At 22, I entered into marriage with all of my preconceived, idealistic, dreamy, romantic thoughts of what married life was going to be like. On that day before God and those dearest to us, Landon and I entered into covenant relationship with each other. For most of us on our wedding day, I would say we don’t understand the immensity of those vows. Yes, we might understand that we are entering into a lifetime with our spouse, but only when life turns rocky, we’ve been offended or hurt, when we have to work through pain, when tragedy strikes or people change… do those vows actually hold weight. If we profess Jesus as Lord of our life, then our marriages need to look the way God intended. When we stop truly seeking and knowing God, it’s really hard to do the things that honor and please Him.
In the next section of Malachi (2:10-16), God’s people are called out because they have been unfaithful to their marriage covenant. The Israelite men are leaving their wives and marrying foreign women for economic advantage. These new wives worship other God’s and have turned the men’s hearts away from the true, living God. When God gave the law to Moses, He gave His people specific requirements for marriage, and they chose to disobey. (Exodus 34:11-16, Deuteronomy 7:3-4) Then, the men, weeping and wailing, come before the Lord asking for help and blessing, and He refuses their offerings. They ask God, “Why?” (Malachi, 2:13) The problem is they have lost their fear of God. They don’t understand why He wouldn’t be pleased with them. They don’t see their sin enough to ask for forgiveness, and so their offerings no longer bring pleasure to God.
Marriage is a beautiful example of God’s covenant relationship with His chosen people. God, as Israel’s loving husband, provides her with everything she needs for the best possible way of life: land, food, water, and security. God’s love isn’t based on a feeling that changes, but on a covenant choice. He continuously chooses Israel; yet, like an adulterous spouse, Israel chooses to turn away. Our vows are a promise to love in a life-giving, sacrificial kind of way that is a daily choice no matter how we feel that day.
If you look at the magazines in the check out isle at the grocery store or if you’ve watched the latest season finale of The Bachelorette, we see how the world views marriage. Someone is always getting divorced, being unfaithful, or marrying someone new. Marriage is a physical union that is the joining of “one flesh” by God. (Mark 10:8) At every wedding, God is an unseen “witness” (Malachi 2:14). Our vows are a big deal! This doesn’t mean we have perfect marriages without conflict, struggle, or issues; however, it does mean we can’t quit just because it gets hard. One in every two marriages ends in divorce, which suggests that those vows are merely words we say. Warren Wiersbe says, “Divorce for reasons other than those given in scripture grieve the heart of God.” (Wiersbe, 1528)
If you are not yet married, you are still called to be faithful to the covenant of marriage you will one day enter into. Even if you don’t know your spouse yet, you can honor the marriage you will one day have by being faithful to that person. Sex outside of marriage is never honoring to God. We are far too casual when it comes to this topic today. Sex is a beautiful thing; however, God designed it to be inside the marriage covenant. I don’t know why we seem to have turned a blind eye to this or deem it ok now. We have become so desensitized because it’s everywhere we look. If we say Jesus is Lord, every part of our life needs to be honoring Him.
Let’s face it. We have all sinned against God in one-way or other. We are human. If you’ve been divorced, had sex outside of marriage, been unfaithful to your spouse physically or emotionally, there is forgiveness. The beautiful thing about God is that there is nothing He can’t redeem and make new again. Just like the Israelites, the problem arises when we don’t see the need to repent. When our hearts are so far from God, we don’t see the need to just say I’m sorry.
We need a faith community to surround us if we’re going to have healthy marriages. I love that one commentary shares that the constant use of the word ‘we’ in Malachi gives it a communal feel. Our Western culture sees marriage and fidelity as private matters; however, it is the “interrelatedness” of a faith community that can affirm, strengthen, and support people in their efforts to live in faithfulness.* We need friends to talk to, pray for us, call us out, and hold us accountable when issues arise in our marriage.
Malachi ends his message on marriage with the words ‘be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.’ (Malachi 2:16) When our marriages are struggling, it affects all other aspects of our life down to our children and the people closest to us. We have an enemy that loves division because a house divided cannot stand. (Mark 3:25) Satan would love to separate and bring division to the most important human relationship in our life. We need to always be on our guard: Do everything you can to protect and honor your marriage.
*Schuller, Eileen M. Malachi. The New Interpreter’s Bible VII, edited by Michael E. Lawrence. Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1996.
Wiersbe, Warren. Malachi. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: Old Testament, Published by David C. Cook. Colorado Springs CO, 2007.