My Will or God’s Will

My Will or God’s Will | Mark 10:1-12

“He set out from there and went to the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Then crowds converged on Him again and, as He usually did, He began teaching them once more. Some Pharisees approached Him to test Him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? ” He replied to them, “What did Moses command you? ” They said, “Moses permitted us to write divorce papers and send her away.” But Jesus told them, “He wrote this command for you because of the hardness of your hearts. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined 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, man must not separate.” Now in the house the disciples questioned Him again about this matter. And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. Also, if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:1-12 HCSB)

Have you ever looked at something and completely misunderstood what you saw? How about something you’ve heard? To be honest, this happens to me quite often. I’ve mentioned before that I have some hearing loss and really struggle to understand when there is any kind of background noise. There have been multiple times when my wife, Tina, says something and I don’t hear her clearly and I misunderstand her words. Sometimes it can be comical, but mostly it is just plain dangerous. She has pretty good aim and I don’t dodge as quickly as I used to.

In our relationship with God, we often misunderstand, too. We misunderstand what God said or we simply don’t like what He said, so we choose to ignore or disobey Him. That’s also a very dangerous situation. Disobedience is not only dangerous because of God’s wrath and judgment, but also because sin is destructive to us and our lives. In this week’s focal passage, we get schooled on what God thinks of divorce and how Jesus responds to those who would question or disregard Him and His Word.

I want to begin this study with a simple reminder. We are all guilty of sin and all in need of God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness. The fact that we are going to delve into a very touchy and emotionally charged subject does not negate the reality of God’s mercy or our need for His mercy – it EMPHASIZES it. The subject of divorce is emotionally charged because it touches at the very heart of who we are and what God desires for us and in us – a relationship at the deepest physical level a human can experience that models the relationship God desires with us at the deepest spiritual level a human can experience. One more reminder, to be a recipient of God’s mercy we must be willing to give mercy to others – our spouse, too.

First, let me set the stage for what we are about to study. Jesus and the disciples have left Capernaum and are headed towards Jerusalem. Some scholars question Mark’s geographical references but Jesus didn’t always take the most obvious or expected route for a particular journey or destination and He still doesn’t. He took the route that fulfilled God’s purpose or plan and the journey He takes us on is for that same expressed reason – God’s purpose and plan. So, Jesus heads into an area where Herod reigns and where John the Baptizer confronted him regarding His marriage, divorce and remarriage. The stage is set, the trap is laid and Jesus is walking right into it. At least, that’s what Satan and these Pharisees seem to think.

So, Jesus arrives in that area and a crowd soon forms and He begins to teach them. A group of Pharisees seize the opportunity and approach Him and ask, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus responds, “What did Moses command you?” Jesus asks them to reference the Mosaic law for their answer and they correctly respond, “Moses permitted us to write divorce papers and send her away.” The Old Testament does not authorize divorce, but it acknowledges the reality of what was happening and sets limits upon it. Their response clearly references Deuteronomy 24:1-4 where Moses gives instructions regarding this issue. Is it lawful? Well, Moses permitted us to write papers of divorce for this reason and in this way.

The Pharisees seem to acknowledge that while this passage doesn’t exactly give them specific commandments from God regarding these things, Moses acknowledged the reality of the problem and tried to establish some guidelines. Better than nothing, right? Well, God hadn’t exactly given them nothing regarding this issue. They just didn’t like what He had given them and Jesus hits at the very “heart” of the issue – “Moses did this because of the hardness of your hearts.”

Hardness of heart. Moses established parameters regarding divorce due to the hardness of the people’s heart towards God and each other. One of the hardest things for us to do is to apply the truth of God’s Word, His mercy for sin and grace towards others into the most intimate of relationships we have – marriage and family. We are often willing to be more gracious and forgiving towards total strangers than we are towards our spouse and immediate family members. “For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14 HCSB) Yet, your closest neighbor is the person lying next to you in your marriage bed and those sitting with you around the family dinner table.

Then, Jesus does something that I don’t think anyone expected. He calls the Pharisees to consider God’s original intent for man and for marriage “laws” that supersede the law of Moses. Yes, they supersede, overrule and outweigh the law of Moses because they are the law of God written into the very fabric of creation and on man’s heart and not just on tablets of stone given by Moses to the Israelites. THIS is God’s design and intent for all mankind and not just the Israelites.

The Pharisees wanted to talk about divorce but Jesus wants to talk about God’s design and intent. They wanted to talk about what they wanted and believed they needed – God’s blessing on their desires to divorce – but Jesus wanted to talk about what God wants and demands in them – a desire to pursue God and His will above all else. Let me state this in very simple terms: You cannot achieve God’s desires for your life by pursuing your desires for your own life. You cannot do the will of God while fulfilling your own will.

