Chapter 10: Understanding Adultery
“You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14, NAS).”
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them…but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:18-25)
Old Testament Adultery:
“but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:22, NAS).”
Definition of Adultery: being unfaithful to covenant vows in any capacity; spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and even financially – covenant betrayal
One of the treacheries against God we see so much in the Old Testament is adultery, otherwise noted as prostitution. For obvious reasons, adultery here is not sexual as we think of it in the natural – it is the total package of covenant betrayal. Many throw out Matthew 5:22 to people concerning divorce by stating that the only legal ground for divorce is adultery, yet we foolishly automatically think of adultery exclusively as sexual, much like we misuse intercourse assuming it’s exclusively sexual in nature. This is where great confusion enters.
Adultery comes in many, many forms. It is, in short, being unfaithful to the covenant vows of marriage; sexual misconduct is adultery, no doubt, but so are many other forms. We should not limit the broad spectrum of its definition lest we leave people in confusion and condemnation. We, God’s people, are His bride. In Jeremiah 3:9, God referred to His people as committing “whoredom…defiled…with stones and stocks.” Where do we read about sexual misconduct? We do not.
In wedding vows, however worded, the promise between the groom and the bride are to be faithful always, loving always, committed fully one to the other as long as they both shall live, and forsaking all others. However you slice it, to break these vows in any capacity (sexually, mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually), adultery has been committed. E.g. when a person places more value on their career, friends, hobbies, children, or anyone or anything else, adultery has been committed. To be present in the marriage physically without another person involved, yet one has pulled away mentally or emotionally leaving the spouse lonely and abandoned is adultery, make no mistake.
Biblical Scope of Adultery:
To understand the full spectrum of “adultery,” we must realize that when any of the covenant vows are forsaken, adultery is in full-force. This is why so many struggle with attempting to stay in a loveless, comfortless, honor-less, and lonely marriage. Most Christians are told, “If the act of adultery (translated exclusively as sexual misconduct) has not taken place, you have no grounds for divorce.” How many people forsake their bride or groom for their work, friends, family, hobbies, etc.? To reiterate, the vows say, “Forsaking all others, being faithful only to her or him so long as you both shall live.” Adultery has clearly transpired when any of these vows are broken.
I read an article by Robert Walters entitled, The Biblical Definition and a Biblical Conclusion. Here is a portion of that article that is well worth reading:
The Bible is not a dictionary, thus we should not expect it to define a word in the same manner as would a dictionary. The Bible is the word of God composed of various books and letters. In defining adultery, we must study and compare various passages of Scripture. This is the only way to ensure an accurate, scriptural definition.
As is often the case, a word may have more than one definition. Some, for example, would say that adultery is nothing more than “the act of sex a married person has with the spouse of another.” To believe this, one would have to be ignorant of or deliberately ignore a number of Scriptures that contradict such a definition. The Scriptures reveal that adultery is used to describe different actions committed by an individual or group. But the result is always an action contrary and detrimental to the covenant known as marriage. The narrow definition of the word that some espouse is merely effort to defend traditional error.
In defining adultery, consider the following Scriptures: “And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks (Jeremiah 3:9, KJV).” This passage tells us that “she” (God’s people) committed adultery with stones and stocks. These things were party to the sin. When we understand the sin, we will understand adultery as it relates to the present marriage, divorce, and remarriage controversy.
A covenant was made between the nation of Israel and God. Israel agreed to abide by the terms of the covenant and God promised to bless them. The stones and stocks were the objects to which God’s wife—Israel—gave its affections. The foreign object that adulterated the relationship served to replace God. God divorced Israel and the relationship he had with them ceased to exist. No sex involved, yet adultery was committed! Therefore, if anyone tells you that “adultery is nothing but a sex act,” you may want to refer him or her to the Scripture noted above.
Some, in an attempt to defend the traditional definition, may argue that adultery in the passage under study is spiritual adultery. But the sin in view here is marital adultery (Jeremiah 3:14), a sin that was an act of unfaithfulness to the marital vows, even though sex was not involved. Today, a person can commit adultery against their spouse in exactly the same way without sex being involved. Virtually all admit that adultery is committed by “putting away” and remarrying (Matthew 19:9). Even those who are not capable of having sex are able to commit adultery in various ways, namely by simply being unfaithful to their spouse—acting as if the marriage does not exist and taking up with another.
