August 17, 2018
The LORD said to the Israelites, “You were exceedingly beautiful, with the dignity of a queen. You were renowned among the nations for your beauty, perfect as it was, because of my splendor which I had bestowed on you, says the Lord GOD. But you were captivated by your own beauty, you used your renown to make yourself a harlot, and you lavished your harlotry on every passer-by, whose own you became. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl, and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you, that you may remember and be covered with confusion, and that you may be utterly silenced for shame when I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord GOD.” Ez_16:1-15,60,63
Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the ‘Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.” Mt_19:3-12
I always get a kick out of watching my eldest grandson playing games with his three, younger siblings. Being the oldest, he’s usually the one who best understands the rules. But, being the designated ‘explainer’ of those rules, he will sometimes twist them to his best advantage, unbeknownst to the other kids. And in the end, it’s that grandson, who almost always wins.
Unfortunately, sometimes, when his parents or grandparents get to play along too; the true rules are a little more strictly enforced, all to his sad disadvantage.
In both the time of Jesus and that of the Prophet Ezekiel, it had been ages since either the Pharisees or the Israelites had any ‘parental’ accountability. And when accountability slips and the rules are twisted and broken to the point of being unrecognizable, the inevitable result is usually the same: somebody is going to crash and burn.
Ironically, with about 600-years between Ezekiel and Jesus, it was Jerusalem that took the brunt of the crashing and burning, on both occasions. And the name of the abused game was, “the Covenant.”
So naturally, what better analogy could there be for “the Covenant” in our own lives, than marriage.
For Ezekiel, as a prophet in Babylonian exile, along with his fellow Israelites, the infraction and its consequence, were already in play. The Covenant, or marriage union, between God and His people had been severely broken by the unfaithful actions of a rebellious nation. And it was all the more reason, that God could, just as well, have exterminated them all.
Yet, through the hard accountability of Ezekiel’s words, and with all the beauty of God’s merciful love, the people were taught, that “a promise is a promise” and “a covenant is a covenant” that is never supposed to be broken, just like the rules in our grandson’s board games. And the bottom line, was that there IS no such word as divorce when it comes to God’s love.
Jesus affirmed that same precept, by defining accountability to the taunting Pharisees. And mixed in with their whole line of inquisition, was also the fact that the two schools of thought among the Pharisees, the followers of Hillel and Shammai, had varying degrees of strictness in their allowance of divorce.
So, Jesus was not only confronted with answering an obviously bad question, but also with choosing sides in a heated religious debate.
You know, sometimes the best answer
is always the simplest.
And, Jesus went all the way back to the original rule book for that. By quoting Genesis, Jesus responded, that they were all wrong…
Marriage was designed to be an indissoluble unity of love. So, not only was divorce, a breaking of the original Covenant, but it also created enormous and painful consequences to those who engaged in it.
And, yet, behind it all – there is always God’s boundless love. God will love us through any difficulties we might encounter in our marriage covenant. The Holy Spirit will strengthen us to avoid divorce and will be there to comfort us, if it ever does happen. And Jesus will teach us how it all relates to our own faithfulness, not only to our spouses, but to our neighbors, and to God Himself.
These are simply the rules.
And when we think about them,
they’re pretty Good ones!
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