At the end of the Old Testament, in the book of Malachi, God confronts His people, Israel, about a number of sins. One issue God addresses is divorce.
Malachi 2:13–16 (NKJV) 13And 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, Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. 14Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. 15But 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. 16“For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”
Malachi 2:13-16 reveals a lot about God’s view of marriage. Not the least of which is His hatred of the treachery of divorce. In explaining the reasons for His hatred, God reveals several truths about marriage. For example, verse 15 says, “Did He not make them one.” Jesus repeats this idea of two being made one when He explains:
Matthew 19:6 (NKJV) So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
The union that God creates is spiritual, and in Malachi 2, God points to this union when He repeats the warning, “Take heed to your spirit.” Spiritual unity is an integral element in our understanding of marriage. We will continue to see it throughout our consideration of marriage. However, I want to focus on what God says about companionship. In Malachi 2:14, God uses two words related to friendship—one is positive, and one is negative.
These two words are treachery and companion.
First, Let’s consider treachery. Treachery speaks of deceit and betrayal. Synonyms of treachery are:
betrayal, disloyalty, unfaithfulness, infidelity, duplicity, deceitfulness, backstabbing.
These words form a picture of treachery, and they also reflect the trust and intimacy of friendship. If trust and familiarity are not present, most of these words lose their meaning.
For example, consider the synonym “betrayal.” We see the word betrayal used in reference to Judas’ act toward Jesus. In the garden, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. His treachery was foretold in the prophecy of Psalm 55.
Psalm 55:12–14 (ESV) 12For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. 13But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. 14We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.
Look at how the psalmist describes his betrayer—“my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.” All these words can be used to define companionship and are what God is indicating in Malachi 2 when He uses the word “companion.” After describing companionship, the psalmist lists the activities the companions shared. They took sweet counsel together, they worshiped God together, and they walked together in the midst of the crowd. These indicate a familiarity and warmth of relationship only present in the closest of friendships. The close friendship and trust of the backstabber are what make betrayal painful and evil. If there were no trust, betrayal would not be possible.
The other word Malachi 2:14 uses to describe the marriage relationship is “companion.” The idea of companionship is behind the words of Genesis 2:18.
Genesis 2:18 (ESV) Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.
We should not interpret this word “helper” to mean that the woman is subservient to the man. The word “helper” is applied to God when the Bible says, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) Should we then interpret “helper” in Genesis 2 as meaning the wife is to lord it over her husband? The “helper” that God was “fit” or “comparable” to the man. The implication is that God created a companion.
Some wedding vows and some Bible translations interpret Ephesians 5 as meaning that wives must obey their husbands. The Scriptures say, “wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” However, Ephesians 5:21 says, “...submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Does this mean that we are to obey each other? Are we to do whatever the person sitting next to us tells us to do? Why not? The Bible says we are to submit to one another! Philippians 2 tells us to consider others as more important than ourselves. It also tells us to do nothing out of selfishness or vain conceit. Love means giving up self for the sake of the other, which requires the humility of submitting to each other, but not in the sense of obeying each other. We are to subordinate ourselves in preference for others.
The Bible teaches that the husband and wife are companions and commands each alternatively to love and to submit. These differing commands are because of fleshly tendencies that come as a result of the fall. Genesis 3:16 tells us that as a result of sin, the man will Lord it over the woman and that the woman’s desire will be for the man. By this, we understand that men’s and women’s sinful tendencies are generally different, not always, but generally. Thus, the different commands to love and to submit. One truth behind these commands is that the natural tendency of both is to control the other, but the method of control differs. As a result, many of our marriage problems are power struggles. Who will be in control?
The relationship between a husband and wife is to reflect the relationship of Christ and the Church. Christ gave His life for the Church, and we are called to take up our cross daily and follow Him—mutual dying to self. Consider what Jesus said to His disciples:
John 15:15 (NKJV) No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.
If anybody has the right to call us servants, the Lord Jesus has that right. I am His servant and want to be His servant, but He has called me His friend. It is shameful that I so often treat my wife as my servant instead of my companion and friend.
I recently read an account of a man who was shopping for a car. He found the vehicle he was looking for but told the owner that his wife wanted him to get it checked out by a mechanic before purchasing it. The owner scornfully asked, “So you let your wife tell you what to do?” To which the man replied, “I would not make such an important decision without my wife’s input.” When the mechanic checked out the car, a defect was found that saved the man from making an expensive mistake.
Why would I not value the opinions of the companion with whom I share everything? And yet, so often, we discount what the other has to say. How long would you stay friends with someone uninterested in what you had to say? And yet we expect our wives to submit to us, or our husbands to love us?
One rule of friendship is our friends influence us. In Amos 3:3, God asks Israel a question that applies to the marriage relationship:
Amos 3:3 (NKJV) Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
Agreement cannot be forced. Bullying someone to do it my way is not agreement. Manipulating someone to get what we want is not agreement. However, manipulating and bullying are common behaviors, even among friends, and these practices damage friendship. Because two cannot walk together without agreement.
We must learn to listen and communicate if we are to remain friends, and listening is the more important. We must care enough to listen. Proverbs 18:13 is a good reminder.
Proverbs 18:13 (NKJV) He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.
Companionship and thus friendship was part of the original design of marriage. Let’s review what Genesis 2:24 says:
Genesis 2:24 (NKJV) Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Consider with me the phrase “...shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. The Hebrew word for “joined” is also translated “hold fast” in other versions of the Bible. When Jesus quoted this passage, the Greek word He used means to be “glued” together.
At one time, a couple of ladies with whom I was acquainted were together a lot. One of the lady’s sons was a friend of mine, and in speaking of these ladies, he commented that they were glued together at the hip. For some reason, I had never heard that expression before, and so it stuck with me. I had this ridiculous picture of these two women stuck together and walking around.
If you are friends, being stuck together isn’t so bad, but can you picture two cats with their tails tied together? Many of our marriages are too much like two cats tied together.
If your spouse is not your closest friend and companion, your marriage is not what it should be. This does not mean that one should not have outside friends and companions. The opposite is true. It is necessary and healthy that we should have outside friends and companions. The Lord commands that we are not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together. We are to fellowship with each other as believers. However, even in this, we must let our spouse, our closest companion, influence us.
I used to say to myself, “Our marriage would be perfect if only my wife would .... (you fill in the blank).) However, nowhere in the Bible could I find a place where it told me to correct or fix my spouse. All the directions and commands I could find were directed to me.
In any relationship, in any friendship, I have direct control over only one person—myself, and I am 100% responsible for my part. My spouse is never responsible for any of my actions or attitudes—ever. If your marriage lacks friendship and companionship, you are not responsible for what your partner does or does not do. But, you are responsible for what you do or do not do. Each of us must put our spouse’s needs before our own and choose to love and honor them as equal partners, joined together with us for our journey through life. To do otherwise is treachery and betrayal and the breaking of the promise we made.