Bible teacher Ravi Zacharias uses the story of Isaac and Rebekah from Genesis 24 to illustrate biblical principles in the process of selecting a mate, and challenges young adults to be people of prayer seeking the input of others in the selection process. (Part 2 of 2)
John Fuller: If you're dating someone, you might have some folks in your life who would love to give you some advice about that guy or gal you're seeing. And it might especially come from your parents. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, here's Ravi Zacharias with his take.
Ravi Zacharias: You see, when you begin dating and get involved in a romance here, we run into many dangerous settings where we get our hearts involved so quickly that our minds are not functioning anymore. And then we end up seeing our parents as interrupters of a relationship, rather than as wise ones assisting us to seek the right one.
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John: Well, there's no doubt that making an emotional decision about a lifelong commitment like marriage can be scary and you probably should listen to those people in your life who are trying to give you some wise advice. Well, you'll hear more insights like that on today's "Focus on the Family," with our host, Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, choosing the person to marry is probably the second-most important decision in your life, the first being your decision to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. And it's one that should be made carefully when you consider the rest of your life is gonna be lived with this person. Today's speaker, Ravi Zacharias is giving you solid guidelines for choosing a spouse. That's a big task.
Jim: And he bases it on the biblical account of Abraham's search for a wife for his son, Isaac. That story is in Genesis 24, where we read that Abraham sent his servant Eleazar back to his hometown on that search. Now that might sound really outdated for our generation, you know, going back thousands of years. But there are biblical principles in the storythat are timeless and apply to today, such as involve a trusted adult in the process.
Jim: As we heard in the opening clip there, if your parents, pastor and friends are all warning you that this might not be the best person to marry, you need to hear their advice. That is so had to do, because you're infatuated. You're feeling that love and you think all of a sudden, everybody's turnin' on you and they don't want the best for you. But the reality is, they do want the best for you. And I know the dating process can be emotional, so you do need someone with a clear head in that fog of love to help you assess your situation.
Another one is, look for a person who is kind. I love that, because God's heart is kind. It's really uh ... a character of our Creator. And if they're not nice now, don't count on the fact that you're gonna be able to make them or turn them into a nice person after you get married. And when you're with someone for 40 or 50 years and I'm halfway there--Jean and I are 27 years-- a daily habit of kindness becomes very important to you.
John: Well, that's well-said, Jim and those are the kinds of things that I think influenced me in my decision when it came time to, you know, deciding whether or not Dena was the one for me and I'm ... I'm glad to say that there are still a lot of young folks who do welcome that input. They do have that sense of need for input from others.
Jim: That's called "wisdom" and they're opening their heart.
Jim: Well, there's more to come as Ravi Zacharias continues and he's also compiled these ideas into a book.
John: Yeah, it's called I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah and we're happy to send a copy to you when you get in touch. As we celebrate 40 years at Focus on the Family,here's Ravi Zacharias, speaking to a group of college students and he begins by recapping his first few points on choosing a spouse fromGenesis chapter 24, verses10 through 27.
Ravi Zacharias: The selection by an authority other than just himself, the kindness of the person that was being selected, and thirdly and very pivotally, it says, "She was pure. She was a virgin, comma, neither had she lain with any man."
That is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your partner, that you have respected this body, that you have treated it with all the purity. In spite of all the surroundings of temptation, you have learned to honor this body as a temple that God has given to you.
Please listen now. When Moses went to the top of Sinai, he was given detailed directions of how to build the tabernacle. So everything was meticulously, precisely in a detailed way given and just in case Moses missed it, it was repeated in the book of Exodus again. The whole dimension is repeated and I'll tell you why. There are a few words sandwiched in the book of Exodus that miss us when we study it. He says, "Moses, when you have finished building this tabernacle exactly as I have told you, there I will meet with you."
Now, when you and I build a church, we don't go to Mount Sinai, do we? But I'll tell you where church is now. When we come to the church now, we don't come to the sanctuary; we bring our sanctuaries with us. I firmly believe that in this mortal body, God meets with me. And if I prostitute this, if I squander it in illegitimate, adulterous, vile relationships, if I have wasted away the mandates of God for this body, He cannot meet with me here, for God cannot look upon sin in comfort.