“And he saith unto them, whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her (Mark 10:11, KJV).” This Scripture does not agree with the traditional definition of adultery. Jesus says that adultery is committed against the previous spouse rather than with the second woman he marries! We are compelled, therefore, to reject the traditional definition in favor of the biblical definition. This Scripture makes it clear that adultery includes the idea of the breaking of a covenant. But do not confuse the word “breaking” with the word “destruction.” One may break the terms of a covenant; yet, if repentance and forgiveness follow, the covenant remains intact. A marriage is ended, destroyed, over, when one or both parties have legally declared the marriage to be over. The Jewish Law, and the law of our land, requires a “bill of divorcement” or divorce certificate. When one who is divorced, and therefore “unmarried,” is unable to resist sexual temptations, he may marry another (1 Corinthians 7:8, 9). (end excerpt)
Is a Remarried Divorced Woman an Adulterer Forever?
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16, NAS).”
Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law…but sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin (Romans 7).
First, I notated II Timothy 3:16 simply to remind us of the general purpose for the Word. Secondly, in the very long text of Romans 7 above (none of which could be overlooked), we see that, by law, if a woman is divorced and the husband lives, the woman is considered an adulterer should she remarry. Countless women have struggled with this passage stating that, according to this passage, any woman who is legally divorced and remarried is an adulterer forever lest her ex-husband die— only then she is freed from the law. This seems cut and dry enough, but only if we read these texts absent from the remaining texts. Fortunately for us all, Paul did not stop with the first few verses!
This is where the importance of understanding covenant with God, as written in chapter two, comes in. As the Word plainly directs, we see that the only way to enter into true covenant and to be freed from the law is exclusively through death. The above reference begins with physical death of the ex-husband as the only solution to the adulterous woman’s freedom, but then Paul transitions quickly into the spiritual diverting away from that which is physical.
Keep in mind that the Old Testament (Old Covenant) is physical, whereas the New Testament (New Covenant) is spiritual. What transpired back then (pre-Christ) did so physically, but what transpires today (post-resurrection) is spiritual. To “die” as in “die to self” is a spiritual term and, in so “dying to self,” we are freed from the weight of the Law and we enter into the rest and relief of the Law through Christ’s fulfillment of the Law.
The Law reveals sin and sin kills man. Sin kills the man because no one can fulfill the Law. Paul immediately instructs that we are all to enter into death (spiritually speaking) so as to enter the Body of Christ. In so joining, death to the old Earthly man has to occur. When death takes place, our new life in Christ frees us from the law—all of it.
Bringing it full-circle, in reference to divorce and adultery, we see that, by law (earthly, old man), the divorced and remarried woman is an adulterer. However, Paul shifts attention to all sin—that all people are sinful—that the flesh (physical) of any man or woman is sinful. Once in Christ, divorced, single, or married, we are exempt from the law – the law that binds our human form to the condemnation of adultery of any kind; the adultery of breaking the Law of our holy God.
In other words, though the Law condemns everyone in their adulterous condition against God, once in Christ, we are no longer a slave to sin therefore we are no longer an adulterer. Too many people focus on the first section of “an adulterous woman” citing that no woman can remarry if her first husband lives lest she is a whore, yet Paul’s whole intent is not the physically adulterous woman but rather to point to understanding adultery against God and how to become free from all forms of adultery.
In doing so, he points to us all as sinful in need of death (spiritually) so as to partake of the new life offered by God through Christ. If you are in Christ, and if you are divorced legally, and if you are remarried legally, you are not an adulterous woman – you are free! Dying to self as notated in chapter two allows us to enter into the rest (peace) of Christ and, in turn, we are freed from the Law which keeps us all under condemnation. You are free!
Chapter 9: What about Love?
I believe wholeheartedly that, once you truly love someone, you will never stop though the love will transition into a different type. Otherwise, if you cease loving someone, you never loved them in the first place. Love is everlasting no matter what transpires between two people, whether in marriage or friendship. It can be tricky if we don’t see and weigh it through the eye of The Way because genuine love is everlasting. Only when we view love from a Kingdom perspective will we be able to correctly gauge relationships, the emotions thereof, and how to proceed in life.
Being twice divorced, I now have and will always have two men out there in the world with which I have loved and made covenant. Though I am divorced from both, there will always be a bond, on some level, no matter how much time and space is between us. It’s a fact that no one can deny or remove. Because I genuinely loved both, love for them will remain unending, but the love is exclusively a supernatural agape love, a love that would behoove all to seek for their ex-spouses.
