sermon: Christian Marriage (Part Two)
Martin G. Collins
Given 02-Sep-17; Sermon #1395; 70 minutes
A great many second and third marriages have a dismal track record of success. Liberals have sullied the marriage institution, ordained by God Almighty to be permanent and holy, elevating debased homosexual and transgender relationships, while treating God-ordained marriage with contempt, claiming that marriage is worse than slavery. Because of the hardness of their hearts, the offspring of Jacob are bringing defilement upon the land, reaping the consequences of covenant-breaking. God made us male and female, and has designed marriage to create one flesh, symbolic of Christ's love for the Church as His Bride. The evil of the mixed marriages in the Book of Malachi was a spiritual defilement, yoking spiritual and worldly elements, intrinsically unequal. Those evil men in Judah who rejected their wives, marrying pagan women, thought that their sacrifices to God would purify this violation of God's Law. Similarly, some in the greater Church of God (an institution which includes the Church of the Great God) have become careless in their marriage vows, beginning to imitate the world in their casual approach to the God-plane state of marriage. Sadly, certain individuals within God's Church are breaking both the spirit and letter of the marriage covenant, with callous husbands dealing treacherously with the wife of their youth, and wives similarly acting unfaithfully to their spouses. God hates divorce but has allowed divorce to take place because of the hardness of hearts. In the meantime, Jesus Christ, using the example of the prophet Hosea, models perfect love for an unfaithful spouse, taking her back after her display of hideous disloyalty. God's called-out ones resemble Hosea's unfaithful spouse, with Christ loving her and redeeming her despite her ignoble behavior. In our marriages, we must imitate the fathomless love that Jesus Christ has for His Bride—the Israel
In his February 2012 Psychology Today article titled: “The High Failure Rate of Second and Third Marriages,” Dr. Mark Banschick states:
Why are second and third marriages more likely to fail? Past statistics have shown that in the U.S. 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.
The growing independence between genders is thought to be one of the reasons for the significant increase in the incidence of divorce in first marriages during recent decades. Women have become more financially independent and men have become increasingly more domestically independent.
As these gender roles break down, each gender becomes more self-sufficient in both arenas. When these individuals move on to a second or third marriage, they are likely to feel a responsibility to protect themselves emotionally and financially. The greater economic and domestic self-sufficiency gained with age adversely affects second and third marriages even more than it does first marriages. There are some individuals in second and third marriages who consider divorce manageable and not necessarily a tragedy.
Generally speaking, relationships become increasingly tangled and complicated with subsequent marriages, as more and more individuals join the ever-expanding family. On a day-to-day level, maintaining those relationships is not easy and frequently generates animosities all round. All the evidence suggests that it gets harder and harder to keep the show on the road as you move onto the next marriage. It is this trend that is reflected in recent divorce statistics.
This secular article did not even scrape the surface of the real reasons for divorces, but it does hit on some of the “surface” reasons.
Many people today treat marriage as if it were worse than slavery. This demonic society not only frowns upon marriage, it is in the process of socially engineering it out of existence. They deceitfully use social perversions such as the homosexual and transgender movements to sabotage it through public ridicule, and, what is left is treated with contempt. This is in stark contrast to God’s attitude toward marriage.
It should be evident to us that according to the teaching of God’s Word that marriage is for life. In Christian marriage, a man and a woman are joined to each other and as a Christian is joined to Jesus Christ, and the relationship in each case is permanent. On the physical level marriage is for the length of one’s physical life and the spiritual level of marriage is for this life and for eternity.
We know, of course, that not all marriages attain this permanence. As a result, we are faced again and again, both within society at large and sadly within the church, with the problems of estrangement, separation, divorce, and remarriage.
It is not my purpose today to get into the details of the church’s doctrine on divorce and remarriage, but I do want to take some time to examine the problem of divorce in contrast to the permanency of Christian marriage.
