Preparing for Christmas IV: A Journey Through Malachi (2:10-16)
Malachi 2:10-16 (NIV)
Breaking Covenant Through Divorce
10 Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?
11 Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. 12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord remove him from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings an offering to the Lord Almighty.
13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favoron your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.
16“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.
So be on your guard,and do not break faith.
What a passage. How tempting it would be, as a pastor, to simply skip over such a sensitive and inflammatory passage…So many of us have been wounded through divorce, whether as spouses, as children, or even as extended family members and friends.
Below are some points to consider when reading the above passage in Malachi. The thoughts below are offered to inform, instruct, encourage, and inspire–NOT to condemn.
1. God hates divorce…He does NOT hate people who get divorced.
This is so important for us to understand. The God of the Bible is the God of 2nd, 3rd, 100th, 1 MILLIONTH chances! I am privileged to know fantastic Christians whom God has blessed AFTER they have gotten divorced, who are bearing fruit in the LORD’s Kingdom and whom God is using mightily to share His love, grace, and truth to others. What a God!
2. But WHY does God hate divorce?
A. It tears apart what He alone has built/brought together
Marriage (family) is one of the three aspects of society instituted by God: (Church and Government are the other two).
There is a mysterious supernatural event that occurs within marriage–that of two people becoming spiritually intertwined (one flesh). This work is only accomplished by God! That is why Jesus says let no one tear apart what God has brought together! You would go to jail for a long time if you tore apart a famous painting in national museum/art institute…how much more serious when we tear apart the masterpiece of marriage via divorce.
B. It causes life-long pain to the people He loves dearly
Many–including myself–are still recovering from the separations/divorces of our parents when we were children…and there is evidence to suggest that even adult-aged children suffer when their parents get divorced. ALL explosives have collateral damage.
C. It offers a poor witness to non-Christians
What are non-believers to think if the divorce rate amongst Christians is as high (or higher!) as amongst non-Christians? We tarnish the reputation of Jesus Himself when we do not live holy/set apart lives.
D. Because it is quitting (and quitting is about as opposite of God as you can get).
The cardinal sin in sports is not losing…it’s not trying, it’s not giving your best, it’s quitting. How much worse is quitting in the spiritual world…in the world of family and marriage?! God stuck to His Word to love humans…ALL THE WAY TO THE CROSS. He calls us–indeed He invites us–to nothing less.
Imagine if U.S. soldiers in WWII had quit because of the danger, because of the loneliness, because of the pain, because of the fear…where would we be today?
Imagine if your surgeon had quit and walked out in the middle of your surgery…where would you be today?
Imagine if Noah had quit building the ark after 100 years WITHOUT a flood and with years of ridicule from neighbors?
Imagine if God were to quit loving us–we don’t deserve HIS love, and we certainly aren’t lovable! Every single reason we might have for divorcing our spouse…we have done to God over and over again. And yet He doesn’t divorce us…WOW.
The only time the word “quit” should enter a Christian’s vocabulary is when we remember that through our faith in Jesus we are ACQUITTED of all of our sins.
3. God specializes in “resurrection”–bringing dead people back to life, bringing hope to hopeless situations! Do we believe this!? Do we believe that the same God of yesterday is the God of today!?
-Moses’ staff–a dead stick unattached from roots, soil, or vine–bloomed because of God’s power;
-Tired, exhausted, hungry Hebrews pinched by an “uncrossable” Red Sea on one side and the full might of Pharoah’s army on the other; and yet God did a miracle bringing them out alive. They were as good as done from a human perspective…but NOT from God’s perspective.
-Paul was the Osama Bin Laden of his day–no one would EVER have guessed that God could turn Paul into an evangelist, martyr, and preacher for Jesus. And yet that is exactly what happened.
Do we believe He can do this with a dying…comatose…or even DEAD marriage?
4. We live in a conditional, temporary, trade-in, lease, return-with-a-receipt culture.
-this is why car companies typically redesign the outside appearance of vehicles every 4-6 years…it causes many to dislike their current car and desire a new one!
-this is why there are new IPhone editions every 18-24 months (and why details of the next edition are leaked within weeks of the release of a new edition)–companies need to try to cause us to be dissatisfied with what we have/buy today so that we will be inclined to purchase what they offer tomorrow.
-we often don’t realize the current of our culture and where it is taking us…it’s like trying to describe “wetness” to a fish that has lived in water all its life–it has no concept of “dryness”! But we MUST–with God’s help–understand the corrosive/destructive elements of our culture; we are commanded by God to keep ourselves from becoming polluted by the world (James 1:27b) just as Daniel refused to eat the Babylonian food that was forbidden by the LORD (Daniel 1:8) even though he was in a foreign country, even though there was no one to hold him accountable, even though he could lose his life for obeying God.
5. We live in a culture that focuses on the temporary…on feelings…and on happiness (as opposed to focusing on the eternal…on choices/promises…and on faithfulness/obedience).
-Without realizing it, many of us reveal a subconscious belief/fear that this life is all there is; this is why we are willing to go back on promises and to cause so much pain to ourselves and others in pursuit of being happy. We forget that we do not have to try to cram in as much happiness as possible into this short life because there is an eternity of joy/peace waiting for those who have received Jesus as Savior. God tells us of the joy to come so that we can stand up through the pain/frustration of this life and not give up.
-look at the suffering Esau caused himself by impulsively putting temporary happiness (a full stomach) ahead of divine blessing/responsibility (being blessed as the first-born son)(Genesis 25:29-34)(Hebrews 12:16-17).
