Divorce Recovery Program
Matthew 19: 1-12

QUESTION 1: In your past, where have you gone when you’ve been triggered, messed up? Where physically?
Mentally? Spiritually? Back to drugs, back to the same old people, back to the streets, back to the drug house, jail,
prison; church people go into hiding, or sometimes all out rebellion, but mostly hiding. Mentally – out of it. Spiritually –
QUESTION 2: In your past where, have you gone to try to start over? A class in jail, a bible study in jail or prison, away
from bad influences, a rehab (sometimes court ordered but you are going to try this time), family, away from family, a
different town, chem free, CR, NA, AA; church people – usually a different church.
Know this Christians: Jesus is always the place of starting over. Sins forgiven, past, present, and future! repeat
1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan
River. 2 Large crowds followed him there, and he healed their sick. 3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this
question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus
replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” 5 And he said, “‘This explains why a
man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two
but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 7 “Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give
his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked. 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a
concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. 9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces
his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” 10 Jesus’ disciples then said to
him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!” 11 “Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those
whom God helps. 12 Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry
for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
5:31-32 “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’
But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone
who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.
In Ch5 of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is redefining what makes someone a good person.
1 st Anger – not just someone who “thou shalt not kill”, it’s a right heart for love, forgiveness and reconciliation.
2 nd Sexuality – Adultery – not just someone who doesn’t commit adultery, it’s someone who’s learned to let go of desire
and choose what’s good.
3 rd Divorce – get ready, this may sound weird, harsh… and this week he is addressing men, hmm…

Note: sin complicates things and disrupts peace!

Culture 30s AD – Why men? Mostly only men had the power to get a divorce. A man could divorce a woman at any
time for any reason, just walk out leaving the wife and kids and no money. And the ex-husband could return at any time
and reclaim the kids and any money. So, who would want to marry the woman? Too much risk. If a man divorced a
woman, the woman was at risk.

Say it with me: sin complicates things and disrupts peace!

Culture BC Old Testament – Deuteronomy “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 (sexual immorality,) and he writes a certificate of divorce and puts it in
her hands and sends her out of his house …” This actually provide some protection for the woman, she could remarry

Say it with me: sin complicates things and disrupts peace!

Old Testament corrupted – by 30s AD, Good person if a guy walks out and gives a certificate, Bad person if you walk out
and don’t give the certificate. Like this: ‘I’m free to divorce anytime I feel like it. All my options are open. As long as I
give her a certificate of divorce, then I am righteous in God’s eyes. I am in compliance.’

Say it with me: sin complicates things and disrupts peace!

Kingdom Perspective
QUESTION: Does this sound like Kingdom of God thinking? No Why? What are you saying with that kind of thinking?
“My marriage exists for my fulfillment.” ME.
The woman’s options were 1) remarry in a degraded condition, probably a second or third wife of a guy, or 2) prostitute.
Jesus isn’t making new OT laws, he’s challenging the way those laws were being misused and twisted. He’s challenging
us to think how a good person, a righteous person with God-given inner goodness, would think and feel and act.
THE QUESTION: From a biblical standpoint, when is it ok to get a divorce?
Old Testament: Deuteronomy mentions divorce on the grounds of sexual immorality. So that was one ground for divorce
where there would be permission to remarry.
"What about other cases? What about when there was abuse or abandonment?" Old Testament in roundabout way. In
Exodus, chapter 21, the law covers what happens if a man takes a second wife, which would happen in the ancient world.
This passage is designed to protect the rights of the first wife. It says, "If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not
diminish her [the first wife's] food, her clothing, or her conjugal love. If he does not provide her with these three things,
she is free to go without payment of money." Once again, the law was seeking to protect women in the ancient world. In
the ancient world, when a husband took on a new wife, the second wife tended to get the good stuff. The law said he made
a vow when he married his first wife to provide support, food and clothing, and love. If he breaks that vow, she's free to
leave, to get a divorce, and that would mean getting a certificate and being able to remarry.
Say it with me: sin complicates things and disrupts peace!