Now as Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, He addressed the serious problem of divorce here in Matthew 5. Jesus says to the Pharisees:
Matthew 5:31-32 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you [Christ speaking here] that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”
So obviously, Jesus takes marriage very seriously! These words should be taken together with a closely related passage in Matthew 19, in which almost the identical words are repeated. The Pharisees had come to Christ testing Him with an interpretation of the Old Testament passage regarding the grounds for divorce.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man's wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.”
So back then, under Moses, he emphasized that marriage is extremely important and is not to be defiled. However he does show that there are certain reasons for divorce.
Now we will read the New Testament record of Christ’s words in Matthew 19.
Matthew 19:3-9 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And He [Jesus] answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning [speaking of creation] ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” [So, man does not have the authority to undo what God has joined together.]They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning [from creation] it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
Each of these New Testament passages contains the phrase that gives the one permissible ground for divorce which is, “except for sexual immorality” which explains the meaning of the Old Testament phrase “uncleanness in her.” Uncleanness describes sexual immorality.
My focus today is not with the exception for divorce itself, but with the general spiritual principle involved in this and other passages of the permanency of marriage, which God said He intended from the beginning.
What is the cause of this problem of divorce, a problem that involves our national character and has untold evil effects on society? There are many causes, of course, depending on how the subject is treated. But like most problems the underlying causes are spiritual, and among these spiritual causes is the breakdown of faithfulness to God’s teaching on the evils of divorce. Malachi confronts the men who divorced their wives to marry pagan women.
Malachi 2:10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? [Here he takes the discussion back to the creation.] Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers?
In Malachi 2:10-16, God points out several main sins which profane the marriage covenant: unfaithfulness, hypocrisy, and violence.
Regarding unfaithfulness, the original Hebrew word for “treachery” is used as a verbal noun to describe “the one who deals treacherously” or “unfaithfully.” He is one who does not honor an agreement. The root means “to deceive.”
The verb is used to mean unfaithfulness in several different relationships, and a major one is in connection with unfaithfulness in marriage. Biblically, the object of the faithlessness may be the wife, wife of one's youth, or the husband.
The word is also used to describe Israel's unfaithfulness to the Lord. In addition to the metaphor of unfaithfulness in marriage to describe Israel’s revolt against the Lord, the Lord or His covenant is sometimes the explicit object of this treachery or unfaithfulness. Even to question His justice is an act of treachery.
Malachi 2:11 Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, For Judah has profaned the Lord's holy institution [marriage] which He loves: He [Judah] has married the daughter of a foreign god. [spiritual idolatry/adultery]
Malachi 2:14 Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. [That marriage covenant was from the beginning, from Adam and Eve.]
The men loving pagan women was not a new problem in Judah. When the Israelites left Egypt, there was a “mixed multitude” that left with them, which suggests that some Israelites may have married Egyptian spouses.
Israel sinned greatly when they mixed with the women of Midian at Baal Peor, and God judged them severely. Ezra and Nehemiah had to contend with this problem, and sadly, it is not totally absent from the church today. Not only are there people attending God’s church breaking the letter of the law literally, but even worse some are breaking the spirit of the law in their hearts.
As we will see, this was a sin against God by going after false religious beliefs which manifested itself as adultery in their marriages. They were not faithful to God and as a result they were not faithful in their marriages.
The apostle Paul is addressing the same sin, beginning with partnerships with the world including romantically, socially and commercially..
II Corinthians 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. [Those who have God’s Holy Spirit.] As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore “come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean [sexually immoral], and I will receive you.” [This has to do with spiritual purity.] “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
In divorcing their Israelite wives and marrying pagan women, the men of Malachi’s time were committing several sins. To begin with, it was treachery or unfaithfulness as they broke their vows to God and to their wives. They were profaning God's spiritual covenant and marriage covenant, treating them as nothing. This is why marriages of baptized members is on a higher plane, God expects far more from the converted than He does from the world.
Not only had the Lord given specific requirements in His law for marriage, but the covenant of marriage was built into creation. “Have we not all one father,” refers to God as the Father of all humans as our Creator.
God made men and women for each other and established marriage for the good of the human family. So, what these people did was contrary to what God had permanently written into nature and in His covenant.
