Marriage Troubles

Home » Sermons » Esther: Such a Time as This » Marriage Troubles

As a church this morning, we are going to talk about a topic I know everyone was looking forward to today, we’re going to talk about marriage problems, because I want you to all argue when you leave. No, I’m just kidding. I don’t want you to fight when you leave today, but we’re going to look at an important section of the book of Esther dealing with marriage trouble, the second half of chapter one and what that means. So if you want to turn to the book of Esther, the way to find that is open up to the middle of the Bible that typically takes you to the book of Psalms. Psalms is the biggest book of the Bible and you go back two books, right before Psalms is the book of Job, before Job is the book of Esther. As you find it, I’m going to give you some random marriage advice, because there is no shortcoming on random marriage advice, if you look that up on internet, so here you go this morning. Random marriage advice for you when you’re wrong, admit it, and when you’re right, be quiet.

Number two, marriage is nature’s way of keeping people from fighting with strangers. How about that one? Three marriage teaches you loyalty, forbearance, self restraint, and a lot of qualities you wouldn’t need if you just stayed single. Number four, many girls marry a man like their father, which is why many mothers cry at weddings. Marriage is like twirling a baton or eating with chopsticks, it looks easy until you try it. And then here’s one more, last one, marriage is when you agree to spend the rest of your life sleeping in a room that’s too warm besides someone who’s sleeping in a room that’s too cold. Amen. That’s marriage for you. Today we’re going to look at chapter one book of Esther starting in verse 10. And if you’re just joining with us, we started the book of Esther last week. And we’re getting to the point where we’re going to deal a little bit with the king of Persia’s relationship to his queen, which is Vashti.

And the book of Esther, if you ever study the Old Testament, the book of Esther is written a little over 400 years before the coming of Jesus, this book is almost 2,500 years old. And when you look in the Old Testament, I told you last week that the Old Testament is not put together in chronological order, it’s put together according to literary genre. Now it just so happens the first 17 books in the Old Testament are historical narrative, it really tells story of how Israel’s history unfold in somewhat of a chronological order. But when you get to the last three books of the first 17, you got the book of Esther, Nehemiah and Ezra, and these books are what’s called Post-Exilic Books, which means when you read the Old Testament, what you’ll find is how God brought forth a nation through Abraham. He brings them into a promised land, once they’re in the promised land they establish Kings to rule and reign over them. After three kings, they go into a civil war and they divide.

They have 12 tribes that divide and 10 tribes go to the north and two tribes go to the south. The 10 tribes to the north are carried into captivity after they’ve been conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BC, and they’re never heard from again. And then the southern two tribes are conquered by the Babylonians in 606 to 586, there’s three conquests against them to lead them into captivity and they’re carried away into baby Babylon, and they’re there for 70 years. After 70 years they’re allowed to return, and the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther record what takes place in that time period after the children of Israel are told to return. And what you find in the story of Esther is that not everyone returns, and the story of Esther takes place in what is in modern day Iran. We read it last week, where Xerxes is at this point in the story in his capital, his castle in Susa, which is his winter home.

He had two elaborate castles, he had a winter home and a summer home. He went to this region in Iran during the wintertime, because in the summertime it was as hot as Hades, but in the wintertime, it was a great place to be. And so he would go there and he would rule and reign, and this story takes place in that sort of a situation. And we learned last week a little bit about Xerxes personality, we saw in chapter one, verse four, that Xerxes was all about his glory. Xerxes was protected by up to 10,000 soldiers that worked as his bodyguard. This guy ruled and reigned over an area of the world that went from India to Egypt about the size of modern day America and the 10,000 people that guarded him, personally, his army was much larger than that, but the 10,000 people that guarded him were referred to as the Immortals. If you’re ever going to have anyone defend you, that’s the group that you want to pick people that call themselves Immortals.