Old Testament Rabbis:
Over time, rabbis looked at these two passages, the one in Deuteronomy and the one in Exodus, and said, "Here's the
overarching principle involved. Marriage is a vow that covers three areas: fidelity (that means no sexual unfaithfulness),
provision, and love (that means sexual intimacy and affection). Where these vows are broken, the victim of the broken
vows has the right to get divorced and remarry."
Rabbis would debate what constituted breaking these vows, how much food, what kind of clothing. They would make
rules about conjugal love. Rabbis said husbands had to offer to be intimate with their wife twice a week or she could
divorce them. This is from the ancient rabbinic world. Or rabbis sometimes would teach once a week if he was a donkey
driver. It's kind of like a trucker who's on the road a lot. Or if the husband was unemployed, he had to offer every night or
she could divorce him. I'm not making this up.
Now did rabbis believe there could be biblical grounds for divorce around abandonment or abuse? They did.
Abandonment was an extreme form of breaking the vow to provide. Abuse was an extreme form of breaking the vow to
love. So that was the rabbinic framework for understanding marriage and divorce and remarriage.
Say it with me: sin complicates things and disrupts peace!

N.T. Rabbis:
In Jesus' day, there was a completely new development. Two of the most famous rabbis a few decades about Jesus were
named Hillel and Shammai.
Hillel had a new interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1. He claimed that it said a man could divorce his wife for a cause of
indecency, and when it said that it meant any cause at all. Rabbis in Hillel's school decided that this any-cause divorce
was available only to men and "any cause" covered any fault you could conceive of. They wrote down different potential
ones. Rabbis said things like if she spoiled his dinner, if she walked around with her hair unbound, if she argued in a voice
loud enough to be heard next door. This is a new kind of divorce in Jesus' day: any-cause divorce. One drawback to any-
cause divorce was it was more expensive. If you could prove that your wife was guilty of breaking a vow, like adultery,
then you did not have to pay back what was called the ketubah, the marriage inheritance promised at a wedding, but if you
did the any-cause divorce, just divorce her because you didn't like her cooking or something, then the husband had to pay
this price back. So Hillel is saying there's now a new divorce option that's available to Israel: any-cause divorce.
Very soon, that kind of divorce for any cause at all was the most popular,

Example: When Joseph found out that his fiancée Mary was pregnant, we're told, "Because Joseph…did not want to
expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." In that day, even when you were engaged, to break
off the relationship required a divorce. When the text says he thought about doing it quietly, that's not a vague adjective.
It's actually a technical term. It meant he would not call her an adulterer in court, that he would get an any-cause divorce.
That meant he would pay the price. He would support the child. So, “any cause” divorce is based on this interpretation
from Rabbi Hillel that says Deuteronomy was saying you could divorce your wife for any cause.
Shammai and his followers disagreed. They said, "No, no. That passage in Deuteronomy refers only to sexual
immorality," so only breaking that vow or the vows of provision and love from Exodus 21 were legal grounds for divorce.
They said that any-cause divorce was wrong. In Jesus' day this is a big debate.

Say it with me: sin complicates things and disrupts peace!

Pharisee Traps: We're told one time some Pharisees came to Jesus to test him, or trap him. They asked him, "Is it lawful
for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?" When they did this, they were not asking Jesus, "Rabbi, is divorce always
against the law?" That was not debated. Divorce is in Moses' law. It was done in the case of vow breaking. No rabbi
would ask, "Is it lawful for us to follow Moses' law?" What they're asking Jesus here is, "How do you interpret
Deuteronomy 24:1? Are you a Hillel guy or a Shammai guy?" The Pharisees already know that Jesus rejects the "any
cause" school, that you can just divorce your wife for any reason at all. He has already talked about that. They know he's a
Shammai guy on this one. Here's why it's a trap. Some of you might know that the ruler of Galilee back then was a man
by the name of Herod. Herod had been married to his first wife. He had fallen in love with a woman named Herodias.
Herodias was already married, by the way, to Herod's brother. So Herod divorced his first wife. He got an any-cause
divorce, and he had Herodias divorce her husband, his brother, and then he married her, his sister-in-law. John the Baptist
talked about this. We're told in the gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist courageously said to Herod, "It is not lawful for
you to have her. That any-cause divorce wasn't valid." Anybody remember what happened to John the Baptist? Herod cut
off his head. Now Herod is looking for Jesus. So when Jesus says, "John was right; any-cause divorces are wrong," guess
who is the first person those religious leaders will make sure hears about this? Of course that's Herod. So Jesus responds.

Say it with me: sin complicates things and disrupts peace!