Now regarding hypocrisy, which profanes the marriage covenant, we find that after committing these sins, the men then brought offerings to the Lord and wept at the altar, seeking His help and blessing. They seemed to have the idea that they could sin blatantly with the intention of later coming to God for forgiveness.
But if they were truly repentant, they would have forsaken their heathen wives and taken their true wives back, which is what Ezra made them do.
These men were guilty of hypocritical worship that had nothing to do with a changed heart. Instead of forgiving them, God was ready to “cut them off.”
Malachi 2:12-13 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob the man who does this [that is the treacherous profaning of God’s holy institution], being awake and aware, yet who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!And this is the second thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands.
In matters of ethics and morals, there are many things in society that are legal but are not biblical. Brides and grooms must remember that God is an unseen witness at every wedding, especially and personally at Christian weddings. He is there witnessing the vows we make to our spouses.
Malachi 2:14 Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
God also witnesses those who commit sexual immorality. He witnesses those who live together who are not married, and He also witnesses those who are “sleeping together.”
Regarding violence, which profanes the marriage covenant we find that in verse 16, God gives the reason for His abhorrence of divorce because of the violence involved. Then, He gives a warning to be careful not to be deceitful, and to control our attitude. We are to control our attitudes at all times, we have no excuses.
Malachi 2:16 “For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence,” says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit [your heart and mind], that you do not deal treacherously.”
Those who want to please God certainly would not want to do anything that God abhors, but would do everything possible to heal the marriage.
God gave Adam one wife, not many, and He declared that the two were one flesh. Divorce pulls apart that which God put together, and Jesus warned us not to do that.
Matthew 19:6-8 “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness [hostility] of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning [from creation] it was not so.”
The hostility He is talking about here is found in verse 8, “Because of your hardness of hearts.” This should not be understood to mean that only “hardhearted” people would ever initiate a divorce. Rather, it means there was hardhearted rebellion against God among you leading to serious defilement of marriages. Hostility always relates to enmity against God.
The presence of sin in the community meant that some marriages would be seriously defiled and irretrievably damaged, and God therefore allows divorce to open a way for peace in those cases.
In verse 7, the Pharisees had asked why Moses commanded divorce, but Jesus corrects them, showing that divorce is not what God intended from the beginning, and that even when it is allowed, it is permitted only on very specific grounds but never required. God’s original permanent intent was that marriage would be lifelong.
Why does Malachi mention a “garment” and “violence?” How does divorce “cover one’s garment”? Covering something hides it. In the case of divorce the innocent, “white garment” of marriage is hidden deceitfully by something that stains it. God is intensely against one or both of the spouses hiding something or breaking faith with the other impacting the marriage because they are under a marriage covenant and contract.
The violence mentioned in Malachi 2:16 is not necessarily physical abuse, it is any physical, verbal, or attitudinal mistreatment that hurts one another in marriage. It is any detrimental treatment of one’s spouse, the degree of which varies.
Committing adultery may not involve hitting, nasty put downs, or rolling the eyes and scowling at one’s spouse. Nevertheless, violence has still been committed against the marriage because, at the very least, it abuses its privileges and destroys trust.
In modern Western society, a man puts an engagement ring on a woman's finger to propose marriage, but in ancient Israel, he placed a corner of his garment over her. Ruth asked Boaz to take her under his wing. God did the same thing when establishing His marriage covenant with ancient Israel.
Ezekiel 16:8 “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so, I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord God.
Ezekiel 16:10 I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk.
If a man divorces his wife, instead of having a garment that symbolizes love, he has a garment that symbolizes violence. He wrenches apart that which God said is one by his infidelity and he makes the marriage bed a place of violence. This applies not only to the man but to women as well. Divorce is like an act of violence in an area where there should be tenderness., love, kindness, and gentleness.
The main lessons of this passage are clear. In marriage, a man and a woman become one flesh, and for members of the body of Christ, God is personally active in that union, covering us with His righteousness. Through marriage, God is seeking godly seed children from a Christian family who will carry on His work on earth by representing His way of life.
