God’s Word for You
Mark 10:9-12 Mankind and divorce
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, March 23, 2021
9 “Therefore what God has yoked together, let man not separate.”
Jesus says “Therefore” (verse 9) as the summary of everything God has said about marriage, not just the very little that God has permitted regarding divorce. Divorce itself cannot be divorced from the doctrine of marriage, and the exception of divorce does not nullify God’s will about marriage. I don’t give my son a later bedtime in the summer expecting that he will get to claim that later bedtime all through the school year. The one is the rule, the other is the exception, but the exception doesn’t nullify the rule.
Jesus also uses the word “yoked.” A yoke is a special device used to distribute a heavy burden between more than one individual. Maintaining a household and raising a family are not easy things, and the work of raising a family is turned from a burden to a joy when two share it together. God’s will is that such a yoke will be a blessing, and the blessing becomes lighter still when the mutual trust and love of a marriage are shared in the bond of permanent, lifelong marriage. Of course, children are not the only purpose of marriage, but one of marriage’s combined purposes and blessings, along with sexual purity (1 Corinthians 7:2-5; Song of Songs 4:1-7) and loving companionship (Genesis 2:18). God has blessed mankind with this loving yoke. No one should break it lightly, for God does not want it broken at all.
10 In the house, the disciples asked Jesus about this again. 11 He said, “Whoever 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.”
In Matthew’s account there is an exception to this prohibition from divorce, which is for marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:9). Mark’s account describes the answer given directly to the Pharisees without the exception clause. They wanted to know if it was permitted to divorce in the way that their teacher Hillel had presented, “for any and every reason.” But Jesus shows that when God has united two people in marriage, they should remain united. Today there are wives who leave their husbands after they have had children together on the flimsiest of excuses. There are terrible husbands who throw wives aside for younger ones as if they are trading in cars. There are couples who think that any disagreement is grounds for divorce. And there are professional counselors who wage war on marriage, urging people to seek happiness wherever they think they can find it. It is for such people that Jesus warns about adultery here.
It shouldn’t concern us that Jesus doesn’t mention any exceptions. Exceptions are exceptions, not rules. If I teach my children that jaywalking is allowed if the house is on fire or if a policeman tells them it’s all right in an emergency, I haven’t taught them the law about jaywalking at all. Jesus wants to summarize God’s will and God’s law about marriage: If a person marries, divorces, and remarries without any concern for God’s will, that person is sinning against God; committing adultery. God says, “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16), and this is what Jesus focuses our attention on.
The law is proclaimed clearly in this passage. Sins of adultery cause people to break the Sixth and Tenth Commandments. God’s will is that men and women should marry if possible, and that this would be a lifelong union for their mutual benefit. And this is also a guide: God wants us to treat marriage as a lifelong union, not something to be done away with, but something to be worked at, treasured, valued, and appreciated.
The gospel is proclaimed here by the gift of marriage itself. God gave men and women to one another to be suitable partners in their marriage, yoked together for their mutual benefit and blessing (Genesis 2:18; Malachi 2:14).
We should also encourage other couples to be faithful to their marriage vows, for everyone to talk about their own spouse without ever breaking the Eighth Commandment or bad-mouthing them, and to reflect God’s love for us in our own love for one another. Let a woman see in her husband’s words and actions her Savior’s love for her, and let a man see in his wife’s words, thoughts and deeds his Savior’s service on his behalf. Such vision will teach us to love our Savior more humbly and dearly day after day as long as life endures.
Pastor Timothy Smith