Marriage is Binding
--Have a drawing and give out a bunch of worthless certificates. i.e. “Free hot dog at
,” “Good for one Lamborghini,” “Good for a house” Pelican Park
I can give out any certificate for anything I want, but unless the person, or corporation that has to honor that certificate believes it to be valid, then the certificate is only worth as much as the paper it is printed on, which isn’t much because it has already been printed on. There was a belief in the Old Testament times that if you wanted a divorce, you could write out a certificate and give it to your wife and that would be that. The Pharisees took what started out as a way of protecting women and turned it into a belief that God Himself approved of such divorces.
Let’s look at a passage that shows how the Pharisees believed these certificates of divorce were approved by God and how they tried to test Jesus on the legitimacy of them. Matthew 19:3-9, “3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"
4"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'[a] 5and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'[b]? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
7"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"
8Jesus replied, "Moses permitted [Notice difference between “command” and “permitted”] you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."
The only reason that Jesus mentioned where divorce was permitted was adultery. The greek work used for adultery is Porneia, which is where we get the word pornography. In short, it implies all forms of sexual immorality, including what we talked about the last two weeks, namely lust being the same as adultery. But there were other grounds for divorce mentioned in the Old Testament. This had to do with polygamy and how a wife should be treated. In Exodus 21:10-11 it says, “If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. If he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.” I believe if a spouse is abused, neglected, or abandoned they have a Biblical reason for divorce.
The Pharisees idea of a certificate came from 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….” But typical of the Pharisees, they took a small idea, meant as an allowance to be used in rare occasions, and turned it into a huge idea to be used whenever. Now, according to the Pharisees a man can divorce his wife for any reason as long as he gives her a certificate of divorce, which would allow her to remarry. There is historic evidence of Jewish men divorcing their wives for extremely ridiculous things. For example, a man could divorce his wife for burning his food, using too much salt in his food, and for saying insulting things about his mother.
But once again Jesus saw through the trap, turned the Pharisees’ question on its head, made them look foolish, and used it as a teaching point. The Pharisees knew what Jesus’ views on divorce were and wanted him to publicly disagree with what Moses had written, which would have been a big issue to the Jewish culture. But Jesus didn’t disagree with what Moses had written, He disagreed with how the Pharisees interpreted and applied the teaching.
Jesus believed that marriage was sacred and binding. If we look at our next passage in the Sermon on the Mount, which is Matt 5:31-32, Jesus said, “It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.'[a] 32But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” The NKJV starts out with, “Furthermore, it has been said….” Jesus’ last two teachings started out with “It has been said….” This is the third in the series of teachings that Jesus was telling them that what they thought they knew was wrong. It is like what happened when people first heard someone argue that the world was round, or that it revolved around the sun instead of the sun revolving around the earth. It challenged the way they thought, and made them extremely uncomfortable. And the religious establishment treated Jesus the same way they would treat Copernicus and Galileo 1500 years later. Galileo was found guilty of heresy, or holding a belief contrary to the established church’s beliefs, which at the time was punishable by death. And Copernicus waited until he was dead to have his book released that contained his theory.
The certificates that Jewish men were giving their wives were as worthless as the certificates I gave out today. In God’s eyes, except in cases of sexual immorality, abuse, or neglect, the couple was still married, certificate or not. In fact, Jesus said that if a man gave his wife one of those worthless certificates of divorce and she re-married, he caused her and her new husband both to commit adultery.
Marriage is serious business. It takes a lot of work and effort. I remember in college there was a married couple who were a couple of years older than me. They were both Christians. We were talking one day and he said, “Marriage is hard work.” I remember as if it were yesterday thinking, “How hard could it be?” What do you have to do to have a birthday? You have to stay alive. What do you have to do to have an anniversary? You have to work. The institution of marriage should not be taken lightly and it will take commitment, not only commitment to each other but commitment to Christ. Rick, from Rick and Bubba, talked about his one step plan for a successful marriage—you have to have Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. Triangle illustration. Having Christ in your life will help you face whatever problem that is in your life. That goes for married couples and for singles. Jesus is the answer to whatever problem you are facing.