As I stated earlier, my focus today is on the general spiritual principle involved in this and other passages of the permanency of marriage. God’s original intention was that it be permanent!
Marriage is of God; therefore people are not to take it lightly. In fact, as you should well know God abhors it! In this assertion Jesus was clearly at one with the entire scope of the biblical teaching. Notice what we find in Genesis 2:
Genesis 2:18-24 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
It was God who introduced Adam to his wife! These words indicate that marriage was instituted by God for mankind’s welfare, and they imply that the union that makes a man and a woman one flesh is intended to be permanent throughout both their lives, or until one or both dies.
The reason I am going through the permanency of marriage is because in today’s society we are being attacked and ridiculed for God’s covenant of marriage. It has gotten so influential in society and is now affecting the church.
We take marriage too lightly! I have heard people in the world and even some within the church of God that throw divorce parties! How perverted and unconverted that is, it just makes a mockery of marriage!
We turn from the first book of the Old Testament to the last book of the Old Testament, and we find the same teaching, only in a more direct form. This is important to notice, because some believe that the standards given to Adam and Eve in Eden before their initial sin have become impossible after it and that God has come to tolerate divorce as a result. But has He? Not at all! In fact, it was because of the multiple divorces in Israel at the time, according to Malachi, that God was no longer hearing their prayers. Here is the way the prophet says,
Malachi 2:10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers?
Malachi 2:14-15 Yet you say, “For what reason?” [Meaning: “Will the Lord not hear us or receive our offerings?”] Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.
The biblical standard for marriage derives from the creation account, which establishes the conventional nature of marriage. In Matthew 19, when Jesus was discussing a question about divorce, He began with creation.
Malachi starts from this creational base. He refers to creation in verse 10; calls marriage a covenant in verse 14; refers to oneness or union in verse 15; and reminds the community of a main purpose of marriage which is godly offspring, also in verse 15. The basic issue in verse 15 is loyalty and faithfulness to the God of Israel and the maintaining of a godly home.
God called Israel to be the channel for bringing the Messiah into the world, and anything that corrupted that stream would work against His great plan of salvation.
God commanded the Israelites to be a separate people, not because they were better than any other nation, but because He had a very special task for them to perform. Anything that broke down that wall of separation would play into the hands of the evil one who did all he could to keep the Messiah from being born.
The man who would divorce the Israelite wife of his youth thus commits a grievous offense, because he violates the creation order, he breaks his covenantal relationship with his wife and, in so doing, he deeply damages his character because he “covers his garment with violence.” Most of the responsibility falls on the man, but this this same principal applies to women as well.
But the impact of divorce reaches far beyond the individual, because divorce has a ruinous effect on the vitality of the whole Christian community and on its ability to fulfill its calling as God’s holy people.
Again, in either case, God is opposed to the kind of divorce that is in view because of the destructiveness and pain that inevitably results when “faithless” husbands send away their wives, without a spiritually legal reason.
Malachi 2:16 “For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence," says the Lord of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”
Now according to this passage, not only does God hate divorce, but He still considers the couple married, regardless of what the parties to the marriage may have done.
When Jesus Christ argued against the common divorce practices of Judaism in His day, He drew His hearers’ attention to texts like these. The main line of His teaching was that God does not want divorce, and in fact, He hates divorce.
The standard is clearly chastity before marriage and fidelity afterward. And this is to be true for each person regardless of the conduct of the other person. I have heard of, for example, the husband commits adultery and to get back at him, the wife goes out and commits adultery. That is not right at all. It should never be tit for tat.
Now I know there is an exception for divorce that God allows, with an emphasis on allows, but does He accept it as righteous behavior?
Anyone who has a child knows that there are things which their child does or has done, that as a parent you do not like your child doing, but you allow it out of mercy for the child. In your compassion, you realize that the child has human nature that tends toward doing something stupid. But because you understand that since your child is not yet capable of doing any better at his present level of understanding and/or character growth, you allow him to do something “wrong” now that you will use as a teaching tool later when he has grown more.
