1. Turn in your Bible to Malachi 2.16. When
you find that verse in your Bible please stand for the reading of
Godís Word: "For the LORD, the God of
Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth
violence with his garment, saith the LORD of
hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not
2. We are dealing with a most sensitive
subject, the subject of divorce and things that pertain to divorce.
Therefore, let us exercise caution and restraint, remembering from Psalm
119.165 that "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing
shall offend them."
3. Let us understand that people can be
offensive, that things others may do or have done to us can be traumatic
and offensive, but Godís Word should never cause offense to anyone
except to those who love wickedness.
4. I will address three issues during this
exposition time, the concept of "putting away," the contrast
of this term "putting away" with divorce, and the concern of
the LORD about this whole matter.
1A. First, THE CONCEPT OF "PUTTING
1B. The word that is translated
"putting away" in Malachi 2.16 is found more than 750 times
in the Hebrew Bible. The word has many and varied uses, with a broad
range of meanings, depending on the context in which the word is used.
But itís most basic meaning is simply "to send."
2B. In Genesis 43.8 we find the word used
in this sentence: "And Judah said unto Israel his father, send
the lad with me, and we will arise and go."
3B. In Judges 6.14 we read Godís
commission to Gideon: "And the LORD looked
upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel
from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?" Our word
is translated "sent" in this verse.
4B. In Psalm 147.15 we see the word used
in yet another way: "He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth:
his word runneth very swiftly."
5B. In our text, Malachi 2.16, God
declares that He hates the "putting away" of a wife by her
husband. But what, precisely, is meant here by putting away? Is this
the emotional distancing of himself from his wife by a husband, or is
this the actual physical separation of a man from his wife by sending
her away from him?
6B. I am of a mind that both types of
behavior are covered by this word "putting away," because
they are both only different phases of the same act of a man turning
away from the wife of his youth.
7B. First comes the emotional distancing
of yourself from your wife. The silent treatment. Abandoning intimacy
and affection. The cold shoulder. Then, unless the process develops
very slowly or is interrupted in some way, the physical separation is
8B. It is this emotional and physical
distancing of yourself from your wife that God hates. Marriage takes a
lot of hard work. For a marriage to work temptations have to be
avoided and a price has to be paid. But when one stops paying that
price, no longer invests physical intimacy and emotional currency into
the marriage, then the "putting away" has begun.
9B. And that, my friend, is what God
hates. In my opinion, there is no real difference between walking out
on your wife and refusing her the intimacy she needs from you on an
emotional and physical level.
2A. Next, THE CONTRAST WITH
1B. Though many commentators and authors
insist that "putting away" is the same thing as divorce, and
though "putting away" and divorce are necessarily closely
related, they are not the same.
2B. For one thing, though God hates
"putting away," God Himself has divorced. Jeremiah 3.8
explains Godís divorce from his wife, Israel, clearly: "And I
saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed
adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her
treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot
3B. If divorce was something that was
hateful God would not have divorced Israel. But God does not hate
divorce, He hates what causes divorce and He hates what leads to
divorce, Israelís spiritual adultery.
4B. Now, you might observe in this verse
that God "put away" Israel, and you would be correct. But do
not fail to recognize that Israel first "put away" God by
committing the spiritual adultery of idolatry, which He was only
5B. So, not only do we see God divorcing
Israel, which means divorce is not exactly the same thing as
"putting away," since God hates "putting away,"
but here in this verse we see "putting away" and divorce as
distinct concepts, and are here distinguished from each other.
6B. One other passage to show that
"putting away" and divorce are not the same thing.
Deuteronomy 24.1: "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her,
and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he
hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of
divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his
house." Divorce and "putting away" are not exactly the
same thing, though they are obviously closely related.
3A. Finally, THE CONCERN OF
1B. The LORD, our
God, is merciful and His mercy endureth forever. Psalm 136
emphatically declares, by restating, in 26 consecutive verses, that
Godís mercy endures forever. Because God is merciful, He doesnít
want anyone to suffer needlessly. And the whole issue of "putting
away" and divorce results in needless suffering and anguish of
the heart beyond measure.
2B. As well, responding to his critics in
Matthew 19.6, the Lord Jesus Christ pointed out that God, as the
Author of the institution of marriage, has a stake in every coupleís
marriage. We read, "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one
flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put
3B. Every husband and wife couple are, in
a sense, melded into a single identity by means of their marriage to
each other. God has made it so, Jesus tells us. Therefore, what God
has put together man should not tear apart, either by "putting
away" your spouse as a step toward initiating a divorce, or by
"putting away" your spouse in such a way that your spouse
will initiate divorce against you.
