Engagement of Adam Mickleburgh and Miriam Pretorius
It is a joy to welcome everyone here today. This is the ring by which Adam testifies that he has heard God’s voice, that has told him to get engaged to Miriam. By accepting the ring, Miriam testifies that she too has sought the Lord’s face in this matter and feels the same way. What a privilege to be part of this - God’s body, the church and the growth thereof. I thank the Lord that these two young people have not allowed the world to lower and cheapen God’s standards. This is the theme of today’s message: Cheapening the treasures of the kingdom of God. I warn everyone and the youth against cheapening the treasures of God’s kingdom in our lives. We are bombarded daily so much, the way people dress and behave and yet get away it. It is not only a challenge for young people to remain pure. God’s standard is that men and the women should be virgins, but this has become a joke in the world. They shake their heads and mock the young people who want to walk this way. Allow me to warn parents - be careful that you do not cheapen the treasure of the kingdom of God as your children grow up, reach their teens and demand that you compromise His standards. Do not become co-workers of Satan and his kingdom and compromise on these issues.
I hope that we will not cast our pearls before the swine through this service and that the hearers will turn around, trample thereon and attack. I trust that the young people who live a life of holiness will be encouraged by what they hear and follow the example of this pair, Adam and Miriam. You, friend, who are not living this life yet, who are swallowed up by the world, who consume whatever the world feeds you through TV, internet and the cell phone, who are entangled by Satan in a cocoon where he wants to keep you enslaved, I trust you will be challenged by what you hear and see today. I trust you will be convicted and drawn towards Christ and towards this way of serving and following Him with all your heart. Getting near to God is seldom easy, safe or without pain. Yet you can be fearless if you have confidence in your Saviour - who will give you strength and conviction even though the enemy of your soul walks around like a roaring lion. Run away from him. Live a life of holiness. How do you get to the place where you can be part of Christ’s fold?
2And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. 3He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim 4 and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. 5 He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him. 2 Chronicles 14:2-5
This is the beginning of drawing near to God and becoming part of God’s kingdom and experiencing the blessings that these two people experience. Break down the altars of the idols in your life. Destroy the high places. Satan has his throne in your heart if you have never met God. Why? You give Satan a throne to sit on. Get rid of that throne from your heart which should be the temple of the living God. How? Cut it down piece by piece. Get rid of that phone which defiles and enslaves you every day. That cell phone is the throne of Satan in your life. If you do not get rid of it, do not be surprised if you cannot get rid of Satan from your life. Get rid of those people who tempt you to drink and commit evil that grieves the spirit of God. Those friends of yours are a throne of Satan on which he sits in your heart and is comfortable in your heart. Get rid of that bosom friend with whom you share all your secrets, but who does not bring you closer to God. This friend is like a brother or sister, but he/she takes the place of Christ because your friendship is the throne of Satan in your heart. I had a bosom friend when I met with the Lord. We shared things and were like one. We had many adventures together. In the first year after school, we hiked from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and slept in tents on the way. But when I met the true Friend of my soul, our friendship dried up. A vacuum developed between us. I would speak about things which excited me about God’s kingdom, and I realised that he did not understand. When he spoke about our previous topics, they no longer excited me because I had a new Friend to whom I had given my life.
If you want to share the life of these two young people, start here: Take away the foreign altars - tobacco, sport - break down the unholy pillars of Satan, cut down the Asherim.
You can receive the treasure the Bible speaks about, this treasure which a man discovers and sells everything he has, to purchase the land and obtain the treasure. One of the main strategies Satan uses so that you lose the treasure is to make it appear insignificant. What is special about it, you ask? What is so special about being a Christian and remaining pure until marriage? What is so special about the revival? It’s nothing. It’s just a hullabaloo about ‘revival’. This is what Satan did with Esau. Many people who were part of us and the special working of God, have left because the devil cheapened the gifts and treasures of the gospel they had received. This is what Esau did. When he returned from hunting, he was hungry and thirsty. He asked Jacob, his brother, for some soup. Jacob said that he would only give it to him if he gave him his birthright. The birthright was a special blessing that God gave the firstborn. Parents blessed the firstborn. What did Satan do? He minimised this birthright. He made it seem like nothing- insignificant. What is the use of having a birthright if I am dying? Satan minimised the gift of the living God and His blessing. What is the use of remaining pure if I never marry? What’s the use? Everyone gets married but not me. Why should I keep my purity? What is it worth? Esau said to Jacob, “Take it.”
