HYMN PSALM 133 Behold how good it is
1 Behold, how good a thing it is,
and how becoming well,
Together such as brethren are
in unity to dwell!
2 Like precious ointment on the head,
that down the beard did flow,
Ev’n Aaron’s beard, and to the skirts
did of his garments go.
3 As Hermon’s dew, the dew that doth
on Sion’ hills descend:
For there the blessing God commands,
life that shall never end.
Scottish Psalter (1650) (Psalm 133)
READING MATTHEW 19:1-12
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
SERMON DIVORCE AND MARRIAGE
Divorce is only mentioned 15 times in the Bible – 7x in the OT and 8x in the NT. But we should consider alongside that the fact that marriage is mentioned 182 times and weddings 19x. Maybe that should set the scene for our service this evening, for we should know that MARRIAGE is of much greater importance in God’s eyes than is divorce!
The second thing to say by way of introduction is that we must be careful always to strike a balance in what we pronounce about thorny issues in God’s Word. In our day and generation, we seem to have fairly lax laws in Scotland with regard to divorce, much as they had in Jesus’ day through the influence of a religious lawyer called Hillel.
HOWEVER, the temptation for some might be to go beyond God’s Word and add rules which are not to be found in the Good Book. Some imagine they are all the more godly because they have more rules than others! But that is just nonsense – to go BEYOND God’s Word is to SIN – no matter how moral it may seem. Those who say there can never be divorce in any circumstances have simply failed to read the words of Jesus here! Such strictness can actually be a more fatal blow to morals than looseness would be!
Notice right away in Mt 19 that the reason that this issue was brought up was by way of trying to trick Jesus into identifying with one or other religious group – thereby to be able to denounce Him as a worldly man, or overly strict and even un-Biblical!
Is Jesus going to be easily tricked into giving an easy answer ? NO – He is NOT. The wise Saviour asks THEM a question in return. It was an easy question, because it was about the Old Testament – and no-one knew more about the Bible than did they!
Jesus wanted to vere away from the subject of divorce to the much more important subject of MARRIAGE. He reminds them of those wonderful passages in Genesis about God making male and female for one another – and that they should become ONE FLESH.
That was all the answer the Pharisees really needed. MARRIAGE is a wonderful gift from God Himself and is to be undertaken with the greatest of care, realising that it is a life-long commitment. Jesus goes on to say therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. One of the commentators says : if the knot be sacred it cannot be easily untied. But those wicked men weren’t satisfied with that – they wanted to pin Him down. They said – Aha – so you’re denying the law of Moses, then, are you ? Because he allowed for divorce!!
Is Jesus to be ruffled by this intensive questioning? Is He going to give His enemies an opportunity to nail Him? NO – for Jesus knew Him Bible better than the lot of them put together – and He simply tells that scheming bunch that they have failed to understand their Bibles.
Moses allowed for divorce, but it was because of the great wickedness of the people in his day – AND it was to protect the wives from the abuses which were clearly happening in the desert wanderings of the Hebrews. Then Jesus gives His great exception clause – anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.
And before people accuse Jesus of being a hard man, let’s remember that incident in John 8 when the Pharisees brought to Him the woman who had been caught in adultery. What did Jesus do to her? Did He stone her? Did He encourage the others to kill her? NO – He had compassion on her and said neither do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sin. Oh, yes, be sure that there is wonderful forgiveness with Jesus – no matter what may be lurking in our past lives.
The disciples found Jesus’ teaching hard and wondered whether it was, perhaps, better NOT to marry! But Jesus said that there would be single people – and there would be married people – neither was wrong.
Maybe that is something we need to take to heart in our society. We think there must be something wrong with a single person – but NOT SO – Jesus said there would be single and married. The important thing is that we find ourselves where God wants us. That should be our chief desire in life – in marriage or in singleness – to come, surrounded by Jesus forgiveness, and walk each day with HIM.
Are you ready to do that? To trust Him, even though some of His teaching might be hard to believe or to accept? Are you prepared to give Him your absolute trust? I do hope so – for in Him you will find the AMAZING GIFT OF LOVE.
Hymn O Love Divine how sweet Thou art
1 O love divine, how sweet thou art,
when shall I find my willing heart
all taken up by thee?
My thirsty spirit faints to prove
the greatness of redeeming love,
the love of Christ to me.
2 Stronger his love than death and hell
its riches are unsearchable:
The first-born sons of light
desire in vain its depth to see;
they cannot reach the mystery,
the length, the breadth, and height.
3 God only knows the love of God;
oh, that it now were shed abroad
in this poor stony heart:
For love I sigh, for love I pine;
this only portion, Lord, be mine,
be mine this better part.
4 Oh, that I could for ever sit,
like Mary, at the Master’s feet;
be this my happy choice:
My only care, delight, and bliss,
my joy, my heaven on earth be this,
to hear the Bridegroom’s voice.
Charles Wesley (1707-1788)