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Thursday, February 12, 2009

THE GREATEST OBJECTION to this view of divorce and remarriage

As I have had opportunity to share teaching on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in a number of different contexts over the last few years, many objections have been presented to me. To many people, these objections seem to indicate that this view is either unscriptural, unworkable or just plain heartless!

This particular objection has been expressed to me by dozens of people but was perhaps put most clearly by a sister who wrote many times with questions and comments on the divorce problem. In one letter she wrote as follows: " divide a home where two people have children and reside lovingly in harmony, although one is divorced, is confusing to me and to a watching world..."

In reality, this objection is asking, "How could this be God's way when a loving relationship will be torn apart, the lives of children will be deeply affected and the world will be watching and observing the consequences???"

My response to that particular comment was as follows: "...After receiving your letter yesterday and reading it a number of times, I went to bed last night pondering your question and asking the Lord for something from His Word that would deal specificly with fathers and mothers and children affected by such a split. I awoke a number of times in the night thinking about Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael. Gen.21:9-14 records the first divorce in the Bible (it was commanded by God). A father, in obedience to God and no doubt with a broken heart, sent away a wife (Gen.16:3) and his first son.

There are 2 other cases in scripture where divorce was commanded and children were involved: In Ezra's day, 113 Israelite men were commanded by God to put away their strange wives and also the children they had by them.See Ezra 9 & 10 and especially 10:44. Also Matt14:3-11 and Mark 6:14-29 we read of John the baptizer calling on Herod to put away Herodias, his brother Philip's wife. That relationship also involved Herodias' daughter. Let's consider these three cases and see what encouragement we can draw from scripture for those who face this very situation:

A.Notice how readily men responded in each case to the revealed will of God:
-when tested regarding Hagar and Ishmael, Abraham responded immediately. Gen.21:14 "early in the morning". This was also Abraham's response when tested years later regarding offering up Isaac. See Gen.22:3.

-In the matter of putting away strange wives in Ezra's day- 3 days were taken to consider the matter. They agreed to obey but gave 4 excuses for delay. Then 10 days later they began and took 90 days to complete the matter. See Ezra 9 and 10 especially 10:8-17. Thus they took 103 days to obey the Lord. In that time 113 men put away strange wives and also the children they had by those marriages.

-Herod was reproved by John regarding Herodias, his brother Philip's wife. He was told, "It is not lawful for thee to have her." Matt.14:4 and Mark 6:17,18. But Herod never obeyed!

Thus we see the contrasts: immediate obedience, delayed obedience and outright disobedience.

B.Notice the effects of obedience or disobedience to God's directives:
Will obedience to God ever be detrimental? Will disobedience to God ever be beneficial?

(1)What were the effects upon Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael as a result of Abraham's obedience? In spite of heart-wrenching difficulties for all (Gen.21:11,15,16) obedience brought blessing:
-for the father............A PROMISE v.13
-for the mother..........A PROMISE v.18
-for the son.................PROVISION v.19
-for mother and son..PROSPERITY, PRESERVATION AND A PARTNER v.20,21
-for all.........................PROMISES OF GOD WERE FULFILLED: PROGENY Gen.25:12-16
Furthermore, all the time that Hagar spent in Abraham's encampment, she never once had a personal encounter with Abraham's God!!! Only when she left, did God reveal Himself to her!!! See Gen.16:6-14 and 21:17-20. God has promised to be a Father to the fatherless and a judge to the widow! Psalm 68:5

(2)What were the effects upon the men of Ezra's day and upon the wives and children which were put away? (Ezra does not mention these things, but other scriptures teach how God deals with those who confess and forsake their sins:)
-redirection of sons to honor the true God (sons who formerly had served other gods.) See Deut.7:1-8 -removal of the curses promised by God for disobedience: Ezra 10:14. See the curses: Deut.28:15-68; Ex.20:5; 34:7; Num.14:18; Deut.5:9 and also Haggai 2:15-19 -reinstatement of the blessings of God promised for obedience: Deut.28:1-14. See also Solomon's prayer in I Kings 8:33-40.

(3)What were the effects of disobedience upon Herod, Herodias and her daughter?
-disdain for divine reproof
: Herod imprisons John. Matt.14:3,4
-desire to silence divine reproof is restrained in Herod: "When (Herod) would have put (John) to death, he feared the multitude for they counted him as a prophet." Matt.14:5
-desire to silence divine reproof is still restrained in Herodias: "Herodias had a quarrel against (John), and would have killed him; but she could not for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and a holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things and heard him gladly." Mark 6:19,20
-divine reproof is silenced in the daughter: "I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the baptist." Mark 6:24

When divine reproof is continually rejected, the conscience is hardened, the reproofs are removed and (in God's time) judgment falls. See Gen.6:3; Proverbs 29:1; Heb.13:4; I Cor.11:30,31; Heb.12:5-11

What lessons can we learn from all of this? What are the blessings which flow from obedience at any cost? What are the consequences that follow disobedience against all restraints?
1. Great blessing always follows great obedience. "Them that honor me, I will honor..." I Sam.2:30; Ps.37; Matt.6:33; Prov.3:5,6; Phil.4:6-9
Specificly, see the blessings promised in Matt.19:29; Mark 10:29,30 and Luke 18:29,30 for a man who forsakes HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN for the name of Christ, for the Gospel, or for the kingdom of heaven's sake. (What other situation in all of scripture would require a man to do so, other than a marriage that was defiled from the very start??) Leaving one's wife and children for weeks, months or even years on end for the sake of "one's ministry" is often viewed as a commendable sacrifice! But such a practice is clearly forbidden by scripture! (I Cor.7:3-5) The only exception to this is for mutually agreed upon PRAYER AND FASTING! And, of course, the time is limitted by the time one can actually spend praying and fasting!!!

2.Repentance toward God always brings restoration to God and blessings on others. Ex.20:6; 34:6,7; Num.14:18; Deut.5:10; Prov.28:13 etc

3.Rebellion against God and reproofs from His prophets, His Word, His Spirit, His servants and from one's own conscience can only result in judgment. Heb.13:4; Prov.29:1 etc.

4.Matt.6:22,23 teaches the great truth that light received brings greater light, but light rejected brings darkness! Oh, that we might always seek to be sensitive and obedient to the light we have received!

I'll conclude this lengthy answer re. the consequences of separating a marriage which is characterized by marital fornication (incest, sodomy, adultery and/or polygamy) with the consideration of I John 5:3...

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous."
Many of us, before we got saved, feared the consequences (as most unsaved still do!): "It will be the end of all my fun!", "I'd never be happy again!", "I couldn't get along without being able to do this or that!". Even as Christians, we sometimes do not obey the Word because we think the cost will be too great, or because we are convinced that God really doesn't know what's best for us! WE HAVE BELIEVED SATAN'S LIES THAT SOME OF GOD'S COMMANDS ARE VERY GRIEVOUS!!! We need, rather, to side with God, call Satan what God calls him, A LIAR (JOHN 8:44), choose to obey God whatever the apparent costs may be, and leave the results to Him.

In Daniel 3:17,18 (Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego choosing obedience to God in spite of facing the flames of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace) we find the proof of the truth expressed in this little poem,

"He knows, He loves, He cares!
Let not your hope grow dim;
God always gives His best to those...
Who leave the choice to Him."

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