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God’s Word for You

Malachi 2:15-16 I hate divorce

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, March 27, 2021

15 Did he not make them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless with the wife of your youth. 16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD of Armies. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.

While there are translational issues in these two verses, the overall meaning is clear: A man and woman who are married are one. This is what God’s will and intention always was. God said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). God brings men and women together so that the family will be a unit that is faithful and blessed.

There may have been an ancient argument among the Jews, that their ancestor Abraham divorced and sent away his wife Hagar after Sarah became pregnant. But God permitted this for two reasons. First, Sarah was Abraham’s first wife, and the marriage to Hagar (Abraham called her his concubine) should not have taken place. An unlawful marriage may be ended (Ezra 10:18-19), and bigamy and polygamy are not lawful forms of marriage, although before the establishment of the law through Moses, some Patriarchs like Abraham and Israel fell into polygamy. God reasserted his will for marriage with the Sixth Commandment, and further explained his will with various forbidden marriages between relatives (Leviticus 18:7-9, 12-14, 16-17), in-laws (Leviticus 18:10-11, 15, 18), homosexual relations (Leviticus 18:22) or other perversions (Leviticus 18:23).

But Hagar had also caused strife in the marriage by letting her son mock Sarah at the celebration after she weaned Isaac (Genesis 21:9), and God permitted Sarah to end the marriage between Abraham and Hagar. Anyone who drives a wedge between husband and wife or criticises a lawful and godly marriage also sins against the Sixth Commandment. This was the sin that brought guilt on Aaron and Miriam when they began to speak out against Moses. He had married a Cushite woman, evidently taking a second wife after his first wife, Zipporah, died in the wilderness (Numbers 12:1). When his brother and sister did not respect the marriage, God’s anger burned against them and Miriam was temporarily struck with leprosy (Numbers 12:9-15).

If this is how God treats an outsider who disrespects a godly marriage, how much more won’t God be enraged by a husband or wife who sins against their very own marriage? A man who does this, God says, will wear his faithlessness as a reputation like a garment, as if he were a murderer. He covers himself with the violence of tearing apart his own marriage.

Later in New Testament times, the Lord made a special provision for marriage when a Gentile came to faith but his wife did not. “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to remain with him, he must not divorce her” (1 Corinthians 7:12). But when Jesus was questioned about divorce by some Pharisees, he returned to God’s will at creation. When the Pharisees tried to make Moses’ permission to get a divorce into permission to divorce for any reason, Jesus said: “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law. But from the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. 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 flesh” (Mark 10:5-8).

We need to remember that this whole subject about human marriage and divorce came up in Malachi because God connects the sins of idolatry and adultery. To be idolatrous toward God is very much like being adulterous toward one’s spouse. The same feelings of betrayal and loss follow after, the same hurt, the same anger, the same grief. But we learn in the prophets that when we have been faithless toward God, he wants us back again. He chases after us like a man jilted by his wife, chasing after her with flowers and gifts and loving words, wanting her back again. “I long to redeem them” the Lord says (Hosea 7:13). “They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria, and I will settle them in their homes” (Hosea 11:11). God’s kindness, his gentleness, and his love, are shown to us again and again even though we do not deserve them. His mercy endures forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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