“Love, Marriage, and Divorce” – Deuteronomy 24:1-5

February 4th,  2018

Dt. 24:1-5

“Love, Marriage, and Divorce”

Aux Text: Matthew 19:3-9

Call to Worship: Deuteronomy 24:1-5

(See also; Gen 1:26-27; 2:18-24; Bk of Song of Sol; Jer chs 3-4; Bk of Hosea; Mal 2:10-16; Mt 5:27-37; 19:1-12; Mk 10:2-12; 1 Cor 6:16; ch 7; Eph 5:21-33; 1 Pt 3:7)


Service Orientation:  Marriage is not just another relationship.  It is a God established, life-binding covenant or contract between a man and a woman in which they pledge their life-long commitment to the other’s happiness.  Therefore, God hates divorce.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’  I will say to those called ‘Not my people, ‘ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’  — Hosea 2:23


Background Information:

  • Theoretically no nation ever had a higher ideal of marriage than the Jew had. Marriage was a sacred duty which a man was bound to undertake.  He might delay or abstain from marriage for only one reason–to devote his whole time to the study of the Law.  If a man refused to marry and to beget children he was said to have broken the positive commandment which bade men to be fruitful and to multiply, and he was said to have “lessened the image of God in the world,” and “to have slain his posterity.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 150-1)
  • This is the only law concerning divorce in the OT. It presupposes the practice of divorce, in which the husband has extensive rights, the giving of a certificate, and the dismissal from the home.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 357-8)
  • This law deals with very specific circumstances and is not primarily about the rights and wrongs of divorce and remarriage. This is indicated by the presence of the word “if” three times (24:1, 2, 3) and “then” twice (24:1, 4) in key places.  These are called casuistic laws, which is the name given for laws that apply general laws to specific circumstances.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 544)
  • Apart from this episode OT narratives provide few clues on whether or not Israelites adhered to the principles underlying marriage and divorce found here. They report husbands abandoning their wives temporarily (Jdg 19), but they do not record a single instance of divorce initiated by a husband or wife until after the exile.  According to Ezra 9-10, Ezra ordered the Jews of postexilic Jerusalem to divorce their pagan wives, because these marriages threatened the integrity of the “holy seed.”  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 561)
  • The Pentateuch prescribed death for adultery (Lv 20:10; Dt 22:22; cf. Dt 22:23-27). It must be concluded, therefore, that the provisions of Dt 24:1-4 cannot apply to a case of proven adultery on the part of the wife.  She and her guilty partner were both put to death.  (John Murray, Divorce, 10)
  • In the time of Jesus divorce had grown easier and easier, so that a situation had arisen in which girls were actually unwilling to marry, because marriage was so insecure. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 152)
  • (v. 1) Indeed, it is noteworthy to discover that in those lists of heinous sins (1 Cor 6:9-10; Rv 22:15; Gal 5:19-21, etc.) selfishness, envy and other somewhat unexpected items (like slander) take their place side by side with drunkenness, idolatry, murder and homosexuality, but not once is there mentioned the sin of unlawful divorce. (Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, 24-5)
  • (v. 1) Divorce was an easy matter for the husband in the Semitic world. There is no law in the OT which institutes it because it is simply taken for granted as part of age-old custom.  What the law tries to do is to regulate it, usually in favor of the wife.  We infer from this law that a man could divorce his wife (a) only for good cause; (b) the case must be brought before some public official; and (c) a legal document prepared and placed in the wife’s hand.  These formalities, involving time and money, would act as a deterrent to hasty or rash action, which end the present law would further serve.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2, 473-4)
  • (v. 1) The Unseemly Thing. (Indecent – NIV) It has to be admitted that it is exceedingly difficult if not precarious to be certain as to what the “unseemly thing” really was.  The Hebrew literally means “nakedness of a thing.”  As is well known, Rabbinical interpretation was sharply divided on this question.  The school of Shammai regarded it as unchastity of behavior, the school of Hillel as any indecency or anything displeasing to the husband.  Some of the latter school deemed most frivolous reasons as sufficient.  (John Murray, Divorce, 9-10)
  • (v. 1) While falling short of illicit sexual intercourse it may well be that the indecency consisted in some kind of shameful conduct connected with sex life. Or it may have been some other kind of impropriety worthy of censure on the part of the husband.

It is, consequently, necessary to strike a balance between the rigid interpretation of the school of Shammai and the loose one of the school of Hillel.  We must suppose something shameful and offensive that gives to the husband some legitimate ground for displeasure and complaint.  (John Murray, Divorce, 12)

  • (v. 4) The regulation that is now made is a restriction on the first husband, who may not remarry the woman. The reason is that “she has been declared defiled.”  The word “defiled” is regularly used for cultic uncleanness, that which is unacceptable in the holiness sphere.  And the sexual realm is one of those in which defilement might occur.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 358-9)

(v. 4) Perhaps God gave this prohibition to ensure that marriage was not reduced to wife-swapping, a practice that defiled the very meaning and covenant of marriage.  No one could say, “I’ll go marry someone else and if that doesn’t work, I’ll go back to my first mate.”  God wanted the sanctity of marriage to be maintained.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 257)

  • (v. 4) The main requirement of the law comes in its final clauses in verse 4:  a man may not remarry a wife he has divorced if she has subsequently been married by another man and then divorced or widowed.  The practical effect of this rule is to protect the unfortunate woman from becoming a kind of marital football, passed back and forth between irresponsible men.  It is likewise for the woman’s protection that a certificate of divorce is to be given to the woman (lit. “into her hand”), since it proves her status as free to marry the second man.  Otherwise, she (and he) could be accused of adultery.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 255)
  • (v. 4) Whatever may be true of the second marriage, irrespective of return to the first husband, the moment return is envisaged, then, with reference to the first husband, the woman has been defiled.  And it is this restoration that is called an abomination.  All of this forcibly reminds us of the grave abnormalities that inhere in the practice of divorce.  The one insurmountable obstacle to the marriage of this particular woman with this particular man is not that the woman had been married to another man but simply that the particular man concerned is the man from whom she had been divorced.  It is the fact of divorce that bears the whole onus of ultimate responsibility for the defilement that is sure to enter when the first marriage is restored after a second had been consummated.  (John Murray, Divorce, 15)
  • Moses permitted divorce as a social reality, but he realized the potential for abuse, especially of women, inherent even in customs that had evolved in Israel. Malachi was more forthright, castigating the men of his time for their treacherous betrayal of their wives and citing the high divorce rate as evidence of the absence of fundamental piety and fear of Yahweh.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 561-2)
  • The Pharisees regarded Dt 24:1 as a proof text for divorce. But Jesus focused on marriage rather than divorce.  He pointed out that God intended marriage to be a covenant–a permanent promise of love and faithfulness.  The Pharisees regarded divorce as a legal issue rather than a spiritual one–marriage and divorce were merely transactions similar to buying and selling land (with women being treated as property).  But Jesus condemned this attitude, clarifying God’s original intention–that marriage bring unity that no one should separate.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 369)
  • Divorce, if it were rightly done, would be done as an act of love. It would be dictated by love and done for the honest good of the people involved.  Such divorce, though rare, remains nonetheless possible and may be necessary.  If it were truly done on this basis, it would be rightly done, in spite of the heartbreak and loss it is sure to involve.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 172)


The questions to be answered are . . . What is God through Moses trying to teach us about marriage?


