While “the day of trouble” could be applied to any number of situations appropriately, the immediate situation facing David was a battle. Psalm 20 is a prayer asking God to remember those going to war. The banners are those of battalions of troops, and of course, as they go into battle, David is teaching the armies of Israel not to put their trust in horses or chariots but rather in the name of the Lord their God.
As I said, the “day of trouble” can be applied to other situations appropriately. And one of those situations, especially in our day, is the war over the nature of the family.
The first thing to get straight is to recognize that this war is not just an argument over something relatively inconsequential, like whether Pluto ought to be considered a planet or not. There may or may not be a right answer to that question, but the answer is not consequential to our day to day lives. But whether a man and a woman are essential to marriage, whether children are a normal part of a family – these are highly consequential questions. Does it matter if one family is made up of four spouses and another family is made up of two? Does it matter whether it is four men, four women, two of each, or not? Does it matter whether a child is raised by two mothers or two fathers? Does it matter whether we identify a child by its biological sex?
These questions are massively consequential. They have consequences not merely for one particular family, but for all families, not for just one marriage, but for all marriages. These questions strike at what it means to be human, what it means to be male or female, a man or a woman, even how a community is formed, what it means to have friends.
These are questions that only a few decades ago would have been considered outrageous and ridiculous, and they are now questions being asked in college classrooms and on talk shows and news reports by otherwise rather well-adjusted and semi-well-educated members of our culture. But this means that if these folks are not actually insane, then they are actively at war with the way God made the world.
And there are basically three steps to this war being waged: First, the goal is to blur distinctions. This usually begins by raising exceptions: what about a couple that cannot bear children? What about single-parent families? What about when a child is raised by two aunts? And the exceptions multiply, not in order to seek to apply the principles of the ordinary structure of a family to a unique situation, but in order to batter down the principles of the ordinary family structure. If these are families, then your father-mother-child structure is incidental to family. It is just one sort of family structure among many possibilities. Thus, we begin to blur distinctions between what is normal, ordinary, God-ordained and the unfortunate, exceptional, or malformed.
The second play is to deny distinctions. If a grandmother can raise her grandchildren in the absence of a father and mother, if two sisters can raise their nephew, if a single mom can raise her son, then there is really no difference. Family is just whatever kind of human community you choose to create in your home. And the goal here is to make everyone sensitive to making any kind of value statements. Family is whatever anyone wants. There are no distinctions. And therefore, even the roles of father and mother, husband and wife are not essential. If you can have a family without a mother, why can’t you have a family with two dads? There are no distinctions: anyone can be anything they want.
The final play is to seize control. The promise of this kind of free-floating creativity (family can be anything you want) is always a lie because someone has to run air traffic control. What if what that family wants doesn’t line up with what that family wants? Even language must be regulated: what exactly do we mean by boy or girl or father or mother? So in order to keep the peace in this anarchy, there must be an authority who is in charge for everyone’s good. In other words, this whole war is ultimately over authority. Who is in control? Who is sovereign? And this means that in this world, there will always be authority and submission, the only question is who will be the sovereign and who will submit? And will that authority be good and righteous or not?
So, having established that there is a war raging over the nature of what it means to be a family and having established that this war is not trivial but consequential and enormously significant, I want to charge the two of you to lean into this war, to take up your duties as a Christian husband and wife as acts of war. Set up these banners in the name of our God.
First, instead of participating in blurring or denying distinctions, revel in the glory of distinctions. Don’t merely go along with what the Bible says about husbands and wives and family, celebrate what the Bible says. Rejoice in the fact that God made you a man and woman, rejoice in that difference. Many of the most common marital squabbles essentially come down to resenting the difference between men and women, but rather than trying to shorten that distance, rather than blurring the distinctions, rejoice in them. Collin, rejoice in the fact that God has made you strong for Lizzie, to carry her burdens, to carry her weaknesses, and to love her by doing what is best for her in Christ. Lizzie, rejoice in the fact that God has made you lovely for Collin, and do not think of your beauty like the world does, as though it is just an external façade. True, godly feminine beauty is deep and wise and glorious. It goes all the way down into the heart, quiet and gentle and precious in the sight of God, resulting in a glorious fearlessness.
And do not lose sight of the inescapability of authority and submission. Collin, you do not have any authority except as you submit to Christ. And this means submitting to his entire Word, both regarding your sins and your responsibilities. Many men believe that if they admit that they have failed they are undermining their authority, but it’s actually just the opposite. Recognizing that there is a standard above you that you did not meet in one instance is the very same standard that authorizes you to take responsibility for and lead your wife wisely everywhere else. If you deny that standard that will occasionally reveal that you were wrong, you are actually denying that you have any authority at all. Related, do not think of your authority as an unfortunate sort of thing, that only occasionally comes into play when there’s a disagreement. Your authority is always in play, which is another way of saying that authority is not merely being the boss. Authority is not merely making the decisions. Authority does make decisions, but authority also gets up early to read scripture and pray for your family, authority extends kindness and compliments, authority works hard for many years saving for the future, authority shows up with flowers and chocolate, authority changes diapers, authority coaches little league baseball, authority plans for weekends away without the kids. In other words, a Christian husband’s authority looks a lot like love.
And likewise, Lizzie, your submission to Collin’s authority is actually the ground of your authority in the home. A Christian wife is not without authority. The Apostle Paul says that you have authority over Collin’s body. As a Christian woman you have the moral authority of a sister in Christ. And elsewhere in Titus, Paul says that the older women are to teach the younger women to be rulers of their home. Putting all of this together means that a Christian wife actually has a significant amount of authority, but she has this authority from God. And this same God says that she is to exercise her authority in submission to her own husband. Again, do not think that if only you didn’t have to submit to your husband you would have more authority. No, the truth is actually just the opposite: the more a woman resists submitting to her own husband, the more she is resisting the authority God has for her. The very standard that requires you to submit to your own husband in all things is the same standard that grants you authority as a Christian wife.
The world hates the way God has made the world, the way He has created man, male and female, the way He has designed families to work, the blessing of children. All of this is ultimately because the world rejects God and His authority. And every one of us was once an enemy of God too. But while were enemies, Christ died for us. The authority of God sent His Son with the authority to take our sin upon Himself, so that He might authoritatively declare us right and clean. It is this same authority to save sinners that grants authority to a man to lead and rule a family, and it is this same saving authority that grants authority to a woman to submit to her husband and so rule in her home. This is our glory. These are banners that we wave in the name of our God.
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.” (Ps. 20:7-8)
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.