“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
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