-look at Satan’s FIRST attempt at getting Jesus to sin: Satan appealed to Jesus’ flesh, to His physical hunger/thirst, to Jesus’ HAPPINESS! And yet Jesus’ powerfully responded that the spiritual is connected to the physical, that God has ways of satisfying us/meeting our needs that NOTHING on earth can compare with, that when all earthly options fail to make us happy GOD offers us something better–JOY from heaven. Let’s not sin to get temporary happiness; let’s continue to trust in Jesus to get eternal joy. Jesus refused to sin in order to meet His genuine need for food…may we look to Him for help to refuse to sin in order to meet our genuine desire for joy…for a healthy re-marriage…for a “soul-mate.”
6. There is an enemy of God who works hard each day to tear apart marriages…do you believe this?
Do we still believe that we have an opponent out there who wages war against God and against His children?
Have we become so “smart” and “sophisticated” that we believe the devil and demons are a fairytale of the past?
If we don’t believe in the devil, then we are disagreeing with a major theme in the Bible.
If we don’t believe in the devil, then we are calling Jesus a liar.
If we don’t believe in the devil, then we won’t use the tools/weapons God has given us: the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the spirit, breastplate of righteousness, belt of truth, etc.
Imagine a football player who stepped onto the field but chose not to put on his helmet/pads because he didn’t believe there was another team out there looking to pulverize/crush him…what would happen to that player? That is what happens EVERYDAY to Christians because deep down we don’t believe in the devil anymore.
But we need to ask ourselves the question: if there is no opponent–if there is no WAR–why would God give us warlike weapons? Would God give us a sword if our opponent had a squirt gun?
I bring this up because we should not be surprised that we sometimes feel in marriage as if we don’t like/don’t love our spouse–the devil–and our sinfulness–is trying to make us feel that way! We should not be surprised if we ever meet someone who we “connect with”–the devil–and our sinfulness is trying to tempt us to jump off the rollercoaster of marriage in the middle of the ride…and we all know what happens when you do that! We should not be surprised if we find it hard to forgive a spouse for deep hurts afflicted on us–the devil and our own sinfulness–does not want us to forgive!!! We should not be surprise if we don’t feel like tending to the weed-infested garden of marriage to help it grow healthy/fruitful…the devil—and our own sinfulness—does not want us to tend that garden!
We have an opponent…who wants to crush us…and God has given us powerful tools/weapons to withstand the onslaught of the opponent. Will you use them? Or will you not use them and blame God and/or your spouse for your marriage’s broken bones?
7. Biblical Allowances for Divorce
A. Matthew 19:7-9: A spouse who has been cheated on has a biblical right to divorce their spouse…I cannot imagine the pain so many spouse’s endure in this regard. AND YET…there are many husbands & wives who fight to forgive, who work HARD to reconcile…and many are blessed to find joy again, to have a thriving marriage that lasts the rest of their earthly lives! What a gift from God!
B. 1 Corinthians 7:15-17: My Mom’s mom completely abandoned her husband and four young children in 1956–they never heard from her again (didn’t even know if she was alive) until my Mom hired a private investigator and found her in 1989 in Smyrna, Georgia. My Mom’s Dad had a Biblical right to remarry after his wife abandoned the family..and he did remarry. And yet even out of that terrible situation God helped my Mom and her Mom to reconcile, forgive, and have a civil and loving friendship until my Grandma passed away in 1998. God restores!
C. Furthermore, my heart breaks that pastors sometimes (often?!) advise woman who are being beaten/raped by their husbands to continue to live in the house with him since neither of those brutalities are “official” Biblical reasons for divorce. SMH. Wow. What a travesty. Wives, if your husband is beating/raping you, you have the FULL SUPPORT OF GOD to get out of that house, to protect your LIFE, to go to the police and have that husband arrested and put behind bars for as long as the courts will allow. He is committing crimes against you and against the government laws instituted by God…he is therefore committing crimes against God Himself.
8. What To Do If You’re Considering Divorce (Dennis Rainey of Family Life)
A. “You need someone who is willing and able to walk with you during this time. Someone who will not just sympathize with you, but will also hold you accountable to look at the biblical issues and do what is right. I believe that if at all possible, the best person to do this is your pastor. Another person might be a counselor trained to use the Bible.
B. You need the church of Jesus Christ surrounding you. Be very careful you don’t pull away from the church. Each part of the body needs the other. Make it clear to others in your church you don’t want to be left alone. You need their love, encouragement and good counsel. The last thing you need to do is make any decisions about your marriage in a vacuum.
C. You need to seek God in His Word and cry out to Him to know His ways and His heart for what you should do and how you should respond to your spouse. If you are looking to legitimize your reasons for divorce … slow down, even stop. Notice how much of Scripture is given to God’s messages of forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, understanding, and patience.
D. Pray together for 30 days asking God for guidance, for wisdom, for strength…for a miracle! Then consider attending a “Weekend to Remember” marriage conference from FamilyLife.
E. Clearly, this is a difficult, thorny issue, around which there is much debate. But both sides on this debate would agree that most couples seeking a divorce today do so for unbiblical reasons. They cite reasons such as poor communication, incompatibility, financial problems, lack of commitment to the relationship, changes in priorities. In short, when marriage isn’t working, the common solution is to get out.”
Loved ones, earthly marriage reflects heavenly marriage. In heaven we will not be married to a human we will be married to God Himself—to Jesus! Scripture repeatedly calls God’s people His bride. Heaven is described as the wedding supper/banquet/feast of the Lamb! Marriage on earth is so important to God because it is a small but powerful reflection of how intimate/close/united we will be with God for ETERNITY! Heavenly marriage is forever…and God has designed earthly marriage to be forever as well.