Divorce: What Saith The Scripture?

1 09 2011

“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” Malachi 2:16

     It is common to hear the term, “God hates divorce” and this verse is usually the proof text quoted to back up that saying. Is that saying accurate? Well the problem is that proof texting always leads to error. We cannot isolate one verse from it’s chapter, topic, and the rest of the Bible. We must study each verse in the context in which it is stated, and each topic such as divorce should always be looked at not through the microscope of one verse but the teaching of the entire Scriptures on the subject. We must start by first looking at what marriage is.

     Marriage is a God ordained institution(Genesis 2:24) and is given as a gift for man(Genesis 2:20). The marriage bond is given as a type or picture of the relationship between God and His people(Ephesians 5:22-33). Marriage is intended to be for life and should not be taken lightly nor broken up lightly. Does God hate all divorce? Well we need to look at all we can on the matter to see what the Scripture says.

     What does the law say about divorce? In Deuteronomy 24:1-4 we see the law concerning divorce. Verse 1 starts off, “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her…” This shows we are not talking about an engaged couple whom is often called husband and wife in Scripture. This is talking about someone alrready married. It goes on, “and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.” He can divorce her if she has found no favor in his eyes but it gets even more specific. The word “because” shows the only kind of disfavor, it says if she finds no favor in his eyes BECAUSE of some uncleanness. Verse 2-4 say that she may go to be another man’s wife but may not return to her first husband.

     Has God ever allowed divorce? Yes He has. In Ezra 10:10-19 we see Ezra the prophet of God ending the marriages of the Israelites who had married heathen women. We see nothing negative being said about it, and we see no indication he was wrong for doing such a thing. This does not mean God endorses Christians to divorce heathen wives, all this shows is that God allowed this to happen and did not condemn Ezra’s actions which is odd if what Ezra did was something God hated.

     What does Jesus say about divorce? Well Jesus speaks on the subject in Matthew 19:3-12. In verse 3 the Pharisees asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” Even though the law stated that a man could only divorce his wife for some uncleanness, the rabbi’s had over time perverted the meaning of the law and defined anything and everything as “uncleanness.” If your wife didn’t tend your every whim you could say she lost favor in your eyes and was unclean to you. So divorce was being done as a regualr thing.

     Jesus answers them by telling them why God made marriage and quoting Genesis, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”(Vs. 4-6) The Pharisees asked why Moses commanded to divorce if God did not intend that. Jesus responded that divorce was not in God’s original plan and it wasn’t. Man has been marred by the fall and many things that go on are not in step with God’s original intentions. For instance God allowed men to have multiple wives and we even see where God gave His people multiple wives(2 Samuel 12:8) Polygamy was not part of God’s original creation order but due to the fall it became a necessary way of life just as divorce had become one.

     He then goes on to clarify what Moses meant by saying you could divorce your wife if she lost favor in your eyes because of some uncleanness, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”(Vs. 9) The only uncleanness that makes divorce lawful is fornication, the Greek term used was “pornea” which is where we get our modern term of pornography. A man cannot simply divorce his wife because she has made him angry or because he is tired of her. The only cause is sexual immorality. Even in this case I think every attempt should be made by both spouses to reconcile and divorce should be a last option.

     Some say “well, yes He allows it in certain cases but He still hates it” that is very inconsistant. The fact that God allows divorce in some cases must mean we cannot throw a blanket statement such as “God hates divorce” out there. Paul when speaking on the subject of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 says that it’s better not to marry at all, unless you cannot contain your passions(Vs. 8-9). He says that a man should not put away his wife(Vs. 11) and if  a wife departs from her husband she must remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband(Vs. 10-11) Of course he does not mention fornication so we must assume he is speaking of just leaving for no reason. He then goes on to say, “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”  What he is saying is that if someone gets saved after marriage(because it is sin to marry a non-believer) and their spouse is still lost then they should stay with them and pray their testimony reaches their spouse(Vs. 12-13) He also says that if the unbelieving spouse leaves then the christian spouse is not “under bondage” which would be the marriage bond. So adultery or abandonment by an unsaved spouce are the only causes for divorce in Scripture.

