You are probably not going to like what you read today. I didn’t enjoy writing it either but the truth must be spoken. Many of you know that I have written about the personal consequences of divorce from my vantage point in life. There are wounds that seem to never heal after divorce has broken apart my family. Whether the children are young or adults they will always carry the pain of their parents’ divorce. Extended families are altered for an eternity and what God may have done within my family or any other divorced family is no more. Granted God can work in the individual’s life but the family at large has its dynamics changed forever and their witness is lost. It is not good to go through a divorce and I want us to see that there are consequences to not only the couple and family of divorce but also to the church, to a community, and to a nation.
A few years ago I was seriously trying to understand what had happened to me and to my family as I navigated the deep waters of divorce after thirty-five years of marriage. I ran across this passage in Malachi where the Jewish people were questioning why they didn’t feel that God was answering their prayers. I also felt that my prayers were going unanswered and I didn’t know if it was because of me or because I was praying for the wrong things to happen. I was praying for reconciliation of my relationship to my husband and for healing of the marriage. This passage helped me to understand the consequences of divorce. I had been told that divorce is just between a wife and a husband. In America most states allow divorce without the one asking for the dissolution of the marriage to give a reason other than they want out of the marriage. It is easy to just walk away rather than admit mistakes and correct them. But the truth of this passage struck me deeply that divorce involves more than just the man and woman so let’s read this passage.
Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful. Malachi 2:13-16, (New International Version or NIV).
God gives favor to those He loves and we have seen it over and over in the Bible. He is a beloved heavenly Father and wants to do good things for His children. So here is the Jewish nation asking God why their prayers are not being answered. They go to synagogue as they always did and yet they don’t feel God is hearing their prayers. Have you ever been through this yourself? You go to church, you read the Bible, you keep doing what you believe is right to do and yet you feel that your prayers are not being answered and you begin to wonder why. God answered their questions through the priest but will the Jews like His answer? He gives them several points to ponder in the passages before this section. He tells the priests that they have not been teaching with honesty the Word of God. He reminds them that the people are not giving their best to the Lord but instead are sending the weakest and rejected to be given as a sacrifice. I’m sure that the people didn’t want to hear this message. We don’t want to today, do we? We don’t want to hear that we are to give money to our church and to religious organizations that are working among the poor and rejected. But then God really is honest with these people, something we today need to heed. God reminds the Jews that they are not treating the wife of their youth faithfully. The Jews were allowing no-fault divorces then just as we are today. How many of our peers in church fall into this category of being instigators or victims of divorce? How many of our peers in church today are on their second or third or fourth marriages? The message God sends in this passage is the same message we need to hear today. God hates divorce!
“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.” Malachi 2:16, (New American Standard Bible).
“For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” Malachi 2:16 (New Living Translation).
“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” Malachi 2:16, (English Standard Version).
Notice that this is the same verse as in the passage above but from different versions of the Bible. I love to study from different versions because it is the best way to get the full meaning from a passage. God hates divorce. God hated it back then and He has not changed His feelings about it today. God hates my divorce probably more than I do because He knows the future and knows that there will be those who walk away from Him as a result of the divorce. I hate it because it has caused so much pain in people I love and because I feel that I let God and my family down. So here it is. God hates divorce and I am divorced. Perhaps you are divorced as well, so many of us are these days. There are definitely consequences to our churches and one of those is that I seldom hear a sermon on how God hates divorce. People don’t want to hear the truth. There are consequences to a nation too and I can’t help but think that one of those consequences I see is that marriage is not valued by many of our young people. The prevailing thinking seems to be that since a divorce will be inevitable then why bother getting married. Remember that God hates divorce and what happens when a nation doesn’t hate divorce? God will no longer hear their prayers and therefore will not be answering them either. A nation that God doesn’t hear their prayers is a nation that is in serious trouble. Look at the next verse and see if it sounds familiar today.
You have wearied the Lord with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?” Malachi 2:17, (NIV).
God gets tired of sinful people, of rebellious people, of those who divorce and don’t take care of the aging ex-spouse left on their own. I see many of my divorced friends who are women that really are struggling financially and I wish so much that I could help them but truth is I struggle too. I do hope that God hears their prayers as I am sure He does mine. God knows my heart and knows that I didn’t want or deserve the divorce but I have kept going in life and often on what I call God power! Without God’s protection and care I certainly would not make it in this world and so I know He hears and answers my prayers. I am so thankful for God’s provision and protection and the wisdom from Him to handle my life.
I know that this is a tough message for most of us to hear but it is an important one. We need to repent of our sins as a nation and turn back to God. We need to make certain that the teaching we receive from our Church and Sunday School is truthful and correct. We need to stop listening to preachers who just want us to be happy and send them money. We need to teach our children to recognize truth when they hear it and to live a Godly life. We need to purify our hearts and minds and let our life shine for Jesus. We need to work with those who are wondering why they aren’t feeling close to God and help them to see the truth, that their own sin is keeping them in delusion and separated from God. We need to pray for each other and see if we can’t help each other more even if that means financial help. If we don’t begin to walk and live in the truth concerning all the divorces in our nation then there will be no hope for us. That is a sobering thought!
Until next time…Katherine