Read 1 Corinthians 7 at Bible Gateway.
“Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” 1 Cor 7:10-16
The command of the LORD is clear, and this passage agrees with other passages of Scripture in which it is reiterated that a wife is not to depart from her husband, and a husband is not to divorce his wife. Jesus affirms this when He says that what God has joined together into one flesh, let not man – either the husband or the wife – separate (Mat 19:4-6). And just to make a sure thing more certain, God declares that He hates divorce, and that to Him it is like covering your garment with violence (Mal 2:16). I am not sure what covering your garment with violence means; probably it is a Hebrew idiom, but that it is a bad thing comes through the translation.
The very first information YHVH gives us about marriage, is in Gen 2:24: the man leaves his parents, and he cleaves to his wife. “Cleave” is the Hebrew word Strong’s H1692, dabaq. The lexicons say it means to adhere firmly as if glued. The ancient pictographs are of the door, the house, and the sun on the horizon. So the mountain top meaning of the word from the ancient Hebrew is to enter the house at sunset. In other words, when the husband’s day of working in the fields is done, he goes home to his wife. He doesn’t make himself unavailable to his wife by working till midnight every night as a workaholic, or going out with the guys, or finding other things to occupy his time (which equals his heart) in other places. He enters the door of his house (where his wife is) at sunset, at the end of every day. For fifty or more years, day in and day out!
The next information YHVH gives us about marriage, is that the man and his wife become one flesh. The Hebrew word for “one” is Strong’s H259, echad. The ancient pictographs are of the ox, the fence, and the door; the mountain top meaning from the ancient Hebrew is to strongly fence the door. When a man and his wife are one, when they are united; the door is strongly fenced so that exiting (either the house or the relationship) is not an option!
Being flawed humans, the first thing we do when faced with this scenario of unity with one person for life, no outs; is look for loopholes. 🙂 The first loophole is that the husband takes a wife, and once they become one flesh, he discovers that there is uncleanness in her (Deu 24:1). What does that mean? Jesus tells us in His response to the Pharisees when they ask about this question. If she has been immoral, and has not kept herself for her husband alone, but gives herself to another, then it is permitted the husband to divorce his wife (Mat 19:3-9). But, Jesus tells us, this is because of the hardness of the husband’s heart, for from the beginning the man and his wife were united – there was no exiting the strongly fenced door!
The next loophole that comes up, stems from the command in Torah that God’s people not intermarry with the people which are living around them, who are unbelievers, not partakers of the worship of YHVH and the covenant of promise (Deu 7:3). God makes no decree that His people cannot marry those who were Gentiles, but who have since joined themselves to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Look at the example of Rahab, a Canaanite woman (Jos 6, Mat 1:5), and Ruth, a Moabite woman (Ruth, Mat 1:5), both who joined themselves to YHVH and married Hebrew men, and became foremothers of Jesus the Messiah! But we are not to yoke ourselves to unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14), precisely because marriage is a permanent institution!
Now Israel fell into idolatry and paganism, and forgot God’s word, and intermarried with the people around them. For forsaking their covenant, Israel was taken away captive by Assyria, and Judah by Babylon. But Judah repented, and experienced a spiritual renewal and return to YHVH and to their covenant, and God returned all those who would go, to the Promised Land. That is the situation we find in Ezra. In Ezra, when the children of Judah had returned to Israel, and had kept the Feast of Tabernacles, and Ezra read from the book of the Law, it was discovered that marrying with pagan women was prohibited. And so the men repented of taking pagan wives, and divorced them (Ezr 9-10).
The church at Corinth, reading this precedent, asked a question of Paul concerning mixed marriages. For when two people who are pagans marry, they are not transgressing the command to be not unequally yoked, for they are both unbelievers. But if one of them, the husband or the wife, afterward meets Yeshua and experiences a spiritual renewal, now the marriage becomes mixed. It did not begin that way, but one partner changed. So should the Corinthians, after the example of Ezra, divorce their unbelieving spouses?
Paul’s answer to them, is no. The Lord’s command is to be one flesh, and to not put asunder what YHVH has joined together. If the unbeliever is content to live with the believer, then live together. Remember that upon marriage, the two become one, echad? So now they are no longer two, but one, Jesus said (Mat 19:6). In other words, the family as a unit (echad) becomes the lowest denomination that God saves (Exo 12:1-7, Act 16:31). This is why even though one spouse is unbelieving, the believing spouse sanctifies the unbelieving, and their home and children. And the implication is, that given enough time, the witness of the believing spouse will open the door for repentance and salvation in the unbelieving spouse (1 Cor 7:16, 1 Pet 3:1-2).
In the case of abuse, addictions, or adultery, Paul’s advice is that if the woman leaves her husband, she is to remain unmarried or to reconcile with her husband. Dr. Phil this is not, but the unerring and enduring Word of God!
Beloved, this is the Lord’s heart concerning marriage: to extend grace to our partners, and forgiveness, and love, and when we are tempted to focus on the speck in their eye, focus on the plank in our own instead (Mat 7:3-5), and with patience do good, and pray for them, and wait for them to come to salvation. To serve their needs instead of our own. It is not written in the Scriptures that we are on this earth in order to be served, and that we are entitled to a comfortable life without hardship (Mat 20:28, Heb 11:32-40), but rather we are on this earth to witness of Him to the lost and unbelieving (Act 1:8)!
So many divorces take place within the body of Messiah because people are unwilling to be patient, endure self- sacrifice, and wait for the promise of the LORD’s salvation to come to pass! Let it not be so among us!
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