In the graceful Garden of Eden amid the beauties of rolling hills and peaceful plains, singing trees and babbling brooks, chirping birds and fragrant flowers, amid the splendor and wonder of it all, God performed the first marriage. There, above the music of nature and the anthems of angels, the melody of God's voice Sounded, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh" (Matthew 19:5).
In His blessing of that first couple, God pronounced a benediction on every couple: "the two will become one" (verse 5). Millenniums after when Christ was commenting on that ceremony, He declared, "So, they are no longer two, but one" (verse 6). This is the mystery of marriage. At the start of the ceremony, the partners proceed to the altar as two, but at the close of the service, they depart as one! "They are no longer two, but one" (verse 6). How can that be? The apostle Paul, greatest Christian theologian of all time, stood in awe declaring,"This is a profound mystery" (Ephesians 5:32). In the Christian experience, there are many mysteries: creation, incarnation, conversion, conception. Mysteries! We can't explain them, but we can experi- ence them! Marriage is a mystery.
As there is one God in three Persons, varied in function but united in loving purpose, so in marriage two persons become one in the purpose of love. This oneness in marriage is both instantaneous and continuous. On the very day of their wedding, they become one by divine pronouncement. But in the days and years beyond, they become one by human adjustment. This unity is both a product and a process.
Immediately after His affirmation of marriage, Christ uttered a condemnation of divorce. "Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19:6). From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible's central message is: Gob is love. However, within the Scriptures we note that there are some things that God hates. And one of these is divorce. "So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. That divorce,' says the Lord God of Israel" (Malachi 2:15,16). And why does He hate it? Because it contradicts His plan for the permanence of marriage.
"Till death do us part," is a part of God's plan. Satan, as usual, has a different plan. The devil specializes in broken homes and broken hearts. He delights in divorce. He enjoys the traumatic anguish of estranged partners. He rejoices in the emotional abuse the children suffer as they internalize the strife of their beloved parents. He revels in hate, for is not that the opposite of love, which is the very character of God?
When the Pharisees kept up the divorce dialogue with the Master, He made a severe statement: "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery" (Matthew 19:9) So, in the mind of God, there is only one acceptable condition for the dissolution of marriage: sexual unfaithtulness.
Marriage has has twofold validation. It is and it is recorded in heaven. Consequently, divorce needs the and same twofold validation: recognition on earth and ratification in heaven. Jesus stated the single condition for heaven's acceptance. So, if there is a dissolution by the court of earth without affirmation by the court of heaven, one is forced to ask the question: Is such a divorce valid?
As in every area of life, God does not hold a person responsible for the wrongs done in ignorance. "In the past, God overlooked such ignorance" (Acts 17:30). But when a person understands the will of God, the Lord requires conformity to His will from that day forward. His message to people who are serious about salvation is: "Go, and sin no more" (John 8:11, Kv).
How can someone feeling the pain of divorce experience healing? First, all unfinished spiritual business should be attended to. We should seek for and accept God's forgiveness for Whatever part we played in the dissolution of the marriage. "Come now, let us reason together says the LORD. Though your sins are like Scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18). If we ask Him, God will grant pardon.
When we have the assurance that He has forgiven us, we get the basis and the courage to forgive ourselves. As we pardon ourselves, the burden of guilt will disappear, and we can live with ourselves. The result is inner peace. "Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God" (Romans 5:1).
Forgiveness has another dimension. It should be extended to the former spouse if he or she has been an offender. Sometimes it is hard to forgive, but Jesus reminds us that "if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:15). In fact, even when pardon is not requested, it should be granted. Isn't that what Christ did? (Luke 23:34).
Then we need to proceed with optimism. We need to pick up the pieces and move on with our lives. Like Paul, we should say, "But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark" (Philippians 3:13,14, KJv). We should set new goals, chart a new course of action, and face the future with confidence. In this, a different state of "singleness," some of the guidelines in chapter 4 of this volume may prove helpful.
At times, the struggle will seem to be overwhelming, but we should ever remember that when no one else feels our pain, God does. He too experienced the hurt of separation. When Israel, His beloved, finally rejected Him declaring "We have no king but Caesar," while they cried, "Let his blood be on us and on our children" (John 19:15; Matthew 27:25), Jesus wept. His Holy Spirit is our Comforter (John 14:16, KJV).
