Is It Lawful?

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Summary

In the Bible it is written: “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” (Mat 19:3)

Marriages are often difficult. Men and women are selfish … sinful. When a wife wants out of her marriage, what are the rules? What are God’s rules for women who want a divorce?

Why focus on the woman’s case? Simple. Most divorces are pursued by women; current percentages appear to hover around 70% (among those with college degrees, it may be as high as 90%). Legislation has made obtaining a divorce relatively easy, regardless of motivation. Divorcing women generally keep the marital residence and retain full control of their children, turning their husbands into visitors. Most churches freely offer significant assistance to single mothers who struggle, without considering the motivation for divorce or whether divorce was warranted.

Though this response to divorcing women may seem compassionate on the surface (after all, who wants women or children homeless or abused?), the relative ease and benefit afforded angry wives is contributing significantly to fatherlessness and the general breakdown of the family in western culture. This is not good … not good at all.

Divorce is certainly legal in our culture …  as is abortion and sodomy. But when is it acceptable to God for a wife to divorce her husband? What should be done with the children? What about child support? Blended families?

These are certainly difficult and very controversial topics. In our day of domestic chaos we should go back to the Word of God, read it for ourselves, and find out what it says about these things.

So, let’s do it.

Let Not The Wife Depart

There are three texts in the Bible that clearly describe when a wife is free of her commitment to a husband, so that she is free to leave him and marry another. One such text is: “Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband.” (1 Cor 7:10-11:) The same concept is repeated later in the chapter: “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord .” (vs 39). This concept is also found in Rom 7:2-3: “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”

It is hard to imagine clearer statements in the English tongue. Simply stated: a wife is evidently never free of her duty to her husband, so long as he is yet alive.

Unreasonable? Certainly, on the surface, given the depraved nature of some men. Would God really require such commitment from wives, and not consider extenuating circumstances? We need not go far to find some outlandish story of cruelty and abuse that would make such a standard seem completely inhumane. We know intuitively that God is not so. The key, evidently, is that a husband may disqualify himself from being a husband … and in such case there isn’t a husband to whom the wife must be faithful.

She Shall Go Free

Indeed, God in His wisdom has not forgotten the hardness of the human heart, and He deals with it head on. The way to properly terminate a marriage is formally introduced and openly discussed in Exodus 21, immediately after the Decalogue, embedded in God’s first principles governing the basic institutions of human culture.

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out      as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. 9   And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. 10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. 11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

The principle given in vs 11 is the principle of abandonment. It is also found in 1 Corinthians 7:15: “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

Should a husband refuse to provide the basic necessities of life for his wife, that being food, clothing and physical intimacy, if he openly and willfully neglects her over some extended period of time, or if he departs the marriage and completely abandons her or sends her away, he formally ends his role as her husband. In such cases the wife is free of her responsibility to the marriage; she may marry another man if she so chooses. She is not required to depart the marriage if she wants to pray for healing and wait it out, but she is not obligated to do so.

Using this as a guide, one may also legitimately conclude that if severe neglect is cause for divorce then habitual, malicious abuse on the part of a husband is likewise cause for divorce, being worse than abandonment. If a man habitually finds some sadistic pleasure in subjecting his wife to various mental, emotional, or physical torments … it can be safely and legitimately proposed that such horrendous treatment likewise gives a woman freedom in divorce …  within the intent of the Law … even if her husband does not technically abandon her in a physical sense.

While one must be very careful to avoid nullifying God’s intent to preserve the stability of the marriage bond by arbitrarily adjusting His righteous standard, it is quite clear that God does not explicitly describe every possible situation that could arise in the context of an abusive relationship. The principles given must be used as guidelines to evaluate each unique situation with integrity. What is evident from the Law is that a wife must be treated with some basic human dignity by her husband; she is an eternal spirit created to love God and enjoy Him for ever … and is very deeply valued by God … just as much as her husband.

A second reference in the immediate context of Exodus 21 reinforces this principle:

26 And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake. 27 And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.

It is clear from these verses that if a man strikes one of his servants and maims him or her that the servant is to be set free of the bond of servanthood. If God’s standard frees a servant who has been maimed by his or her master, it seems reasonable to apply this standard to a woman being similarly mistreated by her husband, indicating that such abuse warrants granting her freedom from her marital obligation.

This application of the Law is not an arbitrary one. From verse 8 above, the word “betrothed” indicates that the female servant is in a marital relationship with her master: the female servant is married to her master … her master is her husband. If her master takes “another wife,” he takes one in addition to the “maidservant” that he already has as his wife.

Though a wife is much more to her husband than a mere servant, such principles governing the general treatment of servants evidently serve to protect the wife as well. If a husband abusively maims his wife he brings an end to his role as her husband — and the wife is set free from the duty of her marriage to him. This means she is free to leave him and marry another man if she wishes: he has abused her more severely than if he had abandoned her.

Thy Covenant

In the context of defining conditions that disqualify a man from being a husband, it is appropriate to correct a common error concerning the conditional nature of marriage.

God indicates that the marital relationship is a covenant relationship, not merely a loose agreement between two persons that can be broken for convenience. Consider Malachi 2:14: “The LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.”

A covenant between a woman and a man is a binding relationship that carries with it the most sobering commitment. It is a relationship of mutual interdependence, loyalty, and love. It is designed to last a life time, and generally should.

