In this message we begin to learn how marriage and family are holy. This subject is foundational to understanding God’s plan. To understand this we must understand how God views marriage and family.
[Gary Petty] A few weeks ago, I began a series of sermons on holiness and sanctification, and I said that a third to half the sermons over the next six months will be dealing with some aspect of holiness and sanctification.
In that first sermon, we went through and showed that, if you look through the Scripture, holiness is a vitally important subject, because God says He is holy and He will declare a place, a person, objects, time as holy. And the idea that human being can make things holy, which is a common belief today…. It started fifteen to seventeen hundred years ago, when people began to say, “Well, we can take, maybe, a pagan practice and bring it into Christianity and we declare it holy.” It’s a concept that is not in the Bible. Only God can make something holy. And the reason why is because when He declares something holy, He actually takes and imprints something about Himself onto that thing or person or object. It takes on qualities of holiness. To declare something holy means it actually takes on qualities of holiness.
An example that I used to launch this whole discussion was God killing Uzzah when it seemed like he was doing the right thing. He was trying to protect the Ark of the Covenant from falling and being damaged. And, as we went through that story, we showed how David, at first, was angry, and then he was afraid, and then, over time, he realized that God was teaching him about holiness and that he and the entire people of Israel had done everything wrong. The Levites had done it wrong. Uzzah had done it wrong. They all had not recognized the holiness of God – that He said, “This object is holy. It represents something about Me.” So Uzzah is our example of how important holiness is.
As we go through this series of sermons, I’m going to show other cases in the Old and New Testaments where God punished people because they did not understand. He showed them what holiness was and they did not understand it. This is a very important subject.
What I want to do today is begin to discuss marriage and family – the holiness of marriage and family. Now, it will take at least three sermons just to go through this – to understand what the Scripture actually teaches about the holiness of marriage and family and why it is important to God. What we’re going to look at today…we’re going to look at today the Old Testament and the Old Covenant teachings about marriage and family and holiness. Some of things we’re going to go through – some of the laws we’re going to go through – are laws that many people look at today and say, “Well, those are barbaric!” or “Those are oppressive to women,” or “Boy, I’m sure glad Jesus came we don’t have to do those laws.” And there are some that we don’t do today and we’ll explain why, especially as we go through today and show why they were told to do specific things. And the next time I get to continue this series, we go through marriage and family in the New Testament. In the church we’ll find that these principles still apply. The specifics don’t always apply, but that’s because there’s a different purpose between Israel and the church – different purpose. So the specifics may not apply, but the principles still do. The idea of marriage as holy is foundational to God’s entire plan for humanity.
So, we’re going to start in Malachi – the last book of the Old Testament. And the reason why is, God gives Malachi a message. He really indicts the Jews who had come back. Now, remember, Malachi is written after the Jews come out of the Babylonian captivity – have come back and are reestablished as a nation. The ten tribes of Israel that were lost – they’re scattered – but the Jews are brought back from the Babylonian captivity. And here they are and they refuse to still go back to the religion God had originally given to them. Even after all they had been through, they came back under Ezra and Nehemiah and Zerubbabel, and they rebuilt the temple, rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. They were reestablished as a people and they still weren’t doing what they were supposed to do. (You know, we’re going through this series of Bible studies on the Minor Prophets, and in a few months we’ll go through Malachi in great detail, because it contains an enormous amount of information about what was wrong with that society, but there also prophecies in there about the coming of the Messiah and the second coming of the Messiah.)
Now, let’s go to Malachi, chapter 2. I want to start here, because this sets an understanding of marriage and family from the viewpoint of God. And there are two passages here we’re going to look at. And then we’re going to go back and look at some of the Old Testament laws and say, “Why did God institute laws that, in all honesty, in our 21st century democratic society seem strange?” But you have to see it from the viewpoint of when God gave them. Part of the reason I got started thinking about some of this is because I watched a program on the History Channel recently. It was talking about laws of the Bible. And in explaining the laws of marriage and family, they interviewed probably half a dozen Christian ministers. And most of them said, “All this shows is that God’s ways are beyond understanding,” except the female pastor, who said, “This just shows how prejudiced the Old Testament is against women.” Interestingly enough, the only person who really understood it was a historian, who wasn’t approaching it from a holiness issue at all, but just from “Well, if I go back look at the time period, these actually make sense.”
So what we have to do is strip our sensibilities that, sometimes, have nothing to do with holiness – they have to do with the fact that we live in a 21st century democracy – and go back to why God did what He did and why He said what He did, because it’s really going to be important when we get to next time, where we talk about marriage, and then the time after that, where we talk about children – what it means in the New Testament when it says our children are holy. What does that mean?
So we’re going to go back and look at this first. He says, in verse 10 of Malachi 2:
Malachi 2:10 Malachi 2:10Have we not all one father? has not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?
American King James Version×– Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? So we do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers?
