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Divorce: When the Bond is Severed
Deuteronomy 24
Skip Heitzig

Deuteronomy 24 (NKJV™)
1 "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house,
2 "when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man's wife,
3 "if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife,
4 "then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.
5 "When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.
6 "No man shall take the lower or the upper millstone in pledge, for he takes one's living in pledge.
7 "If a man is found kidnapping any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and mistreats him or sells him, then that kidnapper shall die; and you shall put away the evil from among you.
8 "Take heed in an outbreak of leprosy, that you carefully observe and do according to all that the priests, the Levites, shall teach you; just as I commanded them, so you shall be careful to do.
9 "Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam on the way when you came out of Egypt.
10 "When you lend your brother anything, you shall not go into his house to get his pledge.
11 "You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you lend shall bring the pledge out to you.
12 "And if the man is poor, you shall not keep his pledge overnight.
13 "You shall in any case return the pledge to him again when the sun goes down, that he may sleep in his own garment and bless you; and it shall be righteousness to you before the LORD your God.
14 "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates.
15 "Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you.
16 "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.
17 "You shall not pervert justice due the stranger or the fatherless, nor take a widow's garment as a pledge.
18 "But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this thing.
19 "When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
20 "When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.
21 "When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.
22 "And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this thing.

New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Complete Relationship Series

This in-depth nine-message series covers the subjects of singleness, dating, marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Skip Heitzig lays out sound biblical principles to help you develop good, healthy relationships.

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"Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery." We have been dealing with questions and answers. For those who might be new this morning, questions that the congregation has written in, um, biblical answers for some interesting questions. Most of them have dealt with relationships. And up to this point, I've had a blast dealing with loneliness and singleness and dating, spiritual singleness, two weeks on marriage. And now we come to divorce. And to be real honest with you, I'm glad I've had a break for two weeks in Israel before I had to jump right into this. Because this is such a touchy, hot potato issue. And you get both sides flared up; the kind who disagree totally with divorce under any circumstances and those who are liberal enough to not care about it. Um, it's really not my favorite issue. It's not my favorite topic. If someone asks me to come to a conference and pick any topic, it would not be this one. But because there is so much confusion about it, and there is so much pain involved in it, and many of you are the subject of a divorce or the result of parents who've been divorced, or maybe you have undergone a divorce, someone has "dumped you" so-to-speak. Or, you yourself are involved in an unscriptural divorce. I know that there's a lot of feelings and emotions that go along with this. In fact, of all the letters that I've received about questions that you've wanted answered, one-fourth of them, or one-fifth of them have been on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. This particular issue. I can't read all of them, but I have a sampling of them. Questions that range from a simple, "What is the biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage," to questions like, "There are many divorcees in the body of Christ at large today. Some were divorced before meeting the Lord, some afterwards. Is there ever biblical basis for marrying a divorced woman or man?" Another one asks, "I am a divorced mother. I am dating a man now that I constantly remind I will not have premarital sex with. He tells me that if we ever got married now, it would be adultery anyway because I am still married in God's eyes. My ex-husband is married now, and I'm a Christian now. Can I ever get married again?" Another one asks, "According the scripture, how does God feel about divorce, especially when there seems to be no other alternative. Then, if we ever remarry, we are adulterers, and God's word says that those who commit adultery will not enter His kingdom. Is this from divorce and remarriage? It says that we are saved, or it's, it says if we are saved we will not lose our salvation. I'm confused. I'm a born-again Christian going through a divorce which I do not want but it's inevitable. I am young and I'm sure I will remarry someday, but I don't want to commit adultery and not enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

When I deal with this issue, I have everybody's attention, I bet. When I was flying back from Israel this last Wednesday evening, I was speaking to one of the women who were in our group of forty that we went to Israel with, and we were, she asked a question about divorce and remarriage. And as soon as I started talking about it, as soon as we got engaged in the conversation, the whole row next to us, their head turned toward us. And the whole row in front of us, head turned toward us. And it was like, "What's going on?" It's got everybody's attention. We're dealing with an issue that is very, very, very controversial. You've got the people who say, "No divorce ever is allowed under any circumstances by God's word," which I disagree with, folks. Then there are those who jump on the other side of the fence and who say, "No big deal, man. God's full of grace, you can do anything you want. God'll cleanse any sin and so just do whatever you want. God understands." And of course you know I don't agree with that one. And then there's all sorts of you's in between.

