Mal 2.13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. 14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. 15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. 16 For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. 17 Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?
Mat 19.3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. 10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
This is a minefield of a subject
I fear that no matter how I attempt to navigate this subject, I will make mess
There are as many strong feelings about M. as there are people
And they are likely all incompatible
Some are fearful that I will exalt Marriage.
Some are fearful that I will abase Marriage.
My task over these next weeks is to either:
Prove both sides wrong, or both sides right. That is success.
Failure would be for one side to feel vindicated, the other not.
Greatest success would be for each to feel a little of both
Why do I say that?
The way you feel about M. is based largely on your lived experience
So if I try to convince you that you are wrong, like convincing you are a cat or a car.
If your conclusion: I hit the nail = An indication that I steered in your direction
You were not given the opportunity to grow or learn
“If god never says anything you disagree with, then you are probably worshiping an idolized version of yourself.” — Tim Keller
I realize that some of you might feel that you can’t trust me,
When I say something confirm your fears, easy for you to unplug and shutdown.
So, would it be totally ridiculous for me to ask you to suspend your skepticism, just for a couple of weeks.
Take a risk: Allow me the opportunity to stumble through this topic before conclu.
It might seem strange to begin a series on Marriage by looking at the divorce texts.
* My father always told me that the first thing you should do when entering any kind of partnership is to write down the terms of eventual separation.
This is probably very good business advice
However, it is not good marriage advice, nor is it what we will discuss today
Prenuptial agreements are exactly that, predefined divorces. (!oversimp.)
While the primary subject of our text is divorce, we will not be discussing that
Only tangentially, towards the end.
What these texts deal with PRIMARILY is not divorce
They deal with the fundamental design of Marriage
Divorce is mentioned only as antithetical to God’s design & will
Mal 2.15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed.
To properly understand Marriage, we must understand that it is relevant to everyone.
Young, old, married, single, divorced, widowed, committed single…
* This does not mean that everyone must be married, but all should understand it
1) Marriage is the foundational commitment.
All other relationships depend on it (The sine qua non)
Parents, children, even friendship
There can’t be friendship without marriage
Members of the same sex become constant competitors
Members of the opposite sex become predators/prey
2) Marriage is a total commitment
We will not spend a lot of time on this point, however, it is most important
A complete and total surrender of will
Become totally vulnerable to another
Trusting wholly and completely
This type of covenant only works when it works 100%
Half way is death
Half married is like half-way skydiving
Marriage is a fragile relationship –
entirely dependent on complete trust the “want” of both to be married
3) Marriage is a sacred commitment
It is predicated on two parties agreeing to mutual responsibilities
This commitment is described on two different levels, or layers
In Malachi it is described as a union of covenant,
a human contract, a human commitment
The person you chose
or Youth – the person you “fell in love with” (made ‘naive’ promises to)
But a commitment that God adjudicates, that he observes and enforces
In Matthew, Jesus elevates and deepens this
pointing out that God brings together
He joins them, God is more than a simple arbiter, referee
He is a team captain, a matchmaker, a conductor
This deepening is important for a couple of reasons
1) It makes the marriage bond SACRED, godly
2) Emphasizes God is orchestrating for a transcendental purpose
How do we make this commitment
1) Formally (not post hoc)
2) Culturally (not counter-culturally)
3) [Most importantly] Scripturally (not worldly)
These can be satisfied without ‘signing a paper’
But it cannot be satisfied by refusing to ‘sign a paper’
Not ONLY a piece of paper
Not NECESSARILY a piece of paper
Not AT ALL a piece of paper
Sacred because ultimately it is a commitment with God – as Mat and Mal point out
Failure is a failure before God
4) Marriage is a reflective commitment
Common error is to project marriage upwords into the spiritual
This creates strange and bad doctrines
Heaven is nothing like earth, but earth should be like Heaven
“Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” — Lord’s prayer
We should always project the spiritual downwards onto the earthly
We look at real to build model, we don’t think the real is defined by model
We know how the heavenly is by the revelation of God’s word & Holy Spirit
What is marriage supposed to reflect?
What does this commitment really mean?
MUST reflect something greater. Something REAL.
What reality does it reflect?
