The stories are seemingly endless. Many have turned away from the church, not because of disagreements over doctrine but out of their pain—a hurtful comment here and unreasonable expectation there. Before you know it, they believe the best thing for them to do is walk away.
I’ve seen this many times in my life, and perhaps you have as well. A typical response for many Christians is to assign motives to the ones who left. “If they really loved God, they would still be here.” Or, “They just want to be able to live however they want; they don’t care about the truth.” All the while, these comments further illustrate the reason some have left. Pain. Real pain.
I wrote When Church Hurts in an attempt to minister to those who have or are currently walking on a lonely road. They know that they love God and love the church. But their painful experiences are keeping them at arm’s length away. They need to know that they aren’t alone in their hurt. They need to know that Jesus is just as upset about their pain as they are. They need to know that there is a healthy way forward. They don’t need to leave the church. They do, however, need to help us be more like Jesus.
It is also my hope that we, as the church, can learn from the pain that others have felt from us. Even if the pain was unintentional, it still cuts deep. I hope and pray that God will use this book and the stories within to bring healing to those who are hurting and encourage the church to represent our Lord better.
The book is now available in Paperback and will be released on kindle in the next day or two. If you know someone you feel could benefit from this book, please share this with them. May you all have a blessed holiday season!
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me” are some of the most profound/beautiful words ever to be sung within our churches! Do you believe them? Do you believe, as Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus that we are saved by grace (Eph 2:5)? It is so disheartening when some of us forget this precious truth.
Wrestling With Grace
I have struggled with understanding God’s grace for much of my life. I have difficulty in pinpointing exactly why that is. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that it is due, at least in part, to the fact that nearly every time I have heard a sermon (or preached a sermon for that matter) concerning the grace of God, it is almost immediately followed up with the clarifying words, “But you still have to be obedient!” Somewhere along the way, many have become afraid of grace. They have determined that if grace is preached, then christians will just start living lives of debauchery and claiming that “God’s grace will save them anyways.” After all, that seems to be what some attempted to say in the early church and Paul addressed that very clearly.
Romans 6:1–2 ESV
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Does Jesus expect us to be obedient? Absolutely, He does! He stated in Matthew 7:21 that those who “do the will of the father” as opposed to those who offer only lip service will enter the kingdom. Jesus stated that if the disciples loved Him, they would keep His commandments John 14:15. These statements are true, and we should regard them as such. The problem comes in when we develop a “performance based/obedience based” view of salvation. “If I work hard enough, sacrifice more, and perfectly keep all the commandments of God, then and only then, will I be saved.”
This type of a mindset is damaging to the Christian, it causes them to live in constant fear of not being perfect. More serious than that, it minimizes what our God has done. Consider these words written by Peter.
1 Peter 1:13 ESV
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.“
Take note of what the Christian was supposed to set their hope fully on. Was it their obedience? The Christian hope was to be set fully upon the grace of their Lord, Jesus. Church, this should make us stand up and celebrate! My hope is in the grace of God! It must be, because I cannot earn my salvation. I will not be saved if I have checked all the right boxes. I can check every item off the list, but without God’s grace, it is meaningless.
Scripture seems so clear in this regard, which leads to the question, “Why do so many Christians live in constant fear concerning their salvation?” The answer to this question, likely varies from person to person. However, I think for me, I know the answer. At its root, are a few verses that I have misunderstood for a long time. I’ll share one with you here.
Acts 17:30 ESV
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,“
The perceived need to be perfect
For the longest time, I understood this text to teach that God “used to” overlook ignorance, but now He has no tolerance for ignorance. Therefore, if you and I misunderstand something, anything, we are lost. If we fail to do everything in the exact manner in which God wants, we are lost. Even if we don’t know that we are wrong, because, God no longer tolerates ignorance. This understanding caused me, (and maybe you) to tremble with fear. What if I am wrong about something? What if I do my best to understand something, but I am still not exactly right? Is that it for me? Is God looking at me from His throne, knowing that my heart belongs to Him, but sees me (in my ignorance) mess something up/get something wrong, and now, I have no hope?
A straightforward, out- of- context reading of this verse would lead us to draw these conclusions. As with all passages of scripture, context is everything.