Many teach that the covenant of marriage is an unconditional covenant, that marriage is for life and that there are no circumstances or situations in which it is appropriate to end this relationship prior to the death of at least one spouse. However, this concept cannot be supported from the Word of God.

In fact, we may prove otherwise, that marriage is conditional in nature, not unconditional in nature, by simply noting that if marriage were an unconditional covenant we would not expect to find conditions given in God’s Revelation providing for the disbanding of the marriage relationship. Since we do find such conditions, we may conclude that the institution of marriage is not rooted in an unconditional covenant, but in a conditional one.

While some deny that there are any conditions at all that justify divorce and remarriage, others attempt to justify divorce … particularly for a wife … in a manner inconsistent with God’s design.

Except It Be For Fornication

Perhaps the most prevalent error which must be addressed in this context concerns whether a husband’s sexual misconduct provides his wife grounds for divorce. It is commonly understood that (1) a married man who has sex with any woman except his wife commits adultery, and (2) that such behavior does provide proper grounds for a wife to divorce her husband. I have met few who do not accept both of these concepts.

However, one should notice that such behavior on the part of a wife does appear to be inconsistent with what we have just seen in Exodus: fornication or adultery is not mentioned as a condition giving a wife freedom from the marriage, and the conditions provided (abandonment and severe abuse) are given in a context where polygamy and concubinage was prevalent, where a husband may not be living according to God’s monogamous design, where the husband is sexually active outside of marriage to one wife.

Therefore it would appear, from what we have seen thus far, that sexual activity outside of a marriage, while certainly harmful to the quality of the marriage and contrary to its design, does not in itself disqualify a husband from his role. Sexual misconduct is not presented as grounds for a woman to be set free of a marriage. According to the Law, destroying a marriage over this kind of sin appears to be unwarranted.

Such extreme violation of the marriage covenant is simply rampant today, and both the culture and the church appear to be quite ignorant about God’s perspective on it. When a wife ends her marriage this causes extensive harm to her children, to her extended family, to her church community and to society in general. God evidently does not commend such a response to a husband’s infidelity: completely destroying the marriage is evidently much worse. This subject must be addressed clearly, from a biblical perspective … I am not aware that it has been adequately addressed anywhere in current literature.

In discussing such a topic, lest I be misunderstood and discounted as a selfish wanton heretic, I certainly must be very clear about my motivation in doing so. I believe that it is God’s design and will for a man to choose one woman, to cleave to her and to pursue this woman in an exclusive sexual union until death parts them, so long as she is willing to remain in the marriage with him. When a man does not do so this, it is clearly sin. I do not approve of men being unfaithful to their wives, nor of men being promiscuous outside of marriage — sexually or emotionally or in any other way. Such behavior is clearly devastating to God’s design for marriage and it is entirely inconsistent with godly character. I do not advocate or practice such behavior in any manner whatsoever.

How else can I state this so that I will not be misunderstood? Clearly, based on God’s design, I agree that it is completely inappropriate for men to be sexually active outside of marriage, marriage to one woman. However, though a husband’s sexual infidelity does violate the spirit of the marriage covenant and is clearly contrary to God’s design for marriage, it is worse for the wife to leave her husband and abandon the marriage than it is for the wife to remain faithful to the marriage in spite of his sin. If she does decide to leave the marriage, according to God’s Word she is not free to remarry another or to take her children with her. If she does remarry, she commits adultery. This is the position I will attempt demonstrate from the Word of God.

The very first place I would expect someone to turn in defense of a contrary position here is Matthew 19:9, where Jesus Christ refers to the husband’s liberty to divorce his wife for fornication: “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” When the wife has had sexual relations prior to marriage this is fornication. When a husband discovers this state in his wife on their wedding night, when he thinks he has taken a virgin and has been deceived, he is given liberty to divorce her in righteousness. This is the plain statement of Christ, and it is entirely consistent with the Law (which allows not only for the husband’s divorce, but also for imposing the death penalty on the wife: De 22:20-1).

Sexual impurity in the wife while she is married, or adultery, is even worse than fornication and therefore also, by reasonable deduction (since the death penalty itself could still be applied, per Lev 20:10), grounds for divorce on the part of the husband. This was Joseph’s plan when he discovered Mary’s pregnancy during their betrothal period …  he did not want to kill her and thereby make her a public example, but was intent on divorcing her quietly … until he was approached by an angel in a dream, told of her purity, and encouraged to continue his marital relationship with her. Christ teaches that any other motive involved when a husband divorces his wife and marries another woman, rooted in something less devastating than the division caused by sexual impurity, is equivalent to him committing adultery against her.

The difficulty in using Matthew 19 to support a wife leaving her husband for fornication is that it addresses an entirely different subject; the text says nothing about a wife departing from her husband or putting him away. The text only addresses the right of the husband to put away his wife: this is not the same subject.

One might assume, as many evidently do, that the roles of the husband and the wife are interchangeable in this regard, and that the principle allowing a man to put away his wife for fornication applies as well to the wife. This is presumption, given the evident differences in the roles and responsibilities of the husband and wife just seen in Exodus, and also seen in our initial statements about a divorcing wife in Corinthians, unless solid biblical grounds are established for doing so. To my knowledge, this has not been done, and I have no idea what biblical texts might be relevant in supporting such a stand.