So, first of all, he starts this with, “We have one Father.” Now some commentators will try to say he’s talking about Abraham, but earlier in the same book, he says, “God is our Father.” So, in the context of the book, he’s saying, “We have one Father.” The use of the word Father here is very important. It’s a family title. He says, “We have one Father. Has not God created us?” So Father and Creator here – tied together – “Look, we have a God who is our Father and He created us. And we have broken the covenant He made with the fathers.” They had broken the Sinai Covenant again. After coming out of the Babylonian captivity – within a few generations – they had broken the Sinai Covenant again. And he says – verse 11:
V-11 – Judah has dealt treacherously and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, for Judah has profaned the LORD’s holy institution, which He loves. Now, if you’ll notice in your English Bible, most of them have the word institution italicized, because the word institution isn’t exactly in the Hebrew. But that’s the intent of the sentence. His holy…something holy He created – something He declared holy, which He put into – imprinted upon it – some of His attributes. And He loves this institution. He created it. It is holy. And He loves it. And the rest of the sentence says – we know what this institution is from the rest of the sentence – he has married the daughter of a foreign god.
Marriage is instituted by God, ordained by God, declared holy by God. And he said they were profaning it because they were marrying people that didn’t worship Him. In fact, there’s a punishment here, in verse 12:
V-12 – May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob the man who does this, being awake and aware – he who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts. It’s interesting. The Talmud looks at this and says, “May they be childless.” If they marry pagan husbands and wives, then may they go childless.
Now, we’re going to go through why that is so important – a pronunciation of going childless – because this has to do with the covenant God made with them and the purpose for them as God’s people. And at the center of this is the holy institution of marriage and the fact that it was their duty – their calling – to have children – to actually have children.
Two issues of holiness here: one, is marriage. Now, let’s go back and look at Genesis once again, where God creates this institution of marriage, and just refresh what God says here. So let’s go to Genesis 2…no, let’s start in Genesis 1 – Genesis 1, verse 26 – then we’ll go to Genesis 2 – because these two things come together as a focal point of what God was doing with the descendants of Abraham and how marriage and family was central to the covenant. So He says here in Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×:
Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×– Then the LORD said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle, over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image – in the image of God, He created him – male and female, He created them. Very important. Now, this is written in a context where it’s actually before we have the story of Eve being created. Adam was created first, without Eve, but He created them male and female. Each of us have male and female…because there are differences between male and female. Those differences are still the imprint of God. There are certain aspects of God’s qualities that were imprinted into females in a little more abundance than men, and certain aspects of God’s qualities that were imprinted into males in a little more quantity than females. We are to celebrate and not look down on the differences between male and female, because they are, in both cases, imprints of part of the nature of God – the image of God.
Then He gives a direct command in verse 28:
V-28 – And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. They were actually commanded to be fruitful. Now, we’re going to see that being fruitful, under the Old Covenant, was a duty. Now, when we go into the New Covenant, we’re going to see the sanctity of marriage, but we’re also going to see some changes and how that was administered in terms of the command to be fruitful. But this is a command at the very beginning of creation. It is a reason for a husband and wife to get married. It’s what makes concepts, like homosexuality, against marriage. Marriage is holy . Homosexuality is un holy. It is against God. Now, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want to call people to come out of homosexuality. He loves them. He wants them to give up that lifestyle, just like He wanted us to give up our lifestyles of adultery, and boozing, and all the other things we’ve had to give up in order to come follow God. But we have to understand the holiness issue here.
Look at chapter 2, verse 18.
Genesis 2:18 Genesis 2:18And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
American King James Version×– Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make a helper comparable to him.” Verse 21:
V-21 - And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam and he slept. And He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. And the rib which the LORD God had taken from man, He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said, “This is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh – in other words, he said, “This finally” – because he’d looked at all the animals – “this is finally something just like me – only better. This is something like me! This is flesh, like me. I can touch her and she’s like me. I can look at her and she’s like me. I can talk to her and she’s like me.” This is a remarkable statement of exclamation: She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore – this is a marriage covenant – God created marriage right here and it is holy – therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked – the man and his wife – and they were not ashamed.
(A little bit of an R-rated sermon today.) But sometimes we have to bring some things out in the open. I know that many teenagers grow up in the church, believing that what we think is, that sex is bad, or sex is dirty, or there’s something wrong with sex, or “Well, I love him, so it’s okay for me to have sex with him.” Look what it says in verse 25:
V-25 – And they were both naked – the man and his wife – and they were not ashamed.
Sex was designed by God for marriage. It is actually holy . It’s actually commanded in marriage. The problem is that, outside of marriage, it breaks the holiness of marriage. That’s the issue. You know, being in love with her…there’s no place the Bible says, “Yes, you can have sex with her because you’re in love with her.” It’s not a criteria at all. The criteria is you are married, because it’s a holy union – a holy institution. And it is actually celebrated in marriage. It’s celebrated in marriage and it’s condemned out of marriage. So, that’s a very important…but it has to do with holiness. It has to do with God taking something and imputing some of Himself into it. And to not do it that way is to be unholy. It is to take something God says is pure and clean and good, and make it dirty.
So, that’s the first point of holiness in this passage here in Malachi 2. The second is, they were a holy people. Let’s go to Exodus…so these are our two premises here – Genesis and Exodus – and then we’re going to use this to see why God gave them certain laws – okay – that many times seem strange to us. And some of them are applicable…all of them are applicable in principle , some of them not exactly the same. And I’ll show you a few that we don’t do – we’re not required to do. And there’s a reason why. And when we get into the purpose of the church, you’ll understand why the principle still apply, but it’s applied differently – different purpose for the church. But we have to understand their specific purpose.
