“Satan’s plan: sacrifice your youth to folly, your adulthood to lust and rage, your senior years to bitterness & envy, and never experience abundant life. Let’s not cooperate!” Gary Thomas
“This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ 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. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (Malachi 2:13-16 – NAS – See NIV as well).
“Time + unintentionality = ordinary marriage…. Ordinary is the biggest enemy of a great marriage. Ordinary is characterized by dissatisfaction, misunderstanding, and stale love. Ordinary is the birthplace of adultery. Ordinary is a place where divorce looks better than staying together. Ordinary is the subtle trap that convinces you that your marriage is as good as it will ever get. Ordinary marriages lose hope. Ordinary marriages lose vision. Ordinary marriages give in to compromise.” (Davis, Justin; Davis, Trisha; Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough).
I am convicted by this passage for multiple reasons but particularly because of a broadened definition of the word used here for “divorce” – “shalach”. While the context may be speaking of the formal act of divorce, shalach refers to an action of sending, even the notion of abandonment. It is suggested that Malachi would include in his definition those actions or attitudes that drive away or distance one from another. Shalach is the action serving as a precursor to the legal act of divorce.* Further it carries with it the idea of “sending away, to dismiss, to let go, to let down, to be driven away”.
A passing read of this passage would cause us to miss the gravity of what God is saying here. If we limit our definition of divorce to the legal act many of us could say, “Oh sure, I would never even entertain the notion of divorce and yet our actions speak an attitude of dismissal and disregard. The context even expands the idea when it speaks of dealing with “the wives of our youth treacherously” – some translations saying “violently”. There are many husbands who truly are physically violent to their wives but let not the rest of us consider ourselves off the hook. God is saying to me that when I ignore Robyn it is the same as slapping her in the face or degrading her with my words. Jesus says, “Hate equals murder because when hate runs its full course it leads to murder; lust is equal to adultery because when lust runs its full course it leads to adultery (Matthew 5). And God says, “I DETEST THIS!”
How often have I dismissed (divorced) Robyn and not really listened to her heart? She comes to me seeking advice, giving an opinion, giving a counterpoint and I give little attention to what she is really saying – I dismiss her; sometimes blatantly but more often with subtle cluelessness. Is it any wonder that conversation begins to become unsafe; that discussion is now guarded and protected? Malachi says, “What are you doing? This person is not an object that you can regard and disregard when it pleases you. She after all is your companion and ‘fellow heir of the gift of life’” (1 Peter 3:7).
Biblically there is a level of intensity in marriage that most of us do not approach in our modern definitions of relationship. Marriage takes work; communication takes effort; intimacy is the result of intentional decisions we make to draw close and to esteem the one we love. It is not enough simply to refrain from dismissing. The opposite of dismissing is pursuing; pursuing the deepest part of our best friend’s heart.
“So take heed to your spirit that you do not deal treacherously” – with warnings come freedom.
One of the great indictments leveled against Western Christianity is the fact that the divorce rate among believers is essentially the same as that of non-believers. This is baffling to me on many levels. I wonder if part of the cause of this embarrassing statistic is that we have held a superficial definition of divorce and have not dealt with or turned from those early behaviors that reflect our disregard for the “one we love”. As a result a pattern is formed wherein we begin to let the practice of divorce (dismissal) lead to its legal formality. We must begin to think about divorce as a continuum and not a point in time in our history.
Where are you on that continuum?
1-Intentional Pursuit ____5-Passivity____10-Dismissal
How many times have you divorced your spouse?
Lord, forgive us for the flippant attitude we bring into our relationships. May we daily seek your grace and power to love one another at the highest levels of intention and purpose – especially in marriage. Let there be many days of having “coffee” with one another; deliberate times of communion, listening, sharing visions, laughter and sorrows. Jesus, thank You for continuing to model for us this greatest expression of love. May we follow hard after You! You indeed are love. It is in Your name we seek to follow. Amen.
* Al Cushway, Pastor at Clear Creek Church – Highland Campus
Photo from: lmerlobooth.typepad.com
How many times have you divorced your wife? A thought provoking question whose answer might surprise you. Stay tuned for a few thoughts this next week as we consider Malachi 2:13-16.
“When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.””How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:47-49).
Jesus knew us before we knew Him. We ask, “How did you know us?” He then pointed to the previous thirty-seven years and says, “I saw you on your first date, walking on that cold beach… I saw you praying in that old 63 Plymouth Valiant (I loved that car)… I saw you on July 9, 1977… December 15, 1980… August 15, 1985… I was there as you mourned over “Little One”… I saw you in the times of Mark’s sins and Robyn’s … I saw you in moments of great love and triumph… I saw you when you thought you would never triumph again… I have seen you from eternity past and am delighted to continue the appeal for you to be who you are in Me – a “true” man and woman of God, in whom there is nothing false. Your lives, your marriage and your future are true because I “saw” you before you saw Me. “You see, at just the right time, when you were still powerless, I, your Christ died for you. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous husband or a godly wife though for a good man or woman someone might possibly dare to die. But I, the Son God, demonstrate My own special brand of love for you in this: when you were still sinners, when you were doing everything you could to dissolve your union, I died for you” (Romans 5:6-8). Now I stand at the right hand of the Father and summon you to walk in your sinful likings no longer. But if you do know this: I will stand as your Advocate before the Father and together we will raise you to renewed oneness” (1 John 2:1).
