.  This lifestyle hates children and views such dependent relationships as burdensome and thus undesirable.  Even within good marriages children will be delayed as long as possible to ensure a time of care-free enjoyment.  And a family who has more than 2-3 children will be followed by stares and comments such as “don’t you have a TV?” from passer-by’s wherever they go.

At the heart of this culture, marriage is for self-enrichment and pleasure for self children is an after-though or necessity to prolong society.  However, God says He made marriage as a union to solve the problem of man’s loneliness through the covenant of companionship.  Yet, what He wants from this union is “godly offspring”.  Marriage is the only setting where godly offspring can be raised, in the secure setting of mutual faithfulness.  This is the place where godliness is modeled and grafted into the young children, and where children are protected in their identity and perception of others from the “violence” of divorce and unfaithfulness. Thus the immediate context of the phrase in Malachi 2:15-16 teaches us that “godly offspring” require “faithfulness” in the union between husband and wife, to not bring about “violence” to the home.

When God thinks of marriage, he thinks of children.  What God wants from the union of marriage is godly offspring.

couple-bed-feet

  1. Marriage requires faithfulness: do not be faithless”

However, “Why does he not [hear our prayer]?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant… So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” (Malachi 2v16)

Marriage is a divine union through a covenant of companionship, a place where Godly offspring is raised.  And marriage requires faithfulness.  Two reasons for faithfulness emerge from the text:

Malachi 2:14 starts with a question from the Israelites who faithfully offer to God sacrifices to maintain good relationship with Him, and entreat His favor.  But God says clearly that He does not hear their petitions, because of their marital unfaithfulness.  About 450 years later the Apostle Peter again wrote to the people of God “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel… so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7).  This is a profound statement – that God cares so much about our marital relations that He either hears our prayers or not!  Thus the first reason for faithfulness in marriage is because God sees, God cares, and God requires faithfulness (and honor) at home before He accepts public worship or answers prayers.

Yet a second reason in the text seems to be the core reason of the appeal to marital faithfulness from God: to not cause “violence” to self, your spouse or your children.  This text enriches our understanding of our sexuality, teaching us that sexual practices are not merely physical or biological activities, but also spiritual and relational.  Malachi warns that sexual promiscuity has a negative impact on your own spirit and therefore cautions us to “guard yourself in your spirit”.  Your spirit is the seat of your identity and relationships, is your capacity to create and dream (hope), to rejoice, to endure, to trust (or have faith), to communicate, to understand or perceive etc. God says “preserve this! – do not be sexually unfaithful!” 

But God also says to remain faithful to your wife for the sake of your wife and children – since the breaking of the covenant brings violence to the spirits of the entire family (as mentioned in the previous section).  It seems as though the covenant family enjoys protection from God as God enters into the marriage with “a portion of [His] Spirit in their union” (v15), and faithlessness regarding the covenant allows violence to spirits of the family members, especially if the faithlessness leads to the breaking of the covenant (divorce).

married-couple-talk

Conclusion and practical response

Thus a clear definition and intent of marriage from Malachi 2 could read:

Marriage is a covenant of companionship by which God makes the husband and wife one for the sake of godly offspring, which is preserved in mutual faithfulness.

How do we respond to this revelation of marriage from Scripture?   We need to re-evaluate our expectations of marriage and our (potential) marriage partners in light of God’s design.  For a fulfilled life, we need to approach marriage from a Biblical perspective otherwise we will not find the life of satisfaction and joy God contained therein.

Our first mental adjustment from this definition is that marriage is not primarily a romantic notion.  It is a relationship built on companionship, trust, faithfulness and a shared life.  Thus the marriage partner is not firstly a lover, but a companion.  The aim is an intimate life, not an erotic life.  What one seeks for in a marriage partner, and seeks to maintain in marriage is good companionship: someone trustworthy, someone supportive, someone with whom you can live well and work well.  Someone to take away loneliness by living a shared existence.

Secondly, marriage is permanent.  Malachi’s understanding of marriage re-enforces the truth that marriage is indeed “until death do us part”, and the consequences of faithlessness and divorce is “violence” – death and destruction to all involved.  This requires loyal devotion as well as patience and forgiveness from both marriage partners. Thus marriage cannot be approached with the self-centered consumer mindset, where marriage partners are compared and traded in.