Answer:  Marriage is for the mutual happiness, security, and welfare of a man and woman as God makes them one.  God hates any perversion, corruption or dissolution of the marriage covenant because it is earth’s closest example of God’s love and commitment to us.


The Word for the Day is . . . Marriage


What is God teaching us about marriage?:

I-  Marriage is a legally binding covenant of a man and woman to each other.  (Gn 2:23-24; Mt 19:3-12; 1 Cor 7; Eph 5:21-33)


We cannot redefine what only God has the prerogative to define.  Marriage is the one-flesh union of a man and a woman in a wholehearted, mutual, and lifelong relationship.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 252)


According to God’s plan, when a man marries, he establishes a bond with his wife of such a nature that she is as much a part of him as his own body is.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 377)


In a consumer relationship you relate to a vendor.  And you have a relationship as long as  the vendor is giving you a product at a good price.  But you are always looking to an upgrade.   And so you say to your vendor, “We have a relationship.  But, you better keep adjusting to me because if you don’t meet my needs, I’m out-a-here because my needs are more important than the relationship.” . . . But a covenant relationship is exactly the opposite. . . . A covenant relationship says, “I will adjust to you because I have made a promise.  And the relationship is more important than my needs.  My needs are less important than the sustenance of the relationship.”

Now if two people get into a relationship, one as a consumer and one as a covenanter; that will be bad for the covenanter; that covenant will be exploited.  (Tim Keller message “Love and Lust”)


Indeed, sex is perhaps the most powerful God-created way to help you give your entire self to another human being.  Sex is God’s appointed way for two people to reciprocally say to one another, “I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.”  You must not use sex to say anything less.

So, according to the Bible, a covenant is necessary for sex.  It creates a place of security for vulnerability and intimacy.  But though a marriage covenant is necessary for sex, sex is also necessary for the maintenance of the covenant.  It is your covenant renewal service.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 257)


When you are committed to a person in spite of your feelings, deeper feelings grow.  For example:  The other covenant relationship is the relationship between parents and children. . . . In parenting you get very little back, for a long time, and they never catch up.   You give and you give and you never get back.  It is not a consumer relationship at all.  You adjust to them. . . . What is weird is you do it and you are so invested in your children so that even when they in no way act in a lovable way, you love them.  There is a deeper richer kind of feeling because you are invested in them.  And in the same way, if you treat your marriage . . . as a covenant relationship, if you are committed in spite of feelings, deeper feelings grow.   (Tim Keller message “Love and Lust”)


In Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Skin of our Teeth,” one of the characters reminds her perennially straying husband of the real basis of their marriage.  “I didn’t marry you because you were perfect,” she tells him.  “I didn’t even marry you because I loved you.  I married you because you gave me a promise.  That promise made up for your faults.  And the promise I gave you made up for mine.  Two imperfect people got married and it was that promise that made the marriage.”  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 223)


If you get into a covenant relationship . . . you finally have a zone of security, a zone of safety, a place where you can finally be yourself.  You see, in a consumer relationship you are always marketing, you are always selling yourself, you’ve got to perform, you’ve got to meet the other person’s need or they’re out.  But in a covenant, in a marriage . . . you can finally have a zone of safety, you can finally get rid of the facades, you can finally let him know, her know about your insecurities.  You can finally be yourself.   (Tim Keller message “Love and Lust”)


Marriage should not narrow life; it should complete it.  For both partners, it must bring a new fullness, a new satisfaction, a new contentment into life.  It is the union of two personalities in which the two complete each other.  That does not mean that adjustments, and even sacrifices, have not to be made; but it does mean that the final relationship is fuller, more joyous and more satisfying than any life in singleness could be.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 237)


To be preoccupied with the grounds for divorce is to be guilty of the very pharisaism which Jesus condemned.  His whole emphasis in debating with the rabbis was positive, namely on God’s original institution of marriage as an exclusive and permanent relationship, on God’s “yoking” of two people into a union which man must not break, and (one might add) on his call to his followers to love and forgive one another, and to be peacemakers in every situation of strife and discord.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 98)


“I can’t promise you forever,” a Hallmark card says, “But I can promise you today.”  It’s the quintessential love card for the 90s:  No commitment, just warm feelings…as long as they last.  No wonder 60 percent of marriages are failing.  Young people are literally training themselves for relationships without commitment.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 205)


II-  The consummation of a marriage makes the man and the woman one flesh. (Gn 2:24; Mt 19:5; Mk 10:8; 1 Cor 6:16; Eph 5:31)


In marriage a man and woman are so closely joined that they become “one flesh,” which involved spiritual as well as physical oneness.  In marriage God brings a husband and wife together in a unique physical and spiritual bond that reaches to the very depths of their souls.  As God designed it, marriage is to be the welding of two people together into one unit, the blending of two minds, two wills, two sets of emotions, two spirits.  It is a bond the Lord intends to be indissoluble as long as both partners are alive.  The Lord created sex and procreation to be the fullest expression of that oneness, and the intimacies of marriage are not to be shared with any other human being.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 311)


The “one flesh” status  during intercourse of a man and woman married in a covenant relationship, is eschatologically symbolic of God’s desire to be one with mankind.  Any perversion of that symbol is blasphemous to God’s nature and His relationship with mankind. (Gn 2:24; Mt 19:3-9; Mk 10:2-12; Jn 17; 1 Cor 6:12-19; Eph 5:21-33) — Pastor Keith


Sex is glorious.  We would know that even if we didn’t have the Bible.  Sex leads us to words of adoration–it literally evokes shouts of joy and praise.  Through the Bible, we know why this is true.  John 17 tells us that from all eternity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been adoring and glorifying each other, living in high devotion to each other, pouring love and joy into one another’s hearts continually (cf. Jn 1:18; 17;5, 21, 24-25).  Sex between a man and a woman points to the love between the Father and the Son (1 Cor 11:3).  It is a reflection of the joyous self-giving and pleasure of love within the very life of the triune God.