For The Hardness of Your Heart

Such reasoning would not likely appeal to any specific text of Scripture (since there aren’t any), but would rather be along the following lines: “The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, was written to a male-dominated culture steeped in various kinds of sinful sexual practices (e.g polygamy and concubinage). It does not therefore always represent God’s ideal, but was provided to deal with the hardness of the human heart in a manner appropriate for the times in which it was given. Yet the Bible evidently reveals truth in a progressive nature, presenting a standard that evolves in both clarity and morality over time as the human condition improves. Clearly, the spirit of the Bible as a whole, particularly that of the New Covenant scriptures, indicates that laws governing divorce ought to be applied in a gender-neutral manner in cultures that are more healthy, as is ours today.”

In support of such a position one would likely turn to Christ’s statement given in response to the question of the Pharisees in the text with which we began. “And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.” (Mk 10:5-6)

It sounds like Jesus is saying that the Law, particularly God’s standards concerning divorce, is less than ideal in some way. It sounds like Jesus is saying that the standard God provided in the Law was not ideal, that it was unrighteous or unholy to some degree, and that He did this in order to accommodate the sinfulness of Man.

Once this perspective is accepted, one might be inclined to discard or modify any principle of the Law that appeared to contradict some desired outcome … whatever it might be. Some would, from this vantage point, claim that the Law, by allowing men to put away their wives for any reason at all, provided too much liberty in divorce. They would assert that God’s ideal standard really should be limited from such a broad scope to include only fornication or adultery. Others, however, would say that the Law was, in fact, too narrow in scope and that it really should have given women the same liberties as men. The tact taken is not the point though, it is the concept of the holiness of the Law that is really at stake, and at the heart of such reasoning.

Does the Law of God, indeed represent in any fashion whatsoever, some standard that is not completely ideal in every respect? Has God lowered His standard in order to accommodate the hardness of the human heart? Is there some aspect of the Law that has been shown to be unholy or unrighteous in any manner at all? Has there been subsequent revelation that rests on or reflects a superior standard of holiness?

Asked another way, Is there any modification of any kind that might be made to any Law of God that would improve its standard of morality or virtue in any way at all? Could one devise any improvement to any dimension of the law in the way that it is stated or represented that would reflect a higher standard than what the Law already, in its primitive state, inherently represents?

These are tough questions, for sure. Should they be?

What does the Bible have to say about them?

The Law of the Lord is Perfect

One need not look far for the answer. In fact, I think it is quite difficult to open to any section of the Bible and find anything else.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (1 Tim 3:16-17) The entire body of Scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness. The claim appears to apply to all parts of scripture equally … no part more applicable than any other.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.” (Ps 19:7) Perfect. Complete. Uncorrectable. Un-improvable. The Word is its own commentary … and the best one.

“The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (Ps 19:8) The appropriate response to the Law of the Lord is rejoicing. When we consider one of His commandments and carefully meditate on all of its implications, our eyes are to be enlightened … we should expect to receive instruction that is wholesome and healthy and good. When our hearts respond in any other way to any single one of His statutes, it is not that the statute is unholy … it is that we are unholy … and that our heart is hard.

Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Rom 7:12) It remains good, even in the current age. We haven’t grown above the Law … it is the Law that is holy, not we who are suited to determine which parts of it are unholy.

The most convincing text, in my opinion, is the following: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:36-40) Here Jesus states, as clearly as it can be stated, that the entire body of the Law, as well as the whole of the Old Testament scriptures, is oriented in and permeated by the highest and most intense form of love … love for God and fellow man. This is the moral and ethical standard embodied in the Law. In other words, there is nothing inconsistent between any of the precepts or content of the Law and this divine standard … and a higher standard is inconceivable.

If these thoughts are not enough to put us in our place, as students of the Law, seeking the Mind and Heart of our LORD in it for instruction and guidance and wisdom and understanding … then we cannot be persuaded … by anything. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom 8:7)

For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” (Pr 6:23) While the soul disdains the light itself … there can be no true healing of its eyes.

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Is 8:20) Any reasoning or persuasion that is not according to the Law is darkness. Let’s look into the Law of God, and with the delight it deserves, for our answer here.

To The Law and To the Testimony

Is sexual unfaithfulness on the part of a husband adequate grounds, as most all students of marriage claim, for a wife to divorce her husband? Is this considered adultery? Please carefully consider the following text:

If a damsel that is a virgin, be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife; so thou shalt put away evil from among you. But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: but unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter; for he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her. If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.” (De 22:23-29)

When God provides instruction concerning how to handle heterosexual relations outside the bonds of marriage the marital condition of the male is not considered, only the female’s marital condition is considered.

If the woman is betrothed (irrevocably committed) to be married (or actually married, we may infer), the man that has lain with her must die because he has defiled and humbled his neighbor’s wife. If the betrothed (married) woman was able to resist the man and it is apparent that she did not resist him then she must also die, for she willingly allowed herself to be defiled and is therefore worthy of death. When a woman is committed to be faithful to another man and voluntarily participates in such sin for any reason, the incident is considered and dealt with as an adulterous one and the death penalty may be applied to both participants.

If the woman was unmarried, uncommitted as a wife to some man, then the situation is resolved entirely differently; the man who has lain with her is to take the woman with whom he has been intimate to be his wife and he may not ever divorce her. Two cases are considered independently and consistently in the Law:  the text above (De 22:28-29) considers rape, and fornication (mutually voluntary sexual intimacy outside of marriage) is considered in Ex 22:16-7: And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.  If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins. In both of these cases, it makes no difference whether the man in question was already married or whether he was not.

