Sermon: “Guard the Covenant” (Malachi 2:10-16 )
Listen to the Sermon:
The last time we studied Malachi, a few weeks back, we looked at Malachi address problems pertaining to worship in the covenant community. Specifically, what we looked at was how it relates to the priests and what the priests allowed among the people of God. Today we are going to hear Malachi address the entirety of the people of Judah and address the problem of marriage in the covenant community.
Today’s passage also carries with it a two-fold difficulty. The first is that this is one of the most difficult passages in the Old Testament Scriptures to translate. If you compare your English translations with other English translations, especially verses fifteen and sixteen, there are some notable translation differences. Regardless of what major English translation we use, the main thrust of the passage isn’t in doubt nor is it obscured. So, you will be fine if you use any of the major English translations. We will be using the ESV this morning, as we always do. I think that translation translates this very well, so we will be sticking with that. If you have other translations feel free to use that and make note of any differences.
The second difficulty we are encountering this morning is an existential difficulty. That is because these verses we’re about to read and study touch on some quite delicate topics. That is because your relationship history or your present relationships are very personal and penetrating to some of us. We hear the prophet speak into issues of divorce and remarriage. We hear him speak into issues of the kind of people we pursue for marriage, even the importance of guarding the covenant of marriage.
God’s hand isn’t in any way hands off on this topic. His word reaches into every corner and crevice of our Christian lives. Even this week as I was studying this passage, I was reminded of a quote by the Dutch reformer Abraham Kuyper, I’m pulling this quote a little bit out of context but bear with me. He says in one of his books, Lectures on Calvinism, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence in which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry mine.” The main point that I want to get at with that is that there is no part of our lives that’s not under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That involves some of the more sensitive aspects such as marriage, divorce and remarriage. The Lord has things to say about this. So, we need eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts that are humble to receive what God’s word says.
So, this is a challenging passage, but at the same time this is a passage that lifts our eyes to the hope of the gospel. It raises our eyes to the opportunity we have in our marriages, if you are married, to glorify God in that relationship in the face of a world that’s terribly confused about some of these topics. So, with that rather long preface, please follow along with me as I read Malachi 2:10-16.
10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts! 13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”Malachi 2:10-16, ESV
If you have been around Harvest for any amount of time or you’ve been exposed to the Presbyterian and reformed tradition, which is what we are part of at Harvest, you have probably heard us throw out the word “covenant ” at one time or another. We are quite fond of that word and what it represents. If you are anything like me, you throw out that word in all kinds of contexts without really realizing who understands what that means or not. I know that I’m guilty of that myself. The reason we do that and the reason we’re so fond of the word “covenant ” is because the Scriptures seem to be fond of that word too. The word covenant and the concept of covenant, even if that word is not used, occurs all over Scriptures.
We can go back to Genesis and read about the covenant that God makes with Abraham. We can go to Exodus and read about a covenant that God makes with Moses and Israel. We can go to 2 Samuel chapter seven and read about a covenant that God makes with David. Or we can go to Jeremiah and Ezekiel and other prophets and read about the new covenant that Jesus inaugurates and fulfills. Covenant is important to the Scriptures, kind of like the kingdom of God thing that Pastor Jacob spoke about a few weeks ago. It’s central to the fabric and the unity of the Bible. It binds the Scriptures together as a unified whole, and in Malachi the prophet has a few things to say about covenant too.
In the beginning of chapter two, Malachi mentioned a covenant with Levi. And now in the latter half of chapter two, the prophet again introduces the topic of covenant. In verse ten he talks about this covenant with the fathers and he accuses the people of Judah of profaning this covenant. In verse fourteen he says to the men of Judah, specifically concerning their wives, that she is your companion and your wife by covenant. So, covenant has some importance in Malachi, just as it does throughout Scriptures as a whole, and just as it does for us as a church.
That raises the obvious question, what does the Bible mean by covenant? What in the world are we talking about when we throw out this term covenant? There’s a number of good definitions out there in the literature but let me offer a very brief and basic definition. And that is covenant is a bond between two or more parties that secures a special relationship.
The idea here is that when God graciously enters into a relationship with a people in the Scriptures, he then secures that relationship by means of covenant. He reaches down to a people who has done nothing to earn his grace and his favor. He makes promises to commit himself to them for their good and for his glory. He promises, “I will be your God and you will be my people and I will dwell among you.” That statement is the essence of the covenant promise God makes among his people. It’s the bond of fellowship and communion, and for us belonging. Covenant reminds us of God’s gracious initiative when we were dead in our sins and trespasses and covenant anchors us when we brush shoulders with the fall and with our own sin in our lives. Listen to what our confession, the Westminster Confession of Faith chapter seven, has to say about covenant.
