The Reading: Malachi 2:13-16
“Why does he not (hear/answer)?” (v.14) RSV
The fourth question that God answers through Malachi concerns divorce. The men cannot understand why God is not accepting their offerings. They pray, they plead, they carry out their religious observance, and yet the heavens are as brass. Why does God not answer? Why is he not pleased with them?
Maybe we too would want to ask: “Why does he not?” (v.14). Once again the answer is clear and it may catch us off guard. We don’t find a perceptive truth easy to accept. God’s answer to their question was that they were not being faithful to their wives. They were using the Law of Moses as an easy get-out clause for their marriage vows.
Many years later Jesus accused the Pharisees of a similar misuse of the Law. Some, under the school of Hillel, were very liberal and said the man could divorce his wife for more or less any and every reason e.g. burning the cakes. Shammai’s school of thought was tighter but gave ‘indecency’ (pornea) as a valid cause for divorce. However both of them gave some reason that justified a man divorcing his wife. In other words he bore no guilt. Jesus corrected this by saying that divorce is always against the way things were meant to be, and so there is always guilt and regret.
God therefore said, “I hate divorce” (v.16). Hopefully everyone hates divorce. It is hurtful and it is destructive. However, it does not mean that God does not allow divorce. He manifestly does, and for some it can be release into a new and more fruitful future. But even if that is so, it does not justify divorce or make it less than hateful. Divorce always comes about because of human sin. This sin is not just confined to the couple but may arise because of a badly arranged marriage, or in-law pressures or financial constraints. Whatever the reason(s), the cause is summed up by Jesus as “hardness of heart” (Matthew 19:7-8).
If we want God’s blessings to flow and want to be in a fruitful relationship with our Lord then we must look to our human relationships, and especially the marital one.
Save our marriages, O Lord, and bless us. Amen.
1 See how Jesus taught divorce was not God’s original plan.
2 Paul also took a strong line on divorce.