Because of the hardness of people’s hearts God allows an exception for divorce. But He does not accept it as righteous behavior, He tolerates it. Now it is important to realize that these are standards for Christians, not for the world. This means that God’s people should not seek to impose them upon everyone generally, the unconverted.
We believe, of course, that to follow God’s standards would on the whole make people happier than they would be apart from them and we are saddened by any weakening of the family structure within our society. But the majority of people are not Christians and it would be irrational to expect them to lead Christian lives without God’s Spirit to guide and strengthen them.
It is also important to realize that there are many people who become Christians after they have been married and divorced, sometimes more than once. But we must never forget that their previous conduct is forgiven upon their repentance of their sins as they accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior at baptism. And that they therefore have the legal right to marry for the first time as Christians.
The church at Corinth must have been composed largely of people in this category; because Paul writes that many of them were sexually immoral, adulterers, idolaters, and so on.
I Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. [remember He is speaking to the church congregation here.] Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
He terms them “new creatures” in Christ. So the baptism and receiving of the Holy Spirit is a tremendous miracle, possibly the greatest miracle you receive in your entire life other then when you are resurrected to Spirit life.
II Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Clearly, when a new creature in Christ meets another new creature in Christ and God leads them together, they have a choice to marry and to establish a Christian home regardless of their previous history of sin.
But, this is not to say that one should not use wisdom in choosing a mate by ignoring the potential spouse’s track record or background. Even if a person is forgiven for his sins, his reputation still precedes him. He still has the same faulty character after baptism which he must work at overcoming for the rest of his life. Now after baptism he now has the spiritual power to overcome such things.
Although following baptism people have been forgiven for their past sins they still carry their previous sinful tendencies with them into the church, but now with the help of the Holy Spirit God expects and requires that they overcome those past sins.
As the apostle Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 6:12: “All things may be legal, but not all things are helpful, expedient, proper, or appropriate.”
A converted person must work hard to overcome previous worldly human tendencies such as: fornication, adultery, lack of control, disloyalty, self-centeredness and so on. But, we know from experience that a baptized person is not immediately free from temptation, desire, and sin.
Speaking to the church James cautions us not to again allow ourselves to be drawn away by temptation leading to sin.
James 1:12-16 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. [James says to you and me:] Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
It is important to realize that there are cases in which one of the spouses is a Christian and the other is not. What is the Christian to do in these circumstances? This is a situation that Paul also faced not only in Corinth but throughout the Greek cities.
The Greeks were know for their horrible marriages and infidelities. His advice was this: first, that the Christian should always stay with the unbelieving spouse if at all possible. Why? Paul tells us,
I Corinthians 7:16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
However, it is also possible that the unconverted spouse will not stay with the Christian. In that case, Paul’s second point of advice is to let the non-Christian go.
This is based on the fact that we live in an imperfect world, and this means that there will always be circumstances in which a Christian will have to choose peace over violence, because the fruit of the spirit is sown in peace, not confusion and violence. In some circumstances, this may mean divorce.
God has not changed His standards at all, nevertheless, even divorce and remarriage, as serious as they are, are not unforgivable and that God is always able to work with His children precisely where they are and bring blessing.
God’s church should not be closed to such people when repentance is involved, and Christians above all people should show mercy. Perhaps even if such people marry in rebellion against God’s will, He may eventually bring them to repentance, and He may yet bless the new home. That is up to God, it is His decision. He is working individually with people.
There is hardly a matter in the Christian church today that is treated with more laxity than divorce and remarriage. As a result, it is unwittingly easy to allow God’s standards to be eroded by what spiritually weak people do or say, or by what they would prefer the Bible to mean. But we must not do that. We must all guard the truth.
We must be guardians of the Way of God, and we must not allow God’s standards to be diluted and weakened. Each and every one of us have that responsibility, especially the ministry.
God has established marriage, not primarily to promote happiness among mankind or even for reproduction, although those are wonderful blessings from it. He has established it primarily as an illustration of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. It is so that we can understand that relationship. How can we understand that relationship if we do not look at the marriage covenant as being permanent?
