Saturday, January 31, 2009

Listening to your Wife

Listening to your wife is a good thing. Talking and listening - really listening is an essential part of the developing marriage. It's how we grow closer together. And yet, the surprising thing is that twice in the early chapters of Genesis, we're presented with two times when listening to a wife was a manifestly bad thing.

Consider Adam. The world was recently created, and he was enjoying the first marriage, to his wife Eve. Everything was wonderful and new. They had a close relationship with God, but then something messed it up. Sin entered the world through the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve recognised they were naked, and went to hide themselves before God arrived for his evening stroll in the garden.

God confronts Adam and Eve, and unfolds the curse on the virgin world in three parts to the serpent, to Eve, and finally to Adam. Note what God says to Adam:

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it', cursed is the ground because of you; (Genesis 3:17)

Adam listening to his wife was part of the disobedience, precisely because Eve had said something that was contrary to God's will. The implication is that Adam listened to his wife rather than listening to God.

Again, we find a similar situation with Abraham, the father of faith. Abraham, you might remember, had been promised great things by God. Among them, "I will make of you a great nation" (Genesis 12:2). To be a nation required at the very least, a son. A child, an heir.

Yet time's a passing and still no child. Sarai is as barren as the Sahara desert, and Abraham is old himself. So Abraham asks the LORD what's going on. Once again, the promise comes: 'This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir' (Genesis 15:4). Promises are fine things, but still nothing, so Sarai comes up with a brainwave. As she seems to be the problem, perhaps surrogacy is the solution.

And Sarai said to Abram, "Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her." And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. (Genesis 16:2)

Abraham listens to the voice of his wife, again, against the advice, voice and promise of God, and Ishmael is born to Hagar, the servant-girl. Fourteen years after Ishmael is born, finally the son of promise, Isaac, is born. Yet things were problematic in the Abraham household. Why? Because Abraham listened to the voice of his wife.

Now please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying you should never listen to your wife. Listening to your wife is good and proper. But if it takes over from listening to God, if it leads you away from believing and trusting God, then it's not a good thing!

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