Divorce — Part One
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Divorce — Part One

Mark 10:1–9  (ID: 2822)

Is divorce permissible? This question is not unique to our time. In fact, the Pharisees approached Jesus with the same concern. Alistair Begg addresses this sensitive topic by examining the creation ordinance found in the first chapters of Genesis. God made man and woman and established how things should work in the world He made—including marriage. When we turn our back on the Creator’s design, moral, psychological, social, and spiritual implications will inevitably follow.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Mark, Volume 5

A Different Kind of Kingdom Mark 10:1–11:11 Series ID: 14105

Encore 2012

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 25903

Sermon Transcript: Print

We turn this morning to the Gospel of Mark and to chapter 10, where we’ll read from verse 1 to verse 12. If you would like to read from the Bibles that are around you in the pews, then you’ll find this reading on page 715. And I encourage you to turn there.

Mark 10:1:

“Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.

“Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’

“‘What did Moses command you?’ he replied.

“They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’

“‘It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,’ Jesus replied. ‘But at the beginning of creation, God “made them male and female.” “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. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’

“When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.’”

Thanks be to God for his Word.

We pray together before we look at this passage:

Father, we thank you this morning that the Holy Spirit is the one who illumines the printed page to us, who takes the blinders off our eyes, who conducts that divine dialogue with our souls where we’re able to look beyond and listen beyond the voice of a mere man and hear from you. So open our eyes that we may behold wonderful things in your Word. For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

In the course of pastoral ministry over a number of years now—some thirty-five years—I have, on more than one occasion, listened as a man has sat with me and spoken along these lines: “I must divorce my wife because I have fallen in love with another woman, and we are perfect for each other. I made a mistake in marrying my present wife. I am so much in love with this other woman, it must be right.” To which I reply, “On the contrary, it must be wrong, because you already have a wife.”

In returning to our studies in the Gospel of Mark, we discover in this section that Jesus is fielding a question regarding divorce, and he is providing instruction concerning the nature of marriage. We turn to this particular passage of Scripture in the course of our studies—in case some of you are visiting and wondering whether there is some particular reason for these verses on this day. I’m sure there is, but none of which I am personally aware. We have been studying Mark, we’ve taken a break, and it’s time to return.

And we come to these verses at a point in our nation’s history when the institution of marriage is rejected by many and is in the process of being reengineered by some. It is routinely regarded in its traditional, historical form as nothing more than an outdated, outmoded, impractical idea. In fact, on a website yesterday, when I was just checking these things out, I came across a for-and-against website, and one of the for-and-against positions that was established was simply this: “Marriage is an outmoded, outdated, impractical idea. Vote for or against this motion.” And apparently, there were significant numbers who were happy to vote marriage completely off the page.

Now, there’s nothing new in this, where we are at this point in time. Those of us who’ve lived for any length of time—particularly those of us who are part of the Baby Boomers—can recognize that the seeds of much that we now experience in terms of the ugly fruit of the disruption of the marriage bonds has its foundation much deeper than the ’60s, but the ’60s gave expression to it. Part of my summer reading has been a book by Francis Beckett entitled What Did the Baby Boomers Ever Do for Us? And the subtitle is Why the Children of the Sixties Lived the Dream and Failed the Future.[1] “Lived the dream and failed the future.” What he’s actually suggesting is that all of those great liberal revolutionary concepts that marked the ’60s generation have now been swallowed up as a result of the hippies becoming conservative, both politically and economically—and, in some cases, socially. And so he says they have actually failed the future, because although they lived the dream, the dream has died somewhere along the way.

That would not be my thesis. I haven’t completed the book yet, but I would say that many of the seeds of the ’60s are about us, and that the ideas and the concepts that were so quickly and freely espoused and embraced at that time are around us in their ugly form. I remember fairly clearly, and I keep notes fairly accurately, and so I can quote to you from Jill Tweedie, writing in the Guardian in the mid-’60s, ’cause I tore it out and kept it. And it was so revolutionary to me that it’s lodged in my mind; I don’t need to go find it in my files. She wrote an article in the Guardian entitled “When Marriage Is Just a Cage.” “When Marriage Is Just a Cage.” And in the course of that, she concluded by saying, “So I hope, now, that it will be outside the bonds of Christian marriage that we are able to discover for the first time what true love is all about.”[2] In other words, if we can just get beyond all of this archaic stuff, all of this restrictive stuff, then in our discoveries of freedom, and of free love, and so on, then we will be able to make great gains.