     What is the meaning of the statement in Malachi? Let’s put the staement in question into context. In Malachi 2, verses 1-10 God is reprimanding Isreal for breaking and profaning His covenant with them. In verse 11 it says, “for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.” The the historical context is that these men had married heathen women who worshipped other gods.

     Where these single men who had sinned in this manner? No, let’s read on, “Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.”(Vs. 14) So these were married men who had broken their marriage vows, divorced their wives and married heathen women. From the phrase “wife of thy youth” I might also understand that they were older men who put away the wife of their youth to marry younger heathen women. This is not stated and is only a guess. The Lord then goes on to say, “And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”(Vs. 15-16)

     So the context is that these married men had broken their marriage vows, divorced their wives to marry heathen women. God tells them that He hates the divorce, not all divorce but the divorce of those in question. Does God hate divorce? Yes, wrong divorce, not divorce in the bounds He has set. Does God hate sex? Yes, outside of the bounds He has set. Is divorce sin? Yes, outside the bounds He has set. Is sex a sin? Yes, outside the bounds He has set. Lawful divorce is just as right as lawful sex. Unlawful divorce is just as sinful and wrong as unlawful sex. In Proverbs Solomon gives a list of things God hates, not an exhaustive list but divorce does not even make the top 7.

     Can we conclude that God hates all divorce? No, not without ignoring the Scriptures. He hates wrong divorce. Is all divorce sin? No, only wrong divorce. I find it funny that Jesus allows divorce yet His followers claim all divorce is sinful. Are they then concluding Jesus is ok with sin under certain circumstances? Absolutely not! It’s true divorce was not in the original intentions of God but neither was death, polygamy, slavery, religion, pain in childbirth, work or many other things that we have due to the fall.  God hates divorce for the wrong reason and this puts Malachi, Jesus, and Moses, and Paul in perfect harmony.

     Divorce even in right circumstances is not a desirable thing and it should only be done after much deliberation, many attempts at reconciliation, and with a pain in the heart. Rates are staggering, In 1920, there was 1 divorce for every 7 marriages. That is 14%. In 1940, there was 1 divorce for every 6 marriages. That is 17%. In 1960, there was 1 divorce for every 4 marriages. That is 25%. In 1972, there was 1 divorce for every 3 marriages. That is 33%. In 1977, there was 1 divorce for every 2 marriages. That is 50%. Of course, the divorce rate has stayed around 50% since the 70’s, but has recently exceeded that. 

          It is a shame to see such high rates but the answer to this is not to be reactionary and declare all divorce as sin and say God hates all divorce. We see a divorce rate in the church almost as high as in the world and the reason being that most professing christinas are not really saved in the first place. We must not judge by our reactions but by Scripture. In all circumstances and on every topic we must say, “what saith the Scripture.”

Holding On To Sin

8 06 2011

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:14-17)

One thing that we in the modern church lack compared to the early church is the extent to which we hold on to the guilt of our sin. Paul knew that he was forgiven and knew that he was a child of God, for which he made no apologies. He admits to being a blasphemer, and murderer yet had no problem saying that “those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”(Galatians 5:21) He had no issue with standing for righteousness. I doubt if those in the early church would say to the preacher, “psst, be careful what you say, Paul is in the service.” There was no need for this because Paul did not carry with him the guilt of his past. When he wrote his letters, he felt no need to address them to the “sinners saved by grace.” He addressed them to the “saints”(Colossians 1:2, Philippians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:2 etc)

In the church today we have forsaken Biblical repentance and we no longer trust in the Lord to heal our past sins. We see this with churches using worldly means like support groups, and many Pastors are taking psychiatric courses at public colleges. We trust in these pagan systems of dealing with past sin and past hurt and we never teach people to trust in the Lord for forgiveness and healing. One area is abortion, pastors are afraid to talk about the subject because they are afraid of offending someone who may have had one. This could have been the case in the early church but it wasn’t because they had embraced their forgiveness. We hold on to our past in the church today, and people who claim to be saved leave preachers afraid to preach against those sins for fear of offending them. Nobody was afraid of calling murder a sin “just in case Paul relived his hurtful past.” No sir, Paul himself said murderers will not inherit the kingdom of God. He even pointed out that his listeners had been sinners but reminded them of their position, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

