Marriage (8): when your dear wife says “no” (e)

Marriage (8): when your dear wife says “no” (e)

(This series is cumulative so it may help to go back and read posts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 6, and 7.)

What about when your wife says “no” and she’s right? If you as a husband don’t recognize when her “no” is right, this inability to know yourself and acknowledge your own failure is part of the reason your wife says “no” at other times when she should say “yes.”

Note I said “part of the reason.” This is not to deny or minimize her disobedience.

With pastors, submitting to the elders’ “no” is often the source of significant ongoing spiritual capital. Our capitulation reassures them, helping them to follow our lead when they don’t like where we’re headed, but the decision is critical to the protection and wellbeing of God’s flock.

The leader who recognizes good resistance and accepts it (sooner or later) with equanimity is the leader likely to be honored with the most willing submission and the most peaceful household.

Scripture provides examples of women correcting men. Consider Priscilla and Aquila with Apollos:

Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:24-26)

We tend to minimize the significance of this account by saying it was only as her husband’s helper that Priscilla is named. But life is often messy, so when Scripture presents an anomaly we need to sit up and take notice. Give it the dignity it deserves.

It was not just Aquila who “took him aside,” but also Priscilla. She had to have been a fair helpmate and good student of the doctrines of Scripture to be mentioned in this way. She also had to have been a submissive wife, and it’s likely a commendation of her husband’s security in his authority as well as Apollos’s humility that her work correcting his doctrine is specified here.

Another example is Abigail—a study in contrasts. One man was a Nabal, another a David. Her first husband, Nabal, was beyond listening to his wife, so what did she do?

She went to say “no” to David. He listened and changed his mind. Watch the interplay between this “intelligent,” “beautiful” woman, and David:

She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the blame. And please let your maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your maidservant. Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, since the LORD has restrained you from shedding blood, and from avenging yourself by your own hand….” (1Samuel 25:24-26)

To which David responded:

Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. (1Samuel 25:32, 33)

Great example, isn’t it? Later, David took this woman of discernment to be his wife.

A third example is Esther. And cheek-by-jowl next to her is Vashti.

It might seem better to use Vashti as an example of woman saying “no” to man since the man she said “no” to was her husband, King Ahasuerus, but Vashti’s “no” is not commended by Scripture.

It is true we don’t think of Esther as saying “no” to King Ahasuerus, but consider that her request for an audience carried with it a potential death penalty because the King had not summoned her; also that her ultimate appeal was for the King to reverse his edict.

What is noteworthy is the interplay between Ahasuerus and Esther. He loves her. She shows feminine deference to him throughout her serial list of requests made of him. She is meek—not weak—and throughout the lead up she shows submission to her King in her efforts to reverse his actions.

The contrast between Queens Vashti and Esther is stark, leaving us no doubt that the King lost none of his dignity and authority by allowing his decree to be nullified by one wife, whereas the “no” of his prior wife threatened to throw the entire Creation Order of man and woman into disarray. It also threatened rebellion in every household of the land:

In the presence of the king and the princes, Memucan said, “Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also all the princes and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women causing them to look with contempt on their husbands by saying, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in to his presence, but she did not come.’ This day the ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s conduct will speak in the same way to all the king’s princes, and there will be plenty of contempt and anger. If it pleases the king, let a royal edict be issued by him and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media so that it cannot be repealed, that Vashti may no longer come into the presence of King Ahasuerus, and let the king give her royal position to another who is more worthy than she. When the king’s edict which he will make is heard throughout all his kingdom, great as it is, then all women will give honor to their husbands, great and small.” (Esther 1:16-20)

Fascinating, isn’t it, that the wrong is not done merely to the King, but “all the officials and all the peoples.” Note that allowing rebellion in the home doesn’t merely harm those living in it, but others not a part of the household who hear of, and observe, the children or wife’s insubordination. In our leadership of our homes, we are our neighbor’s keeper. This is one thing taught by the book of Esther (and many other places in Scripture).

Yet note that despite Queen Esther also seeking to countermand her king’s command, she is a study in contrasts with her predecessor, Queen Vashti. When Esther sought the reversal of Ahasuerus’s command, she did so meekly, showing constant respect for her husband.

