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You have heard . . But I say; Divorce Matt. 5:31-32

October 4, 2014 Series: The Gospel of Matthew

Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 5:31–5:32

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Matt. 5:31 - 32 “It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; 32but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Raise your hand if you haven't had first or second party contact in a divorce. Your parents, your kids, brothers, sisters, maybe you.

Maybe a close friend that you shared in the emotions.

Me and Pam have been reasonably lucky. But one that was painful was close friends who lived on the lot behind us. Christian couple. Never missed church. Married for 37 years, and then a heartbreaking break up.

Divorce affects every one of us. And you never know where it's going to strike next.

We've had close calls in our marriage, just like any. I'll offer some wisdom.

Two things I convinced my wife of; You don't get to be happy every day. And sometimes the happiness that you think should come from me, only gets supplied by God. And I'm not him.

The second thing I wisely convinced my wife of is; we're all jerks. You can get rid of me, and I wouldn't blame you if you did, but all you're going to get - is another jerk.

You didn't know I was so wise, did you.

So, we have learned instead, to forgive each other. Mountains from me. A few molehills from her. Forgotten. And here we are. And God has blessed us with many happy times. More than our share I think.

Divorce is a huge subject. Huge. And within evangelicalism there is dis-agreement about it.

On one side you have people overeacting, trying to get a throttle on the runaway stampede by saying the Bible never allows divorce, or re-marriage, anytime, ever. So quit it!

And then you can find, under the same umbrella of evangelicalism folks who are saying, it's no big deal. Get it over with, confess it if you feel the need, and move on. It's like the bumper sticker that says, stuff happens.

So, what does the Bible teach on this subject. How did we get where we're at today.

It's an incredibly complex subject, and one, I suppose, that you can tiptoe through like a mine field and hope to not get blown up.

Remember the Sean Connery - Catherine Zeta-Jones movie, Entrapment, where she has that scene where the lasers are zooming all over the room and she has to be like a contortionist stepping over and around and under the lasers so she doesn't set off the alarms.

Yeah, that's pretty much what we've got. And I'm a bull in a china closet when it comes to hurting peoples feelings anyways. So wish me well. Finesse may not be my strong suit.

On the other hand, if we understand what Jesus was teaching here and present it correctly and with compassion, then I guess the rest is up to the Holy Spirit.

Now this is the sermon on the mount. This passage we're in this morning is not exhaustive on this subject. It isn't supposed to be. That wasn't Jesus purpose in this sermon.

What His purpose is though, is to shut every person present up into a corner where they recognize that they are bankrupt sinners.

He's systematically going through 6 different thesis and giving his antithesis, and His purpose each time is the same. You think you understand this at this level, and you think you're not guilty but God is at this level, and you're bankrupt.

Conflict and murder, you think you're OK. You haven't killed anyone lately. Guess what, your anger and unresolved conflict is the same level of guilt before the judge as murder itself. Slammed.

Lust and adultery, you think you're OK because you never engaged in the act, but God says if you looked, and lusted, you're guilty enough to go to hell.

You think divorce is no big deal, but God says you're guilty enough for hell if you put your wife away without a significant cause.

His purpose in all of these is to raise their view of God and God's standards and lower their view of their own righteousness. God's way up here. You're actually way down here. And you're bankrupt. You can't pay the debt. And the judge is on his way to the court.

I think you'll actually find what's going on in this discussion of Jesus quite fascinating. There's some interesting history here. So let's rewind the tape, as usual, and get into the time frame of 30 AD.

What did the jews believe about divorce, and what was their basis? Where were their beliefs rooted?

You'll find that the old testament doesn't have clear delineation on divorce. Everything falls on Deuteronomy 24, which we will look at. And it's an obscure passage. So, turn to Deuteronomy 24 and read with me. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, D

Deut 24:1 - 4  “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, 2and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.

If you are a hebrew student (I'm not, I rely on other's scholarship) but if you are, you will find that the above is a conditional statement.

