Considering the epidemic practice of polygamy in the ancient world and even among Israel’s patriarchs, Abrahams and Sarah’s marriage was remarkable both for its monogamy and longevity. We don’t know how long they were married but it could have been as long as 80-some years. Granted, Abraham took Hagar as a concubine, but there is no indication in Scripture that he continued the relationship after Ishmael’s conception. Other than that “one-night stand” with Hagar, Abraham was faithful to Sarah, and the two enjoyed a long healthy committed partnership.
Isaac followed his father’s example with a monogamous marriage to Rebekah, but his sons chose polygamy and took multiple wives and concubines. Why? Because it was culturally prevalent, because it was convenient, because they wanted to. Men can come up with a dozen reasons to do their own will rather than God’s. Abraham’s grandsons and great grandsons knew the pattern God had established with Adam and Eve, about Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah. But they wanted their own way.
When you look at the prevalent attitude toward marriage in our culture today, you can see this same selfishness and rebellion. Why do so many marriages end in divorce? Why do men and women cheat on each other? Why do many skip marriage altogether and just move from one lover to the next? Because modern man, much like ancient man, puts his own personal “happiness” first. The ironic thing is, what we think is happiness often brings a lot of regret, guilt and sadness in the end.
In fact, the only way to experience true happiness (joy) is to embrace God’s way. When a man chooses to obey God and follow his pattern for love and marriage and family, he steps into the path of optimal blessing. What I mean by that is, the man who has submitted to God’s will in a matter has the greatest potential for blessing. He might experience some blessings and moments of happiness on another path, but he will experience far more on the path of obedience to God.
When you look at it this way, I think the decision is a bit clearer. Do you want to be truly happy? Get in line with God’s design and stay there. We can’t look ahead and see the outcome of our choices; but we can make a fool-proof bet on the choice to obey God. It always results in blessing.
Reading: Genesis 23