Thirdly, the end of marriage is not merely “my happiness” but a Godly legacy, including God-fearing children.  The pursuit of self-indulgence (“my happiness”) increases selfishness – the worst enemy of marital joy and bliss.

How do we renew our minds about Godly marriage?  I suggest three ways, the first of which are obvious: study the Scriptures to prayerfully evaluate and re-adjust your own opinions of marriage.  I do not believe that a mere reading of the Bible is sufficient for transformation here – one has to systematically study it, preferably in discussion with your spouse.  Secondly, once a good Biblical understanding of marriage is established, one needs to actively evaluate the underlying presumptions and messages in contemporary music, novels and movies, etc relating to love and marriage.  For the trout to swim upstream he needs to know the force with which the river is flowing downstream, and compensate appropriately.  Lastly, and sadly this is a difficult one: find a godly example of marriage and make deliberate effort to spend time with them and learn from them. A good, living example is still the best way to grow in godliness.

So, in light of this Scripture – how does your view of marriage compare with God’s design and intent?

[1] Amidst increasing divorce rates, 80% of Americans are still expected to marry according to NY Times article by Cherlin A. J., In the season of marriage, a question – why bother?, NY Times Sunday Review dated 27 April 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/opinion/sunday/why-do-people-still-bother-to-marry.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[2] From Christian Today published 18 April 2013 http://www.christiantoday.com/article/single.christians.experience.anxiety/32169.htm

[3] A search into the Amazon online shopping database on “marriage” results in more than 230’000 books and related resources. Accessed 14 July 2014.

[4] From the Roman Cupid myth where the belief is that the angel Cupid shoots arrows and the victim falls helplessly in love with another upon sight. Refer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cupid

[5] From the Greek creation myth where the humans were created both male and female in one body, one soul, but for their rebellion Zeus split them in half so that they male and female would forwever wander miserably in search for their other half or “soul mate” Refer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul_mate

[6] Adams J.E., Marriage, Remarriage and Divorce, Baker House Books (Grand Rapids, MI, 1980), p8

[7] See Ecclesiates 4:9-11.

[8] See Ruth 1:16 -17 as a good example of such a vow, although this vow is not between husband and wife, the context is a vow of companionship.

[9] Hawkins J.H., Fackrell T.A., Should I keep trying to work it out? (Utah Commission on Marriage: 2009), p96.  Online version and program available here: http://divorce.usu.edu/

[10] Cherlin A.J. et al, Longitudinal studies of effects of divorce on children in Great Britain and the United States, Science, Vol. 252 no. 5011, 7 June 1991, pp. 1386-1389

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Not by bread alone

It appears as though the primary case against Christians today is that we are Hypocritical, [1] meaning we speak the part of Christ’s teachings, but in reality we live like everyone else does.  And we know this is true – statistically there appears to be very little difference between the lives of people who claim to follow Christ and that of contemporary society. [2]

While meditating the following question came to me the other day:  If people were to judge my faith based on my actions – what would they say I believe?  Meaning: if someone had the opportunity to observe me 24-7, noting how I spend my time and money, my relationships, listening in on my conversations – what would they deduce are the core convictions that drive my decisions, and ultimately dictate the course of my life?  This question reminded me of what the apostle James wrote: “I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).  So I asked myself: what do my actions reveal about my faith?  For instance, does my time in prayer show that I believe “the prayer of a righteous person has great power” (James 5:16b).  These questions are worth meditating on.

One core attitude that ought to set us apart as Christ-followers from the materialist contemporary culture is our relationship with money.  For instance, the world believes the more I own, the happier I’ll be – but Jesus taught “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) and that we should rather “store up treasures in heaven” (Matthew 19:21).  The world believes that increased wealth means a better life – but Jesus taught life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). But from all the teachings Jesus taught on money, the following one stood out in my head as I evaluated my own life.

Jesus, hungry from fasting for more than a month was tempted by Satan to prove His divine sonship by satisfying His hunger by making bread in the wilderness – as God His Father did some 1450 years before to feed his starving people. [3]  But Jesus answered “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).  To understand the full impact of what He meant, the context of the passage He quoted from is really important: Moses is giving the Law of God again to the Hebrews people are about to enter the Promised Land, and states the motive for the 40 year wilderness wandering.

