When Your Mate Has Fallen

by Jefferson David Tant

An unfaithful spouse is not a new phenomenon in our generation. We can trace it as far back as David and Bathsheba in the Old Testament. But it is dealt with even before that, as the Law God gave to Israel had specific provisions concerning this sin.

No other problem is so damaging to a marriage or has such a potential for future harm. It not only damages love and trust but also harms children, parents, grandparents, and all others who are part of the extended family. While the devastating effects of adultery have often been dealt with, perhaps not enough has been said about restoring the marriage after adultery.

First, consider that divorce should not be the first action or thought. Restoration is better. God gives us the right to put the offending spouse away (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; etc.) but does not mandate it. Obviously, where there is no repentance and there seems to be no hope, divorce is certainly available. But if godly sorrow and repentance have been manifested. what then? Is a full restoration of the relationship possible? If the fragrant flower of love has been damaged, can it be encouraged to bloom once more? It is the belief of this writer that the relationship can be restored to its previous state, and that love can thrive, even to a greater degree than before. But it will take some work on the part of both husband and wife, as well as other family members.

Before giving serious thought to divorce, give some serious thought about the consequences —especially if children are involved. At one time the “experts” said that children were resilient, and would get over a divorce. But now they are singing a different tune. Divorce often does great harm to children. Some never get over it. And extended family members will also be impacted. Please think about others before making a permanent disruption in the lives of many.

Some make take the view that once such a sacred trust has been damaged, it can never be fully restored. Yes, the marriage may survive, and the couple may dwell together in peace, but the full joy can never be realized again. And while one might understand such thinking on the part of one who has been so deeply wounded, we must also understand that with God “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). What do you think God’s will is? You know what God wants.

In order to get a clear perspective, let us consider God’s attitude towards Israel and her spiritual adultery. In both the Old and New Testaments, God looked upon his people as espoused to him, as his wife. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God poured out his disgust at the wicked harlotry of unfaithful Jerusalem. The whole 16th chapter deals with God’s grace to unfaithful Jerusalem. Let us note several verses from the chapter to be aware of the sins of the people.

"Then it came about after all your wickedness ('Woe, woe to you!' declares the Lord GOD), that you built yourself a shrine and made yourself a high place in every square. You built yourself a high place at the top of every street, and made your beauty abominable; and you spread your legs to every passer-by to multiply your harlotry. You also played the harlot with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, and multiplied your harlotry to make Me angry. Behold now, I have stretched out My hand against you and diminished your rations. And I delivered you up to the desire of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who are ashamed of your lewd conduct. Moreover, you played the harlot with the Assyrians because you were not satisfied; you even played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied. You also multiplied your harlotry with the land of merchants, Chaldea, yet even with this you were not satisfied. How languishing is your heart," declares the Lord GOD, "while you do all these things, the actions of a bold-faced harlot. When you built your shrine at the beginning of every street and made your high place in every square, in disdaining money, you were not like a harlot. You adulteress wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband! Men give gifts to all harlots, but you give your gifts to all your lovers to bribe them to come to you from every direction for your harlotries. Thus you are different from those women in your harlotries, in that no one plays the harlot as you do, because you give money and no money is given you; thus you are different" (Ezekiel 16:23-34).

That’s strong language. I have never heard a betrayed husband or wife use such language.

We turn to Hosea and note that Hosea’s wife, Gomer, left him to commit adultery, and God told Hosea to go and take his wife back. Through this, God is displaying his attitude towards unfaithful Israel. In the second chapter, we note God’s condemnation of Israel’s unfaithfulness.

"Say to your brothers, "Ammi," and to your sisters, "Ruhamah." "Contend with your mother, contend, For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband; And let her put away her harlotry from her face, And her adultery from between her breasts, Lest I strip her naked And expose her as on the day when she was born. I will also make her like a wilderness, Make her like desert land, And slay her with thirst. Also, I will have no compassion on her children, Because they are children of harlotry. For their mother has played the harlot; She who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, 'I will go after my lovers, Who give me my bread and my water, My wool and my flax, my oil and my drink'" (Hosea 2:1-5).

We cannot imagine a worse scenario with respect to an unfaithful spouse, and from a human standpoint, we might imagine that restoring broken relationships as described in Ezekiel and Hosea would be nigh unto impossible. But Hosea 14 gives a glimpse of God’s forgiving spirit.

"Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to Him, "Take away all iniquity, And receive us graciously, That we may present the fruit of our lips. Assyria will not save us, We will not ride on horses; Nor will we say again, 'Our god,' To the work of our hands; For in Thee the orphan finds mercy." I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; He will blossom like the lily, And he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon. His shoots will sprout, And his beauty will be like the olive tree, And his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon. Those who live in his shadow Will again raise grain, And they will blossom like the vine. His renown [will be] like the wine of Lebanon. O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; From Me comes your fruit. Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; Whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, And the righteous will walk in them, But transgressors will stumble in them" (Hosea 14).

Please note some key phrases in the passage that indicate God’s grace in this. "Take away all iniquity, And receive us graciously… For in Thee the orphan finds mercy. I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from them.

And now we close with a final thought from God. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

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