“Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24
A fifth grade school teacher asked each child in her art class to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grow up. Sally drew an astronaut, Sue a doctor, Bruce a missionary. But Karen turned in a blank sheet of paper. “Isn’t there something you want to be?” The teacher inquired. To which the child replied. “I want to be married, but I didn’t know how to draw it.”
Sad, but isn’t that true of our society today? Over ninety-five percent of us will marry at some point in our life. Yet nearly forty percent of us will divorce.
In 1890 there were nearly ten thousand divorces nationwide. Last year there were over one million two hundred thousand! In Charlotte, North Carolina, last year there were more divorces than there were marriages. Ditto for Fayetteville, North Carolina and Washington, D.C.
It is as if we’ve lost the blueprint for building a lasting and satisfying home.
Where? Where can we go to find the blueprint? Can your capitol senator supply it? Is it in the pages of Better Homes and Gardens magazine? Is it animated on the silver screen from Hollywood? Do you inquire of Ann Landers?
Our text today is the best place to look. It doesn’t come from Hollywood, but it does come from God’s Holy Word. And it represents the oldest biblical teaching on matrimony. In fact, this verse is repeated four times in Scripture! Even Jesus spoke of it! Why, it is as if God is saying, “Look here! This is vital! Be absolutely certain not to miss it!” So let’s give close examination to our text for today and see if we can learn all God is saying!
The first discipline mentioned in the text is leaving. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother.”
Do you realize that in every major world religion marriage begins with a public ceremony of leaving? The man and the woman make a basic public commitment saying, “Forsaking all others I choose you!” He burns his little black book. She dreams of no other prince charming but him. They leave single life behind and together live in wedlock. Did you hear about the young couple in the jewelry store selecting their wedding bands? The man complained. “But honey, this wedding band is too wide. I’m afraid it’ll cut off my circulation!” She brightened and said, “Sweetheart, that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do!”
I think the biblical discipline of leaving is rather like climbing aboard a jet airliner. They hand you no parachute. If you fly with them you commit your whole life. If the plane makes it so do you. If the plane crashes so do you. Don’t the wedding vows we take before God emphasize this kind of life-long commitment? “I take thee to be my wedded mate, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part . . . .”
You older people understand this kind of lifetime commitment. You got married and for better or worse you’ve stuck to it. But the next generation, now middle-aged, they got married until they couldn’t stand it any longer and then they got a divorce. And now the younger generation— they get married and stay so until something better comes along! And we are fast becoming a nation that is committed to no one and no thing. We’re becoming like yard dogs who are led about by our passions.
But God’s Word is very clear: one man for one woman for life!
Here a word needs to be said about another force that threatens the “leaving” dimension of marriage, and that is the former family. When two marry it is quite natural for the mother-in-law to try and interfere. “Does she feed him well?” “Is he buying her enough clothes?” The Bible says, “A man shall leave his father and his mother!”
A young couple had a quarrel and the bride of three months called her parents long distance saying, “Mamma, I hate him. We’ve had a fight. Papa, I want to come home.” The father very discreetly said, “I’m sorry, daughter, you have no home here. For better or worse you’ve left for a new home. Work it out the best you can!” And he hung up the phone. Now I know that was a difficult thing for a parent to do, but it was the right thing. The best advice to a parent is to hold your children very close, love them, and train them up in God’s Word. Then let them go! Let them leave! Don’t interfere. Don’t give them advice unless you are asked. And don’t live near them if you can help it. Across town is best!
So, the first discipline of a maximum marriage is leaving. Now the second. The text says, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife.” Cleaving, that’s the second discipline of a maximum marriage.
When we hear the word “cleave” today we immediately think of a meat cleaver, a hatchet that cuts things apart. But the Hebrew word used in the text for “cleave” means literally “to be pasted together.” It’s like licking a stamp and pasting it on a letter. The envelope and the stamp cleave together. They are close. They are inseparable.
Now, dear people, if you try ripping a stamp from a letter you’ll know why the Scriptures are so against divorce. A stamp tears when it is removed. It leaves pieces of itself behind on the envelope. Divorce is such a tearing experience. In fact, next to death, divorce is one of the greatest traumas that can happen to a person. So you see why Jesus said, “What God has joined together let no man put asunder.”
Cleaving, to be pasted together— “A man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife.” This means that a man and wife are close. They are best friends. They communicate. They spend time together. They romance and share common interests. Is that how it is in your marriage?
I saw a cartoon recently. The man was sitting in front of the television. His wife was walking through the room and the television announcer was saying, “We interrupt your marriage to bring you the latest football season!” Isn’t that how it is with so many of our marriages? Our cleaving is interrupted. The man cleaves more to his hunting dog or to fishing or to his career. And the woman cleaves unto the garden club, the children, and her shopping sprees, and the result is a marriage grown cold.
