Hebrew Highlights 125 – Divorce
Shalom! This is Yuval Shomron coming to you from Jerusalem.
I’d like to start today’s study with a scripture many people today seem to have overlooked. MAL 2:16 "For I hate divorce," says the Lord, the God of Israel, "and him who covers his garment with wrong," says the Lord of hosts. "So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously."
If I tell you that my subject for this lesson is divorce, I dare say that many of you might cringe slightly and move uneasily in your chairs. I realize that many of you have gone through this unsavory process, and would rather not be reminded about it.
My purpose is not to bring condemnation to anyone, but to look objectively at the subject, and perhaps, just perhaps, help someone contemplating the move to think twice.
This New American Standard rendering of Malachi 2:16 is accurate. It really does say that God “hates divorce”. The King James Version, which says God hates “putting away,” is in this case the more literal one. The word used in Hebrew is “shalach”, which simply means, “sending”, but the meaning is clear. The same word is used twice for divorce in the laws in the book of Deuteronomy.
Actually, instead of watering down the definition, the Hebrew makes it even stronger. Today, the same word could be used to describe separation, which didn’t exist in the time of the Bible. You could even say it illustrates a situation where a man still lives with his wife, but for all intents and purposes has “put her away” from his heart and mind.
To further clarify God’s outlook on divorce, let’s see what His son Yeshua had to say on the subject, in MAR 10:2-12, “And some Pharisees came up to Him, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. And He answered and said to them, "What did Moses command you?" And they said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. "But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." And in the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. And He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery. "
This passage speaks for itself, and doesn’t need my expounding.
The version of the same story in the book of Matthew adds that divorce can be possible in a case where adultery is involved. However, there is a problem with using adultery as an excuse to get out of a situation, which could be healed. After all, we read in MAT 5:27-28, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
I think it would be fair to say that almost every husband in the world has at some time or another committed adultery according to Yeshua’s definition. Does that mean that every couple in the world has grounds for divorce? I hope not.
In order to spread more light on the subject, we need to read another famous passage. EPH 5:22-33, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.”
I’m hoping that the picture of Messiah and the church as Bride and Groom are not new to you. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to go into all the scriptures connected with this idea right now.
Again, the passage speaks for itself. However, I’d like to point out a frightening suggestion. If divorce were meant to be an easy fix to every straying eye, then why shouldn’t Yeshua divorce his bride? We have committed adulterous acts with every harlot who has crossed our path, whether she be a false God, vanity, money, or even sports.
In JER 3:1 God says, "If a husband divorces his wife, And she goes from him, And belongs to another man, Will he still return to her? Will not that land be completely polluted? But you are a harlot with many lovers; Yet you turn to Me," declares the Lord.”
My point is this. We have often left our groom, and spiritually “spent the night” with other interests. We always come crawling back, and God in His mercy always forgives us, when our repentance is true. God’s Bride could easily be depicted as fat, mean, ugly, and overbearing. But He loves her anyway, and believes for, and already sees the best in her. God describes His bride in the Song of Songs. When we husbands are right with God, we see our brides in the same light.
Many divorces today, even amongst Christians, are not even based on the sin of adultery. They are more often set in motion by simple self-centeredness, disagreement, and completely worldly ideas of what love is supposed to be.
I dare to say that in every single case, God will bend over backwards to supply the healing, forgiveness, like-mindedness, and anything else needed to keep two people together. Of course, as the saying goes, “it takes two to tango.” Each of the marriage partners must be willing to set down with God, with counselors, and with each other, and seek help from above. If we are truly God’s children, why is that such a difficult and foreign notion?
Forgive me if I say that those of us believers living here in Israel are sometimes appalled at the American church. We have our own set of shortcomings, which people on the outside could probably also see in a more neutral light. But how can the divorce rate among Christians be almost equal with that of the world? Here is Israel, it is about 1 percent among believers. Yes, you heard me right.
In case you’re wondering, I’m guessing we have no fewer couples with problems. We just seem to have this old fashioned idea that God can heal things, and even renew His calling for each man and wife team.
Like cancer, a broken relationship is a disease which takes intensive care, and some drastic therapy to cure. However, over time, the bad cells can be removed, and healthy ones can take over.
Since we started out talking about what God hates, let’s end with noting what He loves. EPH 4:31-5:2, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
If you’ve been contemplating divorce, please contemplate healing. If you’ve been thinking about yourself, think about your spouse. Husbands and wives, love one another, “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
Shalom, Shalom from Jerusalem