Mark 10:4–5 (ESV)
4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.
We learn a remarkable thing by this statement of Jesus about the nature of many of the laws given in the OT. Jesus teaches that the original purpose was for a man and a woman to be joined together as husband and wife—forever. But because of sin, the law was given that made allowance for divorce. This is what one theologian calls the floor to ceiling distinction in Old Testament ethics. The floor is the law. The ceiling is the ideal. The law is the minimum standard, but the ceiling is the behavioral ideal. Sometimes we find ourselves aiming for the ceiling, just keeping the laws, but scripture is calling us to press deeper into holiness by aiming at the ideal. The ideal of marriage is a life-long, covenanted, relationship between one man and one woman. The law for divorce was given because of the hardness of the heart. It is there because sin exists. In this broken and fallen world, spouses break their vows, and they are unfaithful or abusive—in those cases, divorce (law) is allowed. As you go throughout this week, take some time to meditate on Questions # 45-85 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. There you will see the expansive nature of the ten commandments. There is a floor, not committing murder—but the ceiling of the ideal that law calls us to is much higher. Besides Jesus’ teaching here in Mark 10:1-10 on the nature of the law, also look at the sermon on the mount found Matthew 5-7.
Father, you have called us to live lives of holiness. Yet so much of our effort is spent just to keep the bare minimum of the law when we should aim for the ideal. Please forgive our hardness of heart that keeps us from aiming at the ideal. Thank you that you have given us your Son Jesus as the ideal human being, and the embodiment of what true faithfulness looks like. Enable us today to be more and more like Christ, as we do battle against indwelling sin. Help us to fix our eyes on Him and cling ever more tightly to his promise that he will never leave us or forsake us. We pray these things in the strong name of Jesus, and Amen.