The distance between God and the creature is so great that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant. WCF, Chapter 7
So, the idea here in the confession is that God first condescends to his people, we couldn’t on our own volition get up to God because of our sin and our fallen nature. So, God condescends to his people and then by covenant, once he establishes that relationship, he secures that relationship with his people.
So, this is a covenant but in a covenant relationship the people of God, you and me, are also given a responsibility. Our responsibility is pretty simple. It is our responsibility to respond to God’s gracious initiative through faith. We’re called to respond by faith, and to submit to God out of an obedience that springs from faith. God initiates the covenant entirely of his own accord and by the grace of his Holy Spirit we respond by submitting ourselves to his Lordship. At its heart, this is what covenant is. This helps orient us to the verse of Malachi 2:10, where he talks about this covenant with our fathers. Looks again at what God says through the prophet Malachi.
10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Malachi 2:10, ESV
Now, as we are going to see as we work through this passage in Malachi, the prophet has a lot to say about the marriage covenant. Once we move past verse ten and we get to eleven through sixteen, that’s what Malachi primarily addresses. The marriage covenant isn’t a divine human covenant in the sense of covenant that I’ve just been talking about. It is the primary metaphor and illustration used in the Scripture that God gives his people to picture this diving human covenant of grace that God makes.
Nonetheless, before Malachi discusses the importance of the marriage covenant, he begins in verse ten by rooting the marriage covenant in the covenant of grace, the covenant with our fathers. If we don’t understand this bedrock of the covenant of grace and we don’t understand that marriage is intended to bear witness to the divine covenant that God makes with his people, then we just won’t appraise marriage as highly as we ought and everything God ordains for marriage.
This apparently was the problem that Malachi addresses in his own day and his own time. Their first problem was that they lost sight of the gravitas of God’s covenant with them. We read about that in the opening five verses of Malachi, where God says, “I have loved you” and the people say, “How have you loved us?”. They forgot the covenant initiation of God, which he made of his own free will with his people. Because they forgot that, they then lost sight of how that covenant was intended to root and then form the marriage covenant.
So, Malachi opens by asking the rhetorical questions, but getting back at the heart of who they are as the people of God. He asks them, “Have we not all one father? And has not one God created us?” These are covenantal questions at their core that God is recalling among the people of Israel. God isn’t calling to mind some generic reality that God is father and creator of all he has made.
It’s popular to hear the notion that everyone is a child of God by virtue of creation. All seven billion people on earth are brothers and sisters of one another. That’s not the reality that Malachi is concerned with right off the bat. Instead he’s concerned with covenant. He’s tapping into the covenant reality that when God secures and gathers a peculiar people to himself, he becomes their father and they his son in a unique, special and covenantal way. So too, when Malachi says that one God created us, he’s calling to mind the covenant reality that God’s people were created and formed into a nation. Not merely the general reality that God is creator of all things, though that’s true too.
So the point then, in these opening questions in verse ten, is to remind God’s people, Israel and us, who we belong to. Uniquely in light of the covenant that was made long ago, God created Israel as a nation when he called them to himself at Sinani some thousand year before Malachi writes. God related to them as father when he gathered and secured that covenant relationship. Israel was called to respond in faith and obedience to this covenantal bond that God graciously initiated of his own free will with his people.
Here’s the problem. How do the people of God, in Malachi’s day, respond to this? Not with faith but with faithlessness. That word occurs all over this passage, faithlessness. They profane this covenant. How exactly do they profane this covenant? By being faithless to one another. The problems in the covenant are legion, we talked about that in previous weeks in Malachi.
In this passage Malachi draws a connection between the horizontal relationships among the people of God, particularly how a husband is called to relate to his wife. Also, the vertical relationship with God himself. God says to Judah that your faithlessness, specifically in the covenant of marriage which is intended to mirror and image the covenant I make with you, actually profanes the covenant of our fathers. He says that your approach to marriage reveals your heart towards the covenant of grace. Because you’re faithless to the covenant of marriage and everything that I intend for the covenant of marriage, you are thus being faithless to the covenant of our fathers.
God makes a covenant with his people, going back to what I said in the preface. His call on our lives is total. Nothing, including marriage, is hermeneutically sealed off from God’s covenantal call on our lives. Now we are going to unpack the problems with Judah’s treatment of the marriage covenant as we walk through this text. The undergirding problem here before us is that Judah didn’t appreciate that when God binds his people by covenant, he calls for every area of our lives to be taken captive under ship lordship. Nothing is off limits, especially the marriage covenant.