Let me give to you a powerful principle. And please forgive me, young people, for being so blunt, but I have covered many, many college campuses in North America. I have done many of them and I want to say this kindly and honestly before God. Some of our so-called Christian college campuses--some of them, not all of them, obviously--but some of them have sent out young people out of there who are so messed up when they leave. They have messed themselves up in the three to four years while they are there. They went to a Bible college, thinking it'll keep them from temptation. They go to a Bible college to find out just because you're a Christian doesn't mean you're above temptation.
I spoke in one college for five nights. I took my wife, Margie, with me. I was speaking morning and evening. God's my witness in this; I was counseling nonstop through the whole day. I took her with me, because I thought we'd have time. In five days I had just one dinner with her. From morning till night, every young fellow or girl who came, with the exception of one young lad who was seeking the mind of God for missionary work, in five days sandwiched from morning till night--even my lunch was being eaten while I was talking with kids--every one of them, except for one, was morally ruined.
So, hear me carefully: Inside you may mock, but on the outside, you'll find out what I'm saying to you is true. There are principles that are very precise here.
Malcolm Muggeridge was in India. He was a callous man in terms of his morals. His pen knew no limits. Nothing was sacred for him. And while he was a professor in Southern India--Malcolm Muggeridge, by the way, went into India as a religious man, came out of India as an atheist; he went into Russia as an atheist, came out of Russia as a religious man--he goes to India and he's a professor in a southern university. And he had been taught, he had been raised to indulge the way he wanted to. He says this in his biography.
And he says one day he was by the banks of a river and only Muggeridge can describe this. Please pardon the crass illustration, but it's as powerful as you'll ever hear. He says:
Way out in the distance at sunrise I saw the woman in the distance bathing. And finally I said, "Well, maybe this is my moment. I've waited long enough." And in the panting of his heart, he gives to me the character of sin. He writes how his heart beat harder and harder and harder, because this was his moment of consummation in illegitimacy. He'd fought it for so long. And he swims and swims and swims and his mind is feeding him with all the enticement of iniquity, not telling him of all the horrors of it. He's swimming as hard as he can and he paints this appetite that is only getting more and more powerful by the moment. He'd kept his control of will for so long, till he comes closer and closer, emerges from the water within two feet away of this woman that he'd seen so much in the distance.
And he says: In that one solitary moment I just about gagged. And he says, "As I just about threw up with an utter sense of sickness within me, for I was looking at a woman who was a leper—the worn-away features, the socketed eyes, the broken fingers." And as he looked at it, Muggeridge says this: "I am assuming that as vulgar a man as I was, there was only one powerful way for God to deal with me to show me what a leprous heart I had.
You get into an illicit relationship, hear me, you get into an illicit relationship and very soon you will be justifying many other illegitimacies. And it'll turn desire into disrespect, if not hatred.
May I challenge you to abide by a principle and only you can seek the mind of God in this, but I'll tell you what would be my desire for my children. I cannot control it. By God's grace I can try and discipline their minds into believing that this is true; be careful of those moments you spend alone.
There was one principle Margie and I had which was this; we would never, ever be alone without being accessible to somebody in either a public or a home setting, so that if we were in her home visiting, we'd be talking in the living room or in my home, whatever, where the parents had access to us, or whether we were in a dining room or a hockey game or whatever it was. It was a principle we abided by before God. We did our best to keep in those public areas, so that God could enable us to honor the commitments we'd made to Him and were making to each other.
Follow what I'm saying. The Apostle Paul says to, "Make not [sic] provision for the flesh. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh." May I translate it into saying, "Do not put yourself in a place where you can fall."
John: Well, always has wise insights and that's some good advice there from Ravi Zacharias on today's "Focus on the Family." And as a reminder, you can get a CD or an audio download of this entire two-part message when you get in touch. Details at www.focusonthefamily.com/radioor call us, 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. We'll continue now as Ravi recaps the principles that he observes in the courtship of Isaac and Rebekah, as recorded in the book of Genesis, on today's "Focus on the Family."