In essence, this is the issue we all face. This isn’t just a lesson for a bunch of divorce-focused Pharisees and irrelevant to the rest of us. These Pharisees wanted concessions with God’s Word because it was in conflict with their desires and will. Why can’t God give us a way to get what we want? Yet, Jesus points them back towards God and His design and intent, His design for creation and His intent for marriage. Why are we unwilling to admit that God’s desire for us and His purpose in life is better for us? Because we long to be in control and we like to disguise and hide our sin of rebellion.

Pharisees: Moses permits us to do this. What’s the problem?

Jesus: The problem is that your heart is hard and you’re not pursuing what God wants for you.

Us: It’s all legal and it makes me happy. What’s the problem?

Jesus: The problem is that your heart is hard and you’re not pursuing what God wants for you.

So, what is God’s design and intent?

First, He goes back to the beginning of creation and points out that God made them male and female in Genesis 1. You might not get it at first glance, but Jesus is addressing the very issues He has addressed in the previous chapter – pride, position, authority, violence and abuse. As you’ll recall, we spent quite a bit of time over the past three or four weeks discussing the importance of the IMAGO DEI (image of God) in men and women and how that impacts who we are in God’s sight and how that should impact how we treat each other. God made them male and female and both are created in His image and one’s value is not based on your opinion of him/her but on God’s opinion.

At this point, the “little one” in their midst are the women who are vulnerable in the divorce process these Pharisees cite. (For reference, see “Life Upside Down”, “Rogue Disciple” and “Radical Discipleship”.) Jesus immediately calls them to consider God’s design in creation: God created them male and female – equal in God’s sight as bearers of His image. Again, let me state this very plainly – misogyny has no place in the life of a believer nor in the church. God did not make men superior and He did not make women inferior. He made them male and female, different but complementary to one another and in His image. Notice, Jesus did NOT note the fact that man was created before woman nor that woman was made from man. He did note that God made them male and female, different but equally created in God’s image.

Then Jesus draws upon a quote from Genesis 2 regarding God’s intent for marriage – the two will become one. Again, the emphasis here is not on an unequal partnership in which one dominates the other but upon two coming together and forming a single organism – a singularity. Two people but one flesh, one person with one purpose, one desire, one focus and one destination. How is this possible? It’s not, without God. A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two become one — joined together by God’s design, God’s intent, God’s purpose and power.

Is this what man wants? At a very deep level, it is exactly what we want and all that we want. We long for someone to know us, love us, desire us, feel what we feel, beat in rhythm with our heartbeat, move in sync with our thoughts and intentions and be that which fulfills us. But God ultimately intended for Him to be that ONE who fulfills this need within us. But He also knew we needed evidence and an example of this mystical spiritual union that He desires to have with us – thus He made us male and female, brought us together and the two shall become one.

Paul puts it this way:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:22-33 HCSB)

Jesus concludes by saying, “Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate. Back in the house, the disciples questioned Jesus about this. What did they question Him about? About divorce in general or about God’s design and intent? It would be easy to read Jesus’ reply and to assume He’s talking about divorce in a very general way and how divorce and remarriage causes one to commit adultery. While that is absolutely true, notice His response is NOT one sided. If the man divorces and remarries then he’s guilty of adultery against her but He also notes, if she divorces her husband and remarries she’s commits adultery, too. Equal ability between them to divorce and remarry, but equal guilt before God.

The disciples seem to buy into the Pharisees’ view of divorce and remarriage, based on their questioning and Jesus’ response. However, Jesus wants them to understand that taking a cultural approach to marriage is to abandon God’s design and to stand guilty before God of a heinous sin. Jesus has called His followers to a live life “upside down” from our culture. We now live in a world of easy, no-fault divorce but easy, no-fault divorce is the result of our shallow, selfish view of marriage. Marriage has ALWAYS intended to be more than what we’ve made it. It is intended to point people towards God’s design and intent for life, for family, for all of our social and non-social relationships. Moving and working together towards a single goal, an intimate relationship with God.

If we take a cultural approach to marriage we will miss God’s intent and design, too. God’s design is one man and one woman, for life. It is never wrong to pursue God’s intent for your marriage, but it is wrong when we fail to give grace and forgiveness to those who fail to achieve His intent for their marriage. We MUST hold the standard high but we must also give grace to those who fall short of that standard. The church is not filled with perfect people but with sinners seeking mercy, forgiveness and a fresh start. Living with the reality of sin should never make us satisfied with our failures but should inspire us to seek personal growth, improvement and the holiness God desires in us even as we educate the next generation in the lessons we’ve learned. We must uphold the standard of one man and one woman for life while loving, caring for and embracing those who fell victim to Satan’s lies and our culture’s failure.

Finally, adultery is to break, destroy and throw away the relationship God intended for a man and a woman in their marriage but it is also describes how we destroy the relationship God intended to have with all of mankind. God will NOT throw you away in this relationship, will you abandon Him?

Have you failed in that relationship? Yes, we all have. Our act of adultery towards God with the world breaks our relationship with Him just like it would’ve broken a marriage relationship. Just like a selfish spouse, our actions reveal that we love ourselves more than we love God. That’s why Jesus came, to rescue and restore us to that relationship with God.

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