“HAVE YOU NOT READ THAT ”
How revealing of human ways of thinking are the encounters between Jesus and the religious leaders; the one in our Matthew (Ch.19) reading today is of particular interest. It does not seem they came to him to test him out over an issue such as breaking the Sabbath, it seems it was because they had a dispute between themselves over what situations made it OK for divorce and remarriage to take place. A whole ‘party’ of Pharisees had arisen (Hillel) who manipulated their interpretation of the Law so as to allow divorce for all kinds of trivial reasons.
They came up to him asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” [v.3]. They expected some answer based upon the laws Moses had laid down about divorce. But first Jesus said, “Have you not read that …“
But of course they had read, they had read and endlessly debated all the inspired writings that had come down to them. It is a lesson to us to prayerfully read what the record actually says – not to go to it with some preconceived way of thinking and try to read into the texts that which we want them to say. The men who had wanted to be able to divorce their wives easily were doing just that.
Jesus surprised them by going back to an event long before the time of Moses. They had not expected that. Verses 4-6 reveal that Jesus “answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife … What therefore God has joined together let not man separate”
Ouch! They did not want to be reminded of the foundation principle! We must never overlook the fact that real marriages take place in the sight of God. But then, does not everything take place “in the sight of God”! See Acts 4 v.19. It is significant that among the first century believers, the principle of one man, one wife was clearly practiced and divorce strongly discouraged, 1 Corinthians 7 being a very significant chapter. The Creation principles had been re-established.
As marital and relationship merry-go-rounds are practiced more than ever in Australia and most other countries; we need to make sure we “have … read” what is plainly written in Scripture and accept what it plainly means. How many will be asked at the Judgement Seat, “Did you not read that …?” By David Caudery