“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and 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’ ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Matthew 19:3-8, NIV).
One of the marks of a “Pharisaic” culture in the Church is the prevalence and acceptance of life choices and moral decline that spring forth from a hard heart. When the heart of the believer becomes hard towards the Lord, towards the Word of God, and towards the things of God in general he or she is capable of taking paths that totally and completely contradict the principles of the Word of God. In my earlier post on The Happiness Myth I mentioned the fact that most divorces in the body of Christ are due to the individual pursuit of happiness by one or both partners (God just wants me happy) rather than abuse, adultery, or abandonment. The amazing thing is that many of the same people will spin the situation by trying to convince themselves that they are closer to God and his peace than every before. This is a ruse because you are not getting closer to God when you are moving further away from the revelation of his Word.
It’s critical to remember that the dissolution of something God has established, ordained, and blessed is a very serious matter. The pastor or minister may do the premarital counseling and even perform the ceremony, but it is the Lord God himself that makes them one with the declaration of his own mouth. Think of that – unseen by the pastor, the family, the wedding party, and the couple, the Most High God is engaged with the wedding ceremony and lifts up his voice to declare that the two are now one. Just like the born again experience, something invisible but yet just as powerful and miraculous takes place at this time. If the husband or wife chooses to dissolve that relationship (outside of biblical revelation of cause) God’s powerful Word becomes trumped by their word. Whenever you find yourself on the opposite end of the Word of God you are on the wrong end of things and you demonstrate the hardness of heart Jesus mentioned in Matthew 19.
In coming posts I will be sharing some powerful principles to weather the current storm and attack on marriages throughout the body of Christ. Yes, it’s true that the Devil is behind the attack (but he is not the one signing the papers). Let’s begin with the concept of covenant and then I’ll deal with the others in a future blog.
Despite a surge in revelation knowledge and understanding of the Word in the body of Christ, it seems that the elevator is not going all the way to top on this teaching about covenant. Marriage is a covenant and not a civil agreement or a contract (waiting to be pilfered through loopholes). In fact, covenant means “to cut so that blood flows” in the establishment of an accord between two parties. It is sacred, irrevocable and represents the union of the party’s assets, liabilities, friends, enemies, victories, and challenges. The time to decide if you will keep a covenant when times get hard is before you enter into the covenant. Once established, the covenant is not to be violated least the offending party be destroyed. Everyone I’ve ever counseled has been all smiles and nods when we came to this important part of the teaching. In the back of my mind I’m thinking, “yea, they nod and smile now but let’s see if they nod and smile when times are tough because covenant is for the times when you want to quit not when marriage is new, exciting, and wonderful.”
I’m reminded of a story in the Book of Joshua where the Gibeonite people, fearing destruction by Israel’s conquering army under the leadership of Joshua, conspired to deceive Joshua into forming a covenant treaty with them (despite the fact that the Lord had already made it plain that they were to forge no such treaty). The Bible says that the leaders, thinking that the Gibeonites had come from far away, sampled their goods but did not inquire of the Lord. After forging a covenant agreeing to allow them to live and serve Israel, Joshua and the other leaders discovered the truth. Soon the neighbors of the Gibeonites attacked the Gibeonites fearing their new alliance with Israel. Ironically but predictably, the Gibeonites called upon their new covenant partners for aid (you might recall that this is the occasion in the Bible when the sun is kept shining in the sky for a full day during Joshua’s battle in support of the Gibeonites – Joshua 10:13). What I want you to think about today is the length that God went to in this story to help Joshua honor a covenant that he shouldn’t have entered in the first place. That’s right, Joshua had to enter a military battle and God had to perform a miracle just so the people of Israel could keep a covenant they never should have entered. That’s how much the Lord values and honors covenant.
The application to marriage is simple. If you enter into the covenant of marriage you need to have the same commitment as Joshua (and the Lord) had towards the Gibeonites – if you enter into that covenant. You should also keep in mind that just as the Lord made supernatural power available so that the man of God could keep his covenant, God is willing to make that same power available so that you can honor your covenant as well. With the divorce rate in the Church rivaling (and according to some studies surpassing) the rate in society in general, one would expect that the believer, of all people, would be open to allowing the hand of the Lord into the broken marriage to bring healing. Only a hard heart could explain either lack of faith or the lack of desire for God to unleash his power into a troubled Christian marriage.