Q. In response to ‘ a divorce question’ I have always believed that God looks unfavorably on the breaking of covenants.
Even though His people ‘Israel’ committed spiritual adultery many times God remained faithful and sought reconciliation. Shouldn’t we follow His example? At what point do we stop praying and waiting for healing to take place, when God’s own example shows him continually waiting for the return of his beloved people? By nature of the covenant relationship I thought we were ‘married for ever’ in the eyes of God even if our partner should choose to leave.
There are some teachers that believe the word used for adultery in Matt. 5:32 doesn’t mean marital unfaithfulness, but refers to some other form of illicit sexual activity like incest, therefore suggesting that our Lord is forbidding divorce even when adultery has taken place.
Doesn’t God show us the ultimate act of mercy in waiting, in the story of the Prodigal Son and in the book of Hosea?
A. God does look unfavorably on the breaking of a covenant. The question is always, “Who broke it?” In Matt: 5:32 Jesus in effect permitted marital unfaithfulness as a justifiable cause for divorce. He didn’t say that divorce had to result, only that it could. There are two different descriptive words used in verse 32. One is translated fornication and can mean everything from intercourse outside of marriage to homosexuality to bestiality. The other is translated adultery and specifically means sexual intercourse with someone else’s spouse. Far from excluding all but the most repulsive sexual behavior, the passage includes everything but intercourse with one’s own spouse. The teachers you refer to are taking only the most extreme meanings, going well beyond the intent of the original language to put words in the Lord’s mouth.
Although your examples of the Prodigal Son and especially Hosea are good ones, they are by no means indicative of mandatory behavior. Both are meant to quantify God’s patience, not man’s. The person asking the divorce question has already waited many years and indicated there’s no hope for reconciliation, but even so I only advised him that Biblically speaking he could move on, not that he has to.