We live in an age where people are separating for any conceivable reason. They will make one up, if they don't have a good one, and they will try to find a scripture to fit it. That's called accommodating theology. That is, "I live a lifestyle I choose, and I will find a verse somewhere in these multi-thousands of verses that will agree with me." It's a tough, tough subject. And the Christian church needs to watch out because we're starting to kind of fall prey to the same statistics that the world is. You know, the vows, instead of, um, "Till death do us part," uh, uh, they really don't mean that anymore, it seems. It seems like, "Well, if it doesn't work out." Instead of, "As long as we both shall live," how about, "as long as we both shall love." "As long as I love you, I'll stay married to you. But if you ever get ugly, or if I ever start getting ugly, let's just set up a contract that we can divorce each other if something else better comes along." Uh, that's found in 1 Fleshalonians, Chapter 1 (laughter). I don't believe there will ever be an unanimous agreement on this subject. And I need to preface this study today by saying that I do, I don't believe there'll ever be a unanimous agreement on it. If you took twenty-five Bible teachers and stuck 'em in a room for a week, they'd all come out not agreeing. They'd probably be as many different opinions as people that you stuck in the room. Now this study is based upon my prayer, my research, my understanding of the word. I've read everything I can get my hands on on all sides. I've spoken with people who are going through di-divorces. I've spoken with counselors who've counseled people going through divorces, and yet, I know, that when these studies are over with, and we'll probably spend three weeks on it, or four, that not everyone will agree. I don't care. It doesn't bother me. I know that that's just the way it's gonna be. I'm just prefacing this study by saying save your letters and your cards. I know that you're not all going to agree, and I know all the positions. I am giving you what I feel before the Lord is the biblical, correct position. What I encourage to be is like the Bereans in the book of Acts, Chapter 17. The Bereans heard the word, they received it with joy, but they searched the scriptures on their own just to see if these things were so. So I encourage you to listen with an open ear. One of the worst things is to be misunderstood. So listen carefully. If you listen carefully, be open, and then search the word on your own to make sure that that's exactly what the scripture says, don't fall for it just because I said it.

Well, first of all, we live in a society where the standards of marriage, divorce, and remarriage are lowering every year. Where people are accommodating the institution of marriage and divorce around what they think. The attitude of the world is changing. I have, uh, several quotes with me, but before I do, just a few statistics in our century. In the last century, the divorce rate has risen, get this, 700 percent. 700 percent. It is estimated that out of ever 1.8 marriages, there is one divorce. If this continues, the experts say that by the years 1990, it's a few years away, folks, 1990, there will be more divorces than there are marriages, which will bring a demise of the family unit as we know it. In Sweden, interestingly enough, they have, uh, a one day divorce law. If you do not have children under age sixteen, that if there, that is if they're older than that, you can get a divorce immediately, no questions asked, in the same day. In Nevada, there is one judge that handles so many divorces, he now does them by group- fifteen couples at a time. Many times, he can clear out fifteen divorces in ten minutes, he says. He settles them in ten minutes. So much so that he is seeing the need for mail-ordered divorce. That is, if you sign a written affidavit, put it in the mail, he can grant you a divorce. It would just expedite things so much more. There's a book written called How To Do Your Own Divorce. Has forms that you fill out, and then how to fill out the forms, what to do, where to send it. It is a best-seller, and will it surprise you if I tell you that it's a best-seller in the state of California? Doesn't surprise me at all.

I'm gonna read a couple quotations, one from a British physician who wrote a book called The Death of the Family. He says, "The best thing human society could do is to abolish the family altogether." He says, "The family is the primary conditioning device for a Western imperialistic world view." Kate Millet, a famous woman's libber, wrote a book, and one quote in her book called Sexual Politics, she says, "The family unit must go because it's the family that has oppressed and enslaved women for so long."Another book unabashedly writes this, "Yes, your marriage can wear out. People change their values and their lifestyles. People want to experience new things. Change is a part of life. Change and personal growth are traits for you to be proud of, indicative of a vital, searching mind. You must accept the reality that in today's multifaceted world, it is especially easy for two people to grow apart. Letting go of your marriage, if it's no longer good for you, can be the most successful thing you've ever done. Getting a divorce can be a positive, problem-solving, growth-oriented step. It can be a personal triumph."

