Advent and Marriage: Week 1 —
 OUR HOPE — A Couple’s Bible Study

The time for Advent has arrived! Preparing our hearts to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas–the coming of Christ into the world. (Read all about it here.
Each Couple’s Bible Study post leading up to Christmas will be a lesson on the focus of Advent for that week. These teachings will not only help you keep your thoughts, heart, and home centered on Christ during this season, but also will apply to your marriage and family as well. Use them in Couple Connect or in your family Advent time.
This first week of Advent focuses on HOPE. (It starts on Sunday, November 30, this year.) If you are using an Advent wreath, this week light the candle of Prophecy (purple in the traditional wreath).

“‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.” – Malachi 3:1

We Need a Savior

We’re a mess. We’re consumed with self. Our focus is often on the wrong things. The things of this world…the things of us. And once again we find ourselves wandering away from the Lord.

It’s not that we necessarily set out to go our own way…but somehow that’s where we wind up. Romans 3:23 puts it this way: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We’ve sinned. And our sin separates us from God and from everything He desires for us.

But God loves us. He created us to be close to Him and worship Him. He knows we can’t do it on our own. On our own, we are hopeless. We need a Savior.

And so God set His plan in motion…a plan to save the world.

Advent Bonhoeffer

Our Hope–The Savior is Coming

The Old Testament is full of promises of the coming Savior–Jesus Christ, the Messiah. (See “Prophecies of Jesus Christ Fulfilled under Free Resources.) And Malachi’s prophecy is the very last message from God before the coming of Jesus.

Most scholars believe the book was written sometime around 450 B.C. This means 450 years passed between the last word God gave His people until the coming of His living Word–Jesus. Silence…for 450 years. Is it any wonder there was such excitement and joy when Jesus–the Messiah–was born?

Because this is God’s final word for His people before such a long silence, He tells of several things He wants them (and us) to remember. He tells of His love for us. He reminds us He is holy and His purpose is unchanging. He has given us instruction of how to honor Him in genuine worship, how to be faithful to Him, and how to treat one another. And He tells us to have faith in His promises of what He is doing and will do in the world, particularly for His people.

In Malachi 3:1, we see that God will speak again to His people after this long period of silence:‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

God speaks of this messenger again in His very last word before the silence in Malachi 4:5-6: “‘See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of their children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.'” This messenger is the same one foretold in Isaiah 40:3:A voice of one calling in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'”

In the New Testament, we learn these passages refer to the forerunner of the Messiah. Not Elijah who has come back to life, but one who is like Elijah. This forerunner is John the Baptist. Jesus identified him as this messenger in Matthew 11:14: “And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah that was to come.”  John himself stated this: “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord'” (John 1:23).

At the end of this prophecy about the forerunner in Malachi 3:1, we are told: “Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.” The Lord will come. The Messiah–the Christ. The One they are waiting for…the One they desire. This certainly gave them hope. A hope they held onto for over 400 years. Their only hope…Christ Jesus. The Savior.

Advent promises
Our Hope in Marriage

An interesting note in this final teaching before God’s silence has to do with marriage (see 2:10-16). If we’ve ever questioned if marriage was important to God, this passage should convince us.

He tells His people in Malachi 2:13-16: “Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because He no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the LORD is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the one God made you? You belong to Him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. ‘The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘does violence to the one he should protect,’ says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.”

This definitely shows God is serious about marriage. The first part of this chapter tells how the priests are cursed by the Lord for breaking their covenant with Him. Then God turns our attention to the covenant of marriage. The men have broken their marriage vow, and breaking that covenant with their wives is just as detestable to the Lord as the priests breaking their covenant with Him. To be unfaithful in the marriage covenant is to be unfaithful to God. And that is indeed serious.

Remember, God warns men in 1 Peter 3:7: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” The offerings of these men in Malachi who have mistreated their wives are not accepted by the Lord. They have “done violence to the one they should protect.” Men, how we husbands treat our wives is of great importance to God. And so it should be of great importance to us.

Malachi describes a wife in three ways in 2:14. She is “the wife of your youth.” In other words, she has been and always will be your wife in God’s eyes. She is also a “partner.” This word in Hebrew refers to a close friend or companion. But it goes beyond friendship or companionship as we use the term today. It indicates the closest of relationships.

And the third description is “the wife of your marriage covenant.” This is a partnership that cannot be broken. This is a covenant in which God Himself is “a witness between you and the wife of your youth.” It is a covenant made between two people, but made with God. And He has made it clear it is a permanent covenant that cannot be broken. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:6: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

This truth is directed to men in Malachi, but it applies to both spouses.The covenant is between God and both the husband and wife. If we want to keep our relationship with God strong and growing, we must take this covenant seriously. If we do, our marriage will stay strong and grow as well. Isn’t that a wonderful cycle of blessing?

So you see, a constant focus on Christ will keep our marriages headed in the right direction. That’s what this Advent season is all about. Focusing on Jesus.

Jesus Our Hope

When we focus on the Lord Jesus, we’ll have a strong relationship with God and a strong marriage. Our marriage covenant will be His witness to the world that will shine His light brightly. And this is all possible because of what God has done for us in CHRIST–OUR SAVIOR…OUR HOPE.

Enhancing the Advent Celebration

Reading a passage each day as a couple or family is one way to help keep your focus on Jesus’ birth this Christmas. Here are some suggested Scriptures for every day this week…

Sunday – Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:2
Monday – Matthew 1:18-24, Luke 1:26-33
Tuesday – Luke 2:1-5
Wednesday – Luke 2:6-7
Thursday – Luke 2:8-9
Friday – Luke 2:10-12
Saturday – Luke 2:13-14

May God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
David


Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Header photo by mike.bendetti via flickr (CC BY-2.0), text added.
Candle photo by geralt via pixabay (CC0), text added.
Quotes from Christmas: On This Holy Night  (Thomas Nelson, 2011).

 

For other posts in this Advent series, click here…
Introduction – A Beautiful Celebration
Week 2 – Our Preparation
Week 3 – Our Joy
Week 4 – Our Peace
Week 5 – Our Light Has Come

About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.