Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.

In Evangelio Dominus Ego sum, inquit, veritas. Non dixit, Ego sum consuetude! (Augustine, in De Baptismo, III.6.9, translated, “In the Gospel the Lord says—’I am the truth.’ He did not say, ‘I am custom.'”)Dating is fatherless. Modern American dating is determined to be fatherless. Not all fathers have succeeded in aborting all their children. But all daters do away with dads.

Fatherless dating is a sign of the end of time. It is just one way, but a significant way, in which end-time worldling young and not-so-young people are showing their disobedience to parents (I Tim. 3:1, 2). It is damning evidence of their following the end-time despisers of dominion and those who speak evil of dignities (Jude 8). It is the sad story even of Christian parents who have, in the matter of the marrying of their children, let the children lead the way, or at best cried a couple suggestions about Sally, or a weak warning about Irving just before their dating children drove off into the night. Yes, in the matter of the way of a man with a maid a modern youth rights-demanding-insisting-upon-privacy subculture governs many-a-Christian home. Custom rules. Not Christ. Not Heads. But eyes. And hands. And lips. And hips. And hormones. And Hollywood.

More of the Father Principle

The biblical way of a man with a maid, the biblical way of godly marrying is family. The isolation of youth, the pairing off, then the trysting of couples, is unbiblical, ungodly, dangerous, and a dishonor to and disruption of family.

The way of a man with a maid is a family affair, or it is simply this—an affair. Family is the institution of God to be honored in the way of our men with maids. The already existing families (of man and maid) are to be honored and involved. Independent, isolated, collapsing-on-itself-and-each-other Dating is no institution of God, but Family is. The way of our men with maids must be a part of the way of family, a family affair.

And the only way this will be is if there is leadership. There must be father. Since the head of family is father, father is and must be the head of the way of a man with a maid. Not a titular head. Not Genghis Khan. Nor a brainless head. But the father whom God has given to and in our homes to represent Himself. The father with the authority, with the compassion, with the wisdom. Your father, Grace Life reader! Yours! And, if you are one, you father … you!

The vital matter of this father-principle, father superintendence, father involvement among our men with maids has been broached in a prior article.

We continue with more biblical proof and conclusions.

Abraham and the marrying of his son Isaac is an example in Scripture of the father principle acted upon in the marrying of covenant children.

Recall the scene in Genesis 24. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, Isaac’s mother, is dead. The promise of God to Abraham and Sarah has been fulfilled, for now, in the birth of Isaac. It awaits further fulfillment. For the promise has been thatAbraham would be a father of a great nation comprised of all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:2, 3). Yet at this time there is no other covenant seed from Abraham’s loins than Isaac. So now Abraham, old and blessed in all things (Gen. 24:1), will seek to be blessed fully in the taking of a wife for the son of his old age. Little does he know (though he does know a little!) that the fullness and the reality of blessing will be in the One seed to come from His loins in and through whom families everywhere will be blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Gal. 3:16Eph. 1:3;Heb. 11:9, 10)! With little knowledge of these things, but with a true and living faith, Abraham adjures his servant to go and find a proper wife for Isaac. Genesis 24 records how the marriage is obviously directed by and blessed of the Lord.

We often cite the example of Abraham for our learning just whom a believer should marry. We learn from this example, from this father of all believers and the marrying of his son, that Canaanites are off limits. Abraham himself says this (cf. Gen. 24:3). We say this. No matter how good they look. No matter how wealthy they are. No matter how much they “seem to be eager to come to church with us….” Canaanites are Canaanites. And God’s people are God’s people. And light has no fellowship with darkness, nor Christ with Belial (II Cor. 6:14-18). And “lead us not into temptation” is a prayer we are to make which ought to make for a prayer-life of tempting not the Lord and playing with the doctrines of grace by our cavorting with shapely but ungodly Canaanites. And though the way of a man with a maid is the way of a converted man loving a godly woman’s soul and her blue eyes, the godly way is not one convert seeking in dating to convert pretty blue eyes.

But more. From Abraham we learn the way marrying should be done. And it should be done, according to Abraham’s way, so that the father leads the way. According to the narrative in Genesis 24 father Abraham got his son a wife. Abraham sent his servant to his own country and kindred, to Mesopotamia and the city of Nahor (vv. 3, 10). Abraham directs the whole thing. Abraham’s will is decisive in the matter. Isaac has no authority here. Presumably, Abraham talked to his son about this. And presumably Isaac agreed to the arrangement, just as on the other end Rebekah was consulted and agreed with Laban and Bethuel. But father Abraham is the Man here, and the vicar of God here, on behalf of the covenant-promising, covenant-obliging heavenly Father! So Isaac was not to go and search for a mate for himself and by himself. Nor was Abraham’s servant to bring back a bunch of beauties or even several women known for their godliness (and, of course, godly women can be beauties too!) from which Isaac was to choose through some kind of dating process, and several years of recreating with one after another until he had fallen in love with someone, or at least more in love with one than the others.

