“’I Hate Divorce’, Says The Lord.”
Key Verse: 2:16
“’I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel, ‘and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,’ says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.”
Malachi dealt severely with the priests in the last passage we looked at. And now, he turns his attention to dealing directly with the nation as a whole. He confronts them with their own sin problem. His words are directed especially towards the men who had acted unfaithfully towards their marriage partners; and he rebukes them for doing the one thing that God hates so much— which is divorce. Divorce is a very delicate and difficult subject to talk about. So we should give it the seriousness that it deserves as did our Lord Jesus, who had to deal with this subject himself. Listen to one of Jesus’ discourses with the religious leaders of his own time who came to him with a question about divorce. It goes like this: “Some Pharisees came and tested [Jesus] by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” (Matthew 19:3) “’What did Moses command you?” [Jesus] replied.’ They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ ‘It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,’ Jesus replied. (In other words, because you weren’t ready to listen to reason) Then Jesus went on to say: “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Mark 10:3-9)
Look at verse 10. “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?” Malachi, speaking for God asks these people why they were being unfaithful to one another. Here they were, a people whom God had specially called and chosen to be his very own people, and here they were dealing treacherously with one another. They weren’t being faithful to one another, and consequently, they weren’t faithful to God either. Why did Malachi accuse them of profaning the covenant? What covenant is he talking about anyway? Actually it all goes back to the truth in Genesis. He’s talking about marriage! God himself created Adam and Eve. Then it was God himself who instituted the covenant of marriage between them that they might pass it on to their children, and eventually to Israel whom he adopted as his own people. But they had abandoned the truth about the institution of marriage and corrupted it. They had become like a people who have no God; like a people who live by their own laws; like a people of all other nations who live by their own rules, by their own instincts; like a people who do as they please especially when it comes to marriage. There was a time when they had prided themselves that they were a people of God who lived by a higher moral and spiritual law, a people who kept the faith, and a people who hung on the truth of God. But they had fallen, all because their eyes wandered here and there, and when their eyes wandered, so did their hearts wander as well. Finally they committed two heinous crimes against each another, and against God. Some inter-married with the pagan people around them. And others divorced their wives in order to marry these pagan women.
Read verses 10-11. “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another? Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god.” A detestable thing had been committed! He’s talking about how they profaned the institution of marriage God so graciously gave their ancestors by sinning against one another, specifically by marrying foreign godless spouses. They profaned— they dishonored the holiness of God. The Lord God is holy; He loves holiness and he hates sin. What sin had they committed? Marrying pagan unbelieving women! It’s exactly what happened with their ancestors in Genesis 6 when the Lord got angry with them for corrupting marriage and reducing its standard and then using it as if it were theirs to do with as they please. In Genesis 6, we learn that the “Sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.” (Genesis 6:2) In the beginning when God instituted marriage, the standard of marriage was faith. What does that mean? It means that God himself was deeply involved in the marriage; he created it and blessed it for himself. He chose Adam for Eve, and he chose Eve for Adam. He brought the woman to the man; and the man simply accepted her by faith. He trusted that God had given him the best soul-mate, and she trusted that God had given her the best soul-mate as well. He received her as Gods gift to him, and she received him as Gods gift to her. That’s faith— when God is at the heart of marriage and the family and the Lord of it!
And for a long time, God’s people maintained that holy and righteous standard. Until one day the sons of God, (that is, those who were devoted to God), saw that the daughters of men, (that is, those who had rejected God), were beautiful! They desired them. Their conscience warned them that these women were godless and were living a godless life. But they were too beautiful to ignore. So they took any of them they desired for wives. What’s wrong with that? Here’s what’s wrong with that. When a man or woman devoted to God no longer cares whether their life partner is devoted to God or not, we have a problem. We have problem when a man or woman who are devoted to God care so little about their home environment, whether it’s a godly home or not, as long as the man or woman they marry are beautiful and desirable! We have a problem if the children of these marriages end up embracing the ungodly practices of their ungodly parent! So the standard of marriage was corrupted in the times of Noah, and God decided to end it all. Why? Because in the absence of Godly families, the world at the time turned dark and violent. There were no children of God left on the earth except for Noah’s family who were believers and who lived by faith.
Likewise, the people of God in Malachi’s time also ignored God’s truth regarding marriage, and inter-married with foreigners who had no inkling about God and faith. The same thing is happening in our times as well. Christians aren’t clear about how important marriage and the family are to God. We need to know as Christians, as sons and daughters of God, that anyone who violates God’s marriage standard is playing with fire. Read verse 12. “As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord cut him off from the tents of Jacob— even though he brings offerings to the Lord Almighty.” That’s no joke at all! No one needs to test God on this issue! Malachi tells us that it really doesn’t make a difference who that person is who violates God’s standard of marriage. God doesn’t take into consideration any person, whoever they may be, even if that person is a prophet himself, or if they offer the most sacrificial of offerings. God does not excuse anyone for violating or desecrating the marriage covenant and its standard which God made with all of us at the beginning of time when he created it for himself.
