“Unless Jehovah guards the city, it is in vain that the guard stays awake.”
1, 2. (a) Why did 24,000 Israelites lose their wonderful reward? (b) Why is this account important 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 Israelites died. They had waited so long and were so close to receiving their inheritance! Sadly, they lost a wonderful reward because they gave in to the temptation to commit immorality.
2 That tragic example was “written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:6-11) We live at the very end of “the last days” and are very close to the new world. (2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 3:13) Sadly, though, some of Jehovah’s worshippers have lowered their moral standards and have given in to the temptation to commit immorality. They are now suffering the sad consequences of their actions, and if they are not repentant, they could even lose the opportunity to live forever in Paradise on earth.
3. Why do married couples need Jehovah’s direction and protection? (See opening picture.)
3 Husbands and wives need Jehovah’s direction and protection to keep their marriage safe because the world is obsessed with sex. (Read Psalm 127:1.) In this article, we will discuss how a couple can protect their marriage. They need to guard their hearts, draw close to God, put on the new personality, communicate well, and give each other the marriage due.
GUARD YOUR HEART
4. Why have some Christians been tempted to commit immorality?
4 How is it possible for a Christian to be tempted to commit immorality? It 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.” (Matthew 5:27, 28; 2 Peter 2:14) Many who have committed immorality have lowered their moral standards by viewing pornography, reading erotic literature, or watching shocking material on the Internet. Others have watched movies, stage plays, or television programs that are sexually explicit. Still others have visited nightclubs and strip shows or have gone to places to have sensual or immoral massages.
5. Why do we need to guard our imperfect heart?
5 Some give in to temptation because they seek attention from someone other than their marriage mate. We live in a world where people have very little self-control and find pleasure in every kind of immorality. Also, because our imperfect heart is deceitful and desperate, we may easily develop romantic feelings for someone other than our husband or wife. (Read Jeremiah 17:9, 10.) Jesus said: “Out of the heart come wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, sexual immorality.”
6, 7. (a) What can happen if wrong desires develop in our heart? (b) How can we avoid sinning against Jehovah?
6 Once wrong desires have developed in their hearts, two people who are attracted to each other may start having conversations about things that they should discuss only with their own husband or wife. Soon, they make more and more excuses to be together. They meet each other more frequently, pretending that they just met by accident. As their feelings for each other become more intense, it becomes more difficult to do what is right. The more their relationship grows, the more difficult it is to end it, even though they know that what they are doing is wrong.
7 They completely forget Jehovah’s moral standards as wrong desires and conversations turn into holding hands, kissing, caressing, and touching each other in a sexual way. Sadly, they are doing things that they should do only with their own marriage mate. They are “drawn out and enticed [“caught as by bait,” footnote]” by their own desire. Finally, when the desire is strong enough, they commit sexual immorality. (James 1:14, 15) It is tragic because both individuals could have avoided sinning against Jehovah if they had allowed him to strengthen their respect for marriage. How can a person develop such respect?
KEEP DRAWING CLOSE TO GOD
8. How does our friendship with Jehovah protect us from immorality?
8 Read Psalm 97:10. Friendship with Jehovah can protect us from immorality. When we learn about his wonderful qualities, we try to “become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love.” As a result, we will have the strength to reject “sexual immorality and every sort of uncleanness.” (Ephesians 5:1-4) Husbands and wives who know that “God will judge sexually immoral people and adulterers” work hard to remain faithful to each other.
9. (a) How could Joseph remain faithful despite being tempted by his employer’s wife? (b) What lessons can we learn from Joseph’s example?
9 Some Christians have lowered their moral standards by spending time with non-Witness workmates after work hours. Others have also been tempted while at work. That is what happened to a young man named Joseph. While at work, he realized that his employer’s wife was very attracted to him. Day after day she tried to tempt him to have sex with her. Eventually, “she grabbed hold of him by his garment and said: ‘Lie down with me!’” But Joseph refused and ran away. How could Joseph be strong enough to remain faithful? It was because he was determined to protect his friendship with God. Joseph did lose his job and was sent to prison, but Jehovah blessed him. (Genesis 39:1-12; 41:38-43) Whether we are at work or anywhere else, we need to avoid tempting situations.
