July 20

“Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.’” (Matthew 19:3-10)

Jesus addressed the issue of divorce when the Pharisees came to test him. Divorce was never intended to be a viable solution to problems in a marriage. God has always commanded and desired that husbands and wives should remain together. God allows divorce for the safety and protection of the woman, as in this passage, within His parameters, in the case of sexual infidelity or abandonment. However, even in these situations, believers are to work diligently to keep their marriages together, by either confessing and repenting (as the offending party) or by offering forgiveness to the one who has offended you.

In verse 3 we learn that the Pharisees were testing Jesus rather than sincerely asking about divorce. Their hardness of heart toward him is reflected in his answer to them about their forefathers’ hardness of heart. Your Bible probably has a reference to Psalm 95, which says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways'” (verses 8-10). Psalm 95 references Exodus 17:7, “And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” This circular reference should reinforce the truth that a hard heart only wants to test, not to be taught, as is the case with the Pharisees.

Divorce was used as an excuse for anything a man might find disagreeable in his wife. For example, if a man took a foreign woman into his house after a battle, God had a whole set of instruction about her ending with this, “But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her.” (Deuteronomy 21:14) Further instructions are given in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. About the Pharisees and divorce, Easton’s Bible Dictionary says, “It seems that it was not uncommon for the Jews at that time to dissolve the union on very slight pretenses (Matt 5:31, 32; Matt 5:31 9; Mark 10:2 12; Luke 16:18).” * Doesn’t this sound like the world today, where people divorce for insignificant and selfish reasons?

Believers who have divorced with or without knowledge of these statutes may have sinned. But this sin is no different than any other; we have a beautiful Savior who loves to forgive his children and who sincerely wants us to live holy lives in obedience to Scripture’s parameters for believers.


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