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Re-Thinking Your Marriage

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(2/16) "Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."

Today's bit of humor first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post a number of years ago. It reveals a sequence of actions where a husband reacts to his wife's colds during seven years of marriage.

1st year cold: The husband said, "Sugar dumpling! I'm really worried about my baby girl! You've got a bad sniffle and there's no telling about these things with all the strep going around. I'm putting you in the hospital this afternoon for a general check-up and a good rest. I know the food is lousy there, so I'll be bringing you food from Tosini's. I've already got it all arranged with the floor superintendent."

2nd year cold: "Listen, darling! I don't like the sound of that cough! I've called Dr. Miller to rush over here. Now you go to bed like a good little girl just for Poppa."

3rd year cold: "Maybe you better lie down, Honey. Nothing like a little rest when you feel lousy. I'll bring you something. Do you have any canned soup?"

4th year cold: "Now look dear, be sensible! After you've fed the kids, washed the dishes and finished vacuuming, you'd better lie down."

5th year cold: "Why don't you take a couple of aspirin?"

6th year cold: "If you'd just gargle or something, instead of sitting around barking like a seal!"

7th year cold: "For Pete's sake, stop sneezing! Are you trying to give me pneumonia!?"

Things change don't they? Today's Life Lesson is not about where you have been but where you are and where you are going. The context speaks of divorce and the things that result when marriages are dissolved. I want to say this up-front. I believe that our Lord said this not to condemn you but to encourage you and to re-think and to strengthen your marriages. Let's see if we can do that. First, let's remember:

The Plan for Christ Followers

Salt and Light - Must be different (Matt. 5:13-16). If you are going to be a Christ - Follower and a member of His kingdom, your life must be lived on purpose. It must be different from the world that you live in. The world is dark, and decaying. It is getting further away from God all the time and the inevitable result is total corruption. Those who repent and desire to follow Jesus are forgiven and given new life and a new purpose for living. God wants to use your life to help check the decay that is happening all around you. He wants you to be a source of light in a dark world. He wants to use you to show others the truth about God and life. But to fulfill your purpose you have to be different. Your character must be different (5:1-12) and your conduct must be different (5:17 ff). Your trust and obedience to God must flow from your heart and not just be a religious system of external do's and don'ts. God doesn't want your religion, He wants your heart to love Him and to desire to honor Him in everything. He doesn't want your life to be about what you can do and still be legal; that is, how close you can get to going out of bounds with out crossing the line, but how close you can get to His heart and what you can do to honor Him. We saw that in the area of the two strongest emotions we possess, our anger and sexual desire. Today we are going to consider how to honor God in our marriages.

The Pattern of False Righteousness

Low view of marriage, and divorce (Deut. 24:1-4; Mal. 2:14-16; cp. Matt. 19:1-10, & 5:31). Human nature hasn't changed. Every since Adam and Eve turned from God and listened to the voice of Satan, men and women have been inward and self-focused. Relationships are usually self centered. Marriages are more about hormones and happiness than a holy commitment and honor. People get married because the person makes me happy or meets the desire of my hormones, but when the blazing fire becomes warm coals and we feel tension and don't have the goose bumps and don't feel happy, we often opt for dissolving the marriage. We have No-Fault divorces or we are offended by our spouse but rather than work through the process of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation, we dissolve the union. Or, we don't marry at all and opt to live together for financial and personal benefit with out the obligation of commitment. It's about the sex and happiness and not the commitment or honor. In Israel's case, we can go back to Moses and Deut. 24:1-4. "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. Here, Moses under the inspiration of God gave permission to divorce when some uncleanness was found with the wife. What the un-cleanness was we don't know. The only other time that word is used in the Bible it refers to human body waste.

Then in the time of the return of the Jewish people to Israel in the 5th century, many of the Jews had begun to inter-marry with foreign women that did not believe in, or worship the one true God. Nehemiah and Ezra both address it and confront the people. In mass repentance they covenant with God and the leaders to divorce their foreign wives and preserve the faith of Israel. But in just a few years, divorce had become a common problem. In a male dominant society, if a man wasn't happy, he wrote a document and gave it to his wife and sent her on her way. He then would marry another. And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, With weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore,

Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, "For what reason?" Because the Lord has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one,

Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. "For the Lord God of Israel says

That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,"

Says the Lord of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously." (Malachi 2:14-16). It was a big problem 400 years before Jesus our Lord was born.

In our Lord's day, there were two extremely opposite views of divorce. This was the basis for the questioning in Matthew 19. One said that Divorce could only occur if there was some sexual reason; some form of fornication. The other view was that uncleanness meant any thing that offended the husband, like burning the toast, or shrinking his favorite wool shirt, being flirty in public, embarrassing her husband, etc.