1. People today see themselves as
independent and autonomous, perfectly free to do whatever they want to
do, and the consequences be hanged.
2. But whenever there is a
relationship between a man and a woman God reserves His right as Creator
to interpose His standards on that relationship.
3. And especially when the
relationship is formalized in the institution of marriage, when the man
is the husband and the woman is the wife (and there is no other kind of
marriage sanctioned by God, by the way), God expects both parties to do
what is necessary to preserve that marriage.
4. Sadly, however, it is
oftentimes the case in our culture that one of the spouses "puts
away" the other. Such "putting away," either by being
emotionally detached or by committing adultery or for some other reason,
frequently results in divorce.
5. If people had a different view
of God, and if people had a different understanding of marriage, perhaps
some of the pain and heartache caused by this "putting away"
of oneís spouse would diminish.
6. Brother Isenberger now comes
to lead us in a song before this morningís sermon.
1. While listening to news radio
this week my attention was caught when mention was made of what was
purported to be a study conducted by a highly respected psychologist at
the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
2. The conclusion of this
supposedly scientific study? The first sentence after the headline said,
"Divorce does not harm children in the large majority of cases, an
American study claims."
3. Now, you will excuse me when I
hesitate to genuflect before the academic community in these United
States of America, because I have been to university, and have first
hand experience with these so-called "seekers of truth."
4. Donít get me wrong. I favor
a good university education and think itís almost indispensable in
this society in which we live. A university education places into your
hands the keys to this earthly kingdom, to turn a phrase, and is a step
up in almost every personís career path. Education is not to be
5. But when I hear anything from
a university professor, a researcher, a scientist, that contradicts the
plain teaching of Godís Word, and beyond that the conclusions
resulting from common sense and practical lifeís experience, I
discount what I hear.
6. But when what I hear is yet
another assault on the nuclear family unity, another foray against the
necessity of having both parents in the home as the optimum environment
for raising children, another lie that will result in even more
childrenís lives being harmed and young people growing up with
insecurities they need not have, and with a distorted value system that
has been intentionally warped by the so-called "experts," then
I am enraged.
7. Is it not butchery enough to
kill as many unborn children as you possibly can, Mr. Liberal
politician, Ms. Feminist, Mr.
Pacifist-Do-Nothing-In-The-Face-Of-Holocaust? But must you also venture
forth with your contrived studies that defy common sense, to convince
the selfish and self-centered adults of this world, and to persuade the
promiscuous young people of this world, that they are not harming their
children when they blow up their little lives with divorce, or when they
enter into marriages that have no chance of survival, producing children
who will certainly themselves become casualties of divorce?
8. Excuse me, but Iíve preached
too many times and looked into the eyes of little boys who miss their
daddies, young women in their teens whose hearts ache for the hug of
their fathers, and children who long for the nod of approval and
encouragement to the ear that can only come from the parent who is not
9. I am not so naive as to think
that Dr. Mavis Hetherington is stupid. You donít get to be a tenured
professor in a major university by being stupid. I am not questioning
her intelligence. I am, however, challenging her wisdom, I am
challenging her comprehension of the issues, I am challenging the part
she is playing in an unholy feminist agenda that would sacrifice
marriages and cast little children on the altars of humanism and
10. I raised the issue of divorce
with the kids in our Christian school Thursday morning during chapel. I
discussed some things, I ranted a while, and then I asked the kids a
question. I canít remember the exact wording. But I told the kids what
Mavis said about divorce not harming children, and asked them if they
thought she was right in her conclusions.
11. Quite obviously, the kids in
our school disagreed with her conclusions. But they didnít disagree
with Mavisís conclusions because they are students in a Christian
school. They disagreed with Mavisís conclusions because either they
have suffered the heartache of a split up of their own parents, or they
have seen what divorce has done to their best friends and classmates.
12. I am not at this time
affixing blame for divorce. But I am asserting that when children are in
a home where there is a breakup there are lifelong consequences that can
be directly attributed to the "putting away" and the divorce
that has taken place.
13. My two best friends in the
Gospel ministry are the children of divorced parents. And I can tell you
that it would be impossible to convince either of those two men that a
child can escape a divorce situation unharmed. Divorce is terrible for
the adults involved. Divorce is catastrophic for the children involved.
14. Be mindful that there are
grave judgments awaiting anyone who offends one of these little ones who
believe in Him, Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 18.6. Better for
that mom or dad "that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and
that he were drowned in the depth of the sea," than to offend such
a child by causing a divorce.
15. The Gospel ministry cannot
undivorce anyone. And once the "putting away" of a spouse
emotionally, that will lead to "putting away" physically, that
will lead ultimately to divorce, has begun I am not terribly optimistic.