We would refer to them as I think modern day superheroes, but he loved his glory. Everywhere he went he was always recorded as being on his throne, when his army would go into battle he would have them carry him on his throne so he could watch the battles take place. He was all about his glory and in chapter one of Esther that’s what you see is Xerxes wanting to display his glory, because what he’s interested in is people seeing how great he is. He was all about himself. He was born into royalty. He lived in royalty until he was finally killed by someone as he was king of the Medo-Persians. In chapter one, verse eight, he’s in the middle of throwing this great party where thousands and thousands of people are there and then he comes up with this wonderful idea, he sets a rule for the party, verse eight, he says this, “So the king gave orders to each official of his household that he was to do as each person pleased.” He’s saying, “I’ve got a party and I’m passing out great wine.

And all of my military and rulers of all the 127 provinces I have are allowed to come. Anyone that’s considered anybody in this Medo-Persian empire, they’re all invited to this big party with tens of thousands of people.” And he says, “Here’s my one rule. There are no rules. Do whatever you want. We’re just suspending your moral compass.” And then that leads Xerxes to do this. And at the end of his party in verse 10, he has this brilliant idea because all of us have brilliant ideas when we’re that lit on drinking. It says in verse 10, “On the 7th day, when the heart of the king was cheerful with wine,” that’s a nice way of saying he’s really drunk, he’s so drunk he doesn’t even know where his car keys are. That’s how it is in Xerxes in this chapter and it says, “And he ordered Mehuman,” oh, by the way, we’re going to read a list of names, several names in this beginning chapter of Esther.

And I’m just going to suggest as I’ll always do, when I come to a series of names, more ideas for Utah and all the babies that we make here. So here we go, “He ordered Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar,” and to kick it off here, “Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of king Ahasuerus.” Which is also the Greek name Xerxes, some translations choose the Greek name, some translations choose the Hebrew name. I’m just going to refer to him from here on out as Xerxes, because it’s easier for me to say. So he’s king Xerxes and he calls his eunuchs in and he gives his eunuchs an order in verse 11, he says this, he says his great idea in this moment, in the midst of his cheerful wineness, he says, “To bring Queen Vashti before the king, with her royal turbine, in order to display her beauty to the people and the officials for she was beautiful.”

Some people estimate at the very end of Xerxes party here, there was up to about 50,000 people. Xerxes gets this great idea and he says, “Call Vashti and bring her in and bring her in her royal crown.” Some commentaries will say about this translation of Hebrew, it’s not as direct, but they conclude that what the king is actually asking Vashti to do is come and parade herself before tens of thousands of people wearing her Royal crown and only wearing her Royal crown, brilliant idea on Xerxes part, is it not? Let’s let’s take his bride and demoralize her in front of thousands of people, I’m being sarcastic, this is not a great idea.

Some people tend to think that when they’re in the circumstance that Xerxes is in right now that they do their best thinking. But verse 12 reminds us that you do your dumbest thinking in circumstances like this. And here’s Vashti’s response in chapter one, verse 12, she says, “But the Queen Vashti refused to come at the King’s order delivered by the eunuchs.” Let me just stop here and say this, people that really love you should care enough about you to say no, when you do dumb things, when you desire dumb things, when you want to do dumb things. People that don’t care about you will say no to you just because they don’t care about you, but people that do care about you at risk to your relationship, if they genuinely care about you, when you’re making poor decisions, should in concern for you even at risk to the relationship, be willing to say no, and that’s what Vashti does in this story.

And what does the king do? Well, the king does what all self-focused people do, who are all about out there glory in the end of verse 12, he says this, “So the king became very angry and his wrath burned within him.” The king’s center of his world is himself and so his response is to guard himself and look out for himself and attack anyone that it’s against himself because what’s most important to the king is himself, which by the way one of the best ways to determine how maybe mature you might be in life, especially as it relates to following after God and living for his glory in this world, is to examine how do you respond when you don’t get your way? What’s your normal go to emotional reaction? Is it to take your ball and go home?

Is it to get angry and blow up as the king does in this story being for his glory, or is it to maybe personally reflect as to why you didn’t get the result that you want so that maybe you could examine if there’s something that’s taken place there that should not have happened. Well, the king in this moment decides, “Now that my feelings are all hurt since life is all about me.” He says in verse 13, “And the king said to the wise men who understood the times, for it was the custom of the king to speak this way before all who knew Persian law and justice and who were close to him,” and then here we go again, more Utah names, “namely Carshena and Shethar and Admatha and Tarshish and Meres and Marsena and Memucan.”

