"God Told Me to Marry You"...And What God Really Said

(Image:  Scott Webb )

(Image: Scott Webb)

Long, long ago, I belonged to a church where it wasn’t uncommon for members to “know” the specific person “God” told them they were destined to marry. A good friend of mine at the time believed God revealed to her that our pastor’s armor bearer (assistant/Bible toter/water getter/forehead wiper) was her husband to be. Another member said God told her she would marry one of our church’s ministers. And I, desiring to get in on the action, believed the Lord told me a popular radio personality (and church member) was destined to be my hubby. Suffice it say, each of us found ourselves looking like an idiot as time and circumstance played out.  The pastor’s armor bearer ended up marrying another woman within six months of meeting her. The minister simply used the other young lady for sex as she pined away hoping he’d one day see they were meant to be. And my radio personality hubby-to-be straight up told me that I wasn’t “the one”, went on to marry a gorgeous gospel artist and (10+ years later) they remain married and have an adorable family (…they also preach a false gospel, but that’s another post).

Since leaving that church, I’ve come to learn that our embarrassingly mistaken “revelations” aren’t uncommon among professed believers in other churches, either. I’ve since met another young lady who so sincerely believed God told her a specific man was her husband that she remained single and waited for him for 13 years! (THIIIIIIIR-TEEEEEN...YEEEEEAAAAARRRRSSSS!!!!) Meanwhile, that gentleman barely knew her name and, if I recall correctly, he also went off to marry someone else.

Mind you, this deluded way of thinking doesn’t plague only women. There are men out there who’ve claimed specific women would be their wives even as those women don’t (and won’t ever) see them as anything more than friends. Honestly, such madness is largely why I’m not a fan of “singles ministries”. This isn’t to say single Believers can’t gather together for worship, Bible study, etc. But I notice some “singles ministries” seem to be hotbeds for a lot of romantic confusion and fornication in the name of “God told me”. But that’s also a whole ‘nother  discussion for another day. The point of this discussion is to defend God’s character against the presumption of “God told me” that runs rampant in certain church cultures and to reveal what God really tells us about marrying someone in His will.

(Image by:  Skye Studios )

(Image by: Skye Studios)

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IN WHOM WE MARRY

To be clear, God can and does lead us to the person we eventually marry. This is evidenced in Genesis 24, when Abraham’s servant found in Rebekah the perfect wife for Isaac. But does God reveal to us in advance who that specific person will be? No! Nowhere in Isaac’s story - or elsewhere in Scripture - is there support for the “God told me {insert name here} is my husband/wife” phenomenon. And He most certainly doesn’t only let one person in the presumed future marriage in on the secret! God didn’t make an advanced proclamation to Isaac, Abraham OR the servant that a woman named “Rebekah” would be Isaac’s wife. God didn’t even tell Abraham he would certainly find a wife for Isaac amongst his relatives. In fact, neither the servant nor Abraham were even sure the servant’s quest would be successful (Genesis 24:5-9).  Yet what God DID tell Abraham was enough for him act in faith and get the ball rolling.

God told Abraham that Isaac (not Ishmael) was his son of promise, with whom He would establish His covenant to make Abraham the father of many nations, and through whom all nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 17:19, 22:17-18). To produce these promised descendants, however, Abraham rightly recognized Isaac’s need to be married. He also knew he couldn’t take a wife from the land of Canaan (where Abraham and Isaac dwelled). The people of Canaan didn’t know the Lord and, eventually, the plan was to drive them out of the land that Abraham’s descendants possess it for themselves (Genesis 12:1-7). Faithful to what God DID say, Abraham exercised wisdom to send his servant to his home town in search of a wife for Isaac.

Enter the ongoing work of God’s sovereignty.

When the servant arrived in the land, he began to pray about his quest. Before his supplication was barely complete, God placed Rebekah in his path. Indeed, Rebekah was the one the Lord had appointed for Isaac (Genesis 24:14-21). Yet Rebekah was found because the men operated in wisdom with the parameters already put in place. They didn’t assume a wife for Isaac would pop up with no effort on their part, and even after Rebekah came his way, the servant wasn’t presumptuous that Rebekah (or her family) would agree to the arrangement (Genesis 24:49). Rather, they prayerfully sought her based on God’s promises, exercised practical wisdom to gain her hand, and God’s sovereignty faithfully played out along the way.