Exodus 19:5 Exodus 19:5Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
American King James Version×– Now this is when they stood before Mount Sinai and God was about to give them the Ten Commandments. God was about to make a covenant with them as the descendants of Abraham. He told Abraham, “I will make a covenant with your descendants,” and He’s about to fulfill that prophecy. And He tells them, in verse 5…Moses tells this to them:
Exodus 19:5 Exodus 19:5Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
American King James Version×– Now therefore, if you will, indeed, obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all peoples, for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you are to speak to the children of Israel.
This concept of a holy nation wasn’t just about them – those people, right there. They were to be a holy nation from generation to generation to generation to generation to generation. There were to be a holy people to God as long as there were people on earth. Now, we know they didn’t do that very well. They failed over and over and over again. But this was their duty. This was their calling. God says, “I am holy,” and remember, when Peter says, “Be you holy, because He is holy” – we read that last time – he was quoting from Hosea. That comes from the Old Testament. God says, “I called you to be a holy people, therefore you be holy like I am holy. Let Me give to you qualities of holiness.”
Now, for this to happen – from generation to generation to generation – there are a couple things God did. One, He created a system of laws and a Levitical priesthood to administer those laws to keep them holy. But, underneath that, they were holy through marriage and family. Holiness was taught. I mean, how many times have you heard a sermon on childrearing, and the first thing we go to Deuteronomy 6, where He told them, “You teach them these laws and these statutes every moment of every day – when you walk, when you work, before they go to bed, when you eat, you are constantly teaching them.” Why? Because the holy nation continues through the next generation, and they must teach the next generation. The holiness that God was giving to them was to be taught. And yes, it was taught through the Levitical priesthood and through the elders at the gates. But the core of it had to happen within the family. And you know, when we get to the New Testament church, the core of the teaching still happens within the family and the holiness of the relationship between the husband and wife. That principle still applies. And we’ll be able to do that next – know that emphatically – next time.
Now, what’s interesting here in Malachi, remember…. So, we have these two premises (let me go back a minute): marriage is ordained by God and therefore holy. They were a holy people and that nation was to survive generation after generation. Now, God was going to take those two things and give them a set of laws to merge those together. Remember, they’re a physical nation. They’re not a spiritual nation, like the church. They are a physical nation. Many laws given to ancient Israel had to do with physical things – how they survived physically. They had to survive physically. Why do you think Satan tried to destroy those people over and over and over again? What was a primary purpose of the descendants of Abraham? To produce the holy Messiah. They had to survive. For thousands of years God protected those people. He let them be conquered. He let them practically destroyed. He let them go into slavery. But guess what happens when the Messiah is supposed to show up? They’re there! Now, God had to work really hard at that, because they kept messing it up. But they were a holy people.
Deuteronomy 7, and verse 1 – some more instruction – laws that were given to them.
Deuteronomy 7:1 Deuteronomy 7:1When the LORD your God shall bring you into the land where you go to possess it, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you;
American King James Version×– When the LORD your God brings you to the land which you go to possess, and casts out many nations before you – the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites – the vegemites (chuckles) – Mr. Thompson looks up…the vegemites? (only people from Australia would get excited about the vegemites, but they were driven out…sorry) – seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the LORD God delivers them over to you, you shall utterly conquer them and utterly destroy them. And you shall make no covenant with them, nor show mercy to them – now this is important – God hasn’t called the church, by the way, to go out and carry out wars against pagans. We’re not supposed to do that. They were – only in the land that God gave them. God never told Israel they could create an empire and go around and conquer other lands. They could only conquer the people who had taken over the land He gave to Abraham. They weren’t allowed to go down and conquer Egypt. You notice, they never launched a campaign to conquer Egypt. They never launched a campaign to conquer Babylon. They weren’t allowed to. Now, the church isn’t allowed to go conquer anybody by force. So, once again, different application, but same principles. We’re fighting a spiritual warfare. Sometimes they had to fight physical warfare. And He says – verse:
V-3 – Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son, for they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods. So the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. Verse 5 says:
V-5 – But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire. And here’s why: For you are a holy people. He says, “You’re not to have anything to do with the worship of demons,” which is what Paul says paganism is – the worship of demons. He says, “You’re not to have anything to do with that. You shall not marry them, because, if you do, they will turn you against Me, and your sons, your daughters, your grandchildren – somewhere along the line – you will no longer be a holy people. You will be a pagan people.” To be pagan is to be un holy before God.
Now that’s a little uncomfortable in the world today, where we have all this political correctness.
“You’re saying Hindus are unholy before God?” No, I’m saying, “ God says Hindus are unholy before Him.” I didn’t say, “God hates Hindus,” by the way. They are unholy before God. He calls people to be holy who worship Him and we’re not allowed to bring this together. He says:
V-6 – You are a holy people to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself – a special people above all the people on the face of the earth. He kept reminding them, “You’re different than anybody.”
Now, the problem is, when you’re told that, what’s the first human reaction? “Boy, am I better than anybody else!” And God kept telling them over and over again…it’s funny, in most of the passages where He’ll say something like this, you’ll see Him say, “But now, remember, I didn’t call you because your were smarter or bigger or better than anybody else. I called you because you weren’t! And I made you Mine. And I declared you holy.” When we get to the New Testament church, we’ll see why God has called us.
