Malachi 2.16



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 treacherously."

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.


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 made.

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.


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 also."

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 responding to.

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.


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 asunder."

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 scorned.

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 there.

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 feminist autonomy.

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 remedy.

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 things:


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 profoundly important.

1C. Important to God as a visible reminder of the relationship that exists between God and His wife, Israel.

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 family.

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 takes place.

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.


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 qualifications

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 physically.

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 intellectual qualifications

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 womanís personality.

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 spiritual qualifications.

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 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 Jesus Christ.

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 glorify God.

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