“Unless Jehovah guards the city, it is in vain that the guard stays awake.”—PS. 127:1b.
1, 2. (a) Why did 24,000 Israelites lose out on wonderful blessings? (b) Why is that ancient event significant for us?
SHORTLY before the nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, tens of thousands of men committed “sexual immorality with the daughters of Moab.” As a result, 24,000 perished at Jehovah’s hand. Imagine—the Israelites were so close to the realization of their long-awaited inheritance, yet they lost out on wonderful blessings because of succumbing to temptation.—Num. 25:1-5, 9.
2 That disastrous example was recorded “for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have come.” (1 Cor. 10:6-11) Now in the final part of “the last days,” God’s servants are on the threshold of a righteous new world. (2 Tim. 3:1; 2 Pet. 3:13) Sadly, though, some of Jehovah’s worshippers have let down their guard. They have been ensnared by immorality and have reaped the bitter consequences of immoral conduct. Such ones run the risk of losing out on eternal blessings.
3. Why do married couples need Jehovah’s direction and protection? (See opening image.)
3 Because of today’s scourge of immorality, husbands and wives need Jehovah’s direction and protection so that their efforts to safeguard their marriage will not be in vain. (Read Psalm 127:1.) We will discuss how a couple can fortify their marriage by guarding their heart, drawing close to God, putting on the new personality, maintaining meaningful communication, and rendering the marriage due.
GUARD YOUR HEART
4. What has led some Christians into wrongdoing?
4 How is it possible for a Christian to be drawn into immoral conduct? The disastrous path of immorality often starts with the eyes. Jesus explained: “Everyone who keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:27, 28; 2 Pet. 2:14) Many Christians who have fallen into wrongdoing have weakened their moral defenses by viewing pornography, reading erotic literature, or watching lurid material on the Internet. Others have allowed themselves to be entertained by sexually explicit movies, stage shows, or television programs. Some have visited nightclubs and strip shows or have gone to massage parlors for sensual massages.
5. Why do we need to safeguard our heart?
5 Some succumb to temptation because they turn to the wrong person for attention. In a world that lacks restraint and that thrives on every sort of immorality, it is all too easy for a deceitful and desperate heart to spawn romantic feelings for someone other than a marriage mate. (Read Jeremiah 17:9, 10.) Jesus said: “Out of the heart come wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, sexual immorality.”—Matt. 15:19.
6, 7. (a) A deceitful heart can lead a person down what sinful path? (b) How can a moral collapse be avoided?
6 Once illicit desires take root in their treacherous hearts, two people who are attracted to each other may find themselves discussing matters that they should be sharing only with their spouse. Soon, they create more and more opportunities to be together, and seemingly innocent and ostensibly accidental encounters become more frequent. As their feelings become more intense, their moral defenses weaken. The further they go down a sinful path, the more difficult it is to stop, even though they know that what they are doing is wrong.—Prov. 7:21, 22.
7 Spiritual fortifications progressively crumble as wrong desires and speech lead to holding hands, kissing, caressing, passion-arousing heavy petting, and other expressions of affection, all of which should be given only to their marriage mates. Ultimately, they are “drawn out and enticed [“caught as by bait,” ftn.] by [their] own desire.” When the desire has become fertile, it “gives birth to sin”—in this case, sexual immorality. (Jas. 1:14, 15) How tragic! The entire moral collapse could have been avoided had both individuals allowed Jehovah to fortify their respect for the sanctity of marriage. But how?
KEEP DRAWING CLOSE TO GOD
8. How does friendship with Jehovah provide moral protection?
8 Read Psalm 97:10. Friendship with Jehovah is a vital source of moral protection. As we learn about God’s endearing qualities and we endeavor to “become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love,” we will be fortified to reject “sexual immorality and every sort of uncleanness.” (Eph. 5:1-4) Knowing that “God will judge sexually immoral people and adulterers,” married couples work hard to let their marriage be honorable and free of defilement.—Heb. 13:4.
9. (a) How did Joseph resist immoral temptation? (b) What lessons can we learn from Joseph’s example?
9 Some of God’s faithful servants have weakened their moral defenses by associating with non-Witness workmates after work hours. Even during work hours, temptations can arise. It was at his workplace that a handsome young man named Joseph realized that his employer’s wife was very attracted to him. Day after day, she tried to seduce him. Eventually, “she grabbed hold of him by his garment and said: ‘Lie down with me!’” But Joseph managed to run away from her. What helped Joseph to keep his spiritual defenses intact under such tempting circumstances? It was his firm resolve not to damage his relationship with God that safeguarded his chastity and integrity. As a result of his resolute stand, he lost his job and was unjustly imprisoned, but Jehovah blessed him. (Gen. 39:1-12; 41:38-43) Whether at work or in a private setting, Christians need to avoid putting themselves in tempting situations with someone other than their marriage mate.