And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”   (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Moses gives two reasons for the wandering: firstly “to humble you” meaning to show your dependence on God.  Before you enter “a land flowing with milk and honey”, the fertile country where you will certainly prosper and increase, God taught this new nation that they are and always will be dependent on His grace, His “manna”.  Day after day for 40 years the Hebrews woke up every morning with no means of survival apart from what came from above, what came “from the mouth of God”.  They grew up in utter humility and dependence of God’s provision – and that was the first motive for their wilderness wandering.

Secondly, Moses stated that God raised the Hebrews in the wilderness to ‘test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not’.  We know that the intent and promise of the Law was a long and prosperous life.[4]  However, for the first 40 years of living under the Law there was no visible prosperity.  God’s test was clear: “Will you obey me even though you do not see the rewards?”  God was testing their motive for obedience.

And then we read the words Jesus quoted: man shall not live from bread alone (i.e. we do not live solely from the efforts of our own labors) but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (i.e. manna, or that undeserving, gracious providence from God our Father).  Do we believe this?  Most of us will say “Yes I do!”  But in which way is this visible in your life?  How do we “live this truth”?

I see five ways from this great 8th chapter of Deuteronomy, and verses 3 and 18 summarise these points well:

“man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.” (v3)

“you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (v18)

  1. We respond by living thankful, humble The phrases “remember the Lord”, “do not forget the Lord” and “bless the Lord” are repeated throughout this chapter, and it seems to be at the heart of Moses’ address to the Hebrew people before they entered this prosperous, promised land.  If we truly believe that “man shall not live by bread alone” and “God… gives you power to obtain wealth” then we will naturally respond with thanks and with humble trust in Him, not boastful as someone who thinks his success is the work of his own hands (see v 17).

And our thankful hearts will result in mouths that shamelessly speak of God’s goodness to those around us.

  1. We respond by living confidently, not anxiously. If we truly believe that we do “not live by bread alone” and that God “gives [us] power to get wealth”, then the result will be to live confidently, assured that “[our] Heavenly Father knows what we have need of” (Matt 6:31-32).  We should therefore “be anxious for nothing” (Phil 4:6) but confidently bring needs in prayer to God.  Jesus rebuked the crowd around Him in the sermon on the mount by saying they should not pray anxiously “as the gentiles do”, but confidently ask, knowing they have a Father who knows them and takes care of them. Our welfare is not solely dependent on our efforts!  If this was in fact the case we would have reason to worry because we cannot control everything.  But our welfare is not only up to us – the Hebrew’s 40 years in the wilderness teaches us that God cares and God provides for us.  We have a Father who is in control of everything and knows our needs.  We can boldly ask for our daily bread, knowing that He wants to give.

However, this truth must not be confused with the notion that all will always go well with us.  It is important to note that when Jesus quoted that Scripture, he was very hungry and in the will of God. And God was apparently content that Jesus was hungry. Yet Jesus trusted his Father.  So serving and trusting God does not imply that it always goes well – which is why Paul wrote “I have learned the secret of being content – whether well-fed or hungry… I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)  Believing “man shall … live… by everything that proceeds from the mouth of God” means we trust that God knows what we are going through, and he that He is in control and knows what is best.

  1. We respond by living generous Moving beyond application that benefits us alone, we recognize that if “we live not by bread alone but everything that comes from the mouth of God” then we can live and give generously, since He has dealt generously with us.[5]  We don’t have to hoard everything in fear of not having enough tomorrow as the world does. Rather, we graciously share what we have, remembering that sufficient manna fell daily from the sky during the 40 years of the Hebrew’s wilderness wandering.  God is faithful – as the sun rises tomorrow his provision comes.  Jesus told us to pray “give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:9) and the Father gives sufficiently for every day, so we can share of our fullness.
  2. We respond by living in the fear of God. In the light of God’s provision and providential blessing, this chapter stands historically as a lesson for us in the fear of God.  The concept is foreign to us as contemporary believers, but in essence, to live in the fear of God is to live with the knowledge of God’s greatness and to live in expectation of His righteous judgment – here on earth and in the age to come.[6]   As mentioned above, this refrain of this chapter rings chapter “remember…” and “do not forget…” the faithful provision of God during your wilderness wandering, and that He brought you in to possess this rich land, that He gives the increase and that He is the one who gives power to obtain wealth. Then warnings such us these were issued in this chapter by Moses before they entered the land:

“Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today… then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’… Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish.”  (Deuteronomy 8:11, 17, 19)

And what happened 700 years after they entered the Promised Land?  After the kingdom was established and secured by David, there was great prosperity during the reign of his son Solomon the nation started worshipping other gods and forgot their God.  After much pleading and warning, the Northern tribes (Samaria) were destroyed completely, and shortly after that the Southern tribes (Judea) were exiled from their land and again became slaves (as promised in Deut 8 and 28-32). The Jews repented, returned to the Lord, and was reinstated in their homeland.