In this text, Paul is walking the streets of Athens. He looks around at all of the idols that the city was filled with. He even found an idol that was dedicated to “the unknown God”. Paul used this opportunity to preach in the midst of the Areopagus. He wanted to let them know about the God that they didn’t know. Paul proclaimed that God was the creator, and the sustainer. He even quoted from their own poets who believed that they were “offspring of God”. Paul then makes a logical argument to try to show these men the error in their thinking. Acts 17:29
Acts 17:29 ESV
“Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.”
Here is Paul’s argument, “Since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that God is something we have created with our own hands.” Pretty solid argument, is it not? Then we arrive at the verse in question, V.30. What is the ignorance that God overlooked, but no longer has patience for? Keeping in mind, that when Paul spoke those words, the NT had not yet been written. Men did not have access to all the writings of scripture. Therefore, we know that Paul was not saying that God had no tolerance for ignorance of any kind. So what was Paul saying that God’s tolerance had run out on?
Acts 17:30 (NIV)
30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
Acts 17:30 (KJV 1900)
30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Acts 17:30 (NKJV)
30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,
The NIV, KJV, and NKJV do a good job of highlighting that there was a specific ignorance that God was done with overlooking. What was the ignorance that God used to overlook, but now was not going to continue to overlook? The very thing that Paul was addressing! This ignorance was the thinking that God was a divine being that was crafted from the imagination of man. This is what men were being called to repent of in this text.
There are many Christians today who I believe do not leave any room for grace. What I mean by that is that they believe in God’s grace, they quote Ephesians 2, and if you ask them if they believe that they will be saved by God’s grace they will respond, “Yes!” However, if you really get down to asking them what the grace of God will cover… The answer in their mind is… not much. They make God’s grace so small. Far from setting their hope on it, they turn inwards and place their hope in their knowledge and their “near-perfect” obedience. After all, we can’t rely on grace. We can’t be ignorant about anything. We need perfect obedience. Have you ever felt this way?
We see that Paul was not saying that all men, everywhere, had to repent of ALL ignorance. Rather, there was a specific ignorance that Paul was addressing in this text. Let’s take a look at one example where we see how God deals with ignorance within His people.
Consider with me one example where God shows His grace. Do you remember the account of King Hezekiah? He was the king who tried to restore the nation back to God. In his restoration efforts we read of him bringing the people together to observe the passover feast. Let’s see what the word of God had to say.
2 Chronicles 30:18–20 (ESV)
“For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord pardon everyone 19 who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” 20And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.“
Let’s make sure the stage is set. We see the people coming together to partake of the passover. However, they did so unlawfully. They did not cleanse themselves according to the Law. Therefore they ate the feast in a manner that was not prescribed. Hezekiah offered a prayer. This prayer was that God would pardon everyone who had set their heart on God. In other words, Hezekiah asked God to pardon those whose hearts were trying to please God, even though they had done something that was unlawful. Don’t miss the next part! What did God do? He heard that prayer, and he healed the people!
There is some clarification that is needed. We do not have an indication that these people could have continued doing what they now knew to be wrong forever and ever, and saying, “God’s grace will cover it.” What we do see, is that the Lord looks at the heart. We are reminded of this when God chose David to be king, (1 Samuel 16:7). Make no mistake about it, we have been ignorant many times in our lives. We are probably missing the mark in some ways that we are not even aware of right now. Does that mean that there is no hope for our souls? Absolutely not! It means, that God’s grace truly is amazing. I choose to set my hope fully upon it.
It is my hope that you will continue to “set your heart to seek God,” and pursue Him with your entire being, all the days of your life. Do your best to follow His will. Set your hope on His grace. Unlike your ability to fully understand, and be perfect in your obedience, His grace will not fail.
***This is the 5th article in this series. It is VERY important that you read these articles in order. If you have missed any in this series, please go back and read them before continuing to read this post. First Article, Second Article, Third Article, Fourth Article***
The two largest passages in the Gospels concerning marriage and divorce are recorded in Mark 10 and in Matthew 19. These are parallel passages. Meaning, they are describing the same event. It is important to study both of these texts together, as doing so can help to “fill in the gaps.”
What we see taking place before our eyes is a pretty familiar scene at this point in the ministry of Jesus. The Pharisees came to test Him. They were not coming to Jesus for instruction. They were not coming to Jesus in order to learn. They were coming to Him in order to put Him to the test, and do their best to trap Him. Here, Matthew records a slight detail that Mark does not. The Pharisees were not simply asking if it was lawful to divorce. As has been demonstrated in previous writings, it was lawful to divorce. The question was, is it lawful to divorce for “any cause”?
