December 16 - 22
Drink From Your Own Spring
FRIDAY IS NEARLY SPENT. The glow in the heavens sinks toward the distant hills. A breeze flutters the leaves of a tree and makes the flowers dance. A stream sings over stones and birds swoop and call. Animals of all sizes cavort through the tall grasses. The new world is complete. But where are the rulers?
God is down at the lakeshore. . . sculpting. He's forming from the mud a . . . man! Now He's leaning over the face; now, rocking back on His heels, He reaches out His hand to the man, and they stand together. Magnificent! Next, according to an old tale, God says to the angels looking on, "You think that's good? You think I could do even better?" and He made a woman! No, he had her in mind all along, a perfect complement to man. Together, in a unique and total union, they symbolized God's love for His people. And God celebrated the first marriage.
This lesson will take passages in Proverbs that deal with marriage, together with other supporting scriptures, to develop a picture of one of God's best gifts. We will also see why perversion of His masterpiece wreaks havoc and how contention sours peace.
But virtue is available to all who seek it! So study on, even if you are unmarried. You will find it interesting to see how many of the principles discussed apply to close personal friendships and to relationships in general.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. Marriage-A Divine Masterpiece, Part 1 (Prov. 18:22).
II. Marriage-A Divine Masterpiece, Part 2 (Eph. 5:21-31).
III. Strange Perversion (Prov. 5:18-20).
IV. A Quarrelsome Spouse (Prov. 21:19).
V. A Virtuous Spouse (Prov. 31:10-31).
MEMORY TEXT: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30, NIV).
According to Proverbs 19:14, where can a person find an intelligent, sensible, and understanding spouse?
"What God hath joined together." The last part of the verse may be translated "But from the Lord is a woman who acts prudently." The Hebrew verb means "to act wisely, understandingly, with insight and comprehension." A spouse who acts in such a manner is truly a gift from God. The Lord is the ultimate matchmaker. No one knows better the secret needs of each individual, and no one has the same ability to bring together the right two persons. Because He is the divine Father of love, no one can care as much as He or provide better for the happiness of the couple He has united.
Why is a good spouse from the Lord? Could it be because the person is first given to Him? But how does God guide two individuals together? Providence is only one factor, as is strong emotion. Individual convictions must be compared, preferences sorted out and matched up, and counsel sought from parents and spiritual mentors. Decisions should be made from evidence, not impulse or demonstration, and aided by all the values accumulated up to that time. In all, the couple seek God's will. The true love is born in heaven!
What activity did God provide for Adam before He created Eve? Gen.2:18-23.
Why did God do this?
"For this reason [see Gen. 2:23] a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (v. 24, NIV). With these words, God pronounced the union between Adam and Eve.
The physical union of a husband and wife is a representation of the total bonding of their lives. They are united not only physically but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The love they share between them is like no other. Two have become one.
This four-fold bond is basic to a successful marriage. It is a unity made possible through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in both individuals and illustrated through the ability to have a part in continuing God's creationa union of cells that actually forms a new person. "'Be fruitful and multiply' "(Gen. 1:28, NIV) was part of the Lord's plan for humanity.
|Because our spouses, families, and friends are gifts from God, how should we treat them?|
The relationship between Christ and His church illustrates the richness of the spiritual oneness that is to exist between husband and wife. (See Eph. 5:21-31.) Just as spiritual life is possible only by union with Christ, so marital union is complete only as Christ creates it. Any counterfeit union involves being unequally yoked together (2 Cor. 6:14). The consequences are disorder and disaster. Only the house built on righteousness will stand. (See Prov. 12:7.)
After the Fall, what change took place in the husband-wife relationship? Gen. 3:16.
What counsel does Paul give to husbands? Eph. 5:25-33.
Paul shows here that marriage does not consist of one-sided submission. Because the husband is to give himself up for his wife just as Christ gave Himself up for the church (v. 25), this submission is mutual. How did Christ give Himself up for the church? He died for it! Indeed then, Ephesians 5:25-33 calls for the husband to make an even greater act of devotion toward his wife than the previous verses call for the wife to make toward her husband!
