The second half of Malachi chapter two is an unpopular portion of scripture. It addresses marriage and divorce and obviously this affects fully one half of the people in the United States directly and even more indirectly because odds are good that someone in your family is divorced.
10 Are we not all children of the same Father? Are we not all created by the same God? Then why are we faithless to each other, violating the covenant of our ancestors? 11 In Judah, in Israel, and in Jerusalem there is treachery, for the men of Judah have defiled the LORD’s beloved sanctuary by marrying women who worship idols. 12 May the LORD cut off from the nation of Israel every last man who has done this and yet brings an offering to the LORD Almighty. 13 Here is another thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, weeping and groaning because he pays no attention to your offerings, and he doesn’t accept them with pleasure. 14 You cry out, “Why has the LORD abandoned us?” I’ll tell you why! Because the LORD witnessed the vows you and your wife made to each other on your wedding day when you were young. But you have been disloyal to her, though she remained your faithful companion, the wife of your marriage vows. 15 Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard yourself; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. 16 ”For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “It is as cruel as putting on a victim’s bloodstained coat,” says the LORD Almighty. “So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife.”
Malachi first addresses the situation of men and women who were unequally yoked. The men had married women who worshipped other gods. This is a very common problem in the history of Israel. If not the root of the problem, certainly the best known example of this is none other than King Solomon.
Solomon had a multitude of foreign wives but polygamy wasn’t the main issue. It was the fact that Solomon was led astray by his wives that lead to the problem. Despite building the magnificent temple to the Lord, Solomon was also persuaded by some of his wives to build temples to their gods as well.
While nothing of that magnitude was happening here, the men were nevertheless being led astray. Perhaps it was their idolatrous wives that questioned why they sacrificed a perfectly good lamb while there was a crippled one that was likely to die that they could sacrifice.
These things always start off simply enough, often even with good intentions. The situation I constantly run across with teenagers is the well intentioned girl who begins dating a non-Christian in hopes of leading him to the Lord. Good intentions, but it rarely works. One in a thousand times does this actually happen. An illustration often used is a Christian standing on a chair and a non-Christian standing on the floor. While the Christian is trying to pull the non-Christian up, it is far easier for them to be pulled off of the chair.
Whatever the reasoning, the Israelites had fallen for it. The people had taken foreign spouses and they were making foolish compromises.
The worst part about this situation isn’t even the idolatrous spouses though. It is the fact that the Israelites had left their godly spouses to chase after the ungodly ones. The people were flooding the Lord’s altar with tears, wanting to know why God would not accept their sacrifices. They wanted to know why God didn’t answer their prayers. It was because they had broken a covenant they had made with their spouse.
Today, most wedding vows end with something to the effect of, “what God has joined together, let no man separate.” Marriage is recognized as a union by God. God declared early on in Genesis that the two would become one flesh. They would be united.
The Israelites had taken a similar oath with God as a witness and they had turned away from it. They had broken their oath. This obviously did not make God happy.
Now, I’ll back off here for a moment. Obviously there are a lot of people who have broken their marriage vows. God isn’t thrilled about this. I’m not going to sugarcoat that. There are usually mitigating circumstances surrounding a divorce. On several occasions I’ve been asked what to do if a woman is in an abusive marriage. I’ve been asked about deadbeat husbands on drugs. I’ve been asked about unfaithful spouses. Usually someone doesn’t wake up one day and decide they are tired of being married and get divorced.
I am not passing judgment on anyone because it’s not my job. Where there is sin, God will judge it accordingly. Divorce is not something that God favors, but the Israelites had compounded their problem greatly because of their remarriage.
It is one thing to be a part of a divorce where you are the one who is left. It is another thing to be the instigator of the divorce as it appears the Israelite men were. They had grown tired of their wives’ nuances, or their inability to cook, or maybe they were just growing old, or didn’t look as good as they did ten years before. So they went after someone who could cook, someone who was younger, someone who was prettier, whatever the case was.
This makes God’s blood boil. If you want to make God mad, this is the way. God hates the divorce; He knows that nothing good is going to come out of it. He’s mad because the couple made a vow before Him that they would love one another and that nothing would separate them. But what really made God angry at the Israelites of Malachi’s day was that the people had left their wives for simple foolish pleasures.
The King James Version says in vs 16 that God hates, “one (that) covereth violence with his garment”. The New International version translates it in much the same way. This didn’t make much sense to me until I read the New Living Translation. It says, “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “It is as cruel as putting on a victim’s bloodstained coat.”
The picture I get is that it is not just the divorce that God hates, but is the remarriage that is really detestable. It is horrible to kill someone but it is despicable to then take the person’s blood stained coat as well.
A lot more can be said about divorce and remarriage. I’ve dwelt on it long enough. If you haven’t before, I suggest reading Paul’s take on divorce and remarriage in 1 Corinthians. The best advice on marriage is quite possibly the simplest that God gives at the end of verse 16. “Always be loyal to your spouse!”