Title: “God’s Very Good Idea for Marriage: What does the Bible Say about Divorce?” (Part III)
Date: Sunday, December 16, 2018
Texts: Matthew 5:31-32 and Deuteronomy 24:1-4
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
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, 2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, 3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, 4 then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.
This morning, I will explore the third part of the series entitled “Covenant Faithfulness and God’s Very Good Purposes for Marriage.” I will look closely at what the Bible says about and infidelity in marriage. Let’s consider these relevant questions:
- Does the Bible allow or prohibit divorce?
- What are the main causes of divorce in the Bible?
- What are the various causes of divorce in our culture?
- What are the possible consequences and implications of divorce?
- What are the effects on divorce on the children, the divorcees, and society?
The main argument I will be making this morning is this: God’s very good idea for marriage includes the following fourfold statement: (1) He originally intended for marriages to be permanent and he has not changed his mind in spite of the various possible causes that could lead to divorce, (2) Marriage is a sacred covenant that should never be dissolved, (3) God created two opposite genders, the male and the female, to complement each other in the marital union and to exercise interpersonal intimacy that should mark their life together, and (4) and no person, including the husband and the wife, should take any action to sunder this divinely instituted, sacred, permanent, and holy matrimony.
- Divorce in Contemporary American Society
According to the American Psychological Association, “Marriage and divorce are both common experiences. In Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people marry by age 50. Healthy marriages are good for couples’ mental and physical health. They are also good for children; growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems. However, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.”
In recent article, “From Negative Effects of Divorce and Possible Intervention Program Development and Improvement,” published in 2018, by Mariah Eaton, “In 2014, the Center for Disease Control showed that about 50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce.” In another article, “Broken hearts: A rundown of the divorce capital of every state,” published in February 2, 2018 by John Harrington and Cheyenne Buckingham, in the Wall Street make the following observations:
- “One of the more sobering realities of 21st-century American life is divorce.
- Marriages end over a host of issues, including infidelity, stress, money troubles, and personal changes by one or both partners over the course of a marriage. Divorce can be an emotionally wrenching experience and can fracture families. For many children, divorce leaves scars that never heal.
- About 40% to 50% of married couples in the United States divorce, according to the American Psychological Association. The divorce rate among those who remarry is even higher.”
What does the Bible have to say about divorce and the sacredness of marriage for contemporary marriages in the American society? What can we learn from Jesus on God’s very good idea for marriage?
- Textual Exposition: Matthew 5:31-32
Two major points about Jesus’s attitude toward divorce and marriage:
- Jesus condemns adultery in marriage and prohibits divorce in the marital union.
- Jesus allows one exception for divorce: the cause of porneia/sexual infidelity in the marriage
*** It is good to know that ancient Jews (like the Greeks and the Romans) almost agreed that lawful divorce granted a person the right to remarry.”
- Textual Exposition: Matthew 19:3-12
6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
He highlights two major factors about the contemporary attitude toward divorce, as can be observed in the question the Pharisees asked
- The school of Shammai takes a conservative point in its interpretation of Deuteromy 24:1-4, that divorce is permissible in the case of “indecency” or covenant unfaithfulness associated with sexual relationship outside of the bond of marriage
- The school of Hillel takes a very liberal perspective on its interpretation of the same passage in Deuteronomy that a husband can divorce his wife for any reason including she puts too much salt in his food.
- Jesus directs the Pharisees to God’s very good purpose for marriage, explained in Genesis 1:27; 2:18, 21-23, that both husband and the wife should hold fast to the union, and that
- Both husband and the wife should, by any circumstance, should end their marriage.
- Marriage was not the idea of humans; it was God who ordained it.
Practical Lessons from Jesus about marriage and divorce:
- Marriage is a permanent covenant ordained by God.
- Divorce destroys the permanency of marriage and God’s original plan for marriage and family.
- Divorce is not permissible by God
- God’s provisions for divorce were temporary, based on the hardness of the humans’ heart.