There are various people who possess the potential for aiding the dissolution of marriages. Among these are the in-laws. Some in-laws are distinct assets, and couples need to be grateful for their Wise support. Other in- laws, however, are unintentional liabilities. While the intent maybe harmless, the outcome may be harmful.
Let us go back to God's Edenic command. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife" (Genesis 2:24, KIV). Sometimes, couples fail to "cleave" because they fail to "leave." This leaving, first of all, is physical. It is of distinct advantage to newlyweds to move to their own independent housing facility, regardless of how humble such may be. There, the husband is king and the wife is queen, even if they have nothing to reign over! This freedom of space is necessary to a couple finding their sense of identity.
But the leaving should be more than physical. It should be also mental. The couple should think independence. When misunderstandings arise-as they sometimes do- there is no room for running back to mama. When problems arise-as they sometimes will-there is no place for seeking intervention from papa. The couple, under God, must confront their own frustrations and find their own solutions. At times, advice may be sought, but decisions must always rest with the couple. In their senior years, in times of bereavement or in reasons of loss, it may be necessary for a couple to take care of an aged in-law. In such a case, it is better that the in-law resides at the couple's house where they are in charge, rather than the couple live at the in-law's house where there is the likelihood of the latter's control. When such an action is contem plated, spouses should ensure that there is mutual understanding.
Another frequent source of divorce is the "third party. Because close friendships formed in social, business, and professional life possess the potential for sexual intimacy, one has to be careful lest the intriguing "pet snake "matures into a monster causing marital death. Scripture says, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for Someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
God's plan for humanity is: One man; one woman. He clearly demonstrated this in Eden. Although the Creator desired the population of the planet (Genesis 1:28), and although the newly created man had both the physical capacity and the material resources to maintain more than one mate, God provided Adam with only one Eve! He knew that true love and maximum happiness required a monogamous relationship.
Abraham tried an alternative-- one accepted by the society of his day. With his wife's cooperation, he took a concubine. But it was not long before his home became a battleground (Genesis 16 & 21). That battle between the descendants of Hagar and Sarah has continued through the centuries of time in Arab-Israeli relationships. Solomon also ran his experiment with a network of royal wives that brought him both ruin and regret (1 Kings 11). When he came to his senses, he declared, "Meaningless! Meaningless!... Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless" Ecclesiastes 1:2).
Two Components for Marriage Survival
But the persons possessing the greatest power for the destruction of a marriage are the partners themselves. For regardless what others do, it is the couple that makes the decision for the life or death of their marriage. We have already said that the creation of a marriage requires two elements: the human and the divine. We have also seen that the dissolution of a marriage requires these two Components: the human and the divine. In like manner, the survival of a marriage requires the same two elements: the human and the divine.
The human element is the will. Some couples enter marriage with no will to make it work. They say something like this: "Let's give it a try. If it works, we'll stay; if it doesn't, we'll go." With such an attitude, chances are that it would not work! There's no will to make it work. There's no commitment. Other partners enter the relationship saying, "It must work! Whatever, the challenges, we must find a way to make it work." They begin with a will, a conviction, a commitment. A couple needs to will to make their marriage work. Partners need to will to put the principles we are studying in this volume into practice. Spouses need to will to love and keep on loving. Someone has pointed out that love is not only a noun-a name word;it is also a verb-a doing word! It is not just something to be defined; it is something to be done. Couples need to use their wills to keep on saying, "I love you."
This power of the human will is infinite. God Himself said so. Describing the potential of sinners gathered around the Tower of Babel, He declared, "nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them" (Genesis 11:6). Jesus affirmed that fact. Speaking of the mustard seed faith which could remove mountains of difficulty, He said, "Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20). What limitless potential! On the wedding day, we said, "I do." Every day, we need to say, "I will!"
We said that the survival of a marriage requires two components. The second indispensable element is God's power. Human will alone will not succeed. Why? Because on the river of marital life, the couple is always rowing upstream, against the strong currents of Satan's power. And sooner or later, partners get tired. The great need is the divine Third Partner who possesses spiritual power greater than that of the devil. That partner is Jesus.