Young girl, this is what the devil will say, “Marriage is the biggest priority of life. You must marry and have children because that is what God made you for.” Gladys Aylward, the English evangelist in China, packed her bags, got onto a train in England and travelled along the Trans-Siberian railway to preach the gospel. She was a young girl and was alone. She preached a sermon on Isaiah. In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Isaiah 6:1 In her sermon she states that although the whole world was busy with the funeral of King Uzziah, Isaiah saw the Lord. Are you part of the funeral procession of the king or are you seeing the Lord daily? Gladys Aylward once said to the Lord, “Lord, you made me a woman who can bear children, please give me a husband so that I can be what you made me to be.” Then she realised that for her it was the way of the funeral procession. If that is what you are busy with, you are only in that funeral procession and will not see God. You will be in the midst of the revival and see young people on fire for God, pouring out their lives for Him, you will see young people getting engaged like today and it will mean nothing. “I don’t see revival here,” you will say, “It’s not worth all the battles.”
The devil uses different things to minimise the value of the precious treasure of the kingdom of God. He can use fear for the future; fear of being mocked and despised by people; fear of being asked, “What planet do you come from to try and live in this way?” Other fears the devil can bring: are you sure God will provide for you if you get married; how do you know that God will care for all your needs?
If you start something with God, for example, an engagement, the devil will show you everything that could possibly go wrong. He will show you all the dangers and pitfalls. He will tell you that it is impossible to live like this. He will make you fear persecution so that you minimise the gospel. Persecution is very real. It can be unexpected and can come through family members, those closest to you. What does God say in His word: Everyone who wants to live a godly life shall be persecuted.
The devil can create all these fears, as he did to King Asa in 2 Chronicles 16
In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. 2 Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Lord and the king's house and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria, who lived in Damascus, saying, 3“There is a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” 4 And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store cities of Naphtali. 5 And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah and let his work cease. 6 Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them he built Geba and Mizpah. 7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. 8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, he gave them into your hand. 2 Chronicles 16:1-8
Asa’s logic took over. The enemy was paid with gold and silver from the temple. Be careful of your logic. It can make you give away the treasures from the temple of God. It can make you lose your trust in God and give away the treasure from the temple of God. Your logic says, “How can I marry a girl I do not know, a girl I have never got to know?” God knows you better than you know yourself and God knows the girl better than she knows herself. If He brings you together there is nothing to fear. If your relationship with God is not solid, you can hear God’s voice incorrectly. You can hear Satan’s voice and not God’s. When you consider engagement and marriage, you should be in tip top spiritual condition because the decision you make will have life-long implications.
It is amazing the extent to which we take the gold and silver from God’s temple and are willing to sell it. Your body and heart are the temple of God. There is nothing in you that does not belong to God. If you give it to anyone else, you give away the precious utensils from the temple of God. You give your heart to someone else - your heart should be the temple of the living God. God owns your trust and if you put your trust in something else other than God, you are giving your precious utensils away. If you do something in your own strength you are taking the utensils of God and using them for your own benefit. Whenever you do these things, you take the trust that belongs to the Lord and give it to someone else.
Miriam, never take the trust that belongs to the living God and give it to someone else. If you give the love meant for the Lord and give it to others or to yourself, you take God’s treasures out of the temple. If you give your desire to serve the Lord to someone else, then you sell the utensils of the temple of God. If you take your attachment to the Lord and sell it after your engagement or marriage, you sell the utensils of the temple of God. I am not saying that married people should not love each other. The answer to that I got from a service Rev Stegen preached in which he spoke about a Russian Christian who was arrested in his home by the KGB. His wife and children hung onto him. The KGB tore him away from his family and said that he should deny Christ, stop preaching and then he could remain with his family. He was imprisoned for years and in those years God changed his love for his wife and children. He still loved them, but it was a different type of a love. He could not explain it. If you have a husband who is committed to the Lord, he will be better than a husband who has made you his idol and vice versa.
The last example from God’s word, where the grace of God was cheapened, is the incident of Nadab and Abihu. In Leviticus 10 we read that one day these two boys offered a strange fire to the Lord. 2 And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Leviticus 10:2 What was that strange fire? It may have been a sacrifice that was not one of total surrender to the Lord. Usually the ashes in the pan, the fire that they brought to the Lord in the holy of holies, was of animals that had been sacrificed to God by people who had confessed their sins and committed themselves to the Lord. There is the danger that we do not realise the holiness of the institution of marriage and everything that belongs to it, including engagement. It is easy for a strange fire to enter our hearts and lives and we do not realise how seriously we sin against the Lord and what an abomination it is. It is the easiest thing to get engaged but with a different fire burning in your bosom - not the fire of God, but of human desire. The experience with the sons of Aaron demonstrates how seriously God regards it if you come to him with a sacred institution – marriage and engagement - and you do it with a strange fire in your bosom.
I will conclude by reading a dream written by John Newton, the writer of the hymn Amazing Grace.