Now that's the changing attitudes of our world. I hope you realize how significant it is for Christians living with a backdrop of that kind of thinking because that means that our view of marriage, the Christian view that marriage is a permanent, lifelong, monogamous relationship, is in the minority view. The majority view disagrees with that. We are a small minority, fighting against the wins of people saying, "the family is out, it is outdated, let's out, let's do away with it. It's positive to dump your wife or your husband. It can help you grow. Let's expand your vision." We're in a minority view. But we are in danger of becoming an extinct race rather than just a minority. Because the Christian church is also lowering it's standards. One church has a formal in it's services, just like you'd have a wedding service, they have a divorce service. Where the couples stand up and they, "Now this couple is divorced. They've worked hard at it, they've tried hard, but they couldn't resolve it." They say a few words of respect back to each other, and it's public ceremony like a funeral or a marriage. Christian leaders are divorcing their wives, going out with their secretaries, and maintaining pulpit positions, leadership positions.

One American leader, and I will not mention his name, but I know this from friends that I have in Israel; they are tour leaders, they are Jewish, they do a lot of big groups. This Christian leader came over to, uh, Israel to do a tour, and my friend, the Jewish friend, and this Christian American leader are very close, or they were very close, until this Christian leader approached my friend, who's not, is an unbeliever now, my friend's an unbelieving, Jewish husband and wife, said, "There I was, standing on the wall outside of Akko," which is a city in Northern Israel, "And I was walking one morning and Jesus appeared to me and Jesus told me that I could let my wife go, to get rid of her, because Jesus had somebody far better for me." Is there a bird flying around in here (light laughter). Well it's snowing outside, I don't blame him. Uh, we have a warning for you though, bird. You can't leave once the message has begun or the ushers will keep you back in the foyer (laughter). Flying around disturbs others. Romans 12 says for Christians, "Don't be conformed to this world. Don't let the world push you into it's mold." That's exactly what it's doing.

And the midst of all of these changing views, in the midst of people saying, "Dump marriage altogether," what we're experiencing is the family unit is being destroyed in this generation. Christianity Today published an article. Interestingly enough, this is the famous Harvard Medical School director, Dr. Armand Nicholi, and he wrote a book, and they took an article and they put it in Christianity Today. This is what he says, "If there is any one factor influencing the character development and the emotional stability of an individual, it is the quality of the relationship that he or she experiences as a child with both parents. Conversely, if people suffering from severe nonorganic," that is, if it's not a physical-related disease, "severe nonorganic emotional illness have one experience in common, it is the absence of a parent through death, divorce, or some other cause. A parent's inaccessibility, either physically, emotionally, or both, can profoundly influence a child's emotional health." In other words, he's saying the common denominator is a wrong relationship with parents. A common denominator between a maladjusted person and another is they had a wrong relationship somewhere with mom and dad. That's his premise. He goes on to list six trends that he sees in America that are destructive to the family. One of them, mother's of young children working outside the home. Number two, frequent family moves. He estimates that fifty percent of the American population lived at a different address five years ago, which does not let the children develop roots in relationship, or long-lasting relationships- no extended friendships. Number three, the invasion of television. Now, if I, as a poor little preacher, began to talk about television or working mothers, I get the flack. But a prominent Harvard psychologist speaks about it and it's, "Oh, there must be something to that." Television invading the home, he sees, is one of the most destructive elements to the family. It is estimated that the next generation will spend one-fifth of his lifetime watching the tube. If you live to be eighty years old in the next generation, you will have watched 4,000 solid days, twenty-four hours a day, of televisions. Number three, or number four, the lack of moral control in society. That is, because of meat-heads with this kind of mentality in the articles that I read, that's causing people to have no absolute moral standards, which causes them to be confused about moral issues, which causes them to feel guilty about moral issues. Lack of moral control in society. Number five, he says, lack of communication. Lack of communication within the home. One survey reported that the average father spends thirty-seven seconds a day with his new child. That is of close, one-on-one, not the child in the same room, of close, personal, meaningful contact. And finally, and the most destructive element, he says, by far the major cause of emotional problems, and the major detriment to the family is, what? Divorce. He says, "The trend toward quick and easy divorce," and we read a few of those to you, "and the ever-increasing divorce rate," 700 percent, this last century, "subjects more and more children to physically and emotionally absent parents. If this trend does not reverse," he says, "the quality of family life will continue to deteriorate, producing a society with a higher incident of mental illness than ever before." He says, "Ninety-five percent of the hospital beds will be taken up by mentally ill people. The illness will be characterized primarily by a lack of self-control." Dr. Nicholi estimates that there are thirteen million children under the age of eighteen years old, who have one or both parents missing. Eighteen million under the age of eighteen. And he's looking at the effects overall on society. That's it's detrimental to the spouses, it's detrimental to the children, it's detrimental to society as a whole.

