AUGUST 18, 2012
TEXT: ECCLESIASTES 4:12
A THREEFOLD CORD IS NOT QUICKLY BROKEN!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Dear Ben and Erica, family and friends, Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Whether married, single, or even banished to an island (as was the apostle John – Rev. 1:9), no believer in Jesus Christ is ever alone! The Lord is his or her constant companion!  Christ raises them up when they fall and finally delivers them from the devil and the world giving them the ultimate victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)!  Thus, Ben and Erica, your chosen text from Ecclesiastes is about more than the advantages of companionship and marriage.  In its deepest sense it is a passage that teaches the eternal benefits of communion with Jesus Christ.  It is therefore also a beautiful text for a wedding!
 
From Ecclesiastes 4:12, Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow…a threefold cord is not quickly broken….

The book of Ecclesiastes gives a very earthy perspective!  It reveals the frail character of life in this passing world – “under the sun.”  “All is vanity – a striving after the wind.”  As your verse indicates we do fall down.  Physically, emotionally, and spiritually - frailty and failings are ever present.  Elsewhere, in Ecclesiastes the Holy Spirit caused Solomon to write of our final earthly fall - As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry it away (5:15).  There is a time to be born and a time to die (3:2).  All are from the dust and to dust all return (3:20).

 

AUGUST 18, 2012
TEXT: ECCLESIASTES 4:12
A THREEFOLD CORD IS NOT QUICKLY BROKEN!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Dear Ben and Erica, family and friends, Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Whether married, single, or even banished to an island (as was the apostle John – Rev. 1:9), no believer in Jesus Christ is ever alone! The Lord is his or her constant companion!  Christ raises them up when they fall and finally delivers them from the devil and the world giving them the ultimate victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)!  Thus, Ben and Erica, your chosen text from Ecclesiastes is about more than the advantages of companionship and marriage.  In its deepest sense it is a passage that teaches the eternal benefits of communion with Jesus Christ.  It is therefore also a beautiful text for a wedding!
 
From Ecclesiastes 4:12, Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow…a threefold cord is not quickly broken….

The book of Ecclesiastes gives a very earthy perspective!  It reveals the frail character of life in this passing world – “under the sun.”  “All is vanity – a striving after the wind.”  As your verse indicates we do fall down.  Physically, emotionally, and spiritually - frailty and failings are ever present.  Elsewhere, in Ecclesiastes the Holy Spirit caused Solomon to write of our final earthly fall - As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry it away (5:15).  There is a time to be born and a time to die (3:2).  All are from the dust and to dust all return (3:20).

We will, each one of us – up ahead just a bit – fall in death.  In light of that fall, dear Christians, two is eternally better than one.  The believer – joined to Christ Jesus – has a tremendously good reward for their toil for it is really Christ’s toil in them and through them.  As Scripture reveals…it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).   This work of God is so complete that even when a believer falls in death Jesus will lift them up again in the resurrection (see Solomon’s anticipation in Ecclesiastes 12:7)!

So, Ben and Erica, this is a beautiful text for Gods’ gift of marriage you receive today?  It’s not merely sentimental and sweet but anchored in Scriptural soundness.  Think of the vanity of life expressed in the all-embracing vows the two of you will soon speak to one another – “better or worse” – “richer or poorer” – “sickness and health.”  You then add - “until death parts us.”  It’s almost as if those who first wrote these comprehensive vows had just finished reading Ecclesiastes.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow…a threefold cord is not quickly broken….  In your baptism, Erica, you were clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27).  You ceased walking alone as the Holy Trinity raised you from the death of unbelief to the life of faith.  He joined you to Himself.  That gift reflects a threefold chord – God’s Word of promise and forgiveness – the humble means of water - and you.   In your baptism, Benjamin God likewise joined you to Himself by water and the Word – lifting you from death to life.  On His part, God will never forsake His promise made to each of you there.  And what good reward each of you has for your toil in Him.  Jesus Himself expressed it this way - I am the vine you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit…(John 15:5).  

In your chosen verse – two that are better than one - quickly give way to three – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  In Scripture, the number three is intimately associated with the Holy Trinity.  He is the three-in-one that will never be broken.  The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit created this world, redeemed this world and will bring this world to its close on Judgment Day.  Everything in this world will be broken – Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words (the words of the Son who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit) will not pass away (Matthew 24:35). A threefold cord in not quickly broken – indeed!

From the Holy Trinity come gifts that are fearful and wonderful.  Psalm 139 testifies to how fearfully and wonderfully a child is knit together in its mother’s womb.  As your mothers rejoice with you today, they would be the first to marvel at how quickly the years have gone since each of you was fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s knitting room of the womb.  And now – just like that – here you stand - to receive another fearful and wonderful gift of the Holy Trinity - the gift of marriage in which two become one flesh.  

