God, The reluctant divorcee

 The Old Testament is an ancient collection of different books of different genres.  Sometimes it reads as a great family story; the Genesis story of Joseph, for example.  Other times it reads as a piece of lawyer garb (Deuteronomy) or a piece of history (Chronicles).  At the end of the Old Testament is a collection of prophets, major and minor.  Most of their sermons portray God in the same manner:  a divorcee

As the prophets tell their story God joined with Israel at Mount Sinai in a holy covenant, likened to marriage (Jeremiah 2:1).  God, the groom brought Israel, his bride, across the threshold of the Jordan River to a chosen home of Palestine.  God gave Israel food, clothing and was faithful husband (Jeremiah 31:32).  However, other gods became the center of Israel’s attention.  The prophets align this behavior with spiritual adultery.  Therefore, God was the victim, betrayed by Israel.  The marriage covenant was broken and all attempts at reform failed.  The fall of the great nation of Israel becomes the divorce proceedings as God removes His support.  In Jeremiah 3:8, the prophet records God handing Israel divorce papers.  Judah, a splinter of Israel, continues on only to be sent away by God later for similar offenses. 

The book of Hosea best describes this rocky marriage.  The prophet Hosea is told to purposely choose an unfaithful wife (Hosea 1:2).  By chapter 2, divorce is imminent: “she is not my wife, and I am not her husband”. These same statements have been found carved into Babylonian marriage contracts dating back to 1760 B.C.   They are the words to be said in public court to finalize divorce proceedings.  As Hosea’s pain and humiliation play out, the prophet communicates how God was being treated by his wife (Israel and later Judah). 

Finally, God makes the statement that has been a source of pain for many divorcees and abused in many a pulpit.  Malachi 2:16a reads:  “I hate divorce…”  Standing on its own, one may think that it reflects upon those who seek divorce.  But in the full story, as told by the prophets, God the divorcee hates divorce because God knows the pain of the sin that results in divorce. 

For the prophets, God is a divorcee.

For modern Christians divorce is a hot topic.  Rarely can one find a family not touched by its ripple effects.  Biblically speaking, I encourage those that have been hurt by a failed marriage or by a church’s actions or inactions dealing with a failed marriage to remember that the Bible spends many a prophet’s sermon preaching about God the divorcee.  In those sermons God is familiar with the pain caused by unfaithfulness, lack of repentance, divorce proceedings and the ripple effects that follow.  God the divorcee…..what a challenging image for our view on divorce!