Sex is glorious not only because it reflects the joy of the Trinity but also because it points to the eternal delight of soul that we will have in heaven, in our loving relationships with God and one another.  Rom 7:1ff tells us that the best marriages are pointers to the deep, infinitely fulfilling, and final union we will have with Christ in love.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 270-1)


Your sexuality is an intense battle because it is the arena where God desires to demonstrate who He is and what He’s like.  Through sexual intercourse, God desires to demonstrate what communion with Him is meant to be.  It’s the taste of the intimacy we crave.  (Michael John Cusick, Surfing for God, 113)


Clearly “one flesh” (1 Cor 6) means something different to Paul than mere sexual union, or Paul would be reciting a mere tautology:  “Don’t you know that when you have physical union with a prostitute you are having physical union with a prostitute?”  Obviously, Paul also understands becoming “one flesh” here to mean becoming one person.  One flesh refers to the personal union of a man and woman at all levels of their lives.  Paul, then, is decrying the monstrosity of physical oneness without all the other kinds of oneness that every sex act should mirror.”  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 258)


Christ affirmed the teaching summarized in it–that marriage is not merely a mechanical or legal union but so complete a merging of two lives that the husband and wife become “one flesh,” one organism.  Their sexual union is only part of the complete union, which is also psychological and spiritual.  To separate the two partners of such a merging is rather like hacking the leg off one man and trying to graft it onto another man’s thigh.  (Chad Walsh, Early Christians of the 21st Century, 125)


The union of husband and wife merges two persons in such a way that little can affect one without also affecting the other.  “Oneness” in marriage does not mean that a person loses his or her personality in the personality of the other.  Instead, it means caring for the spouse as oneself, learning to anticipate his or her needs, and helping the other person become all he or she can be.  The creation story tells of God’s plan that husband and wife should be one (Gn 2:24), and Jesus also referred to this plan (Mt 19:4-6).  Are you experiencing oneness in your marriage?  Are you caring for your spouse as you should?  What can you do to work toward God’s perfect plan of oneness with your spouse?  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 372)


Men may question why they keep going back to a woman who treats them poorly or may wonder why they never seem able to feel, deep inside, a commitment to a woman after having sex partner after sex partner.  Sadly, they simply do not know that their brains are flooded with vasopressin during sexual intercourse and that this neurochemical produces a partial bond with every woman they have sex with.  They do not realize that this pattern of having sex with one woman and then breaking up and then having sex with another woman limits them to experience only one form of brain activity common to humans involved sexually–the dopamine rush of sex.  (A. Aron, H. Fisher, et al., “Reward, motivation, and emotional systems associated with early-stage intense romantic love,” Journal of Neurophysiology, 327-37)  (Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD & Freda McKissic Bush, MD, Hooked, 43)


An individual who is sexually involved, then breaks up and then is sexually involved again, and who repeats this cycle again and again is in danger of negative emotional consequences.  People who behave in this manner are acting against, almost fighting against, the way they are made to function.  When connectedness and bonding form and then are quickly broken and replaced with another sexual relationship, it often actually causes damage to the brain’s natural connecting or bonding mechanism.  (Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD & Freda McKissic Bush, MD, Hooked, 105)


God created us with sexual passion so that there would be language to describe what it means to cleave to him in love and what it means to turn away from him to others.  (John Piper, Justin Taylor, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, 28)


Theologian Christopher West remarked, “If the body and sex are meant to proclaim our union with God, and if there is an enemy who wants to separate us from God, what do you think he is going to attack?  If we want to know what is most sacred in this world, all we need do is look at what is most violently profaned.” (Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners, 11)


There is not the slightest suggestion here that natural sexual relations within the commitment of marriage are anything but God-given and beautiful.  We may thank God that the Song of Solomon is contained in the canon of Scripture, for there is no Victorian prudery there but rather the uninhibited delight of lovers, of bride and bridegroom in each other.  No.  The teaching of Jesus here refers to unlawful sex outside marriage, whether practiced by married or unmarried people.  He is not even forbidding us to look at a woman, but to look lustfully.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 87)


III-  The bottom line of marriage is for each to be concerned about the welfare and happiness of the other as for themselves.  (Dt 24:5; see also: Prv 5:19; Sng of Sol.; 1 Cor 7; Eph 5:21-33)


Newlyweds were given one full year to adjust to married life, and the husband had no military duty or business responsibilities during that period.  Why was this time to be set apart?  So the husband could “bring happiness to his wife.

Early Mosaic law made it clear that the emotional well-being of a wife was the specific responsibility of her husband.  It was his job to “cheer” her.  It still is!  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 259)


In those days many in the national army were not full-time soldiers.  When there was a war, they left their usual professions to participate in the battle.  Newly married men are exempted from battles and from special civic duties.  Presumably during this year the man will still do what he usually does to earn a living.  One reason for this exemption ought to be that he can have a child to ensure the continuity of his family, as there is the possibility of his dying in the battle.  The reason given here, however, is, “to be happy with his wife.”  This should more accurately read, “bring happiness to the wife he has married (TNIV).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 545-6)


Again the Biblical ethic proves to have a higher standard than the surrounding culture.  Even today in some circles people think the wife’s job is to serve and make her husband happy.  Here the reverse is commanded.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 546)


The Fall distorted and perverted the marriage relationship.  Henceforth the wife’s “desire” for her husband would no longer be the desire to help but the desire to control–the same desire that sin had for Cain (see Gn 4:7, where the identical Hebrew construction is used).  For the man’s part, his “rule” over his wife henceforth would be one of stern control, in opposition to her desire to control him.  At the Fall the battle of the sexes began, and women’s liberation and male chauvinism have ever since been clouding and corrupting the divine plan for marriage.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 312)


You should stop making excuses for selfishness, you should begin to root it out as it’s revealed to you, and you should do so regardless of what your spouse is doing.  If two spouses each say, “I’m going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage,” you have the prospect of a truly great marriage.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 64)


The true basis of marriage is not complicated and difficult to understand–it is simply the love which thinks more of the happiness of others than it thinks of its own, the love which is proud to serve, which is able to understand, and therefore always able to forgive.  That is to say, it is the Christlike love, which knows that in forgetting self it will find self, and that in losing itself it will complete itself.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 239)


In marriage each partner should pursue his or her own joy in the joy of the other; that is, marriage should be a matrix of Christian hedonism.  (John Piper, Brothers, We are NOT Professionals, 250)


A happy marriage is the union of two forgivers.  — Ruth Bell Graham


Home:  where each lives for the other, and all live for God.  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 11)


Selfishness is the greatest cause of marital failure.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 104)


The basis of marriage is togetherness, and the basis of togetherness is nothing other than considerateness.  If marriage is to succeed, the partners must always be thinking more of each other than of themselves.  Selfishness is the murderer of any personal relationship; and that is truest of all when two people are bound together in marriage.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 238)


“Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.  The overflow is experienced consciously as the pursuit of our joy in the joy of another.   We double our delights in God as we expand it in the lives of others.   If our ultimate goal were anything less than joy in God, we would be idolaters and would be no eternal help to anyone.  Therefore, the pursuit of pleasure is an essential motive for every good deed.   And if you aim to abandon the pursuit of full and lasting pleasure, you cannot love people or please God.”  (John Piper; Desiring God, 121)


Love is a heart that moves…Love moves away from the self and toward the other.  —Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III


Love is essentially defined in terms of preoccupation with the other’s needs.  The central goal of every interchange between partners must be to minister to the other’s deepest needs for security and significance.  I may legitimately desire a particular response from my wife.  But if my spouse for whatever reasons fails to respond as I wish, then I must honor my goal of ministry through an uncomplaining, nonpressuring acceptance of my disappointing spouse.  This acceptance would be motivated by my awareness of her deep needs for love and by my commitment to do all that I can do to touch those needs.  (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, 53)


Gentlemen, what are we doing each day for our wives that involves sacrifice?  What are you doing each day for your wife that is costing you something? — C.J. Mahaney


A love that will not bear all, care for all, share all, is not love at all.


