Sacredness comes about when a vow or commitment transpires in the presence of God. A covenant commitment welcomes God’s presence to enable the future expectations of the promises.
In Matt 23:16-22, we see evidence of misplaced priorities in the actions of the Pharisees. They minimized God’s presence and highlighted items in the temple to bring them personal benefit.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.” (Matt. 23:16-22, ESV)
This passage shows a misplaced priority on the idea of sacredness. The objects in the temple became the items to hold them accountable, not the temple itself nor God’s presence. These committed objects became the focus so that if broken, the Pharisees could collect a portion of the gold or gift. If they swore on the temple, religious leaders could not claim the temple as an object of payment, but these lesser objects offered an opportunity. For this reason, the material perspective dominated their vows, which the Lord Jesus condemns.
They forgot what made the gold or the gift meaningful. The altar or the temple that housed God’s presence made the place sacred and acceptable to present a vow. The main thing was God’s presence in the temple, not the objects placed in it. A vow in his presence made the promises sacred, not the gift, the ring, or even a building. Wiersbe said, “They would take an oath and use some sacred object to substantiate that oath—the gold in the temple, for example, or the gift on the altar. But they would not swear by the temple itself or the altar. It was the temple that sanctified the gold and the altar that sanctified the gift. They were leaving God out of their priorities.” Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 84. Their actions misplaced the true meaning behind what consisted of sacredness.
Likewise, marriage becomes sacred when the couple vows in God’s presence their promises, which keeps them accountable. His presence elevates their commitment and places his constant presence as a witness to how they live.
The Pharisees would make vows based on the gold or treasury of the temple but not based on the temple, which housed the presence of God. Their priority to profit on the people’s vows resulted in the Pharisees forgetting God. They reverenced the objects more than the presence of God. Their rituals and set standards became the priority to which they valued these things more than relating to God himself.
Today, weddings all too often do not focus on their relationship to each other or their relationship as a couple to God but the ceremony’s social depictions. Seeking perfection and the perfect picture tends to value the materialistic side of the event. The marriage planner guides them from one picture-perfect situation to the next. Yet is there room for marriage counseling? How much time have they thought about the vows which they will publicly declare? Have you invited God to your wedding? Or will he be a non-descript bystander?
Matthew 23:18 states that the altar (the place of God’s presence) “is nothing.” The Lord Jesus bluntly states that they do not value or respect God. Their actions demonstrate that God is nothing. They valued objects surrounding the temple but not the presence in the temple nor God’s throne above. The objects become the points of glamour and not God himself. All too often, this misplaced focus takes root in the marriage relationship, and even God’s presence at the wedding or in the relationship “is nothing.” My appeal for couples is to make God’s presence something of value in your relationship. He dwells with believers to empower them to live according to the vows made. He will help you learn how to love and how to adopt a covenantal identity in your marriage.
Covenant marriage is sacred since the vows commit in the presence of God. Calling him to bond your marital unity and dwell as the third person of the marriage prioritizes the sacredness in your marriage. In addition, his presence will enable you to fulfill your vows. Trivially viewing one’s vows without any sense of seriousness may be the perspective today, but seriously looking at the vows committed at the wedding guides couples in how to live. God wants to bless your marriage; will you let him in?
Some think that a church wedding makes it sacred, but this mistakenly places a priority on a building and not the vows in God’s presence. Today, if married, search for your vows; what did you commit to? If not earnestly vowed in God’s presence, do that today together as a couple.
Lord, here we are in your presence. Our vows which we spoke many years ago, said……… Here again, we promise to fulfill these vows with your help and enablement in your presence. Be an active agent in our lives and show us how we can accomplish these vows. We cannot keep them in our own power, but you grant your presence, power and enable us to fulfill these committed promises. Amen!
For further reading, see Searching Below the Surface.
|↑1||Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 84.|