GOD’S PARAMETERS FOR WHOM WE MARRY

(Image by:  Jonathan Meyer )

(Image by: Jonathan Meyer)

Then the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea: ‘Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry. And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry By departing from the Lord.
— Hosea 1:2

But what about Gomer? Didn’t God tell Hosea to marry her? Yes and no. Yes, God told Hosea to marry a prostitute. No. God didn’t specify that the prostitute would specifically be Gomer. And, no, God didn’t tell Hosea in advance that his future wife would be named, “Gomer”. Again, if we desire to be in God’s will for marriage, our foundation for finding a spouse is the parameters He sets. Yet, we hold a level of “free will” to make the choice in who that person will be. God told Hosea to marry a woman of harlotry. Gomer met that criterion. Mind you, God telling Hosea to marry a prostitute was a special case. It served the ultimate purpose of demonstrating the harlotry Israel had committed before Him. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that God isn’t commanding anyone else to marry a harlot. Jesus has come and died for the sins of the world, He arose again and is now seated at the right hand of God interceding for His Bride as she is being purified for Marriage (Romans 8:34; Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 19:7). There are no new revelations to be had concerning God, His people and His plan for our redemption (Hebrews 1:1-3). If a man decides to marry a harlot today, that’s 1000% on him.

But the principle of God setting the standard for who to marry remains in effect. In the New Testament, Christians are cautioned to only be joined to another in the Lord. For “what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever” (2 Corinthians 6:15)? “Can two walk together unless they agree” (Amos 3:3)? The premise for this is to ensure unity in the Spirit amongst the spouses and to produce for the Lord godly offspring, as God desires a people all His own, separate and apart from the world (Malachi 2:15; 1 Peter 2:9). The only time a believer and an unbeliever can dwell together in marriage is if the couple married before the believing spouse came to faith, and the unbeliever still desires to remain married to the Believer (1 Corinthians 7:14). I’ll expound more on this later.

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
— 2 Corinthians 6:14

Outside of commanding our union with another member in the family of God, God doesn’t lay down any other requirements for whom we marry. Yet He does flesh out practical wisdom for identifying a godly option. For example, a wife from the Lord is a woman who is of “noble character” (Proverbs 12:4) and “prudent” or wise (Proverbs 14:1,19:14), and a husband from the Lord is a man who heeds the Lord’s wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1, 2) and He seeks his “earthly pleasures” in his wife alone (Proverbs 5:18; Ecclesiastes 9:9).  In the end, both the man and the woman professing Christ are bearing fruit in keeping with their professions of faith - this includes abstaining from sexual immorality, hence Paul’s admonition that it is better to marry than burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:9).  If a Believer wants a supernatural word from the Lord for who they will or should marry, they only need crack open His Word and heed His counsel. From there, a God-honoring option will be easy to discern.

(Image by:  Gift Habershaw )

(Image by: Gift Habershaw)

OUR CHOICE IN WHOM WE MARRY

Once we decide to seek a spouse according to the Lord’s parameters (and not wishful thinking or false revelations), THEN we have God’s clearance to choose whomever we so please (so long as the other party agrees, of course).  For example, in the book of Numbers, God tells Moses that as long as the daughters of Zelophehad married men from their own people, they were free to marry “whomever they thought best” (Numbers 36:6). In other words, God sets the standard, we make the choice. Another example of this freedom is displayed in 1 Corinthians, where Paul admonishes a widow to remarry “whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39-40). God sets the standard, we make the choice.

Again, God is seeking unity in the Spirit and godly offspring from our unions. If the union would violate that, there are certain instances that trigger a God-honoring separation. If we already belong to the Lord but choose a spouse outside of the family of God, we put a stumbling block before ourselves, and we can count on being carried away by idolatry and/or risk suffering other consequences that would have been avoided with a wiser choice.

A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
— 1 Corinthians 7:39-40

We see the potential for this in Ezra 10, when the men of Israel disobeyed the Lord’s explicit and repeated command against intermarrying with pagan women who, as expected, caused them to commit idolatry. Ezra, seeing the depth of their sin, instituted an oath with God and the men of Israel who had taken pagan wives to “put them away” (Ezra 10:10-11). Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived, also violated the Lord’s command when he took various pagan wives (and concubines) and was also led into idolatry. There is no record of Solomon separating from these women, but he did suffer consequences for his sin, which carried over into his next generation, when God stripped half of the kingdom from his son (1 King 11:11-13). We must keep in mind that those men were already appointed as God’s people when they willingly entered into their prohibited unions, so their stumbles and consequences were sure. Unlike Ruth, who was a Moabite yet allowed to marry the Israelite Boaz, neither of the women these men married had renounced their pagan faiths nor called Israel’s God their God and His people their people (Ruth 1:16).

Indeed, Ruth’s story is proof that God’s command against marrying a “foreigner” isn’t based on race, but faith. So as we exercise our freedom to choose a spouse, may we make faith in Christ Jesus our leading criterion. Which takes me to my next point.

(Image by:  Dylan Siebelink )

(Image by: Dylan Siebelink)

GOD DID NOT TELL YOU TO MARRY AN UNBELIEVER!!!

As tempting as it is for many Believers to consider marrying an unbeliever, it’s not the Lord’s will, and He most certainly didn’t “tell” anyone to knowingly enter into such a union. It matters not that you know someone who knows someone who willfully entered into an interfaith marriage and everything “worked out fine for them”. Let God be true, and every man a liar (Romans3:4). To be sure, if there is peace in that household, the professing Believer in that relationship is not at peace with the Lord (Matthew 10:34-39), or the unbeliever has since also come to faith in Christ, though such a scenario isn’t a bankable one (1 Corinthians 7:16) .

