Scriptures: Deuteronomy 24:1, Matthew 19:3, Matthew 5:31, Matthew 19:3-6, Malachi 2:15-16, Matthew 19:8, Matthew 9:17, Romans 8:28
Marriage is tough. Do you think that marriage in the skit will make it? What do you think we ought to do with that adulterous woman? Send her to hell? Of course, after that couple's divorce and remarriage, neither of them will be able to serve in leadership at their church, right? They become second class Christians, right? The world accepts them, but the church rejects them and brands them with big letters - DIVORCE. How does that theology feel in your spirit? Is something wrong with that theology? I think so. I think we have so missed what the scriptures have to say about this and in so doing, we have wounded many people.
Well we come to a very stimulating passage in our study of the Sermon on the Mount. It's where Jesus made a statement about divorce. Initially, I was dreading this lesson, but about Thursday, I saw it as an opportunity to say some fresh things and hopefully help some people. Before we read today's study passage of the Sermon on the Mount, I want us to see exactly what Jesus was referencing. I want us to attempt to get a feeling of the society and their view of divorce. Then when we read the passage, we will be better equipped to understand it and properly apply it. Jesus referenced Deuteronomy 24:1.
Deuteronomy 24:1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house,
The word translated indecent (some uncleanness in KJV) is the Hebrew word `ervah (Strong's #6172). It simply means nudity and figuratively it means disgrace or blemish. The Old Covenant said that if a man did not like something about his wife's body, then it was perfectly lawful and righteous for him to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away. It was perfectly acceptable in the Old Covenant for a man to divorce his wife for a younger model. The wife had done nothing wrong other than survive. The attitude was that marriages were not important and could be easily and thoughtlessly terminated. A woman could be put out like a dog with nothing. She was not even allowed to take her children if the man so decided. This was what the Pharisees taught.
Matthew 19:3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"
I've got to ask you a question and you must answer it in your heart. I do want a response. Is divorce lawful according to the Bible? Yes! Is divorce sin? It is not sin according to my Bible. No place in my Bible does it say that divorce is sin. However, the attitudes by which we do marriage or divorce can be a problem. Is divorce horrible? Yes! Is divorce an extremely serious matter? Yes! Will divorce change the remainder of your life? Yes! Is divorce devastating to children? Yes! But to say that divorce is sin is to say the Bible lied to us.
Then what was Jesus doing? He is making us investigate our hearts. What are our attitudes toward our marriages? Jesus addressed the attitude. With that established, let's read our passage for today.
Matthew 5:31 It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.'
Matthew 5:32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
KEY WORD: We think the keyword(s) is adultery or maybe divorce. That's not the keyword to me. Jesus said a man who will not take care of his wife, 'trade in' his wife, and put her out like an unwanted animal, causes her to become an adulteress. The word causes shows to whom the statement was directed. It is the Greek word poieo, pronounced poy-eh'-o (Strong's # 4160). It means (1) to make; (1.a) to produce, construct, form, fashion, etc.; (1.b) to be the authors of, the cause. The admonishment was directed at the person causing the divorce. In this case, the man had forced the wife - constructed her, fashioned her, authored her life - forced her to remarry another in order that she survive. In that society this was much more severe than in ours. He had forced her to have marital relations with another man. That was not her plan or intention. Jesus was not pointing to the woman and the new husband as the problem. It's the person who caused - poieo - the divorce.
Jesus was not addressing divorced people. He was addressing the wrong attitude toward marriage and more specifically, the wrong attitude of a person's heart.
In the statement by Jesus, it was the man causing the problem. It was not only men with wrong attitudes toward marriages. Another example would be a woman divorcing her husband to get a wealthier version. The situation in Matthew 19 was linked to such a setting. That was when the Pharisees came to Jesus to "test" Jesus. If we will remember, John the Baptist had lost his head because of what he said about Herodias divorcing her husband Phillip, to marry Phillip's brother Herod, the ruler of the Jewish province. Herod was a wealthier and more powerful version. John the Baptist had condemned that divorce and marriage, was beheaded, and his head was placed on a platter (Mar 6:17-28). The test of the Pharisees was an attempt to get Jesus to do what John did. If the Pharisees could get Jesus to talk about Herodias, Herod would extinguish Jesus as he had terminated John. So, it is not always the man at fault.
Let's look at what Jesus said when questioned about divorce by the Pharisees "for any and every reason."
Matthew 19:3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"
Matthew 19:4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'
Matthew 19:5 and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?
Matthew 19:6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
Jesus bypassed what the law of Moses said and went to the beginning to what God said. It's not that Moses was wrong, but the law was added (Gal 3:19). In the beginning the union of a man and a woman was to be forever. A person was to leave father and mother to search the earth for a mate that fitted his or her criteria. When that mate was found, they were to cleave together to the point of becoming one flesh. Marriage is to become the most intimate of relationships. In no other relationship do people become one. I have close friends, but we are not one flesh. I am very close to my children, but we are not one flesh. I am very close to my grandchildren, but we are not one flesh. It is only with my wife that I can become one. God created marriage to be the deepest human relationship possible.
The righteousness of the Old was divorce "for any and every reason." Jesus said the righteousness in his kingdom surpassed that attitude. Jesus said we cannot simply get rid of someone for a younger version or for a richer version. The marriage relationship is to be taken extremely seriously in the kingdom of heaven. The attitude of the kingdom is that divorce is a difficult decision to make. It should only happen at the most serious of circumstances. "Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate." That was God's plan.