PUT ON THE NEW PERSONALITY
10. How does the new personality help to protect a marriage?
10 The new personality that is “created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty” will protect a couple from committing sexual immorality. (Ephesians 4:24) When we put on the new personality, we “deaden” our body members by fighting against “sexual immorality, uncleanness, uncontrolled sexual passion, hurtful desire, and greediness.” (Read Colossians 3:5, 6.) Here, the word “deaden” means that we must do whatever is necessary to fight against immoral desires. We will avoid anything that might cause us to have improper sexual desires. (Job 31:1) When we live according to God’s standards, we learn to hate “what is wicked” and hold on tight to “what is good.”
Couples need to strengthen their relationship by speaking to each other in a kind, tender, and compassionate way
11. How can the new personality strengthen a marriage?
11 When we put on the new personality, we imitate Jehovah’s qualities. (Colossians 3:10) When a husband and wife show “compassion, kindness, humility, mildness, and patience,” they will have a strong marriage and Jehovah will bless them. (Colossians 3:12) Also, they will enjoy greater harmony when they “let the peace of the Christ control [their] hearts.” (Colossians 3:15; footnote) Having “tender affection,” a couple will “take the initiative” to give each other attention and respect.
12. What qualities do you think are important for a happy marriage?
12 When one couple were asked what qualities have helped them to have a happy marriage, Sid, the husband, said: “Love is the main quality that we’ve always worked on. And we’ve also found mildness to be very important.” Sonja, his wife, agreed and said: “Kindness is certainly a vital quality. And we have also tried to show humility, even though it isn’t always easy.”
13. What is necessary for a strong marriage, and why?
13 One of the best ways to keep our marriage strong is to talk to our marriage mate in a kind way. Unfortunately, some husbands and wives speak to each other with less respect than they do to strangers or even to their pets! When “malicious bitterness, anger, wrath, screaming, and abusive speech” are in a marriage, they slowly weaken a couple’s relationship. (Ephesians 4:31) A critical and hurtful attitude will damage a marriage. So couples need to strengthen their relationship by speaking to each other in a kind, tender, and compassionate way.
14. What should we avoid doing?
14 The Bible says that there is “a time to be silent.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) Of course, this does not mean that we can stop speaking to our marriage mate, because communication is important for a good marriage. One wife in Germany says: “Under such circumstances, silence can hurt your partner.” 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.” Husbands and wives do not solve their problems by screaming or by refusing to talk to each other. Instead, couples strengthen their marriage when they choose to settle disagreements quickly and do not let them grow into arguments.
15. How can good communication strengthen a marriage?
15 You can make your marriage stronger when you take time to share your thoughts and feelings with each other. How you say something is as important as what you say. So even in difficult situations, do your best to use kind words and speak in a kind way. Then it will be easier for your husband or wife to listen to you. (Read Colossians 4:6.) A couple can strengthen their marriage with good communication when they use words that are encouraging and beneficial.
GIVE THE MARRIAGE DUE
16, 17. Why is it important to be sensitive to each other’s emotional and sexual needs?
16 Couples can also build a strong marriage when they put the personal needs of their mate ahead of their own. (Philippians 2:3, 4) Husbands as well as wives need to be sensitive to each other’s emotional and sexual needs.
17 Sadly, some marriage mates do not show affection or are not intimate with each other. And some men think that if they are gentle with their wife, it means that they are weak. But the Bible says: “You husbands should try to understand the wives you live with.” (1 Peter 3:7, Phillips) A husband needs to understand that the marriage due does not just involve having intercourse. He needs to be loving and affectionate at all times. Then his wife is more likely to enjoy sexual relations. When both show love and affection, it will be easier to satisfy each other’s emotional and physical needs.
18. How can husbands and wives strengthen their relationship?
18 Although there is no excuse for us to be unfaithful to our marriage mate, a lack of tenderness could be one of the reasons why a husband or a wife seeks love and intimacy from someone else. (Proverbs 5:18; Ecclesiastes 9:9) That is why the Bible counsels married couples not to “deprive each other” of the marriage due unless both have agreed to do so for a short time. Why? “In order that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:5) It would be so tragic for a couple to allow Satan to use their “lack of self-control” to tempt either mate to commit adultery! By giving the marriage due, each mate seeks, “not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” They do this because they love each other, not because it is their duty. Intimate expressions of love and tenderness strengthen their relationship.
KEEP STRENGTHENING YOUR MARRIAGE
19. What should we be determined to do, and why?
19 We are so close to entering the new world! What a disaster it would be to give in to wrong desires, as the 24,000 Israelites on the Plains of Moab did. After describing what happened, the Bible warns: “Let the one who thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) To strengthen our marriage, we must remain faithful to Jehovah and to our spouse. (Matthew 19:5, 6) Now, more than ever before, we need to “do [our] utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.”