Take a deep breath…
And it came about that when Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee, and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there. And some Pharisees came to Him, testing Him, and saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”
1/4+1/4= 2x.5÷2 Oh no! I’m mathing! But we’ll get back to this. Remember that Matthew did not write with chapter breaks or in verses but that they were added later for ease of reference. Nevertheless, this is a good place for a chapter break because there exists a natural change in the context, scenery and setting. Notice the change; “And it came about that when Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee, and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.”
Jesus finished the words, metaphors and parables we read in Matthew 18 and has left the region of, and surrounding Galilee, and is now in the proverbial “lion’s den” of Judea. Although only several miles south, it is like a different world. In Galilee Jesus maintained some sort of autonomy, flew a little bit under the radar, and although pestered, wasn’t constantly harassed by the Pharisees. In Judea, this is all about to change. But I am getting way ahead of myself.
Nevertheless, Jesus continues to reveal himself as we read, “He departed from Galilee, and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.” Jesus spent the majority of his earthly dwelling in the region of, and surrounding, Galilee. In Matthew 4, after Jesus was baptized by John, and after John was taken into custody, Jesus withdrew to Galilee to fulfill prophecy and to get out of Dodge; notice: “Now when He heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, “THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES—“THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND TO THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED.” From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Notice he didn’t say, “Just pray a simple prayer. You’ll be born again and I’ll give you the desires of your heart.”
We are approximately 65% through the book of Matthew. Yet we are 99% through the earthly, humanly life of Jesus. He is entering his “last days.” We see the sublime string of Jesus progressively revealing himself to the “only sign given,” the sign of Jonah. Jesus has entered Judea to voluntarily lay down his life for his sheep, or; his bride. And while there remains much more context to consider, Jesus will never again enter Galilee in his earthly tent–he is nearing the cross. We will see Jesus progressively and completely claim that he is the Christ. We will never again read the words, “see to it that you tell no one,” in the rest of Matthew. We will see a more bold and thought provocative Jesus. He is turning up the heat–watch for it. Jesus has the Pharisees right where he wants them (completely corrupt and compromised, capable of killing).
Which reminds me, we have immediate context to consider. “And some Pharisees came to Him, testing Him, and saying, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?'” One problem with writing is it’s difficult to hear the disdain in the writer’s voice. Make no mistake, the Pharisees aren’t curiously questioning, but questioning to condemn–the context has, and will confirm–notice the word, “testing.” I also am writing this with the same tone. Don’t think for a second that the Pharisees were teachable. Quite the contrary, they wanted something, anything from Jesus to be able to accuse him as blasphemous before the people. They couldn’t care less about Jesus’s thoughts on marriage and divorce–they were trying to trip him up. In so doing, they were “stumbling blocks”–woe to them. Nevertheless, they didn’t cause Christ to stumble and in fact, they caused him to shine.
“Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Jesus is doing some fancy mathing here in Matthew–the 2 become 1. 1+1=1. That is, 1 man + 1 woman = 1 flesh. That’s an interesting equation. But Jesus, even before his using heavenly math, goes back to the beginning. God made them make and female. It starts and ends there because that’s how God made them. It’s easy to corrupt marriage when we remove God from the equation.
I began with an equation of my own: 1/4+1/4=2x.5÷2 Is this equation accurate? 1/4 +1/4= 1/2; 2x.5÷2=1/2 Therefore both expressions are equal although the expressions are quite different. Male and female = human. Equal but different. God made them different yet equal. God gave them different roles, but no role is more important than the other. I write this because of our cultural climate, which is similar to the first century. As an aside; I believe God made man the head of the household because, generally speaking, men don’t want the responsibility but women do. I can hear your blood boiling and see the steam coming out of your ears. It’s actually a compliment to women. Women, in general, are more organized and thoughtful, are better at knowing needs–the list continues. Problem; God says that the man is to be the head of a woman as Christ is the head of the church -Ephesians 5. If I am wrong with my hypothesis, show me. The irony about my claim is that women will be insulted but I am pointing out the laziness of men. Also, we misunderstand much of what it means to be the “head.” Actually, no, we don’t, we pretend to. We’re slothful men and userping women.
Nevertheless, I digress. The truth with which we tangle, is that in marriage, the equation, the formula, the expression is, one man + one woman = one flesh. One flesh cannot be unequal, because it’s one. How else can I say this except; marriage is super-duper special?!?!?! Lol. Sorry. We say it, it’s taught at our weddings but we don’t grasp the heavenly equation of one man, plus, one woman, equals, one flesh. “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” A quick expository exegesis of examples: “I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel.” We’ll cover the context later.
Read the following like it came from a ninth-grade bully: oh yeah, well then how come “Moses commanded to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” Take that Jesus! Our awesome father, Moses, said we could divorce, who are you to contradict the great Moses? I am seriously seeing some similarities between ourselves and the Pharisees. We are more and more converting to culture rather than embracing the efficient efficacy of marriage as God created it. Furthermore, we look at generations past, who also did it wrong, and attempt to dismiss the Bible as patriarchy–male chauvinistic sets of rules and regulations used to keep the women down. Wrong! One cannot dismiss the Bible because one’s father oppressed one’s mother, claiming that he was the head of the household and his wife had to submit to his authority, beating her if she got out of line. What could possibly be more against “one flesh” than that? Like we follow our culture, they followed their culture and climate, just as the Pharisees did, not considering the context or the words of Christ. Nor how Christianity liberated women, by the book.