So, what do we find in God’s Law? We find that God treats men and women differently and does not apply the same standard to both. If a married man has sex with an unmarried woman he is to marry this second woman too. If a married woman has sex with an unmarried man she is to be killed. God does not apply the same standard to the husband as he does to the wife. We should accept this as perfect, not a primitive standard subject to progressive revelation.

Sexual relations of a wife outside the confines of marriage defraud her husband and are certainly condemned by God. In the New Testament we have texts which reinforce this idea, “that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.” (1 Thess 4:6)

What biblical text explicitly forbids the husband to “defraud” his wife in a similar manner?

There are none.

Some will cite, Mark 10:11, showing that a man can commit adultery against his wife: “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.” This is true: a man can commit adultery against his wife. Yet, notice that when a man does commit adultery against his wife it is not in the “adulterous” second relationship itself that adultery is committed, but it is in the discarding of the first wife in order to obtain the second that a husband commits this adultery. The husband might even force his wife into the arms of another man by this act, and thereby — certainly — deeply wrong her. The text does not address the condition where a man takes another woman without putting away his first wife.

Discussion of the liberty of a wife to divorce her husband for adultery is irrelevant in this context of Mark 10, for in this condition she has already been put away by her husband for another woman… she no longer has a husband to divorce.

According to God’s decrees, seen here in Mark 10, it is not in the mere fact of a husband’s intimate relations with another woman besides his wife that he breaches the marriage covenant and defrauds his wife. It is in his abandonment of his wife that adultery is found: when he pursues divorce in order to make room for another woman. This is the only way a husband can commit adultery against his wife according to God’s Word.

We also have a relevant reference in God’s qualifications for an elder, that he be “blameless, the husband of one wife.” (1 Tim 3:2) Certainly, men who pursue polygamous relationships evidence a very shallow understanding (if any at all) of the marital relationship. This does disqualify them from formal leadership positions in the church, and clearly indicates that the polygamous state is not the ideal. However, such a state is not explicitly forbidden for men in general. It simply isn’t.

We have no other significant biblical texts to turn to in this regard.

Now, to repeat my disclaimer above, and as will be demonstrated shortly, I must state that I am not condoning the wanton sexual behavior of promiscuous men. I am not. I am simply saying that divorce is not necessarily the correct response for a wife when her husband has become unfaithful sexually. If divorce is not the correct response according to the law, then divorce is not warranted and it is sinful.

Adultery, as defined in the Law,  is the fatal violation of a marriage. When a married woman lies with any other man besides her husband she defiles herself, defrauds her husband and mortally wounds her marriage. When a man breaks his marriage covenant by divorcing his wife for another woman, this also is fatal to the marriage by definition. These are the devastating sexual blows to the marriage covenant that God has defined and they are strictly forbidden by Him.

Should a man desire another woman alongside his wife, not putting away his wife but desiring both women permanently, while it is certainly very unhealthy and quite damaging to the first marriage, God does not consider it adultery or fornication. In no case can we justify a woman departing from her husband on such grounds for the mere fact that he is being intimate with another woman; there is no text anywhere in the Bible that even appears to support this concept… as far as I can tell.

It is interesting to note that when God challenges believing men concerning relations with prostitutes (1 Cor 6:15-20), He does not do so on the basis that such behavior violates the marriage covenant, which would certainly be our general reasoning today. Instead, while He does call this one-night-stand behavior fornication, and states that it is sinful, God appeals to such men based upon the fact that they are compelling the intimate union of Christ with an unbeliever. It is the same reasoning used to forbid the unholy marriage of a believer and an infidel. (1 Cor 7:39, 2 Cor 6:14) God makes no mention of our (apparently misguided) concern that such behavior defrauds the (future) wives of such (even single) men, nor does He indicate that such sinful behavior destroys the marriage covenant like adultery does.

He Shall Dwell Alone

For completeness, and to bring more of a sense of balance to our discussion, we must also consider another powerful argument given to justify the separation of the wife from a promiscuous man: disease. It is argued, reasonably well, that a woman who remains in a marriage with a man sexually active outside the marriage is exposed to sickness and even death from sexually transmitted diseases.

The prospect of disease is certainly a significant concept, and it must be thoughtfully considered to fully understand a wife’s duty when she is potentially exposed to disease through an unfaithful husband. In observing God’s laws, particularly those concerning leprosy, it is evident that a man contracting a fatal communicable disease would be quarantined until he was healed of the disease so that he would not spread it to others: And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be. (Lev 13:45-46) In the case of AIDS, or other debilitating sexually transmitted diseases, it seems reasonable for the wife to refrain from sexual activity with her husband while he is being promiscuous. If the husband intends to be wantonly promiscuous as a manner of life, it is clear that there is no way the wife can protect herself and still be sexually active with her husband. This is equivalent to him defrauding her sexually, and is therefore grounds for her to divorce him, based on Exodus 21:10-11.

While God did not permit wives to divorce their husbands for sexual activity outside of marriage, He did intend that men are not to be wantonly promiscuous without consequence, and in such a way that would generally protect women from exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. God’s design in the Law is that sexual activity implies a relatively permanent relationship. Evidence of this is found in Exodus 22:6-7 given above: when a man seeks sexual activity with an unmarried woman he is obligated to accept responsibility for her welfare and provide for her. Further, in doing so, he must not reduce his provision for his first wife.