The measure of our love is the measure of our sacrifice.


If you love, you will suffer, and if you do not love, you do not know the meaning of a Christian life.  — Agatha Christie


The only really happy people are those who have learned how to serve. — Albert Schweitzer


We find our happiness by helping others find theirs. (Patrick Morely; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 117)


Older views of marriage are considered to be traditional and oppressive, while the newer view of the “Me-Marriage” seems so liberating.  And yet it is the newer view that has led to a steep decline in marriage and to an oppressive sense of hopelessness with regard to it.  To conduct a Me-Marriage requires two completely well-adjusted, happy individuals, with very little in the way of emotional neediness of their own or character flaws that need a lot of work.  The problem is–there is almost no one like that out there to marry!  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 28)


Perfect love is a kind of self-abandonment and self-sacrifice.  Love requires us to die to ourselves and our own interests for the sake of the one we love.  To love a person we must sacrifice ourselves to please him.  Because of this high price love demands we become quite upset if love is not returned or the person we love does not pay us any attention.  (Henry Scougal and Robert Leighton; God’s Abundant Life, 42)


A servant puts someone else’s needs ahead of his or her own.  That is how all believers should live with each other.  And if all believers are to serve each other in this way, how much more intentionally and intensely should husbands and wives have this attitude toward one another?  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 51)


Anyone who promotes abstinence from marriage on the basis that all sexual expression is evil of “paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (see 1 Tm 4:1-3).  Speaking of the marriage relationship, Paul commands, “Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband…Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor 7:3, 5).  Sexual expression not only is a thrilling privilege but an obligation of marriage.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 301)


The immunity here given has for its object the awakening of that mutual love which may preserve the conjugal fidelity of husband and wife; for there is danger lest, if a husband departs from his wife immediately after marriage, the bride, before she has become thoroughly accustomed to him, should be too prone to fall in love with someone else.  A similar danger affects the husband; for in war, and other expeditions, many things occur which tempt men to sin.  God, therefore, would have the love of husband and wife fostered by their association for a whole year, that thus mutual confidence may be established between them, and they may afterwards continually beware of all incontinency.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 84)


During the first few years of marriage the husband is so busy with the task of laying a good foundation in his career that he does not give sufficient attention to showing affection to his wife.  The wife, after looking for affection from her husband and not getting a satisfactory response, soon begins to pour her love and her energies into her children.  When the husband reaches middle age, he has a general picture of the course his career will take.  He realizes that he has neglected the most important things in his life, such as showing affection to his wife.  When he turns to his wife with affection, he finds that she has now gained new interests and does not respond as he wishes.  Having been hurt by her unrealized expectations and having raised children to relative independence, she is ready now to pursue a career and things she considers to be fulfilling.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 546)


A man who has just taken his bride is exempt from military duty (cf. 20:7) and from all outside responsibilities.  The awkward clause “have any other duty laid on him” refers to duties that might be imposed on him for the good of the community.  He must invest his energies in establishing solid economic and social foundations for his household.  Indeed, the exemptions are to apply for one full year.

The verse ends with a remarkable rationale:  husbands of new brides are exempt from all communal obligations so they may devote themselves to the happiness of their wives.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 560)


The possibility of producing a child and heir in the family is highest during the first year in the cultural milieu and age spans of the ancient Near East.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 499)


One year will also allow time for a child to be born, which in wartime, with its loss of life and scarcity of marriages, will help populate the next generation (Luther; Michaelis 1814, 3:35).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 675)


Because the health of a community depends on the health of marriages, support for newlyweds should be a communal matter.  This would mean not only offering communal assistance for getting the marriage off the ground, but also discouraging newlyweds from taking on responsibilities in the church for a specified period–Moses suggests a year.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 565)


Whether we are husband or wife, we are not to live for ourselves but for the other.  And that is the hardest yet single most important function of being a husband or a wife in marriage.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 50)


Someone has quipped that marriage is a three-ring circus.  First, you have the engagement ring, then you have the wedding ring, and finally you have the suffering!  That is not the Biblical idea of marriage.  The Biblical picture of marriage is that of a joyous relationship.  Note that the husband has the responsibility to make his wife happy.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 546)


IV-  Divorce (real or imagined) is a perversion, corruption and total rejection and reversal of God’s ordained plan for marriage.  (Dt 24:1-4; see also: Dt 21:10-14; Ezra 10:1-16; Neh 13:23-30; Jer chs 3-4; Mal 2:10-16; Mt 5:31-32; 19:3-12; Mk 10:2ff; Lk 16:18; 1 Cor 7:10-17)


The passage does not seek to regulate divorce per se, but the conduct of the husband after the divorce has occurred.  Having humiliated his wife by coercing her to declare herself unclean, he may not reclaim her if she has remarried and then loses her second husband through divorce or death.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 561)


The passage that was intended to regulate man’s rebellion against God’s purpose in marriage was distorted to provide an excuse for divorce.  The hard hearts that this law was meant to restrain used it to their own ends.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 91)


Marriage is not the problem.  Hard-hearted men (and let’s add women, to be fair) are the problem–then, now, always.  You are the problem. Take away the disease of hard-heartedness, and you can take away all divorce laws, divorce attorneys, and divorce settlements.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 539)


The emphasis in this legislation was not on regulating the behavior of the wife but in restricting the right of a husband to treat his wife as a disposable property.  He must be sure that he wanted to end the marriage the first time, because once his wife was gone from his house she was lost to him forever.  To show disrespect for a former wife by maintaining a future interest in her as a mate would be to bring sin upon the land that God was giving Israel.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 282)


The ultimate grounds for divorce is human meanness.  If it weren’t for that, even adultery would not legitimate divorce.  No doubt what was foremost in his mind was the fact that the woman could quite well wind up dead, or brutally abused, if the man could not “dump” her.  It is still so today, of course.  Such is “our hardness of heart.”  Better, then, that a divorce occur than life be made unbearable.  Jesus does nothing to retract this principle.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 169-70)