The main reason I think this is a problem in the church today is that many professing Christians are not really saved in the first place. I mentioned before we have forsaken Biblical repentance and now tell people to simply “ask Jesus in your heart.” Many have never repented of their sins and therefore hold on to them. It’s time we confess and forsake our sins and walk in the newness of life. Those who put their trust in the Lord will never be offended the Proverbs tell us. It’s time we stop avoiding these issues for fear of offending people, in fact we need to offend them to bring their sin that has been tucked away to the surface and tell them the truth that “God commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30)

Parent’s Beware

1 06 2011

     Often times we look at the culture around us as harmless. We are afraid to be “judgmental” or “label” things. We have stopped viewing it for what it is according to Scripture a wicked, pagan culture that is opposed to the things of God. Many church going kids that would surely label themselves as “Christian” are going to public school being educated by the government; they listen to the same music, and watch the same shows as the unsaved kids. They often dress according to the latest fashions and have the “in style” haircut. I talked to a barber once who was talking about how boys wearing long hair was hurting his business, then I was surprised when I heard him say, “there was a time you could count on the Christians at least but now they are all wearing long hair too.” This man that as far as I know is unsaved noted that the Christian boys are no different than the others. Parents are so set on their kids fitting in and doing all the things that the world would consider “normal kid stuff” that they never encourage them to be counter cultural. Paul said this, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world…”(Ephesians 2:2a) this is speaking of a past action not the present course of a believer.

Most parents probably assume that as long as their kids are not watching “dirty” shows on television then it’s ok. They figure if we keep them on kids networks then everything will be fine. I say this in warning, kid’s television can be fun and entertaining but it is not a safety zone by any means. I was motivated to write this after watching a movie on Disney Channel called “Lemonade Mouth.” This movie helped me to realize that parents must be ever vigilant for the minds and hearts of their kids. They cannot simply say “well it’s a kids channel so I won’t worry about it.” The movie tells the story of five high school students who meet in detention and form a band to stand up for their beliefs and to overcome their individual and collective struggles. According to reviewers it emphasizes honesty, integrity, and self-expression. This may all seem nice on the surface but there is an underlying message that cannot be missed when you watch it. The message is one of rebellion. The message is that authority figures are against you, and you must fight for your rights even to the point of disobedience to authority. It teaches that parents don’t really understand you so you have to make them understand you. It teaches that your peers are your only reliable friends and they understand you better than adults.

These are the messages that jumped out at me while watching it. Scripture teaches that authority is given by God (Romans 13:1) Parental authority, school authority, elder authority, governmental authority etc. These are all given by God and we are to submit to them regardless of them being good or evil. Disobedience is only acceptable when an authority defies God’s law. I believe in our country we have the opportunity and responsibility to speak out for our rights but this would be grown adults doing this. Children are put under their parent’s authority until they are of age and children have no right to fight authority. To teach kids that their parents don’t really understand them like their friends do is harmful to kids. Parents need to be ever vigilant for the hearts and minds of their kids. Don’t assume because it’s a kids channel that everything they show is good. Watch TV with them; guide them on what to watch. We must be careful that what we are teaching our kids is not being contradicted by the other influences in their life. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15)

Written By: Richard Garland

The Dangers of Self Reliance

10 10 2010

Our lives ought to be filled with times of growth, often hitting a low before learning a new lesson and growing our faith. I would like to share a recent experience in that area of life for me. Some Christians will laugh off total reliance on God by saying that “we have to do our part” or ” God helps those who help themselves.” They don’t believe that God is interested in the little issues of life. Sure if you have a major need or a serious health issue or something then God cares but they (in deed if not in word) shrug off reliance on the Lord in small day to day issues. The other group see God as their butler or servant and if they just “declare” in Jesus name He is obligated to run to their aid. They quote the Scriptures that say “Whatever you ask in my name that will I do”(John 14:13) or others that say, “ask what you will and it shall be done unto you.”(John 15:7) They leave out Scriptures such as James 4:3, “you ask and receive not that you may consume it upon your lust.”

