Rewriting the Law [Divorce and Oaths] | Matthew 5:31-37 (Mville)
Topic: New Testament
Good Morning! We are continuing our series in the Book of Matthew looking at Jesus the promised Savior-King of God’s people. We are in the middle the Message of the King where Jesus has been showing how the gospel (the promises of God) does not lower the standards of the Law (the commands of God) rather the gospel makes much of the Law, Jesus authority over it, and His fulfillment of it. Jesus mission to fulfill the law includes him more clearly articulating the King’s law so it could be more rightly understood, applied and followed by the citizens of the kingdom. Jesus has taken the entirety of the law and summarized it with two simple commands to love God and love your neighbor. We have looked at several sections where Jesus has taken case studies from the 10 commandments and the law, to rewrite, unpack, and illuminate the misunderstood/misapplied teachings of the Scribes and the Pharisees to lead God’s people to greater obedience of the law that more accurately reflects the values of His kingdom. Jesus preached the kingdom of heaven is a revolution, not of radical rebellion, but of radical obedience.
Two weeks ago we saw the law to not murder is broken not at physical violence but at a heart of anger and malice towards your brother. Last week we saw the law to commit adultery is broken not at physical sex but at lust when our heart affections have been turned away from where God has intended them. Jesus wants his people know the law is both simpler then we think but deeper then we can easily imagine. As we look at two more case studies this week, we need to start with the understanding the Christian faith is rooted in the biblical principal covenant, an unchangeable, legal agreement between God and man that clearly defines the requirements, promises, and conditions of the relationship. Today we’re going to look at two different aspects of the law separately (Divorce and Oaths) and how Jesus fulfills both on the cross.
Matt 5:31-32 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
From the beginning God instituted marriage between one man and one women. It was a covenant from God whereby He says the two will become one flesh. A married couple is in that sense a new creation made by God. Marriage isn’t a civil, cultural or governmental contract it is an institution of God by God for His people. We don’t define marriage, God does, because He created it. Your view of your marriage or marriage in general is irrelevant God has a view of marriage and that is really the only one that matters. He made marriage to be monogamous and to be cherished by all involved. However, because of sin, Men had a low view marriage and placed little value in women so they thought they could easily divorce a women for nearly ANY reason they saw fit. Usually it was simple lust or passion for another, there is a connection between lust/adultery and divorce, but it could be reasons far less significant. This quickly led to societal breakdown as strings of the fabric were pulled apart and all that God had designed marriage and family to be as a reflection of His glory began to fray. Things became chaotic and were disproportionately unfair and painful for to women and their children. God hates divorce but still loves His children so He put in a procedure of the Law for divorce to specifically protect the wife. Deut 24:1-4 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. This law limited the causes of divorce to “indecency” so nearly all the previous reasons for a man to divorce his wife were now invalid. The law also required a certificate of divorce. A husband could not in anger drive is wife away from the home in shame but then claim she was still his wife so he could save face. This prevented her from being charged with adultery if found with another man. The certificate was given with two witnesses for her protection. It was a solemn step not to be taken lightly. Man who divorces is NOT allowed to marry her again. She can marry someone else, but their marriage is dead. Seriousness of marriage was emphasized. You can’t walk in and out. The purpose of this law was never to condone or promote divorce but to mitigate its destructive consequences. Divorce might happen but it is not meant to be. Marriage is for life, but this is not what was taught or lived out in society.
Pharisees and Scribes (Culture) Says….
The Pharisees and the Scribes (lawyers) taught divorce is not only available and permissible but somehow was urged because of the provision. The law of Moses (really the law of God) NEVER encouraged a man to divorce his wife, only that if he was he needed to follow this law and issue a divorce certificate. Men were taking the term “indecency” and then applying it back to anything the found to in their spouses they didn’t like. This was allowed by the religious and legal leaders who added traditions and clever interpretation to get around the law leading to terrible injustices to women as they were being divorced and discarded for the most frivolous of reasons. Marriages ended when Men’s individual happiness faded or their lust for another grew. They were missing the real meaning of marriage, to glorify God, so they miss applied teaching on divorce to pursue their own happiness apart from God’s will. God’s plan for marriage is that the man and the women would “complete on another” bound by Him for intimacy, protection, comfort, and joy. Man’s sin breaks this apart, shattering the covenant, and can lead to divorce. Malachi 2:16 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” Divorce is violence; against the spouses, children, and God. Anyone want to argue it is not?