I know in my own marriage it is easy to get my priorities out of line. I can get so caught up in my work that I neglect my wife. And when I catch myself doing that I repent and cleave again. The text doesn’t say we cleave to our work, but to our wife! If you don’t learn anything else from me you will at least see me cleaving unto my wife and not my job.
But what about you? Is your marriage interrupted? Has something come between you? If it has, then admit it, repent, and start over! Good marriages require falling in love and cleaving over and over again, but always with the same person.
But you’re saying, “Okay, that sounds good. To cleave. Fine! But how? Can you give me some practical suggestions?” Well, try setting aside one night a week for a date. Get a sitter and go out. Open the door for your wife. Fix your hair for your man. Give your mate a gift when it’s not their birthday or Christmas. Say, “Honey, I saw this in the store window today, it was lovely, it made me think of you, and so I wanted you to have it.” Get you a couple of rocking chairs, sit down together, watch the sun go down and talk. In short, treat your wife like a queen, men, and you’ll get to be the king. The same is true for you, ladies. If you treat your husband like a king you’ll get to be the queen.
In case you didn’t recognize it, that’s another way of stating the Golden Rule— “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Many a marriage begins to break down when each mate begins to treat the other like a slave. The couple stops giving and starts demanding and the whole marriage hurts.
So cleave! Be pasted together in love for one another. That’s the second discipline of Christian matrimony.
Now for the third part of our text— becoming one. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother, cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
Becoming one flesh certainly means sex. And this is no embarrassment to Christians. After all, sex was God’s idea in the first place. And He did look on all that He’d made, sex included, and say, “It’s good.”
So, there’s nothing wrong with a married couple frankly discussing their likes and dislikes as regards to the sex act. There is much to be gained in reading a book about sex and learning as much as you can about how things work. (May I suggest Tim LaHaye’s book, The Act of Marriage).
But becoming one flesh certainly means more than sex. Contrary to popular belief, it takes more than sex to make a marriage last. Just because a couple can make it in the bedroom doesn’t mean that they can make it with the checkbook or children or in-laws. There are a lot of things a couple must become one in, if a marriage is to work. And thus we are drawn into the fine art of Christian argument and compromise.
That’s right, the pastor said argument! Mrs. Billy Graham said, “When two people can live together and never disagree one of them is not necessary!” Soon after you’ve said, “I do” you’ll find out she likes pink and his favorite color is red. What color will you paint the bedroom? She would like to vacation at the beach. You like the mountains! How will you become one? You want that job in Raleigh. She wants to stay here. How will you settle it? So, you see, any couple who marries is setting the stage for conflict. Thus an ability to become one is very important.
Marriage counselors say that the number one source of marital arguments is money. After that comes lack of communication, emotional immaturity, inability to resolve conflicts, and finally, infidelity. Did you hear about the couple in the small town who had a fight? The neighbors heard the shouting and the dishes breaking and called the police. An officer was dispatched, but by the time he got there all was quiet. “Is everything okay now?” he asked the husband. “Sure,” he said. “My wife came crawling to me on her hands and knees.” Surprised to hear it, the policeman asked, “What did she say?” “She said, ‘You better come out from under that bed and fight like a man!’”
Fight like a Christian to become one— that’s what this last part of our text is saying. And how does a Christian fight? With love and listening ears and swallowed pride. With a willingness to build a win-win situation, an obligation to soothe, to say, “I’ve been wrong, forgive me.” Not having always to have one’s way, but with prayer and so much more!
In the mountains of Georgia there is a waterfall called Anna Ruby Falls. It is a perfect example of what becoming one in marriage is like. Two separate mountain streams lap and gurgle down a mountain and plummet separately, one— one hundred and fifty feet, the other three hundred feet, in a dazzling display of watery lace and rainbow colors. At the base of the mountain both falls enter a common pool. Here the two creeks are joined and flow on as a river together. Marriage is like this, too. We become one and flow on. His is hers and hers is his. Neither mate loses his identity. They blend. Talents, strength, faults, faiths, needs— they are joined in marriage and the two become one.
On The Rocks
I think marriage is like a three-sided tent. Leaving is one side. Cleaving and becoming one are the others. And you will note that a tent will not stand unless all three sides are secure. So it is with marriage. How’s the leaving side of your wedlock? Have you made a total commitment to matrimony? How’s the cleaving? Are you pasted together with nothing between you? No interruptions? And what about your becoming one? Are you fighting like Christians?
Jesus once told a parable. He said that those who heard His words and did not do them were like a man who built his home on the sand. And when the storm came it fell in. But Christ said that if a man both hears and does His word He’d be like the man who built his house on the rock. When the storm came, the household stood.
What about you? Have you heard these words? Will you do them? If you do, Christ is saying that even though the storms of life beat upon you, your home will not break. How can it? It is founded upon the sure foundation of God’s Word!
Lord, teach me to value marriage, and work to make mine fulfilling and lasting. For Christs’ sake. Amen.
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