So today’s big idea is this God’s faithfulness in the covenant of grace calls us to faithfulness in the covenant of marriage.
In other words, how we treat marriage is a gospel issue. As we work through this passage, we are going to see that God addresses three big issues pertaining to the covenant of marriage.
- He addresses faithlessness in their pursuit of the covenant of marriage.
- He addresses their faithlessness towards the covenant of marriage itself.
- He calls them towards faithfulness to uphold the covenant of marriage.
He Addresses Faithlessness in Their Pursuit of the Covenant of Marriage.
Malachi, if we were to work through this passage, identifies two concrete problems in the way the people of God are approaching marriage in his day and age. The first is their pursuit of spouses outside of the people of God. The second problem is that they’re divorcing their lawful wives.
These two issues that Malachi raises and alerts the people of God to are very closely related and intertwined. Historically Malachi is confronting a scenario where many men were abandoning their lawful wives, they were sending them away with a certificate of divorce, so that they could pursue marriage to foreign women. Those who stood outside of the covenant community and worshiped and served other gods. They’ve been sought by the men of Judah who were engaging in a practice like this. A practice in which a union with a foreign woman put one at an economic or social or political advantage among the nations who were more powerful than Judah. The nation of Judah was still under the captivity of the king of Persia.
It’s also probable that some in the covenant community who hadn’t been married were still pursuing marriage outside of the covenant community. On the other hand, others who had no intention of pursuing communion with foreign women were still sending their wives away with a certificate of divorce. In other words, even in isolation from each other, both issue that Malachi addresses in this passage are problematic in themselves.
We’re going to begin in this first point by treating the first issue that Malachi raises. That is pursuing marriage with someone who stands outside of the visible people of God. Read in verse eleven where God rebukes the people of Judah for marrying the daughter of a foreign god. This, Malachi tells us, is faithlessness towards the covenant of our fathers. It’s an abomination, something that God hates. It’s a profaning of the sanctuary of the Lord. That’s strong language through and through.
Now the issue here isn’t that the men are marrying women of different ethnicity or women who are citizens of different geopolitical states. God’s complaint, in other words, has nothing to do with ethnicity, race or national allegiances in the sense that we think about that today. His complaint is that the men of Judah were marrying unapologetic idol worshippers. People who have no intention of leaving their allegiances to other gods. God’s concern is for the holiness of his name and the holiness of his people who bear witness to the holiness of his name.
So, to sign off on a union with a foreign woman who worship and serves an idol is to invite rampant idolatry among his holy, set apart, people and eventually spiritual decay. That seems to be part of what’s happening as Malachi writes.
This is one of the big issues that lead King Solomon, several hundred years prior, and as a consequent Israel into spiritual idolatry and eventually exile. In 1 Kings after the books opens, King Solomon, about 500 years before Malachi writes, had a lot going for him. When he began to reign as king over Israel, King Solomon had the blessings of presiding over a united kingdom. His heart was initially set on the Lord and the Lord blessed him with wisdom. And Solomon got to preside over the construction and the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. We read all about the amazing events in the life of Solomon.
When we get to chapters ten and eleven, in 1 Kings, we begin to see the cracks in the kingdom form. Direct violation of what a king was supposed to do, from Deuteronomy chapter seventeen where all that is spelled out, King Solomon began to acquire many horses. It may not seem like a big deal except that Deuteronomy chapter seventeen says you shouldn’t do that. He then acquired a lot of gold. Again, it may not seem like a big deal except that Deuteronomy chapter seventeen says you shouldn’t do that. He also wasn’t supposed to acquire many wives. Listen to what the narrator tells us of Solomon in 1 Kings 11:1-8.
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3 He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. 8 And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.1 Kings 11:1-8, ESV
Not only did Solomon acquire many wives, which was a problem in light of the Deuteronomy chapter seventeen mandate, also the creation ordinance. But he also acquired many foreign wives who worshiped and served other Gods who eventually turned his heart away from the true God of Israel.
Again, the issue that Malachi raises has nothing to do with marrying someone who looks different you or speaks different than you. That’s never condemned in Scripture. The issue is marrying someone who worships an entirely different god or has little to no regard for the God of the Scriptures. The Bible teaches us that when that happens all sorts of problems follow.
It affects the spiritual union that a married couple is supposed to share. It effects the call to raise up godly offspring, which is a concern of Malachi’s in verse fifteen. From the examples that we have in Scripture, specifically Solomon, it seems to erode the gospel conviction of the believing spouse. This is the first issue that Malachi raises with the people of God. The looking outside of the covenant community for marriage and in the words of Paul, becoming unequally yoked. That’s the first issue.