Not as simple as it seems:
When the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked Him this question, it was not as simple as it appeared to be. They were trying to lure Him into a trap. They were asking Him to pick a side in an ongoing debate that had been taking place. Many pages have been written detailing this debate. I will briefly summarize the issue here, but will make no attempt or claim to exhaust every facet of this debate.
The Jews were essentially divided into two camps when it came to their understanding of what God allowed as reasons to divorce. Each of these two schools of thought had a leader. Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai. These two Rabbis disagreed on what constituted grounds for divorce. In a previous article we discussed Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and what God, through Moses, was communicating there. Within that text, there was a Hebrew word that was a little ambiguous and hard to define. Some translations translate this word as “uncleanness” or “some indecency”. It is difficult to define the word precisely, as shown below.
Nakedness of a thing. That is about as clear as mud. Shammai focused on the word “nakedness” and determined that this was to refer to sexual sin. Therefore, one could divorce if their spouse was sexually unfaithful. Hillel focused more on the word, “thing”. He took the approach that this wasn’t about sexual sin, but rather something that was shameful. Which opened the door for basically, “any-cause” divorce. Anything that the husband found to be shameful, was grounds for him to divorce his wife. Consider the following excerpt:
Think about this. Jewish Rabbis were teaching that if a wife messed up a meal, the husband could divorce her for that reason. If a wife argued with her husband, he could divorce her. If a man found another woman he liked better than his wife, and now found his wife displeasing because he liked someone else more, he could divorce her. This was what was being taught within Judaism. As you might imagine, the school of Hillel was more popular than the school of Shammai. People preferred the less restrictive approach, which freed them to essentially discard their marriages at will. This was the trap that the Pharisees were laying for Jesus. They were not asking Him questions for the purpose of learning. They were not interested in what the totality of God’s design, desire, and laws were for marriage. They wanted to involve him in this debate, and make Him pick a side. When they asked the question, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for “any cause?” They were asking, “Do you agree with Hillel?”
Before answering their line of questioning Jesus turns their attention back to creation. Sin had certainly done it’s damage among God’s people concerning their marriages. What God designed to be a lifelong union between one man and one woman, had devolved into discussions about being able to divorce because a man found a woman he found to be more attractive, or because last night’s dinner didn’t go as planned. How can man go from God’s beautiful design, to this extreme display of selfishness and disregard for God’s laws? Jesus called their minds back to the beginning. Back to the design. Back to the intent.
Jesus then spoke these words, “let not man separate.” He is clearly stating God’s design/intent for marriage. It is to be lifelong. Man is not to separate for “any cause”. They are supposed to hold fast to one another, cherishing this union. Some have taken this statement to mean “cannot separate”. Indicating that it is not possible for them to separate. This does not track with the other commands of God. For example, God commanded His people to not murder (Exodus 20:13). However, they still had the ability (and sometimes did) murder. God’s people were told repeatedly to rid themselves of idols, yet they repeatedly turned to idols. When Jesus said, “let not man separate” He was not indicating the impossibility of their separation. Rather, that to separate would go against His command, and would therefore, be a sin.
Following the story:
This concluded what Jesus said to the Pharisees. They tried to lure Him into a trap. They wanted Him to pick a side. They wanted to see if He would side with Shammai or Hillel, or possibly teach something that was not in the law so that they could have grounds to charge Him. Jesus did not side with either school of thought. He called their minds back to the design for marriage that was unchanged since creation. One man, one woman, for life. Rather than giving the pharisees “reasons” for divorce, He told them that they should not separate what God joined together.
In Matthew’s Gospel, the account reads as if it were one flowing conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees. However, Mark records for us that this was the end of His discussion with them on this matter. At a later time, (possibly the same day) the disciples were still thinking about what Jesus had said to the Pharisees, so they asked Him about His teachings again.
Matthew is the only NT writer who records what is commonly referred to as “the exception clause”. The word translated as sexual immorality is the word πορνεία (porneia).