Our lesson in the fear of God regarding His provision is this: when the Lord blesses us, do not forget Him, and do not become conceited in forgetting that “He gives us the power to obtain wealth.”  Deuteronomy 8:5-6 “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you… walk in His ways and fear Him.”

  1. We respond by living in covenant with God. The beautiful verse 18 states our final point – the reason for the prosperity: that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” What is covenant?  In essence covenant is a partnership, a binding of one to another, sharing all they possess, for a specific purpose – thus a covenant with God is extremely beneficial for Israel (and us!), and  very generous from God who gains nothing but gives all.

Which covenant to their forefathers holds the promise of prosperity?  It started at God’s covenantal promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:2), and confirmed later to his son Isaac (Genesis 17:21) and grandson Jacob (Genesis 28:13-16).  The promise entails land, prosperity, a nation and purpose (to bless all the nations of the earth).  God wished to bless Abraham and His descendants, to be a blessing to all and so He partnered with Abraham with the purpose of blessing him, and blessing all through him.   And since through Christ Jesus I am an heir to the promise God made to Abraham (Galatians 3:14) I understand that my prosperity is because of my covenant with God, and therefore my prosperity has the same purpose: that through me “all the families of the earth may be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

So how do we respond to this in a practical way?  Firstly I personally respond to God’s covenantal blessing by monthly giving a portion of my income to Him (to my local church).  For the past 25 years I have done so, and have grown to the understanding that I don’t do it primarily for my blessing (although God promises so) or for the upkeep of the church (although it is a practical necessity), but I give 10% of my income to God to remind myself and declare to Him that I don’t live from “bread alone” (i.e. my own strength and efforts), but I live from “the mouth of God” (i.e. what God graciously gives).   And in giving my tithe I make that declaration monthly on a practical way.  At times in my life that declaration was not mere words!  Many times by giving God that portion of my income I made myself dependent on God’s provision, since my living expenses exceeded 90% of my income.  And God has been faithful every time, so that I know from experience I do not live from my own strength alone, but from what God freely gives.  So tithing is a sign of my covenantal dependence on Him and gratitude for His gracious care of myself and my household.  It is not law – it is relationship.

Secondly, my covenantal relationship with God is seen through my regular financial and ministry partnership in missional trips, that “all the families of the earth may be blessed.”  As God’s covenantal partnership is seen through His loving involvement in my life and provision, my covenantal partnership with God is made real through my actual participation in His mission on earth: the salvation of the world.

In summary, how would believing “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God” differentiate us from the world around us? Or put in another be visible in our everyday lives?  Firstly, when we live in thankful and humble dependence of God’s provision and help, as opposed to the arrogant assumption we merely earn what we have by our own efforts.  Secondly, when we live confident of God’s gracious provision and not in anxiety for tomorrow.  Thirdly, when we generously share our daily provision in faith that God will graciously give again tomorrow.  Fourthly, when the fear of God draws us to love and treasure Him more than the good He gives to us, since all good things comes from Him.  And lastly, when we live in the covenantal reality of our partnership with God through practical declarations such as tithing and participation in missions, declaring that “I do not live by my own strength, but by what God graciously gives to me” so that “all the families of the earth will be blessed”!

[1] D. Kinnaman, G. Lyons, unChristian (Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 2007), p. 21-23.

[2] Ibid, p. 46-47

[3] See Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 for the accounts of Jesus’ wilderness temptations.

[4] See Deuteronomy 6:2-3; 28:1-14.

[5]  See Matthew 10:8.

[6] Key texts in understanding the fear of God include Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, Psalm 34:11-14, Proverbs 8:13 and Hebrews 12:28-29.  The psalms contain great promises of blessings for those who fear God, including Fulfilled desires (145:19), instruction by God (25:12-14), prosperity (25:12; 112:3; 128:2), descendants will be great (25:13; 112:2; 128:6), intimacy with God (25:14), divine protection (31:19-20) and unmerited favour (103:17-18).