The primary references to divorce in the law (Dt 22:18-29; 24:1-4) are “case laws” referring to particular situations.  No general law on divorce is present.  Only Dt 24:1 alludes to the procedure to be followed.  Several Biblical stories recount divorces (Gn 21:8-13; Jdg 14:19, 20; 15:2, 5; 1 Sm 18:12-17).  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, 149)


It was said that the very altar wept tears when a man divorced the wife of his youth.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 229)


If God Himself became involved in divorce proceedings with Israel, it is surely wrong to condemn any and all divorce out of hand.  Obviously, from this passage (and the passage from Mt 19) it is certain that sometimes, in some ways, divorce, for some persons, under some circumstances is altogether proper and not the object of God’s hatred.  (Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, 23)


It is not an accident that Jesus deals with divorce after having dealt with anger, contempt, and obsessive desire.  Just ask yourself how many divorces would occur, and in how many cases the question of divorce would never even have arisen, if anger, contempt, and obsessive fantasized desire were eliminated.  The answer is, of course, hardly any at all.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 172)


No child can be conceived by the procreative act of a man and woman who is not first conceived by the creative act of God.  Every marriage and every child is a creation of God, and therefore divorce and abortion share this tragically evil common denominator:  they kill a creation of God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 167)


God hates divorce.  He did not institute it; He only recognizes and regulates it under certain biblically-prescribed circumstances.  But–and this is the important concept to gain from reading this chapter–even though God hates divorce, because there is sin behind every divorce as its cause, not every divorce is sinful.  Some are proper (remember Jer 3:8; Mt 1:19).  God permitted divorce within stringently defined limits.  There are legitimate causes for divorce, even though (perhaps it would be better to say because) those causes involved sin.  Even though all divorces are the result of sin, not all divorces are sinful.  (Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, 30)


Although divorce stems from sin, divorce itself is not sin.  Several times God threatened to divorce Israel (Isa 50:1).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 257)


It is God who has done the “cementing,” it is not for a human being to try to undo it.  Indeed, it might be argued that it is impossible, that there is something onto-logical about the “one flesh” union which no human decision can destroy; the man and the woman are no longer two independent beings who may choose to go their own way, but a single indivisible unit.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 718)


The creator of the human race intended its two halves, male and female, to be joined in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined.  To divide a one-flesh union isn’t so much like dissolving a business partnership, or canceling a club membership; it’s much more like cutting a living body in two.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 222)


The “defilement” attributed to the woman forms a catchword link into a motivation clause (4b), condemning the sin as “abhorrent” to Yahweh.  The term usually refers to apostasy, but can be extended to the sexual and other ethical spheres (see on 7:25-26).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 360)


Having the divorce statement in writing was for the woman’s protection.  Should she remarry, she would need proof that her former marriage was terminated, otherwise she could be charged with adultery.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 672)


The word translated “unfaithfulness” implies a sexually immoral lifestyle, not a confessed and repented act of adultery.  Those who discover that their spouse has been unfaithful should first make every effort to forgive, reconcile, and restore their relationship.  We should always look for reasons to restore the marriage relationship rather than for excuses to leave it.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 98)


Divorce and remarriage are not likely to be the problem in themselves, for there is nothing elsewhere in the laws to suggest this.  The possibility of return to the first husband, however, introduces a new element.  One suggestion is that a return in this way would be in practice a form of legalized adultery or “wife-swapping”.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 359)


The woman is a victim in the case, and the use of the language of uncleanness trades on the terminology from the realm of adultery in order to show that she has been ill-treated.  The first husband, in particular, has forfeited his right to marry her because he shamed her, driving her as a result into a second marriage.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 360)


In this law God doesn’t give divorce his approval or his blessing.  Neither does God command divorce, even in circumstances when the other spouse has broken the marriage by adultery or desertion.  God gave this law to protect a wife from financial hardship and injustice if her husband decided to divorce her for a trivial reason.  Although it isn’t stated, such a divorce action probably had to be carried out in the presence of a public official.  By attaching strong regulations to divorce, and by prohibiting remarriage to the original spouse after an intervening marriage, this law probably discouraged divorce.  It may have helped to prevent a first divorce, or it may have helped to sustain a second marriage.  In the ancient Near East, divorce was almost exclusively a prerogative of the man.  A law such as this discouraged the easy transfer of a woman from one man to another; consequently, it improved the status of women.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 221)


The Hebrew divorce was intended to protect the wife.  In ancient civilization women were second-class citizens.  In the heathen cultures around Israel, women were bought, sold, and traded like animals.  The bill of divorcement mentioned here actually protected the woman and released her from further domestic obligations in the man’s house.  She was awarded financial protection.  Custom required the husband who divorced his wife to return her dowry and give her a portion of his own estate equal to that dowry.  She left the marriage with twice the lands, property, or money that she brought into the marriage.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 257)


In modern society, marriage and divorce are not only regulated by law, but are invalid unless conducted or decreed by accredited officials in accredited places (churches and register offices, or law-courts in the case of divorce).  In Israel, however, both were purely domestic matters, with no officials and scarcely any documents involved; the bill of divorce was the exception, and it was essential, to protect the divorced woman from any charge of adultery, which was punishable by death (cf. 22:22).  We may guess from verses 1-4 that in Canaanite circles, divorce and remarriage was freely permitted; but once again, Israel set herself higher standards.  And Jesus set an even higher standard in this matter, cf. Mk 10:2-12.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 133-4)


Weinfeld (1972, 269) thinks the action envisioned here is an “abomination” because it shows “a lack of integrity and a pyrocritical attitude toward the institution of marriage.”  And if Westbrook is right in arguing that such a divorce and remarriage might be carried out by the husband largely for financial gain, this would surely show a lack of integrity on the man’s part, and Yahweh would find such to be an abomination.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 674)


At first it may seem that the wife is being given shoddy treatment here.  Actually this law is intended to protect her.  In those days marriages and divorces were not performed by government authorities or authorities accredited by the government, which is what officiating ministers at weddings are today.  They were domestic matters, and all that the husband needed to do was to tell his wife that he was divorcing her.  The Bible brought in laws to protect the wife, which is what the “certificate of divorce” (24:1) does.  Without something in writing that she was divorced, she would be accused of adultery if she marries again.  This law “provides guideposts” for divorce.  There had to be adequate grounds for divorce, and a legal document was required.  This law makes divorce a serious matter.  In those days a woman could be easily transferred from man to man.  She could be discarded by her husband without adequate reasons.

What this law says is that a man cannot just change his mind after divorcing his wife and simply take her back.  It forces the man to think more seriously, before divorcing, of the implications of divorcing his wife.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 544-5)


Moses declares that if the woman’s second husband divorces her or he dies, the original husband may not change his mind and remarry his wife.  While scholars have suggested a variety of reasons for denying him the right to remarry her, if ʿerwat dâbâr involves a physical rather than moral problem, the prohibition sought to protect the woman from further abuse from her husband.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 559)


We must remember that adultery always involves a violation of the marriage covenant in such a way that a third party is introduced into the picture claiming the right (or privilege) to do for one of the two parties what they have contracted to do for one another.