So he listened and reversed his command, saving the Jews from wholesale massacre. His wife pleaded with him not to do it and he relented—and more so.

There are times for us to realize, as King Ahasuerus did, that we’ve been played by evil men and made agreements with them we must humble ourselves and reverse. It is no loss to our position or authority to do so, nor for our wives to point it out to us.

Rather, it is godly and wise.

A fourth example is Tamar who got pregnant by her father-in-law, Judah. The reader remembers the account of Judah’s son Onan spilling his seed during intercourse so he would not be burdened by another son belonging to his late brother’s wife. God killed him for this wickedness.

Later, after dressing as a prostitute and being bedded by Judah, we pick up the account:

Now it was about three months later that Judah was informed, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot, and behold, she is also with child by harlotry.”

Then Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!”

It was while she was being brought out that she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “I am with child by the man to whom these things belong.” And she said, “Please examine and see, whose signet ring and cords and staff are these?”

Judah recognized them, and said, “She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not have relations with her again. (Genesis 38:24-26)

The decision had been made and Tamar appealed that decision. Note that a part of listening to her appeal and reversing himself is Judah’s declaration of Tamar to be “more righteous.”

This is often the case with wives appealing the decisions of their husbands. The wives are more righteous. Note this carefully and admit it when your time has come. Humble yourself. Listen to this helpmate God has given you. Repent. Don’t choose hardness of heart and justify it by any appeal to God’s Order of Creation.

As with the Apostles in their response to the commands of the Jewish chief priests and scribes, so with parents, fathers, and husbands, there is a time to “obey God rather than man”1—which is to say “no” to your immediate authority because of submission to the highest authority of God the Father Almighty.

One swallow doth not a summer make, yet there is that one swallow.

Our final example is Sapphira who failed to say “no” to her husband, and thus came to be a very bad example for Christian wives. Scripture records Ananias had the agreement of his wife in his plans to lie about the selling price of their property and its relationship to what they gave to the church:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 5:1, 2)

After God killed Ananias for their lie, note how his wife Sapphira herself chose to continue the lie:

Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?”

And she said, “Yes, that was the price.”

Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. (Acts 5:7-10)

As I write, I’m aware some readers will huff and puff over my use of women who were not married to the male authorities they said “no” to; how I have used them as examples of the sort of reversal of authority involved in wives saying “no” to husbands. “Scripture never commands women to submit to men,” they’ll protest; “only the wife to her husband.”

While it’s true every woman is not subordinate specifically to every man, it’s also true that every man was created first and is the glory of God whereas every woman is created second and is the glory of man. Embarrassing though it is to those of us wishing to appear sufficiently progressive to worldlings and half-Christians, this is the Biblical doctrine of sexuality and authority, and there’s good reason feminists bring up Deborah and Priscilla to justify their rebellion. It’s not that either of them said “no” to their own husbands, but this technicality doesn’t stop feminists from using them to engage in the modern morbid habit of sacrificing the normal on the altar of the abnormal—of replacing the rule with the exception to the rule.

Feminist rebels both male and female carry out relentless attacks against every last vestige of male authority. Toward that end, any slightest hint of a woman saying “no” to man, correcting him, teaching him, or leading him anywhere in any way recounted on any single page of Scripture is employed by them to tear down the Fatherhood of God in man. It is not clear, then, why one ought to forgo using these examples to teach husbands how and when to listen to their wives saying “no.”

When God created Adam first, then Eve, it was His intention through this Order of Creation to decree the timeless connection between sex and authority. He Himself bound sex, authority, and submission together. There are times when the godly wife will say “no” to her husband, and the wise husband will listen and repent. This is clear from my life, the life of the Christian husbands and wives Mary Lee and I have known throughout our lives, and from the Godly examples of women saying “no” to men recorded in Scripture.

Yes, this is the exception to the rule, but the rule will only be weakened when we deny these exceptions.

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1. Acts 4:19; 5:29.

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About The Author

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Tim Bayly has been senior pastor of Clearnote Church, Bloomington since 1996. Married to Mary Lee, the Baylys have five children and twenty-something grandchildren. Tim's book on fatherhood is titled "Daddy Tried" and he is co-author of a book on homosexuality titled "The Grace of Shame.’

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