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This is not a very popular doctrine these days, when women are assuming an ever more prominent and aggressive role in society.
What it comes down to is simply this: "Is the Bible plenarily and verbally inspired?" If so--and we affirm unequivocally that it is--then does God know what is best for a wife and mother regarding the home? Does He wholeheartedly desire life’s best for her? Well, of course, He does! So then, out of His infinite wisdom and ineffable love, He says, "Ye wives, submit."
The headship of the man is taught throughout Scripture. It is a doctrine that is based upon God’s order in creation. The man was made first, then the woman. The man was not taken from the woman; the woman was taken from the man. The man was not created for the woman. On the contrary, in the wisdom, love, and power of God, the woman was created for the man, to be his helpmeet (Gen. 2:18-25; 1 Cor. 11:3, 7-9). When Satan tempted Eve, he persuaded her to assert her independence and take the leadership role. Adam, sadly, followed Eve’s lead. Thus, sin entered into human history (Gen. 3:1-7). When God dealt with the situation that resulted from the Fall, He reinstated man as head and restated the woman’s subordinate position (Gen. 3:16). None of this means that men are superior to women or that women are inferior to men. It simply means that God has a blueprint for marriage and that He insists on order in the home. To establish that order, He assigns their respective roles to the husband and the wife. There cannot be two captains on a ship; neither can there be two people at the helm in the home.
Nobody has ever excelled the preaching of Alexander Whyte on this subject. In his masterly sermon on Rebekah, he draws aside the veil, gives us a glimpse into Isaac’s home, and shows us what happens when God’s order for the home is set aside - for whatever reason. It is worth quoting his words at some length.
“The single plank that spans the terrible gulf between Isaac’s marriage-bed and his deathbed is laid for us in this single sentence: "Isaac loved Esau because he did eat of his venison; but Rebekah loved Jacob." He that hath ears will hear that bottomless pit of married sorrow that Isaac and Rebekah had dug and filled for themselves and for their two the home.
“It sickens us to stand there and to think of such lifelong sorrow after such a sweet start. There are years of secret alienation, and distaste, and dislike in that little verse. There are heart-burnings and heartbreaks; hidden hatreds and open quarrels; deceits and duplicities, and discoveries of deceits and duplicities, enough to make Isaac old and blind and dead before the time.
“When the twin brothers were brought up day after day and hour after hour in an atmosphere of favoritism, and partiality, and indulgence, and injustice, no father, no mother, can surely need to have it pointed out to them what present misery, and what future wages of such sin, is all to be seen and to be expected in that evil house. Eloquent with wickedness as the words are--Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob--yet they make little impression on us till we have read on and on through chapter after chapter, full of the fruit of that little verse.
“One of the very first fruits of that devil’s garden that Isaac and Rebekah had sowed for themselves was the two heathen marriages that Esau went out and made and brought home, and which were such a grief to Isaac and to Rebekah. That great grief would seem to have been almost the only thing the two old people were at one about by that time. It was a bitter pill to Rebekah, those two marriages of Esau. For the old disorder and disgrace still went on; only, henceforth to be increased and aggravated by the introduction of those two new sources of disorder, Judith and Bashemath, into that already sufficiently disordered and disgraced household.
“Esau is greatly blamed by some preachers for his heathen marriages, but, surely, quite unfairly. We talk to Esau about the covenant, but Esau answers us that, for his part, he saw little covenant in his father’s house beyond the name. And Esau might very well think that he could surely get a mother for his children from nearer home than Padan-aram, who would be as fair, and wise, and kind and good to them as his covenant mother had been to him. The disrespect and utter lack of reverence that his mother showed to his father made Judith’s respect and reverence to Beeri, and Bashemath’s respect and reverence to Elon, an attraction and a refuge and a rest to Esau’s restless heart. And I do not believe that the two Hittite women, whom Esau made his two wives, ever played him such a trick in his old age as Rebekah played his old father, Isaac.
“Rebekah, with all her beauty, and with all her courage, and with all her ambition to be in the covenant line, lacked the best thing in a woman--womanly sensibility, tenderness, quietness, humility and self-submission. By the time that Rebekah became no longer a bride or a young wife, her character had wholly lost all wholesomeness, and sweetness, and strength” (Alexander Whyte).
"And the wife see that she reverence her husband," says Paul, with his eye on Rebekah. Yes, but what if she cannot? What if there is so little left that is to be reverenced about her husband? But what if he is not wise? What if he is a fool? What if a wife wakens up to see that she has yoked herself till death to a churl, or to a boor, or to an ignoramus, or to a coxcomb, or to a lazy, idle log, or to a shape of a man whose God is his belly, or his purse or just his own small, miserable self? What is a woman, so ensnared, to do?
But it can be done. And it is being done all around her by thousands of her sisters by the help of God. Let her say: I would have him, I would not see what everybody else saw, and what some of my people were so bold and so cruel as to tell me they saw. I walked into it with my eyes shut. I thought that just to be married would be heaven upon earth. I was sure he would improve. I said that if ever a woman helped a man to improve I would be that woman. And he said with such warmth that I was that woman to him, and that there was not another woman like me in the whole earth. I made this bitter bed with my own hands.
That is the true line to take when a woman is told to reverence a husband for whom no one else has any reverence or affection. Let her determine to be a New Testament wife to him. These are they which came out of great tribulation, it is said in heaven over multitudes of such wives.
Let her say to herself, then, every day, that this is her great tribulation.
"And, perhaps, that will help him. I have not helped him as I’d promised and intended to do. I have dwelt on my own disappointment and shipwreck, and not enough on his. There are two sides to our married life. There is my husband’s side as well as mine; and there is his mother’s side as well as my mother’s. Perhaps it will help him to overcome if I behave as if he had overcome. Perhaps, if I act as if I were happy, it may help to make him happy. Let me behave myself as if he were wise, and true, and noble, and every way good, and it will greatly help to make him all that. Is there not a Scripture somewhere that says that husbands are sometimes to be won by the conversation of their wives? And, that a wife’s best ornament is a meek and quiet spirit? Let me be such a wife as I have never yet been."
What a pity it was that Rebekah did not go to Hagar’s well for water every morning, and there talk to herself in that way till she went home to reverence her husband, saying all the way, "Thou God seest me!"
What a pity it was that Rebekah did not do that!
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