Normally, adultery takes place while the marriage contract is still in effect.  In the situation to which Jesus refers (Dt 24) that contract has been broken for sinful reasons.  Therefore, while it is truly broken (and no rights, privileges or obligations of marriage are permitted or required at this point), nevertheless the divorced parties have no right in God’s eyes to be in a divorced state.  They are obligated to be reconciled in remarriage so that they can renew the contract and continue to pursue their vows.  That is the point (cf. 1 Cor 7:10, 11).  As Paul says, they must remain unmarried not only in order to be in a position to be reconciled (as we saw earlier) but, as we now see, also in order not to commit adultery.  (Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, 67)


The bill of divorcement we have good reason to believe, was mandatory in the case of dismissal.  It served a variety of purposes.  It was a legal document and therefore served as a deterrent of hasty action on the part of the husband–it would serve to restrain frivolous, thoughtless and rash dismissal.  It would also be a testimonial to the woman of her freedom from marital obligations to the husband who sent her away.  And it would be a protective instrument in the matter of the woman’s reputation and well-being, particularly in the event that she married another man.  (John Murray, Divorce, 9)


Any view of divorce and remarriage (taught in either Testament) that sees the problem only in terms of what may or may not be done has already overlooked a basic fact–divorce is never to be thought of as a God-ordained, morally neutral option but as evidence of sin, of hardness of heart.  The fundamental attitude of the Pharisees to the question was wrong.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 413)


The structural parallels between 21:10-14 and this text offer clues on how to interpret this text.  Both texts contemplate situations in which a woman is vulnerable to abuse within a marital relationship, and both seek to protect the dignity of a woman who has been rejected by her husband.  On this analogy, our text is not intended as a law on divorce but as a prohibition on remarriage, the primary concern being to protect wives from abuse by men, specifically a first husband.  Moses does so by reiterating existing procedures for releasing wives from the bonds of marriage and insisting that when a husband divorces his wife, he relinquishes his authority over her.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 557)


The three-step process summarized in verse 1b was intended not only to free a husband from an undesirable marriage, but also to protect the well-being of his wife.  The husband would first write for his wife a certificate of divorce, a document that officially severed the marital bond.  Then, the husband would place the certificate in the hands of the woman.  The certificate was vital for the woman, especially if the document relinquished the husband’s rights to her and her dowry and authorized her to return to her family of origin or to marry another man.  From the man’s perspective, the record of the returned dowry would prevent the woman’s family from making further claims against him.  Finally, the husband would expel the woman from his house.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 558-9)


The school of Shammai say:  A man may not divorce his wife unless he has found unchastity in her, for it is written, Because he hath found in her indecency in anything.

And the school of Hillel say:  [He may divorce her] even if she spoiled a dish for him, for it is written, Because he hath found in her indecency in anything.  R. Akiba says:  Even if he found another fairer than she, for it is written, And it shall be if she find no favor in his eyes. . . (Giţţin 9:10).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 563)


Jesus’ interpretation follows the narrower view of Shammai.  Indeed, he sets the bar even higher than Dt 24:1-4, transforming Moses’ iteration of a customary provision of a certificate of divorce into a virtual command and restricting legitimate cause for divorce to porneia (“marital unfaithfulness”; lit., “sexual immorality”; see also Mt 19:8-9).  Furthermore, he cautions men not to divorce their wives for any other reasons, for in so doing they become responsible for their wives’ subsequent adultery, which is what happens when men divorce innocent women and then the latter remarry.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 563)


Divorce in the books of Moses (Lv 21:7, 14; 22:14; Nm 30:9) appears as a fact of social life; while under certain circumstances it was permitted, it was to be regulated. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 145)


The Christian measures his actions by the ideal.  Anything less is sin.  Sin can be atoned only by the gracious forgiveness of God.  Specifically, divorce is not the will of God; it is evil.  Divorce hurts the husband and wife, the children, the families, the Church, and the community.  The damage of divorce is irreparable.  To divorce a woman, Jesus taught, is to brand her as unfaithful.  If a man marries a divorcee, he becomes suspect.  This approach finds no “justification” for divorce.  Subsequently when the Pharisees challenged Jesus’ authority to go beyond the commands by appealing to Moses, he responded that Moses was simply accommodating God’s perfect will because of the sinfulness of the people.  Moses was giving laws for the state; and the laws of the state can never be as demanding as those of the faith.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, 150)


Do Not Rush Into Divorce.  Augustine:  The Lord explains the intention of the law, which required a bill of divorce in every case where a wife was put away.  The precept not to put away a wife is the opposite of saying that a man may put away his wife if he pleases, which is not what the law says.  On the contrary, to prevent the wife from being put away, the law required this intermediate step, that the eagerness for separation might be checked by the writing of this bill and the man might have time to think of the evil of putting away his wife.  AGAINST FAUSTUS, A MANICHAEAN 19:26.  (Thomas C. Oden, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. 3, 315-6)


In the four verses under consideration, Moses takes up a particular case (just described) and in order to eliminate the practice of easy divorce and remarriage that evidently prevailed in the surrounding pagan culture (and that also may have been becoming prevalent among God’s people) puts an end to capricious action of the sort.  “If I’m wrong, I’ll just remarry Mary, if and when she becomes available again or if I can induce her to leave her second husband and return to me” was the way some were thinking.  No! says Moses in this passage.  “You’d better think twice before you divorce her, because if you can’t get her to remarry you before she marries another, you will have lost the opportunity to do so forever,” says Moses.  (Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, 62-3)


What is contemplated and forbidden in Dt 24 that Jehovah calls an abomination and that leads to defilement has to do with more than the mere succession (which was identical to that of David and Michal).  God would not have the land into which they were entering filled with the practice that he condemns so roundly in Dt 24.  The wife of Dt 24, then, was not defiled by sexual relations with the second husband, but by her involvement in marriage and sexual relations because of a divorce (though legal) that was sinful.  Because the divorce was for some flimsy reason, it was sinful, and so was the second marriage.  (Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, 65)


Since the Pharisees persisted not only in misunderstanding divorce, Jesus makes the meaning of “defiled” even more explicit–He calls it adultery.  He is saying that a wife who is divorced on “any ground” (Mt 19:3), short of fornication, like the one in Dt 24 (who is divorced because of an erwath dabar–something repulsive) is caused by that divorce to commit adultery if she marries another.