NOT reflecting anything has resulted in marriage becoming totally devalued
This shows us the problem with no transcendental value/object of love
Because modern man has self-emancipated from God as eternal object of love
He must conjure a new object, none is not a viable option
* J. Lennon responded to Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody”
with “Serve Yourself”
J.L. epitome of being totally incomplete in himself, deifying a lover (Yoko)
Atheist Earnest Becker points out in The Denial of Death, that without God:
mankind has slim resources for validation
Self validation is largely empty and meaningless
So we turn towards romance and sex
[Speaking of modern man:]
“The self-glorification that he needed in his innermost nature he now looked for in the love partner. The love partner becomes the divine ideal within which to fulfill one’s life. All spiritual and moral needs now become focussed in one individual. Spirituality, which once referred to another dimension of things, is now brought down to this earth and given form in another individual human being. Salvation itself is no longer referred to an abstraction like God but can be sought “in the beatification of the other.”
— Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death
He’s referring to very modern, secular phenomena of seeking meaning in life
Real, grand, cosmic meaning
IN romance, sex, partners
But he also concludes that this attempt is doomed
“How can a human being be a god-like “everything” to another? No human relationship can bear the burden of godhood, and the attempt has to take its toll in some way on both parties.”
— Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death
What we understand in the Bible is that it not only is a doomed effort, it is idolatrous
If you are finding meaning in life from anything other than Christ, idolatry
Man and wife forget their maker when they are “so transported with affection” that they aim “at no higher end than marriage itself”. What is required is that “such as have wives look at them not for their own ends, but to be better fitted for Gods service, and bring them nearer to God”. — John Cotton
This is why marriage, by itself, is not what is real
Only meaningful as a reflection of something that is not doomed, not idolatry
What does marriage actually reflect?
Thinking of Marriage as Commitment, it would be a unfortunate mistake to make about us
We are most likely no more faithful to God than we are to our spouse.
John explains that if we can’t love people we see, how can we love God we don’t
The commitment of marriage most accurately reflects God’s commitment to us.
The perfect commitment that marriage aspires to is Christ’s commitment to us
So when we talk about the risk and vulnerability of committing completely
We should acknowledge and be guided by that same risk and vulnerability of Christ
He put himself out there, in a very raw, physical way
He laid himself out on a brutal tree trunk, hung naked, dying, giving everything, emptying
So that you would respond, reciprocate
He loved you first so you could love him
He still stretches his hands out to you
Like the Song today, Red Letters:
Sent his only Son to die for me
Arms spread wide for the whole wide world
His arms spread wide where mine should be
“After all, what is it that we want when we elevate the love partner to the position of God? We want redemption—nothing less. We want to be rid of our faults, of our feeling of nothingness. We want to be justified, to know that our creation has not been in vain. We turn to the love partner for the experience of the heroic, for perfect validation; we expect them to “make us good through love,” Needless to say, human partners can’t do this. The Iover does not dispense cosmic heroism; he cannot give absolution in his own name. The reason is that as a finite being he too is doomed, and we read that doom in his own fallibilities, in his very deterioration. Redemption can only come from outside the individual, from beyond, from our conceptualization of the ultimate source of things, the perfection of creation. It can only come, as Rank saw, when we lay down our individuality, give it up, admit our creatureliness and helplessness. What partner would ever permit us to do this, would bear us if we did? The partner needs us to be as God.”
– The Denial of Death, Earnest Becker
Most vivid and provocative illustrations of God’s commitment to the uncommitted: Hosea
God commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute,
And then when she proved unfaithful and got herself in a bad way with a pimp
God commanded Hosea to buy her back again
This was all to illustrate that while God’s people are never faithful, he always is
Hos 2.19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord.
If your hope is in your commitment to Christ, you won’t fare any better
You will not find meaning only looking towards Christ.
Committing to him
Becker’s error is typical of Atheism:
Only understanding a God who is an ideal abstract, not real
The meaning is found when Christ looks toward us
Commits to us
As Paul says it well in Phillippians:
Php 4.8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Allow me to call your attention to how he intertwines both:
I may win Christ
And be found in him
Or as he makes it even clear in Galatians:
Gal 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God
Christ has chosen us, and committed to us, not because of our faithfulness but because of his glory and purpose