This brings us to the laws. Remember, as I said before – we can’t go through all the laws…. There are dozens of laws about sex and marriage in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 20, Deuteronomy 22, there are all kinds of laws about the sexual relationship. And there are certain things that, if there is a sexual relationship that is wrong, He said, “May you go childless,” which is a horrible curse. Other things, He killed them. There were certain sexual things – certain sexual relationships – that had capital punishment. Now, we find that appalling, don’t we? “Oh, surely, God would mean that!”
Now, remember, they are a holy people. They are to be a holy people generation after generation after generation. The Levites couldn’t do that. They could teach them. Do you know where this comes from? It comes from the core of what they are taught in their families. It comes from the marriage relationship. And what happened is, when they didn’t do that, they became pagan. The Levites themselves became pagan. Leviticus 20, Deuteronomy 22, adultery was a capital crime.
Now, fornication was not. When I say fornication – fornication means a lot of things – I’ll just say a sexual relationship between a man and a woman who are not married. Okay? You know, that didn’t have the death penalty. You say, “Well, that’s strange.” No, he had to marry her. He had to pay dad an awful lot of money. Why? He had attacked and damaged that girl’s family! We don’t understand the depth of what it meant to be married. When a woman – and we’re going to show this in a minute – when a woman married a man, she was part of that family as much as if she was blood. And she had rights within that family. And they were protected by law. Family – and that’s how this holy nation was going to continue – family was so important. And so, you know, a young couple has sex, they shouldn’t have, there was a penalty.
If two people were married, and they were cheating on their husband or wife, it was the death penalty, because it was considered a crime against the holy nation. It was considered a crime against society. Homosexuality was a crime against society, because…well, we’ll show, in a minute, why…because it begins to destroy who they are as holy people.
Now, within marriage, it is part of a holy institution. Within marriage, it is considered good. It’s considered a blessing from God. Outside of marriage, it’s considered a curse. And you know what? In our society, when you can see the results of immorality, it is a curse, isn’t it? It’s a curse on our society. People just don’t want to recognize the curse. They want to keep doing certain things and they want to change the consequences. And you can’t!
Now, let’s go back to Malachi and look at the second…I said there were two little passages here in Malachi we were going to look at. So, we looked at the first one, which is based on holiness – a holy institution and they were a holy people. And, therefore, marrying pagans was the destruction of the holy institution and the fact that they were holy people. Their sons and daughters, within a generation or two, would no longer be holy. They would be pagan.
Let’s go back to Malachi 2 and let’s pick it up in verse 13.
Malachi 2:13 Malachi 2:13And this have you done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, so that he regards not the offering any more, or receives it with good will at your hand.
American King James Version×– And this is the second thing that you do – this doesn’t mean less in importance. These are two things. They’re both equally wrong. This is one, this is two. This is the second thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears – with weeping and crying – so He does not regard the offering anymore or receive it with good will from your hands. Their worship of God didn’t mean anything to God. They didn’t receive blessings from God. He didn’t answer their prayers. They would go into the tabernacle – at this point, they had a temple – they would go into the temple, they would pray, they would go in on the Sabbath – they were still keeping the Sabbath – they would go in on the Sabbath, they would do their ceremonies, they would do their services, they would be taught the way from the Levites, they would do their sacrifices…it didn’t mean anything. In their lives, they knew God was not involved. And so, verse 14:
V-14 – You say, “For what reason? Why is God not recognizing our worship?” Now remember, with Uzzah, there was a lot of singing and dancing and praising of God going on, and He killed him anyway. And they thought they’re singing and dancing and praising was holiness. Now, there’s nothing wrong with singing and dancing and praising God. That’s not the point! The point is, they were doing it in an un holy manner. So they say, “Why do you not answer us?” And here’s how they get an answer – here’s the answer – verse 14 – “Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously. She is your companion and your wife by covenant.” What covenant? Genesis 1 and 2. That is a covenant before the Almighty God. It is a holy covenant, bound by God, ordained by God and made holy by God. And He said, “You’ve broken that covenant.” But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit. And why one? He seeks Godly offspring. Therefore, take heed to your spirit and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.
Verse 15, in Hebrew…no one knows exactly…the sentences don’t seem to work. They don’t seem to fit. But, if you have five or six different translations of the Bible, you’ll probably have three different translations. Even the Tanakh – the Jewish translation of the Hebrew scriptures into English from the Jewish Publication Society – they add some words. How did do we put this together? I’m not going to go through all the different ways it could be translated – why it could be translated this way or that way. I’m just going to say, “No matter how many different ways it is translated, it comes out with one central point.” God created marriage so He could have Godly offspring. That’s one of the reasons – so that this family unit creates another family unit.
When we get into the New Covenant, we’ll talk about children’s responsibility. And children’s responsibility is different in the New Covenant than it was then. Every male was a member of the Sinai Covenant on the eighth day of his life, whether he wanted to be or not. Every female was born a member of the covenant. New Covenant – every child has to decide. And that’s a little different application of how that works out. Don’t you wish you could make all the decisions for your children? But you cannot. But understanding that, you can understand the law – that we wouldn’t apply today – but there was a law that, if you had an absolutely rebellious child – that was violently rebellious – you brought them before the elders of the village and they stoned him to death. Now, we don’t do that today. Why did they do that? Because a violently rebellious child would destroy the family unit. And believe me, I’ve counseled enough families to see that happen. Now, we don’t apply that today. We use the same principle, but we apply it differently. But, you have to understand, that wasn’t a brutal law. It was based on…there is no way to take a bunch of physical people, make them holy, and let them live holy generation after generation, unless there are safeguards to protect the holiness. And, if anybody in that group refuses to be holy, they must be removed. They must or they will destroy the holiness. Verse 16:
V-16 – For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce. We’ll really get into the concept of divorce next time in the New Testament church. …He hates divorce, for it covers ones garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. Therefore, take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.
