By Colleen Donahue


In the Jewish culture a woman was a "thing" without rights. Her marriage was always arranged for her. She could never initiate a divorce. There were two schools of thought. The School of Shammai said divorce could be for no other reason than fornication. But the School of Hillel advocated divorce for almost any reason. The School of Hillel prevailed and divorce became very easy to obtain. The husband just handed the wife the papers, returned the dowry and that was it.

When the Pharisees came to Jesus to ask him about divorce in Matthew 19:3 they were seeking to involve Him in this controversy as to which school of thinking was right. Jesus side steps their question and takes them and us back to the beginning to look at God's original intention for......


Marriage and Divorce

Studies continued from Matthew 19:1-9

Day 1- Notice that Jesus side stepped their foolish question and took them back to the beginning to point out what GOD said.
Matthew 19:4

Why are foolish, controversial questions to be avoided?
1 Timothy 6:4-5 / 2 Timothy 2:23 / Titus 3:9

So let's go back to the beginning.

Day 2- What are the reasons for marriage?
1. Family - Genesis 1:28a
2. Fellowship - Genesis 2:18
3. Partnership - Genesis 2:20b

Day 3- We can also reword this question to ask, "Why did Adam need a helper?"
1. Genesis 1:26
2. Genesis 1:28
3. Genesis 2:15

Now reread some of these verses and notice that.....

Day 4 - God did all the initiating.
Genesis 1: 27-28 / Genesis 2:18

Day 5- Adam just kept still and let God work. He did not go out looking. He did not fall "head over heals" in love first.
Genesis 2: 20b - 21

Day 6- Adam simply accepted the one that God had formed for him.
Genesis 2:22

Day 7- Adam declared and acknowledged the woman God had made for him.
Genesis 2:23

Day 8- Therefore marriage is based on:
A. God doing the arranging
B. Our commitment to GOD'S arrangement
C. Our living out that commitment which equals real love whether or not we are feeling it in our emotions.
Genesis 2:24

These are the basic facts that Jesus wants to get over to the Pharisees. In marriage it is GOD that joins two people together. It is therefore a sacred union set apart for His purposes. The Jewish term for marriage was kidduskin. It's a term used to describe something which is dedicated to God's exclusive and peculiar possession. A couple is no longer two but one. This is God's highest plan. Does this apply only to Christians? No. Adam and Eve were the examples for all humanity. They lived long before there wan any Jewish or Christian religion.

In the issue of marriage and divorce there are three different situations to look at. In each case God's highest ideal remains, but they must be looked at separately.

Marriage between two nonbelievers

Although God created the marriage union to be sacred for all mankind, most don't live by God's authority. They live by man's authority and his laws. Marry in a church for these couples is not so much a declaration of unity under God but a financial commitment with protection rights in the society. Therefore divorce is man's legal way to dissolve a legal marriage and they are acting under the authority of man to do so.

Day 9 - But, God's authority and ideal is still operative whether or not we choose to regard it. Our reckoning with Him will come later -- not as a married couple but as an individual.
Jeremiah 17:10 / Romans 14:12 / 2 Corinthians 5:10

Marriage between a believer and a nonbeliever

Secondly there is a marriage between a believer and a nonbeliever. Before and during Jesus Christ's life this meant a Jewish believer marrying a gentile. After Jesus Christ it also meant a Christian marrying a non Christian. This "mixed" marriage occurs for two reasons.

Day 10- The first reason is either through ignorance or defiance to God's teaching on marriage.
Ezra 9:10-15 / 2 Corinthians 6: 14-16

Day 11- The second way this occurred was when one spouse became a believer after they were married.  This often causes tension in the marriage and great stress with the families. Paul addresses this situation in his letter to the Corinthian church.
If the unbeliever is willing to continue in the marriage what advice does Paul give to the believing partner?
1 Corinthians 7: 12-14

1 Corinthians 7:16

Day 12- But if the unbelieving spouse wants to leave the partnership, what does Paul advise?
1 Corinthians 7:15

Marriage between two believers

Day 13 - In our passage here in Matthew, Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees about believers -- i.e. those committed to God and His authority. In these marriages, they both belong to God, and they have been made one under God's authority. Therefore divorce in this case is first a defiance of God's authority and His teaching.
James 4:17 / 1 John 3:4

