In my “Through the Bible in a Year” reading plan this morning, I came across the text on divorce found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Divorce is a heart-wrenching activity that is becoming commonplace in our society and churches.

Here are just a few of the many reasons why divorce is so harmful:
It is almost always brought about my sin.
It causes havoc and heartache in the lives of so many.
The security a child needs is tossed out the window.
Long-term financial turmoil often begins.
It violates a solemn wedding vow made before God and witnesses.
Permission to divorce seems to be given to other marriages that are struggling.
The illustration of Jesus’ love for His church is broken (Ephesians 5:25-33).
Etc., etc., etc.,

Folks who have divorced for unbiblical reasons can certainly be forgiven (there are most certainly biblical grounds for divorce that are not sinful). Yet, followers of Jesus and churches should do everything they can to help marriages not only stay together but thrive(!) in light of the epidemic of divorce that is taking place in our society.

In my reading this morning, I saw where God (through Moses) spoke into this issue. In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, divorce was regulated by making it clear that if someone divorced his wife and then she married someone else, then he could never again marry his first wife (even if his first wife’s second husband died! [I had to really think through this sentence to get it right]).

As you read the following Scripture from Deuteronomy, realize that the first two sentences are simply a statement of what was going on in Israelite society. This type of divorce was not condoned. It simply described a real scenario. The third and following sentences commanded what was to happen when the scenario took place.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (New Living Translation)
“Suppose a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something wrong with her, he writes her a letter of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house. When she leaves his house, she is free to marry another man. But if the second husband also turns against her and divorces her, or if he dies, the first husband may not marry her again, for she has been defiled. That would be detestable to the Lord. You must not bring guilt upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as a special possession.”

Fast forward to the New Testament – specifically Matthew 19:3-10. In this text, the religious hypocrites (Pharisees) came to Jesus and once again tried to trip Him up. They wanted to look for missing pieces in His theological armor … because that is where they would attack Him. So, they came to Him and referred back to the Deuteronomy text we just read.

What was going on behind the scenes was this: there were folks who were in two very different theological camps on this issue. One Jewish religious teacher had a following that believed that divorce could only happen for sexual immorality. Another prominent Jewish teacher taught that divorce could happen for virtually any reason at all.

So, the Pharisees were trying to get Jesus to pick sides … and anger the side He opposed. Yet, Jesus wouldn’t play into their hands. As always, He went to the Scriptures, not someone’s teaching.

As Jesus spoke into this situation, me made it clear that marriage was always intended to be between a man and woman for life. When you get to the last verse of the follow text, you see that the disciples realized that if marriage was that permanent, they thought it would be better never to get married! Their conclusion was wrong but they understood what Jesus was saying:

Matthew 19:3-10 (New Living Translation)
“Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: ‘Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?’
‘Haven’t you read the Scriptures?’ Jesus replied. ‘They record that from the beginning “God made them male and female.” And he said, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.’
‘Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?’ they asked.
Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.  And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery – unless his wife has been unfaithful.’
Jesus’ disciples then said to him, ‘If this is the case, it is better not to marry!'”

If you want to have a better, biblical understanding of this topic, I would recommend the book “Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage” by Jay Adams.