God hates divorce. Malachi 2:15-16 reads,
Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
Yet He understands that we are human and if we cannot divorce it can lead to things like abuse, adultery, and murder. So though He doesn’t like it and though it perverts His word and the representation of His perfect union with us, He allows it, but only for specific reasons. Verses 1-4 read,
When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then 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 of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Divorce was not something to be approached lightly. It could not be because the two didn’t get along. The husband had to have found uncleanness in the woman, unrepentant sin which sullied her spirit and could drag the husband down with it. If the husband divorced her, she was just as free to marry someone else as if he had died. But the man could not change his mind. Once she remarried, he could never have her back.
God never divorces us. He keeps His promise through all our uncleanness. He makes us clean. He also never forces us to unite with Him against our wills, He never forces us to change against our wills. He is gentle with us. He is kind. He loves us deeply. Rather than divorce us, He loves us all the more and forgives every sin. It was up to the husband to make the marriage work, to love his wife enough to forgive her and by his love make her clean.
Marriage is supposed to be held as a priority over everything else but The Lord. Establishing and maintain a marriage takes work and attention. It is a covenant which includes three spirits united as one. Husband, bride, and Holy Spirit. Verse 5 reads,
When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.
For a year the couple needed to only be concerned with establishing their relationship. Wars could wait, they would always be there. Family is the concern that comes just after God, but the spousal relationship is higher than the relationship to the children. If the couple is modelling the right relationship with one another, they teach their children by example.
What is the example they set? It is a picture of Godly love for another. It is a relationship where the wife submits her will to her husband’s will and the husband loves the wife and honors her. There is no husband demanding his own way, ordering the wife about, and punishing her if dinner is not exactly as he commanded. The husband holds responsibility for his family, his love for wife and children is supposed to be gentle. God is not a tyrant; He is a gentleman, noble in all He does. So too should the husband and father be with his family. Colossians 3:18-25 describes the way our relationships should look as we exemplify Jesus Christ.
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
Husbands do not own wives. Fathers do not own children. Employers do not own employees. Believers belong to one another (Romans 12:5). The lost need to see us live as Christians, walking in love, truth, and justice. These attributes mean we care about our fellow man. The poor will always be among us, but we care about them. We don’t want to take away any man’s livelihood or cause him to suffer. Verse 6 reads,
No one shall take a mill or an upper millstone in pledge, for that would be taking a life in pledge.
Loaning money and taking something as a pledge, an “IOU” is fine, but to take his ability to make a living is an injustice. We take a token, something he can afford not to have until he repays the debt, otherwise we may as well just steal all he has or kill him and his family.
Justice, love and truth require respect for one another. Verse 7 reads,
If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
To make someone serve you without his permission, to mistreat him, and act as if he is property instead of human is stealing from him, it steals his dignity, his living, and his life. God calls that evil. Sometimes respect is exhibited when dealing with a person suffering disease or discipline. Even in the midst of discipline, God calls for mercy. Verses 8-9 read,
Take care, in a case of leprous disease, to be very careful to do according to all that the Levitical priests shall direct you. As I commanded them, so you shall be careful to do. 9 Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt.
Leprosy was a symbol of uncleanness and mistreating it, disregarding its communicability resulted in the uncleanness spreading. It was the priest’s job to honestly examine skin problems and determine if they were leprosy or not. It was his job to declare the person clean or unclean. But it was the responsibility of the person with leprosy to mourn his condition, announce his uncleanness, and keep others safe from him (Leviticus 13). Sin is contagious and when we come to the point that we realize our sin, we mourn it, it convicts the soul and we go to Jesus, our High Priest, who can pronounce us clean.
We don’t humiliate the unclean person. We don’t relish their suffering. We show mercy and compassion while remaining outside the influence of the disease of sin. Respect shows itself in kindness not degradation. Love cares about justice. Love is patient and kind, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13 verses 4 and 6). Love shows respect and respect is practiced in many ways. One such way is the way we handle debts and consider debtors. Some people are blessed with the ability to loan others money. This does not make them better than or more exalted than the one they help. People are created in the image of God, that imbues them with the right to be treated with dignity.
When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not go into his house to collect his pledge. 11 You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. 12 And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge.13 You shall restore to him the pledge as the sun sets, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you. And it shall be righteousness for you before the Lord your God.
If someone owes you a debt, it does not give you a right to own their lives, treat their home as yours or walk slipshod over their them. As soon as the debt is repaid, you return the IOU, whatever it was, even if was a blanket. In fact if the person is poor, you show him that much more respect and give him back his cloak before the day’s end. It is the same with employees. The employer may be blessed to be the master or lord of people, but he treats those under him with kindness and understands that he owes them a debt. Verses 14-15 read,
You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. 15 You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the Lord, and you be guilty of sin.
Justice requires the right person pay for their sin. Why punish the person associated with it? That would be like hating all Germans, because of Hitler or blaming the parent because their child committed a crime. The one who commits a crime is the one who deserves the punishment. He is not punished more than he ought to be based on his relationship or lack of relationship to whomever is exacting justice. Verses 16-18 read,
Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.
17 “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge, 18 but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.
Justice cares about the poor, the sojourner, the widow, and the orphan. Justice understands that not everyone has the same advantages and tries to level the field as much as possible. Verses 19-22 read,
When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 22 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.
Are you just? Do you care about yourself more than others? Or do you understand that God provides for people in many ways. Sometimes you are the vehicle of provision, justice, and love. If we exemplify Christ, we respect dignity, care about the needs of others, and do what we can to ensure their needs are met. We love one another the way Jesus loves us. In doing so, others will see the Gospel lived out in us.