Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
On December 15, 2001 yours truly punted Dating off a cliff and into the sea. Then, on that Date, I encouraged you, dear readers, to do the same.
Readers of “Grace Life” will be reminded that it is a specific kind of Dating which I believe must die. It is the Dating with the very poor figure, for it is Dating shaped by principles of the world. It is the Dating with disease on her breath, for all that is of the world is not of God, and therefore promotes death. It is the Dating which, like all heathen customs, creeps—and it has a way of creeping into Christian societies right up the drain pipes (the Latin name for which is TV, if I recall) and under the doors and into our homes. And, having crept in, it makes itself right at home, coming and going as it pleases, especially riding on the backs or lodging in the minds of the young people as they come and go and attempt to grow. She makes them love her. And the helpless parents then must tolerate her. She’s the outlaw we all dread—the one who comes to have her way … and to stay!
For more vitriol, but also a description of the Dating to which I refer, the reader is referred to my former article.
For positive instruction from God’s Word concerning the marrying of God’s people I ask that you read on in the several articles to come on this subject. And may the Lord truly bless our consideration of this Dating and our marrying. May this be the good fruit: that our marrying and giving in marriage conform more and more to the Grace Life—the life of uncompromising holiness, Holy Ghost joy, and self-denying praise of our Maker and Redeemer.
The following articles set forth three “ways.” The first is the way of a man with a maid. This is something we have all marveled at, but a way which needs, I submit, a closer, biblical examination, especially concerning this matter of dating. The second “way” is the way of the heathen. With regard to this, it is my contention that we have “learned” this way quite well when it comes to dating. The third “way” is the way Christ. We love this way! It is the way of theology. It is the way of Marriage, and Family, and Father. It is the way of the God-honoring marrying of God’s people.
With the good and infallible combination of inspiration and wisdom, Agur writes in Proverbs 30:18, 19: “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: the way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.”
Now these three or four ways of which the Bible here speaks are compared to the way of an adulterous woman (v. 20) who is astonishing for her wicked “eating” as well as for her denial of her debauchery. We want to reflect, in our consideration of the marrying of God’s people, upon the one wonderful way, that of “a man with a maid,” and to compare that to the very common way of our dating.
In Proverbs 30 Agur speaks of certain “ways” he cannot figure out. Proverbs being the proverbs of God, we understand that God through Agur is pronouncing here that there are certain ways, certain phenomena, which no one can figure out. Agur says of these ways, that they are “too wonderful” for him, and thus he knows them not. We must say that too. And so with regard to the way of a man with a maid, that way being mentioned as one of those wonderful ways—both Agur and we are amazed, and in awe. We all confess that we know it not.
If we have blood and faith and a little experience, we can truly appreciate the wonder of this way. Boys turn into men. Girls turn into maidens and young ladies. Young man meets young lady. Young lady meets young man. Young man likes young lady. Young lady is flattered young man likes young lady. Look out! Something there is or might be or might come to be stronger than steel, wiser than words, more beautiful than butterflies, and which makes men fly and women dye, and do all (strange and wonderful!) things along this way of two becoming one! Wonder, and wonderful way … of God who has created such men and maids, and such a way between the two!
Ah, yes! The way of a man with a maid. Who can know it? Too wonderful for us. For it is the divine mystery, in the hearts and lives of believers, of the creation of love and of the home, and of the church. It is God painting glorious, holy love-unions which will reflect the Gospel Masterpiece: The Christ and His Bride!
Now I would submit to you, “Grace Life” readers, thatProverbs 30:18, 19, light of Truth declaring the wonder of the way of a man with a maid, we have ridden, by a strange interpretation of it, thousands of miles and thousands of dates into the dark.
This is our first problem. This is why modern American Dating has come up the drains and under the doors and into our lives. Proverbs, and the whole Bible is light. But by one twist of a text, wittingly (and mostly unwittingly, I am sure), we have made it darkness.
I believe we have reasoned so: Proverbs tells us that the way of a man with a maid is too wonderful for us. We believe it.