John W. Schoenheit defines the four types of love as follows:
EROS: “The Greek word for sexual love or passionate love is eros, and we get English words such as “erotic.” When eros was used as a proper noun, it referred to the Greek god of love. The Greek word eros does not appear in the biblical text, so we will not spend time on it in this article, but it has had such an impact on English and our view of sexual love that it is important to mention.”
AGAPE: “The Greek word that refers to the love of God, one of the kinds of love we are to have for people, is agape. Agape is the very nature of God, for God is love (1 John 4:7-12, 16b). The big key to understanding agape is to realize that it can be known from the action it prompts. In fact, we sometimes speak of the “action model” of agape love. People today are accustomed to thinking of love as a feeling, but that is not necessarily the case with agape love. Agape is love because of what it does, not because of how it feels... God so “loved” (agape) that He gave His Son. It did not feel good to God to do that, but it was the loving thing to do. Christ so loved (agape) that he gave his life. He did not want to die, but he loved, so he did what God required. A mother who loves a sick baby will stay up all night long caring for it, which is not something she wants to do, but is an actual act of agape love.
The point is that agape love is not merely an impulse generated from feelings. Instead, agape love is an exercise of the will, a deliberate choice. This is why God can command us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44; Exod. 23:1-5). He is not commanding us to “have a good feeling” for our enemies, but to act in a loving way toward them. Agape love is related to obedience and commitment and not necessarily feeling and emotion. “Loving” someone is to obey God on another’s behalf, seeking his or her long-term blessing and profit.
The way to know that we love (agape) God is that we keep His commandments. Jesus, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me…” (John 14:21a). There are Christians who say they love God, but their lifestyle is contrary to God’s will. These people mistake their feeling of affection for God for true agape love. Jesus made this clear: “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching…” (John 14:24a).“
PHILEO: “The third word for “love” we need to examine is phileo, which means ‘to have a special interest in someone or something, frequently with focus on close association; have affection for, like, consider someone a friend.’ It would probably be helpful if phileo were never translated “love” in the New Testament because it refers to a strong liking or a strong friendship.”
STORGE: “The fourth Greek word we need to understand is storge, which is the love and affection that naturally occurs between parents and children, can exist between siblings, and exists between husbands and wives in a good marriage. It occurs in Romans 12:10 in the word, philostorgos, which is a compound word made up of philos (the noun form of phileo) and storge.” (end excerpt)
That being said, we must decipher what to do with feelings of love. Forever I will love both my ex-husbands. Forever they will be a part of who I am because being with them through good and bad helped shape the person I am today. So the question remains: “what do I do with the love I feel for my ex-spouses? If I love them, does that mean we should get back together?”
As for my first ex-husband, mutual love appeared to have ruled before our marriage, but it quickly shifted into hatred from him toward me, which ruled for many years post-split. Because of his hatred against me, eventually hatred formed in my heart against him. Once I came into a place of forgiveness through Christ and began to walk in agape love toward all mankind, I couldn’t help but shift from hatred back into love. However, it is not a storge love between a husband and a wife, but one of agape that allows my spirit-man to extend love where hatred would otherwise long to rule. With some folks, agape love can “feel” like love that would bring them to reunite in marriage. We must keep in mind that agape love is very different than storge, the love that would tie a husband to a wife.
Many divorced or almost divorced people come into Christ and assume that agape love dictates that they must reunite, and that simply is not so. This goes back to what I and many others have taught about not being led by the soul (mind, will, and emotions). Just because you love someone does not mean you are meant to be together and that your love can sustain a marriage.
I dearly love and respect my second ex-husband, as I always have. My love for him is now and always was both phileo as well as agape. I married him because I misinterpreted my love for him as storge. Because of this misinterpretation, our marriage failed. Many people were hurt, not excluding both of us. Much guilt and shame on my part were involved in our divorce. My phileo love for him has never wavered, and it remains until this day. Phileo love does not mean that we should remarry if we were both single.
It is of the utmost importance in our walk with Christ that we understand the different types of love and how to walk in them properly. We should not try to hide that we love our ex-spouses, nor should we misappropriate our love and attempt to remarry with the wrong love. With divorce, there is often a feeling of “because I love (agape or phileo) them, I don’t love my new spouse completely” or “maybe I am still in love (storge) with them” or “I have such strong love (eros) love for them, maybe we should have an affair and see where it goes.” All of this thinking leads one to a perpetual life of misery, pain, and guilt – often shame and remorse. God wants His people to live in peace, so much that He instructs us to pursue peace hot and heavily!