A conditional statement goes, "if" then some requirement or requirements, and finally it procedes to it's conclusion with the word, "then" and whatever the result is.

If you let your little boy play with matches, then you may not have a house to live in very much longer. If you go to the store for me and buy vanilla, then I will bake you a banana cake.

So in the original hebrew construction, what we have here is more like this;

Deut 24:1“If a man takes a wife and marries her, and if it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and if he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and if he then sends her out from his house, 2and if she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3and if the latter husband turns against her and if he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.

So the subject and theme is the idea that she can't go back to the first husband. That's Moses point. No wife swapping clubs. It's an abomination.

And since there's nothing much else to go on about divorce, the jews take this passage and make it the basis for divorce.

It's not so different from Paul's obscure mention in Corinthians about being baptized for the dead. That doesn't appear anywhere else in scripture and so we don't know what to do with it. But what you don't do is build a whole religion around one obscure confusing verse. Which is what our friends the Mormons have done.

So the jews are like, see, Moses is talking about divorce. It must be OK, Moses mentions it. And the only other O.T. mention is in Malachi, which is much more clear, where God says

Mal. 2:15b Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. 16"For I hate divorce,"

That's pretty clear. So they ignore that and make up a whole system around the obscure mention by Moses.

It was only a few years preceding Jesus that there were 2 Jewish Rabbi's who became the most famous of all the Rabbi's. And just like we have sunni and shia in the moslem world, in Jesus times, there was the house of Hillel, and the house of Shammai.

And they agreed on most things, but on this issue of divorce, Hillel was loosey goosey, and Shammai was strict.

And the people were talking and arguing about these opposing views, all the time.

So, Hillel takes the hebrew construction and seperates the 2 nouns, uncleanness, and in his eyes, and makes the conjunction "he has found" apply to that as in 2 situations. Uncleanness is one possibility, and in his eyes, is the second.

Well, what does that mean. Anything you want it to mean. In his eyes, she's not pleasing, she didn't get the laundry done and folded, she burned the bagels, she's a pain in the neck, whatever, get rid of her if you want. Just write the cerificate.

But Shammai said no, no, no, only for a case of uncleanness. Adultery. Sexual immorality. Someone else has seen her nakedness, the marriage bond is broken. Then you can give her the certificate and send her away. Important! You don't have to, but you can. It's allowed.

Well, guess which Rabbi was more popular. The "no fault" divorce Rabbi, or the "stay married until it's impossible" Rabbi.

You guessed it. The no fault divorce Rabbi.

What's interesting is if you go and read the jewish writings you find that they agreed that Shammai's standard would be the one used in the time of Messiah, when He comes. But it's too high for us now. So we'll go with Hillel.

This was exactly the situation and the discussion when in Matt. 19:3, in vs. 3Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”

That was why they stated the question that way. Are you a Hillel guy, or a Shammai guy Jesus. Where do you land on this argument of ours?

And Jesus says, I'm a creation guy. Have you not read about the design of God in creation?

What a slap in the face. I hope we get an instant replay of that moment some day in heaven. Jesus saying to the religious experts, the brain trust of Israel. Have you not read?

The sarcasm is dripping off the page here. He knocks on their heads, knock, knock, knock - and says, hello? Is anybody home?

Here's what Jesus has to say about divorce. Nothing. It's not in there. But let me give you a refresher on marriage.

Matt. 19:4 - 5 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?

This is God's design. He made male and He made female. Little boys and little girls.

Then He says For this reason... What reason Jesus.

God made boys and God made girls, and He made them gloriously with a huge drive to pro-create. We have this amazingly strong desire to make more babies when we get to a certain age.

And that would be a mess if there weren't some rules. So here's the rules.


This is all about family units. There's a father. There's a mother. There are children. They grow up. They find a wife, or a husband. They become a new family unit.

