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DIVORCE AND THE 'INNOCENT' PARTNER

by Jacques More

I am writing for those believers who are desiring to do the 'right' thing in the midst of an emotionally wrenching situation. As a help for those who do not want (or did not want) a divorce: "the 'innocent' partner" of theTitle. Though it must not be forgotten that the only innocent person who ever walked the earth is Jesus. I aim this as a help to leaders, counsellors, divorcees and any folk going through a separation or a particular difficult time with their partner.

Divorce is a 'hot potato' to handle. A potentially tough and emotionally difficult topic to write about, but this is not a document about divorce and remarriage in itself. Nor is the importance and beauty of marriage the topic here. I want here to speak into a couple of lies the enemy uses to accuse believers in such situations. Lies which lead to condemnation, guilt, let alone hurt and unhappiness on the one hand and on the other, confusion and loss of faith with associated feelings. I have gained the following thoughts out of personal experience, bible study and most of all out of the amazing comfort of God.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

In any difficult trial or testing time it is normal for doubts and questions to arise. It is what we then do with these which will determine what happens. I wish to address two of the main questions which arise for a believer in such a situation with a partner - Questions which the enemy tries to torment us with:

1. THE WRONG PARTNER?

Did I make a mistake? Did I marry the right person in the first place? Why did I not listen to God in the beginning? - leading to condemnation out of your being accused - The Lord had clearly stated at some point before the marriage took place that this was not the partner to be.

2. THE RIGHT PARTNER?

I know I married the right person because God was clearly leading from the start, why has it fallen apart to this extent? Did I really hear God right? - leading to confusion and test of your faith in God out of His being accused - The Lord had clearly shown this was the right partner from the beginning.

Of course in practise though either of the above can be true, it is more likely that most marriages involving believers fit somewhere in between. It is also possible that there was no discernible appreciation of anything the Lord might have been saying before the wedding took place. Therefore in using 2 'clear case' scenarios I aim to cover any attack from either extreme.

I wish to answer these questions out of the way the Lord dealt with 2 separate situations in the Bible which in themselves involve a relationship between people. I wish to share by using these illustrations what I believe are the 'right' attitude to hold in one's heart and why. Thus giving ground to stand upon when the enemy tries to torment.

1. In the first instance God expressly warned against such a 'relationship' to occur. Those who should not have entered into the covenant relationship - but did so - which then did not honour that covenant were shown by God that they were being held to account for the violation of the covenant. The very covenant God had originally specified he did not want to be entered into. So the party having clearly been committed to the wrong person/s in a covenant 'relationship' was expected by God to hold to their part of the covenant and God's blessing on their life was dependent on their honouring that covenant (with that covenant still in operation).

2. In the second instance God expressly chose the very person for this 'relationship' to occur. However, this person rebelled against the Lord as clearly shown by persistent fruit. The other 'party' then had to remain faithful to the covenant 'relationship' until the originally 'chosen' person was removed/departed. So the 'innocent party' through 'no fault' on their part in a correct relationship having begun - the other 'chosen' partner having clearly rebelled against God - the expectation was that they should remain faithful until the full removal/departure had occurred. Even if, as in this case in the scripture, the Lord had already provided ['pointed out'] a new partner to come along.

In either possible situation, or any in between, it is important to remember as believers that we have a God who cares for us and we are exalted to be 'casting all your care upon Him, for he cares for you.' (1 Peter 5:7). Doing this we can then (by faith) like David say,

I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and he set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth - praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD.

Psalm 40:1-3

Many times this passage has for me been a great source of comfort. I know it to a tune on my guitar and often when in personal worship the tune came to mind such that as I recalled the words the Holy Spirit brought fresh comfort again.

1. Prior to the people of Israel entering the promised land and conquering the inhabiting nations the Lord clearly stated: '...I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them...' (Exodus 23:31-32). Now, after Moses died Joshua led Israel into the land and soon after the lord gave victory over the cities of Jericho and Ai. Not far were the inhabitants of Gibeon and in fear for their lives they craftily came to Joshua and said that they lived in a far away country. They did not mention the recent victories for had they declared them, they would have shown themselves to having been around nearby. Instead they claimed that they had heard (only) of the work of God in delivering Israel from Egypt and the immediate victories following. So they said they had come to make a peace deal with Israel - to enter into a covenant 'relationship' with them. Seeing the worn out clothes these people were wearing, the moldy food with them (claimed as having been new when they left their far away land) and hearing this 'testimony', the leaders of Israel did not ask the Lord, but went ahead and entered into a covenant 'relationship':

. . . they did not ask counsel of the LORD . So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore [in promise] to them.

And it happened at the end of three days, after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were their neighbors who dwelt near them.

Joshua 9:14 -16 context Vss 1-27

Later in the history between these people in covenant there came to be a famine in the land of Israel for 3 years, year after year. When David the king (at the time) inquired of the Lord why this was, he answered 'It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house [the previous king and his rule], because he killed the Gibeonites.' So David effected restitution as required 'So they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God heeded the prayer for the land.' (2 Samuel 21:1, 14). This is the case of God saying do not enter into a covenant 'relationship', but having done so for whatever reason, He expects faithfully holding to the promise made, with his help and blessing in the process.

2. When Israel cried out to God for a king the Lord used the prophet Samuel to pick out someone to be king. The Lord chose Saul the son of Kish: 'when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said to him ''There he is, the man of whom I spoke to you. This one shall reign over my people.'' ' (1 Samuel 9:17). 'And Samuel said to all the people, ''Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen. . .'' ' (1 Samuel 10:24) After the first victory in battle under his leadership the people went to Gilgal and 'there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal' (1 Samuel 11:15). Israel had a covenant 'relationship' with Saul as their king.

As time went by Saul rebelled against the Lord to such an extent that Samuel said ' You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God. . . the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.' (1 Samuel 13:14). Up until that point in the bible there is no reference to David (the new king to be).

Israel however, just as David, had to keep true to Saul as king up until the time occurred that Saul died. Up until he was fully divorced from his role as king. David is seen staying faithful in this matter on several occasions 'The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD'. (1 Samuel 24:6). 'And David said to Abishai, ''Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the LORD's anointed and be guiltless?'' ' (1 Samuel 26:9). David's attitude was to let the Lord deal with the erring one whilst he himself and Israel whom he was encouraging to (the other 'innocent' partner in the covenant) were to stay faithful. David said 'As the LORD lives, the LORD shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish. The LORD forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the LORD's anointed' (1 Samuel 26:10-11).

The Lord indeed led Saul to depart from Israel and thus be divorced from his anointed role as king. It was then, and only then, that David could enter into the covenant of king with Israel.

CONCLUSION

These 2 situations sum up the believers responsibility as regards the covenant relationship with their partner whether they believe it was the 'right' or the 'wrong' partner from the beginning. There is an expectancy and encouragement in the Word to be faithful in heart and in deed up until any possible occasion as that of the unbeliever departing fully in divorce. A 'believer' acting as an unbeliever is to be treated as such for 'faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead' (James2:17). Jesus said as regards personal wrong 'not to resist an evil person' (Matthew 5:39) so though one is not to desire divorce for oneself: 'if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.' (1 Corinthians 7:15).

See also my article DID JESUS ADVOCATE DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE?



Ref. S.045

Unless otherwise stated Bible quotes are from the New King James Version

© copyright Thomas Nelson Inc. 1979,1980,1982.

© copyright Jacques More 1998. All Rights Reserved.



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