Once you have moved on in your life and have concluded through seeking God’s will that your divorce is for the betterment of all, learn to love with agape love and leave the rest behind. If neither of you has remarried and you are both continually drawn to one another, reuniting may be the correct course of action. No matter what and above all else, your relationship with Jesus needs to be your priority. When He is your all-in-all, your relationships in this life will work themselves out in time. Jumping into (or back into) any human relationship is always going to be disastrous eventually if you do not first seek the Kingdom of God, His righteousness, His will, and His plan for you.
Prayer: I desire, O God of Heaven and Earth, to walk in keen discernment to know how to love whom. I want to properly apply love as You have pre-ordained and not mix emotions with what is true and holy. I desire to keep myself pure in and out of marriage, no matter where I am in life. Reveal to me how to walk in self-discipline always. Selah.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (II Corinthians 6:14, KJV).
Right out the gate, most everyone can quote this Scripture above, yet few comprehend the depth of its meaning. For example, when I was growing up, I was taught that “unequally yoked” meant that no Independent Baptist should mix with any other type of Baptist (Southern, Free Will, etc.) and definitely, we were not to intermarry with any other “foreign” denomination such as Lutheran, Methodist, and absolutely not with a Pentecostal or Presbyterian! Also, no person should ever mix with anyone outside their race, nationality, political or social status. Then there is the actual reality that no follower of Christ should marry a non-follower of Christ.
In the Old Testament, God clearly instructed His people, time and time again, that they were not to marry outside their race. What was God’s motivation in this command? Was He prejudice against skin color or language that He created? No. God gave this command to keep His holy people pure of other gods, of worshipping anyone other than Himself. We must remember that the Old Testament was about things manifesting in the natural. The New Testament was about things happening in the spiritual. The Old Testament always mentioned how people looked externally. The New Testament does not speak of outward appearance. The reason is that things come first in the natural, then in the spiritual. Therefore, being unequally yoked has nothing at all to do with anything external, but spiritual.
I Corinthians 15:46-47 states: “The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.” In the grand scheme of things, the spiritual is first in so much as God is Spirit and He has no beginning and no end, but this reference is written for the Earth, for mankind. We are physical man (natural first), but, through Holy Spirit (spiritual second), we are able to become spiritual. It’s all about keeping things within God’s perspective and order.
Since God chose to leave out external appearance in the New Testament, we must pay attention and follow suit. He omitted it for a purpose. We are to owe no man anything but love. Money issues aside, it translates, “All men owe every man love, regardless of anything external.” With that understood, we can eliminate any false meaning for being unequally yoked that has anything to do with outward appearance, including, and especially, skin color. As far as denomination is concerned, God is not a God of denomination, but our heart condition. If a black Baptist woman is in love with Christ and a white Methodist man is in love with Christ, what should man do to hinder them from marrying that has anything to do with God?
To take all this even further, to be “equally yoked” in reference to holy matrimony boils down to one criterion: God’s supernatural ordination. Nothing else matters. The problem lies in how we perceive the matter of equally or unequally yoked. Again, most people have an internal checklist that they believe their spouse should meet to a tee, yet the list is generally not in compliance with God. Basically, we box God in so tightly that, no matter how clearly He reveals His will, we are too blinded by the flesh, and religious and parental tradition, to recognize. “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment,” is instructed in John 7:24.
Don’t Judge by the Cover:
My husband isn’t anything like I pictured as a child. We must realize that our appointed spouse, when we first meet, could potentially not be ready for marriage, but that doesn’t mean they never will. The issue at hand is that we often meet our God-created mate, but, since they are not on our mental checklist, we impatiently and foolishly marry the first person who comes along that fits our standard.
Cut two tennis balls in half, switch the halves, and glue one half of one ball to a half of the other ball. Though they are the same exact shape, color, texture, and size, they will never make a whole; they are merely two mismatched halves stuck together. If you pour oil and water into the same bowl, just because they are, for all intent and purposes, together, does it make them one new thing? No. It’s merely two vastly different substances cohabitating. The point is this: just because two things appear as though they could mix, it doesn’t mean they can, will, or should.
I fell head over heels in love with Michael when I was 15 in August, 1983, 10th-grade algebra class, upstairs, A-hall, Mrs. Ward’s class, at Lexington High School. This is the classic example of a good soul-tie, but I was simply oblivious. I took one look at him and that was all she wrote! I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know why. It wasn’t based on looks, though he was handsome; it genuinely made no sense. It wasn’t sexual, hormonal, emotional, or mental – it just was, and with no logical explanation. Unfortunately, though we were algebra buddies and I helped him pass the class, we were but acquaintances. I wouldn’t even call us “friends.”