Day 14- If immorality has been the cause, then sin has caused separation from God.
Isaiah 59:2 / Psalm 66:18

What is God's will in this matter of adultery?
1 Thessalonians 4: 3-7

Day 15- If we choose to pursue adultery anyway, what are we ultimately choosing?
1 Thessalonians 4:8 / Ephesians 5:3-6

Day 16- Sin not only separates us from God but it also separates a marriage well before there is any legal action.
Titus 3:3

Day 17 - It's interesting that in Mark and Luke's gospel the prohibition of divorce is absolute. Here they lay down the ideal as God's meant it.
Mark 10: 11-12 / Luke 16:18

But in Matthew, Jesus speaks of one exception.
Matthew 19:9

Day 18 - If immorality between two believers is not the cause for wanting divorce then self interests and concerns must be the cause. One or both partners are walking by their flesh and carnal desires and not by God's Spirit. When we choose to walk in our selfish ways what ultimately happens?
Romans 1: 21, 28 / Romans 2: 6-9 / Romans 8: 7-8

Day 19- When a committed believer pursues divorce because of selfish pursuits and comfort, who are they really rejecting?
Psalm 81: 11-12

Day 20 - When we belong to God, and then choose to reject Him and His authority what are the consequences?
1 Samuel 12: 15 / 2 Peter 2: 20-22 / Ephesians 5:6

Day 21- In other words, if we are a committed believer and persist in wanting divorce to satisfy our own selfish interests we turn our back on God and become as we were before we even knew God. What are the two tests for knowing if we are a child of God?
1 John 3:10

In this life situation of marriage and divorce we fail at both. We defy God's authority when we persist in divorce and we are not loving our brother (who in this case is our spouse).

What question are we left to answer if we persist in our selfish rebellion?
Hebrews 2:3a

Domestic Violence Within a Marriage

Day 22- Today we sadly face a greater increase of domestic violence with husbands being cruel to their wives both physically and emotionally. (And in a lesser degree it occurs the other way around). If you are in this place you have perhaps cried out as King David did when men were pursuing his life.
Psalm 22: 1-2 , 11

Day 23- If you are treated with cruelty by your spouse then flee to God himself and let Him be your strength and your protection.
Psalm 27: 1-14

Day 24- That fleeing may be just an inward turning to God or it may mean a physical fleeing from home. By committing your plight to God, He commits His protection to you.
Psalm 91: 1-16

Day 25- Commit yourself to God and commit your spouse to Him as well. God has His way of restraining men and women in their wickedness.
2 Kings 19:28 / Psalm 32:9 / Hosea 2:6

Day 26- He longs to restore your spouse to Himself first.
Isaiah 57: 17-18 / Jeremiah 3:22 / Hosea 14:4 / Micah 7: 18-19

Day 27- When we are rightly related to God then we can be rightly related to each other. It is in Jesus Christ that this can occur.
Ephesians 2:13-18

Day 28 - It is only "in Jesus" that your marriage can truly be restored. But the purpose will be far different from how you may have started your marriage. What does God want each marriage to be?
Ephesians 2: 21-22

Another Common Question - What if we chose the wrong person?

What if we married without God's blessing in the first place and feel that we have chosen the wrong person?  Shouldn't divorce be an option to allow a fresh start? This is a very good question and one many have asked who find themselves in a miserable marriage. To answer this we need to do what Jesus did and go back to the beginning. When we go out looking for our own guy or girl, we are in some ways reenacting the scene with Eve in the garden of Eden that led to man's sin and downfall.

Day 29 - First, God gave Adam and Eve a very clear command.
Genesis 2: 16-17 / Genesis 3:2-3

In a similar way God has given each of us a clear command regarding the things we need and want in this life and the priorities we are to have in getting them.
Matthew 6:33

Day 30- Second, Satan caused Eve to doubt what God had said.
Genesis 3: 1, 4-5

In a similar way Satan convinces us to doubt that God will care for our needs and that we need to take care of them ourselves. We decide we must go out and get what we need because no one else will do it for us. When we believe Satan, we tell God that we don't trust Him and then we set about doing it all by ourselves independent of God.
Matthew 6: 31-32

Day 31- Third, Eve LOOKED AND SAW the good looking fruit and DECIDED to try it.
Genesis 3: 6a

In a similar way we decide we can't wait for God to bring us a husband or wife and we go out looking.
James 1:14

Day 32- Then comes action -- Eve took some, ate it and gave some to her husband who ate it with her.
Genesis 3: 6b

So too, we find the man or woman that looks good and we go about pursuing marriage. We don't consult God and probably even our parents.
James 1:5

Day 33 - Sin resulted for Adam and Eve .....

