Sixty-five years, forty-five of them as a student of the Bible and thirty-eight years of marriage, have brought a deep, settled conviction. In the economy of God, 100% of the responsibility for sustaining a marriage belongs to the husband. No failure or sin on the part of the wife is his justification to forsake her.
St. Paul is explicit:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her…that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25-28)
This instruction admits of no condition whereby a husband may leave his wife. Christ will not forsake His church, no matter how she fails. God, speaking through His prophet Malachi, puts the blame for divorce strictly on the husband:
And this again you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand. You ask, “Why does He not?” Because the Lord was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Has not the one God made and sustained for us the spirit of life? And what does He desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth. “For I hate divorce,” says the Lord the God of Israel, “and covering one’s garment with violence,” says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless. (Mal. 2:13-16)
To illustrate His love for His spouse, the people of God, He commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute—and when she left him, to go after her.
A husband cannot force his wife to receive his love, or reciprocate it—not even God can do that. But he must love her, cleave to her! He is bound by covenant!
Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Gen. 2:24)
(See Matthew 19:5 and Ephesians 5:31.)
Richard C. Halverson