“It covers one’s garment with violence.” There is a beautiful saying in the Bible – in the Old Testament – that, “when a man married a woman, he covered her with his garment.” Now there was a sexual implication to that, but it was also a protective thing. It was an affectionate statement. He says, “Divorce is violence .” Understand that. To God, it is violence. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve counseled someone who went through a divorce, and they’ll use terms like this: “I just feel like I’ve been torn apart.” Anybody who’s been through a divorce knows that it is violence. And God says, “I hate it, because it’s violence – what it does to the people.” They suffer, many times, for the rest of their lives. They were divorcing.
Now, let’s look at some of the Old Testament laws. So we’ve seen how important this holiness is – of the divine institution of marriage and that they were a holy people. I have more laws than I could ever cover here in the next fifteen minutes, but I’m at least going to go through some to begin to show you why these laws were instituted. They’re not barbaric. They’re the only way to make a physical group of people act in a holy manner – who did not have – most of them – the Holy Spirit, which, of course, was given to the church.
Let’s look at Deuteronomy 25. Many people say, “How could God do this? He’s institutionalizing adultery.” No, He’s not. He’s not institutionalizing adultery. He’s protecting the family. The land was given to Abraham. As the people came into the land, each family received a sizeable chunk of land. To be removed from that land, you were removed from the great blessings of the Covenant. It was Abraham’s land and it was a promise from God that they should receive that. And every family received it. And that land was to stay in the family. If you lost your land, you lived in poverty! You lived in abject poverty. You had to hire yourself out as a hired hand, but you would never have land…well, the fiftieth year – the Jubilee Year – all the land had to go back to the families. Okay? It kept the cycle going. Can you imagine that in our society? Your grandpa’s land he sold forty-nine years ago? It’s the Jubilee Year next year and it’s like, “You mean I have to give that land back to that guy?” Yes. Also, the family had the right to redeem back – to buy back land – that had been sold by another family member, because, if you have a command to be a holy people and produce a holy offspring, and you don’t have land, you can’t do that. You simply bring children into poverty. Sound like the society we live in today? So, for this holiness to happen, the families had to stay attached to the land. Verse 5 of Deuteronomy 25:
Deuteronomy 25:5 Deuteronomy 25:5If brothers dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without to a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in to her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother to her.
American King James Version×– If brothers dwell together and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger – outside the family. Remember, she had become considered blood. Well, you don’t just let her go marry somebody else. Now, we see that she could at some point, but that wasn’t what the family would try to do. You would try to find somebody in the family, who was closely related, who was willing to marry her. First of all, the first person you looked at would be husband’s brother, and then it would be a cousin. You would look for someone within the family to marry. You think, “How horrible! The guy’s already married!” That’s not how they saw this. We can’t take 21st century sensibilities and put it back three thousand years ago. That’s not how they saw this. And I’ll show you what I mean as we go through this. Her husband’s brother shall go into her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother for her. He had to marry her – or he was supposed to marry her. And when he did, guess what happened. He didn’t keep the land that was his brother’s. Her children kept the land that was her husband’s. So what it did was, it kept the land in the family. Now, we do know, from other instances, if wasn’t the brother, then they’d say, “Okay, who is the next one in line?” Verse 6:
V-6 – And it shall be that firstborn son which she bares will succeed to the name of his dead brother and his name shall not be blotted out of Israel. So, if Jacob was the name of the man who died, and Joseph was the name of the brother, and Miriam was married to Jacob…Jacob dies, and she now marries the brother, and they have a son. His name is not Hezekiah bar-Joseph. His name is Hezekiah bar-Jacob. He is his father’s son. We see this as so strange. And the truth is, this is amazing. It is a concept of family that has been destroyed in the Western world. We don’t even get this.
Now remember, God told them this. “Oh, how barbaric! How barbaric!” Look what it says in verse 7:
V-7 – But if a man does not want to take his want to take his brother’s wife, let his brother’s wife go up to the gate of the elders and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel. He will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.” You have to understand. What this means is, she – this is her right – now women say, “Oooh, boy, if that ever happened to me…” – you don’t live then. If you were a young woman – because if she doesn’t have any children, she’s very young – they got married at, basically, middle to older teens – so if you’re eighteen-years-old and your husband is dead, and you have been brought into this family as blood, and that family has an obligation for you to have an inheritance and for your husband to have children, and you go to his brother and say, “Marry me,” and he says, “No way. I’m not going to marry you. My wife won’t let me.” His wife had nothing to do with this. You have to understand this. This was a family obligation that every member of the family would have expected. Now she might have, “I don’t like this. Boy, am I going to be jealous.” But you know what? Mom and Grandma and everybody else would have sat her down and said, “Dear, we have to do this for the family.” See, that goes against our sensibilities. It goes against our romantic ideas of writing poems. Oh, there are love poems in the Bible, by the way. Read Song of Solomon. It’s actually sexually graphic, if you know Hebrew poetry. There’s lots of romance. But this goes against what we think.