This low-view of marriage is that love and happiness are about what I feel and when I don't feel it any longer, or if I find someone else who is more attractive to me, I will divorce. It is no coincidence that these remarks of our Lord in Matthew 5 are in the succession that they are in. You have probably heard, that in America, 50% of all marriages end in divorce. We have discovered that that is in accurate, the number is really about 40%. But whereas, Divorce was once a rarity among Christians, our divorce rate is exactly the same as non-Christians. Even further, 12% of all American couples live together without being married. In many major cities, that number is actually around 30% of all couples. Soooo. Times have changed but people haven't. Many, many have a low view of marriage. They did in Israel in Jesus' day. That's why the disciples said, that if marriage is so binding it would be best not to marry. So let's consider:

The Purpose for Marriage

High View - God's plan (Gen 2; Mal. 2; Eph. 5) Let's park for a moment and remind ourselves what God had in mind for marriage. What is the purpose for this first institution that God ordained? This is not a thorough essay, just a glance.

Partnership - God is a God of relationship. He is a Triune God. 3 persons but one God. He is a unity of one. And He created us in His image. Gen. 2, which focuses on the creation of man, says that when man was alone it wasn't good. The image of God was not complete. Man was alone (Gen. 2:18), So He created a woman from the man and then as a Father of the Bride gave her to man to be in permanent relationship with the man and to complete the image of God (Gen. 1:27). There is a sense in which men and women are incomplete when they are alone. We are different not only physically but mentally and emotionally. Those differences are balanced and bring a completeness when we are married. "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Our desire for a mate is part of our spiritual DNA.

Permanence - Gen 2:25, says that a man and woman are to cleave together, or be joined together, or to stick like glue, be welded together. This permanent partnership reflects the image of God. The Godhead is a permanent unity. Jesus said in Matt. 19, that what God has joined together, no man should divide. Two become one unit. The image of God was separated just once, when Jesus was on the cross. But never again.

Pleasure. One of the ways this partnership fortifies, invigorates, relaxes and pleasures the participants is through sexual relations. Again God wired us and designed us this way. He designed us to fit together sexually to demonstrate oneness, and enjoy each other. This is one reason, I don't understand homosexuality. There is no natural way for two men or two women to fit together.

Procreation- It is in the context of marriage that God designed for us to reproduce ourselves Gen.1:28, "Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply." Jer. 29:5-6. Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished." And even more, that you would re-produce children that would have a heart for God. Mal. 2:15a, "But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. And while this isn't a sermon on parenting, children need both a father and a mother in the home.

Purity - The Lord God purposed for marriage to protect us from the consequences and devastation of a society engrossed in moral chaos and sexual immorality. Two people enter a marriage with the agreement to find their companionship, fulfill their dreams, find their pleasure, and recreate themselves and take care of each other, honoring God together for the rest of their lives.

Picture of God - Coming full circle - Marriage is to image God in caring for each other. There is to be the same unity, and love for each other that is shared in the Godhead between Father Son and Holy Spirit and between Jesus and His Church. We'll come back to that in a moment. First let's consider:

The Promises of Marriage

The Vows (Mal. 2:14; Psalm 15; Deut. 23:21-23)

When two people marry, they enter into a covenant agreement. They pledge their lives to each other. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until parted by death. Do you remember saying those words? Mal. 2:14 says, "she is your companion And your wife by covenant." God takes our vows and promises seriously. Look at Deut. 23:21-23, "When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you. That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth." This we will talk about next week, but God takes these promises seriously. He tells us in Psalm 15, that the person who will dwell in His presence is characterized by the fact that even if his vow hurts him, he will not change. I gave my word and even if it costs me, I will keep my word.

The promise of marriage is that my love and commitment to you is based not on your performance but my commitment to you and to God, so no matter what you do, or what happens to us, I will honor my commitment to you and to my God. Do you understand this? That, by the way is His commitment to us in the New Covenant. But our promise is clouded by the:

The Problems of Marriage

(Gen. 3:15-17; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23) We make those vows because we believe that life will get better, richer, healthier, and so will our love. But, when it get's worser, poorer, sicker, and the fireworks fade, we often begin to seek how we can get out of this. You see, the reality is that ever since Adam and Eve sinned against God, and sin became part of our nature, we have become self focused. I have to look out for me and my happiness. Perfect relationships have now become work. A marriage is made up of two people who are designed and wired differently and both are sinners at heart. Eccl. 7:20, says that there is not a just person on the entire planet who does good and doesn't sin. Not the Pope, not Billy Graham and not you or your spouse. God said, that as a result of sin, Man would rule the home and woman would want to control the man. The first 3:16 in the Bible says, "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." This word, desire, means desire to control as it is used in 4:7. Marriage will inevitably involve, a man wanting to rule and a woman wanting to control. (Don't shoot the messenger here, this is what the Bible says). When this happens and I am not happy, I look for a way out.