2. GOD HATES DIVORCE: However, as early as the second book of the Bible we find divorce. (It's interesting that until that time and even after then, men would add wives to their families instead of divorcing. God never condemned polygamy which is interesting. I am not advocating polygamy understand. My reasoning for God allowing polygamy is because God does not want his precious treasures - people - hurt and treated as if they mean nothing.)
God wanted a man and a woman to be glued together as equals. He wanted godly offspring brought into the world to direct the world and bring the kingdom of heaven. He desires love and compassion to fill the earth. It's from those thoughts, God made a powerful statement in Malachi, the Old Covenant, at which we must look.
Malachi 2:15 Has not the LORD made them one [equals]? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.
Malachi 2:16 "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, " . . .
God said he hates divorce. He doesn't hate divorced people understand. I think this is where us preachers, in our condemning zeal, project God erroneously. We project it as if God hates the people who have suffered divorced. That's horrible teaching. God said, "I hate it when covenants made in love at an altar are broken. I hate it when people are violated, hurt, and treated as if they mean nothing by a person they were convinced loved them. I hate it when children are raised without their father. I hate it when children are raised without their mother. I hate it when people who were once in a loving and caring and laughing relationship begin to hate one another and do and say mean hurting things to one another. I hate it when people are filled and consumed with bitterness and hostility. I hate the anguish and agony of the divorce process. I hate it! I hate it when the children are 'ping-ponged' back-and-forth and taught to hate their father or taught to hate their mother. I hate what divorce does to the hearts, spirits, and the lives of people." God hates it when we rip each other's hearts out. I've never seen a divorce where there were not rips and tares. It's because there was some degree of cleaving. Divorce is devastating no matter what the divorce was about and this is especially true when children were involved. God did not say, "I hate divorced people." He said, "I hate divorce."
Contrary to this, God loves and blesses it when we come together as one flesh. God loves it when we find a way to work out our marital problems. He loves it when two people can come together and remain together.
3. CAUSE OF DIVORCE: Nonetheless, God knew there would be marriages that would crash and burn. He knew there would be people who would have hard hearts. There has always been and, during our life times, will always be hard hearts. Hard hearts are the reason for divorce.
Matthew 19:8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.
Kingdom marriages must have pliable hearts. It's a part of the "new wineskins" that Jesus talked about (Mat 9:17). Jesus said that was the way hearts in his kingdom work.
Matthew 9:17 Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."
4. FIXING A DAMAGED MARRIAGE:
I want to end by talking about keeping a marriage blessed. Thirty-six years of marriage and thirty-eight years of keeping a person like my wife married to and loving someone like me gives me the credentials to say this. I have eight secrets to a successful marriage - GUARANTEED! If this does not work, come back in thirty years and I will give you your money back.
1. First, I must become poor in spirit. I must check my spirit. Am I full of myself, full of anger, self righteousness (my way), hard headed (hearted)? Or, is my heart open to the Spirit of God and my spouse? If I am open then I have taken a big first step. I ask, "Could I [me the preacher] be wrong?" Usually I am.
2. I must mourn. Am I mourning that this contest is happening? Have I recognized that at least part of this problem is me? It may be 2% or it may be 98%. Usually, in my marriage, most of the problem is me. Have I mourned that I injured my wife and said hurtful things? I must truly mourn. A simple "I'm sorry" doesn't mean squat if I don't fix the problem. I ask, "Have I mourned? Am I really sorry?" If I want comfort, I must.
3. I must become meek. I can be proud, arrogant, and hard hearted and lose everything in a divorce court. I ask, "Is it time to be tender and like cotton or, hard like iron?" Yelling and screaming will not get the job done. I ask, "Am I inheriting the earth [everything] or, losing everything?"
4. I must hunger and thirst for righteousness in my marriage. I need to hunger for my marriage to be fixed as I hunger for life. I must thirst as I thirst for life. I ask, "Do I want my life fulfilled?"
5. I must be merciful. Have I truly cut some slack here? What if the shoe was on my foot? My giving mercy is the only way I will obtain mercy from my wife and from God. I ask, "Do I really understand her position?"
6. I must keep my heart pure. I cannot allow my heart to be defiled with anger and bitterness. I ask, "Is my heart clean? Do I have a hidden agenda? What is really in my heart?" If I do that, God will show up and I will see him move for me and for my wife.
7. I must be a peacemaker. I cannot be a warmonger. I can't expect my wife to make peace. If I am a child of God then I will find a way to make peace. I ask, "Am I making peace or wanting war?" That is what a child of God will do.
8. There is always persecution in repairing a marriage. The devil desires you yell and power up and manipulate. When we do not, the devil persecutes. This is especially true with us men. However, if I want the kingdom of heaven, I know that it is for righteousness sake. That is what God will bless.
Imagine if every marital problem was approached with these eight beatitudes. Envision how marriage would be.
I want to end with this illustration. We cannot unscramble scrambled eggs. Sometimes life is like scrambled eggs. Things cannot be undone. I don't care if you have been married for one year, thirty-six years, fifty years, or a hundred years, there are things that can't be undone. I don't care if you have been divorced one time, three times, or like the woman at the well, five times. God will love you and use you. He took that woman at the well, loved her and gave her a ministry that touched her entire city. See. God does love scrambled eggs. (Rom 8:28).
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
If you love God, he will bless your life beyond your wildest expectations. That I promise. God will bless your life beyond anything you can ask or think. I believe that some of us needed to hear this today. I believe that some of us are going through it right now. You are confused. You don't know if you are coming or going. But you love God and you know you are called for something special. Will you allow me to pray for you?
That's Kingdom Marriages.
That's Living in the Kingdom.