Now, she was writing at a time when much of the contemporary hymnody—the secular hymnody—was reinforcing the same kind of thing. And some of you will have been a fan, as I was, of Joni Mitchell, and you will perhaps recall Joni Mitchell’s song “My Old Man,” who was “a walker in the park and a dancer in the dark,” who, when he went away, wrote Joni Mitchell,

But when you’re gone
Me and those lonely blues collide
The bed’s too big
The frying pan’s too wide.

Poetry like that, it just goes in my head and never goes away. But four times her refrain came—did you remember the refrain? “We don’t need no piece of paper from the city hall keepin’ us tied and true.”[3] “We don’t need this stuff. Marriage is simply the legitimization of what we’ve chosen to do. And we’ll be able to get by without any of that; we don’t need that.” Well, whether she needed it or she didn’t need it, from her perspective, she didn’t remain “tied and true” for very long. I don’t say that for cheap gain.

So that period of time, when you fast-forward fifty years or so, you discover where we are today. And when we conduct weddings here at Parkside, almost without exception, in our preamble to the wedding service we point out to all who have gathered that marriage, which is ordained by God, is not to be entered upon lightly or carelessly, but thoughtfully, with reverence for God, with due consideration of the purposes for which it was established by God. And then we articulate three of those purposes: One, the companionship that husband and wife ought to give to each other through life. Two, the gift of children from God to be brought up and trained to love and obey God. And three, the welfare of human society, which can be strong and happy only when the marriage bond is held in honor. That, then, is not simply a personal issue, but it is a cultural issue, it is a societal issue. When a culture turns its back on the Creator’s design, there are moral, psychological, social, spiritual implications that inevitably follow.  

I was going to bring something here, just as an illustration for some of the young people that are here with us this morning because of the Sunday School, and I thought, “No, don’t do it, because you’ll get yourself so tied up in knots that the benefit will be outweighed by how pathetic you are at it.” But what I was going to bring was a piece of equipment and the instruction manual. And I was going to take a moment to point out how if you pay attention to the instruction manual, then you’ll be able to, you know, construct the thing accordingly, and if you don’t, you’ll get yourself in trouble. But then I realized, “I’ll get myself in trouble either way, and so the illustration will break down.”

But it doesn’t break down here. When we turn our back on God’s creative purposes, then there are ramifications. And I would defy anybody—anybody—to take the newspapers of this weekend, to take the magazines that are on offer to us this week, to take the material that is up on the Web, and be unwilling to acknowledge that there is a societal chaos in our culture that is, in large measure, directly tied to the unwillingness of men and women to do what God says.

And so what we have in this instruction in Mark 10 is another opportunity for us to put into practice the exhortation of Paul at the beginning of Romans 12, when after he has laid down the basis of freedom in the Lord Jesus Christ, the nature of salvation, and so on, he then says, “So this is how you should live in light of that.” And you remember he says, “And I don’t want you to allow the world around you to ‘squeeze you into its own mould,’[4] but I want you instead to have your minds transformed—transformed in thinking.”

Our engagement in the routine of life is to be marked by holiness, by the fact that we are not as we once were. We have been set apart. We have been changed.

Now, so often those verses at the beginning of Romans 12 have been taught in such a way as to suggest that what the Christian is to do is somehow or another live in an otherworldly dimension. But that’s not what Paul is saying at all. Paul is really saying that the Christian is to be marked by a holy worldliness. That is h-o-l-y. There’s a paradox in that, isn’t there? So that our engagement in the routine of life is to be marked by holiness, by the fact that we are not as we once were. We have been set apart. We have been changed. We are different. And as a result of that difference, everything is viewed from a different perspective.

That’s why we love the quote from C. S. Lewis, isn’t it? We quote it all the time: “I believe in Christianity,” said C. S. Lewis, “as I believe [in the rising of the sun], not [simply] because I [can] see it but because by it, I [can] see everything else.”[5] So that the Christian perspective on the world, on science, on the arts, and here in this instance, on marriage itself, is constrained in a vastly different way than that which is represented in a culture that has rejected the Maker’s instructions.

