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The Scriptorium

A Plague of Divorce

And God hates it. Malachi 2.13-16

Return from Exile: Malachi 2 (5)

Pray Psalm 127.3, 4
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.

Sing Psalm 127.3, 4.
(Leominster: Not What My Hands Have Done)
All children are a gift and treasure from the LORD,
a token of His constant grace, the fruitful womb’s reward.
Like arrows in our hand, the children of our youth
we, trusting Jesus, shape and send to bear the Word of truth.

Read Malachi 2.1-16; meditate on verses 13-16.


1. What were the priests, Levites, and people doing?

2. What did God think about this?

A plague of divorce had broken out among the people lately returned from captivity in Babylon and Persia (v. 14). Perhaps they thought, “Well, since God commanded us to put away our pagan wives, He won’t mind if we divorce those we no longer favor.” They knew what God had taught about divorce, that, while He did not forbid it, He carefully circumscribed it to preserve the integrity of the family and the wellbeing of children (cf. Deut. 24.1-4). Yet they ignored the teaching of God’s Law or rationalized it away to suit their captivity to self.

But now “the altar of the LORD” was covered with weeping and crying, probably of the women and children suddenly cast out and on their own (v. 13). Consequently, God no longer accepted the offerings of those who were responsible for those tears.

Those who divorced their wives unlawfully had broken a bond of God’s Spirit (v. 15). No wonder they did not have the spiritual strength to do what they had covenanted with the Lord. God made man and woman together in His image (Gen. 1.26-28). To rupture and reject what God had created was to violate the covenant of marriage and the covenant of the Lord (v. 14). God hates divorce (v. 16) because He hates all covenant-breaking.

Divorce begins within, in a self-serving spirit (v. 16). The people returned from captivity in Babylon and Persia had given themselves to self, convenience, and the ways of their pagan neighbors. Instead of taking heed to their spirits, they had given them free rein to do as they pleased, even as they played at worshiping God.

They wearied God with their vain words and wicked lives (v. 17). Let’s make sure we don’t do the same.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
What comes to your mind when you think of treachery?
Perhaps a Shakespearean play? Et tu, Brute?
Or the faithless treatment of the American Indian?
And the worldwide horrific scourge of slavery?
Obviously, the disloyal betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ?
There are many things that fit the definition of treacherous:
Characterized by faithlessness or readiness to betray trust; traitorous,
deceptive, untrustworthy, unreliable, dangerous, hazardous.
And for the definition of treachery:
Violation of faith; betrayal of trust, treason.

God finds these things treacherous, along with some other named treacheries:
Disobedience to any of His Laws which redounds in disrespect toward Him and pain for others.
“Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city!
She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction;
she has not trusted in the LORD, she has not drawn near to her God.
Her princes in her midst are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves
that leave not a bone till morning. Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people;
her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law” (Zeph. 3.1-4).
“For they are all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men” (Jer. 9.2).
“They have dealt treacherously with the LORD, for they have begotten pagan children” (Hos. 5.7).
“But like men they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt treacherously with Me” (Hos. 6.7).

Stephen, in his last sermon, before his enemies treacherously stoned him to death, spoke of the treatment of the children of Israel at the hand of a new king who did not remember Joseph: “This man dealt treacherously with our people, and oppressed our forefathers, making them expose their babies, so that they might not live” (Acts 7.19).

Much to God’s disgust, and ours, the tendency of people seems to be toward acts of treachery. Without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to curb that tendency, it is the direction in which all humanity is bent.

God described as treachery the divorce of the innocent. The LORD saw what the people had done, and said: “Let none of you deal treacherously with the wife of his youth…therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (Mal. 2.15, 16).

“You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20.14).
“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13.4). God cares deeply about all the parties involved in a marriage—the husband, the wife, and the children. This institution was created for growth, for safety, for security, for chipping off the rough edges, for a safe place to learn how to obey, trust, and follow God, and for honoring Him. It is not easy work, but it is important work. It was God’s idea, and we would do well to do it His way. Honorably.

There is beauty and great reward in being captive to Him alone (Gen. 15.1; Ps. 19.7-11).

For reflection
1. How does the Holy Spirit work to check our natural tendency to deal treacherously with others?

2. In what sense is any sin an act of treachery against God?

3. What is the opposite of treachery? How can you make sure to bring more of that into your Personal Mission Field?

Corrupt practices are the fruit of corrupt principles; and he who is false to his God, will not be true to his fellow mortals. In contempt of the marriage covenant, which God instituted, the Jews put away the wives they had of their own nation, probably to make room for strange wives. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Malachi 2.10-17

Pray Psalm 127.1, 2, 5.
Pray that God will keep and bless the marriages and families of your church, and that His shepherds will remain faithful in all their work.

Sing Psalm 127.1, 2, 5.
(Leominster: Not What My Hands Have Done)
Unless God builds the house, the workers toil in vain.
Unless He watches o’er us all, the watchmen have no gain.
In vain we early rise, and late retire to rest,
for God gives precious, needed sleep to those He loves the best.

The blessings of the LORD on fruitful families rest.
Both friend and foe alike shall know that they by God are blessed.
Praise God, Who builds the house, and watches o’er us all,
and grants relief and fruitful wombs to all who on Him call.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalteravailable free by 
clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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