And Mark and Robyn said, “Teacher, you are the Son of God; You are the monarch of our marriage.”
Picture from: http://www.jennifershopeblog.com
It must always be more important to me to please God than to please any other person. When this is done He will take a new virtue into the depths of my spirit and make it mine. To do something good solely for the pleasure of another person will forever keep it superficial.
“You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance” (Ps. 65:11 – NLT).
“To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness – especially in the wilderness – you shall love him.” – Frederick Buechner
No doubt as we look back on 2013 we have been confronted with many challenges of life. Some are the tensions common to our day to day living and others test us far beyond what we believe we are capable of handling. There are leaky pipes and then there are leaky relationships; unexpected expenses and personal losses; piles of laundry and piles of debt…
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“He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:36-39)
When you have a hole in your favorite pair of jeans, you don’t sew a patch of preshrunk cloth over the hole, because the patch would rip away from the jeans, making the hole even worse. In the same way you wouldn’t pour fresh grape juice into an old wine skin, would you? If you did, the skins would not be able to expand as the juice ferments, resulting in both the wine and the skins to be ruined. No, we all know that you put new wine into a new wineskin so that both are preserved (Matthew 9:16-17, Mark’s paraphrase).
There are few texts in Scripture more intriguing and full of meaning than these. Throughout the ministry of Jesus – then and now – he calls us to a new way; to a path leading away from our tainted inclinations and toward maturity – from grape juice to well-aged wine.
It’s odd though … we often choose a different way, a foolish way, a “ruined” way.
Jesus begins this parable by stating a truth that anyone should know. Today He might begin by saying, “Don’t you see? ‘No one’ jumps out of an airplane without a parachute! ‘No one’ climbs a mountain in flip-flops! And ‘No one’ really believes that the Mariners will win the World Series!”
… and no one puts new wine into old wineskins!
In the first century it would have been common knowledge not to put new wine into an old wineskin. Everyone knew that in the natural fermentation process of wine the juice expands thus the wineskin must have the capacity to grow with it. An old wineskin has previously been stretched as far as it can go; it is rigid and brittle. Therefore the expanding wine presses the limits of its fabric and breaks through, wasting the new wine. A new wineskin has yet to be pressed to its limits and therefore has the plasticity and capacity to grow and expand with the wine.
So what is the message and how does it apply to marriage? I see the new wine as the new events and situations entering our lives – good or bad. In response to these circumstances do I have the capacity to respond with a good degree of flexibility or do I react to them with rigidity and stubbornness? If I am flexible I can receive the new wine, e.g., Robyn’s counter point of view – and allow it to mature me (us). The goal here is to get to the “old wine”; a wine of good taste, refreshment and maturity. In marriage, the goal is for us to produce a relationship that can expand over time; a relationship that allows each other to flex in the ways we believe God is leading us. In this way our union is created not out of uniformity and self-centered demands but with the firm belief God is at work in both of us to produce a mature wine – an ever-expanding bond of love. It is this love that will empower us to respond to one another with a wisdom not our own.
The call for this expansive capacity is especially important over time. It is natural for us to become regimented in how we respond to one another as the years go by. It is here where we must receive from the Spirit a new gift – an ability to respond to each other with grace and patience. Something inspired in our actions ten years ago may not be inspired today. It may be an old wineskin. The healthy exchange of ideas and beliefs will naturally cause a process in us that can be quite reactive. Without the “new gift” the events of our lives will pour into us and we will be ruined. With the gift those same events pour into our relationship resulting in the “good stuff” of marriage. Along with this, I must remember that the old wine and the old wineskins are not to be discarded. Indeed, the old wine is the “best wine” and it is found within the old wineskin. We must allow our marriages to age well. “Forsake not an old friend; for the new is not comparable to him: a new friend is as new wine; when it is old, thou shalt drink it with pleasure (Ecclesiasticus 9:10).
Personally, I am aware of my limited capacity to flex when my plans are interrupted by the daily interjections of my wife (or anyone else). I am amazed and embarrassed at how frequently this behavior shows up. Even as I am writing this paragraph I am sensitive to the irritation I feel from the interruptions going on in the next room. “Can’t you guys be quiet? I’m writing something here that will help us be more patient with each other.” Wow!
Could it be that the ultimate purpose of a new relational wineskin is to allow me to be interrupted by God when I am walking in my self-focused ways? Will I allow Him to “butt into” my agenda – my plans? Who is the better wine maker anyway? Do I dare miss the new work of God by remaining rigid and closed?
Lord, give us all we need to receive the mature wine of your love and presence. Teach us to receive the ordained circumstances of life as a new occasion to expand our souls and to remain in step with your will. Check us when we resort to the safety of our old ways; ways that will inevitably lead to loss and ruin. We rejoice in the fermenting work of your Spirit in our new wineskin. May we be intoxicated with the memories of young love, births of children, commitments maintained through storms and mutual fellowship in the Spirit. That’s the good stuff. “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
Through your name we pray. Amen.