About Kathleen PetersenI love digging around for scriptural nuggets of God’s truth with our devotional team and being amazed how many facets of meaning we discover. Thanks for reading!
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24 NIV
Christian wives of all classes, cultures, and centuries have taken these words to heart since the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write them to wives in the Church in Ephesus nearly 2,000 years ago. Over much of Church history, Christian wives and their husbands have most often understood the above verses as an unequivocal command. Even so, wives careful to observe this command have worked it out in a variety of ways. Likewise, husbands have been eager to evaluate their wives’ efforts. In addition, these three verses have even been used to imply that all women are subject to all men. Whew!
In my lifetime, the status of women has grown in Western culture. As a result, Christians with high regard for scripture have been prompted to examine this passage more closely. Some choose to stand firm in the straightforward interpretation. Others have brought in scriptures that provide nuance to those interpretations, enabling God’s grace to soften the tone.
Regardless of your approach to Paul’s strong guidance for wives in verses 22-24, his language is equally robust in its full context (Ephesians 5:20-33 NIV). When both husbands and wives set aside their feelings to surrender their prerogatives to Christ, this passage provides a reliable rudder for marriage stability whether spouses are navigating smooth or choppy waters.
Elsewhere Paul implies that Christ’s honor is at stake in Christian marriage. Therefore the specific directive to wives to submit to their husbands should not accommodate a husband’s blatant disobedience to the Word of God or require tolerance of undeniable abuse. In such situations, a wife must obey the Word of God in confronting her husband’s demands to the contrary. In certain circumstances, Godly support or intervention from other wise Christians may be advisable.
The intention of these verses is to frame a picture of the love, blessings, and security that are possible in Biblical marriages and families. God invites each husband and wife to join him in painting a Godly and personalized picture of their marriage. Like all passages of scripture, verses 22-24 must be understood in their immediate context as well as the entirety of scripture. Our forever goal is to grow in our familiarity with the character of Jesus and bring glory to his name.
Many resources are available to address the weighty concerns that have grown up around misinterpretations of verses 22-24. Have patience that the Lord will instruct you as you keep researching these scriptures. Be gracious to and pray for those who struggle in their marriages. Be aware of confusion around this issue (that exists for more than a few contemporary Christians), as you read this article by former faith deconstructionist Sarabeth Caplin.
When I saw the following inscription on a jar containing Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses which were displayed on the desk of the HR Administrator in my workplace, it resonated with me: “Easy Answers”.
Most of us hope for easy answers to life’s most rewarding but complicated relationships. Those of us eager to please God search for techniques promising certain spiritual success. But sometimes, what we imagined to be God’s perfect plan goes awry. In the following passage Jesus gave us not only God’s ideal, but his way of grace when that ideal is shattered.
Then some Pharisees came to him in order to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful to divorce a wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
…Now I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery.” Matthew 19:3-6, 9 NET
This “seeming” contradiction prompts a question: After presenting such a high view of God’s design for marriage in verses 3-6, was Jesus advocating a lesser view of marriage in verse 9? Let’s take a closer look at that verse.
It’s clear verse 9 doesn’t command divorce when a husband (or wife) has been betrayed and damaged by a spouse’s immoral sexual behavior. Instead, Jesus’ answer provides a way to relief and restoration for those who will suffer even more damage if there is no remedy. But that restorative path is never easy.
Maybe you are seeking easy answers from Jesus about the complex moral issues of our day. As Creator and sustainer of our world, Jesus has viewed the full spectrum of immorality and has spoken with surprising clarity in many areas. These issues are of grave concern to him. Take a look at this ancient state of affairs:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. Genesis 6:5-6 ESV
Here’s the way God handled his grief and disappointment:
So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” Genesis 6:7 ESV
Reading further, God manifested his grace when he spared Noah and his immediate family along with a small group of animals so life on earth could continue – not an easy solution. Thank God for his grace.
I invite you to be even more specific in your gratitude. Give thanks that Jesus has provided betrayed spouses a reprieve from domestic landscapes shattered by unrepentant, sexual immorality. In addition, thank him for providing the Holy Spirit’s power to forgive repentant wrongdoers. Meditate on this phrase:
“Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Matthew 6:10 ESV
A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:1-5 ESV
This Psalm is at the center of the 15 Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) sung by Jewish pilgrims making their way up to Jerusalem’s heights to celebrate one of the three main harvest festivals of Israel. It is the only Psalm of Ascent written by Solomon.
The phrase “builds the house” raises common images of either a physical, residential structure or of a flourishing, extended family. The hearts of the early pilgrims also might have anticipated an experience similar to the one that occurred in Solomon’s Temple just after it was finished:
And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD. I Kings 8:10-11 ESV
Note the words and phrases: “Unless the LORD”, “he gives”, “a reward”, “Blessed” and “He shall not be put to shame” – they highlight the sovereignty and protection of God over his people and his generosity to them. I imagine sizable, extended families of pilgrims pausing to dance and shout as they sang this psalm in anticipation of their arrival in the Holy City to worship at the House of the Lord.
But it’s also likely a few of them experienced moments of reflection and sobriety as the words “in vain” and “anxious toil” reminded them of failures to trust the adequate provision of their majestic God.
Psalm 127 reminds us that we are not the sole architects of our spiritual walk, nor can we generate strength to bring that walk to fruition. His indwelling Spirit is ever alert to guide and empower us to carry out his earthly assignments and bring us to our longed for destination — his glorious, unrestrained presence.
As you listen to Psalm 127 set to music, give God the vulnerability and failures you’ve experienced in projects and relationships as well as your struggles to build a desirable spiritual life. Dance, or just raise your hands, as you anticipate his guidance and power in your circumstances.