Memucan there you go, hold on to that one, “… and the seven officials who are Persia,” and I know this looks like Media and you see the word Media and immediately think, “Oh no, we’re never going to know the truth now, this is always going to be screwed up.” But the word is actually, “… Madai who had access to the King’s presence and sat in the first place in the kingdom according to the law, what is to be done with queen Vashti since she did not obey the command of king Ahasuerus or Xerxes delivered by the eunuchs.” So here’s what happens, the kings is like, “I don’t like what’s happened to me. I’m going to get people around me that’s going to tell things that make me feel better about me, and I’m going to seek their advice.” And so he gathers around them and he says, “What would you do in this circumstance?”

Now I’ll tell you what they should tell the king, but we’re going to look what they actually say to the king in just a minute. But here’s what they should tell the king. King In this moment, “You should drop to your knees and thank God that you married a woman that’s brave enough and secure enough to stand before you, when you’re making dumb decisions, that’s going to look bad for you, demoralize her and be a poor example to the people around you. Thank God for that. And then you should go to her and ask for her forgiveness and see if she’ll forgive you, and hopefully you have enough humility to do that.”

That’s what they should be telling the king, but instead verse 16, here’s the response, “And in the presence of the king and the other officials Memucan said, ‘Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king, but also all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of king Xerxes. For the Queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, so as to make their own husbands despicable in their sight, when they see say, ‘King Xerxes commanded that queen Vashti be brought into his presence, but she did not come.’ And this day the wives of the officials of Persia and Madai who have heard about the Queen’s conduct will talk about it to all the King’s officials and there will be plenty of contempt and anger.'”

Instead of saying, “You should be thankful that your wife has wisdom and is brave.” Their response is, “Oh, no, she didn’t listen to you. Now our wives aren’t going to do what we want them to do all the time either. God forbid that the women think for themselves.” And the response in this moment is to then start to figure out how they can control the circumstance in order to get what they want, because they want to make life about them too. And so their wisdom back to the king was as selfish as the King’s wisdom was towards Vashti, which is no wisdom at all. And then in verse 19, it gives the King’s response here, it says, “If it pleases the king, let a royal edict to be issued by him and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Madai so that it can cannot be repealed, that Vashti may not come in the presence of king Xerxes and let the king give her royal position to another who is more worthy than she.

When the king’s edict, which he will make is heard throughout his kingdom great as it is, then all women will give honor to their husbands, great and small. Now this word pleased the king and the officials and the king did his Memucan proposed. So he sent letters to all the king’s provinces, to each province, according to it’s script and to every people according to their language, that every man was to be the ruler in his own house, and the one who speaks in the language of his own people.” We have gone through scripture faster than we’ve ever gone through it before, that’s what we just did there. But the very end of this, here’s the king, he issues this edict. And man, when the king issues this edict, I wish that we had as much concern to share God’s word, the way we are concerned to passionately share our own positions and desires in life.

You see this, king is like, “I’ve got a thought and I want everyone to know my thought. I want everyone to know my thoughts so much that we’re going to send this to every province, and we’re going to speak it in every language of every people group that belongs to us, to make sure that everyone can hear what I’m thinking as a king, that’s how important my word is.” Man, if we just carried half that concern for the gospel in this world, but when the king gives this edict it tells us in verse 19 and commentaries speculate here, because we don’t really know what exactly happens to queen Vashti. Verse 19, they say, “Do this cast out of the King’s presence.” And some people conclude is, are they using a cultural phrase to really say that what the king is doing that he’s going to off the queen? Not only is she not going to be in the Queen’s presence, but she’s not going to be on the presence of this earth, her days are completely done.

She’s not spoken about ever again. So it’s speculative here that the king may have actually killed her and eliminated her from his presence. But at the very least what the king does here by his own selfish desires is kills the relationship. His anger drives him to commit murder. It may be physical murder, but it’s at least relational murder. The book of James warns us of this it asks us in chapter four, it says, “What causes the strife among you?” And the answer James gives, “Is it not the war within you that you fight because you do not have and you commit murder.” And when James says that in chapter four of James, he’s not talking to a group of murderers, he’s talking to a group of Christians. And he’s saying to them, “Listen, if you let anger rule your life because you make life about you and you get upset when you don’t get what you want, what you ultimately do is you kill every relationship around you, because in your selfish desires you drive people away because you simply use people as tools.”