Now, it is fine and understandable to be concerned about the effects that divorce has on society, the effects that it has on children, the effects that it has on the spouse; we should be concerned about that. But there's a more important reason we should be concerned and that is it violates the word and the principles of God. And that's the number one reason that it should cause us to be ashamed, cause us to be concerned. I hate divorce. And it's okay for me to hate it cause God says He hates it. And I hate the effects that it has on kids. I see how it rips up families. I hate to see homes broken up. But, above and beyond that, it violates God's word. And the one thing we need to do is to get back to the word, and I'm sure you knew I'd say that. But that's what we need to do is get back to the principles of God's word, if there's any hope at all in saving the marriages. I think that the church, by and large, ignores this issue. It's because it's so widespread. How do you deal with something that goes on so frequently, even among Christians? How do you deal with it? And so, to accommodate people in the congregation so that they won't get upset with us, we'll marry them any time they want to get married. Why have policies? Why set strict standards? They're gonna do it anyway. Some people get real upset with us cause you can't get married here unless you've gone through six to eight weeks of premarital counseling and before that we have a pre-premarital session to see if you're even marriage-able. To see, make sure that you're both believers, that there's not an unequal yoke, to make sure that he as the man can assume spiritual authority in the home. And a lot of people don't like us for that. And that's tough. I heard one preacher say, "All these pastors are so bummed out in making such a big ruckus about the divorce rate when the problem is they're marrying too many people. If they wouldn't marry so many people so easily, maybe there wouldn't be as many divorces." So we're very strict on marriages. We're making real sure that those people know God and if they're, don't want to meet those standards, and they want to go out and pay a dime to the Justice of the Peace and get married, that's their business, but we want to maintain and put them, drive them, into a real commitment, and guard their relationship in the Lord as much as possible.

