Easton's Bible Dictionary defines marriage as “being instituted in Paradise when man was in innocence” (Gen. 2:18-24). Holman Bible Dictionary continues to add that “the biblical standard for marriage is a monogamous relationship in which a man and a woman share a lifetime commitment to each other, second only to their commitment to God. It is an unconditional, lifetime commitment”. There is so much to understand here already. It is a commitment secondary important to the commitment to God, thus implying that a commitment with God is foremost of importance when one enters into marriage. Is this how it happens in all marriages today?
This marriage relation is used to represent the union between God and his people (Isa. 54:5; Jer. 3:1-14; Hos. 2:9, 20). In the New Testament the same figure is employed in representing the love of Christ to his saints (Eph. 5:25-27). The Church of the redeemed is the “Bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 19:7-9). In such a way is the covenant of God towards His chosen people and this is the union that God intends in marriage. This is a very important notion to mention because God never intended for marriages to be broken and would like the mankind marriage to be a representation of His love for His bride. God loves unconditionally in a way that man cannot love if not through a continuous strengthened relationship with God. However we shall explore this further because spiritual matters of this profound importance apply to persons who are spiritually alive and thus cannot be applied to persons who are spiritually dead.
Let’s explore further what God always commanded about marriages. In the Bible we find two very important concepts of marriage. God repeatedly commands His people not to allow intermarriages because He is a jealous God and hates an adulterous heart that would turn away from Him because of the customs and religions of the other pagan tribes (Deut 7:1-6; Judges 3:1-6; Ezra 9-10 ). However God also makes it very clear that a man who marries is to be faithful to his wife, the one with whom there is a covenant (Malachi 2:14). Both these two important concepts are very much neglected nowadays as we shall explore further.
Israelites were often reminded about God’s protection if they obeyed His commandments (Joshua 23:1-13) however repeatedly they fell into the same mistakes having to carry the consequences of their choices. When the marriage was not within the people of Israel, God ordered that the wives and children be sent away, a particular case of divorce seen in the Bible (Ezra 10:3). Was God contradicting His word in Malachi chapter 2? No, indeed He was not. The Israelites’ covenant in marriage to the foreign women was between the Israelites and the women only, thus not involving God. God could not be involved in this union if He had specifically ordered that this type of union should not take place. Was God pleased with the Israelites sending away the foreign wives and children? No, He never wanted this to happen in the first place. Many marriages today take place and they are not made in accordance to what is pleasurable and acceptable in the sight of the Lord. Many couples take special care to all other aspects of their union but neglect spiritual preparation or consideration. In Ezra 9:2 we see that the leaders themselves led the way in this unfaithfulness. This is still happening today most especially in the Catholic Church with priests blessing a union when it is clear that the couple are either non-believers or they are from two different religions. Is it not the same incident of leaders leading unfaithfully in the book of Ezra? How will the children be raised? Will idolatry and religious practises that God detests not be part of the upbringing of those children? In Genesis 24:1-10 Abraham took special care in choosing a wife for his son. Christian parents today, in disposing of their children, should carefully consult their furtherance in the way to heaven.
In Deut 17:17 we read instructions to the King of the Israelites himself, stating that he should not have many wives but we see that later kings were guilty of this. Solomon in 1 Kings 11:1-6 “held fast to them in love”. The purpose of Solomon’s marriages was often to seal international relationships with various kingdoms which were a common practice in those times. But this violated God’s order with respect to multiplicity of wives and also regarding taking wives from pagan people. God was always right! The Israelites always repeated the mistake of drifting away from God and engaging in adulterous lifestyles towards God by introducing worship to other gods.
As we see history always repeats itself. It was so with the Jewish people and it is so today. God gave specific directions about what was expected of His people. But who are His people? They now include all born again Christians who have understood and accepted God’s covenant with His people. Thus this implies that it is not the same with those not in the covenant. God deals with them differently. For them to be considered as having had a union blessed by God, they need to first know God.
Therefore as we have explored, what God joins, no man shall separate (Mark10:9). However we need to understand that not everything is joined by God. The Israelites taking foreign women were joined in marriage but they were doing so against God’s commandment. Surely that marriage was not joined by God. Two persons marrying today in church when their hearts is far away from God stand in the same position. Spiritual things are for the spiritually alive. Marriage and divorce for the spiritually alive have a totally different meaning than for someone who lives through life, going through all the social notions without a born again spirit in God, thus spiritually dead.
In conclusion, let’s always be clear in what social issues are and what spiritual issues are and let’s make the distinction clear. Marriage may be a man made union or a spiritual union. If a marriage is not made according to the standards of God, it is only a social event called marriage. God intended for it to be a spiritual event, a covenant that he originally created for mankind, a covenant that should not be broken. A commitment secondary important to the commitment made with Him; therefore a commitment with Him comes first. When is this possible? When two hearts already dedicated to the Lord walking in His covenant of redemption take a commitment in front of God in whom they truly believe, when God can call them His own because they have become part of His covenant people and only then what He joins let no man separate….what HE JOINS.By Margaret AbelaReferences:
Easton's Bible Dictionaryhttp://www.ccel.org/ccel/easton/ebd2.EBD.html
Hagin, K. E. (2001). Marriage, Divorce and Re-marriage
Holman Bible Dictionary http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T4112
New American Standard Bible- Scriptures from: Genesis, Galatians, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Ephesians, Revelations, Deuteronomy, Ezra, Malachi, Joshua, 1 Kings, Gospel of Mark.