Be Faithful to the Spouse of Your Youth
Malachi 2:15-16: So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
The Israelites had made divorce far too easy. Excuse after excuse was given for divorcing one's wife and the written document for divorce was extremely easy to obtain. If a man saw a woman more attractive than his wife, he could send his wife away for she was no longer pleasing to him. If a man felt that his wife had become run down from her domestic duties, he could divorce her and begin with a new wife that would still be fresh. The rabbis actually helped to write up these options for divorce for the men and therefore the marriage covenant had been frequently and easily broken.
Now, God is speaking to the people through the prophet Malachi. God knew that the fidelity between a husband and a wife was a reflection of the peoples' relationship with him. Men were supposed to be faithful to the wives they had taken in their youth. They were not supposed to trade them in for the latest model! The wives of their youth were the ones they were to protect and care for -- not throw away. Therefore there were not to hate, but to love their wives. They were not to divorce, which was equated with violence, but they were to protect their wives.
There should be no excuse for simply "falling in love" with someone else -- but there is to be a guarding of the heart so that a man stays faithful to the wife of his youth. And when the Israelites could understand this -- they could also understand the depths of the personal relationship to which God was calling them. God had been faithful to them since their youth, but they were the ones who had chosen to walk away. They were the ones who had divorced their God and had made every excuse possible for "falling in love" with foreign women and their gods. It was not that easy -- they didn't understand the need for fidelity. If they could not be faithful to their wives here on earth, how could they be faithful to God on high?
Are we really all that different today? Isn't there a correlation between loving God and loving neighbor that Jesus talked about? And who is our closest neighbor? Of course, it's our spouse!
Today this message can go both ways -- to the husband and the wife. There must be a life-long commitment to the spouses of our youth, that we will not easily turn them aside and leave them.
Divorce is the curse of our world today and the statistics within the church are just as bad as those outside the church. Marriages have become disposable and we send spouses away for the some of the same reasons that they did back when the rabbis were handing out the excuses. There is a reason that the prophet said to "be on your guard." For a marriage to survive, the partners must be on their guard against the potential threats and this requires a commitment to one another and a self-discipline which does not allow temptations to grow up within the heart.
While the statistics for divorce are overall the same within the church as in the world, there is another statistic that is rarely spoken of -- the small number of divorces among those who seek God together. When a couple has a prayer and devotional life together -- when they seek the face of God together -- something completely different happens. The statistic drops to around 5% that divorce. In today's culture that's a significantly small number. Could it be that when a couple chooses to purposely seek the face of God that they are, together, transformed into the image of God, and this unites them even deeper in love and mutual purpose? When we begin this journey with the spouse of our youth -- imagine what the years might bring to the relationship! Years of joy and service to God and in mutual service and love to one another.
God wanted this kind of relationship with his beloved people. He invites us into this type of relationship with him today. He wants us to be united to him in faithfulness. In return he is our protector and will journey with us throughout life. We should ignore the voices of the rabbis -- and of those in the world -- that continually give us excuses to throw away our marriages. Instead, we should unite together and seek the face of God -- allowing him to transform us and our marriages into a reflection of the love found in God. Then the world would see the faithfulness of God reflected in us. Therefore, be faithful to the spouse of your youth!
Lord, help me to be a faithful partner. Amen.