But for those who are not yet in trouble in your marriages, or for those
of you contemplating marriage someday, and for our children, I propose a
16. Allow me to recommend some
steps that I believe will be helpful in preventing any "putting
away" in a marriage. Marriage is hard, especially in this climate
of divorce and temptation. So we need to take a step back and reexamine
the entire institution of marriage all over again to make sure weíve
got it right, to make sure weíve not bought into our thinking this
cultureís wrong view of marriage, in order to prevent as much as
possible the step that leads to divorce, the step that God hates, which
is "putting away."
17. If you someday get married
you will be far less likely to "put away" your spouse if you
will now, and within the context and confines of this Church, do three
1A. The First Thing You Must
Do Is RECOGNIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF MARRIAGE
1B. My friend, marriage, that
institution brought into existence by God, which forms the only
boundaries within which certain expressions of love are permitted, is
1C. Important to God as a
visible reminder of the relationship that exists between God and His
2C. Important to you, as the
only relationship within which your deepest emotional and physical
needs are met.
3C. Important to your spouse,
as the only relationship within which you may work to fulfill your
spouseís deepest emotional and physical needs.
4C. Important to your
children, as the place within which boys learn how to be manly and
girls learn how to be womanly, and wherein they themselves learn how
to be husbands and wives, and parents.
5C. Important to society,
since the building block of our society is not the individual
citizen but the intact family unit.
6C. Important to the Church,
as the social unit within which the most well-rounded and stable
Christian church members will be raised.
7C. And important to the
advance of the Gospel, since our marriages typify the relationship
that exists between Jesus Christ and His bride, the Church.
2B. How important is marriage?
Marriage is so important that when God provided the ten commandments
as the constitution for the nation building He had undertaken, 3 of
the 6 commandments given to govern the relationship between citizens
of that young nation are directly related to the preservation of
marriages and strengthening of the family unit.
3B. Sadly, I do not see
reflected in our culture and society such a recognition of the
importance of marriage these days.
1C. I remember one girl who
told me she was saving herself for her husband. Then she met a guy
she really liked and began to fornicate with him.
2C. Then she broke up with
him and committed fornication with a number of other men, according
to her own testimony to me. And now she is married and raising a
3C. Whatís the tragedy
here? Three come to mind: First, her fornication, which will almost
certainly lead to a divorce down the road. Second, her discounting
of the importance and sanctity of marriage. Third, the great tragedy
and heartache that will be visited on her children when the divorce
4C. O, how my heart breaks
when a tender and sensitive young woman, whose pain and sense of
loss from her parentís divorce is severe, who longs for her absent
fatherís attention and love and affection, succumbs to temptation
and makes a baby without benefit of marriage, thereby guaranteeing
that her child experiences the same pain and sense of loss that she
grew up with.
3B. Marriage is important,
people. And it is only in marriage that people should act like married
people act. It is marriage that God says is honorable, Hebrews 13.4.
And in marriage is the bed undefiled.
4B. You should look upon anyone
as an enemy and dangerous to your children who diminishes the
importance of marriage in their understanding.
2A. Next, Consider How You
Will RECRUIT A SPOUSE FOR MARRIAGE
Obviously, the roles the man
and the woman play in this drama that ends up in marriage is quite
different. But a few comments about things common to both men and
women contemplating marriage are in order.
1B. First, the spiritual
1C. Though spiritual
qualifications are usually the last considerations of couples
planning to marry it will be the spiritual qualifications that bear
most directly on the survivability of the marriage.
2C. How do I know?
Emotionally stable people get divorced with great regularity. And so
do very good looking people who find each other very attractive
3C. But itís the spiritual
qualifications that determine how a man or a woman will act when
tempted, that will determine how a spouse will react to the
otherís sin, that will determine how unforeseen circumstances will
be coped with.
4C. Therefore, spiritual
qualifications ought to be the first consideration of every man and
of every woman contemplating marriage, not the last consideration,
and not even the second consideration.
2B. Next, the emotional and
1C. I hate to distinguish
between spiritual qualifications and emotional qualifications, since
the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which bears directly upon a personís
spiritual qualifications, most greatly affects a manís or a
2C. That said, some
personalities simply do not mesh well. As well, though I have seen
many marriages in which there is great disparity between the husband
and the wife intellectually, the one being much smarter than the
other, itís becoming more difficult with the passing of time.
3C. Used to be a smart farm
girl could marry a dumb farm boy and live happily ever after. But it
is increasingly difficult for such intellectual mismatches these
days, because very bright women are simply embarrassed by the
dullness of a not so bright husband.