Now I want you to look at what the woman is supposed to do. She goes to all the elders, and all the elders of the community come out and they hold a trial. And this guy is brought up on charges – “You won’t do what the family is supposed to do, so that all that land, and her house, and everything that she has now gets passed on through your brother’s name. His name will continue forever as part of the holy nation.” Remember, when they introduced themselves, Jesus would have said, “I am Jesus bar-Joseph – I am Jesus, son of Joseph. What’s your name?” “Oh, I’m Bob, son of Robert.” We don’t do that, do we? We don’t realize how strong this idea was – a holy people held together by a holy institution, and perpetuated by holy children. So she calls them together. Verse 8:
V-8 – Then the elders of the shall call him and speak to him, and, if he stands firm and says, “I do not want to take her – nope, won’t do it. I don’t want her property.” (Now he would have forfeited his brother’s property, by the way, by doing this.) “I don’t want her property. I don’t want her. I have my wife. I have my children. No, I’m not going to do this.” Verse 9 – this is interesting:
V-9 – Then his brother’s wife shall come to him, in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, “So shall be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.” And his name shall be called in Israel, “The house of him who has had his sandal removed.” In a public act of disdain…now you think, “What does this woman say?” She doesn’t say, “Oh good, I didn’t want to marry you.” She is now being rejected by the family that she had been called to be a part of. It’s his job to take care of her. It’s his job to make sure that she keeps the land – somebody in the family – if not him, a cousin or somebody. It’s his responsibility to give her children. And, if he won’t do it, publically, her disdain for him is so great. See, today, how many women would say, “Oh I’m so glad that he turned me down. Now I’m going to go choose my own man.” She was to spit in his face in front of all the elders. And from that point on, everybody that saw him walking down the street was supposed to say, “There’s the guy who lost the sandal.” He was permanently marked as the guy that just doesn’t have a lot of integrity. You know, he didn’t have to do it, but, boy, the guy just doesn’t have a lot of integrity. She deserves better than that. You can hear the women say, “Well, I’m glad that he didn’t marry now. She deserves better than that.” See who it’s so different from the way we think? She disdained him for not doing this. “It’s my right to be part of this family, because your brother married me.” Yeah, there will be two wives now. By the way, it doesn’t say he has to love her. It says he as to take care of her as a wife. He still loved his other wife.
You think of Hannah, Samuel’s mother. She couldn’t have children. So what did her husband do? Married another woman. And he told her, “But you’re the one I love!” Now, what’s interesting is, she didn’t say, “Yeah, you’re the one I love, but you have a second wife.” What she said was, “But I can’t have children.” Think about that. See, our first response is, “Boy, Hannah was just so mistreated by him having a second wife because she couldn’t have children.” No, by the law of God, he wasn’t committing adultery. For his family name to go on, he had to get a second wife. It doesn’t say he loved his second wife, because he loved Hannah.
Oooh! Wow! That’s God’s way in a family-oriented group of people, where family is the center of everything. That family had an obligation to take care of and make sure there was a next generation of holy people. It was a duty . She spit in his face here not because she loved him. “Oh, I was so hoping you’d marry me. You’re my dream man.” It was because he wouldn’t do his family duty and she despised him for it. We have a remarkable case in the Bible where this took place – in the book of Ruth – a perfect example of this – because Ruth….
Naomi leaves Israel with her husband. And she has two sons. And they go to Moab. And her sons marry Moabites. Now you have to understand. Not only were they not to marry pagans, they were specifically told, “Do not marry Moabites” – specifically . The two sons marry Moabites and they’re living in the land of Moab. And Naomi’s husband dies and both the sons die. Naomi says, “I’m going home. I’m going back to Israel.” And Ruth says, “I’ll go with you.” And she says, “No, stay here. You’re young” – very young woman. “You’re young. You stay here. Find yourself a good man, settle down, have kids.” And she says, “No, because I will follow your God.”
Now something happened when she said, “I will follow your God.” She now converted to be part of the holy people.” You read all through the Bible where it talks about, in the Old Testament, “the stranger within your gates.” Once they convert, they’re no longer a stranger within the gates. They’re part of the holy people. Once she said that, the law concerning her as a Moabite no longer applied. She’s now part of the holy people. And she goes into the land of Israel.
It’s during the time of Judges. And you can read the book of Ruth. It’s fascinating! Because they get there and Naomi doesn’t have any wealth anymore. So she and Ruth do what the law says. They go to where all the people that have land and they’re growing their crops. Whenever they would harvest the crops, they couldn’t pick up the things that dropped and they couldn’t harvest the corners. Can you imagine telling farmers today, “You can’t pick up what you drop and you can’t harvest the corners, because the poor people come and they take it.” We say, “Uh, stealing! You’re allowing these poor people to steal!” That’s not how God’s way works. Now they had to go and work for it. They didn’t harvest it and give it to them, but they didn’t plant it either, because Naomi doesn’t have the land. She doesn’t have any wealth. So she and Ruth go harvest.
Now, I get the feeling from reading this story that Naomi was working a lot of things out here, because she picks a specific person to go and follow around – Boaz. And Ruth shows up and, if you read through the story, it’s a great love story, because Boaz is like, “Wow!” But he’s a little older than her. So he can’t really come out and show it. So he keeps giving her stuff. And she keeps getting all these little gifts of stuff, but, you know, “She’s too young for me and she’s too pretty for me. She’s so smart. Why would she want a guy like me?”