Marriage is to show that when God joins a man or a woman to Jesus Christ in salvation, He does so in love and in a bond that will endure forever.
For this reason, the possibility of a divorce between Christians should be unthinkable. Now remember that nothing that has been said here applies to a non-Christian marriage. Marriage among all true believers should be permanent. That should be the attitude and belief of every baptized member entering into and during marriage. Each party should be giving it their all, every second of every day despite what the spouse is going.
Now let us begin looking at how the Eternal appeared to His servant Hosea, who became one of His prophets, and told him that he was to enact in his life the relationship of God with Israel. The prophet Hosea was told that he was to marry a woman who would become a harlot, and that he was to be faithful to her despite her unfaithfulness.
Hosea 1:2 When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord.”
In other words, Hosea was to live a dramatic object lesson before the nations of Judah and Israel, whom God counted as one nation. Hosea was to play the part and be a type of the loving and faithful God. The erring wife would be cast in the role of the perverse nation of Israel and Judah. She would play the harlot with many lovers even as Israel had left the true God to go after a multitude of strange gods.
The heart of the object lesson would lie in the fact that Hosea would be faithful to her even during her greatest unfaithfulness. He would even provide the means for her to live while she continued in her immoral lifestyle.
And when she reached the lowest point in her foolishness she would find her husband there at the lowest point of her misery and he would redeem her and bring her back into the joys of truth and righteousness.
Now we have to be careful how far we take this analogy, but it applies much farther for Judah and Israel than just in a physical marriage, however the principle still shows the permanency that God intended.
Hosea and Gomer had three children and God dictated the name for each to illustrate the tragedy which their willfulness would bring. The first child God said “Call him Jezreel, meaning scattered and God has scattered the Israelites all over the world. Continuing on here in Hosea:
Hosea 1:3-9 So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. Then the Lord said to him: “Call his name Jezreel, for in a little while I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. It shall come to pass in that day that I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel. And she conceived again and bore a daughter. Then God said to him: “Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, but I will utterly take them away. Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword or battle, by horses or horsemen.” Now when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then God said: “Call his name Lo-Ammi, for you are not My people, and I will not be your God.”
If we had no more than this, it would certainly be a terrible story. It would appear as though it were possible for God to divorce His people and break the marriage covenant by which he had bound His people to Himself. But it is at this point that God intervenes to tell us that it will all turn out well and that they will live happily ever after, because we read in the next verse:
Hosea 1:10 ‘Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’
Then, later Hosea repeats God’s promise in slightly different terms in Hosea 2.
Hosea 2:22-23 “The earth shall answer with grain, with new wine, and with oil; they shall answer Jezreel. Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, '’You are my God!’”
So the new meanings illustrate how God’s unchanging love covered the multitude of Israel’s sins, even as Hosea’s love covered Gomer’s sins, and therefore how a Christian’s love must cover an erring partner’s sins.
Now this is the opposite of the attitude of the potential husband who thinks in his heart, “If my marriage has problems, I can always get divorced.” To think this way is a sin! We know that the apostle Paul said, “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” Any man or woman entering a marriage with this attitude has already doomed the marriage.
Sadly today, marriage is taken so lightly and in such a trivial way that even those who are going through a period of separation, which means they are still completely married, have the lust and self-centeredness to date someone else while separated. They are committing adultery! And sadly over the years I have heard of this happening within the greater churches of God!
Pay attention to what the apostle Paul says when speaking on the authority of Jesus Christ here in I Corinthians 5.
I Corinthians 5:1-4 (The Living Bible) Everyone is talking about the terrible thing that has happened there among you, something so evil that even the heathen don’t do it: you have a man in your church who is living in sin with his father’s wife. And are you still so conceited, so “spiritual”? Why aren’t you mourning in sorrow and shame and seeing to it that this man is removed from your membership?Although I [Paul] am not there with you, I have been thinking a lot about this, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I have already decided what to do, just as though I were there. You are to call a meeting of the church—and the power of the Lord Jesus will be with you as you meet, and I will be there in spirit.
