We come to a pretty painful topic for many people. Around 50% of marriages, even among Christians sadly, end in divorce. The percentage is much lower in Japan, where I live, but even here, the total is rising.
In this passage, God addresses two things. First, he said,
Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another? Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. (10-11)
We mentioned before in Ezra and Nehemiah that even the leaders and priests in Israel had started to intermarry with the people around them. Why was this wrong? Basically because these foreigners were leading Israel into idol worship, which was what caused their exile in the first place.
Nehemiah, when he saw this, sharply rebuked the people saying,
Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. (Nehemiah 13:26)
What was Nehemiah’s point? Even the strongest believer in God can be led into becoming unfaithful by an unbelieving spouse. That’s why it’s very dangerous for a Christian to marry someone who is not. And it was for that reason that God strictly forbade his people from marrying idol-worshippers.
But there was something even worse about these marriages. Malachi wrote,
Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. (13-14)
The people were wondering why God seemed against them. Why he didn’t seem to accept with pleasure what they offered him. And God makes it very clear.
Not only did they marry these idol-worshippers, but they had broken faith with the women they had married in order to do so. In doing so, they had broken faith with God since they had made their vows before him. And so God told them that he was standing as a witness against them.
He then reminded them that it was he who had started the institution of marriage and that when they got married, it was he who made them one flesh. So not only did they belong to each other, they belonged to him. And he made them one so that when they had children, they would grow up in godly families and learn to have a strong relationship with God like their parents.
Divorce has a terrible effect on children. And many times it not only warps a child’s view of marriage, it also warps the child’s view on God as well. God reveals himself as our loving Father, but so many children of divorced parents can’t relate to that because they rarely see their father. They think God is like their earthly father. Unfaithful to his promises and never there when you need him.
God then makes crystal clear his feelings on divorce.
“I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. (16)
God hates divorce. He hates adultery. He hates domestic violence. He hates anything that breaks faith with our spouse.
I find it interesting here that he focuses on the men more than the women. Certainly part of the reason was that in those days, it was the men who had the power to divorce their spouse, not the women. But I think there’s another reason. God puts primary responsibility of keeping the marriage strong on the husband. We see this throughout scripture. Peter himself said,
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (I Peter 3:7).
Husbands were divorcing and abusing their physically weaker partners in Malachi, and God condemned them for it.
How about you? Are you in any way acting treacherously against your wife? Are you in any way acting treacherously against your husband?
Let us be faithful not only to our partner, but to the God who joined us together.