Then there’s a second issue that Malachi raises, God addresses their faithlessness towards the covenant of marriage. Look with me at Malachi 2:13-14
13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. .”Malachi 2:14-15, ESV
In the midst of all of these issue swirling around the people God in Malachi’s day, specifically the issue of divorce and remarriage, the men of Judah have still been worshipping the Lord. They have been bringing offerings before the Lord in the context of worship. Yet they’re perplexed and they’re grieved that God hasn’t accepted their offerings. We are not told in our passage how they knew that God didn’t accept their offerings. Maybe their prayers weren’t being answered or misfortune and misery in the land continued. However, they knew of the Lord’s disfavor but they didn’t grasp why the Lord didn’t accept their offerings and they weep.
Here’s the problem, although they check the worship box, they are able to do that by bringing their offerings and all of that. But God demands hearts that truly value what he values. He doesn’t just want sacrificial offerings, he wants themselves to be offerings, living sacrifices. He demands hearts in particular that value and fight for his vision of marriage. According to God’s word, when a man and a woman are united in marriage, they are entered into a covenant union that God witnesses. Malachi tells us in verse fourteen that the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth.
The marriage covenant is something that the Lord ordains. They enter not into just a flesh union, but a spiritual union. Malachi uses language throughout this passage that echoes back to Genesis and the original vision for marriage. A covenant of marriage is something God values because it was God’s idea. It’s the context for spiritual and physical intimacy. It’s the context for producing Godly offspring. It’s a picture of the covenant union that God has with his people. So, God cares deeply of this picture. Yet the men of Judah treat this covenant more as a breakable social contract. They conveniently divorce their lawful wives and some men pursue a more advantageous union with foreign women.
So when we get to verse sixteen God pulls no punches and declares,
16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”Malachi 2:16, ESV
Now as I said the preface, this is one of the most difficult passages in Scripture to in all of the Hebrew Scriptures. Some of the older translations say something in even stronger language, “I hate divorce says the Lord”. I think the ESV does a good job with the verse, but whatever translation we adopt, I don’t think the message is in any way obscured. That is because of what the covenant of marriage is supposed to picture and because God values and witnesses these unions, divorce is a serious break of covenant union. Divorce is a breach of the union that is supposed to picture the covenant of grace that God has with his people.
It’s important to mention that Malachi, in no way, exhausts the Biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage. The Scriptures teach us that even though marriage was intended to be a permanent bond between a man and a woman. But in this post fall world, there are a few Biblical occasions where divorce and remarriage are permissible; in the case of adultery, the case of abandonment of an unbelieving spouse. In those cases where the covenant has already been breached, that divorce is permissible. 1 Corinthians 7 and Matthew 19 tells us something about that. Everywhere in Scripture these permissions are framed as a consequence of sin and none of those permissions should be entertained lightly. They are not meant to be permissions that an unhappy couple exploits to fit their circumstances. They are concessions that are the end of a deep-seated break down in the covenant of marriage.
Malachi doesn’t entertain any of these permissions in his passage because his audience and the problem in his situation was the people of God were entertaining rapid divorce practices that were spreading like wildfire and needed to be curtailed. More importantly, Malachi is painting a vision for what it means to be convent members of the people of God and what it means to respond in faith to his covenant faithfulness. Remember, every imperative and rebuke in Malachi is rooted in the opening five verses where God declared, “I have loved you says the Lord.”
Everything is rooted in God’s electing and covenantal love he has for his people. That love and election should influence the worship and the priest’s offering we read about in chapters one and two. It should lead to biblical instruction and the people of God upholding and valuing the primary picture of marriage that God gives for the covenant relationship that he has with his people.
Yes, there may be circumstances in life where the covenant of marriage breaks down and is unsalvageable and divorce may be the only option. Because marriage images the covenant that God secures with his people, they’re called and we are called too, to head Malachi’s double imperative to guard yourselves in your spirits and do not be faithless. This leads to the final point.
God Addresses Faithfulness to Uphold the Covenant of Marriage.
Third and finally, at the end of our passage Malachi calls on the people to guard in your spirit and do not be faithless. Guarding the covenant of marriage in faithfulness begins with an understanding and an embrace of the covenant of grace. It begins by taking stock of God’s faithfulness of to you and me in Jesus Christ when we were faithlessness. It sits in the glorious reality that God related to us as a father relates to his sons and he peruses us in Jesus Christ when we are difficult and rebellious children. The starting point for faithfulness in the covenant marriage is for each member in that covenant to be faithful to respond to the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. As healthy as a marriage may look from the inside or from the outside, it just cannot function according to its spiritual design unless God’s covenant and the gospel stands at the center of that union.