Also, it must be observed that when a man, in a culture governed by the Law, married a woman, one who had not been previously married, he generally expected her to be a virgin. The entire culture was permeated with a disposition that would not tolerate women being sexually active outside of marriage. This can be seen in Deuteronomy 22:13-21:

13 If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, 14 And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name  upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid (an archaic word for virgin): 15 Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: 16 And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; 17 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. 18 And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; 19 And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. 20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: 21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

The general disposition of such a culture implied that sexual relationships implied permanent relationships, and therefore limited the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. In cultures where this is not the case, it is true that wanton sexual promiscuity on the part of the husband does present a very real danger to his wife.

To deal with the danger of such diseases properly, communicate to the husband that his sexual relations will be tolerated so long as any woman he desires agrees to remain permanently under his care and provision while he is sexually active with her. Let any such woman submit to being tested and treated for sexual diseases before he takes her, and be received into the home only as and when she is free from such diseases. Let the relationships between the husband and his girlfriends become permanently established, where the other women are committed to remain sexually faithful to him as long as he desires them to be.

Will such a condition be acceptable to those who claim the necessity of separation due to the risk of disease? I think not. However, it is also presumed true that very few promiscuous men would accept the above scenario either… especially considering his duty to maintain his provision and concern for all of these women in a reasonable manner.

A permanent sexual relationship outside the context of marriage, as offered in the above proposal to deal with disease, is called concubinage, and it is openly tolerated in the marital economy of God. Polygamy, having multiple wives, is tolerated as well… and perhaps sometimes even appropriate. (Consider De 25:5-10: a man — married or not — refusing to marry his brother’s widow deserves severe public reproach.)

We who are born and raised in a militantly monogamous culture, understand the sickness and unhealthiness of both polygamy and concubinage, especially when it is rooted in the wanton heart of a man who will not cherish the wife of his youth. However, we must accept the fact that such a practice in itself is not unlawful in the domestic economy of God, and we must not violate the letter and or the spirit of the Law by encouraging women of unfaithful husbands to destroy their marriages. When we do so we bring much more devastation to our lives, communities and cultures by departing from and violating God’s Law.

Consider the great men of our faith: King David, or Prince Jacob, or even our esteemed father Abraham. Were not each of these men sexually involved with multiple women at the same time? Sarah herself, the woman God mentions in 1 Peter 3 as a fine example of godliness for New Testament wives to follow, not only suffered two prolonged separations from her husband Abraham (and the rest of her immediate family) in which he sold her to be another man’s wife (!), but – like many dear women today who still struggle with this brokenness – did actually submit herself to a man, calling him lord, who regularly had other women in bed with him.

It is generally overlooked that Abraham, the friend of God and the father of our faith, had a number of concubines in addition to Hagar (whom Sarah gave to Abraham as a second wife to be a surrogate mother since she herself was barren): “Unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.” (Gen 25:6). When did God ever counsel Sarah, or any of the wives of godly polygamous men, to stand up against their husbands in defiant protest as their husbands were considering sexual relations with other women? It would have been treacherous and wicked rebellion for them to do so. Sarah did not separate herself from Abraham, as modern feminists would have counseled her, due to his having concubines. God commanded (and commended) her faithfulness to her husband Abraham in spite of this condition.

Consider taking an enlightening little peek into God’s eternal testimony here, peering  through an obscure window into a moment of time long forgotten. Listen in with me on a telling conversation between God and one of the men that purchased Sarah from Abraham to be one of his many wives. What does God condemn? What does He overlook? What response does He require? (Gen 20)

But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife. 4  But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine. 8 Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. 10  And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? 11  And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake. 12  And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. 13  And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother. 14 And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife. 15  And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee. 16  And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved. 17  So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. 18  For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.

It is a remarkable story to consider in this context, is it not? Here we have a king claiming, in the very presence of God, to God Himself, that he has taken another wife with all uprightness and integrity, as part of a righteous nation that practiced polygamy. The woman he has taken actually belongs to another man… and the king was certainly innocently unaware of this when he took her. Even so, God has just threatened his life, and the lives of all his loved ones, due to his action. When the king appeals from a position of genuine integrity, God accepts his appeal, agrees that this king did what he did in the integrity of his heart, and states that He Himself has kept the king from sinning against Himself in the process.

Now, does that testimony of Scripture mean that polygamy is OK? Does it mean that polygamy was ever healthy in God’s economy, or that God’s pattern for marriage has ever changed? No, it doesn’t imply that. God’s design and command for men from the very beginning has been to cleave to one woman for life. Polygamy, when pursued in wantonness and dissatisfaction with the wife of one’s youth, certainly is sinful. Concubinage is sinful for the same reason. God does not generally approve of it, but He does tolerate it: it is not the kind of sin that warrants divorce.

However, God does not ever tolerate adultery: a man being with the wife of another man. The fact that Sarah was still married to another man in God’s eyes made the king’s act a great sin: this was the only aspect of the scenario that made it a sin worthy of such immediate and vengeful retribution. The fact that the sin was committed by the king brought this kind of sin upon his kingdom. Even after the appeal has been accepted, God’s threat looms immanently overhead if the king does not follow through in obedience and restore Abraham his wife. The only difference between life and death, between this marriage being acceptable and unacceptable in God’s sight, is that the woman the king has taken was still another man’s wife… Abraham had not formally divorced her.