One of the purposes of the gospel is to restore the marriage relation to the state of harmony and equality that existed in Eden. Husbands who function as domestic dictators are not following the biblical ideal. Are they willing to attend lovingly to their wives as Christ attends to the church? The concept held by some that a wife should submit obediently to her spouse's demands is bound to create marital unhappiness. A wife should be an equal partner in the decision-making process. The husband should tenderly consider her feelings and her will, and he should do all in his power to contribute to her sense of personal worth.
If you are married, can you say the following is true in your relationship with your spouse? "Let each give love rather than exact it. .. . The consciousness of being appreciated is a wonderful stimulus and satisfaction. Sympathy and respect encourage the striving after excellence, and love itself increases as it stimulates to nobler aims....
"Do not try to compel each other to yield to your wishes. You cannot do this and retain each other's love."The Ministry of Healing, p. 361.
|How might the above principles apply to other relationships?|
How does Solomon counsel us against immorality?
Prov. 2:1, 16-19 ______________________________________________________________________
Prov. 5:1-13 _________________________________________________________________________
Prov. 6:23-33 ________________________________________________________________________
Prov. 7:4-27 _________________________________________________________________
It has always been common to regard biblical teaching on moral questions as old-fashioned and incompatible with the demands of society. In His mercy, however, God has given us His moral law as a protecting hedge to keep us from physical suffering, emotional instability, and spiritual emptiness.
When the sexual union is indulged outside of marriage, as in premarital or extramarital affairs (or in perversions), the relationship weakens spiritual and emotional health and, thus, is contrary to God's will. It may also be destructive to physical health. Individuals are betrayed and traumatized, never to be quite the same in this life.
God will forgive anyone who sincerely repents. Yet the scars will remain. This is a warning to those who might think that, because God will forgive, they can live as they please without suffering dreadful results. (See Prov. 9:13-18.) In discussing these dangers, Solomon counsels: "Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.... May you rejoice in the wife of your youth" (Prov. 5:15, 18, N1V).
How does Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:27-30 magnify the seventh commandment? (Exod. 20:14).
"Christ points out that character is determined, not so much by the outward act, as by the inward attitude that motivates the act. The outward act merely reflects and activates the inward attitude. He who would commit a wrong act if he thought he could escape detection, and who is restrained only by that fear, is, in the sight of God, guilty."The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, pp. 336, 337.
|What attitude do you adopt toward a person in your church who has fallen into moral impurity? How would you go about helping such a person rise above past mistakes and accept Christ's saving grace?|
How do the following verses illustrate the problem of a nagging spouse?
Prov. 27:15 ________________________________________________________________________
Prov. 21:9 ____________________________________________________________________
"Leaking roofs were common in the East, and the constant dripping tried the nerves of the inhabitants much as does a nagging woman....
"In ancient Palestine for most of the year a man might live in comparative comfort on the flat roof of his house . . . . Solomon contends that it is better to be exposed to the wind and rain than to the quarrelsome and vexing tongue of a contentious woman."The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, pp., 1012, 1018.
What counsel for all Christians is particularly appropriate for a quarrelsome spouse? Eph. 4:29.
Attitude reform can begin in more than one place. The ill-natured person can determine to consecrate her or his heart and lips to God and speak only words that will minister grace to the hearers. God will give us the power for this noble task.
The marriage partner can also help. Sincere words of positive appreciation spoken from a heart of love go a long way toward soothing the troubled nerves of a distracted spouse. Just knowing somebody cares- especially the one you love the most-lifts a great burden from the heart. Just as nagging is as irritating as a dripping roof or a leaky faucet, so are kind words as refreshing "as dew and gentle showers to the soul. The Scripture says of Christ that grace was poured into His lips, that He might 'know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.' And the Lord bids us, 'Let your speech be alway with grace,' 'that it may minister grace unto the hearers.' "The Adventist Home, p. 435.
|Think of a time when someone's kind words and thoughtful deeds helped to ease tensions in your home. How can you do the same for others without appearing to meddle in their business?|
"Who can find a virtuous woman" (Prov. 31:10, NIV)? The question implies a rarity, not a total lack. The real question is: Who can be a virtuous person? Every person can, for God is in the business of making women and men virtuous, of helping them build noble characters equal to the burdens and demands of daily life.