So, the first step in faithfulness towards the covenant of marriage is to place our faith in the God of the covenant. If you’re married or if you are pursuing marriage, or if marriage isn’t even on the table for you, have you responded in faith to the salvation offered in Christ alone? Have you done that? That’s the starting point for a truly flourishing marriage and that’s the starting point for us individually living the lives that God has created us to live in fellowship and union with God through Christ alone. Have you responded to the message of salvation freely offered in the gospel?
To guard oneself also involves understanding our own hearts. For whatever reason in this post-exilic setting in which Malachi lives, the marriage covenant was being dispensed for social, economic or political reasons. The heart of God’s people wasn’t wholly set on God alone and what God treasured. They were set instead on strategically positioning one’s self in the most affluent position as possible.
Some therefore saw their marriages as a burden that prevented them from pursuing the idols of their heart. In the same way we have to understand the pool of our own hearts. We have to ask ourselves, especially if we’re married, how does what you prize in your heart of hearts affect your marriage? How do your life goals impact you spouse and family? There’s endless amount of very good things that we can pursue in life. However, don’t let any of those pursuits that you want to tackle become ultimate things that so twist your view of your spouse and your family that you begin to see them as a burden and barrier to true happiness that can be dispensed at will. That was the problem in Malachi’s day and let it not be a problem in our day.
This passage has a lot more that we could touch on that it has to say about the covenant of marriage. But let me also speak to two other groups of people. First, many of you aren’t married. Maybe you’re a teenager or in college and marriage lies far off in the distance. To the unmarried, assuming you haven’t been called to singleness, which is a calling for some, let me ask this. What are your convictions for what a future spouse should be? What are you looking for and praying for in a future spouse? When you think of that imaginary or maybe actual person, what are the boxes that have to be check? Good looking, obviously, good earning potential, same hobbies and so forth. Or are they spiritual?
Recognize that who you pursue in a dating relationship, and especially in a marriage, will have a profound effect on your spiritual wellbeing or lack thereof. Don’t assume your passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ will rub off on someone who is passionless for the gospel and for truth. Don’t assume that you are going to affect the person for the better. We have example after example in the Scripture and in real life that are a warning of the opposite. In other words, guard your own spiritual well-being by avoiding unequally yoked relationships.
Secondly, some of you may be on the back end of a failed marriage. Whether you are to blame, or the other person is to blame, maybe it was Biblical or maybe it was not. Maybe this passage that we’ve read and expounded has opened up some wounds and pushed some salt into those wounds. If that’s the case, I would love to talk to you, and I know Pastor Jacob and the elders would too. If that’s the case, God gives his church elders who are trusted with the keys of discipline and doctrine who are called to shepherd those who are in those circumstances or those circumstances are in their past. Understand too that even in the midst of that there’s gospel hope that all of us have to cling to.
There will be break down of marriages in the covenant community, that’s a sad reality on this side of the fall. Failed marriage among God’s people, no matter who’s to blame, they happen. While the covenant marriage breaks down, the covenant of grace never will. We have a God who promises that those who belong to Jesus Christ will never be cast aside. Even if your sin lead to a failed marriage, through repentance and faith, we have a God who in Christ promises to hold fast to us and there’s forgiveness and real gospel hope for you. When we are faithlessness, he is faithful. That is a promise for all of us to cling to.
Whether you’re single, married, divorced, remarried, widowed, celibate or anything else, it’s a promise that’s magnified and expanded in the new covenant. We have a God who relates to us a father, who created and shapes our heart by the power of his love. We have a God who calls us to love him as the church, the bride of Christ. The bride that God has taken to himself and who he will never forsake and who will be presented beautifully adorned for her husband when God makes all things new.
So, the Lord will anchor and secure our hearts and our minds in the truth as we learn what it looks like in our lives to guard the covenant of marriage, from whatever position you are in right now in relation to it. We have God who’s faithful, who has established a covenant with us and we are to respond to that by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Have you responded to that covenant initiation by faith? Let us pray.
Almighty God, we thank you for the Scripture. We know there are some hard things contained in it. We know that for some of us this is a more difficult passage than for others of us. We pray for all of us that you will help us take root and take hold of the promises that in Christ, O Father, in Christ we relate to you as sons. In Christ we have the promise that you will never leave us and never forsake us. We pray that you will help those of us who are married to guard the covenant of marriage well and those who are pursuing marriage to keep these things in mind as they pursue it and for all of us to cling to the promise and the hope in gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.