Further, all this occurred prior to any written Law defining or forbidding adultery… and is consistent with the Law even to the enforcement of the death penalty. The concepts were clearly in place in human culture, recently descended from Noah, and were commonly recognized as the divine standard apart from any explicit written revelation. It shows “the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness.” (Rom 2:15a) These principles are indeed timeless.

Lastly, did not King David, as a married man with several wives, have many more beautiful women given to him… by God? the wives and concubines of Saul the prior king? “And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.” (2 Sam 12:8) As God gave king David the throne of Israel, He did so knowing that along with it came a number of beautiful women that were on reserve to to be David’s sexual servants, and God was willing to tolerate David having even more liberty and pleasure if that did not satisfy him. All of these women, both concubines and wives in David’s household, each individually understood that the man God had given to her to be her lord in this life did not answer to her for his sexual conduct. Does it mean that David’s behavior was holy and healthy? No. But it does provide a pattern for us as to what principles govern such circumstances.

But when David knowingly took another man’s wife… it was an entirely different matter… and it wasn’t pretty.

So, what am I not saying. Again, am I saying that it is healthy and good for a husband to have a playmate in addition to his wife? Or to want more than one wife? No. I am not saying that. It has never been healthy for a man to want more than one wife, or to neglect to cleave to the wife of his youth. This is clearly stated in Proverbs 5: 18-19: “Rejoice with the wife of thy youth… and be thou ravished always with her love.” Any other behavior is unhealthy and inappropriate… and certainly sinful… and it has always been that way. King David and father Abraham weren’t very good husbands: to say it plainly… they lived in this kind of sin as a manner of life. That was not good, it was never good, and it never will be good.

What I am saying is that the consequences for a husband’s infidelity must be aligned with God’s Word. Divorce is not necessarily an appropriate consequence for this kind of sin: a wife should not just leave her husband when he does these kinds of things unless she is physically threatened by disease because the husband refuses to be accountable for his physical sexual health as a manner of life. Otherwise, if the husband is repentant at all and has not contracted an incurable disease that would kill or main his wife, divorce is not an appropriate response. Forgiveness and reconciliation is the appropriate response, or living alone and waiting for her husband to repent or divorce her.

If She Depart

Having all of these principles in hand, let us come full circle. In spite of God’s commands, divorce happens… both righteous and unrighteous ones; homes are broken, children are hurt, families are torn apart, hearts are deeply wounded. What is the duty of a wife in the context of separation and divorce?

Should a man actually bring an end to his marriage by treacherously abusing, neglecting, or formally divorcing his wife, or should a wife treacherously depart from her husband without regard for God’s Law and marry another man, the question naturally arises, what shall become of the children of this first marriage? Under whose jurisdiction should they remain? Should parental authority now be split equally between the husband and wife when the wife is no longer subject to her husband’s authority? Does the departure of the wife from the home imply a breaking of the authority of the father in the lives of his children, or somehow overthrow or diminish his rule in the home?

Consider the wording that generally occurs when a husband and wife are separated. The Word of Life speaks of a wife “departing” and a husband “putting away,” as in 1 Cor 7:10-11, “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” A wife can separate herself from her husband by departing from his house, or the husband can put his wife away, forcing her departure from himself… and from his house. In either case, the husband remains head of his household. This wording is consistent throughout the Scripture (except in Mark 10:12, where the concept of a wife putting away her husband is formally acknowledged, and defined as sinful, there being no righteous provision in the Law for such a thing).

It is evident that no mention is made in the Word of God as to how a husband or a father might be properly put out of his house, or lose his authority in the lives of his children. However, it seems reasonable to conclude that the same cause which gives a wife freedom from her husband similarly gives the children freedom. Should a father maim a child, or neglect to provide the basic necessities of life when he is capable of doing so, this might appropriately be considered legitimate grounds to remove the child from the father’s home. If such standards apply to adult women to give them freedom from neglect and abuse, how much more should these same standards apply to free children less capable and experienced in defending themselves from neglect and abuse? In my opinion, this is a reasonable deduction from the principles of God.

Besides this, when it is simply the wife departing from the husband and the children themselves have not been severely neglected or abused by him, what is to become of them? In whose home should they remain and be raised?

The text in Exodus 20:11 referenced earlier states that the wife, “will go out free without money.” Does she take her children with her? The Word never gives her permission to do so, and an argument from silence is quite compelling in this case.

Consider the situation of a male servant who married while a servant, who has earned his freedom and is now departing from his master. What is to become of the family he started as a slave? It depends on who owns them. Exodus 21:4 reads, “If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.” The integrity of a functional servant-family is superseded by the ownership of the master. God respects the master’s ownership of the servant’s wife and children above the servant’s ownership of his own wife and children if the master has provided the wife to the servant during his tenure of service.

The concept of the master’s ownership of his own children would be much more important to him than his ownership of his servant’s children, which have a much weaker relational tie with him. If a man’s own children must also depart his household when the wife “goes out free,” given that a husband also owns his wife and controls whether she leaves or not, the omission of any reference to his children departing would be inappropriate seeing that similar principles governing a much less important relationship are spelled out in the Law.

In other words, if no lawful provision is made for how a man’s own children might be taken from him, when principles are established relating to how his servant’s children might be taken from him, we may conclude that a father’s children may not be forcibly removed from him while he is yet their father. We may reasonably argue from silence here that the children of a divorce are to remain with the father if this is his pleasure.