The reason the husband may not marry her again even after the death of her second husband (as well as after a divorce) is that he has caused her to be defiled in divorcing her for a sinful reason.  The defilement equals adultery.  If she had been free to remarry, she would not have committed adultery when she did, and she would not be considered defiled.  In Mt 5:32 it is clear that she is not really eligible to marry another (remember, Dt 24 doesn’t say the wife is free to marry either; it simply records the fact that, in the case proposed, she does, indeed, do so), because to do so would lead to adultery on her part as well as on the part of the second husband.  (Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, 66-7)


I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 97)


Fornication is unequivocally stated to be the only legitimate ground for which a man may put away his wife.  The word used here is the more generic term for sexual uncleanness, namely, fornication.  This term may be used of all kinds of illicit sexual intercourse and may apply to such on the part of unmarried persons, in whose case the sin would not be in the specific sense adultery.  (John Murray, Divorce, 20-1)


Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe who day after day and millennium after millennium demonstrates to all of mankind what it means to be married.


A magnificent marriage begins not with knowing one another but with knowing God. —Gary and Betsy Ricucci


Love begets love (Shirley Marsh 3-27-13)


The ancient Jewish text The Holy Letter (written by Nahmanides in the thirteenth century) sees sex as a mystical experience of meeting with God:  “Through the act [of intercourse] they become partners with God in the act of creation.  This is the mystery of what the sages said, ‘When a man unites with his wife in holiness, the Shekinah is between them in the mystery of man and woman.’” The breadth of this statement is sobering when you consider that this shekinah glory is the same presence experienced by Moses when God met with him face-to-face (see Ex 24:15-18).  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 206)


If Paul tells us that a man is not to join himself to a prostitute because his body is a holy temple–that is, if we are to use such imagery to avoid sinning–can a Christian not use the same imagery to be drawn into God’s presence in a unique way as he joins his body with his wife?  Isn’t he somehow entering God’s temple–knocking on the door of shekinah glory–when he joins himself to a fellow believer?  And isn’t this a tacit encouragement to perhaps even think about God as your body is joined with your spouse?  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 209-10)


For a man, the first place he should check when it comes to building a strong family is a blueprint found in Ephesians 5.  In this important chapter, the man is called to be the “head” of his wife–the primary lover–just as Christ is the head of the church and the lover of the church.

Nowhere does it say that a man is to “lord it over” his wife.  In fact, Christ specifically commands that “lording it over” another person has no place in a Christian’s relationships.  Rather, the Scriptures tell me I am to love my wife as Jesus loves His church.

How did Christ lead in love?  By serving, by committing Himself to our best interest, and by doing so regardless of the cost.  The greatest among us are simply following a pattern Christ set down–namely serving those He loved and for whom He laid down His life.  (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 99)


Thomas Hart observes that “our fascination with sex is closely related to our fascination with God.”  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 211)


We were made to worship.  If we don’t grow in our worship of God, we will descend to worship something or someone else–power, money, our reputation, a sports team–it could be anything.  In the same way, if we are not creating in our marriage–if we are not filling our souls with the meaning that comes from doing what we were made to do–we will become dissatisfied very quickly.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 242-43)


Gospel Application:  God through Christ empowers us to love.  Even though God hates divorce and remarriage, as it is detestable to Him, He willingly puts Himself through it all because of His intemperate love for us. (Isa 50:1ff; Jer chpts 3-4; Hosea)


In short, the “secret” is not simply the fact of marriage per se.  It is the message that what husbands should do for their wives is what Jesus did to bring us into union with himself.  And what was that?

Jesus gave himself up for us.  Jesus the Son, though equal with the Father, gave up his glory and took on our human nature (Phil 2:5ff).  But further, he willingly went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins, removing our guilt and condemnation, so that we could be united with him (Rom 6:5) and take on his nature (2 Pt 1:4).  He gave up his glory and power and became a servant.  He died to his own interests and looked to our needs and interests instead (Rom 15:1-3).  Jesus’ sacrificial service to us has brought us into a deep union with him and he with us.  And that, Paul says, is the key not only to understanding marriage but to living it.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 41-2)


I can’t make myself love God, but I can come to know him better.  And because God is love, the more I come to know him, the more my love for him will grow.  Love is a by-product of knowing.  So I can spend this day loving God.  And tomorrow I can seek to love him a little more.  This is a life “rich toward God.”  (John Ortberg, When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box, 30)


God had taken Israel as a wife, and like Hosea’s Gomer, she too was unfaithful.  Through Isaiah the Lord rebuked Israel for her spiritual adultery in worshiping pagan deities.  “Where is the certificate of divorce,” He asks them rhetorically, “by which I have sent your mother away?” (Isa 50:1).  The answer, of course, was that God had not given such a certificate, because, just as Hosea with Gomer, God was not ready to put Israel away, despite her constant spiritual adultery committed against Him.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 169)


Why did God create us and later redeem us at great cost even though he doesn’t need us?  He did it because he loves us.  His love is perfect love, radically vulnerable love.  And when you begin to get it, when you begin to experience it, the fakery and manipulativeness of your own love starts to wash away, and you’ve got the patience and security to reach out and start giving a truer love to other people.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 99-100)


By logical syllogism we deduce a very important fact.  If a person is not loving, John says, he or she does not know God.  How will that individual become more loving, then?  Can we grow in love by trying to love more?  No, our attempts to love will only end in more frustration and less love.  The solution, John implies, is to know God better.  This is so simple that we miss it all the time:  our means for becoming more loving is to know God better.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 146)


I don’t know about you, but I cannot simply muster up more love.  I can’t manufacture patience just by gritting my teeth and determining to be more patient.  We are not strong or good enough, and it doesn’t work that way.  None of us can “do goodness” on our own, much less all the other elements that make up the fruit of the Spirit.

But despite our inability to change ourselves in this way, to simply become more peaceful or joyful, we expend a great deal of effort trying.  We focus on what God wants us to do and forget the kind of people He wants us to be.

Instead of mustering up more willpower, let’s focus our energies and time on asking for help from the One who has the power to change us.  Let’s take the time to ask God to put the fruit of His Spirit into our lives.  And let’s spend time with the One we want to be more like.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 148)


If you find your love beginning to wane then go to your heavenly Father, the author of love, and he will give you a new love for your partner.  It is yours for the asking!  You may be inclined to ask, “But is it worth it?”  Or “What if my partner doesn’t deserve it?”  That has nothing to do with it.  You should love your partner for the Lord’s sake, but, because of the principle of reaping what you sow, loving will bring you love.  If you go to God by faith for his supply of love to give to your partner, then God’s divine law will bring love to you.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 115)


Three prophets use the divorce law in their message.  Jeremiah asks whether Israel, having deserted Yahweh for other lovers, could simply be taken back by Yahweh.  The answer is that what may have been impossible under the law was possible by God’s grace, given genuine repentance (Jer 3:1-5; 4:1f.).  Isaiah looks for the certificate of divorce between Yahweh and Israel, and finding none leaves open the possibility that though Israel has been sent away for its unfaithfulness, a formal divorce has not taken place and there could be restoration (Isa 50:1f.).  For Hosea divorce is a painful personal experience.  It seems God suspends the prohibition on remarriage of a divorced wife in Hosea’s case, in commanding him to recover Gomer after her unfaithfulness, though it may be significant that she had returned to prostitution and had not, perhaps, been married to another man (Hos 3:1-3).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 256)