A growing number of people in this world mock God’s gift of marriage.  Many seek to redefine it according to the whims of this decaying culture.  But true marriage – God’s gift of marriage is the fearful and wonderful joining of one man and one woman - The two shall become one flesh.  This unity is given by God who is one.    

So, Benjamin – and all husbands here today – lend your ears to another word of God through Solomon in Ecclesiastes concerning God’s gift of marriage.  Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun (9:9)

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love…  Make no mistake husbands – some of the joy absent from marriage and therefore from life comes from us not loving our wives as God wills.  Husbands you are to love your wife like Christ loved the Church – laying His life down for her.  There is no small bit of toil in God’s definition of the love of a husband.  This is not the world’s perspective of love as a feeling.  This is a vigorous, suffering, intensive, putting your wife first, active, doing love.  You are to put her needs first in genuine care - in words and deeds – whether you feel like it or not.  Enjoy life with the wife whom you love…  This agape love is to be given even as the wife whom you love seeks always to put your needs first – being subordinate - ordering her life with and under yours – lining up with you as her God-given head – seeking to please and honor and respect you.  Make no mistake wives – some of the joy absent from marriage and therefore from life comes from omissions in these God-given responsibilities.  

Husbands – if you thought of your wife’s failings just now – repent.  Wives – if you thought of your husband’s failings just now – repent.  Jesus is speaking to you, in your vocation – in your station – with your self-centeredness and self-justification.  Here is where both husbands and wives always and daily fall down and constantly need other gifts of God to lift them up – gifts that might be expressed as a threefold cord.  

These threefold cords remove our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west.  Husbands – if you think you’ve messed up too long and failed too miserably in giving Christ-like love to your wife – repent of this unbelief and get busy!  His blood cleanses you from all sin.  Wives – if you think you’ve messed up too long and failed too miserably – in ordering your life under and with your husband – repent of this unbelief and get busy!  Don’t’ depend on your own strength – but on the strength of God who bestows grace upon grace!

There is the threefold cord of God’s spoken forgiveness – His absolution!  ”Peace be with you,” said the risen Christ on that first Easter Day.  He then commanded that His forgiveness be spoken in His Church as the matter of first importance!  God’s absolution is to be spoken to His people through the voice of His pastors.  His absolution is also to be spoken through His people in the vocations of life.  That includes the station of marriage that allows us to see so closely the sin of the person with whom we are one flesh?  

Benjamin and Erica – in the weeks and years ahead you will each acknowledge to the other – “I’m sorry” – “I didn’t understand” – “I was thinking of myself and my time” - “I should listen to you more closely.”  As this happens in a Christian marriage there is the strong third strand of this cord given by Christ – “I forgive you!”  Jesus teaches us to pray for it aloud every day in the fifth petition – Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us (including our spouse).  

As we continually fall down in our vocation as husbands and wives the risen Christ also serves forgiveness food – heavenly food - to His gathered church.  His word does what it says – joining humble means (bread and wine) with infinite treasures (His body and His blood – once sacrificed on the cross).  Once again, the third strand of this threefold cord is you - Given and shed for you – for the forgiveness of sins – He promises.  

All these gifts - that God will always be faithful to – receive their strength from the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.  We don’t know if it was a threefold chord that bound Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane – but three million cords of the strongest steel could not have held Him except for His undeserved love for us!  On Calvary it was not a cord that bound him but spikes – hand and foot to the dry wood of the cross.  Again, however, it was not their strength that held Him – but God’s steadfast love for us sinners.  Indeed, this is how we know what love is – That Christ laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).

A strong threefold cord was a work to put and to keep Jesus in the tomb – death and the devil and even the Governor’s seal.  But the Lord of Life swept them away – one and all!  It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him (Acts 2:24).  Death is swallowed up in Victory!  O death, where is your sting?  O death, where is your victory!  Thanks be to God who give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow…This work of God is so complete in you that even when you fall in death Jesus will raise you up on the last day!

Now, in the meantime, the risen Lord is at work serving His Chosen Bride – His Church – with three-fold chord gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation!  He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities…as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us…the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him.

That is why it is wonderful that the two of you desire to receive God’s gift of marriage today!  As surely as Christ is risen and giving His life to repentant sinners – so surely is there reason for thanksgiving and joy in every circumstance – better or worse – richer or poorer - sickness or health!  Therefore, Eat, drink, and be joyful…through the days God gives you under the sun (8:15).  “Go eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do (9:7).  

The Ancient of Days has swept away the vanity of life in this dying world by becoming sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:11) by tasting death for us (Hebrews 2:9, 14-15) and by restoring eternal life to us (John 6 & 11) – body and soul!

Beloved, it is no accident that the Holy Spirit caused the apostle John to describe life in the new heavens and the new earth as The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.   “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:6). The joy of your wedding, Ben and Erica, points to the far greater joy of the eternal wedding feast of the heavenly Bridegroom with His Bride the Church.  A threefold cord is not quickly broken - In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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