So, finally, Naomi says, “Ruth, it’s time for you to get married again. Now, Boaz is your next of kin.” Now I think she set the whole thing up, because, I mean, Boaz is head over heels, but he’s not going to do anything about it. “So what you have to do is…it’s the end of the harvest. They’re going to have a great big meal. He’s going to drink some wine. He’s going to be really tired and he’s probably not going to go home. He’s going to go into the threshing floor and sleep at night. When he does, go in and crawl up at his feet.” What’s amazing is, Ruth said, “Well, what will happen?” and she says, “He’ll tell you what to do.” Ruth is got to be saying, “There are a lot of bad things that can happen here.” Right? “I mean, he could jump up and say, ‘Ooh, you lewd woman!’ and have me stoned for showing up in his bedroll.” Well, what happens is, he goes in, he’s full, he’s had a little wine, he lays down to sleep, and the next thing he knows, there is something at his feet. He jumps up and there’s Ruth! And he says, “What are you doing here?” She says, “You’re my next of kin. According to the law, you must give me a son.” Now what Boaz says is, “You are a virtuous woman, because you could have had anybody!” In fact, the way he says it, you can see what he’s really thinking is, “Of all the guys, and you picked me?”
She could have married anybody. But, in accordance with the law of God, Naomi’s sons deserved their land, so that the holy nation could produce holy children. And she didn’t just take anybody. That’s what makes Ruth amazing. The story is, “This woman is so beautiful, so smart, she could have had anybody!” And even he said that to her. And he said, “But you, you are really amazing!”
Now what I find interesting is, the next thing, because he did not have a sexual relationship with her, because that would have been unholy. He said, “You go ahead and stay there the rest of the night.” That had to have been a weird night. He’s laying there thinking, “She wants me, but” and then he tells her, “I’m actually not your next of kin. There’s some person that’s closer and, according to the law, he gets a chance to get you. If he doesn’t want you, I will take you.” She’s thinking, “Oh no, please don’t let the other guy take me.” The conversation would have been fascinating. There’s probably a lot of praying going on. And finally, before sunup, she gets up and leaves and he goes out and tells his workers, “Don’t you dare tell anybody she showed up here.” And I’m sure he meant it. They knew he meant it. “Don’t tell anybody she came here.”
Now what we do is, we pick up at the end of Ruth here. So this law is now going into effect. Why did not Ruth pick just anybody? Because Naomi had set it all up to make sure her husband and sons’ names were not blotted out in Israel. And they weren’t. In fact, we’re going to see something amazing about this story. So what happens here in Ruth, chapter 4, is, Boaz sits down with all the elders in the gates and he says, “Look, Naomi’s come back. And as we know, her husband, Elimelech, sold his land to go to Moab, but that should be brought back into the family. So we need to redeem it back from the people he sold it to. And he had called the other man there, who was the closer relative, and he says, “You get first shot at this.” Now what the guy says is, “Great! Man, that’s a prime piece of property. It’s got a house on it. It’s got a barn on it. Okay, this is great!” And he lets him go on, thinking it so great, and then, Boaz says, “Oh, by the way…” Of course, he knew he would have to take care of Naomi, by the way. Naomi would have to move on to the property and live the rest of her life there. But she had no children, which means it’s his when she dies. Okay? It stays in the family one way or the other. So it’s his when she dies. He’s got the greatest deal in the world. And then, Boaz says, “By the way, there is one other thing. There’s Ruth. You’ll have to raise up a son to her dead husband. So you’ll have to marry her.” And the man’s response is fascinating. Let’s see…where is it? It’s in verse 6.
Ruth 4:6 Ruth 4:6And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar my own inheritance: redeem you my right to yourself; for I cannot redeem it.
American King James Version×– And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself.” This is where you have to says, “Whoa! This is great!” “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it. Whoa, whoa, I have a wife. I have sons. I thought I was going to get this piece of land and pass it on to my sons. Now I’m going to have to bring in a wife, and I’m going to have other children, and they get the land. No, no, no. This is too messy for me.”
Boaz says, “Oh well, okay…you know, some guys just have to do it…you have to bite the bullet and do the hard stuff.” I’m sure Naomi and Ruth are dancing in the house. You know, it’s like they’re singing and dancing. “This is wonderful!” And Naomi says, “Yeah, it’s the way I worked it out.”
See, what’s interesting here is, God shows us…you know, we think there’d be no romance in this. There’d be no love. He showed that that’s not true. It’s not true. What’s amazing about Boaz is, he was willing to give her up. See, what’s amazing about Ruth is her willingness to marry another man – well, her willingness, first of all, to marry Boaz. Obviously, there’s a love story going on here. But she could have had her pick of any man, but this was the right thing to do for the protection of the holiness of family. And, in Boaz’ case, he loved her and he was willing to give her up for the protection of the holiness of family. God wanted to make sure these two people got together.
What’s really amazing is, they had a son. His name is Obed. And Obed had a son. And his name is Jesse. And Jesse had a son. And his name is David and he became king of Israel. And David’s generations went on until there was a daughter born, named Mary. And Mary was the mother of Jesus. See what the law actually did? It protected the line that would bring about the Messiah.
These people were dedicated to this idea – well, sometimes they were and sometimes they weren’t – of the holiness of the family – the holiness of the children that it produced.