That God plainly and consistently connected divorce with adultery by fornication is a fact that simply cannot be disputed.  If, then, for no other reason, we can understand why Christ, on good OT grounds, spoke as He did in Mt 5, 19.  But, let us complete the OT story.  Even then–in spite of her sin–God loved Israel and called to her to repent and return.  If she did, He declared that He would receive her back and make her His own once more.  (Jay E. Adams, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, 72)


It is true that Christians who marry out of God’s will and get divorced often remarry (frequently to Christians) and that God seems in grace often to sanctify and bless the second marriage.  Does this mean that God modifies his standards?  No.  But it does mean that divorce and remarriage, as bad as they are, are not unforgivable and that God is always willing to begin again with us wherever we are or whatever we have done.  Churches should never be closed to such people, and Christians above all should be understanding of others and show mercy.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 405)


If God had the gospel of Jesus’ salvation in mind when he established marriage, then marriage only “works” to the degree that approximates the pattern of God’s self-giving love in Christ.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 43)


We should rightly object to the binary choice that both traditional and contemporary marriage seem to give us.  Is the purpose of marriage to deny your interests for the good of the family, or is it rather to assert your interests for the fulfillment of yourself?  The Christian teaching does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice.  Jesus gave himself up; he died to himself to save us and make us his.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 43)


Spiritual Challenge:  For those married, seek to do all you can to bring pleasure, happiness and security to your spouse.  And for all of us:  become more aware of how God is a faithful spouse to you and how you can be more of a faithful spouse to God.  Allow your relationship with your spouse or your God reveal your need for repentance and reformation.


I think marriage is designed to call us out of ourselves and learn to love the “different.”  Put together in the closest situation imaginable–living side by side, sleeping in the same room, even, on occasion, sharing our bodies with each other–we are forced to respect and appreciate someone who is so radically different.

We need to be called out of ourselves because, in truth, we are incomplete.  God made us to find our fulfillment in him–the Totally Other.  Marriage shows us that we are not all there is; it calls us to give way to another, but also to find joy, happiness, and even ecstasy in another.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 50)


Yes, it is difficult to love your spouse.  But if you truly want to love God, look right now at the ring on your left hand, commit yourself to exploring anew what that ring represents, and love passionately, crazily, enduringly the fleshly person who put it there.

It just may be one of the most spiritual things you can do.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 51)


What I’m suggesting is that we connect our marriages with our faith in such a way that our experience in each feeds the other.  The next time you caress your spouse, think about how that caress might open up new avenues for your prayer life.  The next time you are virtually overcome by passion for your spouse, consider how you can offer yourself with equal abandon to your God.  Don’t be afraid to use all aspects of marriage–even sexual expression–to expand your prayer life.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 86-87)


People are appalled when they get sharp, far-reaching criticisms from their spouses.  They immediately begin to think they married the wrong person.  But you must realize that it isn’t ultimately your spouse who is exposing the sinfulness to your heart–its’ marriage itself.  Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself.  Marriage shows you a realistic, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 154)


Sex is sacramental because it is suggestive, reminding us not only of the mutual commitment of this couple but of our link with our Creator.  Our passionate unions resonate with that covenant of affection and fidelity that God has made with humankind.  This ability of our sexual lives to hint at God’s presence among us makes sexuality mysterious and holy.

In its fierce privacy and its unavoidable socialness, sexual life symbolizes the life of faith.  The covenant between us and God, resonating in the deepest recesses of our heart, affects all our public behavior.  The Church has long cherished the image of marriage as a compelling metaphor of its own commitment and fidelity with God.  Sex is mysterious because it is sacramental:  it can remind us of God’s passionate affection for us.  For this reason, too, sex is very good.  (Evelyn & James Whitehead, A Sense of Sexuality, 31)


All misuses of our sexuality distort the true knowledge of Christ.  And, in the second place, all misuses of our sexuality derive from not having the true knowledge of Christ.

Or to put it one more way:  all sexual corruption serves to conceal the true knowledge of Christ, but the true knowledge of Christ serves to prevent sexual corruption.  (John Piper, Justin Taylor, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, 26)


It took years for me to understand I have a Christian obligation to continually move toward my wife.  I thought that as long as I didn’t attack my wife or say cruel things to her, I was a “nice” husband, but the opposite of biblical love isn’t hate, it’s apathy.  To stop moving toward our spouse is to stop loving him or her.  It’s holding back from the very purpose of marriage.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 155)


One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse.  Had there been a card attached, it would have said, “Here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!” — Gary and Betsy Ricucci


You have not married a perfect person; neither has your partner!  Therefore, you will both have to forgive one another for your mistakes, sins, selfishness, and other forms of thoughtless behavior.  Never carry a grudge; it is a burden too heavy to bear.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 50)


Whenever the goal of our behavior is essentially to change the other person–whether the change is good or bad–we are wrong.  Unless there is the purpose of communicating love based on an awareness of our spouses’ needs, we qualify as manipulators, not ministers.  The key to achieving Soul Oneness is to maintain the fundamental goal of ministry to our partner’s deepest needs and to keep that goal inviolate.  (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, 54)


The Christian Way — The Christian says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.   A baby feels hunger:  well, there is such a thing as food.   A duckling wants to swim:  well, there is such a thing as water.   Men feel sexual desire:  well, there is such a thing as sex.  If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.  If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 120)


The OT verb “to prostrate oneself” gives us room for reflection.  While we must never lapse into worshiping the created, there are those intense moments in which the unity of marriage and even the ecstasy of physical union lead you to stand in awe before another, wanting to fully offer yourself, without reservation.  When a wife says to her husband, “Take me, I’m yours,” she demonstrates a trust that whatever the husband does will be done out of love and with genuine concern and care.  It is a remarkable testimony to self-giving and to the joy of intimacy.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 84-5)


So What?:  If every household would implement God’s plan for marriage, the world could seriously begin to think about establishing World Peace.”  God knows what He is doing to bring shalom to the world.  Trust Him!


Do for your spouse what God did for you in Jesus, and the rest will follow.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 43)


Even seeking for a reason to divorce shows how hard your heart is.  Why even speculate about being married to another?   Live as Adam and Eve lived.  As if your spouse was the only one on earth for you.  Because they are! — Pastor Keith


In order to act as you want to act and not just react to a situation do not excuse your behavior, regardless of what prompts it.  Go to God and confess your sin, asking him to give you a gracious spirit.  Then confess your unkind words or behavior to your partner so that your conscience can be clear.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 43)


It takes two to argue; if you refuse, that ends the argument.  Much family heartache could be avoided if even one of the members would respond to God’s guidance instead of his own selfish desires. This illustration is only one of the many areas in which consistent actions according to God’s principles will open up the way for happy marital adjustments.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 44)




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