Your study on betrothal is very intriguing. It’s the first time I’ve ever looked at it. It seems biblical. My question is what sort of results have you seen in betrothal? Does it work well practically? Are there some pitfalls to avoid when trying to go that route? My children are little now, but I know soon that will change so I’m looking at the issue now carefully as I have seen many problems with dating and courting.
Yes, two of our children are married, and we did this with both of them. Our oldest is a son, and he is now a missionary in Mexico. The next oldest is our daughter, who with her husband faithfully serve the Lord in the local church where they live.
I would not center as much on the “practical” aspect of it, as upon the “Biblical” aspect of it. Many times the right thing to do is harder than the wrong thing. Many parents and young people do not understand betrothal, because we just follow the world, instead of the Biblical example. So it is going to be harder dealing with parents who are not used to doing things this way. Some parents of the bride may have been looking forward to “her wedding” for many years. Suddenly, it is the groom that is in charge of the wedding ceremony and paying for it, and carnal Christian parents sometimes resent that. In the lives of our children, we found it to be a very exciting time, and refreshing, to see the young men be the leaders right from the start.
I think that the biggest problem with betrothal is that people often judge it by the wrong standard. That is, they do not look so much at its victories of getting a pair of Christian young people through their teenage years without being immoral, or having given away their hearts to several people through dating or courtship. The biggest complaint that I have heard about betrothal has nothing to do with betrothal, but with everyday life and dying to self after a person is married. I have heard of families whose children have later faced trials in their marriages, and their children have come back to them and thrown it in their faces, “See — betrothal did not work!” That really discourages parents from even trying. Proverbs 24:10 says, “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.” 2 Timothy 2:3 says, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
Along with betrothal, responsibility must be taught. Some young people actually get the idea that because their parents are helping them to follow the Biblical pattern in finding a husband or wife, they are going to have an easy, perfect marriage. What starts out right, takes work to keep right. Look at the list of the kings in the Old Testament that started out right, but ended very poorly. When things go wrong in our lives, we tend to transfer the blame to someone else.
Isaac and Rebekah are a good example to consider. Their betrothal is the most detailed in all of Scripture. It is a wonderful picture of choosing a spouse based upon Biblical qualities — not looks or lust. It should be noted that Isaac and Rebekah were a rare exception in the Old Testament of where one man married one woman for life. That is the way that God always intended marriage to be. Matthew 19:3-6 says, “3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Isaac and Rebekah never took other wives or husbands, and they stayed together all of their days, but they did have a big problem in child-rearing. They made the mistake of “playing favoritism.” Genesis 25:27-28 says, “27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. 28 And ISAAC LOVED ESAU, because he did eat of his venison: but REBEKAH LOVED JACOB.” This problem had nothing to do with betrothal, but with Isaac and Rebekah not being willing to die to self, and put their loyalty to each other before the children.
Some pitfalls I have seen? Do not encourage Christian young people to marry before they reach the age of twenty. God considers people twenty and older responsible for their decisions. Numbers 14:27-32 says, “27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. 28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: 29 Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, 30 Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.”
I have seen, what appeared to be mature Christian young men, drastically change after graduating from high school. Getting employment out in the world, and pursuing further education often tell the real story as to what is in a young man’s heart — whether he will stand strong for the Lord, or whether he will compromise to this old world. If you wait at least until he is twenty, then you can often see the real direction of his life.
The same goes for Christian young ladies. It is not easy for them to graduate and still be at home, but it will tell you what is really in their hearts. Are they willing to continue helping their moms with the children and housework? Are they willing to rest in the Lord to provide a husband for them who will meet their needs? Or are they bent on seeking their own careers? Once a young lady is trained for a career, she often has an independent spirit about her which will prove to be a trial to her husband one day. If you will wait until she is at least twenty, you will see which way she is really going to go.
Once again, betrothal is clearly the Biblical way to start a marriage, but it does not guarantee an easy, perfect marriage. Marriage is a day-by-day dying to self on the part of both the husband and the wife. 1 Corinthians 15:31 says, “I die daily.” 1 Peter 5:5 says, “…be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”