What is the value of a virtuous person? Prov. 31:10.
Pure rubies belong to the royalty of the mineral world because they are hard, flawlessly transparent, dazzling in color, and rare.
How does the virtuous person reveal the following traits in her or his character?
Diligence (Prov. 31:13, 17, 18, 27) ____________________________________________________
Efficiency (Prov. 31:14, 16, 24) ______________________________________________________
Compassion (Prov. 31:20, 26) _______________________________________________________
Beauty (Prov. 31:22, 25) _____________________________________________________
How would you "translate" some of these, such as "she selects wool and flax" (31:13), into today's daily life?
All of the above are traits any person can have. Their rewards are great, for those who know such people call them blessed. Spouses of such people praise them (Prov. 31:28, 29). Their example challenges others, and their works bring honor to loved ones and to themselves. Best of all, their life glorifies the God they love (Prov. 31:30).
|How should a Christian husband or wife act toward a harsh, unkind, unbelieving spouse?|
FURTHER STUDY: What men and women in the Bible displayed the characteristics of virtuous men and women? How do their stories inspire you to have faith in the Lord's ability to transform your life?
Read the following sections from The Adventist Home: "Mutual Obligations," pp. 114-120; "Marital Duties and Privileges," pp. 121-128; "The Kind of Husband Not to Be," pp. 224-228.
"She [the virtuous wife] opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness" (Prov. 31:26, NKJV).
"The Lord will help every one of us where we need help the most in the grand work of overcoming and conquering self. Let the law of kindness be upon your lips and the oil of grace in your heart. This will produce wonderful results. . . . By beholding the character of Christ you will become changed into His likeness. The grace of Christ alone can change your heart and then you will reflect the image of the Lord Jesus. God calls upon us to be like Him. . . . We are to bear the divine image."Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 1164.
SUMMARIZE this week's lesson by challenging your soul with the following questions: *What am I contributing to my relationships that will be a blessing to myself and others? *How am I a hindrance to my spouse, relatives, and friends? How can I change? *Am I a quarrelsome person?* If I were to change the manner in which I react to things that displease me, would I bring greater happiness to my spouse and those around me?
Pastor Pedro dos Santos Marinho of Brazil was on his way to spend Sabbath with believers in an isolated region of his district. He had planned his trip so he would not have to travel on Sabbath, but when he arrived in Boninal, where he would transfer to another bus, he learned that his bus had left early.
There was no other bus to his destination that day, so Pastor Marinho had to remain in Boninal overnight. He checked into the little hotel near the bus depot, then he found a telephone and called the church elder to let him know that he would arrive on Saturday.
Tired and disappointed, Pastor Marinho returned to his room to study the Sabbath School lesson. As he read, it seemed that he heard a voice saying, "You have not spoken about Me to anyone today, not even the hotel owner." This is true, the pastor thought. I have been so wrapped up in what happened that I allowed a good opportunity to pass by to share Jesus in this town that apparently has no Adventists.
Pastor Marinho prayed that God would lead him to those whom He wanted him to meet. Then he ate a quick lunch and set out to distribute pamphlets.
At the fourth house a woman answered the door. When she learned that this man was a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, she said, "You have a sister here!"
"Really?" the surprised pastor asked. "Where does she live?" The woman arranged for someone to take Pastor Marinho to the home of an Adventist woman. When the pastor introduced himself, the woman who answered the door shouted, "Aparecida, come here and meet your brother!"
Aparecida appeared at the door and told the surprised pastor, "I have been praying for two years that God would send a pastor here. Today He has sent you!"
Pastor Marinho visited with the woman for quite some time and promised that he would return the following day. As he walked back to his room he realized why God had allowed him to miss his bus. God had a work for the pastor to do in that town.
On Sabbath morning he returned to visit until it was time to catch his bus. He promised to return again.
Pastor Marinho kept his promise. In time he held evangelistic meetings in Boninal, and today more than 30 believers have joined the church by baptism, including Aparecida's parents and one of her sisters.
Pedro dos Santos Marinho pastors in Salvador, Bahhia, Brazil.
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Last updated November 12, 2000.