Let’s apply this to our example. The way that things stand now, she has grounds for divorce. Assume, again, that this is not disputed. But she is still counseled to remain in the marriage “in case he repents”. But repentance is a gift of God. Only God can change a heart. So now we are asking this woman to make a life-altering decision, or even put her life in danger, based upon what we hope God will do in the future.
The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deu 29:29 KJV)
Making decisions is a daunting process. There is much that goes into a decision, especially one that will change a life.
Take, for example, a decision to separate or divorce a spouse. This decision is terrifying enough, but it is often muddled by poor counsel. As Christian counselors and pastors, we must ensure that our counsel is based firmly upon scripture, and not the opinions or biases of men.
Whole books have been written on appropriate grounds for divorce, but the purpose of this post is to address just one area where we often go wrong.
We must remember that we cannot make decisions based upon what we hope God will do in the future. This belongs to the secret things of God. God has revealed to us what he wants us to know so that we can make right decisions that are honoring to him, but he has reserved the future for his hand alone.
To put this practically, suppose a wife reports – again – to the elders that her husband refuses to keep his marriage vows. Perhaps he is violent, abusive or engaged in fornication. Perhaps he is a drunkard or a reviler. Let’s assume that these facts are not in dispute. Everyone knows that this is what the wife has been enduring for years.
When she reports that she is filing for divorce, the answer of her elders is often something like this: “God can change hearts. Stay in the marriage. What will you do if he repents? What if he changes?”
It seems to me that this puts an unendurable burden on the heart of the wife (or husband, as the case may be). The church is asking her to make a life-altering decision based upon what God may or may not do in the future. But how can we ask our sheep to sin in this regard?
The devil took Jesus to the temple and told him to throw himself down, for God promised that he would not allow his foot to be moved. In other words, the devil told Jesus to make a decision based upon requiring God to act in a certain way. But Jesus called this testing God, which is forbidden in the law.
Let’s apply this to our example. The way that things stand now, she has grounds for divorce. Assume, again, that this is not disputed. But she is still counseled to remain in the marriage “in case he repents”. But repentence is a gift of God. Only God can change a heart. So now we are asking this woman to make a life-altering decision, or even put her life in danger, based upon what we hope God will do in the future.
But our text in Deuteronomy forbids doing just that. We cannot make our decision based upon the “secret things of God”. We are required only to make wise decisions based upon what we know today.
As of right now, is your husband a reviler, drunkard, abuser, fornicator? As of right now, is the marriage broken? As of right now, has he pulled asunder what God has joined together?
We can only make these decisions based upon what is revealed to us. To pry into the future is forbidden by God and is only a short step away from soothsaying and fortune-telling.
It is cruel and ungodly to force a spouse to stay in perpetual limbo because God may or may not act in the future, especially when Jesus himself said that God gave us divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts. Because men’s hearts are still hard, divorce is still sometimes an option.