A. Their eyes were opened.
Genesis 3:7a

B. They felt the need to cover up (literally and figuratively).
Genesis 3: 7b

C. They hid from God.
Genesis 3:8

D. They responded to God's call in fear.
Genesis 3: 9-10

E. They blamed the sin on the other.
Genesis 3:12

Sin results for you also when you marry without God's blessing.

A. Your eyes are opened to what your spouse is really like.

B. You feel the need to cover up before family and friends.

C. You hid from God. You either cut him out of your life or you plunge into "religion" which really looks good to everyone around you. A fake relationship with God is better than none at all is your reasoning.

D. When you hear or read some word of truth that brings conviction, you are fearful.

E. You blame all the trouble and unhappiness on your spouse.

What do you do now?

So, what do you do now if you are just waking up to this fact that you have walked independently of God, taken things into your own hands, sinned and now have a miserable marriage? I believe today divorce seems like the only option for people because they see only a mess that is hopeless to fix. But we don't realize that God sees the mess from above and is at the best advantage for unraveling it.

Men will say to you that the way out is divorce. You have "made a mistake" (not committed sin). Surely God would not want your life to stay this miserable! Do it for the sake of your children. Do it so your spouse can get on in life. Do it so you'll have some peace.

God however speaks clearly through the pain of misery if you are willing to listen. He is wanting and waiting for us to......

Day 34 - WAKE UP! See your sin for what it is. We haven't made a mistake. We have lived independent of God. We have been selfish wanting our own way. We lack love for God and we have been in rebellion towards Him. As you read these verses make a list of characteristics that might describe you and I.
Isaiah 53:6 / Jeremiah 7:24 / Jeremiah 32:33 / Zechariah 7:11

Day 35 - When we wake up and call sin for what it is our attitude changes.
Psalm 51:17

And when our attitude changes what is God longing to do?
Isaiah 57:15-16 / Isaiah 66:2 / Joel 2: 12-13 / 2 Corinthians 7:10

Day 36 - Once our eyes are open to our sinful state we need to REPENT and turn from all that He shows us as sin. This will take some time. If we have been married for 30 years we will have a lot of things to deal with!
Proverbs 28:13 / Jeremiah 3:13 / Hosea 10:12 / Ezekiel 18:30-32 / Acts 3:19
(Note: Breaking up fallow ground talked about in Hosea meant turning over all the hard, dry ground so that light and air could again get at the soil and enable it to produce.)

Day 37 - Next we need to CONTINUALLY SEEK GOD and come back to Him as though you were a child that had run away. Don't be fooled if you have been religious and attending church all these years. We can look like we're doing all the right things and be very far from God.
Deuteronomy 4:29 / Isaiah 55:6 / Jeremiah 29:11-13 / Luke 11:10

Day 38- OBEY GOD. You'll need to just start with yourself and not think you can change anything in your spouse. Obedience is key here. You have made a mess doing things your way and now God will show you step by step how to unravel it. He specializes in messes!
Deuteronomy 5: 29, 32-33 / 1 Samuel 15:22 / Jeremiah 7:23 / Micah 6:8 /James 1:25

Day 39- TRUST GOD to work on your behalf. Let God use your true repentance and right actions to make your marriage what God would have wanted in the first place. Don't talk -- just obey and walk.
Psalm 37:3-6 / Proverbs 3: 5-6 / Isaiah 26:3 / Isaiah 50:10 / Nahum 1:7

Day 40 - God wants to restore you and your marriage.
Psalm 34:18 / Isaiah 57:16-19 / Micah 7:18-19

Day 41- That process must start with YOU and you will see God work!
Psalm 51:10-12 / Hosea 14:1-7 (Substitute your own name for Israel).

Day 42- Finally you must PRAISE GOD no matter what happens and THANK HIM that He is now working everything out for your good.
Isaiah 12: 1-2 / Romans 8:28 / Colossians 3:15 / 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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