Now, what does God think about divorce? In the midst of all of the accommodating theology, in the midst of people saying let's do away with the family, what does God think? I want you to turn to Matthew, Chapter 19. As you turn there, remember the words of Jesus in the passage we just quoted. "You have heard that it has been said by those of old, but I say unto you," He's speaking to the people who had heard the teachings of the rabbis and the teachings of the sages down through the ages telling them about divorce. You can get a divorce for any reason at all, just write your wife a bill of divorce. However, the law was one-sided. A man could divorce his wife, a woman could not divorce her husband. Jesus says, "You've heard that it has been said, but you're all wrong. What they taught you is wrong. They no-misinterpreted what God meant. They misinterpreted the intention of that scripture back in Deuteronomy," which is what Jesus is referring to. So we need to apply that to today. You have heard that it is been said by all of the secularists, "Do away with marriage," but I say unto you, you have heard that it has been said by so many churches, "Hey, it doesn't marriage. Divorce and remarriage- do whatever you want," but I say unto you. That's what we want to look at today. Matthew 19, let's pick it up in verse, uh, verse 3. And let me just say as we jump into this passage of scripture, that if there's any confusion at all on the subject of divorce, it ain't God's fault. If there's any confusion on the subject of divorce and remarriage, it is not because God has painted a confused or obscure picture. It's because sin has entered so much into life that it is obscured our ability to see how simple His mandates really are. But I don't think God has a tough time getting this point across. I don't think it's that obscure that, "Oh, wait a minute, there's something hidden here, we've gotta look." It's very plain, I believe.
In verse 3, "The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?' And He answered and said to them, 'Don't you guys read your Bible? Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female,'" huh, you guys are Pharisees. Don't you read? "And he said, ‘For this cause,'" or, "'for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, be joined to his wife, the two shall become one flesh? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man divorce.'" Literally. " And they said to Him, 'Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?' And he said to them, 'Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.' And disciples said to Him," and I kind of appreciate their answer, "'If this is the case of the man with his wife, then it's better not to marry.'" Now that's good, honest response from a single person who is faced with the reality of the commitment of marriage. And sometimes, as I've said before, we do a disservice to people when we want to segregate them into little groups. Young married, older married, married over forty, single, young single, over forty single. And we can isolate each other from each other's life problems and situations and we don't see. You see, married people need to be reminded when they're griping about their spouse just how they felt as a single person. When they were around single people who say, "I wanna get married," they'll think, "Ah, I remember when I thought that. How come I'm not thinking that? What's wrong?" And a single people, person needs to be around married couples who are having the problems, lest they isolate themselves into a little, single lonely hearts club band. And as they watch Mildred get married and John get married next week, and they think, "Well, how come I'm not getting married? Everybody else is but me." It's good to be around each other's problems so that we are faced with the reality of the commitment of marriage. And the disciples thinking, "Man, if this is the case. If you can't get out of it, and it's that tough, it's better for a dude just to hang out and be single." And Jesus didn't say, "That's not right." He said, "Not everyone can receive that. Only to those to whom it has been given." That is, people have been given a gift of celibacy and singleness, but not everyone.

Now, there's some key phrases in verse 4 and in verse 8, and that is, "At the beginning, from the beginning, it was not so." To understand how God feels about divorce, you gotta understand how God feels about marriage. If you wanna see what God thinks about separation, you need to see how God feels about the union, the unity. From the beginning, it was not so. Jesus is saying divorce was never, ever, ever in God's original blueprint. He never intended people to get divorced. It would never His original drawing, His original sketches, when He drew mankind. Divorce was not in the plan. Because marriage is a divinely instituted thing. God came up with the idea. He instituted marriage. He commanded it. Divorce, on the other hand, was not instituted by God, but by man. God regulates it, God permitted it, God allows it, but He did not come up with the idea. He did not institute it. And there's a big difference between instituting something and permitting and regulating something. That's where the Pharisees were wrong, because they came to Jesus in verse 7 and they say, "Well, how come Moses commanded us to give a certificate of divorce and to put her away?" And Jesus said, "He never commanded you nothing. Moses, because of the hardness of your heart, permitted divorce. But from the beginning it was not so. And whoever divorces his wife, except," now here's the exception clause that we're going to see next week, "except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."

In the very beginning, in the garden, it was total perfection. Imagine. Total bliss. No marriage counseling. No fights. No, "Adam take out the garbage." Or, "Eve, clean up the hut (light laughter)." None of this, "Submit to me woman. It says here to submit to me as the church is to Christ." Or, "Hey, I'll submit to you if you love me like Christ loved the church. Then we'll talk about it." None of that. It was a beautiful bond that God had put together. Sin was not even present. Sin entered in and, as we see the human race developing, divorce comes in Deuteronomy 24, which is the chapter we'll pick up next week, we see that divorce is regulated and permitted by Moses for the children of Israel. As John Stott says, and I agree with him, "Divorce is simply a divine concession for human weakness." It is a divine concession for human weakness. And, one commentator painted a beautiful picture that really made it, I could understand it, and I wanna portray that to you. He said it's like a swimming pool. Let's say there's a family who's got the bucks and they have a big, empty space in their backyard. They wanna put a pool in there. They call up the pool guy. He digs a hole, puts cement in it, sprays plaster in it. And they sign that big check. And they're all ready. They've seen the design for it. The next thing is to add water. And in their mind, they have this beautiful picture and vision of crystal clear water, warm summer days, cooling off when it's 100 degrees outside. Ahh. As they fill up that pool with water, they notice something. That instead of crystal clear water, it's green. And the more water they put in, the greener it becomes. And this was not in their original design. They envisioned a crystal clear pool. But an enemy has come in named germs. And germs and algae are growing and forming. And that's the way it is. Now, you can do one of two things. You can fill up the hole altogether and say, "(Claps hands twice) No more swimming pools, I'm not going to allow it." Or, you can add chlorine and acid and all of those chemicals that turn that green, gunky water into pretty clear, even drinkable water. You have to make a concession. It wasn't in the original plan, but you make a concession. That's what we're speaking about here.

