What God Has Joined Together
We talk about the rising divorce rate in modern times, but divorce has been a problem since the days of the Old Testament. Even during the time of Christ, religious leaders were reinterpreting God's Word on the issue of divorce. In Matthew 19:1-12, we see the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus with the question, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" (Matthew 19:3).
During that time, women were often divorced at the whims of their husbands. Men would divorce their wives for trivial reasons like a bad dinner or a word of criticism. The Pharisees supported this system of easy divorce. They twisted God's Word into a self-serving misinterpretation. The Pharisees knew Jesus did not go along with this popular notion, and they wanted Jesus to publicly discredit Himself by speaking out against it.
How did Jesus handle the situation? He quoted Scripture. "‘Haven't you read,' he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator "made them male and female," 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"? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate'" (Matthew 19:4-6).
Jesus' response is the perfect model for us when we are confronted on biblical issues. Instead of promoting our own opinions, we should simply share from the Bible and let God's Word speak for itself.
The Scripture passage that Jesus points out to the Pharisees illustrates the purpose for God's creation of man and woman. He pointed to what God's Word said about the importance of marriage.
Marriage, as God intended it, is a total commitment to self-giving, forgiveness, and fulfillment. Marriage is a lifelong covenant. Marriage is for a man and a woman to complement and support each other for life. Marriage is an act of God. And that is why divorce is not an act of God—it is an act of man.
Yet the Pharisees did not give up; they pointed to the divorces allowed by Moses. "Why then did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" (Matthew 19:7). They chose to see only what they wanted. They chose to follow the Scripture passages that suited their desires.
"Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery'" (Matthew 19:8,9).
Divorce is never recommended in the Bible, only permitted in certain circumstances. Yet the culture of Jesus' day allowed for re-marriage in all circumstances. Even Jesus' disciples were shocked at His words: "The disciples said to him, ‘If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry'" (Matthew 19:10).
Yet with God's grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is possible for a man and woman to remain committed to each other for a lifetime. Has your marriage hit some turbulence? Are you contemplating separation or divorce? Seek to understand God's purpose for marriage and why He hates divorce. Seek His help in overcoming the obstacles in your marriage. Seek the forgiveness of God and your spouse for the wrongs you have committed in your marriage.
"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."
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