The beginning of a beautiful commitment of love from long ago is found in the statement “Entreat me not to leave thee.” It was neither from a husband to his wife, nor a wife to her husband, though it would be perfectly acceptable. This statement of love and commitment records the words of Ruth (Ruth 1:16-17), and has been used in many wedding ceremonies. It was not offered up at a wedding, but from a daughter-in-law Ruth to her mother-in-law Naomi. It should be pointed out just such love should be inclusive to the marriage vow in that when one marries they are marrying into the spouse’s family, a family that is now theirs [his/her] family.
The earthly, physical commitment of love began with a man and a woman Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:23-24). Designed by God and endorsed by Jesus Christ, it is by design. The commitment of marriage has never been anything other than that which was designed by God in the beginning. Man may think by edict or decree he can change it, but how foolish that is. God designed it, God controls it and is the final judge of it. The commitment of love and marriage is a commitment before God (Mal. 2:14). He has all authority to accept or reject it, and that is why understanding the statement of Jesus in Matthew 19:3-9 is so important.
The commitment of love has a legally binding side to it as seen in the required practice acknowledged by Jesus in giving of a writing of divorcement (Mt. 5:31-32). Every culture has some form of legality connected to marriage. In the time of Mary and Joseph, there was an added time of betrothal “Mary was espoused” to Joseph (Matt. 1:18). This was a pre-marriage commitment which was very serious, then came the binding of marriage for life. Jacob served seven years for Rachel (Gen. 29:18), actually more. Similarly, a wedding dowry has been part of the legal commitment in many cultures through the ages and still is in some parts of the world. Some are required to commit an estate to the bride as a sign of care and lifetime support. Whatever the case may be, all cultures have some form of a legally binding contract.
What constitutes a marriage? A qualified man and qualified woman, a legal commitment which binds until the legal commitment is dissolved. Man’s laws have often allowed the putting away for any reason (Matt. 19:7), but that is not God’s law (Matt. 19:9). Only two reasons are allowed, acceptable before God to end a marriage; the act of fornication (Matt. 19:9) and of course the death of a spouse (I Cor. 7:39).
The emotional commitment to love is how it all begins (Gen. 24:16). The physical attraction is what brings a man and woman together, and it always has been this way (Pro. 5:18). This is the natural desire which is to be fulfilled in marriage. When King David of old took Uriah’s wife Bathsheba (II Sam. 11), he violated God’s law and destroyed a marriage where Uriah’s loving care for his wife was compared by the prophet Nathan to one’s tender care for a “little ewe lamb” (II Sam. 12:3). That’s the emotional side of marriage. It’s in marriage that intimacy is found. Not just the sexual intimacy, but the emotional sharing of intimate thoughts and fears. It is this side that should grow as love grows to the time and place where tender care is given in the hours of pain, suffering and death. With very few exceptions most have made a pledge before God to their husband and or wife to live faithfully together “Til death do us part.” Sadly, many break that vow and our world is suffering for it. It is the commitment of love upon which society stands or falls, because as it has been said, “the home is the building block of society.” When this breakdown happens those involved are dealing treacherously with God (Mal. 2:15). And have you never read, “God hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16)? It is serious business all the way around.
There are valentines and there are commitments. A commitment is as follows:
“Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17).
That is a commitment of love, but a commitment is only good if kept. The look of love may be in your eyes, but what matters is the commitment of heart and life.
-David Hill, President of Tennessee Bible College