Verse 5. This is God's intention of marriage. "For this reason a man shall leave, severe one relationship, his mother and his father and be joined, or be glued, cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." That is God's definition of marriage. That two people become one entity. If we can only grasp God's definition of marriage. If a couple will truly grasp God's definition of marriage, they will recognize that to get a divorce is like amputating your leg to take care of a splinter in your leg. Instead of getting rid of the problem and dealing with it, let's just cut the leg off altogether, dump the partner and we'll be happier. Billy Graham suggests in one of his books concerning divorce, he says, "Divorce is an easy escape, a lot of people think. But in counseling many divorcees, I've discovered that the guilt and loneliness that they experience can be even more tragic than living with their problem."

Have you guys ever played with superglue? You know there's instructions on that superglue container that you would do well to follow, as I once did not. Superglue is a-awesome. It's an amazing thing. I love it. But if you make the mistake of putting it on your finger and you accidentally put your fingers together and leave it for a couple of seconds, they become one flesh. You don't believe me? Pull it apart, and a layer of skin will come with it. One part of that finger, you cannot pull it apart with out doing... oh, it'll hurt. Damage, ooh. Even though there's a thing right on the can that says, "Dear Skip, don't be so stupid (laughter) as to put this on your fingers cause you'll be sorry," I did it anyway. The Bible uses that illustration when he says the husband and wife are glued, shall leave and cleave, be glued tightly together, so God sees them as one flesh.

Especially Christians should see God's definition of marriage. Especially believers. You say, "Why especially Christians?" Because, although people in the world can get married and be one flesh just as Christians can be married and be one flesh, we need to recognize God's definition more than anyone else because in the world, well what do you expect worldly people to act like? Worldly, what else do you expect? I expect sinners to sin. That's what they do good at. They're great at it. That's what, that's why they're called sinners. But that's different than us. Especially for us, we should see God's definition that we're one flesh so that we don't think, "To answer the problem, let's dump our spouse, let's deal with this splinter by just cutting off our leg. Let's deal with the real problem," instead of experiencing something that could even be far worse.

God looks at marriage as sacred. It is so sacred that way back in the beginning, when God gave ten commandments, that, for even for a man to desire in his mind another man's partner, was one of the ten most heinous sins that could be committed among the children of Israel. "Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife." That's how sacred marriage is to God. And marriage is so sacred that when God, when Jesus spoke about adultery, which is that thing that can begin to sever the bonding process, it does severe the bonding process that God has been doing in a relationship, that Jesus just didn't say, "Don't be engaged in it," he said, "Don't even think about it. Don't even lust in your heart for a woman because you've committed adultery essentially anyway." That's how sacred this covenant is. That's how God views marriage.

