Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

Where Did “Holy Matrimony” Originate?

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Kamal Zharif via photopin cc

Holy Matrimony. Where did the concept originate? What does it mean to be joined together in holy matrimony and how has the concept evolved? How does it affect marrying couples of today? These are the questions I had in mind as I read about the history of marriage in and outwith the church. The first issue we need to explore is the idea of being “joined together” and who has the right to do this “joining” of a man and a woman.

You may be surprised to discover that marriage was not always a matter of state or government. The government didn’t always have a say in whether or not a couple was joined together in marriage. Couples didn’t always require a state license to wed, nor be married by a person who was government-certified to do so. It wasn’t until the middle ages that marriage contracts permitted by the church or the state came into being. In fact, it may surprise you even more to learn that the church really had little to do with the contractual joining of a couple in matrimony for nearly 6,000 years.

Prior to the middle ages, a man and a woman were joined in marriage by vows that they took and pledged before God and private contracts between families. There need by no officiate present. No one did the “joining” except for the One who actually created marriage in the first place – God. A marriage declared by a couple and their family was considered valid and recognized up through the 1700’s.

 

“So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6

 

God is the Author of marriage and He joins a man and a woman in matrimony. He brings them together. He hears and receives the vows they present to one another and to Him. He blesses their union and gives them instruction through His Word as to how their marriages should work. This is how both the early church and early government saw the marriage covenant. Then, between the 17th and 18th centuries it all started to change.

As we have watched and experienced, various governments have grown in their roles and scope of authority over the years. In the history of America, and other countries as well, mankind has fought against unjust and bad governments. We have submitted to governments that seem to be more just and right. We have allowed them to take control of some aspects of our lives, and have pushed back against them when they have tried to go too far. We apply for driver’s licenses thereby asking the government for permission to drive and recognizing their authority. We offer up our taxes and fees. We pay for licenses to run businesses, keep dogs and to hold yard sales on our property. We ask their permission to enter into marriage by applying for a license, and we are “joined together” by a person who has asked for permission to do so by applying for a license himself. It wasn’t always like this, but that’s the way it is today. The government has seized control of God’s beautiful creation of marriage and therefore now assumes the authority to determine and change the very concept of marriage….one man and one woman.

We can expect nothing less. When we let the world in, it will twist and turn and re-invent what God did perfectly the first time. He formed the man and the woman to be perfect counterparts for each other, physically, spiritually and emotionally. He brought the woman to the man and joined them together in a truly holy matrimony. He declared that none should separate them. He desired that their covenant would be kept sacred and unbreakable. There were no officiates or state contracts involved. It was pure and it was exquisite.

As I write this, I find myself a little saddened by the way the secular world has worked its way into this sacred covenant. On the other hand, a marriage is still a very beautiful occasion, and there is nothing wrong with a couple submitting to government ordinances in purchasing a marriage license, throwing a big celebration and allowing someone to officiate by leading them through their vows and wedding traditions. As long as a couple understands that it truly is God who is “joining” them in marriage, the rest is just fun and romantic. We just need to remember to keep Jesus at the center of our wedding ceremonies and to make it very clear that it is God who does the joining.

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The Importance of a Vow

Some couples choose to use more traditional vows, while a popular choice these days is to write one’s own vows. Unfortunately many couples of either preference seem to miss the point altogether because rarely do they even understand what a “vow” is and its importance. What is a “vow”? To whom are we making our “vows”? What happens if we break a “vow”? These are questions that should be answered and understood before young couples arrive at the chapel.

According to the Random House Dictionary, a “vow” is a “solemn promise, pledge or personal commitment.” It can also be defined as a “dedication”, usually made in earnest or with great passion. In the Bible, vows were a spiritual matter and a contract that was binding according to God’s law. Most vows were made directly to God as a promise to behave in a certain way or achieve specified goals.

An early example of a vow is found in Genesis 28, during the famous “Jacob’s Ladder” account in scripture. In Genesis 28:20-22, it says:

“And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.’”

In this case, Jacob is making a vow that is conditional. He is vowing to serve, honor and obey Jehovah God as long has God takes care of his needs and guides his steps. The great thing about this conditional vow is that it hinges upon God doing what God is going to do without fail because it’s His character. God is going to take care of Jacob, just like He is going to provide for all of His children. He does it because He has promised to do it in His Word. So Jacob vows conditionally, but really it has an unconditional outcome because we know God will not fail to be who He is. God’s promises endure forever. In Him there is no shadow of turning, amen? God never breaks His promises. The question is, will we? Hold onto that question in your heart for a while.

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