- God did not originally create the husband and the wife to divorce each other, and that has not change. “He therefore does not intend for those whom he re-creates—the community of Jesus’ followers—to practice divorce” (Blomberg)
- Textual Exposition: Mark 10:1-12 and Luke 16:18
2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied. 4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” 5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh. ‘So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
- The pharisees responded to their own question after Jesus has curiously asked them what they knew about the Mosaic prescription on divorce (Deut. 24:1-4)
- Reason for divorce: “indecency in her” (Deut. 24:1)
- This passage does not grant any permission for divorce but “prohibits a woman who had already been divorced and remarried from being remarried to her original husband” (Blomberg)
- The certificate of divorce was issued to protect the woman, so she can be married to another man after the man initiates the separation and ending of the union.
- The thrust of this passage is not about what Moses said about marriage or what God’s idea bout marriage; rather, this text is about the intention or purpose of marriage, not about authorship: that is who said what? Whether it is God or Moses.
- Effects of Divorce:
- On Children
- “The child may lose time with each parent
- The child may lose economic security
- The child may lose emotional security
- The child may have decreased social and psychological maturation
- The child may change his or her outlook on sexual behavior
- The child may lose his/her religious faith and practice (Myers 1996)
- The child may lose cognitive and academic stimulation
- The child may be less physically healthy
- The child may have a higher risk of emotional distress”
On the husband and the wife: the parents
“Parents who divorce also experience adverse effects on their physical, emotional, and financial well-being, which may also in turn affect their children
- Married (male/female) people are more likely to have better physical health
- Married (male/female) people are more likely to have higher incomes
- Married individuals are more likely to be involved in their community
- Divorce may have adverse long-term emotional effects for parents”
Effects on society
Divorce adversely affects society by
- 1. Diminishing the child’s future competence.
- 2. Weakening the family structure.
- 3. Contributing to early sexual experimentation leading to increased costs for society.
- 4. Adversely affecting religious practice—divorce diminishes the frequency of religious worship.
- 5. Diminishing a child’s learning capacity and educational attainment.
- 6. Reducing the household income.
- 7. Increasing crime rates and substance use, with associated societal and governmental costs (Waite and Gallagher 2000).
- 8. Increasing risk for school suspensions, “Persons in Need of Supervision” status, binge drinking, and marijuana use (Demuth and Brown 2004; Eckenrode, Mrcynyszyn, and Evans 2008; Osborne, Manning, and Stock 2007).
- 9. Increasing emotional and mental health risks, including suicide.
Source: Anderson, Jane. “The impact of family structure on the health of children: Effects of divorce” Linacre quarterly vol. 81,4 (2014): 378-87. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4240051/*
Other marriage-divorce related passages:
- 1 Corinthians 7:39
39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.
- Ephesians 5:33
33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
- Romans 7:2-3
2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. 3 So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.
- Deuteronomy 22:19
19 They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.
- Jeremiah 3:1
1 “If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers— would you now return to me?” declares the LORD.
- Malachi 2:16
16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
- Matthew 1:19
19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
- 1 Corinthians 7:11-13
11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. 12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.
- Jeremiah 3:8
8 I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.
- Isaiah 50:1
1 This is what the LORD says: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away.
- Matthew 19:8-9
8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
- Hebrews 13:4
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
- Romans 7:3
3 So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man
Final words of conclusion: Practical lessons:
Simply, God forbids divorce!
- “Marriage people should always be seeking ways to improve and enhance relations with spouses rather than wondering how they can get out of the commitments they have made.”
- “Those who divorce and/or remarry on any grounds must admit failure, repent of the sins that led to the dissolution of their marriage, and vow to remain faithful to any subsequent relations”
- “A new marriage is not continuous adultery. At most, the first sex act with a new partner is what violates the previous relationship, but more likely Jesus is using the term “adultery” in a metaphorical sense to refer to divorce itself” (see Matthew 5:32)—Craig Bloomberg, Matthew
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