PUT ON THE NEW PERSONALITY
10. What moral protection does the new personality provide?
10 Because the new personality is “created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty,” it is a vital part of a married couple’s spiritual fortification. (Eph. 4:24) Those who put on this new personality “deaden” their body members “as respects sexual immorality, uncleanness, uncontrolled sexual passion, hurtful desire, and greediness.” (Read Colossians 3:5, 6.) The word “deaden” indicates that we must take strong measures to fight against immoral fleshly desires. We will avoid anything that might arouse in us sexual desire for someone other than our mate. (Job 31:1) As we conform our lives to God’s will, we learn to “abhor what is wicked” and “cling to what is good.”—Rom. 12:2, 9.
11. How can the new personality strengthen a marriage?
11 The new personality reflects “the image of the One who created it,” Jehovah himself. (Col. 3:10) What blessings result when husbands and wives fortify their moral defenses by clothing themselves “with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, humility, mildness, and patience”! (Col. 3:12) They also enjoy greater marital harmony when they “let the peace of the Christ control [their] hearts.” (Col. 3:15; ftn.) How rewarding it is for couples to “have tender affection for one another”! It gives them pleasure to “take the initiative” in “showing honor to one another.”—Rom. 12:10; ftn.
12. What qualities do you consider important for a happy marriage?
12 When asked what qualities contribute to their happy marriage, Sid said: “Love is the main quality that we’ve always worked on. And we’ve also found mildness to be very important.” His wife, Sonja, agrees, and she adds: “Kindness is certainly a vital quality. And we have also tried to show humility, even though it isn’t always easy.”
MAINTAIN MEANINGFUL COMMUNICATION
13. What is a key to marital stability, and why?
13 Gracious speech is without a doubt one of the keys to marital stability. How sad it would be if marriage mates spoke to each other with less respect than they do to total strangers or even to their pets! When couples lash out with “malicious bitterness, anger, wrath, screaming, and abusive speech,” they erode the spiritual defenses of their marriage. (Eph. 4:31) Instead of undermining their marriage with constant criticism or biting sarcasm, couples need to buttress their relationship with words that are kind, tender, and compassionate.—Eph. 4:32.
14. What actions do we wisely avoid?
14 The Bible says that there is “a time to be silent.” (Eccl. 3:7) This does not mean that we should retreat behind a wall of silence, which blocks necessary communication. “Under such circumstances,” says a wife in Germany, “silence can hurt your partner.” However, she adds: “Even though it is not always easy to keep calm under stress, it is not good just to let off steam. Then you impulsively say or do something that can hurt your marriage mate, and that only makes matters worse.” In the long run, a husband and wife do not solve their problems by screaming or by refusing to talk to each other. Instead, they fortify their marriage by choosing not to let disagreements become habitual or deteriorate into protracted arguments.
15. How can good communication strengthen a marriage?
15 Marriage bonds are strengthened when couples make time to share feelings and opinions. How we say something is as important as what we say. Therefore, even in difficult situations, endeavor to make what you say gracious, both in your tone of voice and in your choice of words. Thus you will make it easier for your mate to listen to you. (Read Colossians 4:6.) A husband and a wife can reinforce their marriage with good communication by saying “only what is good for building up as the need may be, to impart what is beneficial” to their spouse.—Eph. 4:29.
RENDER THE MARRIAGE DUE
16, 17. Why is it important for marriage mates to be sensitive to each other’s emotional and sexual needs?
16 Couples can also forge a strong marriage bond when they seek their mate’s advantage, putting their spouse’s personal interest ahead of their own. (Phil. 2:3, 4) Husbands as well as wives need to be sensitive to the emotional and sexual needs of their mate.—Read 1 Corinthians 7:3, 4.
17 Regrettably, some marriage mates hold back from being affectionate or sharing sexual intimacies, and some men tend to view tenderness as unmanly. The Bible says: “You husbands should try to understand the wives you live with.” (1 Pet. 3:7, Phillips) A husband needs to understand that the marriage due involves more than just physical union. A wife is more likely to enjoy marital intimacies if her husband is loving and affectionate at times other than when they have intercourse. When both show loving consideration, they are more likely to satisfy each other’s emotional and physical needs.
18. How can husbands and wives strengthen their marriage bond?
18 Although there is no excuse for marital unfaithfulness, a lack of tenderness could contribute to a spouse’s seeking affection and intimacy from someone else. (Prov. 5:18; Eccl. 9:9) Therefore, the Bible urges married couples: “Do not deprive each other [of the marriage due] except by mutual consent for an appointed time.” Why? “In order that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-control.” (1 Cor. 7:5) What a tragedy if a couple were to allow Satan to exploit their “lack of self-control” and cause either of them to succumb to temptation and commit adultery! Conversely, when each mate seeks, “not his own advantage, but that of the other person” and renders the marriage due as an expression of love rather than as a duty, affectionate intimate relations can strengthen the marriage bond.—1 Cor. 10:24.
KEEP SAFEGUARDING YOUR MARRIAGE
19. What should we be resolved to do, and why?
19 We are at the threshold of the righteous new earth. That is why giving in to fleshly desires can be as disastrous for us as it was for the 24,000 Israelites on the Plains of Moab. After describing that shameful and tragic event, God’s Word cautions: “Let the one who thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12) How vital it is, therefore, that we fortify our marriage by remaining faithful to our heavenly Father and to our spouse. (Matt. 19:5, 6) Now more than ever, we need to “do [our] utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.”—2 Pet. 3:13, 14.