God, by His own actions, has shown us that He considers marriage a binding and permanent covenant until death. In fact, the entire Bible is a picture of marriage highlighted by the life of Jesus. Many have asked why there is so much focus on marriage, have looked to explain why divorce and remarriage is possible, and have reasoned that it is permissible because they are comfortable and do not believe they are in disobedience to God for finding other spouses. The purpose of this post is to show how God illustrates covenant keeping, love for the prodigal spouse, and the picture of salvation. Hopefully, this post will help tie the marital posts together and give people a more complete view of marriage. I’ve found that when people try to work things out in their own power and look for reasons to work on their marriages, it’s easy to walk away. However, when people see things through a Biblical lens, it takes the focus off “me, me, me” so we can see the bigger picture to get past our temporal problems. Focusing on God’s way has helped numerous couples through those hard times and helped them strengthen their love for Him and each other.
God entered into covenant with Abraham and was married to Israel. We know that God NEVER breaks his promises. Gal 3:15 explains that once covenants are entered, the terms of the contract cannot be changed or altered. When God chose this people, it wasn’t based on anything they did to stand out from other nations. Abraham (Abram) was an idolator, and God called him from his idolatry to be the father of many nations – including Israel. While the people of Israel sometimes obeyed, they sometimes strayed from God to worship other gods.God would call to her and call to her to repent and return to Him. At one point, to demonstrate this relationship, God sent Hosea (a sign prophet that demonstrated God’s message through his own actions in life) to marry a prostitute. During the marriage, Gomer would stray and get pregnant by other men, but Hosea continued to love her, pursue her, and provide for her even when she didn’t realize he was the one making sure she was okay while in her sin. That is the way God would care and provide for His people even when they turned their backs on Him.
At some point, God divorced Israel. Often, this part of history is used to support people’s rationalizations to divorce and remarry. However, God didn’t move on to another wife. He continued to call to Israel to return to Him because He said they were married (“8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also…14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:” – Jer 3:8, 14). Israel was put away from God in order to understand her transgressions and repent of her adulteries – not for God to replace her. Had God meant for divorce to end covenants, then Israel and her descendants would have been lost to a burning hell because God would have turned His back on them and left them to find a means of saving themselves.
People often use the New Testament as a reason to state we can do acts like divorce and remarry (while our first spouses are alive) because we’re “under grace” and “not under the law.” Well, how did we get to the NT and from “under the law”? The law of the Lord is perfect and points us to our sins. Had we not known the law, we would not know sin. Since we sinned, starting with Adam, redemption is necessary. The wages of sin is death, and bloodshed is required to cover sins. The blood of goats and bulls was not sufficient to be a long-term solution to allow us into the presence of the Lord. A more perfect sacrifice was necessary.
A note of interest: At no point during Israel’s pursuit of other gods, before or after being put away/divorced by the Lord, were any ever released from the covenant of the Lord. They were still bound to obey the Law of Moses and guilty of committing spiritual adultery even when they chose to “commit” themselves to other gods. Basically, while they were divorced, God still required them to be faithful to Him and not “cheat” on Him by worshiping idols. It wasn’t merely idolatry. It was adultery.
Remember, covenants are binding until DEATH. In order for the old covenant to end to make way for the new covenant (from “under the law” into “grace”), one of the marital partners has to die. If God had waited for Israel to die, then all the descendants would have been sentenced to damnation (hell) because they had no Savior. Of course, He could have wiped everyone out in one fell swoop to move on, but the outcome would be the same. God would have ceased being their salvation, and they would be lost forever. Additionally, God’s promises would have been broken and would make Him a liar, but the covenant would have ended and would have allowed Him to join with another nation in covenant. However, God doesn’t lie, so He continued to care for the people of Israel. On the other hand, God is a Spirit, and spirits don’t die. So, it would be a waste of time or energy waiting for Him to die. Even if God had died as a Spirit to allow Israel to enter into covenant with someone else, where would they go? Their only hope of salvation is in God. If He’s gone, then they are still lost. The only way this covenant ended was through Jesus Christ – the God man.
As God, Jesus was the Husband in the marital covenant and could uphold His end of the relationship in the flesh. As a man, Jesus could die and end the covenant. Until the time of Jesus and while He walked the earth, anyone who wanted to become part of the family of God HAD to submit themselves, come under the Law of Moses, and abide by the rituals and practices of Israel. We see this in the lives of people like Ruth, a Gentile who gave up everything to follow the true and living God. When Jesus died, Israel became a widow because her Husband had been killed. Remember, spirits don’t die. Had Jesus not come in the flesh, there would be no sacrificial death for sins, and we would all have to come under the Law of Moses since that covenant was still in effect. Once Jesus died, the covenant ceased because the marriage ended with death. However, when Jesus rose again, He extended a new covenant to Israel as well as anyone else who wanted/wants to enter into covenant with Him. Israel was free to enter into covenant with Jesus under grace through His bloodshed because she was a widow. Gentiles are able to enter into covenant with Him because we were never married. So, yes, Jesus not only taught on the permanence of marriage, He walked it out through His life, death, and resurrection.
Marriage is a picture of salvation. We are often unfaithful to God, demanding, and looking for reasons to excuse our sin; however, Jesus still calls us to Him. He does this because He is in covenant with Believers. He will not let us die out and be lost. In fact, He gives us the Holy Spirit as His pledge that He will finish the work He began in us and bring us to Himself. The Bible says Christ died ONCE for all, so we don’t have to worry if He’ll die and make another covenant that might leave us out. Since we’re in covenant with Him, we don’t have to worry about being forsaken and thrown into a fiery pit for not living up to His standards. We may still suffer consequences of sin, but we do not lose our BrideGroom. As Christians, we are to model Christ. Christ DOES NOT throw us out or replace us when we disappoint Him – repeatedly, so we do not have permission to throw away our spouses when they don’t live up to our sinful, selfish standards. We’re called to pray for and bless our enemies, so we’re called and expected to exceed those requirements for those with whom we’re one flesh.
I encourage you to ask the Lord to help you view your spouse through His eyes and to help you change whatever needs to be changed within you to bring you two closer together.
“22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.” – Prov 18:22
“31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” – Eph 5:31-33
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