Look at verses 13-14. “Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.” These people felt the effect of God’s hand withdrawn from them— withdrawn from blessing them. And when they felt the heavy hand of God on their lives— when their prayers went unanswered— when their hearts condemned them and there was no relief from the burden of guilt— when that happened, look at what they did! They went to the altar and flooded it their tears. They wept before the Lord, and they asked him why he no longer favors them. Here’s the answer God gave them. “It is because the Lord is witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she’s your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant”. (New NIV) Why is God so broken hearted? Because when this man stood at the altar to recite marriage vows to his wife to be in their younger days, and she said “yes I do”, God was right there beside them as a witness testifying to their covenant with each other. God himself was glad to join them in marriage, and he bound them to each other in faithfulness. Now after years of marriage, the man cast his wife aside to marry another woman. He no longer was faithful to her; he had broken faith with her; he had also broken faith with God. Now God stood witness, but to a tragedy. No wonder when this man went to the altar to pray, to weep, to ask for the Lord’s blessing, the broken hearted God turned a deaf ear to him. The one thing that this man needed to do was to repent his unfaithfulness. He didn’t! And so God rejected his tearful prayers.
Read verse 15. “Has not [the Lord] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” Whatever version you read this verse, it remains one of the most difficult verses in Malachi to translate and to interpret. But fundamentally we can say something concrete about it. It certainly is an encouragement to the man or woman who are faithful to the Lord and to each other. It’s a divine counsel to be on their guard and to remain faithful to one another. Indeed God made us! And indeed God made us for himself. And surely God established the marriage covenant himself, for himself alone. A man or woman belong to one another in marriage and live together to love and to serve one another, but in essence, they belong to God and live as one to honor and to serve God alone. And what’s the purpose of marriage? Although we define marriage in terms of serving God’s holy purpose in many ways, fundamentally, God tells us why he instituted the marriage covenant in the first place. It was because God was seeking holy offspring— he desired to have holy offspring— offspring who are nurtured and grown in the knowledge and the fear of the Lord. God wanted godly offspring. He wanted Christian children who live and walk in the ways of the Lord.
Let me explain this a little more to you. When God decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their unholy lifestyle and godless practices, he first spoke to his servant Abraham. He wasn’t consulting Abraham on whether God should destroy these cities or not. In fact he was informing him of why he was going to do what he did, and what Abraham should learn from this painful event and experience. Here’s what God told Abraham: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:17-19) What God is saying here helps us understand what it means to have godly offspring. God told Abraham that he had chosen him to direct his children (that is, to teach and help them understand) how to keep the way of the Lord, to walk in the way of holiness and righteousness, and in obedience to the Lord, so that they might know what is good and what is evil in the Lord’s sight. Why did God instruct Abraham to instruct his children in this? In order to bring about for Abraham what God had promised him. That is, to make Abraham’s children and descendants a source of blessing to the whole world.
That’s what we ought to do as well. That’s what marriage is for, to pass on the blessings of a life of faith and mission to our children. To raise God fearing and devoted offspring and to educate them in the ways of the Lord so that God’s blessing of life may be passed down to them, and in turn that they too may pass it on to their children. If we don’t care much about that, it doesn’t matter what kind of marriage we have. It won’t matter what kind of man or woman we marry. It doesn’t matter what we teach them, whether we teach them the godly life or the unrestrained and worldly life. If we don’t care much about God’s promise of eternal life, and the kingdom of God, it won’t matter what we think of marriage; it just doesn’t matter! But if we believe the Lord and his promises, if we know what he loves and what he hates, if we know what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s holy and what’s not, then we care a lot about why we marry and who we marry, and we care about what we pass down to our children. If you’re a Christian, then like Abraham, God has chosen you to marry a man or woman of faith, a partner who is faithful to the Lord, and to his word, a partner whose heart’s desire is to honor and serve the Lord, one who is faithful to building up the Lord’s kingdom and to serving the Lord’s glory. We, who have been blessed to know the Lord, have a responsibility to direct our children and household to keep the way of the Lord. We, who have a covenant with the Lord, also have a responsibility to guard our hearts to remain faithful to our spouses and to the Lord. Why? Because marriage and children is not about us! It’s about the Lord! We, our spouse, our family, our children and all belong to him— body and soul!
Read verse 16. “’I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel, ‘and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,’ says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” Listen to how the verse reads in the New NIV. “’The man who hates and divorces his wife’, says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘does violence to one he should protect,’ says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.” This is also a difficult verse to translate and interpret, but the essence of the word is clear. It’s a continuation of God’s rebuke to them in regard to divorce. He had chastised them for marrying pagan women. He had chastised them for being unfaithful to their covenant wives— for putting them away— for divorcing them and marrying other women. They weren’t faithful! As we said, God had good reasons for being broken hearted over them and rebuking them for their unfaithfulness. But here’s another reason! God had set them apart and blessed them with godly marriages for a reason. He wanted them to pass on the blessing of the Christ to their children and their children’s children until the coming of Christ, so that the Christ might be the blessing of all peoples on earth.