And this is what it’s saying about king Xerxes is that he’s approaching marriage with all sorts of problems, personal problems that bleed into his relational problems that ultimately create conflict and kill his relationship, because he sees marriage from a selfish perspective and he makes it about him. When we consider this story, we can look at these 12, 13 verses and realize, “Okay, from Xerxes we are learning everything we should not do in a relationship.” This is not the kind of attitude you want to carry, this is not why you should get married, this is not what your relationship should be about. And so this is definitely an example of what not to do, but here’s the more important question I think for us as we look at this story is to then ask the question, “Okay. In not wanting to replicate a life like Xerxes, what should we do? How should we respond?” Maybe we could say it like this, if Xerxes were in front of us today, and we want to just give some marital to his marriage problems, how should we speak to Xerxes?

What should we say? We’ve seen the example of really a worldly marriage, his marriage, but how do we build that healthy foundation? This is what I want give to us in the latter half of your notes, you’ll see several fill in the blank points for us to consider, as we look at this passage of scripture and then now answer the question, “Okay, how can we build healthy relationships for us to experience?” And we think in terms of healthy relationship, and I think it begins before the relationship starts or the marriage starts in just the individual. Before you step into a marriage relationship before that marriage begins, if I were just especially say to single people today and those that are maybe just considering how to be healthier in the marriage that the Lord has provided for you, how do you build that healthy foundation? Two important decisions.

You’ve got to make two important questions you have got to answer, hopefully, before you step into marriage, but if you’re there while you’re in marriage is this, who is your God and who will you marry? Who is your God? And for those who are single, who will you marry? Two of the most important questions you can answer in life, who is your God determines the path you will follow in life, what will set precedent for your direction and who will you marry dictates a lot of what you experience in life, because marriage is such a huge part of how your life plays out. And when you think about marriage what’s important to look at in the life of Xerxes here and considering marriage in general is character is king. Character is king, which is why it’s so important to answer the question, what kind of person will you marry, or who will you marry in life?

And when you consider making that kind of decision in choosing someone that you would marry, recognize the importance of character is so prominent because if you go into marriage thinking you’re going to change anyone, you’re going to end up not only driving yourself crazy, but the person that you marry. Character is king. Determining the health of an individual and who they are relationally before you get married should take top priority. It’s why in 1st Corinthians chapter seven, verse 39, Paul says, he’s speaking to widows here, but he says this specifically to widows that are thinking about getting remarried, he says, “If you do remarry, marry in the Lord, marry in the Lord.” And Paul’s not saying there, “Look, don’t just marry someone just because they simply say that they’re Christian, but someone who’s genuinely pursuing Jesus because the heart of what they’re pursuit about is what lays a fertile foundation to help marriage be successful.”

Mary in the Lord, because someone who’s scope is about glorifying the Lord, pleasing the Lord with their life is also going to live their life to bless you, and character is a prominent part of giving your life over to Christ. And so Paul’s encouragement in finding a person of character is finding someone who has centered their life in Jesus, who you marry is such an important part of the decisions that you will make in your life. And character is a king of that and the best way to determine what someone’s character is like is to see how they treat people from which they have nothing to gain from. How do they respond to the grocery clerk waiting in line? How do they react to the least popular person in a circle of friends? What kind of person are they when they don’t have anything to get from someone, here’s why that’s important is because when you’re dating someone they’re already on their best behavior, because there’s something from you they want, they’re not going to get better magically when you get married.

In fact, it might go the other direction because while you’re dating they’re trying to put their best foot forward in every circumstance. They want to look their best, smell their best, act their best, treat you the best because they’ve got just a small window of time in order to impress you just a few hours each day, characters is king in marriage. And it’s important to consider the significance of that decision. And then point number two in your notes, recognize or know marriage is a covenant, not a contract. So you see in Xerxes life there’s plenty of warning signs for Vashti in the way that he portrays himself in his character. But not only that Xerxes does not understand the idea that marriage is a covenant, not a contract because he treats marriage like a contract. See when he steps into this marriage, he thinks, “You know what, here I am and I sign my name to the dotted line in order to marry Vashti. Now my expectation in this contract is that Vashti lives her life to please me.” That’s why the King’s request was for Vashti to parade herself in this room.