"Haven't you read…that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man will
leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So, they are no longer two, but
one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate."
Jesus is taking marriage back to Genesis, not Exodus, not Deuteronomy.
In Genesis, he separates and then joins together.
He separates light from darkness and puts them together to make a day.
He separates sky from the earth and puts them together to make our environment.
He separates dry land from the seas and puts them together to make our planet.
Creation is God separating and then joining to defeat chaos and make shalom.
Then he creates man, and he makes a woman… Does anybody remember what he makes her from? From the rib. That
word rib is much better translated side. The writer is naming God's intent about the nature of man and woman in marriage.
They are created with equal worth, to stand side by side, to have a capacity of separateness but then also oneness. Side by
Marriage is:
God separates day from night, God separates sky from land, God separates sea from land, and now male and female are
made to be separate so they can be joined together, and the two shall become one flesh.
This is new creation, new shalom, oneness of heart and will and servanthood, like Father, Son, and Spirit are one.
Divorce is:
Jesus is saying, divorce is undoing creation. It is unraveling shalom.
That's why the Bible is so serious, so severe about divorce.

Heavy stuff – the disciples response:
"The disciples said to him, 'If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.'" In other words,
"If I'm just going to be stuck with her, who in their right mind would do that?"
Pharisees try again:
The Pharisees are sure Jesus can't be right, so they have another question. "'Why then,' they asked, 'did Moses command
that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?'" (They're referring to that Deuteronomy 24 passage.)
Jesus gets to the real issue:
"Jesus replied, 'Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.”
As we have seen over and over in the Sermon on the Mount, it comes not to behavioral compliance but to the heart. If our
hearts are right, our behavior tends to follow!
Note: Herod had his daughter-in-law divorce, married her, killed John for pointing it out. The pharisees were trying to get
Jesus to say the same thing – and maybe get Herod to kill him. (They weren’t far from the prison that had held John.)
QUESTION 3: What does it mean to have a hard heart? “I’m not budging, I’m angry, I’m mad, I don’t care about you or
your feelings.” I’m so blinded I don’t see or care if I’m sinning. I shrink into myself.
It light of what Jesus taught:
There may be a breaking of core marriage vows. Even that is not mechanical or legalistic grounds for divorce. If your
spouse breaks a vow but then is repentant, softhearted, then rebuild the marriage. If your spouse refuses to repent, if there
is a stubborn, defiant, continued decision to reject reconciliation, to refuse counsel, if there's continued rejection of
physical intimacy, a willful continuation of patterns of deceit, abandonment, stealing, cruelty, then divorce may be the
only option.
Pastoral words:
1) Sin complicates things – and disrupts peace. Refer to the last 20ish minutes.
2) If you're married, grow your marriage. Don't take it for granted. Know details about your spouse's day. Serve your
spouse. Cheer your spouse on. Work at your marriage.
3) One of the biggest predictors of divorce is when communication constantly has barbs in it. "Could you help your
fatherless son with his homework?" If your marriage is hard, seek wise counsel, pray, read, ask friends for prayer,
get help, get support. It is worth heroic effort because marriage is “what God has joined together.”
Example: Asked what was the best day of her life was ever? When she heard, "How would you like it if Daddy
moved back in, and Mommy and Daddy and you all lived together like a family again?"
4) Divorces occur because everything else serious/giving all your time to everything except the marriage – job, or no
job, hobbies, Razorbacks, social media, shopping, eating and feeling bad all the time because of it, other
5) Every marriage is a marriage between two great big sinners, held together by the grace of God. There are some
churches where there's this kind of separation: married people are good, divorced people are bad. We are all
QUESTION: Who do you think is the most spiritually significant divorced person in the Bible? maybe the Samaritan
woman at the well. You might know her story. She'd been through five husbands, was now living with a guy she wasn't
even married to. Jesus honors her with the longest conversation he ever had in the Bible. She became the proclaimer about
Jesus, saved her whole town. But she's only number two.
The most significant spiritual divorced person. The main picture God used to describe his relationship with his people was
that it was a covenant like a marriage. Israel was like his bride. Then God makes this statement through the prophet
Jeremiah: "I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries." That's
God. God knows the humiliation of rejection and the pain of betrayal from hard-hearted people, like me. God says in the
Bible through the prophet he's been through a divorce. He is a divorcé.

6) God invented the first divorce recovery program.
It's at a place called Calvary, the price for the course is one bloodstained cross, and Jesus paid it.
Jesus paid for all of the wrongs of every kind done, being done, and to be done.
He took on the blame and punishment so that you can start over!
Know this Christians: Jesus is always the place of starting over. Sins forgiven, past, present, and future!