Principles governing the home given in the New Testament reinforce this concept. The husband, as the head of his wife (Eph 5:23) and the ruler of his household (1 Tim 3:12), continues as the head of his household even after his wife departs from him. Clearly, as the husband has authority over his wife and children prior to the departure of the wife, it is inconceivable that any unrighteous rebellion against him on the part of his wife would somehow legitimately destroy his authority in the lives of his children. Grounds to remove children from the rule of their father, interrupting their regular presence in his home by a departing wife, cannot be contrived without violating the integrity and spirit of God’s principles for the home as He has designed it to function.

Bound By the Law

Dear Sister, as we have seen from 1 Corinthians 7:39, if you have ended a marriage apart from the spirit of the condition given in God’s Law you are bound by God’s Law to remain alone and faithful to your husband until he himself fulfills the conditions that would disqualify him from being your husband. You have violated his authority as your head in leaving him and you must not remarry another man until your husband’s behavior sets you free of the marriage. Any divorce pursued by you outside of these boundaries, God’s boundaries, is meaningless to the Lord and does nothing to alter your responsibility as your husband’s wife. It does not matter if your action was legal, sanctioned by any government or church or religious institution. You are still married until God’s standard of divorce is met.

If you have not yet remarried and your husband is still alive, you are commanded by God to return to him, stay with him, reverence him and obey him. If you are unwilling to do that, you must at least remain alone and chaste and pure until you are reconciled to him: “Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband.” (1 Cor 7:10-11a) It makes no difference whether your husband remarries or not: God’s Law is given clearly and consistently with no consideration given to his marital state.

If you yourself have already remarried unjustly, without being properly set free from your husband’s authority, then this is truly a terrible mess. I don’t know for certain what all to say to it… and there are a whole lot of marriages like this today. Many women have several men unrighteously strewn behind them, some of whom are still painfully awaiting reconciliation with their wives… some day. It appears that the woman Christ spoke with at Jacob’s well may have been such a woman, having had five husbands at various times previous to her current boyfriend, to whom she was not married. (John 4:18) Perhaps you find yourself in this condition. God does have a way for you. What is it? What should you do?

It is not unreasonable to deny the validity of any marriage following an unrighteous divorce and to require such a woman to return to her last legitimate husband. David reclaimed Michal, apparently righteously, separating her from her current husband after she had been taken from him unlawfully and given to another, even though Michal had borne five sons in this second marriage. (2 Sam 3:14) God commanded Abimelech to return Sarah to Abraham after Abimelech had married her (in this case though, they had not consummated the marriage).

God states that any woman who marries another man while her husband is alive commits adultery. So long as she remains in such a marriage she continues to commit adultery. Consider Romans 7:2-3, “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”

Since God forbids adultery, and since continuing in such a state does not tend to make it right, regardless how long this state exists, it is reasonable to conclude that any such relationship is invalid, wicked, adulterous and that it should be promptly ended. A woman that leaves her husband and marries another lives in a state of adultery so long as she continues with this second man. God does not place His stamp of approval on such a thing gradually… when a relationship is wicked it is simply wicked, regardless of its duration or political or cultural acceptability. It cannot be right unless the first marriage was formally ended by the husband.

However, though we can find examples of such dealings with unrighteous remarriages, and clear indication as to how God formally views them… I must admit that indiscretion here could wreck untold havoc on many people, particularly against current husbands and any children born of unrighteous marriages. We do not live in a culture that properly supports people in making such difficult, heart-rending decisions. God have mercy on us! It would be very different if biblical principles were commonly understood and enforced in our churches and culture, but this is not the case… at all. My advice to wives that are in an unrighteous marriage — and I tremble deeply in this place — is to return to the man you are actually married to before God, your legitimate husband, the last man with whom you had a righteous marital relationship that has not ever formally divorced you, maimed you, or abandoned you, and let him decide what you should do. That is not easy… I am not pretending that it would be.

Regardless of your current marital state, whether or not you yourself have remarried another man — or even several over time, if you have children and the natural father of any of your children is yet alive, and he has not maimed, molested, or abandoned his children (an equivalent standard as applies to his treatment of you… I include molestation since a man would have been put to death for taking his sister intimately – Lev 20:17 – and I conclude that taking a daughter or a son this way is much worse), you are bound to honor him in the lives of his children much the same as if you were still married to him. This means encouraging your children to honor and respect their father, nurturing your children’s desire to be with and live with their father in his home (if that is what he wants), and continually and gently encouraging his children to obey him in all things (that are not explicitly sinful or dangerous). You should persist in this faithfully unless the father is severely abusing his children to the point of maiming them, threatening their very lives, or forcing them into blatant sin or immorality.

When you left your husband, if you did so unrighteously, nothing changed in his authoritative relationship to his children simply because you departed his home, or worse, when you forced  him out. If God’s Law has set the children free of his authority and influence, just as it may have set you free, only then should they be apart from him. Otherwise, your departure from your husband’s home was a departure from your children as well as your husband; if you attempted to remove or woo the children from his home at any time, you were wrong in this and you should not have done so.