And when the king didn’t get what he desired, the king gets angry because the king sees his relationship to Vashti, not as a covenant, but as a contract. And so just to distinguish the difference between those two things, when you think in terms of contract and our society, you sign your name to a contract in order to get a service. You create a contract because there is something that you ultimately want. And so you put forth something in order to get at something in return that’s contract. Covenant is different in scripture. Covenant is not about what you get, the primary focus of covenant is about what you give. Covenant is about sacrificial living for the benefit of someone else. Covenant is what Jesus did for you, that’s why we call the Old Testament, the old covenant, the New Testament, the new covenant, the new covenant is what Christ has done for you. And if I gave us just a New Testament reference, just to think back and mirror what’s happening in the book of Esther, it’s in the book of Ephesians chapter five.

If you ever read the book of each Ephesians, first three chapters of the book of Ephesians are all about theology, this is what we are to believe as Christians. The last three chapters of the book of Ephesians is then how we respond in light of what we believe. And the last three chapters deals with relationship, when you get to chapter five it talks about the marriage relationship. And one of the things that’s highlighted in this marital relationship that’s so important is the idea of covenant. And when God talks about his relationship to us, he compares it to marriage, which is the most intimate of relationships we can experience as people and it’s established on covenant. And in chapter five, verse 25, it says this, “Husbands love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The way that Jesus portrays himself here is marital relationship and what Jesus does in covenant is giving of himself different than contract.

Contract, I sign this to get something from you because there’s something I want because the center of all this is about me. Covenant, I give of myself to bless you. When you think in terms of Jesus, Jesus didn’t come into relationship with us saying this, “Oh man, I’m inadequate and I lack, I need to feel important. Make me feel important. Tell me how great I am. I need you to love me.” That’s not what Jesus was about. Jesus was completely adequate within himself. Jesus didn’t come to us because he needed us. Jesus came to us because he loved us and being a loving God, love is about giving itself away. It wasn’t because he was inadequate, it was because he’s full and he’s able to give himself to bless us. And Jesus’ picture of this covenant, it’s about him offering his life for the benefit of his people.

It’s helping us become all that God has called us to be. Covenant is about sacrifice. Covenant is about giving yourself away for the benefit of another, that’s the opposite of Xerxes. Jesus comes to us in this picture of a marital covenant, not because he lacked, but because he had something to give. And his desire for your life was to pour into you who he was in order that you could be transformed for his glory. That’s why I think in weddings oftentimes you’ll hear read and it’s usually only in weddings that you hear this, but in 1st Corinthians chapter 13, it’s the description of love. And at the very end in verse eight, it says this, it says, “Love never fails. Love never fails.” That’s covenantal love, “All that I am to help you become all that you’re called to be.”

I love this story, I think I’ve shared this before but Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s wife was once asked, someone said to her, “Billy Graham lives a pretty strenuous life. He’s always busy. He’s traveling a lot, it must put strange stress on your relationship. Have you ever thought about divorcing him?” And she said, “No, but murder, yes.” She was committed until the end, however that end came. But it’s a picture of just the struggle of marital relationship, but the commitment of covenant love, sometimes it isn’t easy, but you don’t get married because it’s easy. You get married in order to cultivate something beautiful and it takes effort. It starts with nurturing, not selfishness as Xerxes is, but covenant love, you give of yourself to help them become all that God has called them to be. And I think one of the best things, one of the best things, healthiest things you could do today leaving here, is just remind if you’re married your spouse the dedication of your heart towards that covenant love.