See how that works. Father, mother, child. Child gets too big for his breeches. Child leaves father and mother and clings to a wife. They become a new family unit. Soon they'll have children and the whole thing keeps right on going. Mom's, Dad's, kids. Kids get big. They find a partner, and they become Mom and Dad.

Pretty simple stuff. Sex is in there. Kids are in there. What's not in there is divorce. (or same sex marriage, but that's such a no-brainer that you have to have a society that has given way to insanity to even need to mention it) And that's Jesus answer to these geniuses.

The idea of one flesh; a new family unit, can only work if the magic number remains. 2. There's no room in this plan for 3. And there is cleaving involved. Cleaving only is possible with 2. As soon as #3 gets introduced into that equation, the family unit is damaged or destroyed. The cleaving has been severed.

Matt. 19:6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

The word for separate is the same word as divorce. What therefore God has joined together, let no man divorce.”

This whole process Jesus has just described is a miracle of God. 2 people cleaving together and becoming one unit. one family, is a miracle that God designed. God joins married people together as families. And when Jesus says let not man divorce, that's a serious command.

If you grant divorces, God will be angry with you for ignoring this command.

Now, once upon a time, the lawmakers of this nation respected what Jesus said right here.

Divorce used to be nearly impossible in this nation. You had to prove fault. The possible faults were biblical. Adultery. Abandonment. Cruelty. Even then it was a lot of trouble to get a divorce.

Then came the "Reno cure". Ever heard of that. In Nevada, after 1931, along with prostitution and gambling, divorce could happen almost immediately and for no reason at all. But you had to be a 'resident' for 6 weeks. Enter the 'divorce ranches' where young women could take up residency and after 6 weeks were completed, they would go to court and get their divorce.

In 1942, North Carolina challenged that a Nevada divorce wasn't any good in NC and it went to the supreme court. It was upheld that a divorce in Nevada would be legal in other states. And so a cottage industry (no pun intended), OK, pun intended, was born.

But once upon a time in our land, the words of Jesus meant something. What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. You didn't want to be that man. And the courts and legal system recognized biblical cause, that we are trying to re-discover this morning.

Then in 1969, in California, no-fault divorce was passed, and the flood gates were opened.

Now then, post-modern folks have solved the problem. We don't bother getting married in the first place, so we don't worry about divorce. We just have sex. All over the place. And the family unit is destroyed. God's plan that Jesus just went over with these pharisee's, is all but dissolved. No cleaving. No families. No stability. No society. No civilization.

Who's raising the kids?? Nobody. Pretty much. Tough to be a school teacher these days.

We're seeing first hand in our land how that's working out. Kids going to school with Uzi's. That sort of thing. We're at the tip of the iceberg of the biggest train wreck the world has ever seen, I think.

A little side bar here. I have to roll my eyes. While America has jettisoned God and anything that even loosely smacks of being traditional or moral in our relationships, or non-relationships, as it were, this headline was in the Los Angeles Times this week;

Islamic State recruiting women to 'have kids and cook'

That's right. The IS, the state of Islam recognizes that to be a legitimate state, it will need families. Family life for it's fighters, and families once the state is formed. So the call has gone out for young women.

The article states that they don't want women to come and fight, what they're after, it says, quoting, "most recruitment scripts focus on matrimony, emphasizing that women should be prepared to marry quickly and raise the next generation of "lions."

How incredible that Islam recognizes the simple building blocks God has set in place, like gravity, and America is now smarter than even, God.

So our replacement rate is less than 1.6 per couple, and the replacement in population that is happening, is disfunctional because families are dissolved, but Islam is producing 3 children per couple. Do the math.

Back to our pharisee's who have challenged Jesus. They're going to trip Him up. Lose. Lose. If He picks Hillel, half of Israel is mad at him, and if he picks Shammai, the other 2/3's are mad at him. It's brilliant. He can't win this one. (you're sitting there counting your fingers. Don't worry, this is "million man march" math)

So His answer is totally unsatisfactory as far as their plan! Divorce is not in God's plan for thriving.