Now I'd like you to turn to Malachi, Chapter 2. If you're in Matthew, turn left one book. Last book in the Old Testament. Malachi 2. Here we see israel sinning and God pointing the finger. It is a classic verse used on divorce and I wanna cover it to tell you what it means so that there's no confusion and then end with something else. In Malachi, God is giving the children of Israel indictment after indictment. He's pointing the finger at their sin time and time again, but they never admit it. As God'll say, "Now you guys have been doing this." And they'll say, "When did we do that? Would you mean we would do that? Oh, I, what do you mean we do that? How did we do that?" They would never admit to their sin as God was pointing it out to them. In verse 13, this is the second thing that you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands." Oh, they were coming so piously, so religiously, oh weeping and crying and so emotional. God says, "I will not receive your offering. I am not going to receive your worship." Why? Verse 14, "Yet you say, 'For what reason?'" "What did we do, God? What's wrong with us?" "Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; she is your companion and your wife by covenant." Why doesn't God accept their worship? Because, "You haven't done right by your wife." That's why. That's the real test, is at home. You can come and you can lift your hands and you can come to the altar there in Jerusalem but, you haven't dealt right, you've dealt treacherously with the wife who is your companion. Interesting, this word companion is the only time the Old Testament uses it to speak of your wife. The word companion is often used in the Old Testament to describe that relationship of best friends being together- David and Johnathan. That kind of friendship. That's the companionship it speaks about; your wife, your husband being your best friend, your companion. And the wife, your wife, by a covenant for life, literally. Israel had married pagan wives. They had divorced their Israeli wives, married pagan ones, and God points the finger at them. Although they were still coming to worship. Now let me get real blunt for just a moment, just so that you will not be confused of anything I am saying. If you come here to church week after week and you pretend to worship, and you are engaged in an unbiblical divorce, or adultery, or you are not doing right in that case by your husband or wife, what does God think of your worship? Absolutely nothing. He does not even receive it. It is a mockery to God. It is useless, it's bouncing off the tin roof. God has been the witness. You've dealt treacherously. You may have been married to that woman for ten or twelve years, and now you've decided, "I've gotta get out. It's too much." Now, I do believe there are biblical grounds for divorce. And we'll see what that one ground is next week.

Let's go on. Verse 15, "Did He not make them one entity, one spirit, one flesh, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the Lord God of Israel hates divorce." He says that He hates divorce, "'For it covers one’s garment with violence,'" Says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously." Now he pictures the divorce figuratively, as one that has clothing on, a garment. He says, "You've covered your garment with sin," literally, "sin, or violence has covered your garment." Sort of life a, uh, illustration of saying, "If you ride through a mud puddle, you're gonna get mud all over your clothes." Or, someone who's been caught murdering someone else, and you know that because you have the evidence, because the blood of their victim is splattered all of their own clothes. God is in affect saying, "Blood is all over your clothes. You've shown that inside there's corruption. And this is what I think about divorce." He says, "I hate it." Now, this is not at variance with Matthew 24, and what Jesus said about, "Except for fornication," which we're going to talk about next week. God is saying, "I hate divorce. I hate the sin that causes the divorce. I hate the results, the effect. It goes against My word."

Now, I don't wanna end right there, lest we walk out of this building with this big thing of, "Divorce is evil. Let's stamp it out." I'd love to stamp it out. I don't think you're gonna do it that easy. What I wanna say is that God hates divorce with a passion, but God loves people who are divorced. And there's a big difference. There are people who are divorced that feel like they have committed the unpardonable sin because they are treated that way. Now, I'm not excusing people who are involved in an improper divorce, who are leaving their husband and wife for unbiblical grounds. I'm not excusing that at all. But in following some people's line of thinking, if you think like they do and follow their line of thinking, you would come to the conclusion that there is nothing ever good said about divorce, and that's not true. We'll find out next week something. And that it's always to be condemned and anyone involved is just dirt. I'm gonna read to you a passage. You don't have to turn to it. You can remember it, or write down the reference. In Jeremiah 3:8, God says to the children of Israel, "Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I put her away and I have given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also." This might sound strange to your ears, but it's biblical. God is a divorced person. He said it. "I have written a bill of divorcement to Israel. I am divorcing her and put her away for the adultery that she has committed." Now God, you will see one day brings her back. That's God's promise. But God is figuratively using that. The reason I bring that up is so we do not develop an improper, unbalanced attitude, because your attitude is important folks. Because you're gonna meet people who are divorced all the time. There's a lot of them out there. And your attitude can become so condemning. And you might think, "Well, I am going to have nothing to do with divorced people." Then you're placing yourself in a position to have nothing to do with God. Again, I'm not excusing improper divorce at all. And God divorce and He hates the sin, but He loves the people. God hated what caused Himself to have to give Israel a divorce, but He did it. All I'm saying is we need compassion, especially for the victims of an improper, unbiblical divorce. Or the children who are the victims of the divorce. As a man walked up to me first service who's wife left him, not even divorced yet, but engaged to another man. There's people who walk in this building who already feel like a failure, even though they didn't do anything. The spouse walked out on them. They didn't want the divorce, they wanted to be true to their wife, but their wife or their husband split and is with somebody else. They're the victims. You say, "But divorce is sin." Precisely why it is forgivable is because it is sin. All sin will be forgiven, Jesus said. Except the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. That ain’t divorce. And God said, "Come, let us reason together. Though your sins be a scarlet, I'll make them white as snow, white as wool." And I don't think He meant every sing except divorce. It is not the unpardonable sin. People are objects of God's grace. You can't tolerate the sin or downplay it, but you can sure love the people. And so, what's your reaction when you hear, "Hey, so and so is getting a divorce." "Gasp! Oh God and wrath of God." Or is it, "I am so sorry. How can I help now? What can I do in that couple's life who are so split apart, what can I do to help them? Maybe I can help them reconcile. What can I do to help them in this?" And a lot of people think that when a couple has reached a point of filing for the divorce, no hope. It's over. Experience tells me differently. I've seen too many couples, see marriage miracles at the last moment, God do great things and turn them around. So we need to have that ounce, mini-ounces, pounds of compassion.