In fact, if I were just to show us in Ephesians how this breaks down, it’s in Ephesians chapter one, or excuse me, chapter five, verse 21, it starts this beautiful explanation of if we were to back up from verse 25 and just look at, “Okay, we’ve seen Xerxes that unhealthiness. I want a godly healthy marriage, what is that picture?” Chapter five, verse 21, “Subject yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.” Covenantal love. Laying your life down for the benefit of another. It’s been said, humble people don’t fight, proud people do. When you look at your spouse in order to give your life to help them become… it’s a laying yourself down for not necessarily all of their desires, but what God’s desire is for your marriage. And then it starts in verse 22, it begins with the wife, as you think about subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ, “Wives subject yourselves to your own husbands as to the Lord.”

Now this is an abused passage and sometimes a difficult passage. I know ladies sometimes you approach this and think, “Does scripture really say subject myself to my husband? Do I really have to be obedient in that way?” And let me just tell you, I’ll tell you the short answer and then we’ll deal with the difficulty of this. But the answer is yes, the answer is yes in this verse, but let’s deal with the how because that’s the more important part here, how. And I think one of the reasons that we come to a verse like this, and we read something about subjecting ourselves to anyone that we have a challenge with this is because we like to be the center of our own universe, “And I’m not going to subject myself to anyone.”

But you see in particular it’s saying subject yourself to your husband, I want us to think first, it’s only talking about husband here, not every man. And when we talk about subjecting ourselves, one of the things that I often think we are challenged in is we confuse the thought of position with personhood. We confuse position with person. Let me just make the distinguishment here as to what we’re talking about in subjection. When we talk about position, it is completely different from personhood. You think in terms of the relationship between the father and the Son. God the Father and Jesus Christ, Jesus subjected himself in position to the father. Jesus, when he walked on this earth, obeyed what the father’s desire was. But Jesus, in obedience to the father never diminished in his personhood, meaning Jesus is fully and completely God, equal to God the Father.

In Hebrews chapter 13, verse eight, it says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Jesus was never less in his personhood. So when we talk in terms of being subjected to anyone for the glory of God, to the benefit of other people, it’s never to the diminishment of your personhood, your identity is always image bearer of God, and no one can take that away from you. Your worth is found in your creator, who designed you in his image, and that doesn’t make you less than anyone else on the face of this earth. In fact, I would argue this, that you can’t really be subject to anyone in serving someone for the glory of God, lest you’re confident in your personhood and how God has made you, that is the only healthy way you can truly subject yourself to the glory of God for the benefit of someone else.

So it’s saying in this verse wives, not because you’re less of a person, but because you have a particular calling in your relationship, subject yourselves to your own husband’s as to the Lord. Now, before husbands start to use this in a neglectful way to abuse their wives to say, “Listen to me, don’t you know who I am.” If you skip down to verse 25 and just remind us, it says this, “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her, so that he might sanctify her having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” And so what it’s saying to you is this, “Wives, subject yourselves to your husband’s. Husband’s go die for your wives.” No one is excluded from surrendering themselves in a marital relationship for the benefit of someone else. It’s not saying this to wives unique from the husband, but what he’s saying is he’s showing a beautiful picture as the way that Jesus and the church has worked together, that Jesus has given his life for the church.

And so the church is called to give it’s life for Jesus and so it is with the marital relationship, and in that the relationship flourishes, and through that the world is blessed. When your marriage walks in a biblical picture, not only does the marriage benefit, but so does your family, so does your church, and so does your community. And I love what Paul does in verse 26 guys, he reminds us of how important it is, he says, “So that he might sanctify her having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the word.” He’s saying, “You don’t love your wife because she makes her self lovable.” He’s saying, “Because you sacrificially love your wife, it transforms her in a more lovely way. Your dedication to her purifies her, sanctifies her, builds her up and makes her a better woman because of it. You don’t wait until she does something in order to love her, you give your love towards her and that’s what transforms her. And that makes it easier for her to fulfill her calling toward you.”

Laying one another lives down for the benefit of one another. And then in verse 23, I know we skipped over this, let me fill this in with verse 23, this is the famous verse I would say that more than any other husbands like to take and use and abuse, in a neglectful way and we’re not promoting that. Verse 23, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ also is the head of the church. He himself being the savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be their husbands in everything.” If Xerxes had the New Testament and he was aware of this verse, he probably would’ve written back to Vashti and be like, “Don’t you know what Ephesians five verse 23 says, I am the head, you listen to me.” Then he could use that in a very abusive way, but that’s not what this verse is saying.

