""If a man marries a woman, but she becomes displeasing to him because he finds something improper about her, he may write her a divorce certificate, hand it to her, and send her away from his house. If after leaving his house she goes and becomes another man's wife, and the second man hates her, writes her a divorce certificate, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house or if he dies, the first husband who sent her away may not marry her again after she has been defiled, because that would be detestable to the Lord. You must not bring guilt on the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 24:1-4 HCSB)
God designed marriage to be a permanent relationship. We stand before God and make a solemn vow to be faithful to our spouse and pledge that only death will part us. No one makes us do this. It is our choice--and once that choice is made, we are committed for life.
The concession Moses gives here is an acknowledgement that while one partner may be faithful to their vows, the other may not. This impropriety, "something improper," stops short of intercourse, since that was punishable by death. Other indiscretions would be public nudity or other forms of sexual activity with someone other than your spouse. The New Testament renders this as "porneia" from which we get the word "pornographic"--a broader term, referring to a wide-range of immoral activity.
Since, we do not stone people to death for adultery, divorce is an option. If sexual infidelity is practiced, divorce is permitted. But, it should be noted that it is not commanded or commended--just conceded. Sexual sin is a violation of the marriage vows and in such a case it may be that one can divorce. Persistent, unrepentant immorality may leave a partner willing to rebuild the marriage no other option because the other spouse will not be faithful.
Even so, it was a serious matter. It should be a last resort rather than a first response. The proceeding required time, the involvement of a legal process, and once done, could not be undone--there was a finality about it. If the spouse married another, then that marriage ended by death or divorce, they could not return to their former spouse. One cannot marry, remarry, be in and out of bed with this partner and that one as though it is trivial thing. God said in one of the most fundamental truths to govern society, "You shall not commit adultery."
When the sanctity of marriage is devalued and the sacredness of sex is defiled, the fabric of society begins to unravel. We see this happening in our culture today.
In marriage, two have become one flesh. If you take two pieces of wood, and glue them together, and then try to break the bond, what happens is that you splinter the wood. In divorce, this is the painful reality, and when children are involved, they become the broken pieces. Forgiveness and reconciliation are preferable, even in the case of infidelity. The Mosaic code, far from being meant to encourage divorce, was meant to regulate it, restrict it and thus to restrain it, lest it become epidemic. That sad reality has come to America, and the church is not without fault.
We must do what we can to prepare people for marriage. The church must proclaim the Biblical pattern for marriage. Christians need to help preserve marriages through their willingness to confront and correct the unfaithful. God hates divorce (see Malachi 2:13-16). There are so many consequences, so much hurt.
Now, we recognize that one partner can do all they can, and the other spouse may choose to walk away. It is important to support the one who is faithful in the face of such pain. Someone has said that, "The church is the only army that shoots its own wounded." Let's not do that! We live in a fallen world, and even those who have failed in fidelity to their marriage vows can be forgiven and restored--if repentant. Like an egg, when it is scrambled, it may be impossible to unscramble it, but we can through grace, help people back toward God's standard. God hates divorce, but He doesn't hate divorcees. He is the Healer of broken hearts.
He is also the Healer of broken homes! I have seen the miracle of marriages restored when it seemed that love had been destroyed. It is tough, messy work, but God's power is limitless, His grace truly amazing! Is that opportunity still before you?
Whatever your past, wherever you stand at the present, run to God's arms. He is always faithful. Then, resting in the faithfulness of God, may we be true to our commitments to one another.