“He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.'” There it is, the words we all need to see, but hate to hear. From the beginning God had a perfect design but because of our rock-hard hearts, we took the wrong way. Don’t worry, it gets worse.
“And I say to you, whoever divorces (ἀπολῦσαι) his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Problem, and it’s no small one; Jesus uses the Greek word transliterated as, “pornea;” fornication, for “immorality. He doesn’t use “emoicheusen;” adultery, for immorality. But he did use it for the one who remarries. Vitamin E time.
In the context of Matthew, in chapter one, we read; “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away (divorce; ἀπολῦσαι) secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.'”
Joseph and Mary were not yet married yet it seems that since they were “betrothed,” he would have to divorce her. The suspicion was, “pornea.” Joseph was compassionate and wanted to do it quietly, but then an angel told him that the pregnancy was not from”pornea” but from the Holy Spirit. Do we see the similarities and the sublime string in Matthew? Jesus has a similar story, with exact words, in his own history. Jesus chose his words carefully–we should consider the context and see the severity of spousal separation, and remarriage.
Back to consider the context of Malachi: “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers? Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD which He loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. As for the man who does this, may the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob everyone who awakes and answers, or who presents an offering to the LORD of hosts. And this is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then, to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For ‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘and him who covers his garment with wrong,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.'”
I struggle with how deep to dig, discussing divorce. Since I am not here to make friends or win a most popular blog contest, but to mine for gold; hoping that you come as you are, expecting to be changed; to expose false teaching; to change our minds concerning culture and tradition and above all else, promote daily Bible reading–where the reader considers the context, ascertains the author’s aspiration to his audience, jives with the genre, explores an expository exegesis of examples and divides rightly the word of truth, buckle up.
The run-on sentence is a literary device that RussellP uses to stall as he considers how much to reveal. I realize that most of you who read my blogs are writers, yourselves. I don’t know how you write, but I toss almost everything out there and the edit out the nonsense; like this paragraph. But I am going to keep it in so that you may see the struggle I have with continuing with the deeper connection of the context. [Pause] I walked away from writing, took a ride, grabbed some grub, picked up a bulletin from my former church that I had left out and began to peruse the pamphlet for upcoming events. As it turns out, in a couple of weeks, the sermon topic will be about divorce and remarriage. The pastor and teaching-elder are two men that I trust with the word of God; it’s why I left when I did–they no longer needed me. I could easily give you their website and you could listen for yourselves because I am sure they will do a better job. Nevertheless, we’re here to consider the context, not the topic. But before we delve deep into other scripture, we should finish today’s text, as it goes with all of this other context.
“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”
This is going to get R-RATED quickly, therefore be forewarned. Not because I have a dirty mind but because we all have a dirty mind–the Bible records that and therefore it is R-RATED. Since I am going way over time here, why not tell another short story? A few missives ago I made some inside jokes concerning circumcision, one of them based on Joshua, circumcising all of Israel in one day. At youth group, several years ago, we were looking at the beginning of the book of Joshua; how Moses was dead, Joshua was now to lead Israel, the pre-incarnate Jesus met with Joshua just before they entered into the promised land and within all of this, because context is king, we saw the ceremonial circumcision of all of Israel. There was much mummering and whispering, which I expected, it’s circumcision and they’re teenagers. But afterward, I was told by a female, youth group servent, “they don’t know what circumcision is.” My point is that the topic may make us a bit uneasy and may be R-RATED, but it’s also Biblical, we can’t be kept in the dark like these teenagers.
Jesus spoke of three different types of eunuchs; ones born that way, ones that are made eunuchs by others and ones who choose to be eunuchs. Problem: if teenagers have not been taught circumcision, what chance is there that we know what a eunuch is. A eunuch is a man whose reproductive man-parts are missing, almost always by castration. Like a dog who has been nuetered or a gelding horse, a eunuch exists, sans testicles. And that sounds awful, but consider the context. The disciples discover (DO NOT MISS THIS), “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” Did the Master of metaphor mean for us to take this literally? Probably not to literal extremes but the response of Jesus is telling.
“Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.” Being a eunuch is good for the sake of the Kingdom, Jesus said it plainly but not everyone can accept this–he said that plainly too. Notice also what Paul wrote to the Corinthians; “But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn. But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not send his wife away.” The “but” is a conjunction that links theses verses with the ones before, which are relevant to say the least. But we are running out of time and attention spans.