I know God is interested in the small things because of men like George Mueller who raised orphans and bought properties without ever asking for money or making his needs known to men. He simply went to his Heavenly Father in secret made his requests and awaited the answer or direction. Reese Howells lived much the same life, as did Corrie Ten Boom, and H.A. Ironside. The Scriptures declare in Psalm 37:4, “Delight thyself in the Lord and He will give thee the desires of thine heart.” Does this mean he will give me whatever I want? No, it means the desires of my heart will come from him. Those who delight themselves in the Lord won’t want the things of this world but the things of the Kingdom of God. Not that He will give us all we desire, but that all we desire will come from Him. This is why He said in 1 John 5:14-15, “And this is the confidence that we have in Him,  that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us;  And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

I am learning this in my life through several recent experiences. A few weeks ago I was scheduled to take part in a pro-life march and rally. I was scheduled to work mandatory overtime just a few days prior to the event. I lied outwardly and said I was praying about it and if I had to work then I accepted that as God’s will. I did pray but surely not a believing prayer but what people could not see is sadness, and anger on the inside was boiling up and my faith was weakening. Spiritually I felt crippled, but I was arguing with my boss and talking about him when he was not around. I claimed to be trusting the Lord but I relied entirely on my own efforts to change the situation and when I could not I got angry. The Lord in His mercy and through no merit of my own moved the heart of my boss to change my schedule and put me on a graveyard shift that day to enable me to go. How much easier it could have been if only I had learned to trust.

A week after that last incident I had another opportunity and this time took the challenge to grow my faith, deepen my reliance, and see God work on my behalf. I work security at a hospital and had to relieve the officer in the Emergency Room for a lunch break. He told me that there was a large and rather noisy group that he had been arguing with to quiet down. He told me I would have a battle on my hands but I decided to take a different approach and ask the Lord to work on my behalf. I in simple (very simple) faith asked the Lord to have them leave the room for the duration of my time there. Within thirty seconds, the entire group walked out of the waiting room. My relief returned about a half hour later and as I was leaving to do my rounds I noticed the entire group walk back in. I said to the Lord…point taken!

A week or so after the last incident, the Lord gave me yet another opportunity to grow my faith. We had a gang member in the hospital and about forty gang members visiting. I had been off for two days and when I came to work they told me I would have a hard shift because there was a big riot earlier and they had to call the police out. They said the group was loud and would try to pick a fight with me. I went immediately to the chapel and went to the throne for “grace to help in time of need.” I waited on the Lord before praying hoping to let the Spirit pray on my behalf so that I did not ask of my own will. After a few minutes the words just poured and to my surprise I did not request the Lord have them leave but that He would keep them quiet and friendly during the hours I was at work. Going about my business that night I heard not a peep from the group. I got to work the next day and found out that earlier in the day the police had to be called again but I felt an air of protection and found that I was not worried about it ( this is the truth of truly relying on the Lord) I went through my shift and heard not a peep again. The next day they were there for half my shift, still not a peep, and they left so quietly it was an hour before I knew they were gone.

When my co-workers asked how many times I had to respond to their group they were shocked when I said none. They said their day was filled with fights, and shouting. They could not believe that I had no issues with them. They could not fathom the battle going on in the spiritual realm and that unseen powers were at work on my behalf. When I relied on my own abilities I was miserable, frustrated, bitter, and angry. When I relied on God I saw Him work wonders on my behalf. Oh Christian, realize the authority, and power we have in the name of Jesus and that God is interested in the small, mundane issues of life. Find your reliance on God and surrender it to Him. He is a loving Father who wants to bear our burdens for us if only we will let Him.

Written By: Rick Garland

Just On Time

7 07 2010

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” Daniel 4:34-35

Corrie Ten Boom got up during the initial bombing of Haarlem, and she joined her sister, Betsie in the kitchen for a cup of tea. When she returned to her bed she found a large piece of shrapnel on her pillow. She asked Betsie if she could imagine what would have happened had she not joined her in the kitchen. Betsie replied that in God’s economy there are no “ifs.” The truth of God’s absolute sovereignty in the affairs of man is a lesson that Corrie found to be true throughout the course of her life. I have often in times of low faith doubted if God would or could come through. What I have found is that God is always right on time.

