In this first post, we focused on “shall leave his father and mother” and in the third post we will cover “and they shall become one flesh.” This post will focus on what it means to “hold fast to his wife.”
Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Cleave: Faithful, Unconditional Commitment: This old English word that rhymes with “leave.” It has nothing to do with a meat cleaver, but rather it means “to adhere to closely, be faithfully devoted to, join.” It has the idea of attachment, or being glued together. When two spouses “hold fast” to one another, they commit to loving one another until one of them dies.
Faithfulness is the reason we have wedding ceremonies. They are not so much a celebration of present love for one another, but rather a promise of future love and faithfulness to one another (This statement, along with many truths in this blog post, are adapted from Timothy Keller’s book “The Meaning of Marriage). Older wedding vows “pull no punches” when it comes to describing how difficult this commitment might be: “I, blank, take thee, blank, to be my wedded wife, 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, according to God’s holy ordinance; and there to do I give thee my pledge.” In fact, the wedding rings were intended to be signs of eternity, stating that my love to my wife will remain unbroken until one of us dies, and no amount of years can change that.
This kind of faithfulness is the opposite from our current culture. Our culture today might say, “I will be faithful to you as long as we are in love,” or “as long as you make me happy,” or “as long as our relationship isn’t too hard.” However, the only place that a person can truly flourish is within a committed, faithful relationship (This is a key statement that we will examine next week).
How Does This Work?
If I doubt that my wife will always faithful to me, then rather than working on our marriage out of love for her, I will love her out of fear of losing her. That is not love, but rather selfishness. However, if I know my wife is faithfully committed to me until one of us dies, then I am free to pursue her good, not in order to keep her, but because I love her.
On the other hand, many today think that marriage is like a vendor/consumer relationship. The essence of a consumer relationship is negotiating a better product by threatening to pursue other better offers. This is how a lot of people view marriage relationships. For instance, this was a meme I saw on Facebook:
A relationship cannot flourish if either spouse is lazy, but a relationship also cannot flourish if either spouse is shopping for other options. What is the solution? The solution is to covenant together to love one another sacrificially until one spouse dies. The covenant obligation maintains a sacrificial love for the other instead of laziness. The covenant also frees a spouse to pursue sacrificial love out of affection for the spouse, rather than selfish motivation. The freedom that a faithful commitment brings to a marriage unshackles both spouses from looking for a better “deal”, from rigid dutiful obligation, and from self-motivated actions of romance.
God’s love for us is both the pattern and the power for our faithfulness to our spouse.
Lamentations 3:22-24 The steadfast love the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Even though we are unfaithful (sinful) to him, God remains “faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). His faithfulness calls us to come to him, repent of our sins, and trust in his absolute forgiveness. This wonderful gift necessitates that we imitate God’s faithfulness in all our relationships, and especially in our marital covenant.
God’s faithfulness also enables us to accomplish it, because, when we experience his grace, love, forgiveness, and great faithfulness, it changes us from the inside out. God’s faithfulness obligates us to be faithful, but it also works in our hearts to make us faithful people. As we are filled with his consistent love for us, we are able to disperse that love freely to our spouse, not out of legalistic obligation, but rather out of the new nature that God has given to us.