It’s not saying, “Use this as a club to bludgeon your wife with things that you want her to do, but rather let me paint this picture for you guys.” He says this, “For the husband is the head,” and this word head means source. You are the source. When you think about the idea of being a source, this means that the depth of who you are in Jesus becomes a place of flourishing for your marriage and your family. Meaning you become a channel for the goodness of God to work through you, to bless your family. This doesn’t mean that you come in with an iron fist and you just rule and you force everyone to do what you want, because life is about you and that relationship and everyone needs to bow down to you, that’s not what this verse is saying. This verse saying, “Men, when you think about your responsibility is in your family, different than what Xerxes paints the culture to be for marriage, and different than what really the world paints the culture to be in marriage.

It’s not about you, but rather Jesus wants to work through you to bless your family. And when you recognize that this means you need to depend more deeply in Jesus so that you can be a better source of flowing the goodness of Christ into your family, be near to Jesus. Husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. He himself being the savior of the body. He comes in to bless, to serve, to rescue, to provide. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” When I think about the story of Vashti, the king is asking these men around him for advice, but they don’t have the fortitude to say, “You’re treating your wife like dirt.” But rather it falls on the shoulders of this lady to take a stand and put her neck on the line and she may literally have done that.

And guys let me just say it like this for us, when men don’t act like men, it is a travesty to this world, and it is a difficult burden to bear on women and children. This world needs you to be a source, to be humble enough to seek Jesus, to see how important it is that God has created the beauty of marriage. Not to be this obstacle that is nothing but challenges, but to be a source of joy, not only for you and your wife, but for your family and for the world around you. So healthy action let me give you the next point here, pursue a holy marriage before a happy marriage. That sounds crazy doesn’t it, but God’s desire is for us really to pursue a holy marriage before a happy marriage. In fact, I think in our little mini little bookstore thing that we have out here, we have a book called Sacred Marriage and that’s the whole premise of the book.

That some people go into marriage thinking, “You know what, I want to get married because I’m lacking and I just want to be happy, so therefore I’ll marry someone so that they can make me happy.” And that’s way too much of a burden to put on anyone because at the end of the day, everyone’s going to disappoint you in some way. If you give away your happiness expecting it’s someone else’s job to fulfill it, ain’t nobody ever going to be happy. They’re not going to be happy and you’re not going to be happy. To pursue happiness as a goal of itself is a little bit crazy because happiness isn’t a thing, it’s a fruit. And so when you think about how do I build a happy marriage? It’s not about the goal of trying to be happy, that is a fruit. It’s like going to the ground and expecting all of a sudden that you can just have an apple, because what you desire is an apple.

An apple has to have a source, it’s got to come from an apple tree. And so the foundation to great marriage that blesses the world and provides great fruit like happiness, isn’t happiness in an of itself. God certainly wants you to be happy. Marriage is given as a gift to bless this world. I don’t want you to not have a happy marriage. Happy marriage is a great thing to have, but the goal is not to be happy, the goal is to be holy. Pursuing a holy marriage. One of the gifts of marriage, I heard it said, this is in the book Sacred Marriage by the way, he says this, “Marriage is like a full length mirror. You think you’re pretty good at things until you live with someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” And then you recognize, “I’m not quite patient as I thought, my love seems to have limits and I’m not long suffering. Like I originally intended to be in my life.” And you start to recognize that there are flaws within you.

So when you approach marriage, the goal of marriage is not to try to change someone else, you won’t be happy if you try to change someone else, but to recognize in that relationship where your own shortcomings are. It’s like a mirror that reflects back where you need to grow in order to better seek Jesus in your life and bless people around you. But not only that it’s to find the collective purpose that God calls you on together. Pursuing a holy marriage is really to ask the question, “What is it that God desires for our relationship?” Next point, I need to move a little faster here, see your spouse as a gift to inspire worship, not as a tool to be used for your pleasure, but rather see your spouse as a gift to inspire worship. Ephesians chapter five that’s what it’s saying to us, don’t love because they make themselves lovable love because you’re called to love. And when you love them sacrificially the way that you’re called to love, the response is is it transforms their life.

