Summary: It’s time for us to look again at what God’s views are on the subject of divorce. We need to do something to break the cycle of divorce in our churches.
I remember back when I was in school at Abilene Christian University, a friend of mine went to interview with a church in South Carolina. Before he went, the congregation sent him a message: “Preach about whatever you want… except tobacco.” Now while I would like to think that there was a godly motive behind this, my fear is that these people just didn’t want to hear a lesson that would make them squirm. If they were convinced about the rightness of what they were doing, why would they not want to hear a lesson about it?
I’m thankful that hasn’t happened here. I feel an absolute liberty to preach the Word as long as what I preach is the Word of God. As long as I speak the truth in love.
Today we’ll make a stop in our journey through the book of Luke. I want to touch on a topic that is mentioned in Luke 16:18, even though Luke’s gospel doesn’t devote much time to this topic. Yet I think that it merits a look. We’re going to look at what happens when two people become one… and then become two again.
So open your Bibles with me, and let’s turn to Luke 16, verse 18. “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Putting this verse back in its context, we’ll see that Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees about their disrespect for God’s law. In this case, they were doing so by not respecting God’s teaching on divorce.
For the Pharisees the whole debate about divorce comes from Moses’ statement in Deuteronomy 24:1 “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house.”
The two opposing views on this passage came from two rabbis: Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai. Rabbi Hillel said a man could give his wife a "certificate of divorce" if she “displeased” him, be it for burning the food or nagging too much. One rabbi taught that a man had grounds for divorce if he “found a woman fairer than she.” Rabbi Shammai believed that a man could divorce his wife only if she had been unfaithful to him; that is, "something indecent" referred to adultery.
Now if you’ve studied this before, you probably remember that Jesus, as recorded in the gospel of Matthew, twice taught in agreement with Rabbi Shammai, teaching that adultery is grounds for a divorce. My feeling, however, is that we’ve spent way too much time looking at that exception. If you had lived in the first century and had received the gospel of Luke, you probably wouldn’t even know about this “escape clause.” We’ve spent way too much time talking about when you can and why you can and not enough time talking about God’s point of view! Isn’t that why the divorce rate in the church rivals that of the world?
Let’s go to the book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament. In Malachi 2:13-16 we have a wonderful look into God’s heart as he discusses divorce. Hear these words:
Mal. 2:13 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. 14 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.