VI. The Permission to Divorce (Deut. 24:1-4; Matt. 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:15) Has God given permission to divorce? The answer is, yes. But Jesus made it clear in Matt. 19, that it is not His perfect will, and in He says in Mal. 2:14-16, That He hates divorce, He has allowed it because of the hardness of man's heart. Jesus says, It is permissive if there is Fornication, which I believe here includes and kind of sexual infidelity. But even then it is not God's perfect will. It seems clear that Israel had long abandoned it's death penalty for adultery, even though they tested Jesus with it in John 8. Also, 1 Cor. 7:15, implies that if one is abandoned by a spouse, that abandoned spouse is free to divorce and remarry. But listen to me carefully. In most cases, the freedom that you seek in divorce rarely happens.

The Problems of Divorce.

Divorce, Jesus says, often leads to sin. If it is a frivolous divorce, Adultery, is the usually the result, as people look for comfort in the sexual embrace of other people. And the truth is, that because there was a union, a oneness, created with someone, a divorce, rarely, truly dissolves that relationship. Whether it is with child support, alimony, or, if there are children and grandchildren, there is custody and visitation rights, and holidays confusion for the rest of your lives. You live with the memories of what if I would have done this or not done that and suppose I would have tried this.... Children, even grown children never have a place they can say is home, because mom is one place and dad is another. The emotional effect on children will have long effects. They lack a model of what a home was intended to be. What was it intended to be? A reflection of God and His relationship with us.

Pictures of Marriage

God -Israel, Hosea- Gomer, Christ- Church.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that we are to demonstrate the same love in marriage that Jesus has for the Church. He has entered a covenant relationship with us that includes His promise to never leave us or forsake us, to love us unconditionally, to seek our highest good no matter what, and to always seek reconciliation, grace, and forgiveness. To do that, we must understand that love, real love, true love is not about hormones and happiness. Real love is not what you fall into, or out of, or what you feel. Real love is the commitment that you make to always do what is best for the one I love and to seek the highest good for the object of my affection regardless of what I get in return. Real love is caring for and ministering to your spouse and making their happiness more important than your own. Marriage is not 50-50, it is not give and take. It is 100% commitment to give of yourself for your spouse. It is to reflect John 3:16. God demonstrated love by giving, regardless of what it would cost Him, because He sought the best for us, knowing there is no way on earth we could ever give back what it cost Him. And, no matter what we do, He will never stop seeking our highest good; He will never stop loving us, as Romans 8:35-39 tells us. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord"

There is nothing He won't forgive us of, no grace that He will withhold from us, because He made a vow, called the new Covenant, with us, which is why every time we observe communion, I try to remind you that the cup represents His blood given as a pledge of His commitment to us. The cross was the alter where where God pledged His forever love to us. And He tells us to love each other and especially our spouses the same way. And listen to me carefully, If you are listening say, "Amen!"

Even if you don't feel the love, or the happiness you once felt; even if you have been hurt deeply, or you have hurt someone deeply, If you will make honoring God your priority, keeping your vows, not begrudging, but willingly, seeking the highest good for your spouse, thinking every day of some way to honor him or her, FOR God, because God tells us to love people for Him, Over time, those feelings you had and your happiness will return.

Are there things that are hard to forgive? Yes. And, Sometimes there is no repentance, no desire to return to the marriage commitment by a spouse. That is a whole other subject that we don't have time for today. But if there is real repentance, even if there is adultery, two sinful people can have the marriage God wants them to have and be a tremendous picture of the grace of God and an encouragement to their children and grandchildren. We must never forget that God will never divorce Himself from us. No matter what we have done, He always throws His arms open and says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."(1 John 1:9) In the Old Testament, God has given us a wonderful illustration of this with the story of Hosea and Gomer. Hosea is told to marry and rescue a woman from prostitution like God did with Israel, and when Gomer left Hosea and returned to the old life, Hosea sought her, and rescued her again. That story of unconditional forgiveness and love, is an eternal picture of God's love for us.

We have come full circle. This is not about where you have been, this is about where you are. Sadly, this has brought up some painful memories for some of you, but, I hope it has also been a reminder of God's grace. Where are you in your marriage? Do you think about your happiness and your feelings, or do you think, "How can I seek the best and make my spouse happy today?" Is there something that you need to seek forgiveness of, from God, or your spouse? Is there something that you need to forgive your spouse of? Maybe you should consider renewing your vows to each other. Maybe we should have a marriage renewal Sunday. If anyone is interested let me know. Do you need to re-commit your body, your soul and spirit to God. Do you need to re-commit to your marriage. Let's do that now.

Do you need to come to God for Grace and the forgiveness that is available to you in Christ Jesus? He is waiting with arms open. He died to pay for your sins and rose again to give you forgiveness and eternal life, if you will repent and call out to Him for it.

Let's pray.

Benediction- 2 Cor. 13:11-14, Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

If this has spoken to your heart, write to me and tell me, or ask me whatever you want about knowing God or having a relationship with Him.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman