Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
There are several points to ponder in this chapter in Matthew.
Once Jesus left Galilee, He never came back except to just pass through the region (Luke 17:11). This is where He grew up; this is where His ministry began (Cana); this is where He was rejected first (Nazareth). A prophet is rarely recognized among his own people (John 1:46). Is this because he is better remembered as the snot-nosed toddler, or is it because people remember his childish escapades?
Jesus was fully divine from the very beginning, therefore from the time He was able to demonstrate the difference between right and wrong, He was the epitome of righteousness. Some people may have been uncomfortable when confronted with the holiness of Jesus recognizing His perfect plumbline. Perhaps, their demons were filled with trepidation and conveyed absolute consternation when Jesus confronted them. We just don’t know why Jesus was rejected in Galilee, but we do know that He was.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have turned long ago in sackcloth and ashes." Matthew 11:21
God called Him out of Galilee never to return because His work was finished there. Jesus’ faithful followers who are called to minister not only to God’s people, but also to the lost are definitely put where God knows their witness will do the most good. When God’s work is done in any particular area, He moves that person on to the next territory until they have finished their testimony in that place, and on it goes (Revelation 11:7).
This is a crucial truth so that all God’s followers will be comfortable and content wherever they find themselves. We must see our predicaments as God caused for His glory. As long as our first desire is to reflect God’s glory while doing His work, we then will be filled with contentment and patience while dwelling in whatever situation God has put us. Too often we set God’s desires behind our own desires. This kind of state of being so often brings discontent. Our feeling of dissatisfaction draws our attention away from what God is trying to accomplish. Therefore, we are quite useless to God. Remember what happened to the fig tree that had no fruit?
Joel predicted it.
He has turned my vine to waste and my fig tree to splinters. He has stripped off all the bark and flung it down—its branches are left white. Joel 1:7
The vine withered, the fig tree wilted. Pomegranate, palm and apple tree—all trees of the field—are withered, for joy has withered away from the children of men. Joel 1:12
And it came true.
Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came up to it and found nothing on it except leaves only. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree shriveled up at once. When the disciples saw it they were astonished. “How did the fig tree shrivel on the spot?” they asked. Matthew 21:19-20
In Matthew 19:3, Jesus negates Moses’ permission to the men of Israel to divorce their wives for any reason.
First He tells the Pharisees, “Have you not read that God made male and female?” That is one male and one female so that no matter what happened, Adam could not divorce Eve and marry another. It was set for one male and one female to be husband and wife, and God said it was good (Genesis 1:27; 5:2). (This also totally negates the wrong assumption society has today that homosexuals should have the right to marry.) Adam and Eve could never be separated because they are literally of one flesh. Eve was Adam’s rib. Also, the relationship between husband and wife is closer than that between parents and children because a man’s children are pieces of himself whereas his wife is himself (Matthew Henry).
In Jewish tradition and literature, marriage is called kiddushin which means sanctification or dedication. Our kiddushin begins with our acceptance of the Bride Price (Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross) and the bestowing of the Seal of Promise (the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, which transforms us into new creatures with eternally living souls). The Holy Spirit’s indwelling is exactly like the crushing of grapes where the flesh of the grapes and the juices are intermingled so that no man can possibly separate the grapes into their original state ever again.
I have read about twenty translations of Song of Song of Song of Solomon 8:6. The paraphrases do not seem to get that this verse is from the Ketubah or the Marriage Contract. I have heard at least a hundred sermons on how our relationship with Jesus is as a betrothal between the groom and the bride, but I haven't heard much at all on the contents of the marriage contract, or the Ketubah. It comes from the Mishna.
Set me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as Sheol. Its flames are bolts of fire, the flame of Adonai. Song of Song of Song of Solomon 8:6
The original purpose of the ketubah was to protect the wife and children in case something ever happened to the husband and papa. In ancient times, the family of the husband could just absorb the whole estate leaving the wife and children with nothing. In Jewish thought, this is tzedek, or justice. It is preserving the tribal possessions like keeping all the lands as one big chunk rather than dividing it into pieces for posterity. Ketubot (plural of ketubah, superceded mohar), the bride price payment was often delayed because the young men desirous of marriage rarely had the money or possessions to pay the mohar so the priests made marriage possible by delaying the payment of the bride price.
The delay meant the couple could marry, but the husband promised to pay for his wife’s care in case he decided to divorce her. Genesis 34 illustrates the practice of paying a bride price. A Hivite, Shechem, saw Dinah the daughter of Jacob and desired her so much that he violated her. His father approached Jacob and his sons offering to pay what ever price they said so that Shechem could wed Dinah. Exodus 22:16-17 stipulates that any man who violates a virgin should pay the bride price and if her father refuses to give her to the man as wife, the man shall pay the virgin bride price anyway.
The bride price was set high enough to pay all the woman’s living expenses for the rest of her life. If a woman was raped, no other man would take her as a wife because she was tainted goods. (Even a widow wasn’t married very often and became a burden unless she had sons to take care of her.) Her father must continue to take care of her far beyond the expected time so it was the responsibility of the man who violated her to pay for her care. It was also considered the responsibility of the husband to care for his discarded wife since she would have no place to go except back to her father’s tent. Another reason the man left his father and mother and cleaved to his wife. His family had not obligation to take care of the son’s wife if something happened to him.
