Tag Archives: Hosea

When is It Okay to Divorce?

Divorce, while a very sensitive subject, is not a difficult one when it comes to the Bible.  This post (and its subsequent ones) are written to help us understand the biblical view of marriage and divorce.  So in week one, we will first seek to understand what Jesus was saying in Matthew 5.31-32 about sexual immorality and divorce, aka the reason for divorce.  Next week, we will move to Matthew 19.4-6 about the intent of marriage, aka the reason for devotion.  And in two weeks, we will look at what Paul wrote about when divorce is okay in 1 Corinthians 7.10-16, aka the reason to desist.

As we look at why Jesus brought up divorce we need to recognize that this goes back once again to the Pharisees and the Scribes.  “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” (Matt 5.16, ESV).  The Scribes and Pharisees looked back on the Law of Moses and showed that he only required a writ of divorce and so, much like today’s America there was a no-fault idea of divorce.  As long as the paperwork was filed you’re good to go.  Just do it lawfully.  That was not the intent of marriage whatsoever.

But it also has to do with Matthew 5.17.  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them,” (ESV).  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.  He is taking us back to the original intent of the Law and clarifying any and all mistakes that have sense come forward through the traditions of man.


So he began with anger, moved to lust, and now in an easy transition moved to divorce.

It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.”  But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery, (Matt 5.31-32, ESV).

Jesus brought up this same argument in Matthew 19.  I just want to go to the parallel verses at this point; we will look at the reason for devotion next week.  In very similar, even parallel verses, Jesus said, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say to you whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery,” (Matt 19.8-9, ESV).  To which the disciples responded, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry,” (Matthew 19.10, ESV). In other words, they got the picture of what Jesus was painting.  It was a very hard saying to the point that the disciples figured it was better to remain single than be married.  So just by their reaction, we must see that Jesus wasn’t simply talking about if the wife or husband had an affair you can get rid of them.  That would seem logical and fair.  Jesus wasn’t intending to say that.

So what was Jesus getting at?  Jesus pointed back in both Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 to Deuteronomy 24.  Read the verses with me:

When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away may not taker her against to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD.  And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, (vv. 1-4, ESV).

These are the very verses that Jesus pointed back to.  “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce,’” (Matt 5.31, ESV).  “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,” (Matt 19.8, ESV).  This is the passage that speaks of Moses allowing a divorce if and when a certificate is given.  So this is clearly where Jesus is coming from.

The only way that a man could divorce his wife, as Jesus is reiterating is if she was found indecent.  That’s a euphemism.  It’s used throughout the Old Testament, but we normally see it as nakedness.  Such as with Noah after getting drunk or the Levitical code of uncovering one’s nakedness.  It simply means something sexually immoral happening.  This is the only reason according to the Old Testament that you can get a divorce.

However, we need to understand more than just this part of it.  It goes deeper than what we want to see on the surface.  To illustrate what Jesus was talking about, I want us to look to two examples.  One is Joseph and the other is Hosea.

We, in today’s world, are for the most part about as far away from the ancient Eastern idea of marriage as we can be.  We tend to date, get engaged, and then get married.  Back in these times, brides were picked for their husbands, brides whom were believed to be good matches.  There was no dating, and really no courting.  It went straight to betrothal.  However, betrothal is not what we consider engagement.  Betrothal was marriage without the “benefits” of marriage.  The couple was considered to be married without actually being married.  This is the marriage of Deuteronomy 24 and this was the marriage that Jesus talks about in Matthew 5 and 19.

Jesus used the word sexual immorality in both contexts, using the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word indecency.  What Jesus did not say is, “But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of adultery, makes her commit adultery.”  He used a completely different word there.  If Christ meant adultery he would have used the word adultery, but He didn’t use the word because He didn’t mean the word.  Jesus is referring to that which happened before or during the betrothal state.  He didn’t use the word, moichao which means adultery, but rather porneia which is fornication, generally considered pre-marital sexual immorality.

