Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Even before the first man and woman sinned, God established marriage. It is not a prison established by culture but a beautiful institution created by God for the best in family and society. The first home was perfect, without argument or selfishness or hostility. In order to understand the basic principles of marriage, we must go back to the beginning, before sin marred God’s perfect plan.
God is the author of marriage. So often we seek answers to our marriage problems from the world—psychologists, secular family counselors, friends, or even the Oprah Show—instead of from the only One who knows. Where have you sought help for your marriage? Have you been guilty of thinking that people know more than God?
Why have we as a culture discarded God’s principles? I think it is because we think we know better than God, Whose book is outdated. As a result, our society has not improved, but our homes, even in the church, are falling apart.
This week we begin our adventure of discovering what God says about His plan for marriage. As you read the Scriptures, take the time to write down your responses to the questions. At the end of the lesson, you will consider how the week’s principle can affect your life.
This is the beautiful account of God’s creation of marriage. God could have chosen to make the man and the woman at the same time, but He put the man in a position to value the woman after having a good look at the animals. The man could see that there was no one to whom he could relate from among the creatures. Imagine his excitement to see the match made in heaven just for him! Although there are fundamental physical differences in men and women, God designed those differences to enhance our relationships and bring us together rather than apart.
In this context, God sets out the first principle we need to consider, oneness.
1. Copy Genesis 2:24 below and work on memorizing it as our Wisdom from the Word this week. You might want to write it on a 3x5 card so you can either carry it with you to review during the day or to place in a strategic spot where you will see it frequently during the week. Memorizing it will help you when you need to remember the principle as it applies to your life in different ways.
2. List from this verse three (3) things that should characterize your marriage. (Hint: the first two are verbs.)
Notice that all three of these relate to the oneness that God desires us to have in our marriages. In a few weeks we will consider “one flesh” as it applies to the marriage union sexually. Right now let’s look more closely at the second of the three building blocks mentioned in this verse by considering the meaning of the Hebrew. It is often helpful to our understanding to go back to the meaning in the original language so we better understand what God is saying.
The word “cleave” (KJV) or “unites with” (NET) involves a bonding together, much like gluing two things. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament gives synonyms for the Hebrew word: “cling to, stick to, stick with, join to”.1
When something breaks at our house, my husband often uses super glue to bond the pieces together. In fact, the bond is so strong that he has to be careful not to get the glue on his hand or he will become permanently attached to it as well!
3. What insights does this give you about oneness with your husband?
4. Cleave “carries the sense of clinging to someone in affection and loyalty.”2 Name some ways in which a wife shows loyalty to her husband.
We need to consider what it means to “cleave” so that we can better understand what it means to “leave.” Leave involves more than distance. It is an attitude of the heart. God’s plan for marriage involves oneness. In order for two to become one, they cannot still be attached to anyone else, parents or siblings or friends. They cannot cleave unless they leave their family of origin. There are women who have left their homes in distance but not emotionally or financially. There are women who live next door to their parents and yet have “left” them.
5. Why is it impossible for a woman to cleave to, or become one with a husband without leaving her family?
Please understand that this does not mean that you cannot love your family and talk to them, etc.; however, there is a point at which you are can be attached to them so strongly that you fail to leave as you should. Sometimes it is the parents who cannot let the child leave. However, notice that the verse clearly calls the child to leave, not the parents to force them out. The responsibility is upon you to make the break from your home. You may need to help them let go.
God’s Word gives few examples of homes where the family is following His design. However, we do have a picture of leaving and cleaving that helps us understand the meaning. It comes from the story of Ruth. Although Ruth speaks these words to her mother-in-law rather than her husband, the principle is clear. That is why these verses are so often quoted in wedding ceremonies.
6. Why is Ruth willing to leave her home? Think of the difficulty of travel and communication at this time. Put yourself in her place. How committed is she to Naomi?
7. Ruth clearly embodies the sense of clinging to someone in affection and loyalty that we saw in the definition of cleave. List the ways she says she will cling to Naomi.
Oneness involves the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your life. If you are to be one with your husband, it involves all these areas. The truth is that building this type of intimacy is a lifelong task. It takes time and attention to have oneness in the marriage relationship. We will take this up again in a later lesson on intimacy. Just realize that there can be no true unity unless both parties are believers. A later lesson will deal with the unbelieving or disobedient husband.
8. What reasons are given here not to marry unbelievers or be bound with them in any union?
In my marriage we had many differences in background and in perspectives on issues. However, over the years I have seen us grow in oneness in all areas—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I think the key for us was truly leaving and cleaving. That forced us to depend upon one another and learn to communicate and discuss our differences of opinion. Oneness is a process that can never occur without following the principle of leaving and cleaving.
Let’s take the principle of oneness and apply it to your life today, exactly where you live. Failure to implement oneness in marriage can lead to major problems. Please meditate carefully upon your response to these questions:
9. Review the words of Ruth in Ruth 1:16-17. Married women: How well have you left your home and joined to your husband according to Ruth’s example? Go phrase by phrase through these verses and write down in the first person your response. I have given you the first phrase as an example. Single women: Go phrase by phrase and express your willingness to respond to your future husband in this way.