In the ketubah the bride and groom did not sign the document, but the two witnesses who were highly honored friends attested to the promises made by the groom who would speak the words out loud to the bride and then would drink from the goblet of wine, then offer it to her. The wine represented the groom’s blood and offering it to his betrothed was the symbolic gesture that he would give up his life for her. When she took the goblet and drank it, she was telling him, the witnesses, and all who were present that she accepted his life and his promises. Thus the betrothal was complete.
John the Baptist called Jesus the Bridegroom and that He who has the bride is the Bridegroom. As mentioned above the witnesses were friends of the bridegroom, and John rejoiced at this highest honor God had bestowed upon him to bear witness to the authenticity of Jesus being the Son of God (John 3:28-34). The church is often called the Bride of Christ, and references to this are sprinkled throughout scripture as in Isaiah 62:5; Revelation 21:2, Revelation 21:9; Revelation 22:17; Ephesians 5:26-27, Ephesians 5:32; 2 Corinthians 11:2. Therefore the significance of the ketubah and the mohar is evident as a physical example of a spiritual truth. The monetary promise of the ketubah was a disincentive to divorce. If a man must pay an exorbitant bride price to the woman’s father because he was to give her a writ of divorcement or a get, it was hoped he would rethink the action as it would deplete his fortunes considerably.
Jesus did not postpone the mohar but gave His life as the bride price just as the wine was His blood and the bread His body that we would remember what He had done. The wine is used when the betrothal is announced and everyone drinks to L’Chaim—To Life! It is the most common toast. Without blood there is no life. The sacrifices described in the Torah, were life given so that human life could continue. The correlation here is that God delayed pouring out His wrath upon the people (Exodus 32:31-35).
Wages of sin is death. But our Husband declared His love was so great that He gave His life, chaim, to redeem us. Moses offered himself for the people, but it was not a perfect sacrifice and God’s view is that each shall bear his own guilt unless he accepts the atonement, or redemption payment, of Jesus’ blood.
What if young men were to make that kind of commitment for their brides today? What if wives would make that choice as well?
A man and woman can live as a married couple sharing everything, but still remain separate, submerged within their own selfish desires, never caring enough to sacrifice for their beloved’s needs and pleasure. That is living as grapes on a vine. But, when grapes are crushed together, the flesh merges as one and the mingled juice becomes something more prized than water, as Jesus portrayed in Cana; that is the ultimate two becoming one flesh. That is how God intended marriage. The two people so blended, and so much a part of each other that it is impossible for anyone to divide them in twain.
That is the marriage principle. That is how it is with Jesus and His bride. We have no need of a ketubah.
(Inspired by this video: http://www.aish.com/f/m/Jewish_Weddings_and_Wine.html) This is a reprint from this week's column at LiveAsIf.org.
However, Moses allowed divorce amongst the Israelites.
Isaiah 50:1 God asks the question, 'Where is the scroll of your mother's divorce that I have put away?' There wasn't one because Israel was guilty of adultery. Then in Jeremiah we see the lists of things she was guilty of... there is no innocence on her part nor on the part of Judah.
The Bill of Divorcement was the decree of innocence of the "put away" wife. Joseph was going to quietly "put away" Mary because he knew he had never impregnated her, therefore she must be guilty of adultery. Quietly meant no bill of divorcement to be declared in the courts for he truly thought her guilty. Secretly putting her away, but she would still have the child which would declare her guilt... he could not give her a Certificate of innocence.
Then God stepped in by sending an angel to declare her innocence to her betrothed husband. Joseph immediately got up in the middle of the night and took her to wife as God commanded. The Declaration of Innocence was the release of obligation of legal matrimony. Jesus did not repeat the "write her a bill of divorcement" in Matthew 5:32.
If anyone kicks out or sets at liberty a wife without that Certificate of Innocence then that man causes her to commit adultery. There is no "if she marries again" clause in there. It is assumed that she will marry again. It is the guilty husband who causes the sin.
However, Jesus set everything back into place when He declared that divorce was only permitted in the case of fornication. When two people are Christian and they are married, divorce is not an option. Just as we are to forgive our sisters and brothers in Christ 70 times 7 times, we are to depend upon the LORD to work in the hearts of our Christians spouses, to draw them back into His will and His relationship. This requires much prayer and trust and leaning on God to work.
Divorce from unbelievers is different. Paul tells us not to seek divorce from our unbelieving spouses, but if they desire to split, we are not to fight it and we are not obligated under law (1 Corinthians 7:15) as Christian married couples are. How do we know if we are married to a believer or an unbeliever? By their fruit. That is the only way. I fear, though, some folks will get to Heaven smelling like smoke, for their fruit is sparse.
Forgiveness is commanded by Jesus. Wallowing in anger and resentment only builds a wall between us and God and serves no purpose for the object of our anger. God truly does protect His children and He really will take care of the chastisement. The key is allowing Him room to work in the heart of our spouse.
Thus we have the command that divorce is not an option between Christian believers in Jesus Christ unless adultery (porneo=sexual perversion of any kind). We Christians must recognize the those perversions are Satan’s demons on a mission to destroy our marriages. With much prayer and supplication we can overcome and even destroy those demons.
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She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.
If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection
Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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