As previously mentioned, in pre-existing unions where one spouse has since become a born-again Believer, their union is accepted so long as the unbeliever wishes to remain. In such marriages, the unbeliever is sanctified by the Believing spouse (1 Corinthians 7:14). The Believer’s not only positioned to share the Gospel with their unbelieving spouse, but they serve as a witness for Christ in their marriage as they begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit and lead a godly life. The unbelieving spouse can clearly see the beneficial changes in their partner, and God is glorified.  Yet, if the unbeliever wishes to leave the marriage, the Believing spouse must allow them to do so, for the Lord has called Believers to live in peace (1 Corinthians 7:15). In other words, in this scenario the unbelieving spouse is hostile towards the Believing spouse, who is now conforming to the image of Christ, and finds dwelling with the Believer to be utterly unbearable. Thus, the unbeliever’s voluntary departure from the union is most beneficial to the Believer.

God hates divorce, so a Believer isn’t cleared to initiate one except in the case of adultery (Malachi 2:16; Matthew 5:31-32). Yet when we read “what God joins together let not man separate” we must keep in mind that God doesn’t join together light with darkness or righteousness with unrighteousness (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). A Believer knowingly becoming “one” with an unbeliever is wholly an act of the flesh and runs counter to God’s perfect will. But the Believer is bound to their union because they’ve taken vows before the Lord (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6; Deuteronomy 23:21-23; and Psalm 76:11). Though God, in His perfect will, didn’t join that union, that union still stands until and unless the unbeliever chooses to separate. For those already married to unbelievers, their marriages can also suffer divorce at the will of the unbelieving spouse if at anytime he/she finds remaining in their union intolerable. Even as the Lord can redeem a thing if He wills, at the very least, there will be strife added to what is already the norm in marriages as the Believer grows in Christ. With all of this in mind, wisdom suggests that those who come to faith in Christ before they marry are at an advantage. Such individuals can avoid the potential pitfalls, sins and even the heartbreak of a separation as they have a “clean slate”. They can choose a fellow born-again Believer, according to the Lord’s wisdom, from the outset. The Word is clear: When we marry, our interests become divided between pleasing the Lord and pleasing our spouse (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).  Yet if we choose to marry someone also in the Lord, it only helps to thin the line dividing our interests when both partners seek to please the Lord.

(Image by:  Gift Habershaw )

(Image by: Gift Habershaw)

I SAID ALL OF THIS TO SAY…

It’s not wrong to desire the Lord’s best for us, and it’s especially noble to want to marry someone in the Lord’s will. Yet, over-spiritualizing who that person is can actually lead us to pursue the opposite. Presuming whom the Lord has said we will or should marry sets us up for as much sin and confusion as not considering the Lord at all. If we’re waiting on the Lord to give us a name for that perfect person for us, we’ll be waiting forever or we’ll resort to conjuring up a false revelation of our own and find ourselves waiting on, chasing or yoked to someone outside of the Lord’s standards - let alone seeking out someone who doesn’t desire to be with us. Neither action honors the Lord’s character nor the truth He’s made plain in His Word. And might I add, the proverb is, “He who finds A wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22, my emphasis). It’s not, “He who finds THE wife God destined for him before the foundations of the world and, by the way, her name will be, ‘Tracey’, so marry ‘Tracey’ and obtain favor from the Lord.” It’s not that complicated. The process isn’t that spiritual. Find someone in the Lord; apply the Lord’s wisdom to get to know them and what they believe; if it pleases make/accept a proposal; get married; enjoy your union in Lord!

God doesn’t tell us whom we should marry. He doesn’t give us advanced, supernatural revelations on who, in particular, that person will be. He won’t tell only one person who their spouse is while leaving the other person in the dark. Nothing in Scripture supports such maddening notions. Yet, He does provide us with supernatural guidance for choosing a suitable spouse, and that is available in His Word. Further, His sovereignty is always at work, so we can trust that He won’t lead us astray. BUT, we demonstrate our faith in His will and trust in His sovereignty by moving in faith based on what He’s already clearly said in the Scriptures (Proverbs 3:5-6). And according to the Scriptures, God sets the parameters for whom we marry, yet within those parameters, we retain the freedom to choose whom we think is best. If we’re sincerely following the Lord’s instructions, we’ll heed His Word such that when His sovereignty brings a suitable option our way, we’ll discern a truly “good thing” when we see it.  If more professing Christians would seek a spouse according to this standard, and not our own, carnal desires and convoluted presumptions, I’m convinced we’d have more God-honoring unions and less broken hearts, sexual sin and romantic delusions among professing men and women of God.

~ Veriteetfeu

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6