End of Program Note
Ravi: No.1, someone else was involved in the choice. No. 2, the person involved, kindness was one principle. No. 3, there was purity of heart. No. 4, there was a readiness and a willingness. Parents, please hear me now. Just as I believe it is wrong for the child to violate the parents' desire in this, I also believe it is important that the parent respects the child's integrity in this and not violate their choice by insisting upon that which the child does not desire.
In other words, if the parents, as happens in many parts in my culture, as a matter of fact, right now, if I had the liberty to tell you, a very key person converted in one of our meetings in one of the major countries of this world--a personal secretary to the royal family in that country--right now, has been forcibly violated in her will to marry somebody, although she has committed her life to Christ, and the boy has not. And it was only recently, just a few days ago, where an early morning call into our home came with a broken heart that the marriage is everything she knew it would be when marrying outside the will of God, but in that particular culture, the parent forced and insisted, and the girl now sees years of hell ahead of her.
She was ready and willing. The relatives looked at Rebekah and said, "Look, you don't have to go right now. You want to wait?" She said, "No, I'm ready and willing and I want to go."
One of my favorite stories is this. This fellow called George [was] in love with a girl called Mary. Mary and George were engaged to be married, till George was drafted into the army. And he says, "Mary, you wait for me. No point in getting married and going into the battlefield. After the war is over, I'll come back and we'll get married." Mary agreed.
Many days went by, letters would come; letters would come; letters would come, and then, finally, the letters stopped coming. One week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, many weeks went by, and no letters. Finally, a commanding officer comes and says that George is missing, believed to be dead. This completely breaks Mary's heart; she doesn't know what to do. Many, many days go by; many months go by. She's not able to get this out of her mind. One evening she comes back from work and says, "Mother, I'm really under the weather. Can I go to my room? Please don't disturb me."
And she goes into her room and she shuts the door and she gets there and she takes all of George's letters and she's reading them and the tears are running down her face as she thinks of him. Then she decides to bring George's picture, looks at his picture, reads the letters and the tears are running down the face. Then finally, she says, "I'm gonna make this more real." And for the first time, she took out the wedding dress that had long been bought before George had left, puts on the wedding dress, looks into the mirror, looks at the picture, reads the letters, sobbing her heart out.
So involved in this ritual, she doesn't hear a knock (Sound of knocking) on the door downstairs. And the mother goes and opens the door and just about falls off. She says, "George! What are you doing here?" He says, "Mother, is Mary home?" "Yeah, but, Georgie, you are supposed to be dead!" He says, "Well, no, I'm all right. I'm all right. Is Mary married?" She says, "No, but George, what's the matter?" He says, "Mother, could you please step aside for a moment so I can go and see Mary first?" And she says, "She's upstairs in her room."
And George struts up the stairway and he looks through the keyhole first. And in England some of those keyholes are so big, you can almost walk through them. And he sees Mary in her bridal dress there. And he gently opens the door; her back is to him. And he gently tiptoes towards her, taps her on the shoulder. She turns around in a state of shock and says, "Georgie!" Wraps her arms around him and I can't continue the story, except to tell you that he loosens one arm, dips into a hip pocket, opens a dog-eared piece of paper and it says, "Mary, dear, of all the letters you wrote to me, this one is the most precious to me. It says this, `Georgie dear, I love you. I love you. I love you and when you come back, I'll be ready.'" He said, "Honey, I didn't know you'd be so ready." (Laughter) If marriage is as grand as the Bible intended it to be, then it is worth it waiting until you're ready for that right moment.
You go back and you see the choice of someone playing a part; you see the kindness; you see the purity; you see the readiness and willingness. And lastly, when Rebekah came with Eleazar, riding out in the distance, they set their eyes uponIsaac.And as they set their eyes upon Isaac, Rebekah, of course, didn't know who he was. And finally, when she found out that this was to be her husband, the marvelous thing is, the Hebrew is not very clear on this. Scholars are trying desperately to find out precisely what it means, but the idea that seems to be emerging as a consensus is that he was meditating and praying at that time of the day.