Now, with all that by way of introduction, let us come to the first verse of chapter 10 and notice that here we are, just some fifty-two verses away from Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. Mark tells us that the ministry of Jesus in Galilee is now over. He has moved “into the region of Judea … across the Jordan,” and once again we discover that “crowds of people came to him.” “Crowds of people came to him.” They didn’t come just in dribs and drabs. He often went to the individuals, but it seems as though people came not so much as individuals as they came in vast numbers. And one of the lovely things in reading the Gospels is to see the way in which people were attracted to Christ. They were attracted to the fact that he spoke with clarity, that he spoke in a way that was understandable. It was wonderfully clear. That his talks were not like some of the boring talks of the religious leaders. That it was not mumbo jumbo. That he didn’t pull his punches. That he said things that were so clear, so compelling. And so, many times the Pharisees were muttering under their breath about what he was doing, but the crowds were coming, and here we’re told that they “came to him, and … he taught them.” “He taught them.”

Now, those of us who’ve been reading Mark know that from the very beginning, he was teaching them. Yes, there were signs that accompanied his teaching: he healed the sick and so on. But you remember, after that first amazing encounter with the demonic people and with those who were sick, when the disciples had come to him and said, “Jesus, everybody’s looking for you now,” he’d said, “We’ve got to leave here and go somewhere else.” And they must have thought that was very strange. But he said, “I need to go somewhere else to teach the gospel, because that is why I have come.”[6] In other words, he says, “I didn’t come to do miracles. These miracles are merely a sign of the kingdom of God and who I am.” And you remember what he had said: “The time [is fulfilled]. … The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”[7] Very straightforward.

The people who knew their Old Testament understood what he was saying. In other words, “I haven’t appeared out of nowhere,” he says. “I am now here in the economy and the unfolding plan of God. The prophets have spoken of the Messiah who was to come, and here I am. I’m not here just to tickle your ears, to encourage you to become little religious people. I am here to say to you, you need to do an about-turn. For that’s what repentance is. By nature, you’re going your own way. By nature, you’re making your own plans. By nature, you’re redesigning your own agendas. Now I’m asking you to have a change of heart, a change of mind, a change of direction. I’m asking you to believe the good news that is embodied in me.” And one and another, men and women then and now, and today and here at Parkside, are hearing that message, understanding who the Messiah is, are turning from all that represents of our sinful rebellion and disinterest in him, and are turning to believe this glorious good news that there is forgiveness in him, that there is freedom in him, that there is a future in him, and so on. And if you’ve never done that and you want to find out about it, then when our service ends, through the doors to my right, to your left, you’ll find folks that can help you and guide you and give you literature in that regard.

Well, in verse 1, the crowd is coming to him, and in verse 2, the Pharisees are coming for him. They’re coming for him: “Some Pharisees came and tested him.” In other words, they weren’t coming to do simply investigation. They were coming to see if they could catch him off-guard. They were trying to catch him out.

Now, let me just point out to you that this is routine on the part of these individuals. You turn back a couple of pages to 8:11, and there you discover “the Pharisees came and began to question Jesus.” And here’s the word again: “To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.” “To test him.” That little verb there, “to test,” is an interesting verse. The first time we read it in Mark’s Gospel, actually, is in 1:13: “And [Jesus] was in the desert [for] forty days, being tempted”—or “tested”—“by Satan.” It’s the same word. Same word. When you go to chapter 12—and I’ll just point this out; we needn’t belabor this—but 12:13: “Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus,” notice, “to catch him in his words.” “To catch him in his words.”

There’s all the difference between the person who comes and asks you a question—if you’re a teacher in school—who asks you a question because they have a genuine inquiry and they need to discover something, and the person who’s just a complete pain in the neck, they’re just trying to take up your time or prove that you’re not as clever a teacher as you thought you were. That’s the latter approach, the approach of the Pharisees. That’s why in 12:15, it says that Jesus knew their hypocrisy: “‘Why are you trying to trap me?’ he asked.” “Why are you trying to trap me?” It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Because it is the record of religious people using the Word of God in attempt to undermine the identity and the work of the Son of God.

Did you get that? Religious people using the Word of God to, if they could, undermine the very work of the Son of God. Not a lot has changed, has it? And people say to me, “Well, Mr. So-and-So is a very religious person, you know. He refers to the Bible all the time.” I don’t doubt it for a minute. But to what end? To what end is the Bible being employed? Is it being employed in order to set forward who Jesus is and what he’s done—the truths of his resurrection, the reality of his return, the nature of his atonement? Or is Mr. Religious, or Mrs. Religious, or Miss Religious, simply seeking to bring the Bible to bear upon us in such a way that they might tempt and test and undermine and seek to disprove that which is there clearly in its pages? Because, remember—and that’s why I took you to chapter 1 of Mark—remember that the roots of this activity lie with the Evil One himself. And in Matthew’s Gospel, where you have the record of the testing or the tempting of Jesus in the wilderness, when you read it for your leisure in chapter 4 of Matthew, you discover that the Evil One is doing exactly that. He uses the Bible—he uses the Word of God—to try and trip up the Son of God.