You are not the final judge of who should care for your children and how… God is the Judge. God has given husbands a charge: “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4) God intends for fathers to “bring up” their children, and fathers are accountable to God (not their wives) for how they fulfill this charge. Thus, God intends for children to live under the care and nurture of their father and to be subject to his influence as they mature. This cannot occur as God would have it to occur unless the children are living with him. While mothers certainly also participate naturally in this nurturing role as they submit to and assist their husbands in fulfilling God’s calling, there are no comparable commands given to mothers to contradict or temper this concept when a mother departs the household. Her role is to assist her husband, not usurp his role in the lives of his children.

There is absolutely nothing that you as a wife can or should do to break up this God-given role and authority of a father in the lives of his children… only the father himself can forfeit this position by his own willful abuse or neglect of his family. Divorcing your husband does not diminish his role, remove him from being the head of his family, or somehow place you in control of the children by default. The fact that you are generally the primary caregiver in the home does not invalidate your husband’s authority when you leave him. If you departed the marriage unjustly you forfeited your right to a regular and stable presence in the home of your children… not your husband’s right to this.

Even if your husband has put you away unjustly against your will, God forbid, I must still say the same: it is God you must look to and trust to care for your children in their home through your husband… or to soften your husband’s heart toward you and reconcile him to you. In any case of such injustice, may our God be very merciful to comfort you and strengthen you as you obey Him. I can think of little more painful for a loving mother than to be forced from her children and home. Even so, you may not resist God’s standard or arbitrarily interpret it: God Himself has set it and you must not twist it in any manner. Trust Him blindly… if you must; He deserves your trust. All things work together for good for you if you are in love with Him and are called according to His purpose. Perhaps it is given unto you, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake. You are not the only one suffering like this: to be sure… many a forsaken father is suffering here as well.

Godly Sorrow Worketh Repentance

If you have lived in disobedience to God, admit it and take responsibility for it. God is calling women who have usurped authority in their homes, who have walked in ignorance and rebellion against God’s design for the home, who have wrongfully dominated and/or divorced their husbands, to humble themselves and repent of their sin.

And God is calling all saints who have neglected to declare this truth, neglected it to the great peril of our families and our churches… to fall on their knees before Him.

As a wife, admit that it is sinful and harmful to condescendingly criticize your children’s father when alone, in front of his children, or in public. It is wrong to judge his motives, to constrain him, to challenge his decisions, to correct him, to admonish him, to mock him, or to be disrespectful toward him in any manner, so long as he lives within the boundaries defined by God for fathers. It is a violation of the will of God for you to try to resist, confound, diminish or thwart his influence or presence in your own life or in your children’s lives apart from God’s righteous standards.

If you are separated from the father of your children, unless he has relinquished his rightful place in his family in a manner consistent with God’s Law or forced you to leave his home, acknowledge that what you have done in leaving him is wrong. If you have broken up his family unrighteously and separated him from his children … repent.

The legitimate father should be actively overseeing his entire family, his wife and all his minor children, and all should now, ideally, be living with him. All should continue with him and be under his protective care, if that is where he wants them to live. No member of his family should have ever lived apart from such a man unless he sincerely wished it so.

Regardless of a father’s sin… or a husband’s… own yours. Do not make excuses for your sin. In godly subjection to the Word of God, trusting God to honor His Word and your obedience to Him, if you are separated from your husband and had no biblical grounds to leave your husband and break up your home, and if you did this all on your own with no one pressuring you or forcing your hand, since this was very hurtful to your husband and to any children you may have, take full responsibility for your actions and try to make it right in whatever way you can. It is very likely that your family is deeply damaged by what you have done, and all will need the healing mercies of Jesus Christ to mend from the damage of your sins against them. Bless their healing process now by publicly acknowledging before God, your husband and your children, any evil you have done as a wife and mother in breaking up their home; apologize… and humbly ask for their forgiveness.

Seek to be reconciled to your husband and submit to him if he will still have you. If he is not ready to receive you, then wait on him and pray for him. If he will not have you at all and clearly intends for this separation to be permanent, then you are free to remarry in the Lord as you will, or to remain married to another if you have already remarried. Perhaps the Lord will have you wait for repentance in your husband instead, perhaps to remain single, undistracted, and devoted unto Him. May He lead you as you seek His face.

If you are a divorced woman and have children from a previous marriage living with you, purpose to gently and patiently encourage these children to return to their father’s home to live with him if he desires this and he has not forfeited his right to father them. Enable their transition to his home in the most comfortable and nourishing way that you can. Encourage your children to remain there until they are married or released into independent adulthood at their father’s discretion.

By God’s grace purpose in your heart to encourage your children to honor and respect their legitimate natural father… even if your husband has divorced you and you are now remarried to another man. Encourage the natural father to walk in his God-given role in the lives of his children, and by your own quiet and submissive example encourage your children to submit to him and to obey him as the Bible says they should. From now on, whether you personally agree with their father or not, encourage your children to submit to and honor his decisions, point them to follow his counsel, and teach them to seek to know and follow their father’s will for them in every area of their lives so long as he is not encouraging them to be blatantly sinful.

Your obedience and subjection to the Gospel of Christ will mean so much more to your children, to their father, to the kingdom of God, and to God in the long run than anything you can do for them in defiance of God’s Word. Promote the father’s direct influence in every area of your children’s lives that you can. This is not rejecting your children; it is the only way in which you can truly love them: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.” (1 John 5:2) Receive the will of God revealed to you from His written Word as the best possible thing you can now do for your children.

Let us not love in word only, but in deed and in truth. May God Himself give you an abundance of grace, strength, and courage as you purpose to obey Him.

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