And of all the principles I leave with you, we have talked so much about our expectation from the partner. Look for kindness; look for purity and all of that. I want to tie this all together with one single principle that I want you to apply to your own life, as I apply it to mine and each one to ourselves. That classic description is the same description given of Joseph, one of my favorite characters in the Bible, where Pharaoh is not intimidated by him because of anything great, but as he begins to study the life of Joseph, Pharaoh is overwhelmed by him. And at one point, he points his finger to Joseph and says to all of his court assistants there, "There is nobody in this land like that man, for there is a man in whom the Spirit of God dwells. I would trust any member of my family with Joseph."
And the principle that I see here in Isaac, that first thing that they saw, was that this man was praying. I want to give you two or three illustrations as we close.
I was preaching in Cambodia in 1974. There was a young man there by the name of Daniel Lam, who I believe is somewhere in the United States now. He was a Chinese gentleman in his early 20's. I was just a few years older than him. We became very close as he traveled with me to the city of Badongbon and preaching.
We would be in this upstairs home, which was very, very meager. We really were struggling to even find half-decent accommodations. The war was ravaging that city. And we had to come home every night at about 7 or 8 when curfew was there, but several nights we would be in dimly-lit churches counseling many of the Buddhists who were coming to the Lord. Several hundred had come to the Lord in those 10 days.
And this one night we'd counseled a Buddhist priest who'd been a priest for 18 years. Buntan was his name. As Daniel Lam and I had prayed with him till the late hours of the night and it was a real battle of God against the evil forces--it was such a tremendously emotionally draining thing--that when we walked back in darkness to our upstairs room, I figured we were as exhausted as we could ever possibly be in our lives. And I mention that, because we'd been going for so many days.
Every morning Daniel Lam would do something. At 4 a.m., his alarm would go off. We were sharing the same room. Quietly he would get up, wind his way up the stairs and he'd get on to the roof of that building, which was just above our room. And then in a language that I did not understand, but a pathos that I think I could understand, he would keep praying and praying and praying that God would bring Cambodia to a national conversion. This night was so late. We'd lost so much of sleep, so finally in the early hours of the morning when he got up again, I couldn't believe it.
A short while later, when I got up, had my own devotions, got ready, as we were walking to the church, I said, "Daniel, weren't you too tired to wake up this morning?" And he said, "Brother, I was too tired, but if ever I needed to be on prayer on my knees that was the morning I needed to, because we'd just wrestled with a man for whom the Devil was wrestling." There's one principle in my life that I try not to violate. It is that time alone with God every day, every day.
And young people, we can talk all we want about dating and all we want about romance, but as I close tonight, I'm asking you this, "Are you willing to be a man and a woman who is a man or a woman of prayer, so that as you are deeply devoted to God, He will reveal to you that partner of your life and make you to be the person God wants you to be?" That is the first step.
Marriage means handing over yourself, your body, your future, your keeping to the one whom you dearly love, although this person may, in many ways, remain a stranger. This tremendous act of faith is something that can unlock in each lover powers of compassion, generosity, joy, passion, fidelity and hope that no one guessed was even there. That is why the confidence of young lovers is not foolish or arrogant, but an expression of a basic fact in human experience that the greatest of human gifts are set to work only when people are prepared to risk everything and first you risk it before God.
Let us pray. Father, what a grand privilege You've given to us in love. And Lord, I'm fully aware that maybe for some that relationship may never come to be and You give strength and wisdom and love in our loneliness. But, Lord, as dearly as we seek You, we know that You want us to first commit ourselves personally in the inner man.
Before I give you an invitation, while your heads are bowed in prayer, I want you to listen to three principles and then respond. To single young people, here's my first principle: keep yourself pure for your future partner and learn to be ruthless with the approaches to sin. To people living in an adulterous relationship: make up your mind to break it right now despite all the pain it might cause you. To married people: work at your marriage and set an example to the many young people who come from broken homes and have no model.
