One of the strongest desires in human thought is the urge to prove yourself right. Especially when you aren't.
Jesus has spoken on this subject before, and his position is likely well known. So the Pharisees are not engaged in idle curiosity or genuine interest—they're out to trap him. But it's interesting that this is the subject. There were two schools of thought. One held that adultery, and only adultery, was grounds for divorce. The other held that man's dominion over woman was such that any displeasure was sufficient, as long as the legal forms were followed. Perhaps you can guess which opinion they held.
Jesus' reply deals less with legal form than with first principles. This is somewhat like aiming a rifle. The slightest deflection from the true aim at the beginning can produce a wide miss at the target. Let us see what God was aiming at:
· The married couple are to be "one flesh." One widow told me that her ache for her late husband was "like having your right arm torn off every day." That's how God views divorce.
· This relationship is above all other human relationships, for it is superior to the parent-child relationship.
· This relationship was established by God, by direct action, at the very beginning. That alone should tell us that the joining was done by God. How presumptuous of us to split it!
You can imagine the counter argument. Why did Moses "command" the bill of divorce? Doesn't that mean it can be done?
· There is a difference between "command" and "permit." Moses could not have taught the people God's perfection in one generation—he also permitted polygamy.
· There is also a difference between manner and matter. If you're going to divorce, do it this way. But that is not the same as blanket permission for divorce.
The matter is essentially one of cruelty and injustice. By far the most common case then (and still surprisingly so today) is that of a man who enjoys a wife for many years, taking all he can. He then finds a younger, prettier woman—and discards his wife like so much rubbish. He labels his lust as "love," and declares himself justified. He proves himself right, even when he isn't.
But have a care; God counts a woman's tears. He is the God of righteousness and justice—and judgment.