And this second thing you o. You cover the LORD's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, "Why does he not?" Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. "For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless." Malachi 2:13-16
The passage in Malachi also reminds us that the husband and wife are covenant partners, which is the last and perhaps most important description of a wife we will discuss. No other passage in the Bible brings home the seriousness of breaking that covenant in quite the same way.
The one who does this is “faithless,” the prophet says in verses 15 and 16. In another version he is called “treacherous.” A covenant partner has every right to feel secure in that relationship. Even a con man like Laban recognized that God was the witness in a marriage covenant (Gen 31:49,50), and even in a polygamous culture lines were drawn. As we learned earlier, faithlessness was not confined to men (Prov 2:17). Women can forsake men just as easily, especially these days when “I am woman!” seems to be a call to independence away from men and family in general.
Malachi states plainly that breaking the marriage covenant is considered “violence,” verse 16, and as above in Genesis 31, “oppression.” The violence may not be physical, but anyone who has seen the heartbreak of a divorce knows that the “tears” and “groans,” verse 13, are just as real and inflict just as much damage. I have seen forsaken husbands and wives alike practically disintegrate before my eyes, losing weight, and aging ten years in a month. God will hold the one who causes that “violence” to His child accountable.
If nothing else brings home the gravity of violating a covenant, perhaps this will: God will no longer accept the offering of one who breaks the marriage covenant, verse 13, and s/he no longer has the Spirit, verse 15. For anyone who still has any recognition at all of his need for the grace of God and the help and comfort of the Holy Spirit in his life, this should be terrifying. It should certainly be a wake-up call for all those who think they can still be a Christian after dissolving the covenant they swore to for anything other than the one exception Jesus made in Matthew 19.
Malachi reinforces God’s displeasure by repeating “thus says the Lord” at the beginning and end of the same sentence (v 16). It is as if God says, “This is what I say…and I mean it!” All through the scriptures, God approaches marriage and its responsibilities as a choice we make voluntarily, but which then makes us responsible to its sacred promises. “Love your husband.” “Love your wife.” “Respect your husband.” “Live joyfully with the wife [spouse] of your youth.” If these things just “happened” God would not hold us liable. He expects us to choose to make them happen, working at it, praying for it, fulfilling our individual duties without blaming the other party for the things we refused to do because “the spark has died.” God expects me to get out my flint and strike a new one. “It ain’t over till it’s over,” and that isn’t until the other party leaves altogether.
Our culture may not honor marriage, considering it as breakable as an athlete’s contract, but “from the beginning it was not so,” Jesus said in Matthew 19. One man, one woman, one lifetime—that’s what God intended. A marriage is not between two persons, but three. God is that third partner. When you stand there in that beautiful white gown thinking this day is all about you, remember Who Else you are making a vow to. Even if someday you think so little of your spouse that you would break a solemn oath to him, think twice before you break it to a Creator who could destroy you with a thought.
When you shall vow a vow unto Jehovah your God, you shall not be slack to pay it: for Jehovah your God will surely require it of you; and it would be sin in you. That which is gone out of your lips you shall observe and do; according as you have vowed unto Jehovah your God... Deuteronomy 23:21,23.
Live joyfully with the wife [or husband] whom you love all the days of your life of vanity, which he has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity: for that is your portion in life, and in your labor wherein you labor under the sun. Ecclesiastes 9:9