God's View of Marriage
God’s View of Marriage
“Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.”
According to Webster’s dictionary, marriage is defined as: “The state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.” Our modern view of marriage involves two individuals willing to be joined in a legal commitment. Thus marriage is determined by the laws of society as defined by the society. Therefore, marriage is defined by cultural traditions and legal rulings. For our culture, marriage is a human institution governed by human law. Society sees it as a two-way contractual relationship between two individuals. When one or both parties decide they no longer want to be married because they no longer “love their spouse,” they cast them aside through divorce. However, God provides a different perspective.
Malachi 2:16 reads, “Because he hates, he is sending away.” The word hate means to feel antipathy or aversion. The focus is not on God hating divorce but upon the husband who despises his wife and consequently sends her away. In other words, He stops loving her and decides to divorce her even though he has no biblical grounds (see Dt. 24:1-4; Mt. 5:32; 19:8-9; 1 Cor. 7:15). As a result, he brings judgment upon himself, for he has brought sin upon himself. In such cases, he acts treacherously, for the command to love your spouse is a decision to remain committed to the individual rather than an emotional feeling which may come or go. By divorcing his wife because of aversion or “incompatibility,” he is selfish rather than loving.
The reason he incurs guilt is not just because he has violated his vow to his wife; it is because he has broken the covenant he made with God (vs. 14). The word “covenant” is a legal term that is used of the contractual arrangement between God and a person or people (e.g., Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant, David Covenant, and the New Covenant). Marriage is not a two-way relationship between the husband and wife. Instead, it is a three-way relationship involving the husband and wife and God, who serves as a witness to whom the couple is permanently accountable. Marriage is not a social or legal contract. It is a spiritual contract between the husband, the wife, and God. Divorce without biblical grounds is not just breaking the covenant one makes with one’s spouse but also breaking the covenant one makes with God, which is the heart of sin.
The basis of this three-party agreement is that marriage is not a man-made institution governed by the laws of society. Instead, it was established by God and thus is a divinely established relationship to form the foundation for the family and human society (see Genesis 2). Society can neither redefine marriage nor disregard marriage. To redefine marriage, as we have done in our society, or to minimize and distort the marriage institution established by God. Divorce and “living together” reject and distort God's covenant relationship with humanity. In verse 17, God warns against those who say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the lord.” In other words, God warns against those who reject God’s basis for marriage and try to justify it.
The assault we see on marriage in our society through a divorce, “shacking up,” and redefining marriage ultimately is an affront to God’s moral law that he established. As a result, we bring guilt upon ourselves. However, like all sin, even when we have broken our marriage covenant and rejected God’s moral law for marriage, forgiveness and cleansing are possible through confession and repentance. Like all sin, God’s grace can bring restoration and forgiveness.