Loved ones, don’t be so naive as to think that just because somebody makes reference to the Bible that there is an orthodoxy about that! The Bible speaks of those who “wrest” the Scriptures “[to] their own destruction.”[8] And these Pharisees come now to Jesus not because they have an honest inquiry about which they long for an answer but because they have an agenda of their own which they’re seeking to establish. And their testing of Jesus comes by way of a specific question. And the question is recorded for us at the end of verse 2: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” It’s a pretty straightforward question, isn’t it? And it’ll take us until this evening to really get to Jesus’ complete answer to this, which comes when it is reasked by his disciples in verses 10–12.

“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Now, the background to this question needs to be understood. In Jesus’ day, there were largely two groups who expressed their convictions concerning divorce—that is, two teaching groups, two Jewish groups. One group was very liberal, permitting divorce for any and every reason, and the other group was far more conservative and strict when it came to the issues of divorce. So these Pharisees come and say, “Let’s try and get him to commit to one side or the other, and that way, if he goes with the liberal group, then he’ll be out with the conservative group, and vice versa.”

Jesus, of course, knows. That’s why, later on, he’s aware of their hypocrisy. There’s no reason to believe that he isn’t aware of it here as well. And so he turns the tables, doesn’t he? Verse 3: “Let me ask you a question,” he says. “What did Moses command you? What’s it say in the Old Testament? What did the prophet Moses have to say about this?”

Well, verse 4, they reply: “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” He provided pieces of paper so that a man could say, “As long as I have the correct form filled out properly, then I can go ahead and divorce this lady.” But what we need to understand is that Moses didn’t institute that process in order to make it easy to be divorced. But he instituted that process in order to regularize and to control the ensuing chaos which was resulting from the fact that the religious individuals were beginning to say, “If my wife burns the toast, I can divorce her. If she fails to do this in the way that I want, I can divorce her.”

And that’s why Jesus goes on to point out that it was on account of the hardness of the people’s hearts that Moses wrote the law. Because they had hardened hearts to God’s purposes and plans, because they were unprepared to accept the nature of love within the framework of the covenant of marriage that God had intended, because their primary interest, apparently, was in seeing how far they could go and yet still remain within the letter of the law, Moses responded in that way.  

Now, what we need to understand, or we’ll go wrong, is this: that these certificates were actually for the purpose of prevention, but the individuals viewed them as the key expression of permission.  Permission! So it was easy, as long as you could get the piece of paper. So if “we don’t need no piece of paper from the city hall” to make marriage, marriage, these guys were saying, “All we need is a piece of paper from the city hall. If we can get that bit of paper signed properly, then we can be out of the door and on our way to the next adventure with somebody else.”

Sounds kinda contemporary, doesn’t it? It sounds a lot like what we’ve experienced in the last thirty years in the United States, in the radical change in the civil dimensions of the nature of marriage. I say to you again: when a culture turns its back on the work of the creative handiwork of God, then the implications are unavoidable.

So you’ll notice what Jesus does. He doesn’t get buried at this point in an in-depth discussion as to the validity or invalid nature of these certificates. He does what everybody ought to do when the question of divorce is raised, and that is, he takes it back to first principles. And he says, “Let me talk to you about how it was from the beginning. Let’s make sure that none of us misunderstand the nature of marriage itself.” And so he quotes to them from the first couple of chapters of the Bible. And you may like to turn here, just to ensure that it is actually there where I’m suggesting. Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” All right? We are, again, at the end of all these years of Darwinian thought, and it is impossible to read your Bible without recognizing that this stands up and says, “Oh no, Mr. Darwin, oh no.” And in 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and [his] mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

“What did Moses do?”

“He gave out certificates.”

“Very interesting,” said Jesus, “but let’s just think about how it was from the beginning, at the beginning of creation.”

Incidentally, for those of you who are interested in fiddling around with the first eleven chapters of Genesis, who think it’s tremendously intellectual of you to suggest that what we have here is something other than history, do not miss this: that Jesus does not quote this as an allegory. He quotes it as factual. Do not miss this: that when Paul argues in Romans chapter 5 concerning the nature of what it means to be in Adam and to be in Christ, he is not arguing from some mythological or allegorical material; he is arguing from the historical evidence the Bible provides of the nature of creation itself. And the activity of the Evil One, from the very beginning, was always to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of people, beginning with Eve, concerning God and his revelation and his purposes.