Nothing here of Isaac the Independent One, searching after some Material One or even some Spiritual One in relative isolation from father. Rather, here is father acting for the son, in the best interests of the son, and especially in the best interests of the covenant of grace. Pretty bland compared to modern American dating? Very godly, very serious, very God-honoring compared to modern American dating!

Abraham: Lord of the Marrying of His Covenant Seed!

Some might object to the contention that the example of Abraham and the marrying of his son Isaac applies to us and to our day.

The objection may be raised: this fact of Abraham’s seeking a wife for Isaac in this way was sin. Poor Isaac! First father tries to kill him (Gen. 22). Now in the very personal and private matter of marrying we see father tyrannizing him. The answer to this objection is clear: there is no indication in Scripture that this way of seeking a wife for Isaac was sin. There is clear evidence that this way was blessed, a blessing for all involved: for Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, and the church!

Another objection is more serious. Some might say: Abraham’s seeking a mate for his son was a special instance. It was not meant to be for all time that fathers would be so involved in the marrying of their children. Especially in the New Testament era, we who have the Spirit ought to be able to find a mate for ourselves, and our fathers and mothers ought to trust us enough to leave us to make the decision for ourselves. At best Genesis 24teaches that fathers should be concerned with whom their children marry. It might even teach that children should be concerned that their fathers be concerned. It does not teach that father is lord of the marrying of his children.

The concern is real, and a good one. The concern is that we might in zeal to rid the house of God of one custom, namely “dating,” only be filling it with seven other devilish customs which were never meant to be anything but that—customs only for one era, and for maybe one race of people, and which never had anything to do with abiding principles and which will never fly in 2002, and with Americans, or the Dutch.

Maybe (the objectors might concede) this custom of parental supervision of the marrying of children is for some. Maybe control freak fathers will like this, and maybe cowering kids will submit to this. But my dad and I agree. He’s too busy. And I am old enough to decide for myself. He likes what I like. And he respects me and trusts me. And when I let him know that George has now entered my life, or that I met this great guy at the convention and that we had six dates in four days dad will say “how wonderful” and start saving money.

In answer to that objection, the following is recommended for the reader’s consideration:

First, we should remember that Abraham and Isaac andGenesis 24 are sacred history. Therefore, there is something here, most assuredly, which pertains to us. There is gospel here of the covenant salvation which is for us, and of the covenant responsibilities there are for us. Granted, it might not be that Genesis 24 means that we are to employ servants to make matches for our covenant youth (or forty year olds), or that one or a thousand of us ought to agree to marry someone sight unseen. In fact Genesis 24 does not mean this. No one would argue for such strange and strained interpretation and application of Scripture. But it might just be that there is something sacred and abiding about the principle of the way of Abraham with his man and the maid, that is, about the fatherhood involvement, the covenant head of the home responsibility which Abraham, and God through him, demonstrates.

The fact and history of Abraham and its bearing on us and our children ought especially to be considered when we recall that Abraham is called in Scripture the father of all believers (Rom. 4:16). This means, among other things, that Abraham is set forth as a principle-man, a man for all time, an embodiment of Truth for our learning of the God who is Father of all believers, of the Christ whose day Abraham saw and rejoiced in (John 8:56), of the promises, unconditional, and to him and his seed after him in the generations (Gen. 17:7Acts 2:39), of the faith that he had, and of his being justified by faith as the only way, ever, that one is saved (Rom. 4). Abraham’s covenant faithfulness and his obedience are to be reckoned, as well, as a pattern for us children to follow (cf. Hebrews 11 and the several references to Abraham).

Abraham, father Abraham, our father Abraham was lord of the marrying of his children. This was because he was lord of the home, under the Lord of the covenant he represented. And this means, in fact, that covenant fathers today must be lord of the marrying of their children.

The lordship of Abraham in his home and its application to us today, the abiding principle of covenant headship and authority, even for the marrying of our covenant seed, is proven without a doubt in a passage, a New Testament passage, such as I Peter 3. There the lordship of Abraham over Sarah is acknowledged, and the fact that Sarah acknowledged this is set forth as the godly example for wives in covenant homes today. Wives are Sarah’s daughters, as long as they do well, and submit to their husbands, and are not afraid with any amazement (I Pet. 3:6).

This all means that husbands today are lords. Wives today subjects. And all are to acknowledge this in the home. Children as well. Children are Abraham’s seed indeed if they do well in calling their fathers lord. No inkling of a thought that when the State says they are legal, children have rights to call the shots in some Thing called recreational dating. Father is lord. In the name of the living God of Abraham, covenant fathers today are lord, and that too, of the way of their men and maids.