A summation of the last few paragraphs: Getting married is serious business. Getting divorced is even more serious. Remarrying after divorce is almost out of the question for a christian. Needless to say, everyone who happens to read this will no doubt have been divorced and remarried– that’s how it usually works. To the remarried–welcome, don’t hate me, yet! Actually, go ahead and hate me, it’s not going to get any better. The good news is that I am almost the foremost among sinners, second only to the apostle Paul. That is to say that, your divorce and remarriage can’t hold a candle to my sins, so relax, I am certainly not judging you.
If you have been divorced and remarried, it is almost always sin though. Again, if you want to point the finger at me and compare sins, I am sure that I will be the more sinful one. I forgive you, 100% because I have needed much more forgiveness from many more people. I am certainly not here to point the proverbial finger but to consider the context. It’s no accident that this passage follows Christ’s demand that we forgive. Nevertheless, we have to call a spade a spade. God hates divorce, and here is why. Marriage is the earthly covenant that is representetive of Jesus and his people. Someone will undoubtedly say, “but RussellP, you don’t understand, my husband beat me.” I am truly sorry for you. I hope that you called the authorities and had him remanded to custody. I hope he was reformed and transformed. If not, flee, change your name, what ever it takes but don’t remarry, rather focus entirely on Jesus.
And now a bombardment of Vitamin E: “I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” -2 Corinthians
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” -Just about the end of the Bible
“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.” It’s more than a little interesting that Paul quotes the same Old Testament tutor that Jesus quoted. Look at the context, the clear comparison is made between the marriage between man and woman and Christ and his church.
Many other passages confirm this, but even my attention span is wearing off. We need to understand the greater meaning of marriage. It’s the Covenant between Jesus and his people, which cannot be broken, unlike the Old Covenant. Let’s lastly look at an abridged example from our Old Testament tutor; “When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD…Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I should ever forgive them…When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God…Say to your brothers, “Ammi,” and to your sisters, “Ruhamah,” “Contend with your mother, contend, For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband; And let her put away her harlotry from her face, And her adultery from between her breasts, Lest I strip her naked And expose her as on the day when she was born. I will also make her like a wilderness, Make her like desert land, And slay her with thirst. “Also, I will have no compassion on her children, Because they are children of harlotry. “For their mother has played the harlot; She who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, Who give me my bread and my water, My wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, And I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths. “And she will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them; And she will seek them, but will not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my first husband, For it was better for me then than now!’ “For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine, and the oil, And lavished on her silver and gold, Which they used for Baal. “Therefore, I will take back My grain at harvest time And My new wine in its season. I will also take away My wool and My flax Given to cover her nakedness. “And then I will uncover her lewdness In the sight of her lovers, And no one will rescue her out of My hand. “I will also put an end to all her gaiety, Her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths, And all her festal assemblies. “And I will destroy her vines and fig trees, Of which she said, ‘These are my wages Which my lovers have given me.’ And I will make them a forest, And the beasts of the field will devour them. “And I will punish her for the days of the Baals When she used to offer sacrifices to them And adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry, And follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me,” declares the LORD. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Bring her into the wilderness, And speak kindly to her. “Then I will give her her vineyards from there, And the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. “And it will come about in that day,” declares the LORD, “That you will call Me Ishi And will no longer call Me Baali. “For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, So that they will be mentioned by their names no more. “In that day I will also make a covenant for them With the beasts of the field, The birds of the sky, And the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, And will make them lie down in safety. “And I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In lovingkindness and in compassion, And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD. “And it will come about in that day that I will respond,” declares the LORD. “I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth, And the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine, and to the oil, And they will respond to Jezreel. “And I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘Thou art my God!’”
Fulfilled in Jesus, Paul said so: “And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea, ‘I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, ‘MY PEOPLE,’ AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, ‘BELOVED.’ AND IT SHALL BE THAT IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, ‘YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,’ THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF THE LIVING GOD.’” Peter confirms; “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
See the sublime string. The Kingdom of Israel divorced Judah and her God. Judah then divorced her God as well. They continually played the harlot with other gods and nations. Do you see it? Misunderstood are the promises of God. Israel and Judah continually preformed immorality against God. He had every right to divorce them. But in the New Covenant, all the responsibility falls on Jesus, one cannot work one’s way in, nor can one commit adultery and be divorced.
That is precisely why the covenant of marriage, which corresponds to the New Covenant in Jesus’ own blood, is so incredibly important, that Jesus says, the one that remarries, commits adultery. Although literal, Jesus is showing the metaphorical meaning of matrimony. His Covenant with his bride cannot be broken; that is why God hates divorce and the hardness of heart. That is why this context flows from, and follows, forgiveness in the context. Yes, we see a slight shift from forgiveness in Galilee, to adultery in Judea, and we should not miss that, but clearly the sublime string continues. Jesus is bringing about a better way than the Law, which no one can follow, except Jesus, Himself.
Remember what started all of this; Moses said we could divorce, our law says we can divorce. Our fathers said we could divorce. But Jesus, quoting his own words from way back says, “FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” God hates divorce because he loves his people, forgiving them ALL their transgressions. The Metaphorical Master, while explaining his disdain for divorce, is ultimately pointing to himself and his bride. Pharisees, leave the law, forsake your fathers and come to me? But as it was written, they won’t. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.