They begin to flourish in verse 26, “Sanctify and having cleansed her by the washing of the word, they become more beautiful through your love.” It has an incredible effect on your relationship, see your spouse as a gift to inspire worship. When you think about that in the context of marriage, in the book of Genesis chapter two, when Eve was first created and she was brought before Adam, the very first thing Adam does is he sings. The very first thing recorded in Adam’s words about Eve is Adam chooses to sing, he sings a song before the Lord. And the reason he chooses to sing and he sings it before the Lord, is because he recognizes she is God’s gift to him. He knows nothing about Eve, he doesn’t know whether or not she’s going to do the things in the home that he desires for her to do, or wherever she wants to do whatever she does. He knows nothing about her. He doesn’t know her gifts, her likes, her talents, he knows nothing.

But what he does know is that she is God’s gift to him. And because God has been so gracious to give him a spouse, he praises the Lord and he uses it as an opportunity to worship. Wherever you are in your marital relationship and however much you do or don’t like present circumstances, every human being is an image bearer of God. And every opportunity you have to spend with someone is a gift from the Lord. And the most sacred place that exists is in the context of marriage. Marriage should promote our hearts to see our spouse as a gift and to worship the Lord. In fact, in 1st Peter 3:7, I’ll just read this to you it says, “Honor, your wife husbands as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” And what he’s saying is this the way you treat the gift that God has given you and your spouse will determine the health of your relationship with God.

He’s saying, if you treat her poorly, your prayers will be hindered, but if you honor her, your prayers will be heard. The last is this, our goal and I think this is important for everyone to end here, because I realize in marriage we all have struggles, we all have battles. Sometimes it feels like the marriage is just singing, life is perfect. Other times you feel like you’re in a valley and wondering if you’re going to get out of it. No matter where you are, if you’re in a home that both people are believers or only one of your following after Jesus, whatever it is, I think this ending is important for all of us to carry out of here today, our goal in marriage is not perfection.

Your goal in marriage is not Cinderella, leave that for Disney. I hope you have some Cinderella moments, ladies especially, guys I don’t know how that would look. But ladies, I hope you some Cinderella moments in your marriage, but to expect that all the time is unrealistic and you know that and I know that. And so our goal in marriage is not perfection, that’s not our target, we’re not trying to look at every problem we can find under the crack and just fix it so we can have the perfect marriage, that is not the goal, who cares what Instagram thinks. We’re not trying to give that image out there. Our goal is not perfection, your goal in marriage is to live the gospel.

Your goal in marriage is to live the gospel for each other. And this is why it’s important, when you get made married, you’ve got two sinful people coming together. And that means no matter how great you think you are, there’s going to be problems. But the thing that transforms us in our sin, it’s the gospel. It’s Jesus’s love towards us when we are not perfect, when we’re sinful and he doesn’t give up. Jesus doesn’t look at me and be like, “You’re not perfect. I’m going to give my life for you and you better fix it up. No more mess up from this point on.” Jesus knows every day that that gospel his continual love and grace and forgiveness, as he woes my heart towards him is what transforms me each and every day to be a little more like Christ with every step that I take in relationship to Jesus, and the same is true with marriage, that’s how it’s to happen.

Things go through seasons where everything feels like it’s in line, all of a sudden sometimes things just come off the rails. And the thing that bring it back is this idea of covenant love, to recognize before you stepped into this you knew the other person wasn’t perfect, but it’s the beauty of gospel love that transforms. Tim Keller says it this way, the gospel is this, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dare believe. And at the very same time, we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Guys can I tell you more than anything, that’s what your spouse needs. Someone that would love them through the brokenness more than they ever dared hope. We all need that kind of love, that kind of love is patient with us, it’s gentle with us. It walks life for us and it doesn’t come against us, but rather when we strive in adversity, they’re still for us, they want the best for us to see God work his truth, his goodness and his grace in us. I hope that encourages you in marital relationship to think about not the Xerxes life, but the kind of life that we can have in Jesus and in all of it to put the gospel at the front.

Messy Grace