About nine months after we met, he moved with his family to another city an hour away. I was devastated, to say the least. I remained forever in love with him, nonetheless. I was friends with his cousin before our meeting. I would see him occasionally when he visited her. He later joined the army and moved overseas for several years. During that time, he met and fell in love with a young woman.
As time went by, I eventually married someone else, and we moved overseas. My husband said he was called to be a preacher and things “appeared” in order, godly. Though married, the two of us never became one whole. He was an abuser. He did not hit me, but abuse comes in various forms. He was sexually, mentally, and emotionally abusive.
After separating from my first husband once back in America, Michael and I reconnected and became the best of friends. We were able to do so because he had moved back stateside, leaving his girlfriend behind. We remained friends with no romantic commitment or ties. Two years after my first husband left, I married the nice, great guy I mentioned earlier: a handsome man with a stable job and very kind. To my chagrin, we married one another on the rebound of failed relationships, which is always a formula for disaster. After two years of trying to “make it work,” I left him. We tried several times to reconcile, but it simply was not right. We did not fit together to make a whole.
In 2000, after seven years of rebelling against God (from the time my first husband left), I found myself on my face before the Almighty begging Him to show me the way to righteousness, purity, and wholeness. Though most of these stories are in my other books, my point here is that I finally submitted totally to God. I vowed that I would never again lay with anyone who was not my husband, or marry again unless and until it was as God-intended.
The blessings in mine and Michael’s lives are flowing for many reasons. The primary reason is because he and I make one whole person. We were specifically designed one for the other. The first husband was like mixing oil and water, an apparent mismatch. The second was like those two tennis balls; we looked like a good fit but were altogether wrong. The third marriage is a perfect fit. God has blessed and blessed and continuously blesses without end. I had taken a vow of abstinence long before our engagement and marriage. Although he was reluctant, Michael complied.
Just because you are marrying your ordained spouse does not mean that the marriage will automatically override sexual sin committed with that person; sex before marriage will hinder the fullness of the blessings God initially intended. Just because you marry the person that is within the will of God, your poor conduct (fornication or adultery) before the marriage will taint the otherwise holy covenant. We must stay aligned with God before, during, and after marriage.
Marrying your intended spouse does not give you the right to put the cart before the horse. It is altogether possible to ruin that which God intended to be pure. Our obedience in every aspect is crucial to receive the best that God longs to bestow. It isn’t that Yahweh can’t or won’t work around our sin once we are repentant, but why would anyone shortchange themselves? That would be much like Esau giving up his birthright for a one-time cup of soup!
God, in His infinite wisdom and love, created me for Michael. I thank God that we were finally able to come together as it was designed. If I had known at 15 what I know now, I surely would have waited and prayed according to God’s direction. I would have saved myself, and everyone involved in those first two marriages, a lot of heartache had I been wise as to how God ordains, not just the union of general marriage, but specific marriages. I could never explain my unwavering love for Michael back then, but now I can.
Please keep in mind that I was a born-again Christian, and he an agnostic when we first met. By man’s standards, that would not be a union “equally yoked,” yet was altogether “of God.” This is why we must tap into Holy Spirit as soon as possible and allow our spirit-man to become awakened to hear Holy Spirit speaking, leading, and guiding. By no means could I have entered covenant with him pre-accepting Christ. However, when we allow God to reveal our mate to us, whether it makes sense to common man or not, we will enable faith, patience, and grace to rule in our hearts.
This type of waiting takes knowing and trusting the absolutes of God. The more knowledgeable we become, the more consigned to Christ we become, the more faith we place upon Yahweh, the fewer mistakes we will make along the way.
Chapter 6: Covenant Vows
What Man Brought Together:
“What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate (Mark 10:9).”
The above text is far too often misquoted when trying to save marriages, therefore it is grossly misused. But, I implore us all to look at the wording: what God has brought together. In all my counseling those considering marriage or divorce, my first question is: Did God ordain (bring together) this union, or is it a manifestation of what man brought together?
Unfortunately for everyone involved, the vast majority are brought together by man, not God. Even when two people are Christ-followers, it doesn’t mean that God was anywhere in the vicinity of their decision to marry. Too often we think, “I should marry him or her because he or she is such a good Christian and so am I.” Again, it sounds good in theory, but in reality, God is nowhere in their radar.
Magnitude of Vows:
“When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow (Ecclesiastes 5:4)!”
“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to Yahweh.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by Heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the Earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil (Matthew 5:33-37).”
