Mark – God is On Our Side!
How many times have you played a game for the first time with only one person who knew the rules of the game. When things aren’t going well in the game, all eyes turn to that person who introduced you to the game in the first place. We whine and tell this person, “Change the rules, this is too hard to play it this way.” The purpose of the game is then lost.
So, because of peer pressure, the “leader” changes the rules so that everyone is happy and obliged until the game is over. Making everyone happy is the mantra of our day and time. Isn’t that true? But is it what God had in mind…as His best for us? Is pleasing others the name of the game of life?
Pleasing hardened hearts toward God was the song and dance of Moses’ day as he led God’s people. So, hard pressed, Moses changed God’s rules for life, by adding an addendum, to help women of men who wanted to leave their wives for someone else. This was not God’s original plan for marriage. The prophet, Malachi, speaking clearly for God, said to God’s chosen,
“I hate divorce,” says the God of Israel. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says, “I hate the violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage.” So watch yourselves. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t cheat.” (Malachi 2:16 Msg)
Jesus, who came to fulfill The Law, explains the intentions of what God originally provided as His best for us. Those who love Him base their marriage on His Love that is forever, never-changing, unconditional and relentless, not the world’s cheap imitation of love that is fickle and easily cast aside.
Mark 10, NLT
Discussion about Divorce and Marriage
Then Jesus left Capernaum and went down to the region of Judea and into the area east of the Jordan River. Once again crowds gathered around him, and as usual he was teaching them.
2 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?”
3 Jesus answered them with a question: “What did Moses say in the law about divorce?”
4 “Well, he permitted it,” they replied. “He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away.”
5 But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. 6 But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. 7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
10 Later, when he was alone with his disciples in the house, they brought up the subject again. 11 He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.”
(With the help of Warren Wiersbe, Bible Commentator)
Let’s first understand the “climate” of this question to Jesus….
Jesus completed His ministry in Galilee, left Capernaum, and came to the Trans-Jordan area, still on His way to the city of Jerusalem (Mark 10:32). This district was ruled by Herod Antipas, which may explain why the Pharisees tried to trap Him by asking a question about divorce. After all, John the Baptist had been slain because he preached against Herod’s adulterous marriage (Mark 6:14–29).
But there was more than politics involved in their trick question, because divorce was a very controversial subject among the Jewish rabbis. No matter what answer Jesus gave, He would be sure to displease somebody, and this might give opportunity to arrest Him. The verbs indicate that the Pharisees “kept asking him,” as though they hoped to provoke Him to say something incriminating.
In that day there were two conflicting views on divorce, and which view you espoused depended on how you interpreted the phrase “some uncleanness” in Deuteronomy 24:1–4. The followers of Rabbi Hillel were quite lenient in their interpretation and permitted aman to divorce his wife for any reason, even the burning of his food. But the school of Rabbi Shimmai was much more strict and taught that the critical words “some uncleanness” referred only to premarital sin. If a newly married husband discovered that his wife was not a virgin, then he could put her away.
As He usually did, Jesus ignored the current debates and focused attention on the Word of God, in this case, the law of Moses in Deuteronomy 24:1–4. As you study this passage, it is important to note two facts. First, it was the man who divorced the wife, not the wife who divorced the husband, for women did not have this right in Israel. (Roman women did have the right of divorce.) Second, the official “bill of divorcement” was given to the wife to declare her status and to assure any prospective husband that she was indeed free to remarry. Apart from the giving of this document, the only other requirement was that the woman not return to her first husband if her second husband divorced her. Among the Jews, the question was not, “May a divorced woman marry again?” because remarriage was permitted and even expected. The big question was, “What are the legal grounds for a man to divorce his wife?”
The law of Moses did not give adultery as grounds for divorce, for, in Israel, the adulterer and adulteress were stoned to death (Deut. 22:22; Lev. 20:10; also see John 8:1–11). Whatever Moses meant by “some uncleanness” in Deuteronomy 24:1, it could not have been adultery.
Jesus explained that Moses gave the divorce law because of the sinfulness of the human heart. The law protected the wife by restraining the husband from impulsively divorcing her and abusing her like an unwanted piece of furniture, instead of treating her like a human being. Without a bill of divorcement, a woman could easily become a social outcast and be treated like a harlot. No man would want to marry her, and she would be left defenseless and destitute.
By giving this commandment to Israel, God was not putting His approval on divorce or even encouraging it. Rather, He was seeking to restrain it and make it more difficult for men to dismiss their wives. He put sufficient regulations around divorce so that the wives would not become victims of their husbands’ whims.
The Lord then took them back beyond Moses to the record of the original creation (Gen. 1:27; 2:21–25). After all, in the beginning, it was God who established marriage; and He has the right to make the rules. According to Scripture, marriage is between a man and a woman, not two men or two women, and the relationship is sacred and permanent. It is the most intimate union in the human race, for the two become one flesh. This is not true of a father and son or a mother and daughter, but it is true of a man and wife.
While the spiritual element is vitally important in marriage, the emphasis here is that marriage is a physical union: the two become one flesh, not one spirit. Since marriage is a physical union, only a physical cause can break it—either death (Rom. 7:1–3) or fornication (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Mark did not include the “exception clause” found in Matthew, but neither did he say that death breaks the marriage union.
Privately, the Lord further explained the matter to His questioning disciples, who by now were convinced that it was a dangerous thing to get married. To remarry after divorce, other than one granted on the grounds of fornication, would make the person guilty of committing adultery, and this is a serious thing. Note that Jesus included the women in His warning, which certainly elevated their status in society and gave them equality of responsibility with the men. The rabbis would not have gone this far.
Mark 10:9 warns us that man cannot separate those who have been united in marriage, but God can. Since He established marriage, He has the right to lay down the rules. A divorce may be legal according to our laws and yet not be right in the eyes of God. He expects married people to practice commitment to each other (Mark 10:7) and to remain true to each other. Too many people view divorce as “an easy way out,” and do not take seriously their vows of commitment to each other and to the Lord.
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord and Savior,
Thank you for your best plan for two to become one in You. This union is precious to Randy and I. Continue to grow and transform us to be all you intended for us to be as married couple who loves you with hearts that want what you want. guide our thoughts and actions. Abide with us. Show us your will and your ways for us as two who became one.
In Jesus Name, Amen