So let me give an illustration of what I mean.  This illustration would hit close to home for Jesus.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.  When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly,” (Matt 1.18-19, ESV).

Joseph would have been doing all things according to Deuteronomy 24.  Mary was found to be with child though the marriage had not been consummated, thus in Joseph’s eyes, she was indecent.  She had committed porneia.  Thankfully, Joseph had a dream and an angel explained what was going on.

Hosea, however was married.  He was married to Gomer, a prostitute.  She was a prostitute before they got married and thus he knew she was indecent, but married her anyway because that was God’s orders.  At which point she left him and went back to prostitution.  However, what we don’t see is Hosea divorcing Gomer, but rather going back and redeeming her.

Marriage is to be that way.  Jesus was raising the bar when it came to marriage.  In today’s era we would say, you’ve got every chance to call off the engagement, but once you’re married there is absolutely no turning back.  Thus both men and women need to be extremely careful about whom it is they marry.

This is just the first installment of three, and I will dive a bit deeper when it comes to abuse, because that is always a factor and an issue.  For now, let me just say that one is not called to stay in a home/area where abuse occurs.  In fact, I would encourage one to get out of there as soon as one can.

Break Up Your Unplowed Ground

In my studies this morning, I came across a verse in Hosea that slapped me across the face.  It came out of chapter 10.  If you are not familiar with Hosea, here is a quick recap.  Hosea was a prophet to the 10 northern tribes of Israel.  Since the break away from the lower 2 tribes, the people had been on a collision course with God.  Prophet after prophet had been sent to warn the people, but they ignored them (or worse).  One of the things that these tribes did from the beginning was construct two golden calves to be in their temple.  Hosea uses cows throughout this book to represent Israel.

In chapter 10 Hosea told Israel that they were like cows working the threshing floor.  That means nothing to us today, but back then it meant that they had it pretty good.  Life was easy.  Cows that work the threshing floor just walked around crushing the grain as they did so.  If they got hungry, they’d just bend down their head and have a little snack eating the same grain they were treading.  Not to bad for a cow!  But Hosea then told them that God was about to put a yoke on their neck and take them out to the fields to do some plowing.  Not fun!

This is where verse 12 comes in.  It’s a command: “Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground.  It’s time to seek the LORD until He comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain,” (HCSB).  There is so much to unpack in that one verse, and as I do, hopefully you see why it resonated so much with me.

  1. Sow righteousness for yourselves.  Planting is very hard.  If you’ve ever been a gardener you know this.  It may be enjoyable for the experienced one, but for those who have never done it before, it’s hard work.  Remember that these cows were threshing cows not plowing cows.  This was new to them.  They now had hard, wooden, cutting yokes around their necks, forced to do what they were not used to doing, with no food to eat!  The owners of the cows would have to use extra force and strength to get them to move and cut through the ground in straight lines.  Sowing righteousness is just as hard.  It doesn’t come naturally to people.  Doing the right thing (unless you’re an experienced one) is hard work!  It is much easier to simply be lazy and walk around threshing than it is to put on a harness and go out plowing.  Most of us choose to thresh than plow.  God called on the people of Israel (and us too) to sow righteousness.  Do the hard thing.  As Nike says: “Just Do It!”  Get up every morning with the righteous hand on the righteous plow and just sow righteousness.
  2. And reap faithful love.  This isn’t an earning of salvation, but it is a promise of mercy.  Let me explain it this way: God is the Father of all who believe.  And as a good Father, He will discipline His children who get out of line.  He will not discipline when there is nothing to discipline. Israel had been straying from God for hundreds of years (Hosea mentioned since Gibeah–referring to Judges 19-21–some 500 years before).  Because of this, Assyria would be coming and destroying the 10 northern tribes.  This would not have happened if Israel had sown righteousness instead of wickedness.  The same goes for us.  That doesn’t meant that every bad thing that happens to us is because of sin.  But much of the calamity in our lives is due to our rebellious hearts that sin.  Remember, “Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked.  For whatever a man sows he will also reap,” (Galatians 6:7, HCSB).
  3. Break up your unplowed ground.  Unplowed ground is hard.  If you’ve every started a garden on unplowed ground, it isn’t fun.  A couple of years ago I had to take our back yard and plow it for the first time.  I was using a high-powered tiller to do the job.  It was bouncing everywhere.  It took hours (hours!) to till a small portion of land.  The hardened heart must be broken up.  Often there is a hardness of heart toward God and toward others.  The two great commands are to love God and love others, and often the heart is cold toward both.