There’s another law that people get very upset about in Matthew 25. And this is interesting, because I saw this one on this program on History Channel, where all these pastors were arguing over it. And only the historian got this one right. What it says is, there were two men in a fight. (Another R-rated part here.) So there are two men in a fight and one of the men’s wives comes up and grabs the other man by the private parts. And it says, “Cut off her hand.” You think, “How horrible!” I mean, of all the punishments in the Torah, there are a couple of cases where they would beat people with a whip, but it wasn’t what the Roman’s used to disfigure a person; it just put stripes on their back. There is no concept of mutilating somebody. And here it says, “Cut off her hand.” And, once again, “Well, this shows it was barbaric. This shows that God is against women. This shows that God made men superior.”
Now think about a holy people that must produce a holy generation – generation after generation – and think about all the places in the Bible where the woman couldn’t have a child and how agonizing it for her not to have a child. Why? I mean, it’s agonizing today for a woman not to have a child, but today, there are lots of women who choose not to have children. At that time, it was absolutely just overwhelming not to be able to have a child. Do you know why? They couldn’t fulfill their holy duty! If a man is emasculated – it says in Deuteronomy – he couldn’t even go into the temple or the tabernacle. He couldn’t even go into it? Why? If he’s emasculated, he can’t perform his holy duty and produce holy children. Eunuchs could not go in. This situation here, by the way…God didn’t make this up. “Let me see. I’ll come up with two people that are having a fight…and I’ll make up this law.” This is a case law. Two men were having a fight. And the one guy’s wife came out and tried to emasculate the other guy, which would have made it impossible for him to have children, and would have made it where he could never go into the tabernacle again. Pretty serious thing, isn’t it! To tell you the truth, if she had taken a stick and beat the guy within an inch of life, it would have been okay. It would have fallen under the law of self-protection. This wasn’t the issue. I mean, she could have come along and punched that guy in the nose as hard as she wanted, and said, “Leave my husband alone!” But that’s not what was happening here. An issue of holiness was being interfered with. Do you understand the law now? The law isn’t against women. It’s all about being able to have holy families – holy matrimony and holy children. And it’s a case that happened. If a man would have done the same thing, it would have been against him, too. It’s just a case.
Now, as far as cutting off her hand… the Talmud is very Jewish, and sometimes, very non-biblical. Okay? But there are interesting things in it – understanding how things have been interpreted throughout the years. And in this passage, the rabbis say, “No one should ever cut off a woman’s hand for this,” because they way they interpret this is…because “an eye for eye and a tooth for tooth” literally didn’t mean popping out people’s eyes. It meant, “Let the punishment fit the crime.” And that’s how they interpreted this. So the times when it did come up, they fined the woman and the husband in direct proportion to how much damage she did to the man. So sometimes, that was a lot of money passing hands here. So let’s just say, “There weren’t too many cases of this happening.” If it’s taken literally, God’s says, “If she totally emasculates him, she could lose her hand.” She has to pay a penalty because of what it does – his name may now, possibly, be erased because he doesn’t have any children. His family would be erased from Israel forever There’s nobody to raise up children for him.
These laws are really interesting when you begin to understand the reason why and what God was doing.
There are two reasons for divorce in the Old Covenant. One is adultery and one is fraud. Fraud is when one person finds out that the other person was not what they said they were sexually, in which case you could divorce them. What’s very fascinating is the case of Joseph and Mary in Matthew 1, because Joseph found out Mary was pregnant and he decided to put her away. They were betrothed, which was a covenant as binding as marriage. You know, when we have an engagement today, it can be broken easily. But they couldn’t break a betrothal very easily. But what’s interesting it, it says he decided to put her away privately . He decided to divorce her, but he wasn’t going to take her to the elders and make a public issue. Do you know why? They could stone her. He had the right not to do that. So he wasn’t going to do that. He wasn’t going to take her and publicly divorce her. He was going to privately divorce her. It shows you the character of the man. A lot of men would have said, “You do that me?” You know, everybody was going to figure out that she was pregnant. Right? You can’t hide that. She was going to have a child. Everybody would either accuse Joseph of being the father or say, “Boy, Joseph, I understand why you divorced her now.” There was going to be shame on his family that would always be there. But the man said, “She doesn’t deserve that. I love her too much for that. So I’ll just privately divorce her.” Remarkable thing. But it all goes back to these laws.
So these complex marriage laws were given to ancient Israel to protect the holy institution of marriage and the fact that they were a holy people. And that was supposed to go from generation to generation. And you and I can’t judge these laws by 21st century sensibilities, because they have nothing to do with 21st century sensibilities. They have to do with how God was dealing with a group of people to guarantee that holiness would be carried on. And, in spite of all their failures, Mary was there to have Jesus. In spite of all their failures, Mary was there to have Jesus.
Now, once again, some of these laws don’t apply directly today. If your husband dies, and you don’t have any children, you don’t have to marry his brother. Okay. And that would be strange today, because we don’t think like that. You know, you wouldn’t go spit in his face, if he didn’t do it, publicly. We don’t think like that, because we don’t think in the way that they were trained in holiness. But we have to start thinking in the way that we’re trained in holiness.
So next time, what we’ll cover is, we’ll cover what the New Testament says about marriage and family. And then, after that, we’ll go through what it means when it says our children are holy.