January 16 I Wednesday
“Some Pharisees came to Him to test Him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’” —Matthew 19:3
The third commandment Jesus turns on its head in the Sermon on the Mount has to do with divorce, a topic He addresses in greater detail in Matthew 19. Some Pharisees asked Jesus how He interpreted the commandment that a man could write a certificate of divorce when his wife
“...becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her” (Deuteronomy 24:1). There were two Jewish schools of thought about what this meant. The Shammai school taught that a certificate of divorce was lawful only in the case of adultery, while the Hillel school said a certificate could be given for any reason.
Jesus bypassed both schools and went straight to God’s original intent for marriage. Marriage is a determined commitment to seek each other’s good, a divine joining of two people with God Himself in the midst of that union. He quotes Genesis, saying, “Haven’t you read 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’?... Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).
This did not satisfy the Pharisees. “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” (Matthew 19:7). Jesus responded that divorce was never commanded but was a concession. These laws were not permission for Israelite husbands to live as they pleased but a recognition of humanity’s hard-heartedness. God, who knows humanity’s unfaithfulness and protects the weak and downtrodden, put these laws in place to protect women who would lose the protection of a husband in a time when women had few rights. The certificate ensured the divorce was final and the woman could marry again.
Divorce remains painful and messy today. We are all sinners who need a Saviour, and when you put two sinners together in an intimate relationship like marriage, it is bound to be difficult at times. Love takes work, but in the case of abuse or infidelity, we may sometimes need to remove ourselves from the situation. Yet even in the most broken of marriages, we are to have an eye to reconciliation because God’s will for marriage is both permanence and harmony. If we are Christians, God is committed to true marriage, and everything to which God is committed He also offers the resources to make it work and function. It takes time and a willingness on the part of both spouses to forgive and rebuild trust, but when we seek God in seeking each other, He will sustain the marriage He has ordained.
Prayer: Lord God, I pray for all those who feel trapped in difficult marriages. Give wisdom for how to handle tough situations and soften hearts so there might be healing. Thank You, Lord.