    Get up every morning with the righteous hand on the righteous plow and just sow righteousness.

    Hosea tells us that we must break up the unplowed ground.  Are you bitter toward someone?  Then break up that unplowed ground by being a blessing to that person.  Is your heart in it?  No.  It’s cold and hard.  You’ll feel like I did breaking up the ground in my back yard.  I came away with my back aching and my arms exhausted.  All I wanted to do was take a shower and go to bed.  But it had to be done.  Angry with God?  We naturally will thresh than plow. We walk around avoiding the hard work.  But we are called to break up the unplowed ground.  We don’t want to do the hard work of prayer and getting into God’s Word, but that is how we are able to sow righteousness.  What is your unplowed ground? How is your heart hardened?

  4. It is time to seek the LORD.  You can’t do this on your own.  There’s no strength in you to get this done.  You can sow, but God determines if and when the crop grows.  The Bible is filled with God’s promises to hear us if we call.  “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart,” (Jeremiah 29:13, HCSB).  “Call on Me in a day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor Me,” (Psalm 50:15, HCSB).  And many more.  We must continuously and consistently seek the LORD.  We must follow the advice of Winston Churchill: “Never, ever ever ever ever, give up.”
  5. Until He sends righteousness on you like the rain.  That’s our goal, is it not?  We want the righteousness.  We want righteousness like farmers want rain.  Our lives are at stake!  We must seek God, petition Him, beg Him to accomplish in our hearts what we are doing with our hands.  This may sound a bit strange coming from me as I often say as with Paul, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose,” (Philippians 2:12b-13, HCSB).  I have often explained that we are to do outwardly what God is doing inwardly.  But now I’m saying that we should pray that God would do inwardly what we are doing outwardly, namely righteousness.  Why the contradiction?  It’s not really.  It’s a paradox.  God has declared the believer to be righteous, and the Spirit of holiness is working within the believer to bring him or her into holiness.  There are times though that the believer does not feel like being holy (or righteous).  To do right is hard work and we don’t want to put forth the effort.  Yet, this is what we are called to do.  We are called to sow righteousness and to break up unplowed ground–even when we don’t want to.  Am I saying that we just go through the motions?  Yes!  Go through the motions and pray to God to bring the desire.
    There are days where we don’t want to study God’s Word.  We get nothing out of it.  It seems boring and it has no benefit.  We’re doing it out of habit.  Keep doing it! But pray fervently and consistently that God would warm the heart and that God would provide inwardly the love for His Word and the enjoyment of studying.  Pray, pray, pray until He provides it like rain!  If you don’t want to bless those who curse you and say evil things against you, do it anyway.  You’re not acting the part of a hypocrite; you are being obedient to God.  Pray, pray, pray that God would give you a real heart (more than just action) toward your enemies.

We want righteousness like farmers want rain.  Our lives are at stake!  We must seek God, petition Him, beg Him to accomplish in our hearts what we are doing with our hands.

Obey and pray.  Continue in obedience while you continue to pray.  God will hear your prayer and will answer it in His timing.  Your job (and my job) is to “Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground.  It’s time to seek the LORD until He comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain,” (Hosea 10:12, HCSB).