All of that being said and understanding that there are occasions where divorce is inevitable, we need to discuss the ramifications of divorce. When you marry before God and man, you are indeed making very serious vows that are not to be taken lightly. They are not so easily broken merely with a decree of divorce. Let’s look at the next passages concerning God’s take on vows and how they affect us eternally.
God says we are to never enter vows lightly. Remember in Joshua chapter 9 where the Gibeonites, knowing that God had given their land over to His people, were so afraid of being killed by Joshua that they pretended to be from a far away land so as to make covenant with Joshua? Their actions were deceptive. In haste, Joshua made unholy covenant with a people that God had instructed him to wipe away. Because he did not seek the Lord before entering into a treaty, the repercussions lasted throughout the generations. This is what we do when we marry someone and enter unholy covenant not constructed by God.
Note what Joshua actually did at the core. God had moved mightily through this man, a man who loved Yahweh with all of his heart. He obeyed God’s commands. However, we all are flawed and are all subject to momentary lapses of sanity. Joshua had allowed pride to take root. God had been so faithful to allow him and his men to overpower every enemy that eventually he seemed to think that the power was his own. Because of this erroneous thinking, he got himself and his people into a mess.
So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of Yahweh. Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them. It came about at the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were neighbors and that they were living within their land…but all the leaders said to the whole congregation, “We have sworn to them by Yahweh, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them. This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them.”…then Joshua called for them and spoke to them, saying, “Why have you deceived us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you are living within our land? Now therefore, you are cursed, and you shall never cease being slaves, both hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God (Joshua 9:14-16, 19-20, 22-23).”
It’s amazing how quickly Joshua laid blame on them as though he did nothing wrong. If he had only sought Yahweh as he had done every other time, he would have known supernaturally that the people were acting deceptively. It’s a common practice of the nature of the flesh that, no matter how much we love God, we place blame on others for our suffering and shame. The flesh never wants to be accountable for its own error. It is easier to point out and blame the wrongdoing of another. This is what transpires when marriages go awry; we blame God and our spouse never considering our own culpability in the matter.
Even though the punishment for the Gibeonites was to become slaves to the Israelites, the Israelites forever had to protect them because of the covenant that they entered. In chapter ten, the Gibeonites cried out to Joshua to come from Gilgal to protect them from the Amorites and Joshua was obligated to go. God did, of course, take what Satan meant for evil and turned it for good (Romans 8:28).
Joshua understood the impact of a vow no matter how much he wanted to break it. Had he broken the vow, his victory at Gibeon would not have been what it came to be. Broken vows are a very serious matter. God can turn it for good in the long run, but I implore us all to make right decisions before entering any vow. Let’s look further at Jephthah and the ramifications of his hasty vow.
Then the Spirit of Yahweh came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to Yahweh: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be Yahweh’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and Yahweh gave them into his hands…when Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter…she was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to Yahweh that I cannot break.” “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to Yahweh. Do to me just as you promised, now that Yahweh has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.” “You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin. From this comes the Israelite tradition that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite (Judges 11:29-40).
All I can say to this is situation is, “WOW!” It’s interesting to me that Jephthah’s response when he saw her was, “You have brought me down…” as if somehow his foolish vow was his daughter’s fault; he did much like Joshua. In this case, the daughter was innocent in the matter, unlike the Gibeonites.
I must point out something often overlooked. The daughter must have been very close to God given her response to her imminent death. She did not go into a panic, nor did she come against her father, or his foolish vow. What she did do was show respect to her father and to God; her concern was Yahweh and the vow made to Him.
Furthermore, look at her odd request. She did not want to go for two months with her friends to “party” nor did she want to go to grieve her upcoming death by fire. She simply wanted to spend two months with her friends to mourn never having the opportunity to marry. This is odd to me. Because we know she must have understood God and the intense value God puts on a vow, she equally understood the beauty and value of marriage – holy matrimony.
“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to Yahweh.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by Heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the Earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil (Matthew 5:33-37).
Prayer: Father, I come before You in the name of Your holy Son, Jesus. Father, teach me Your ways, O Lord, that I will be slow to speak and quick to listen. Place a watch over my mouth that I may not sin against You. Stir discernment within me that I hear Your direction prior to making a wrong vow internally or externally. I bless You, O Lord, that You make every curse in my life a blessing through my love for You. I trust that eventually all things work for good for those who love You. I vow my love for You so that I will walk a life of blessings in the Kingdom of God instead of curses set against the Kingdom of God. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight. Amen.