Jesus doesn’t argue from tradition or from current laws and practices, in fact he doesn’t argue at all. Jesus is the lawgiver, he goes back to the beginning of creation to say there is a greater design to be held to.
Mark 10: 5-9 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
Jesus emphasizes the sanctity of marriage as laid out in scripture and affirms it cannot be dissolved lightly. What God has joined together cannot be torn apart painlessly so it should be avoided. He raises the standard well above vague reason of “indecency”. Jesus says there is only one completely legitimate biblical cause for divorce, “sexual immorality/fornication”. Physical, or emotional, unfaithfulness by one or both parties in the marriage effectively destroys the bonds of one flesh enough to violate the covenant. Personal incompatibility, lack of communication, changing socioeconomic status, difficulty in parenting, even different worldviews or religions, are not given as legitimate biblical reasons to dissolve a marriage.
He who divorces his wife for a reason less than or different then sexual immorality becomes guilty of adultery when/if he remarries and then drives the women to adultery when she remarries. If you divorce without sexual immorality (breaking the bond) then you are causing the other person to break the bond when/if they remarry. The sin of unfaithfulness in marriage destroys the marriage covenant and can make divorce allowable. Divorce for adultery is legitimate. When legitimate divorce ends a marriage the non-offending spouse is free to remarry. Your relationship to that person is the same as if they were not alive.
It sounds complicated, that is because it is. Sin complicates where God has designed simplicity. The big idea is divorce and remarriage are a disruption of God’s ideal for the sexual and relational partnership of men and women. Jesus is asked later when divorce is permissible and Jesus responds it is always deplorable but that because of sin may be necessary. Just because you are entitled to a divorce does not always mean you should. God is a God of reconciliation. Adultery is not the unforgivable sin. It is terrible, but God is gracious. If God can forgive adultery, by His Spirit you can too. Sin of adultery, does not put you outside to boundaries of God’s love or mercy. Repent and realize your sin and go and sin no more.
Marriage is a covenant made by God we enter into with our words. We are to take our vows/oaths before God seriously because God takes them seriously, we are not to invoke Him and His honor in vain.
Matt 5:33-37 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
There are at least five different places that teach about the importance of oaths and vows in the Law.
“Do not sweart falsely” is not specifically found in the OT law. The 2nd commandment prohibits idolatry, and the 3rd commandment prohibits using God’s name in vain. Lev 19:11-12 11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. The law of love God and your neighbor is clearly violated when one swears falsely, lies, or fails to fulfill an oath or promise. You cannot love your neighbor if you are lying to them or dealing falsely, and you cannot love God if you are dishonoring His name, and disobeying what you have pledged to Him or his people. God does NOT want us to take His name in vain, doing so is disrespectful and takes glory from God. We are failing to love God when we speak of Him without the honor He deserves. God says, don’t lie to each other and don’t lie about me or my character. Psalm 34:13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Why? Because God is truth and God loves truth. Ps 51:6a Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
Pharisees and Scribes says…
The Mishnah had whole large sections devoted to how to give proper oaths with numerous examples of what was and was not valid. They even gave examples of oaths that we not binding but sounded really holy. Implication is that you didn’t have to be truthful unless we are under some sort of specific oath or vow. People acted like a lie between two people didn’t matter if it wasn’t under oath or sworn testimony.
People were using legal loop holes to say their commitments were not valid. That led to problems!
People could no longer rely on each other to be honest. Great harm is caused as people are deceived by others for personal gain. By swearing falsely or practicing deceit you are rejecting God in favor of satan. John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
There are literally dozens of implications of people no longer being trust worthy or reliable.
We all recognize people can fail to be trustworthy so we are incredibly legalistic in all of our public life. We have contracts, agreements, and receipts. We have to have things in writing because we recognize people cannot be trusted. Yet, as soon as one party doesn’t like the terms of an agreement they back out and break the written or verbal covenant they make with each other making the value of the covenant worthless in the first place. The Pharisees and Scribes were letting people back in and out of agreements by way of legal loopholes that violated relationships without violating the law. Trust was broken, people were hurt and God is rightly offended. We don’t speak falsely about God. We are to say what is true. What does it look like when trust is broken? What things does it lead to? What memories or experiences in the past are soiled because of fresh lies? How does it infect the future? Present?