While alone with His disciples, Jesus is stating his agreement with Shammai in the debate that the Pharisees tried to lure him into. Can we divorce for “any cause” or for sexual immorality? Jesus states that only πορνεία (porneia), not “any cause”, was grounds for divorce.
One other additional observation about some differences in Matthew’s Gospel and Mark’s is that Mark also addresses women. While not possible to confirm, a common belief is that Matthew does not include Jesus’s address of women in his Gospel account because women initiating divorce was not common and possibly not practiced at this time within Judaism. Whereas, Mark’s audience was of a completely different makeup, and those women were active in initiating divorce. The same rules applied equally to men and to women.
In Matthew 19:9 we read that a man who divorces his wife (without cause) and marries another commits adultery. When we parallel this account with Mark 10, we see a detail that Mark records that Matthew does not.
Mark records that, yes, this man who behaves in this way commits adultery. However, He is committing adultery “against” his first wife. This is significant for our understanding of the text. Consider with me:
We read of Jezebel, and how God had given her time to repent of her sexual immorality. In this text we read of those who committed adultery “with her”. When we consider Jesus’s teachings in Mark 10 He is not describing an individual who is committing adultery “with” someone, but “against” someone. In our next article, we will delve deeper into this by examining what is meant by, “adultery” in the Biblical context.
Better Not To Marry:
Mark’s account of this teaching and conversation has come to a close, and we are left now with only what Matthew writes. After hearing not only what Jesus said to the Pharisees but also the private conversation that they had with Him. The disciples were in shock. After all, the teachings of Hillel were the dominant voices of the day. To them, marriage wasn’t a large commitment, because it could be discarded for “any cause”. When they heard what Jesus had taught, they realized that there was a lot more to this marriage commitment than they had previously believed.
The disciples had a classic overreaction when they heard what Jesus had to say. They stated that if “such is the case”, (man cannot divorce for “any cause”) it would be better not to marry! Jesus pointed out to them that not everyone could receive this saying. What saying could some people not receive? The statement that the disciples had just made. Jesus said that only those to whom it had been given could receive this statement. He then concluded with, “Let the one who is able to receive this, receive it”. Jesus certainly, is not referring to His command. God does not command something that we do not have the ability to obey. However, the statement concerning “not marrying” is something not everyone can do. This agrees with what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:6-7. Jesus said, only those “to whom it is given”. Paul would call the ability to remain single/celibate a gift from God in his writings.
This is the longest article in this series, but it needed to be so. We have seen what sin’s corruption ultimately did to God’s design. What was meant to be a lifelong union was being discarded for “any cause”. Jesus instructed the Pharisees to go back to God’s design. Jesus elaborated on His teaching with His disciples. He did not side with Hillel in this debate, rather He sided with Shammai. He taught that those who did otherwise were committing adultery against their spouse. In our next article, we will talk more about what that means.
***This is Part 4 in a series. If you have not yet read parts 1 you can read it here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.***
Speaking forth God’s message concerning marriage can be controversial to say the least. There are many reasons for this, chief among them is the emotion attached to the subject. It is personal, and yet God still lays out his plan on the matter. Many preachers through the years have pointed to John the Baptist’s untimely death as a prime example of how emotional and controversial such a topic can be. They are right in doing so, since it was John’s confrontation of Herod concerning his marriage that led to John being beheaded.
Usually when we approach a Biblical text while engaging in a topical study, we want to rush to “the end”. We just want to know how something applies to us. What are we to do with these rules? How does this play out in my life? Or the life of my friend? These are good questions, and generally come from the honest heart of an individual seeking to discover how they can walk in a manner that pleases God.
However, we would do well to remind ourselves that when we study scripture, we are not reading something that was written directly to us, about our situation. For us to make appropriate application of the text, we must first understand what it meant to the original audience. Only then, can we make proper application to our lives, where appropriate.
What was it exactly that transpired between John the Baptist and Herod the tetrarch that led to John’s execution?
Mark 6:17–18 ESV
17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
The scene here (also recorded in Matthew 14, and Luke 3) is that John the Baptist had been preaching against Herod because he had married a woman named Herodias. Herodias was the wife of Herod’s brother, Phillip and now Herod had married her. John, while speaking out in condemnation against Herod, told Herod that it was not lawful for him to have her.
We must be careful in our study to not make a text say something that it does not. It can be easy for us to blur those lines and rush to an application that we want to make. Let us be careful not to do that, but just examine this text, in its setting, and understand it’s meaning.