And we experience this! Then we make what we think is a logical deduction, and say: because the way of a man with a maid is too wonderful, and we cannot know it, therefore, about the way people, even believers, are to get married we are clueless (or very close to it!). Then we become what we think is reverent. We think the text teaches us that we ought to be clueless about the way of a man with a maid. Any discussion of a theology or doctrine of that way, of certain vital principles which purport to shed light on the Wonder of this way, is deemed a proud probing into the secret things of God. Any suggestion that another rule besides or instead of “Johnny be in by midnight,” another rule than the ones we have been making, smacks of irreverent humanism (denial of the Wonder), self-righteous Phariseeism, and the queer way of cultists, gnostics, democrats, and all kinds of pests.
To be sure, we do know, and even are convinced of certain things about men with maids. We are convinced that the beginning of their way together ought to be such that only believers are allowed. We know II Corinthians 6:14, 15, and we defend the truth, and live by it, for the most part, and don’t date pagans (not even ones who like us and who are willing to go to church with us!). We also know of the end of the way of a man with a maid, that it ought to be marriage. So the “A” and the “Z” of the marrying of believers we know in light of the Bible.
But for the rest, the B through Y of when and how two believers are to get married and to know whether they should, the real nuts and bolts and nitty gritty of how to get from A to Z … well that, we have said, is a matter of Christian liberty, and up to the discretion of our young people and guided by a few general rules of parents, and something we should pray about…. But basically, we are thinking, the way is too wonderful to know much, or anything about.
We therefore surmise that we have no guiding, unwavering light, no light reaching into the very marrow of “how to get married.” And we fancy that all is well, at least as well as can be expected. The unrest and fretting this whole way of a man with a maid works in man-souls and maid-souls who Date and who Don’t (but want to) is just part of growing up, the trials of teendom, part of the to-be-expected conflicts of single life. The turmoil Dating causes in our houses will pass. That my boy has gone through six girls in six years and still hasn’t found the right one is better than if he’d never tried…. And soon we will be done with the troubles of the Dating and gone to the place where there is no more wonderful way of a man with a maid. And none too soon.
The way of a man with a maid. Who can know it?
Well, beloved readers … we can!
Not know all of it, to be sure. That—that complete knowledge is beyond us. There is something of the divine in it, and when we contemplate the wonder of this way, especially when we are in it, all we can think of are butterflies and the last words she said to me, and that look in his eye, and all we get are goose bumps. Goose bumps are the wonder of which the proverbialist speaks. No one can figure out goose bumps.
But there is something, there are some things which we can and ought to know for good and godly relationships of men and maids. Proverbs 30sheds light on the wonder of that way. Other revelation sheds light on the way a man is to be godly with a maid, and the way a maid is to be godly with a man.
And I am not talking about general admonitions warning against lust. Those apply, to be sure. Parents are wise to remind their children, and those in the way of men and maids need to remind themselves of the dangers and pitfalls along the way. But God has given, I believe, certain other fundamental principles. These are given especially for the crucial times in the lives of parents and young adults when there is marrying and giving in marriage. These principles have to do with Marriage itself. With Fatherhood. With Family. And with Covenant responsibility. Recognition and consistent, thorough application of these will lead to certain practices which tend, much more and rather than Dating, to godly, honorable, peaceful marrying, and godly, joyous, and enduring marriages.
That is the solution first of all, Grace Life readers! Know, and believe, that God would not leave us in the dark concerning our marrying, but would shine, as He has on the truth of marriage itself, also on the entire path that we are to take in our marrying. Yes, He shines on all ways of His men with maidens fair!
That is just like God, you know. He loves us so. Every step of the way He is with us. And His Word He gives to shed light upon our path from birth to marrying age (from 18 to 80, I suppose) to death. All of it is given by His inspiration. Like Proverbs 30:18, 19.Ephesians 5. Song of Solomon.Genesis 24. I Corinthians 7. And II Timothy 3:16, 17. All is profitable for doctrine. For every good work. Including the mysterious way and good work of a man with a maid becoming one flesh, and their parents, whose aim is first of all God and His glory.
That is God’s Word. A wonder itself, but revealed. A Word for godly marrying. A Word which says nothing about modern American Dating. Except that it is an adulterous woman, who eats, and wipes her mouth, and says, I have done no wickedness. Except to damn it.