“Where you go, I will go”—I am/am not willing to follow my husband wherever he goes, to whatever city or place, no matter how far from my family home (with a good attitude).
When I got married, my parents said that I was now part of a new home permanently, no longer part of their home. I was to stay with Gary because he and I were now a family. At one point when I was disgruntled and discontent in my marriage, I wanted to just quit and yet, I knew that I could not go back to my parents’ home because that door was closed. My parents were wise enough to force me to “leave” and to help me understand what that meant intellectually and practically. There was no going back. Truly their attitude saved my marriage, forcing me to cut the ties that bound me to them.
10. Married women: With these things in mind, answer honestly: Do you see yourself as part of a whole in your marriage or do you consider yourself an independent agent? Write down some examples of situations where you “do your own thing” without considering how it affects your unity with your husband. Then answer the question. Single women: Are you willing to put your husband and your marriage before yourself? In what ways do you expect that to be a challenge?
11. Name some specific ways in which a wife would have to leave her family in order to cleave to her husband and truly be one with him.
12. Married women: Have you left your family, both physically and emotionally? In order to answer this question, think about how you react when your husband disagrees with your parents or when they criticize him. Is your loyalty to him or do you join their criticism? I have known women who take gifts and money from their parents knowing that their husbands would not approve. Have you been guilty of going behind your husband’s back to your parents for anything? Do you depend upon them emotionally rather than your husband? Are you depending upon them for anything? If so, what do you need to do about it?
13. Married women: Truly consider whether you put your family before your husband. What if they wanted to visit at a time that would be difficult for you as a family and your husband objected? Is there any situation where you have put their wants and/or needs before his?
14. Consider Prov. 31:11-12. How do you see the principle of oneness lived out in the model of the excellent wife? Married women: Are these verses true of you? Why or why not?
The principle of oneness impacts your parenting as well as your relationship with your husband.
15. Married women: Have you been guilty of disagreeing with your husband’s discipline in front of your children, in his presence or behind his back? Give an example. What does this teach your children?
16. Applying the principle of oneness means that your husband comes before your children. Married women: Do you put your children first or your husband? Be specific. Single women: Will you be willing to put a new husband before your children? How might it be difficult?
One way in which I put my husband first was in my children’s bedtime. We set an early time so that he and I could have some time together. Perhaps you let your children interrupt your conversations with your husband. Perhaps their schedules take priority over your husband’s needs. There are many practical applications of oneness in building your home.
17. Married women: What do you need to change in your attitude and/or actions in order to be one with your husband as you relate to your children?
I grew up in a middle class home where my Dad worked very hard and my mom stayed at home. While my family did not have extravagant tastes and big spending habits, my parents did provide me with most everything I wanted, including a four-year college education. Upon graduation, they gave me a brand new car and a bedroom of new furniture for my new apartment.
As I worked as a schoolteacher, my parents continued to give me "extras" every so often, although I paid for all my expenses. In a few years, I met Milton and fell in love.
Milton grew up in a family of six children. He worked summers as a teenager for spending money, and then paid his own way through college. The day he graduated from high school, he was basically on his own financially.
We married in our mid-twenties, both having had a few years of career under our belts. The conflicts began when my parents continued to give us those "extras". I saw nothing wrong with their generosity! Milton saw it as them spoiling me, crossing over into his territory as my provider, and as an insult to his manhood!
This reached a crisis when Milton and I were planning a snow skiing trip our first year of marriage. He had some very tacky ski pants he had gotten from Goodwill. He had a terribly ugly ski jacket, and he had a vinyl cap with earflaps for a hat! I was not about to be seen with him looking like a joke! So, I hinted to my parents that we would like some new ski clothes for Christmas and of course they were happy to provide. Well, when Milton found out about this, he hit the roof. He was insistent that he was now my provider as well as purchaser of his own clothes, and as his wife I was to respect his wishes in this area. I wanted to stay married to him, and although I loved my parents and their generous hearts, I chose to tell them to hold off on so many gifts and that Milton would provide for us.
Of course my parents in no way felt like Milton was a poor provider. They just loved to give. But Milton, being my husband, was whom I had to choose and to respect.
That ski trip was difficult for my pride...he refused to buy anything new to wear for himself, although he let me buy some new ski gear. He looked horrid on the slopes, and I have some pictures to prove it, but I believe it was one step I took towards saying I had left my parents and was cleaving to him—one step to expressing my love for him, even if it cost me a few "extras".
18. Explain in your own words the principle of oneness, of leaving and cleaving, as you might teach it to a friend who is having problems in her marriage.
19. Write a prayer dealing with two things: 1. Confess any sin uncovered by this lesson. It is sin not to follow God’s design. 2. Married women: Express your commitment to God to take one specific action today or this week to build oneness in your relationship with your husband. Single women: Ask God for the grace to be one with your husband when you marry. Write down specific areas that you expect to be difficult.
1 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1; eds. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 177.
2 Ibid., 178.