I wanna close by reading and tiny little illustration that you might think, "What has this to do with marriage?" It is an illustration about someone who has left his country and went to a foreign land and he was kind of confused about all the activity. But this reflects how victims of a divorce, by victims I mean their spouse has left them for someone else, or their children who have been broken up because their parents are divorced. These are victims of a divorce. They're innocent. How they feel many times around, uh, church people when they come in. he said, "I lived for a number of years in a faraway country in a large city. the people were all so different to me and they knew I was different too. Sometimes, I'd just walk the streets at evening all by myself. I was very lonely. Most of the time was spent alone, since I hardly really knew anyone. They all talked so funny." Imagine being in a foreign country. "When they tried to talk to me, I just nod my head as if I was agreeing with whatever they said, and act as if I was in a hurry and had to leave. But every evening, I'd take my little walk. Funny, I lived there, but never really felt like I belonged there. I was an outsider. Sometimes through a window with the curtains open, I would see a family sitting around a table or snuggling around a fire in happy fellowship. Then all the curtains would be drawn, and I would be shut out and alone in the dark and all the while wishing that I did belong." Sounds like a victim, an innocent victim of a divorce. I'm not saying that everyone is an innocent victim of a divorce. But for those who are who come in our midst, already they feel like a failure, they feel deserted, they sometimes feel suicidal. They look in at the happy families that they see in the fellowship, carrying the kids around, and they feel alone and isolated. That's for whom we need compassion. Let's pray.

Father, I come to You and, first of all, my prayer is for those people who are innocent victims of a divorce, who do not want it, who wanted to stay in that monogamous, continual, permanent relationship, yet sin has entered in and perhaps a spouse left for someone else, or is temporarily out of the house or living with somebody else. Or for children who have felt the pain of not having their parents around. Lord, help us to know their predicament, to try to be in touch with their pain. And Father I also, secondly, would pray for those who are in the midst of an unbiblical divorce. They're just tired, they just want to get out, and they're trying to find excuses for it to do what they wanna do. Lord, I pray that Your Holy Spirit would rescue them from making that mistake. Instead of amputating the leg, to really help get at the splinter. In Jesus name, Amen.

Additional Messages in this Series

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1/25/1987
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Loneliness
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2/1/1987
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Am I Singled Out?
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2/8/1987
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The Dating Game
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2/15/1987
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Marriage: The Original Blueprint
Genesis 2:18-25
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2/22/1987
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Marriage: The Roles of Relationship
Ephesians 5:18-23
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3/19/1987
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When the Yoke Doesn't Fit
Matthew 5
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3/29/1987
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Divorce: Is it Allowable?
Deuteronomy 24
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4/5/1987
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Divorce: Who Can Remarry?
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There are 8 additional messages in this series.