Summary: Jesus appears to stongly condemn remarriage after a divorce. This tends to create a bleak future for a lot of folks. But was this his intent? This sermon covers the message that Jesus was delivering concerning divorce and remarriage.
We are in the midst of a series entitled “Upsetting the Apple Cart.” We have already discovered that murder is wrong but Jesus equated being angry with someone to murder. We have already discovered that adultery is wrong but Jesus equated looking with lust to adultery. Today He really upsets my personal apple cart and some of yours.
Let’s read Matthew 5:31-32 “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.”
There are three points to this scripture that I want to address. First, the law concerning divorce. Secondly, the unfairness to the woman whose only hope is to find another husband. And thirdly, the free card it seems that the man gets as long as he does not marry a divorcee.
Let’s look at the law of which Jesus spoke. It is found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. “Suppose a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something wrong with her, he writes a document of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house. When she leaves his house, she is free to marry another man. But if the second husband also turns against her, writes a document of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her away, or if he dies, the first husband may not marry her again, for she has been defiled. That would be detestable to the Lord. You must not bring guilt upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as a special possession.
Here is the provision of the law. A man marries a woman. She displeases him. She is served divorce papers and has to leave. She is in a society where woman are considered more of a possession and less of a partner. She needs a male, be it husband, father, brother, or son, to care for her. Hopefully she will find someone else to lay claim to her. She is free to do that. However if this husband divorces her or dies she cannot return to her first husband. That is the law that Jesus is reminding them about.
But men being men concentrate of the first part of the law. Deuteronomy 24:1 “Suppose a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something wrong with her, he writes a document of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house.”
She burnt the toast, grounds for a divorce. She let herself go and she’s not as attractive as she once was, grounds for a divorce. She’s beyond childbearing years, grounds for a divorce. Anything not pleasing to the man, grounds for divorce. Something is wrong with her; she lost a tooth, grounds for divorce. Quite a loophole for the guys.
When Jesus is teaching this men were using divorce as a way of pursuing other love interests. They were not committing adultery so they were able to maintain their righteousness. Therefore their status before God did not change.
The second point Jesus makes is that in divorcing their wives, the women become adulteresses. God declared marriage to be a joining of one flesh. He gave no provision for that flesh being ripped apart. It was not something to be broken on a whim. Divorce put a woman in a situation where she was forced to go out and remarry violating the vow of one flesh. And if she did remarry, that person became an adulterer.
There is the third point. Just don’t marry a divorcee. Be sure, when you dump your wife it will be for a woman who has never married. That might be hard to do if divorce is running rampant. Later Jesus cleared any misunderstanding about a free card for men in Matthew 19:9. “And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” It’s adultery for men for the same reason it is for women. Because it violates the vow of being one flesh.
So, let’s ask this question. “If divorce is wrong, then why did God make a provision for divorce?” Jesus answered that question in Matthew 19: 7-8. “Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked.
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.”
Divorce is not God’s intent. Never was and never will be. It was because of the condition of hard hearts that divorce was permitted. It is hard hearts that leads us to sin. It is hard hearts that quenches the Holy Spirit within us. God finds divorce appalling and unacceptable. God hates divorce. The Bible says as much.