The scene presented to my imagination was the harbour of Venice, where we had lately been. I thought it was night, and my watch upon the deck; and that, as I was walking to and fro by myself, a person came to me, I do not remember from whence, and brought me a ring, (a ring is a sign of a covenant, an engagement between a future husband and wife) with an express charge to keep it carefully: assuring me, that while I preserved the ring I would be happy and successful: but if I lost or parted with it, I must expect nothing but trouble and misery. I accepted the present and the terms willingly, not in the least doubting my own care to preserve it, and highly satisfied to have my happiness in my own keeping. I was engaged in these thoughts, when a second person came to me, and observing the ring on my finger, took occasion to ask me some questions concerning it. (If Satan sees the covenant made between you and God, he will not disregard it. This is what Satan did to Eve. He asked her questions. This is often where the devil starts. Did God really say?) I readily told him all its virtues; and his answer expressed a surprise at my weakness, in expecting such effects from a ring. (If the devil wants to make you doubt, he will not say that you took a strong step of courage to follow Christ, but he will say, “You hear one sermon and you give in.”) I think he reasoned with me for some time upon the impossibility of the thing; and at length urged me, in direct terms, to throw it away. (The devil argued with Eve too.)
At first I was shocked with the proposal; but his insinuations prevailed. I began to reason and doubt myself, and at last plucked it off my finger, and dropped it over the ship’s side into the water; which it no sooner touched, than I saw, at the same instant, a terrible fire burst out from a range of mountains, a part of the Alos which appeared at some distance behind the city of Venice. I saw the hills as distinctly as if awake, and they were all in flames. I perceived, too late, my folly; and my tempter, with an air of insult, informed me, that all the mercy of God in reserve for me was comprised in that ring, which I had wilfully thrown away. I understood that I must now go with him to the burning mountains, and that all the flames I saw were kindled on my account.
I trembled and was in great agony; so that it was surprising I did not then awake: but my dream continued; and when I thought myself upon the point of constrained departure, and stood, self-condemned, without plea or hope, (Finally I had to go myself and say John, do not make excuses, you have to go into that fire. In that fire there is no hope for you. You have spoiled it and thrown it away. Are there those amongst us who have realised this? Even if you have thrown God’s ring away, if you have backslidden into a worldly life where you serve the devil) suddenly, either a third person, or the same who brought the ring at first, came to me, (I am not certain which), and demanded the cause of my grief. (If Christ asks you why you are crying, do not be afraid to tell him.) I told him the plain case, confessing that I had ruined myself wilfully, (The Bible says that if we confess our sins, He will forgive us) and deserved no pity. He blamed my rashness; and asked, if I should be wiser supposing I had my ring again. (He did not blame others but realised that he had ruined himself and he knew what he was doing when he did it. He said that he did not deserve any pity or grace.) I could hardly answer to this; for I thought it was gone beyond recall. I believe indeed, I had not time to answer, before I saw this unexpected friend go down under the water, just in the spot where I had dropped it; and he soon returned, bringing the ring with him.
The moment he came on board, the flames in the mountain were extinguished, and my seducer left me. Then was “the prey taken from the hand of the mighty, and the lawful captive delivered”. (I realised that I was the captive of the second man who had tempted me.) My fears were at an end, and with joy and gratitude I approached my kind deliverer to receive the ring again; but he refused to return it and spoke to this effect: ‘If you should be entrusted with this ring again, you would very soon bring yourself into the same distress; you are not able to keep it: but I will preserve it for you, and, whenever it is needful, will produce it in your behalf.’ The ring had become nothing in his eyes. The devil had convinced him that it was worthless.
Then he woke up. He could not explain the state he was in. For three days he could not eat, sleep or go about his usual business. Over time the effects of the dream disappeared and then he received peace in heart. Years later when he needed the ring, the man gave it to him to use.
Miriam and Adam, do not trust in your own strength to be faithful during the engagement period or to be faithful after marriage. There is a man who dived into very deep waters on Calvary. He dived into the deepest waters that any man has ever dived into, to make it possible for you to be His child and make a covenant with him. Listener, wouldn’t you like to make a covenant with this Man? His name is Christ the Lord. He has paid the price to make the covenant with you - so He can save your soul. Trust Him. Do not trust yourself. He can keep the ring. If there is someone who has not trusted Him, I pray that you will be ‘jealous’ and long to have this relationship with Jesus. It will be with a fight and dangers. This is the treasure which the man discovered in a field. He sold everything he had to get that treasure. I don’t know what difficulties you are experiencing, but whatever it may cost you, do what you have to do to become a child of God and receive that covenant with Him.
Their own brothers and sisters from the 10 tribes that broke away from Judah, attacked Asa. He gave in to fear and took treasures out of the house of the Lord. Do not make your engagement cheap, do not make your marriage cheap because you will take treasures from God and use them to achieve something else. 3 “There is a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.”