This is the third part of our series about our experience in pre-marital counseling. We’ve learned that you need to plan for the marriage at least as much as you plan for the wedding, and in this series we will explore what that means.
Lindsey and I sat down on the Saturday before our first pre-marital counseling session and got ready for the Bible study that we were supposed to do. We were happy and a little carefree. We were excited to get started and wanted to learn how to be happy, and keep each other happy. So we settled in and looked up the first verses that was assigned.
The king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; 9 and he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the mountain before the Lord, and the seven of them perished together. They were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the beginning of barley harvest.
Um, what now? Did they really just start off our pre-marital counseling with a story of a mass hanging? Lindsey asked me if we had the right verse. I checked it. Yep, they did.
So we read on and it started to make more sense. In fact it made so much sense it was one of the most valuable things we studied in all of our pre-martial counseling.
Before I share the lesson, let me catch you up. Let’s cover 400 years of Israelite history in one paragraph.
When Joshua was leading the conquest of Canaan, they were wrecking shop, literally. All the locals were scared and with good reason, God had declared the Holy Land would be the Israelites and they were taking care of business. So, one tribe, the Gibeonites, got tricksy. They dressed up like a poor and weak migrant tribe and tricked Joshua into agreeing to a peace, therefore ignoring God’s instruction. Joshua did not consult the Lord as he was instructed (that’s bad), and made the covenant under false pretenses (also bad), and with God as the witness to it.
[Ok, I can’t do it– two paragraphs.]
Some 400 years later, Saul (king before David, the one in this passage) broke the covenant that had been made. He killed most of the Gibeonite men. Of course this made their women mad. When David had been told by the Lord that Israel was guilty of a crime against them, he asked the remaining Gibeonites how to settle it. They demanded blood. David agreed, and handed over Saul’s sons to be hanged, except for one that he had sworn to protect. After this, God lifted the famine in Israel that David had been praying about in the first place (2 Sam. 21:14).
Ok, now that we are on the same page, what does this have to do with marriage? Well, it really is a great cautionary tale.
Joshua made a big mistake when he made the covenant with the Gibeonites. He did not go before the Lord and ask Him what to do. Keep in mind, this is the guy who God is literally speaking to, a guy who was leading one little nation through some crazy battles and winning. You’d think he’d have learned the lesson, always check what God wants. But (very much like me… and you) he didn’t. So he foolishly makes this covenant, and asks God to bless and witness it. Even though it was made in bad faith, the parties agreed and asked Him to oversee. And God, unlike us, never goes back on His word.
So, when the Israelites broke the pact 400 years later, God upheld his part. He brought a famine to the land and did not relent until David served up justice for the aggrieved party. They asked Him to oversee it, and he did. Like everything else in life, the tragedy in this story is rooted in the human mistakes, not from God’s will.
Well, if you have not made the connection yet, here is what this study was supposed to show us: Lindsey and I were about to stand up in front of our family and friends to make a solemn vow, a covenant, and ask God to bless and uphold it. This story is a word of warning. It is a serious thing to ask of God, and we had better approach it as such.
We were to look ahead and make sure we consulted with God, that we read His word and prayed over the decision with earnestness– thus avoiding Joshua’s mistake. It showed us the pain that can come from entering into a covenant like this under false pretenses– the Gibeonites mistake. It was also a warning to abide by the covenant we made– thus avoiding Saul’s mistake.
So, as bleak as this may have been for the start of the counseling process, it sure put us in the right frame of mind. It set our hearts and minds on what was important. It’s not about the wedding, or the caterer, or the music, or the weather. It’s about the decision to make this covenant in front of God and our church and families.
Ultimately, it’s about the gravity of marriage, and the seriousness with which it is to be entered into and lived in.