That’s why it should be no surprise to us that we, as sinful men and women, sin having clouded our understanding, come to the doctrine of creation thinking wrongly, come to the doctrine of marriage thinking incorrectly—predisposed not to say, “Oh yes!” but predisposed to say, “Oh no!” Predisposed to seek to tamper with, to tinker with, to reengineer things, in order that it might be well for us.

“So,” says Jesus, “let’s go back to basics.” Marriage is not a human invention. Marriage is not a social convention. Marriage is not something drummed up in time to help men and women make sense of their existence. Marriage is a creation ordinance—a creation ordinance. So that at the very beginning of time, when God makes man and woman, he establishes for them exactly how things are to be in the world that he has made. And since he is the Maker, he has every legitimate right to explain to his creation how they work and why they should act and live in this way.

Now, we can’t unpack it all now, because our time is almost gone. But if you look at the quote there from Genesis 1 and 2 (“‘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”), there are at least four things that are obvious in this. Number one, that marriage is exclusive. It is exclusive. It involves a man and his wife.  It involves a man and a woman. It doesn’t involve two women or two men. It involves a man and a woman. Even human physiology makes that clear to the average thirteen-year-old boy. He’s got it figured out. It is exclusive; it is heterosexual.

Marriage disrupts—in a wonderful way—the relationships that have previously existed in the family unit from which the husband and wife emerge.

Secondly, it is disruptive. Disruptive? Yes! It disrupts—in a wonderful way—the relationships that have previously existed in the family unit from which these two individuals emerge.  Right? So you have a mom and a dad. I’m the dad, there’s a mom, I have children. We’re very happy together. They send me notes, we go on vacation together, and everything else. And then one day, some chap shows up, and the unfolding drama is horribly disruptive. No matter how nice the fellow is, he’s basically saying, “Can I disrupt your family? I wanna take this girl, and I wanna live with her, and sleep with her, and have children with her.”

“What? You can’t do that with my girl! You’re not gonna do that with my girl.”

Well, it’s disruptive. “For this reason a man will leave”—and part of the reason for messed-up marriages in their infancy is because the leaving never happens.  The fella’s a mommy’s boy, or the girl is always tied, always phoning up. You can’t do that. That instruction is for another time.

It’s exclusive. It’s disruptive. Thirdly, it’s permanent. It’s permanent. There’s no “slip out the back, Jack.” There’s no “make a new plan, Stan.” There’s no “need to be coy, Roy. Just get yourself free.” There’s no “[slip] on the bus, Gus.”[9] No! There’s not. That’s why it’s interesting, isn’t it: in the marriage service, you’re never asked how you feel. No one ever asks how you feel. When people write their vows today—young people come to me and say, “I’d like to write my vows.” I tell them, “No. If you want to write your vows, do that in your honeymoon, but you’re not doing it where I’m involved. It’s too embarrassing. Because I don’t want to hear how you feel about her. Not in public, at least. And furthermore, how you feel about her is irrelevant. We’re having a marriage here. All the questions are volitional: “Do you, do you, do you? Will you, will you, will you?” They’re all promises. They’re all expressions of the will: “For better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness, health, love, cherish, till death us do part.” There is no back door in the plan and purpose of God.

It’s exclusive, it’s disruptive, it’s permanent, and it’s sexual. They “will become one flesh.” They’re “no longer two, but one.” They’ve been joined together. You see, that’s why the public, social, civil dimension of marriage is so crucial. Sleeping with somebody is not marriage. Sleeping with somebody is an intrusion in the marital bonds, but it doesn’t make a marriage. Because marriage is all of these things: exclusive, disruptive, social, societal, civil, and everything else. And sexual.  

That is why, incidentally, God says that the privileges of sexual activity, the benefits of procreation, are set solely, exclusively, within the context of a heterosexual, monogamous, permanent relationship.  Did you get that? Set within the context of a heterosexual, monogamous, permanent relationship. Why? Because God is a cosmic killjoy? Because God is interested in making this experience as miserable as he possibly can? Enslaving us in a cage? Robbing us of the potential of real freedom and real love and real enjoyment? Not for a moment! Not for a moment.