The apostle Paul is the minister of these churches and he is speaking to families, who are just meeting as a family and to groups that are just a few people, maybe related or not. But for the families whoever is the head of household holds the responsibilities in these things. Paul goes on to say the whole congregation has responsibility in this and if they condone it they share in the sin. Continuing on here:
I Corinthians 5:5-10 (The Living Bible) and cast out this man [or woman] from the fellowship of the church and into Satan’s hands, to punish him, in the hope that his soul will be saved when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. What a terrible thing it is that you are boasting about your purity and yet you let this sort of thing go on. Don’t you realize that if even one person is allowed to go on sinning, soon all will be affected? Remove this evil cancer—this wicked person—from among you, so that you can stay pure. Christ, God’s Lamb, has been slain for us. So let us feast upon him and grow strong in the Christian life, leaving entirely behind us the cancerous old life with all its hatreds and wickedness. Let us feast instead upon the pure bread of honor and sincerity and truth. When I wrote to you before I said not to mix with evil people. But when I said that I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who live in sexual sin or are greedy cheats and thieves and idol worshipers. For you can’t live in this world without being with people like that.
I Corinthians 5:11-13 (The Living Bible) What I meant was that you are not to keep company with anyone who claims to be a brother Christian but indulges in sexual sins, or is greedy, or is a swindler, or worships idols, or is a drunkard, or abusive. Don’t even eat lunch with such a person. It isn’t our job to judge outsiders. But it certainly is our job to judge and deal strongly with those who are members of the church and who are sinning in these ways. God alone is the Judge of those on the outside. But you yourselves must deal with this man and put him out of your church.
Lay members think it is only the minister’s responsibility to do this, but we do not always know what is going on at all times. Paul is speaking to heads of households and local leaders in small groups.
A marriage separation is for the purpose of taking time out from the contention so the husband and the wife can calm down and deeply think about why they could not get along. A separation is for the purpose of making it easier to reconcile. Reconciliation is the goal. Everything should be done to try to salvage the marriage if possible, especially between two converted people. Sadly, of course, it is very often not possible. Why? Because of the hardness of one or both the husband and the wife’s hearts, because of the hostility, and because of the faithlessness.
Now let us get back to the story of Hosea. Gomer left Hosea and lived with other men and each lover was poorer than the man before him. One day, Hosea said to a certain man, ‘Are you the man who is currently living with Gomer the daughter of Diblaim?’ ‘Well, what of it?’ replies the man. ‘I am Hosea, her husband.’ As the man recoiled, Hosea said ‘But I love her, and I know that you do not have enough money to take care of her. Take this money and see that she does not lack for anything.’
So, the man took Hosea’s money and bought clothing, oil, and wine for Gomer. Then she gave her lover the credit for providing these things; but Hosea said, ‘She doesn’t know that I paid the bills.’ What did Gomer say? We will pick up the story here in Hosea 2:5-8.
Hosea 2:5-8 For their mother has played the harlot; she who conceived them has behaved shamefully for she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’ [then Hosea, as a type of Christ, says] “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths. She will chase her lovers, but not overtake them; yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.’ For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold—which they prepared for Baal.
No doubt the man who took Hosea’s money was thinking, “What a fool!” But it was actually Gomer who was the fool. And we can see Hosea lurking in the shadows to catch a glimpse of her who filled his heart, mournful as he sees her embrace her lover, and thank him for the gifts which true love has provided, which treachery offers, and foolishness accepts.
The story of Hosea is a picture of Christ’s faithfulness. Christ is the faithful husband, and Israel is the adulterous wife. She turns to other gods; she runs away, and still He loves her.
When we see this love at work through the heart of Hosea we may wonder if God is really like that. Can He really be like that as awful as people treat Him? Everything in the Word of God and in experience shows us that He is. And since we are told to imitate Him, we must strive to be loving and forgiving as He is. But God is not blind; He is both just and merciful so He chastises those who sin willfully.
