The passage we start at today is about an understandably dark topic: divorce. And, that is a very important topic for Christians to address. But we look at this passage more for another idea today, and we want to consider it at least briefly. Let's capture the flow of Jesus' speech. We'll spot it. The message today is NOT primarily, even secondarily, about divorce.
The Pharisees come to Jesus with a question. Whenever this happens, we should understand what is going on. They have a purpose; they have a goal. They anticipate that Jesus will give an answer making them look good and Jesus look bad. They are looking to generate problems for Jesus.
Their question centers around divorce and proper grounds for it. This is an important question, it truly is. Their question to Jesus is basically, Can a man divorce a woman for any reason at all? Jesus gives a straightforward answer in verse nine. But that is not where we are going. Instead, listen to Jesus' answer.
Notice where He goes: Genesis 1:27. He directs their thoughts to the original order of creation. "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female"?
For an answer, He does not turn to the local authorities, or the custom of His time, or what was permitted under civil law, or the practice and traditions that had come into acceptance. For His answer, He directs their minds to Genesis one. God had an original design. In Genesis one, man and woman are placed side-by-side, parallel with each other, both equal before Him, both bearing God's image. Women do not bear the image through the man; they bear it directly.
Notice, too, that the image of the infinite God is immediately portrayed in His creation. The man does not portray that image alone, nor is maleness an exact representation of that image. Likewise, the woman is also image-bearer of the divine. But, like the man, neither can she contain all that image Heaven would portray.
The Creator creates and in His creating He crowns His work with two beings, made in His image, with conscience, morality, intelligence, spirituality, ability to think and do, a love for beauty, creative aspect in a created being. Something very special is going on. He makes planet earth. He makes sun and moon and trees and fish and birds and so on. But the very pinnacle of His creation is humankind, made male and female.
The Pharisees would demean woman, hold her lesser in value, make it easy to cast her into the dirt. They were here gambling that Jesus would offer a merciful appraisal and thus place Himself against accepted culture. They had heard enough of Jesus' teaching to be able to anticipate something of His probable answer. They were there ready as if with recording devices for capturing every word, writing it down, holding it ready to condemn Jesus later.
You wonder what they were thinking as Jesus spoke these first words of response. "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female"?
Next, Jesus quotes Genesis again, from before the entrance of sin. Genesis 2:24 falls from His lips.
"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
Jesus pointed out that the basic order of creation is that a child is raised under the guidance and protection of his parents. In the conventional circumstance, God places before each child two image-bearers: one male, one female. He places before those tiny minds and little hearts, those fill-me-up eyes, two representations of God. One by means of the male aspect, and one by a female.
Please don't misunderstand here. We are not trying to think of God as two-sexed. We are simply noticing that in the divine design, the Bible says that even the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6; 6:18). When Solomon inaugurated the temple, He made clear to those who heard that no matter how grand the sanctuary, it was but dim expression of the deity.
All the creation cannot contain God, cannot express all there is to know of Him. But it can speak to us of our loving Designer and our destiny in His order.
In the divine design, a man is in a significant sense a product of this double-representation because, in the Christian design, a child grows up to womanhood or manhood in the continual circle of their parent's (hopefully) Christian influence. A mature man, a mature woman, who is ready to marry, is one hopefully nurtured in an environment of two faithful, believing parents.
When we weigh the extraordinary difficulties some have in their marriages today, we cannot help but notice that in the space of our lifetime so much has changed. This is a very painful item for all of us here. Who has not, in one's own life, or at least in the life of a close relative, perhaps of even a mother or father, seen the ripping and the pain resulting from torn marriage?
Our point is not to bring sadness. But can we think together, if only briefly, of one aspect of the divine plan for marriage? Could it be that part of the divine purpose for husband and wife in most circumstances is that they not only help each other on the way to the kingdom, but that they portray the image of God the best they can, in themselves to their children?
We are astonished when we look at the sky on a crisp, clear night. We see the handiwork of the Creator stretched out in infinity. The stars preach to us that He exists. We look on a beautiful mountain vista of glorious green trees, forests decked in winter white, or roaring ocean waves. You see these, you hear these, you fall silent in awe before the fact of the Maker. But the grandest of all His creation is much closer. It is seen, or intended to be seen, in the face of a man, a woman, a husband or wife, father or mother. It is seen in people. Because people are image-bearers. All are intended in part as canvas, reflectors of the image divine to others.
The man leaves his father and mother after having before him the image of God in stereo for all his lifetime to that point.
He does not abandon mother and father, but leaves them to continue in his life destiny, to carry forward his part in the transmission of the divine image. He carries mom and dad with him. According to the Scripture, Jesus 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."
He leaves father and mother and is joined to, clings to, is glued to, "his wife." Something that was not there before is there now. Something is CREATED.