By the time they got to Woodstock, they were half a million strong. There it was! There it is. I think it’s fair to say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And that’s why when you take sex out of the framework of heterosexual, monogamous permanency, you make a mockery of it. It’s absurd. It was never meant to be. That’s why it can never satisfy. Because that one dimension of that one-flesh union cannot exist on its own. It is set within the framework of a psychosomatic, social, spiritual, intellectual… every bit of what that means.

As one cynic put it in the ’60s, “If you want to know what a man means when he says he needs a woman, just look at the empty cigarette packets as you walk up this pavement.” And then he said, “No one keeps the packet when they’ve smoked the cigarettes.”

Roger McGough, the Liverpool poet, put it like this:

The Act of Love lies somewhere
between the belly and the mind
[and] I[’ve] lost the love sometime ago
[So] I’ve only the act to grind.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

High on bedroom darkness
we endure the pantomime
[the ship] that [goes] bang in the night
runs aground on the sands of time.

So in the morning,

it’s cornflakes and … goodbye
another notch on the headboard
another day wondering why.

[Because] the Act of Love lies somewhere
between the belly and the mind
[And] I lost the love sometime ago
[So] I’ve only the act to grind.[10]

Thank God that we have a God who is able to restore the years that even the locusts have eaten.[11] Thank God that we have a God of second, third, fourth, and fifth chances. Thank God that we have a God of grace. But in all of that, let us not mitigate in any way or fashion at all the absolute clarity of the instruction of Jesus: “Let me,” he says, “talk to you about how it was from the beginning.”

And it is in this realm that you will find freedom, and that you will find fullness, and that you will find fun. Fun! Can I just ask—not a show of hands—Mr. Married, are you having fun? Having fun? “Sir, we’re involved in Christian marriage. So no, there’s no fun in our marriage. There hasn’t been for some time.”

We’re not going to finish with a song, but I’m going to finish with a quote from a song. One of our friends, Paul Overstreet, wrote a song that contains these words:

Well, the guys that I work with they work real hard,
And they like to have a good time;
At the end of the day it’s time to play,
And they like to go and unwind.

And they make a lot of jokes, and they laugh
And they poke fun at me ’cause I don’t stay long,
And they can’t understand why a married man
                        is in a hurry to ever go home. 

And I just tell ’em all the fun that I’m ever gonna need I’ve got waiting at home for me;
And she likes to dance and she loves romance
And she throws a great pa-ar-ty.
Now there’s never any dull moments around here,
Something’s always a-going on;
And all the fun that a man could want
I’ve got waiting for me at home.[12]

For those of you who are on the knife-edge of separation and divorce, let me give you one word: If you will, first of all, bow down before Almighty God and admit your need of him and promise to expend 50 percent of the energy that you are presently expending on trying to break your marriage up, then the delights will more than outweigh all the disappointments. Because God is no one’s debtor. And he created us in this way, for this purpose: for his glory, and for our good.

And then the disciples said, when they got him on his own, “Yeah, but what about the divorce thing?” And so we’ll have to come back to that this evening.

Let us pray:

The great Creator is the one who re-creates us. When we come to him in our brokenness, fallenness, mess, and disappointment, he is the one who restores, who redeems, who restrains, and who renews.

Gracious God, we thank you for the Bible. We thank you that we can go home and read it to see if these things are so. We thank you that you, the great Creator, is the one who re-creates us, so that when we come to you in our brokenness and our fallenness and our mess and in our disappointment, that you are the one who restores, who redeems, who restrains, and who renews.  

May the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God the Father, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one, now and forevermore. Amen.

[1] Francis Beckett, What Did the Baby Boomers Ever Do for Us?: Why the Children of the Sixties Lived the Dream and Failed the Future (London: Biteback, 2010).

[2] Jill Tweedie, “When Marriage Is Just a Cage,” The Guardian, 1976. Paraphrased.

[3] Joni Mitchell, “My Old Man” (1970). Lyrics lightly altered.

[4] Romans 12:2 (Phillips).

[5] C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (1949; repr., New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 140.

[6] See Mark 1:37–38.

[7] Mark 1:15 (NIV 1984).

[8] 2 Peter 3:16 (KJV).

[9] Paul Simon, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” (1975).

[10] Roger McGough, “The Act of Love,” in Selected Poems (London: Penguin Books, 2006).

[11] See Joel 2:25.

[12] Paul Overstreet and Dunn Taylor, “All the Fun” (1989). Lyrics lightly altered.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.