Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, was a call to God’s people to return to a life of spiritual holiness in anticipation of greater things to come. Part of this calling was God’s rebuke upon habitual sins that plagued the people. Included in this was rampant divorce.
Divorce is always a touchy subject because of how many people it has affected throughout the years. Most of us have someone we hold dear who has been through a divorce if we ourselves have not experienced it. The Bible does give some allowance for divorce in which the one who is hurt is not guilty of sin (such as in cases of adultery or abandonment); but this allowance is grace in a sin-corrupted world and not the way things are meant to be.
Divorce is never presented as a positive in the Bible. We see this in Malachi 2 as well as a reason to fight against it as much as possible (making gracious allowances, still, when necessary). Simply put, marriage is not just the joining of two people but three.
Did God not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? (Malachi 2:15)
Genesis 2 speaks about how a man and woman, coming together as husband and wife, become one flesh—this a reference to sex as well as the spiritual, emotional, and physical union of being a new family unity. Malachi informs us that in addition to this, especially in context of his people, God gives his Spirit to the union. Malachi doesn’t go into details, and not every Bible translation states this the same way (it is a segment of scripture notoriously hard for scholars to translate), so we can’t push too many details here.
But whatever the specifics of the couple’s union with God’s Spirit through marriage, it is clear that God intends the family relationship to have a central place in worship and discipleship. Malachi further wrote: “And what as the one God seeking? Godly offspring.”
In Deuteronomy 6, God had commanded through the law for parents to teach their children about him using scripture and other stories of our faith history. With the provision of God’s Spirit, this is not simply a command but something God empowers his people to do.
A godly family, then, led by a husband and wife devoted to God and to one another, serve as a source of light in the dark world. After the time that Jesus spent on the earth, Paul went so far to write that marriage represents the relationship between Jesus and his people, the church (Ephesians 5:25-33). Marriage, God-focused and at its best, provides a picture of the gospel to our children and to the world around us. This is why Malachi called the people to remember their covenant union and the inclusion of God’s Spirit and to combat their own propensity to break their union.
So let us work to strengthen our marriages and show the world God’s love through them as we remember that God is in the union he designed. Marriage is one plus one plus one.
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.
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