4C. And since a womanís
respect for her husband, Sarah calling Abraham lord, you will
remember from First Peter 3.6, such things as education and
intellectual ability need to be considered as a secondary factor to
3B. Finally, there are the
physical qualifications for marriage
1C. Do people need to be
reminded that there is a component in marriage that is purely
physical, and that there must be, therefore, physical attraction to
oneís proposed mate?
2C. The problem many couples
find is that they will consider for marriage someone who they find
physically attractive, which is perfectly okay in its place, but who
is not in any way qualified spiritually, and who may not be properly
qualified emotionally and intellectually.
3C. My friends, if you
recognize how very important marriage is then you will carefully and
cautiously recruit according to the guidelines God has set out for
you the person you marry.
4C. If you abandon these
criteria for marriage, or if you switch their importance by valuing
physical attraction more than spiritual qualifications, then you
only show that you do not recognize the importance of marriage and
you endanger both the marriage and the children produced in the
3A. Finally, REALIZE THE
PROPER GOAL OF MARRIAGE
Most people try to fulfill
their personal goals in marriage. But since their personal goals in
marriage are wrong their marriages fail, because their personal goal
in marriage is to be happy. So, when something interrupts or
interferes with the happiness of a marriage a divorce is the result.
To avoid the pitfalls letís
understand what marriage is supposed to be all about.
1B. First, considered
negatively, the goal of marriage is not to be happy
1C. Folks, happiness depends
on what happens. But you donít know whatís going to happen in
the future and neither do I.
2C. What if your spouse
develops Alzheimerís? What if your spouse develops multiple
sclerosis or muscular dystrophy? What if you are in an accident and
you suffer a spinal cord injury, like Jim Sehnert did?
3C. If your marriage is built
on the expectation of happiness someone is going to walk when a hard
thing comes. If your marriage is built on the expectation of
happiness, or even the feeling that you have a right to be happy,
then your marriage is at the mercy of circumstances and it may end
at any time.
4C. Therefore, marriages must
not ever be built on the anticipation of, the expectation of, or the
feeling of being entitled to, happiness. "I have a right to be
happy in my marriage." No you donít. And your marriage will
fail and end in divorce if you insist on being happy.
2B. On the contrary, considered
positively, the goal of your marriage should be to glorify God
1C. To bring glory to God is,
after all, the reason each of us exists, according to Revelation
4.11. And if the individual people created by God exist to glorify
Him, then the union of two people in marriage should be to achieve
the same purpose.
2C. Now recognize, you
canít always be happy, but you can always glorify God. You canít
always predict the circumstances of your life, but you can plan your
responses to the various circumstances of life.
3C. Thus, sometimes you will
be happy and sometimes you will be sad. But you can always work to
"glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are
Godís," First Corinthians 6.20.
4C. When you marry someone
who is committed, with you, to glorifying God in your bodies and in
your spirits, then the likelihood of that marriage ending in divorce
is small, and the likelihood of that marriage getting in trouble
because one of you has "put away" the other emotionally or
physically, is also small.
1. I conclude with these words.
Itís nice to decide that you will recognize how important marriage is,
that you intend to recruit the proper person for marriage, and that you
plan on keeping fixed in your mind as the proper goal for marriage the
bringing of glory to God.
2. But itís not going to
happen, my friend, unless you are in Church on a regular basis, sitting
under sound Bible preaching, and reconciled to God through faith in
3. You see, studies have shown
that the divorce rate among Church going, Bible believing, couples is
virtually the same as those who do not go to Church and who do not
believe the Bible.
4. In the Bible belt southern
states the divorce rate among Southern Baptists is actually higher than
the divorce rate among mainline denominations in New England, for two
reasons, I think: First, churches in the south more aggressively
evangelize, bringing in more couples with unstable marriages into their
Churches than do mainline Churches in New England. But these new members
are no more likely to be genuinely converted than the old members are.
5. Second, expectations among
southern churches are higher for marriage than in other regions, meaning
southern church members tend to expect to be happier in their marriages,
and are thus more easily disappointed when their marriages are not so
happy. The result? Divorce rates as high as unchurched people.
6. What is the Biblical solution
to divorce? Itís the same as the Biblical solution to the
"putting away" that leads to divorce. Attending Church
faithfully is very important. Bible reading and prayer is important. But
nothing is as important as a genuinely converted person marrying a
properly qualified partner, meaning also genuinely converted, and the
two of them spending their lives together in one Church glorifying God
through thick and through thin.
7. And what a blessing such men
and women would be to their children. Because the number one fear of
children in America is the fear that they will lose one or both parents.
How tragic it is, then, to lose a mom or a dad who is still alive, to
lose them by divorce.
8. Attend one Church faithfully. Make sure you know Christ. Seek to