And here we are. Does the law permit a man to divorce his wife if she is unfaithful...or if he is? We know from the examples given in Scripture that unfaithful women were stoned, not divorced, and we know that Jesus teaches on this. But it's important beyond what we read on the surface of it.
Remember that the law was designed to teach the people how to live as a faithful people before God. And marriage was often the image used for the relationship between God and His people; it still is. Christ is the groom, and we are His bride.
So what does that mean for unfaithfulness?
If a man is allowed to divorce his wife because she is unfaithful to him, then God is allowed to stop loving you when you are unfaithful. He's allowed to break up with you. Can you imagine a universe in which everything you know about God is true, but He is also permitted to stop loving you? It's unfathomable.
He even said so much Himself when He commanded Hosea to take an unfaithful wife. He was making a bold statement. No matter your infidelity, He will never stop - He can never stop - loving you.
But the promise goes even deeper than this, because if a man is allowed to divorce his wife because of his own unfaithfulness, then that, too, is a promise that God is making to His people. If He, the Lord, ever becomes unfaithful to you, He will set you free to pursue other gods. He will write off His own covenant and let you go.
So in saying that a man can never divorce his wife except in the case of his own unfaithfulness, God is saying that no matter the ups and downs, no matter how rocky things get, no matter what's going on, He remains in this covenant with you and you remain His people. Until and unless He breaks His own vow, you're His...and He's yours.
In other words, what He's saying with every breath is that He will never break His vow. He will never renege on His covenant. And if, for some unfathomable reason, He does, He will set you free.
And we see this, too, over and over in Scripture, where women are on the outs with their men for one reason or another and become favored by God. Where one wife is loved and the other, loved less, and God grants the less-loved woman the fertile womb in order to remind her husband of his love for her. Where God says plainly that if for some reason, you come to be upset with your wife, you're not allowed to just leave her; you have to keep her. Where He says that she's yours forever and can never leave your house; you have to take care of her, even on the days when you don't want to.
You have to keep loving her even when you don't love her very much, and God gives you every reason to do that...because that's what He does. He keeps on loving His people even when it doesn't seem He should love them very much, when they don't seem very lovable.
So these statements on adultery and divorce are important, not just for the ways they teach us to live with each other, but for the ways they teach us that we live with God. Whenever we read sections of Scripture like this, we have to keep an eye out for what they reveal about God's covenant with us because that's what it's all about. That's what He wants us to see. And if He ever stops loving us...
Well, He won't.