In Malachi 2:11, we read, “Judah has been unfaithful, and a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. The men of Judah have defiled the LORD’s beloved sanctuary by marrying women who worship idols.” The men of Israel committed spiritual adultery by marrying pagan women and accepting their gods. We must understand that God was not concerned with keeping the Jewish people racially pure, but He was overwhelmingly concerned with keeping them spiritually pure. There is but one race, the human race, but when the men of Israel intermarried with pagan women, they allowed their human relationship to pollute their spiritual relationship with God.
This is same idea of spiritual purity is repeated in the New Testament: “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14–15). Both Malachi and the apostle Paul are dealing with the same issue: the need for God’s people to be yoked in marriage only with those who also profess belief in the one true God. To do otherwise is not only unwise but also unscriptural.
Young people and all singles, listen to me. Dating is not a sport. It’s the process of selecting a mate and should be treated as such. Passions run high in male-female relationships, and when you put yourself in situations that you are too young or unprepared to handle, you are taking a great and unnecessary risk of falling prey to lust and other natural temptations. If you are not yet ready for marriage, then dating as we know it in American culture is not in your best interests. “But,” you might protest, “isn’t dating the way to find out what qualities I want in a mate and whether a particular person might be a suitable spouse?” It’s true you have to get to know a person, but that’s best accomplished, in the initial stages at least, in group settings that provide safe social contact. But even that is prefaced by the assumption that the person you are interested in is a believer.
Now for those who may be thinking that I am out of touch with culture and modern pressures, remember, it doesn’t matter what we think; it’s what God says about a matter that is important. This includes His instruction concerning the interaction of unmarried people of opposite sexes. Culture doesn’t define morals and standards—God does.
For you who are looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, keep in mind that dating a nonbeliever is nothing less than disobedience to God. He has made His will clear in both the Old and New Testaments. If you insist on dating a nonbeliever, you expose yourself to that person’s gods, the things they hold dear, and that can range anywhere from lust to false religion.
In God’s plan of covenant marriage, the first issue to be settled in our minds is that Christian marriage is between two believers. “Missionary dating” has no place in God’s family. Dating is not the place for personal evangelism. Human nature being what it is, it is always easier to be pulled down to another’s level than to pull someone else up to your level. The wise person knows this and refuses to compromise his or her faith by entering into dating relationships with nonbelievers.
Now, back to Malachi 2. Let’s read verses 13–16 in the New American Standard Bible:
This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.
Once we are married—and hopefully to a fellow believer—the Lord’s plan is that we remain together. Look carefully at verse 14 above: “She is your companion and your wife by covenant” (emphasis added). God makes it clear that marriage is a covenant relationship. In a contract, the parties involved establish the conditions by which the contract remains in effect. Together they mutually agree to these terms. In God’s covenant of marriage, however, the conditions are not established by the man and the woman, but by a third party—God Almighty. The man and the woman willingly enter into agreement with God’s covenant conditions. When this concept is embraced, the power of Ecclesiastes 4:12 is unleashed: “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” In God’s plan of marriage, man, woman, and God form a threefold cord that can withstand even the most difficult trial that might come their way.
I don’t know why we have such a hard time believing God’s way is best. Somehow we think we know better and can dictate our own plan, assuming God will bless it anyway. But that’s not the way it works.
A groom approached the pastor at his wedding rehearsal in order to slip him a hundred-dollar bill and make a request. “Pastor,” he asked, “I’d sure appreciate it if you would skip the part about promising to love and obey and be faithful unto death.” The pastor said nothing, but took the bill.
On the day of the wedding, when the time arrived for the exchange of vows, the pastor looked at the groom and said, “Will you promise to prostrate yourself before this woman, obey her every command, serve her breakfast in bed, and swear before God and these witnesses that you will never look at another woman as long as you both shall live?”
Taken aback, the young groom gulped and said, “I will.” But then he leaned toward the pastor and whispered, “What happened? I thought we had a deal.”
The pastor fished in his pocket, leaned toward the young man, and replied, “Here’s your money back. She made me a better offer!”
Friends, you can rewrite the wedding vows all you want, but the covenant conditions are divine and will never change.
Excerpt from “Happily… Even After” now available on Amazon.