When I was supporting my mom back from 2002 through 2004 I often found that I got overtime just as a new expense came up for her (just on time) When I got a job in the mountains of California, in which I had very few living expenses, I found that during that time a Christian brother needed a lot of financial help, which I was able to meet(just on time) When people at a certain job were trying to get me fired for a year they failed every time. When my mom no longer needed my help I was off that job in two weeks (just on time) When my mom was getting food stamps, she received notice in June that she would no longer get them, but starting in July we realized she didn’t need them (just on time) I found that a door seemed to be opening for me to take another job. I began to follow the leading and found that I was about to lose my hours at my current job (just on time)

I have had many jobs and worked with many wonderful people, and have missed them after leaving. Most of these jobs I had worked for several years. I was assigned to a local library branch for about a month recently. There were many wonderful people there whom I will miss seeing on a daily basis. When I left however you would have thought I had been there a year or two. I was blessed with compliments such as, “You’re the best security guard we have had in years.” “One of the reasons I love coming to work is because you seem so happy and it cheers me up.” I was given a few gifts before I left and was told how much of an impact I had made on some people there. I likewise felt blessed by their outpouring of love, especially having been there for such a short time. I was thinking on the subject and it seemed plain. God put me there because I needed them, and they needed me. We all needed each other even for a very short time. This is the joy of following Jesus; we may not always understand why He puts us somewhere, or why He tells us to move on. One thing I have come to expect and appreciate is that He seems to always be……just on time.

Leaving a Legacy

26 06 2010

“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts. And by it, he being dead yet speaketh.” Hebrews 11:4

One of the greatest testimonies one can achieve is not the testimony they can give about themselves, but the one given about them after their death. Our goal as believers is to leave a legacy of faith for others to follow. In Hebrews 13 we are told to imitate the faith of those who went before us. Our lives are usually wrapped up in careers, homes, cars, possessions, money, retirements, and things that are soon forgotten after we are gone. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes all these things are vanity–empty. He was a man that had everything a person could want in life. He had women, money, possessions, armies, houses, lands, finest foods, servants, gold, silver, entertainments etc. and when he came to the end of his life he realized he had wasted his it. When giving the sum of what really counts he said simply, “Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.”

Long after the life of Enoch his testimony was summed up in the Scriptures, “he walked with God and he was not for God took him.” We see Job remembered thousands of years after his death (Ezekiel 14:14, James 5:11) we see Daniel receive a great testimony from the angel Gabriel when he was told in Heaven he was “greatly beloved.” We see Noah who, “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” as the only righteous person in a world full of wickedness. We see him held up as an example of righteousness over a thousand years after his death(Ezekiel 14:14) Stephen’s life no doubt impacted the apostle Paul (who helped kill him) long after his last words rang out, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Jesus gave a fitting eulogy after John the Baptist’s death when he said, “of those born among women none is greater than John the Baptist.

I have a rich heritage passed on to me especially from my grandparents. Their testimony reaches even into my life today. I believe it was Patrick Henry who said he left to his family the religion of Jesus Christ. If only that was our goal today. We are more concerned with leaving material goods behind, we forget the words of Solomon—all is vanity. My grandparents have been dead now for 10 years and more, yet there are people across this country that would welcome me into their homes, feed me, and show me hospitality and kindness based entirely of their love for my grandparents and the impact they made on the lives of those people. This is the kind of legacy we must each strive for in our lives. If you died would someone do well on your behalf 10 years later? This is what Solomon was talking about. It’s not what you have that matters Jesus said this, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” All that matters in life is that treasure that is laid up in heaven and the imprint we make on the lives of those around us. In the words of the song,” May all who come behind us find us faithful, may the fires of our devotion light their way. May the footprints that we leave, lead them to believe, and the lives we live inspire them to obey. May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

“The Bridge Builder”
“An old man going a lone highway, came at evening cold and gray, to a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide. Through which was flowing a sullen tide. The old man crossed in the twilight dim, the sullen stream had no fears for him, but he turned when safe on the other side, and built a bridge to span the tide. “Old man” said a fellow pilgrim near, “you are wasting your strength with building here. Your journey will end with the ending of day; you never again must pass this way. You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide, why build you a bridge at eventide?” The builder lifted his old gray head: “good friend, in the path I have come,” he said, “there followeth after me he today, a youth whose feet must pass this way. This chasm that has been nought to me, to that fair haired youth may a pitfall be. He too must cross in the twilight dim, good friend I am building the bridge for him.”

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