Several things about this passage are abundantly clear. First, is that whatever John was saying to Herod was not easy for him (or Herodias) to hear. In fact, they (she) were so upset concerning what John said, that it eventually led to John’s head being brought to Herodias on a platter (Mark 6:25-28). Another thing that is abundantly clear about what John had taught, is that Herod’s union with Herodias was not lawful.
This is where we need to dive a little deeper. What was meant by “not lawful”? Was this a reference to The Old Testament Law? Was this a reference to the laws of the land? What exactly was John getting at when he said that this union was not lawful? A couple of possibilities present themselves.
Old Testament Law:
Let’s take note of exactly what John had spoken to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” John did not tell Herod that he could not have “a” wife, or that he could not have “a different” wife. He said that he could not have his brother’s wife. Is this significant? According to the Old Testament, this is significant.
Consider a couple of references from the Old Testament Law (which the Israelites were still under during the reign of Herod).
Leviticus 18:16 ESV
16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.
Leviticus 20:21 ESV
21 If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.
Two times in the Law it was specifically forbidden for a man to take his brother’s wife. In Leviticus 20, this was viewed in the same category as incest. It was specifically condemned under the law. It bore a penalty of being childless. It is likely, that John the Baptist, was angry that Herod would so blatantly violate the laws that they were under. John condemned his law breaking, and this public rebuke brought much anger and resentment from Herodias that John eventually lost his life for taking a stand concerning God’s laws condemning incest.
Could A Woman Divorce?
This topic has been debated, and there is some disagreement on the matter. However, many believe that during the time that John would have been preaching against Herod, women did not have the right/legal ability to divorce their husband under Jewish law (although Gentile women were allowed to divorce their husbands). Many scholars maintain that only men had the right to initiate a divorce under Jewish law during this time. Consider with me how in Matthew’s Gospel (written to a Jewish audience) when Jesus spoke about divorce in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19, He never addresses women. He only addresses the men. Mark records in his Gospel (written to a more Gentile audience) in chapter 10, that women also were able to divorce and were bound by the same law as men.
So, if it was true that a woman was not allowed to divorce her husband under Jewish law, then if a woman were to separate herself from her husband without him giving the certificate of divorce and sending her away, she would likely still be legally married to her husband. Therefore, it would have been illegal for her to marry another man.
Josephus, the famed Jewish historian writes concerning Herodias and her divorce with Phillip, and it just might shed a little light on this matter. Here is what Josephus wrote in Antiquities-
“but Herodias, their sister, was married to Herod [Philip], the son of Herod the Great, who was born of Mariamne, the daughter of Simon the high priest, who had a daughter, Salome; after whose birth Herodias took upon her to confound the laws of our country, and divorce herself from her husband while he was alive, and was married to Herod [Antipas], her husband’s brother by the father’s side; he was tetrarch of Galilee; … but Herod and Alexander, who, as we told you, were the brothers of Antipater, died childless.” – Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 485.
Two very important details are found in the historians record of Herodias and her marriage to Phillip. The first detail is that she confounded the laws of the country by divorcing her husband. She was not divorced and sent away with a certificate freeing her to marry again. She took it upon herself to divorce, which at that time, many believe was illegal, and would thereby be unlawful. The second important detail contained in this writing is that Herod died childless. This is the exact punishment that was said to be placed upon Israelites who violated God’s laws concerning incest.
So, what exactly was John saying when he said that it was not lawful for Herod to have Herodias? Well, it was not lawful in the sense that it violated their laws of incest (and Herod bore that punishment of dying childless), and there is a possibility that Herodias was never legally divorced from her first husband since she was not legally allowed to do what she did.
John the Baptist sees Herod breaking one (or both) of these laws. He boldly spoke out in condemnation of this sin, and he paid the price with his life. We, likewise, must be willing to boldly proclaim God’s truth on subjects, even if they are sensitive in nature. However, we must be discerning enough to not rush to application without understanding the text.
***This is the 3rd article in a series. The series is meant to be read in order. If you have not yet read the earlier articles, please stop and do so and then come back here. The first article can be found here. The second article can be found here.***
We discussed in our last article that when sin came into the world it brought with it tremendous damage and destruction. Nothing was safe from sin’s affects. Included in this, was God’s design for marriage. Satan went right to work on attacking what God intended. He did his best to distort it and break it apart. In many ways, he succeeded.