So, Hosea kept on loving Gomer, who gradually sank to the depths of degradation. She sank so low that she became a slave; and in accordance with ancient custom in the city of Jerusalem she was put up on the slave block, naked. God told Hosea to buy her and to redeem her.
We know a great deal about the slave market in ancient times. Almost half the population was in slavery to the other half, and there was scarcely a day and scarcely a city in which human beings were not sold openly in the market. The ancient writers have left us terrible pictures of this sale of human beings.
For example, a female slave is put up for auction, her clothes removed, and the bystanders laugh among themselves as they bid for the body of the slave. It was to a scene like that that Hosea was called to go. The Eternal told him that he was to go and purchase the wife he had loved so long, but who was now being sold in the market.
Suddenly, before the eyes of Hosea, appeared the woman he loved with all his heart. Her veil was taken from her face, her body was exposed to the gaze of the crowd, and the bidding began.
After lots of bidding, finally Hosea replies, ‘Fifteen pieces of silver and a bushel and a half of barley.’
The auctioneer looks around, is unable to get a higher bid, and announces that this female slave is sold to Hosea. The husband goes to the wife and helps her with her clothing, puts her veil upon her face and leads her into the anonymity of the crowd.
Does God love us like that? Listen to the story as it is recorded in the third chapter of Hosea.
Hosea 3:1-2 Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.” So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley.
Love her? How? She is a harlot, sold on the auction block as an adulterous slave. Nevertheless, the Eternal says, ‘Just like the Lord loves the people of Israel, Go love her,’ God says, ‘love her, just like the Lord loves you.’
Now under ancient law a man could do as he pleased with a slave whom he had purchased. If Hosea had taken this woman and had told her that she was to be punished for all her infidelities, and if he had tortured her to death, he would have gone free with only the slightest fine.
However, Hosea did not act in this way because he was reflecting the love of God, and God never acts that way with those whom he has redeemed by His blood. Hosea took Gomer and led her toward their home, and as they went he said to her in Hosea 3.
Hosea 3:3-5 And I said to her, “You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man—so, too, will I be toward you.” [This is a prophecy about Israel’s descendants, what would happen to them eventually.] For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.
So Israel and Judah will have a happy ending to this relationship.
If we examine the words, their tenderness takes hold of the heartstrings. Here is the climax of the expression of love. What Hosea could not have secured from the free will of a wife he now has the right to ask of the one who has been redeemed out of slavery.
She was to remain with him in faithfulness. She knew that this was her place as a purchased slave. She was no more to play the prostitute and be passed from man to man with the loss of gifts and the daily increasing degradation.
But the extraordinary word is the one that follows, Hosea says: “so, too, will I be toward you.” In this moment of homecoming, the love of Hosea shines through at its brightest. If he is demanding of her complete faithfulness, she must understand that he is not offering her any less from himself. He will be absolutely for her. His faithfulness to her will continue. This is the faithfulness of the love of God.
The book of Hosea shows the depth of God’s love for His people, a love that tolerates no rivals whatsoever.
In the light of this story we see the inner meaning of marriage as set forth in the Word of God. True marriage is the union of Christ and the church. The emphasis God places in His inspired written Word is: Stay married at almost any cost! Nevertheless, because people without God’s Spirit are hard-hearted, God agonizingly allows divorce for reasons of unfaithfulness and violence.
But what excuse does a converted couple have with God’s Holy Spirit to help them? The answer is in the fact that we are commanded to be imitators of God!
The fifth chapter of Ephesians begins with one of the most startling admonitions in the New Testament: “Be imitators of God.” It is the only place in the Bible where these words occur, and what makes them so startling is that they point to a standard beyond which there is no other standard. This is “the highest standard in the universe.” It is the sum of all duty. It is the ultimate ideal.
Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Is your marriage a sweet-smelling aroma to God? Do you view it as permanent, as God intended?
As Christians, we have been given the spiritual resources to build a truly loving relationship with our spouses right now and we must work hard at it because we all have human nature that we are fighting against. We must never forget that our earthly marriages should truly picture the great loving relationship between Jesus Christ and the church.