Christ delights in making marriages work. A marriage was the object of His first miracle, and our marriage can be the object of His miracle today if like the couple of Cana we invite Him not only on our wedding day, but every day. Every morning and every evening we may kneel together and pray together. And if one spouse has no such interest, the other can still do it alone.
There is no limit to God's power to save marriages today. "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 1926). "For nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). "What is impossible with men is possible with God" (Luke 18:27).
Towering above the centuries of time, the statement the Savior still stands: What God has joine together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19:6).The two keys of human will and divine power eys can of open the gates of infinite potential.
There is another union which was consummated in Eden. At the end ot creation, there was a celebration. Jesus Christ, Himself the Creator (John 1:1-3), instituted the celebration (Genesis 2:1-3) So, in that gorgeous garden, the testimony of Scripture is that they were united, are united, and will stay united forever. "Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate." When, in the process of time, the peoples of earth forgot that ceremony in Eden, a service of recommitment took place at Sinai. There Christ appeared in power and glory. Through out Israel's wilderness sojourn, the Lord ministered to them. When Moses asked Him for His name, He told him that His name was "I AM," the Eternal One (Exodus 3:14). And When the Pharisees questioned Hs divinity, He responded, "Before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8.58, NKIV). This I AM, the Eternal of both the Old and the New Testaments is Jesus Christ.
Some people believe that there Was a divorce at Calvary. 'They Produce the evidence of ColossiansS 2:13-17. "He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross...therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."
It refers to a system that served as a "shadow" of the Savior. This shadow of the cross was painted in the services of the Israelite sanctuary. There were three areas in that sanctuary. In the courtyard were the laver and the brazen altar of sacrifice. In the Holy Place were the golden candlesticks, table of shewbread, and the golden altar of incense. In the Most Holy Place was the ark, covered by the mercy seat, overspanned by golden angels under whose wings Christ was visibly manifested by the Shekinah light. There were daily services performed by the priest, and yearly services conducted by priest and high priest.
Every day, sinners brought their sacrifices. In the courtyard, the repentant sinner placed his hand upon the spotless lamb, confessed his transgressions, and killed the innocent substitute. The priest took some of the blood into the Holy Place and made an atonement.
Once every year, there was a Day of Atonement. A special service on this day conducted in the Most Holy Place, ensured, in symbol, that the sins of the whole year were forgiven. The date was the tenth day of the seventh month, and that special day was called a sabbatk "The tenth day of this seventh mont is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly..do not work on tha day.it is a sabbath of rest for you Leviticus (23:27, 28, 32).
Seven feast days are listed in Leviticus 23: The Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of First Fruits, Feast of Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and first and last days of the Feast of Tabernacles. These sacred holidays were holy days and were called sabbaths. They were days for rest and worship, and they oCcurred only once a year, like our Chrıstmas or Easter. These sabbaths belonged to a system which was a shadow of the Savior and they ended at the cross.
After 1,500 years of such ceremonies, Christ, the true Lamb of God, was slain on the altar of Calvary. At His death, He cried, "It is finished!" John 19:30). And immediately, "the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:51). The whole ceremonial system ended. Christ "took it away, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14).
Therefore, today we need no ark with a mercy seat, for God's throne of grace grants mercy (Hebrews 4:16). We need no shewbread, for Christ is the Bread of Life (John 6:48). We need no candlesticks for Jesus is the Light of the World John 9:5). We need no incense, for Christ's merits is the perfume (Ephesians 5:2). We need no yearly sabbaths, for Christ is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), and His Holy Spirit is our Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). We need no lamb, tor Jesus is the Lamb (John 1:29). We need no altar, for Calvary was the Altar (Luke 23:33). We need no priest, for every believer is a priest (1 Peter 2:9). We need no high priest, or Christ is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).
Side by side, hand in hand, it is the privilege of each couple to walk together down the corridors of time. But more than that, it could be the pleasure of every couple to walk down the aisles of eternity. Just imagine yourself walking with your family along the streets of that city. What a celebration that will be!
Let's have a coffee