As I mentioned before, this society is becoming more and more plagued with “serial monogamy.” Polygamy is illegal, so instead we marry and divorce multiple times. Marriage too often is seen as just a legal contract, which can be broken whenever both parties (or even just one) decide that it’s no longer convenient to make it work.
God apparently takes marriage a whole more seriously than we do as a society. Why then would I pick today’s passage, which seems to set up rules on how to divorce your spouse and even outlaws remarriage in some circumstances? If you’ve read the gospels, you might be familiar with the story of when Jesus was confronted with the question of divorce. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all chronicle it, but we’ll look at just one, Matthew’s version. The Pharisees asked him about divorce, namely when is it right to seek it? He pointed them all the way back to the first and second chapter of Genesis (amazing how those first three chapters keep coming up) for God’s standard. They responded with a counter-example from the Torah, today’s passage.
Jesus’ answer is very instructive for us, and we should take it to heart. If we believe in the inspiration of Scripture, then the same God inspired the Law of Moses, and thus Jesus is uniquely qualified to interpret it (being its Author, duh). It seems that Jesus’ point is that this passage is a concession to the sinfulness of men, not an expression of the Lord's willingness to see more divorce. What we need to note is that this was a step against divorce, not towards it. Throughout most of history in most cultures, divorce was always the prerogative of the husband, and he could divorce his wife and throw her out on a whim. Even today, in cultures influenced by Islam, all a husband has to do is say “I divorce you” three times to his wife, and their marriage is ended. Of course, this freedom is reserved for only the husband.
God’s law changed this. He recognized that with sinful people, you would get some divorce, but in effect he said, “If you're dead set on getting a divorce, here's the procedure you have to go through.” This put up some roadblocks to a hasty decision, and would hopefully give the couple time to reflect and attempt to reconcile. If they did decide to proceed, then the Lord put up at least one more disincentive: He made it clear that this was not a step to be taken lightly, and he did so by forbidding them from having any on-again-off-again type of relationship (very common today). This was intended, again, to discourage divorce as much as possible.
One of the reasons (I believe) why the Lord is so against divorce and pro-marriage is because he cares about women. Study after study after study shows that women usually suffer more in divorces: financially, emotionally, and in most other aspects. Throughout most of history, being pro-marriage (and thus anti-divorce) was meant as a protection for women against men who might be tempted to get rid of "the wife of [their] youth" in favor of an "upgrade" to a younger model. This doesn’t even take into account how much better off children are when raised in a home in which God’s standard is honored and celebrated. He takes marriage very seriously, so we should too.
Father, behind all of your laws is your heart of love. Help me to be the man of God I need to be.
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