Jesus corrects false teaching with true teaching. Jesus wants what his disciples say to be reliable.
Truth in relationships, particularly between Christian brothers and sisters, is a command from God. We acknowledge the dignity of our neighbors who are made in the image and likeness of God by recognizing they have a right to the truth. Telling the truth is important in respecting our neighbors and God who is the source of all truth. We are to tell the truth “in matters of judgment and justice, and in all things. We have to be truthful ALL THE TIME!! Jesus demands integrity of speech as if we are under oath before God all the time, because we ARE. It doesn’t matter if you swear to heaven (God’s throne), earth, (God’s footstool) or Jerusalem (God’s city). The point is your mouth is constantly making covenants with others before God. Christians are new creation indwelled by the Holy Spirit and are compelled to speak truthfully. You should not need to pepper your speech with oaths to make them true, you should just simply speak the truth.
Eph 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Put off: Falsehood – We are all incredibly too superficial. We all think more highly of ourselves that we ought to, and even if we don’t we spend inordinate amounts of energy trying to convince others that we’re are either “better” or “more together” on the outside than we feel on the inside. We can live as two people. Acting falsely about who you are is exhausting and ridiculous. Believing falsely about yourself is deadly foolish. We are all marred in some way by our sin. Sadly, sin causes us to shrink in shame from God AND from one another lying to us and telling us not to reveal vulnerability. If you are not telling the truth, you are speaking lies. There is no such thing as a half-truth—it is a full lie.
Put on : Speaking Truth about who you are to those around you. Gospel Community is being truthful in love. Your relationships with one another are to be defined by openness, transparency, and honesty. I see your dirt, you see mine, and we love each other. Have the courage to share your hopes, passions, disappointments, fears, doubts, needs, etc.
Why? If we are Christians we are all united as the Body of Christ. We cannot enjoy the benefits of unity with one another if we are not practicing honesty in our dealings, and acting in a trustworthy manner.
1 Peter 2:21-22 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
Let us follow in our King’s example. People hear about the King from His citizens. How we act/speak is to reflect the truth and character of God. God is a promise keeper, we are to be promise keepers. People who see us lying or exaggerating will then at certain points not believe us when we tell them the truth of God’s word. But we are all liars, we have all broken our covenants, we have all left unfulfilled promises.
God fulfills His promises to us with the cross.
Heb 6:17 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. There are two qualities of the God that do not change, He cannot lie, and he always does what He promises so we can have hope. God has promised that he will be our God and we will be His people. He says repeatedly throughout scripture. I will not leave you or forsake you. God is in a covenant marriage with His people. Because of sin, failing to love Him and our neighbor as we should, we have committed spiritual adultery. In Jeremiah 3 God issues Israel a certificate of divorce. We deserve separation from God, He is just to discard us and yet He does not leave us alone. God cares even more about His glory, His name, His promise, then to let our shamefulness and faithlessness destroy a covenant He made. We should rejoice in that. God’s character is on the line and He continually displays His trustworthiness to His people. He pursues us even in our unfaithfulness and calls us back to Him. The King has arrived in Jesus who loves perfectly and speaks and lives nothing but the truth. He succeeds in every way we have failed. And yet we still reject him as our king without any legitimate cause. In a trial full of lies and false swearing we sentence Him to death, violently tear apart his flesh and place him on the cross. He is punished in the way we deserve to be punished by God. In the depth of his suffering Jesus cries out “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” God forsakes Jesus so He doesn’t have to forsake us.
2 Cor 1:20-21 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
We have broken all of our promises and covenants with God when we fail to love Him and our neighbors perfectly. On the cross God breaks Jesus so he doesn’t have to break His promise with us. Trust Jesus.
More in The King Has Come | Matthew
May 11, 2014Jesus the Rock | Matthew 7:24-29 (Mville)
May 11, 2014Jesus is (Scary) Gracious | Matthew 7.15-23 (Snoh)
May 4, 2014Kingdom Admission | Matthew 7:13-23 (Mville)