Last time we were together in Matthew chapter 19, Jesus revealed for us through His Word what He designed marriage for: to proclaim God's faithful, to image-forth His gracious, never-changing, unbreakable, covenant love for His people.
But if that's the case, if that's what His design & intention for marriage is, then why did Moses permit certificates of divorce? That was the questions the Pharisees had for the Son of Man.
The answer He provides in our passage today will most likely surprise you.
If you're able, please open your copy of God's Word to Matthew 19.7-12, and following along with us in today's sermon entitled, "Because of Your Hardness of Heart".
7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
life application questions
blue = leaders only
growing in truth: Read: Matthew 19:1-12
Last week Jesus reminded the Pharisees that God created marriage in The Garden, concluding with Mt19.6: “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."
This week the Pharisees continue testing Jesus. In Mt19.7, they ask: "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?"
Where in Scripture did Moses give instructions about divorce? In Deuteronomy 24.1-4: he allowed it in response to the hardness of men's heart. It was a simple process: a written certificate. So simple, in fact, that it lead to serial divorce and remarriage.
Whenever Moses gave commandments, where did he get them from? By who's authority? Read Exodus 19:2-8. The commandments and authority came from God. Moses had no authority to change what God decreed in The Garden, on Mount Sinai, or anywhere else. Jesus “trumped” the Pharisees' appeal to Moses by going back to the true source: God.
Of all the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), what is unique about Matthew as it relates to divorce & remarriage? He's the only one to include an “exception" clause.
Joseph was betrothed to Mary. According to their culture, they were essentially married. When Mary was found to be with child, "Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly." He thought she'd committed the sin of fornication (porneia) during their betrothal period. If they had already come together and consummated their vows, her sin would have been adultery (mocheia) rather than fornication (porneia). “Divorce”--or "sending her out" (Dt24.1)--during their betrothal period would have permitted Joseph to marry another without being guilty of adultery.
So what's this all about? Jesus affirms that God, His Father, defined marriage at Creation (in Genesis): "two become one flesh". Mary had kept herself pure during the betrothal period. She submitted to God's will: to be the vessel for His Son. Had God abandoned this “innocent”, submissive woman, He would have denied His own righteousness. Instead, He permitted Joseph to wed Mary who, in fact, was completely innocent of fornication or adultery. So, instead of providing an "exception" clause or a loop hole for permitting divorce, v9 is actually an endorsement of the sanctify of marriage, even through the most difficult of circumstances. The permanence of such a sacred covenant reveals the character of God and His agape love toward His people.
In the children's sermon, Pastor Paige told the kids about a hardened heart. Whose, do you remember? Exodus 8:31-32
What is the common condition of someone's heart when he or she refuses to let people go, or when seeking an easy way out of their marriage vows through divorce? A hardened heart. A heart rooted in self: "My slaves will serve me!" "You will serve me!" Consideration of what is best for others or for one's spouse—i.e.: trusting Jesus—doesn’t even enter the conversation.
If marriage was designed to be an image-bearer, exemplifying God's eternal love for His people, then what does divorce exemplify? Self love: "MY will be done, not yours!"
Can you think of a passage that speaks to God's standard of love? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
sharing life together: Are you or anyone you know hurting over a divorce? Please contact Pastor Paige or and elder or someone who knows Jesus for a quiet confidential conversation. Please talk, don't be silent.
living on mission: Divorce is painful. Do you know anyone hurting from divorce, families on the verge of being torn apart because of hardened hearts?
How can our South Church family bring comfort and peace to such families. Are there any right now that we can be of service to?