Lordship—godly, commanding, superintending, covenant-promoting rule of father today ought to be seen, felt, and desired in the way of our men with maids. Fathers must be Abrahamic with their children. They must know where the godly mates are. They must superintend the pursuit of them. They must govern the way of their men and their maids!

But this means, then, that there must be meek, trusting submission to fathers among the children and young people of the covenant. Just as in Abraham’s day and home, so today an attitude of cheerful yielding to father’s will by our men, and submissive meekness by our maids ought to adorn the covenant grace life folk. Godliness and meekness and reverence of father, and not revealing, catch-me-if-you-can fashion, and women and even men with pierced whatever, ought to be the clothing and ornaments of our men with maids. Such adornment as God gives, and as God requires for godly marrying, is indeed “see-through” only in that it reveals the soul. And it is indeed costly, for it is in the sight of God of great price (I Pet. 3:4). But this is precisely what has got to be seen, and what has got to be spent, if there is to be godly, God-honoring marrying!

From Father to Father to Fathers

From Abraham, then, we learn that godly lordship (on the part of the father), and submissive meekness (on the part of children) are to characterize, indeed, are to be the outstanding characteristics of the way of our men with maids.

And what shall I more say of this father principle, the foundation of the family principle for the marrying of children of the promise? This I will!

I tell of Isaac whose person-hood was not stifled but whose godliness was promoted in father’s way for his marrying; for out in (not playing the) the field, we find him, meditating at the eventide (Gen. 24:63). Of Isaac also, who moaned not that he would have to forgo a wild and woolly decade of dating, who muttered not that he was old enough to have found a wife on his own. Of Isaac also who waited not to fall in love with someone after ten someones, but whose love was to do father’s will, and who married, and who then loved his bride (v. 67), who then gave her birthday presents, who then gave her pearls, who then took her out to dinner every Friday night, who then said “I love you,”and who then kissed her good night. And then some.

I tell of other examples, for example Judah, who learned from father Abraham, and who himself took a wife for his firstborn, Er (Gen. 38:6).

I tell of negative examples of sons of God taking and marrying daughters of (ungodly) men of all which they chose (where were the godly fathers?!), and which dating and then marrying game was the occasion of the Flood of God’s wrath (Gen. 6:2, 3). Of sinning son Samson who commanded his father and mother to get him a wife of the daughters of Philistia, and whose parents but weakly protested (Judges 14:1-4).

I tell also of the biblical practice in the Old Testament of children, especially daughters, being given in marriage. Of daughters there represented as the property of father, under the authority of father until that authority is transferred, father-willing, to the husband of the bride. OfNumbers 30:3-16, therefore, which tells that the very vows a daughter might make before God could be ratified or annulled by the father; but that when the daughter is given in marriage by the father, the husband now confirms or makes void her vows.

I tell also of I Corinthians 7:38 which speaks of the practice still in the New Testament church, of fathers giving or not giving daughters in marriage. And of the apostle’s concern in II Corinthians 11:2 that his very ministry be a picture of this father’s giving in marriage in order that the chaste virgin be presented to Christ….

I tell also, therefore, that there is no such biblical thing! as some quasi “state of being” for a child of the covenant in which the child is “on his own” and independent of parents. There is never anything holy said of children who are “let loose” or who break loose to find their way or their mate.

And I tell, finally (though this I surmise), that when godly men of old walked down the aisle, and were asked, “Who giveth this woman to this man in marriage?” they could say “I do” with confidence that every step of the way, from the time their daughter was ready to marry, to the time she was betrothed, up till this time … they really did!

Oh, I tell, dear readers, and no doubt in one way or another we all have been told before. But who is listening? And to Christ rather than custom?

Let us heed our Father in heaven who is Trinity God, and then God the Father of Adam who speaks to us of how holy covenant love-life should be and should be from father to son to many sons. Let us ponder anew Abraham the father of all believers, and the many other fathers of covenant who reflected and who acted upon the father principle of the godly way of men with maids.

Those fathers! Our fathers, our fathers! Given to Israel-Church as the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof! Sterling examples, they! Riding over all enemies, they! Hurling sharpened spear of Truth and Honor and Reverence and Marriage and Covenant at youth subcultures and dynamic dating duos, there they go! Running through the troop which would parade arm-in-arm and bumper-to-bumper along Grand Haven pier—there we see them. In the church too these fathers, and their principles, ride on, fire in their eyes, defenders of the Sacred Place, the Sacred People, the Sacred Generations. Scattering everywhere those who would date, drink, and be merry, there are the fathers, zealots for the glory of God!

And there are such fathers’ sons. They are God’s sons. They are militant, in the Name of God, for the way of Christ, the way of the Word, the way of family, of father, and of Father God for true men and true maids of God’s covenant.

There. Right in your own home. Grace has visited this home. Grace has made a grace father. And grace mother. And grace children.

Grace Life. For this graceful way. It is the way of Christ for Christ’s men with Christ’s maidens fair.