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'til Death To Us Part

Malachi 2:11-16 

"Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord which He loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. [12] "As for the man who does this, may the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob everyone who awakes and answers, or who presents an offering to the Lord of hosts. [13] "And this is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. [14] "Yet you say, 'For what reason?' Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. [15] "But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then, to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. [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." 

God's message through Malachi began with a pronouncement of His love for His people, moved to the temple to set things right with His priests, and continues in this text to elevate the importance of marriage in the view of Malachi's contemporaries. As is the pattern in all of the issues Malachi addresses, he begins an accusation from the Lord against the people, they deny any wrong doing, then he offers the proof of their sinfulness.

In verses 11-13, he accuses the people of profaning God's sanctuary with their marriages, then complaining that their relationship with the Lord isn't right. In verse 14, Malachi's audience denies any wrong doing, they say, "For what reason?" Malachi is quick to respond in the remainder of the verse and as he does, he teaches us a lot about marriage. 

In a moment, we'll study God's view of marriage and divorce, but before we do, I have a question to ask you: How highly do you view marriage as an institution?

Now I know that your immediate reaction to that question is colored by your personal experience. Some of you are the product of a broken home or have been through a divorce. Others are struggling through a difficult marriage or are working hard to make your marriage work. Still others have never been married, and others have a "marriage made in heaven." As much as possible, I want to ask you to separate your personal experiences from this question. Let me ask you again, how highly do you view marriage?

Some people in our culture discount the importance of a marriage union in favor of cohabitation, "It's just a piece of paper," they say. In juxtaposition with that voice, is the cry from the homosexual community wanting the right to solemnize and formalize the relationship they have with their "life partners" with a marriage ceremony. 

Both voices agree to reject traditional Christian morals, but they disagree about the importance of marriage. But the sad truth is, our culture's view of marriage has diminished even among those who embrace traditional values. In the back of most people's minds is that divorce is a viable option if "the marriage doesn't work out."

John Steinbeck got his first divorce when he was 38 after falling in love with Gwen Conger, a 20-year-old singer. He invited Conger to his house, sat her down in a room with his wife and said, "I want you two gals to talk this out, and the one who feels she really wants me the most, gets me." Steinbeck then left the room. Conger got him. When they divorced 9 years later, Steinbeck said, "Well there goes that experiment." (Biography Magazine, Feb 2002, p. 85.)With such a cavalier attitude about marriage, no wonder his relationships headed toward divorce.

Certainly, there are times that divorce is the best way to dissolve a bad situation. In her book, for Better or Worse, Mavis Hetherington affirms that divorce has rescued families from domestic abuse, and has provided some people "with remarkable opportunity for life-transforming personal growth." (Newsweek, 1-28-02, p. 60)

Moses and Jesus both allowed for divorce. Moses wrote, "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 indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house," (Deut. 24:1 NASB) Jesus amplified his words in Matthew 5:32 when He said, "but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity . . ."

In any discussion of marriage and divorce from a Biblical standpoint, we must point out that some divorce is allowed. The reason Jesus cited was unchastity.

That is the exception. The rule is clearly stated in Mark 10:9, when Jesus said, "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." 

And that is the issue. In a culture where divorce is readily available as a way to "undo a bad choice" many people allow its availability to cheapen the marriage commitment and enter into it without God's blessing. Notice that Jesus said for man not to separate what God joined together. Unfortunately, God has not joined every married couple together. 

When marriage is taken lightly, divorce comes easy . . . too easy. Perhaps that's why there are so many of them.

But what does God think of marriage?

THEY ARE IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO HIM THAT HE WITNESSES EVERY ONE OF THEM. Verse 14 says, "the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth"

At the end of most marriage ceremonies, I perform, I gather the maid of honor and the best man to sign the marriage certificate. I sign as the officiating minister, they as the witnesses. Not long ago, I met a couple from San Francisco at the Lone Cypress Tree at Pebble Beach and performed their wedding ceremony. We had to grab some tourists to sign the certificate to make the wedding legal. Unless the couple brings me a "confidential license," the state requires I have a witness sign the document with me. 

There is another witness to every marriage. He won't eat anything at the reception or bring a present to the shower, but He is there. Weddings are important enough to God that He witnesses every one of them. 

GOD SEES THE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE AS COMPANIONSHIP. In verse 14, Malachi uses the word "companion" to refer to a spouse. In premarital counseling, I usually ask the couple why they want to get married. They always respond with the same thing-"We love each other." And I say, that's a lousy reason to get married. People fall into love and they fall out of love-sounds a bit accidental doesn't it? Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with love, especially if it is really love and not just a chemical reaction or a feeling that comes over a man when he is in the presence of a woman he finds attractive. Those feelings aren't trustworthy. They come and go. We fall into them and out of them.

Malachi didn't refer to a spouse as a "lover" but as a "companion." In Genesis 2:18, the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." God created marriage for companionship. 

My advice to young adults looking for a spouse is to look for a friend, not a lover. Find your soul mate that you will want to be with "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health." Because you will experience the worse, poverty and sickness, you'll want a friend to go through those experiences with you.

GOD SEES MARRIAGE AS A COVENANT. It is not just a piece of paper. It is a "body and soul" commitment between a man and a woman and their God. It is a solemn occasion where two people pledge their loyalty and fidelity to one another. They do it before God, and they do it with God.

It is holy. 

I haven't done it often, but occasionally a couple asks me to serve them communion at their wedding. When they do, I'm always happy to accommodate them. I usually position it in the service right after the unity candle. The unity candle symbolizes the coming together of two families to form a new family. Communion takes that symbolism a step further. It does more than symbolize the unity of the marriage relationship, it symbolizes the tri-unity of a Christian marriage. God wants to do more than witness wedding ceremonies, He wants to be the center of a marriage.

That may explain why verse 16 says, that God hates divorce-its because He loves marriage so much. It is his perfect plan for a man and a woman to live in companionship, under His covenant for their lifetimes.

We cannot take divorce lightly, because when we do, we devalue the importance of marriage-a covenant that God instituted and blesses.


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