There’s no reason under heaven that God should set them apart, nor to set you and me apart for his call to salvation, other than his grace of course! He didn’t choose the Jews to be his instruments to bring salvation to this world through the messiah because they were better than other people. And he certainly didn’t choose you and me because we are better than anyone else. It was simply his grace. But when God chooses you in his Son for salvation, he certainly does have a purpose for you and I to fulfill. And he wouldn’t want anything to interfere with that task or purpose— certainly not an unholy marriage that would hinder or destroy his plan for your life— nor a divorce that would cancel out his purpose. As God had a purpose for the Jews through marriage, so also he has a purpose for Christians in marriage. And there is no concept of divorce that the Lord likes, because it shatters the family. Only in extreme cases Jesus said permitted divorce, and even then it’s still not his way.
Now he says “I hate divorce” and that’s about as clear as you can get. So the man who hates and divorces his wife “does violence” to her as the Lord says. Why is that considered violence? Because God called him in faithfulness to love and protect her regardless of circumstances. That’s the husband’s responsibility to his wife— to love, to defend, to shield, to take care of. In the olden days of Malachi, a wife who’s put away by her husband suffered unthinkably because she is abandoned to the world and to every evil that’s out there. That’s why the Bible tells us that he does her violence. She’s been torn away from her home and security. She no longer has his love and protection. And his worse crime is that he divorced her for the love of another woman! He’s not only unfaithful to her: he’s unfaithful to God as well.
God hates divorce, because he’s the witness who stands to bind them together forever in his kingdom. He hates divorce because it takes away from the sanctity of marriage and of the unity which God labors so hard to uphold in his kingdom. We must know what holy marriage is to the Lord. He created it, and he did so for himself, especially because he works through marriage to serve his own purpose. Even if we don’t fully understand that, we should be ready to accept it on faith because the Lord tells us that of its holiness and sanctity. Sometimes a marriage doesn’t seem holy and sanctified. But we must live by faith not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) We live by faith not by human standards, not as judges of whether marriages are good or bad, but as those who believe that God is the Lord of marriage and the family. If he’s sanctified it, who are we to judge its sanctity. We shouldn’t regard or measure marriage from our own limited perspective or worldly viewpoint. Rather we should work hard to offer it to God in faith, as faulty and fractured as it may be, and ask his blessing to use it to his own glory and purpose.
Read verse 17. “You have wearied the Lord with your words. ‘How have we wearied him?’ you ask. By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’” Let me explain something to you. Many Christians are affected by the world’s thinking, and most of it is done these days through the media. There is so much gray areas that they accept, the immorality, the unhealthy relationships, using love as a good cause for what immoral things they do, accepting philosophies such as “you should be fulfilled in your desire, whether your desires are godly or not!” That’s the underlining philosophy today, and many Christians are mixed up in it. In Ephesians chapter 5 Paul talks about how many are deceived, and cannot tell the difference between what is darkness and what is light. So they end up living in a gray area of Christianity. Many of them don’t even want to hear about truth absolutes, especially they don’t want to hear the truth about marriage, about the family, about the woes of divorce, about perversions, and sexual immorality, and the heart’s desires and such. They think and believe what they want, because they are influenced by the darkness of this generation which tells them what is good and what is evil. So they have no truth in their hearts. If someone says “divorce is good”, they agree. If someone tells them “immorality and the perversion of immorality is good”, they agree, even when the Bible says otherwise. That was Malachi’s people’s problem as well. They said about those who do evil that they are good and that God is pleased with them. They departed so far from the truth that they couldn’t tell right from wrong, good from evil, light from darkness. They lived perpetually in the gray areas of life where many things appeared to be acceptable. This way they didn’t have to take a stand or make any decision about what’s good and what’s evil. But let me tell you, in the Bible there certainly good and evil, there is light and dark! And there are no gay areas at all.
Rampant Sexual immorality and a profusion of pornography have destroyed the concept of what true love is— of what manhood truly is and what womanhood truly is. These things continue to demean women and to dull men’s senses reducing men to macho flesh. They have no idea of good and evil. They think they do because they condemn murder or violence as evil. But they cherish what is immoral and vulgar and consider them natural, normal behaviors. They have no sense.
The people of Malachi time had the same problem. They had no sense to know what’s good and what’s evil. Maybe they didn’t have pornography, but they were sexually immoral when they married pagan women for their pleasure, and divorced their wives to pleasure other women. But what made them totally dull is that in their confusion of what’s good and what’s evil, they accused God of favoring evil and evil men, complaining about God’s injustice in all this. When a person begins to judge God’s justice, that person is lost in the gray areas. They don’t know God nor the Bible nor how God works out his justice. God doesn’t work in the way that we think he does or should. He works through truth. And the truth is that God is just and we reap what we sow in the end. No one should mistake God’s non interference with them and how they live and what they do as God’s favor. It may well be his disfavor. That’s why we ought to remain humble, seeking the Lord in all things, learning what is good and evil to his eyes, that we might live in his favor by faith and do what is good and right in faith. Our lives and actions should reflect the Lord’s words even if his words do not agree with the philosophy and culture of our times. May God bless every one of you to live in God’s truth and to do what is good and pleasing to him. Amen.