We see countless examples of polygamy, abuse, and even divorce in the OT. When Moses wrote the law (which came from God) he was not “instituting” divorce, as if he was bringing about a way for people to get out of their marriages. Rather, he was attempting to regulate/limit the divorce that was already happening. He attempted to stop people from divorcing rashly by stating that if you divorced your spouse and they married again, even if they got a second divorce, or if their second spouse died, you could not take them back (Deut 24:1-4). The divorce certificate was always a part of Israelite divorce. It was a way to protect the woman from her former spouse and free her to marry again.
God, through Moses, made sure that there were laws in place to protect women from abuse of their husbands. Not only do we read about this in Deuteronomy 24, but in other places as well. In Exodus 21:7-11 we read of God’s protection of the slave/wives. If a man neglected her by diminishing her food, clothing, and marital rights in favor of a new wife that he had chosen to take, the slave/wife was to be released. She was not to be bound and kept in that awful situation. In Deuteronomy 21:10-14 we read that if a man married a foreign woman and then he no longer found delight in her, he was to release her. What was happening in these situations is that if a man decided later that he didn’t really delight in his wife any longer, he would treat her as a slave. God steps in and protects these women. He could not sell her, or treat her as a slave, he had to release her.
We read of many examples and laws concerning divorce in the OT. So, since we see God instituting laws designed to protect the abused, and release them from their marriages and we even read of God divorcing Israel because of their unfaithfulness (Jeremiah 3), does that then mean that God is “ok” with divorce?
God Hates Divorce
Hate is such a strong word. We generally don’t like to use it, nor do we allow our children to throw that word around haphazardly. The word brings about a certain kind of darkness that is uncomfortable, and our natural response is to flee from hate. However, there is no way around the fact that there are some things (several, in fact) that the Bible tells us that God hates.
16 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
In this well-known and often quoted text we read of many things that God hates. If you and I love the Lord and want to serve Him, we would do well to make sure we are not doing any of these things. I cannot tell lies and think God is ok with that. I cannot shed innocent blood and think God is ok with that. I cannot stir up trouble within the brotherhood and think God is ok with that. As a child of God, our desire should always be to do what makes God happy, and avoid what He hates.
This list in Proverbs is not an exhaustive list of things that God hates. In Malachi 2 we read about another.
16 “For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel…”
In context, Malachi is speaking about Israel dealing treacherously or “faithlessly” with the wife of their youth. What was taking place is that Israelite men were divorcing their Israelite wives in order to marry foreign wives who worshipped other gods. Malachi points out that God’s desire for them was to produce Godly offspring with their Israelite wives (Mal 2:15). Instead, these men were divorcing their wives in order to marry other women. God refers to this as dealing treacherously. “Treacherously” comes from the Hebrew word- מָעַל(mā·ʿǎl) which literally means- “unfaithfully, break faith, commit a violation”. These men who divorced their wives for the purpose of marrying another (foreign) woman, had not been faithful, they broke faith with their first wife by breaking the covenant that they had made with her. As God looked at what was happening, He hated it.
God had a plan for marriage. This was not it. What was supposed to be a beautiful union between two people for life had been distorted and abused in just about every conceivable way. God put in place laws to limit divorce, as well as laws to free women who were being abused from their marriages. However, the fact that something was allowed does not mean that it pleased God. It didn’t. We will see Jesus address this very point when we enter the NT in this series. God was not pleased, in fact, He hated what men were doing.
Just a casual observance of the damage that divorce can bring to the lives of people still today helps us to understand why God hates divorce. People break faith in their covenants. Unspeakable pain is brought into the lives of those involved. Not just for the two who are no longer married, but also to their children, friends, and family. All of that pain, all of that damage, was never part of God’s plan.
To this point, we have examined God’s plan for marriage and it’s beautiful design. We have looked at how sin corrupted all that was once pure and good, and that included marriage. We have examined various laws that were put in place to both limit divorce and protect women from abuse. We have also seen where God’s heart was on the issue, He hated what was happening.
Where does that leave us today? What does God expect today? How can we do what we need to do in order to make God happy? These are some of the questions we will begin examining in coming articles.