7They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?”

But But But, Moses said!

Do you see what they've done here with an already obscure section of the word of God. They've twisted it into a command. Moses commanded us to get a divorce and send her away! Just do the paperwork. Moses commanded it.

Moses never commanded anyone to get a divorce. In one obscure verse that's rather difficult to interpret, he says, if it so happens. There's been a breach in the family unit. Some uncleaness. Some immorality. And there's no repentence. The situation is hopeless. One party has moved on. Jesus seems to know more about what Moses said than anyone else. That's not surprising.

Vs8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted
(notice the clarification by Jesus. Permitted is quite different from commanded)
you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

We live in a fallen world. When one partner in a family unit is abandoned, hopelessly, and God doesn't allow sex outside of marriage, and there's a natural burning need, it isn't God's design to punish the innocent person and force celibacy on someone because of the stubborn sinfulness of the second person in the equation.

But! The first order of business is restoration, not divorce.

This is a nasty business, isn't it. We've all seen the instances with so-called christian people, where one party in a marriage, they want a divorce, but they want a "biblical" divorce, and they simply turn the sex off and wait. See how long it takes to force the other person to sin.

Now, you might fool the folks around you, but God is not mocked. I think it's stuff like I've just described, and I've seen it plain as day, that Jesus is talking about when He says "hardness of heart." That's just evil to wait the other person out. Cause them to sin. That's a shameful thing, and don't kid yourself, you may come out of the marriage looking like the innocent party, but God in heaven, who hates people with stiff necks and hard hearts worse than anything, He sees, and knows. People can only tread water so long. Then they drown.

Divorce is the pressure relief valve for folks who long to honor God's design of one lifetime partner, and they've done everything in their power to hold that design up high, and the other partner moves on, it isn't God's design to force that person to spend the rest of his or her days, walking alone.

But we're only talking about sexual immorality that has had every avenue of restoration and forgiveness, exhausted. Then God will allow you to move on. Same requirements as before. A believing spouse.

In verse 32 of Mt. 5 the idea of one person causing the other person to sin is very strong. 32but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Especially in that world. You boot your faithful wife out. What exactly are her options in that society? What can she hope for? Starvation? Find some other man to take you under his roof and feed you so you don't starve? Prostitution?

It was pretty grim. Again, God is not mocked. In the verse we just read, who is God charging with this woman's adultery? God isn't fooled. The husband that put her out, without cause, has caused her to be sexually immoral. God will not hold him harmless. Everybody involved gets tainted.

So, what do we do? I've made folks in this room, who I love dearly, squirm in their seats. What Do We Do??

Ever have some leftover hamburger, a patty, and you're home alone and it's getting on towards dinner time, and you put that hamburger in a pan with too much butter and chop it up real fine and then you break in about 3 eggs and scramble the whole thing up.

You're all thinking, 'better start looking for a new preacher, cuz this one's gonna die". Maybe. But not before I tell you this truth. You can't unscramble those eggs. Those eggs are never going back in their shells. What's done is done.

All of us have sinned. All of us are bankrupt before a Holy judge. What you do is what Jesus told the woman taken in adultery in adultery in John 8:11. "…10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" 11She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."

That's the point of every one of the 6 "You have heard. . .but I say" discussions. Every one of us is guilty, not just the folks who have suffered in a divorce. If it isn't this sin, it's going to be the next one, or the one before this. We're all in here. None of us is going to get out of this sermon without crying out to God, Have mercy on me, the sinner.

On the other hand though, for the sake of our thriving, and our childrens thriving and our grandchildrens thriving, and our witness before an ever increasingly watching world, what Jesus teaches here, is incredibly important.

Marriage. Families. Children. One woman one man cleaving to each other for life. Decency. Order. Civilization. It's all bound up in God's plan that he laid out in Genesis.