************ Wedding Sermon on Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 3, 2012
Jonathan & Jessica Knodel Wedding
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Matthew 19:4-6
Jon & Jessica, what is the purpose of marriage? Or, to put it another way, why are you getting married? We can identify different purposes:
a setting within which we may give loving and tender expression to the desires God gave us;
a secure environment within which children may be born and taught to know and serve the Lord;
a structure that enriches society and contributes to its orderly function.
You have asked me to speak on a text that gives another reason, the most important reason, for marriage. You have asked me to speak on companionship in marriage.
Do you remember what we read in Genesis after the creation of Adam? God announced, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Gen 2:18). Up to this point, everything has been pronounced "good" or "very good" (Gen 1 & 2). But now God says something is not good: "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Gen 2:18). As the old song puts it, "one is a lonely number." So what did God do? God made Eve so Adam would not be alone. In the same way, God made Jessica so Jon would not be alone and God made Jon so Jessica would not be alone. If one is a lonely number than two is a happy number.
Now, listen to your wedding text which speaks of this companionship:
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: (10) If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (11) Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? (12) Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
"Two are better than one." Do you hear the echoes of Genesis? Do you hear the old refrain going back to Adam & Eve? "Two are better than one." "It is not good for the man to be alone." So God provides a companion.
When Jesus looks at this companionship, He sees something holy and mysterious. He says the two become one flesh; He says they are no longer two, but one (Mt 19:5,6). They are joined together just like Christ and the church are joined together. So, not only are two better than one but two also become one.
In three examples, Jon & Jessica, your passage illustrates the blessings of this companionship, this oneness. The examples are taken from the risks of traveling by foot in Palestine during the days of the author. This, I think, is a very suitable illustration as marriage is like a trip or journey. For, when a bride and groom are joined to each other in marriage they covenant to travel life's pathway together.
The first example is that of a traveler who falls into a pit or ditch:
(Eccl 4:10) If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!For a traveler on his own a fall might prove fatal, especially at night. If a leg is broken, if ribs are cracked, if a skull is split open, the single traveler may never receive needed medical attention. The traveler with a companion, however, has someone to pull him out of the ditch or pit, someone to splint his broken bones, someone to bring him to safety.
The second example is that of a traveler facing the cold Palestine night:
(Eccl 4:11) Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?Don't forget, back then there were no Holiday Inns. The traveler usually had to sleep under the stars or in a cave. And the Palestine night, even during the summer, can be very cool. Most travelers found it necessary to sleep close together in order to stay warm and comfortable.
A third illustration is that of a traveler facing a burglar or wayside bandit:
(Eccl 4:12) Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.The single traveler may be overcome by a bandit; safety is found in numbers.
Jon & Jessica, the two of you are life-long companions of each other. From this point on you are each other's best friend and companion. From now on you travel the same road. None of us knows the kind of road the Lord has in mind for you. None of us knows the pitfalls, the curves, the valleys, the hills that you will face. But as your wind your way through life, you have the comfort and strength of each other as lifelong traveling companions.
I saved the most important line until last. The Spirit-inspired author of Ecclesiastes ends our Scripture reading with, "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." He is repeating common knowledge: everyone back then knew that a rope made of a single or double strand of cord could be broken so easily; a rope, however, made of three strands was not so easily broken.
Jon & Jessica, the author of Ecclesiastes is not trying to educate us about ropes; rather, he is trying to educate us about marriage. To have a strong marriage, a marriage that is not easily broken, you need to have three strands. Jon, you are one strand. Jessica, you are another strand. And the third strand – that is God.
I came across a poem entitled "Marriage Takes Three" that speaks to this:
I once thought marriage took
Just Two to make a go,
But now I am convinced
It takes the Lord also.
And not one marriage fails
Where Christ is asked to enter
As lovers come together
With Jesus at the center.
But marriage seldom thrives,
And homes are incomplete,
till He is welcomed there
To help avoid defeat.
In homes where Christ is first
It's obvious to see,
Those unions really work,
For marriage still takes three.
Perry Tanksley 1984
"A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." This is an obligation and it is a promise. First, the obligation. Jon & Jessica, you know this, you heard me say it over and over again during pre-marital counseling, but God needs to be part of your life. Meaning you need to attend worship, have devotions, and spend time in the fellowship of other Christians. Meaning the Lord Jesus needs to be at the center of your home and marriage.
"A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." This is also a promise. When the three of you – Jon, Jessica, and God – travel together, nothing can tear you apart. When the three of you – Jon, Jessica, and God – travel together, you are so intertwined with each other that no one and nothing can tear you apart.
According to Jesus, God designed marriage to be permanent. God did not bring Eve to Adam for a one-night stand. God did not bring Eve to Adam so that they would stay together only until the children were grown up. God did not bring Eve to Adam until someone better came along. This was not a "starter marriage." God expected Adam and Eve to be lifelong companions. God expected them to stay together until death do them part. Likewise, Jon & Jessica, God's will is that you live together in a lifelong, exclusive partnership of love and fidelity (Gen. 2:18; Matt. 19:5-6). As Jesus puts it, "Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate" (Mt 19:6).
"Two are better than one." "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." God bless you as you live out these words in your marriage.
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