While you're in a posture of prayer, maybe some of you tonight are willing to say, "Ravi, I've made some mistakes and tonight I want to start all over again and I know God'll forgive me. Please pray for me." Or some of you are willing to say, "Ravi, I need to become that person of prayer and a godly man and a godly woman to keep that as a priority before my relationship." Some of you are willing to say, "Ravi, I'm living in that wrong relationship, living in sin before God. I want tonight to break that or break those habits. Please pray for me." If God has really spoken to you tonight, give me a chance to please pray for you. And if you give us the chance, we'd like to pray with you.
Father, thank You and I pray that You will do something that'll be deep and lasting for eternity. Give us the courage and the strength to stand up for what we believe, for Lord, what we believe is in You and You are worth taking a stand for. Thank You for being with us tonight and speaking through Your Holy Spirit. In Christ's name, amen.
John: And with that, we've come to the end of a powerful two-part presentation from Dr. Ravi Zacharias, as he shared biblical principles on what to look for in a mate, on "Focus on the Family."
Jim: This was such an excellent message from Dr. Zacharias. I appreciate so much of who he is. He's such a thinker and philosopher, yet delivering a powerful message on how to pick a mate--something so basic as that. I hope you got a lot out of it, whether you're single or married. And I know I did.
The last time we aired this presentation, we received a comment that I want to read, because it really sums it up. This person said, "I've been married for almost 20 years and sometimes I still don't understand my wife's needs.But after hearing your program, I just went home and gave her a big hug. And that wiped away a whole week's worth of frustration for both of us. Thank you for airing this reminder of what marriage should look like." John, that's powerful.
John: It is and it reflects, I think on what Ravi said about expressing kindness in a relationship and then cherishing your spouse,I mean, really valuing them highly.
Jim: And you know what? We want to be here for you and your marriage and in seeking a mate. If Focus on the Family can answer questions or provide resources to help you strengthen your marriage or get you ready for marriage, don't hesitate to call us. Man, it's our privilege to do that and to stand in the gap. And we want to be there for you.
John: And we also have great resources like Boundless. I mean, that podcast and webzine is an excellent resource for singles.
Jim: It is. If you're single, Boundless is a great place to go. It's really aimed at 20- and early 30-somethings to talk about the issues of family formation and how do you go about choosing a mate that has the godly principles and the godly character that we've talked about today.
Um ... if you could consider partnering with us so that we can continue to bring this kind of
John: Well, we would and what a great way to reach around the world with your donations and your partnership with Focus on the Family. And so, contribute generously today when you call 800-A-FAMILY or do so at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And as Jim has said, what we really want to do is come alongside individuals and couples and families and give resources and trusted biblical advice asyou've heard today from Ravi Zacharias. And as you help us fulfill that goal with a generous financial gift today, we'd like to say thank you by sending a copy of Ravi's classic book, I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah, which includes all the principles he shared here today and last time and much, much more.
Now when you get in touch, be sure to get a CD or download of this timeless message and look for our mobile apps so you can listen on the go to these programs every day. If you can't find those or if you have questions, once again our number, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Well, next time on "Focus on the Family," Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C.S. Lewis.
Mr. Douglas Gresham: I looked around for someone to help me and there is only one Person, Jesus Christ. So, I gave my life to Him to handle and since then, everything's been great, you know. (Chuckling)
End of Excerpt
John: That's next time and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back to the next "Focus on the Family" program, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.
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Ravi ZachariasView Bio
Ravi Zacharias is a well-known Christian apologist and a popular public speaker who has addressed audiences around the world for more than four decades. He is a best-selling, award-winning author of numerous books including Can Man Live Without God?, The Grand Weaver and Light in the Shadow of Jihad. Zacharias is also the founder and president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and host of the radio programs Let My People Think and Just Thinking. He and his wife, Margaret, have three adult children and reside in Atlanta, Ga.