Marriage in the divine design is fundamentally creation; it is something new that wasn't there before. It is a union in which God is the Creator. The man and the woman to do not make a marriage; Jesus does. Marriage comes to us from His Eden, and in each truly Christian marriage we glimpse that idyllic garden place, we peek into the bright matrix where was no sin and where communion with the Designer brightened those days.
Marriage is both counterpart and reminder to creation; it is both a creation and its reversal. In the six days of creation week one set of matter is separated from another set, spaces are rearranged, various kinds of animal life are brought into being from nothing, a lone man is made, then woman is made from his side and brought back to him. And so Jesus reminds His Pharisiacal hearers that the man is joined "to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." From two separate, one whole is made. More, from two separate IMAGE-BEARERS, one whole is made. There is something going on here much larger than we may have seen.
Man and woman are united, but not obliterated. Two distinct lives become two distinct lives combined in one whole marriage. Marriage reenacts Genesis 1:27. "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." The creation was not finished with the creation of humans. It was finished with the marriage of the first human couple. More, it was finished with this married couple in relation to their Creator God. And so, the man and the woman's first Sabbath was experienced in fellowship with the Creator of marriage. This is how it was in the beginning. A believer's marriage crowned day six and made exquisite the delight of day seven with God.
Becoming one flesh signifies much more than a few moments of sensuality under the sheets. Becoming one flesh here in the text of Genesis two is parallel to the leaving of father and mother. The close bonds that should be there in the family setting now are not severed but transformed. Now the human family under God will be extended as a new creation, a new union is formed. Husband and wife are Adam and Eve again (in a sense), and stand in the garden again (in a sense). Like the Sabbath, marriage points to creation.
But two flesh becoming one is difficult, too. At the spiritual level, we have our habits, our alleged entitlements, our "I've put up with’s" and our "so I deserve’s." If we do not advance as Christians then we do not lay aside our old habitual things. Then old vices we secretly think and do, we continue to secretly think and do. Then we strengthen a part of ourselves which must die, cannot live in a healthy heart. Self can strengthen. And a strengthened self will mean a damaged marriage. We become sure we deserve a different spouse than the one we have. Our flesh is too valuable to us. Two flesh become one? With THAT person? Absolutely not!
We do not follow the thought that to retain selfishness is to deny creation. It is to blockade God so that "the two shall" NOT "become one flesh." It is to stop creation week right at day six, right before it can be seen that all the things that God creates--including His plan for marriage--are TOV MEOD, "very good" (Genesis 1:31).
When we marry, we should seek to become one flesh with our spouse. We are no longer to be two flesh, each seeking its own. God joins together. And no human has any business separating what God has joined together. Again, we do not make a marriage; Jesus does.
In our text, the Pharisees go on to ask Jesus why Moses permitted divorce. Jesus answers that if you keep reading. But our object here is to look at what He says just next. Jesus says that yes, because of the hardness of human hearts, a limited provision was made. But we are focusing is on this part of Jesus' response: that was permitted, "but from the beginning it was not so."
"But from the beginning it was not so."
If what God is like is to be represented via the male and the female human, if, in Genesis 1:27 both male and female are made image-bearers, if from the beginning it was not so that husband and wife and their union created by God was dissoluble, then what must be the plan for the Christian at the end--the very end--of the age?
If it was not so in the beginning, then surely it will not be so in the end. Then surely the Lord Jesus, the Father God, and the Holy Spirit are calling husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5). Each marriage as an island of Eden, a peek backwards to the Garden, and forward to the new earth, a new Eden, and a "not being so" in eternity.
So where are we landing with all this? Very simple. As believers in Christ it is our privilege to cooperate with God so that our marriages are strengthened. We should see our homes as little Eden cabins, humble places of hope, where we live the Christian life with spouse, and, if God blesses, with children. Every one of us is given opportunity to reflect back into the world the divine image. We cannot let our personal failures to reflect God's image stop us from thinking on and visiting these questions. How can we uphold Christian marriage unless we look into the Scriptures, bow down before our Jesus, and lift it up before the dying world? As God has called us to expose His goodness before the world in His holy Sabbath day, He has also called us to expose before the world His goodness in our families and in our homes. We exemplify Eden because of the Sabbath, and we exemplify Eden because of the high and holy Bible picture given us of marriage "in the beginning."
So. Scary topic? Yes. Painful? Yes. Biblical? Yes. Imperative? YES. God stands ready to help our families. He is our Creator, after all. We may not know what we are doing, but He knows how to help us--every single one of us or every coupled two of us. He is a good God. We can take Him at His Word. He can help us so that marriage is as it was in the beginning, in the very best design of all.
O Lord Jesus, make our marriages!
Bonners Ferry ID SDA 2013-02-02