I have such a hatred of divorce that I prefer bigamy to divorce. Martin Luther
God is the witness to every marriage ceremony, and will be the witness to every violation of its vows. Thomas V. Moore
The statistics on divorce are alarming. By now, we have heard them so often that the news bounces off us and has no impact. Even if you take a best case scenario, divorce is rampant in American culture and in the American church. At the best divorce is around 30% in the American church and some put it over 50%. It should come as no surprise that Satan, the master tactician, continues to attack one of the central ways God advances his kingdom. Without a unified home, there is no raising of godly children, there is no picture of Christ and the Church to the outside world, and there is no strengthening of the Church. Satan doesn’t hate marriage. He hates God, Christ, and His Kingdom. Very few things destroy the work of the kingdom as quickly as failed marriages. However, what may come as a bit of surprise is that the desire to be loosened from our marriage vows is not a new sin. Jesus addresses this head on in Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:3-12. And now in our study of Malachi we come to chapter 2, which contains one the most extensive teaching on divorce in the Scriptures.
This third disputation in Malachi continues the theme of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Unlike in 1:6-2:9, the people under God’s microscope are not just the priests, but all of Israel. This section is the most famous in Malachi because it deals directly with divorce. It is not hard to understand, but the applications are very important and frequently ignored.
The key phrase God uses to describe Israel’s attitude is that of faithlessness or treachery. The term is used in verses 10, 14, 15, and 16. Israel’s faithlessness is seen in two areas. First, instead of marrying Israelite women who worship God, they marry pagan wives. (2:11-12) God calls this profaning the covenant. Malachi says that the Lord will cut off from among the people anyone who marries a pagan. Notice that, just like our earlier passage, the Israelites are still bringing offerings, despite living in sin. (vs. 12) Second, the wives they have they treat with contempt and divorce with ease. (2:13-16) Notice here that marriage is referred to as a covenant. It is clear from Ephesians 5 that if marriage is similar to the relationship between Christ and his church then it is a covenant. But only here in Malachi and in Proverbs 2:17 is the word covenant used in describing marriage. God says both that unfaithfulness in marriage and the failure to marry godly wives show a general unfaithfulness by Israel where they do not live as if God is their father. (vs. 10)
• Our faithlessness in relationships shows our faithlessness to God. The Apostle John says the same thing in I John 4:20. We see the connection here between the first and second great commandments. (Matthew 22:35-40) At no point can we say we love God, if we hate those around us, especially our wives and children.
• The state of our marriages shows the state of our hearts. Divorce and treating our wives with contempt means we are far from God. We lament the divorce rate in America and we should. But there are many Christian marriages where the husbands treat their wives poorly. God considers this treachery and will not let it go unpunished. Just because you are not divorced does not mean your marriage is thriving.
• Christians are to marry Christians. The intermarrying of Christians with pagans will bring a curse upon God’s people. Paul makes this same point in II Corinthians 6:14-18.
• Weeping, tears, and emotion are not a substitute for obedience (vs. 13-14) This does not mean we never weep or cry out to God, but we must want to obey him as well. Mere display never pleases God. He does not accept it if it does not lead to growth in obedience.
• Marriage is a covenant and therefore is not to be entered into lightly, nor to be exited easily. There is no stronger bond in Scripture than a covenant. The way we treat the vows we make on our wedding day says a lot about our character. Do we see the vows as flexible and easily abandoned? Or do we believe that they are unto death?
• One clear purpose of the marriage covenant is the raising of godly children. (vs. 15) There are more reasons for marriage than this, but to exclude this reason it to gut marriage of one of its primary purposes. A marriage that purposely excludes children is a marriage in rebellion against God.
• God hates divorce. (vs. 16) Unfortunately, the American church does not. Thus we sit under the curse of God.
• Divorce is equal to violence. (vs. 16) What is interesting about this is many modern socially minded Christians who shout from the rooftops against violence are perfectly fine with divorce. How odd, since according to Malachi, they are one and the same.
• Twice in this section the men of Israel are urged to take heed to their spirit. (vs. 15 and 16) Divorce and contempt for our wives arise out of the heart. There may be external factors, such as finances, that put pressure upon a marriage, but in the end divorce comes from sin that has taken up residence in the heart. As Proverbs says, we must keep/guard our heart. (Prov. 4:23)