This is the last word that God’s people would receive from a prophet before John the Baptist sets the stage for Jesus. Todd earlier talked about studying the Old Testament in order to better understand the New, to give it context and depth. As we read this, try to let the description enrich your understanding of the people who Jesus came to save.
Israel is out there finding new ways to get it wrong, as well as continuing the old things that God exiled them for in the first place. They are still not holding up their covenant with God, and Malachi is putting them on trial.
Today’s message circles around several different covenants, between God and Man, between Man and Wife, and between believers. The book of Malachi uses the word “covenant” at a higher rate than any other book in the Old Testament, so let’s ask: what is a covenant?
In the Old Testament we see that it’s exclusively a relationship with people not related involving obligations established through an oath.It is a promise or a bond. A binding agreement. Contractual; I’ll do this, and you are going to do that. The difference between a contract and a Covenant is that you do you part whether or not the other party does their part.
Last week we heard about the horrid practices that the people, and even the leaders and priests had fallen in to. Sacrificing ill or deformed animals, neglect of His laws and instructions on how to live.
The focus of the text now transitions to the ways in which the laypeople were sinning by breaking their covenant with God. We will see in today’s text how God continues to give opportunities to repent even when his people are ignorant to their mistakes and their sin.As dark as it is, this letter is an encouragement that even though the human condition remains unchanged from 2400 years ago, there is a God who will not stop seeking us, who did what we could not comprehend by taking on flesh, and what is beyond understanding that he would dwell in us through his Spirit.
10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem.
• Israel’s unity with each other is based in the common source of life.
o This is still true today. God put the breath in your enemies’ lungs.
• God brought them all out of Egypt, made his promises to their ancestors, and their faithlessness to each other profanes those covenants.
• It was their responsibility, as a community, to keep the promises God made with their ancestors.
o There is one God, who created all of us. This creates a responsibility in us to love and to care for everyone, but especially our community, our church.
• To clarify, vs 11 says Judah. Here this accusation refers to all of God’s people. Post-exile we only see references to Judah but it means everyone.
• Easy to read this and think how far Israel has fallen from the days of Moses, Joshua or David. But I was reading my son’s bible, the story of Joseph and how his brothers throw him in a pit for dead, and then go one further by selling him in to slavery. The kids’ bible doesn’t name them, but those brothers are the actual patriarchs and namesakes of the tribes of Israel. Judah and Levi themselves were murderers who left their kid brother for dead because their dad gave him a coat.
• This sinful behavior has been engrained in their DNA of Israel.
• And yet God calls these actions an “abomination”, something that causes disgust and hatred.
For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!
• This seems like a very harsh punishment, if all we’ve ever been told is that God is merciful. True! His mercy is very great, however he’s also the sole arbiter of justice. There is no expiration or shortage of his mercy. But there is an end date to the distribution.
• We see Israel again continues to fall short of God’s expectations, this time in a familiar way. Taking foreign wives was one of the chief complaints Ezra had a generation ago.
• Sometimes this old language does not strike me in the way I’m sure it affected the original audience.
• God is calling for the removal of the thing at the absolute center of Jewish life, descendants and family ties.
• God does not want his people entering a marriage covenant with people who do not serve him. This was true then; it is true now.
o 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
• This text gives me an opportunity to ask the question: are you getting serious about marrying someone who isn’t following Christ?
o If getting married means becoming one flesh with someone, how does that work with a nonbeliever?
o Is that kind of union exemplifying faithfulness to God and his community?
13 And this second thing 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 from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
• The retort in vs 14 of “why not”. Why doesn’t he regard their offering?
• God says I’ll tell you exactly why. The people who are supposed to be honoring God are defaming him by making promises in front of him and breaking them.
• In these two verses, I believe the reason God is upset is fairly straight forward. His people are making promises and not keeping them.
• The men in Judah are being faithless to their wives, their covenanted companions.
• Contrast that to God who is always faithful to his promises. It seems every time I preach, I get to circle back to this theme. God desires us to be faithful in the same way.
• In a different way, we are all covenanted together in the New Testament church. As believers we have testified our faith. As members we have covenanted to support each other in our walk with Christ. If we let it slide, we’re a part of it.
• There is ignorance in their response. A lack of awareness as to why or what God might be mad about.
• It’s not like there should be any confusion, its spelled out pretty well what God expects. They have his revealed word and commandments, his law. They have had good leaders and priests over the generations who have continually reformed the nation back towards Gods way. And they certainly have the memory of his anger and punishment through war, exile and pestilence.
• God no longer accepts their prayers and offerings, because of faithlessness in their marriage covenants.
o 1 Peter 3:7 “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman… so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.
• God does the joining in a marriage covenant.
• Matthew 19:6 “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
• God is elaborating that the point of marriage is children. We have this idea that today because of science and culture that we can chose if we want to have kids. This is a biblical reminder that God created marriage “for godly offspring”.
• This is a distinct contrast with the wording “daughter of a foreign god” earlier.
• Spiritual union and faithfulness are a prerequisite to produce those spiritual offspring.
• Part of God’s plan is to create a lineage that honors him, so like Psalm 145 says we commend His works to the next generation.
• Divorce has deep-reaching consequences beyond the individual and can affect the whole community and the building up of Godly offspring.
• Notice that the back half of this verse warns us to be on the lookout.
• God is telling us here that we should guard ourselves against unfaithfulness. It is a spiritual attack that convinces us to be justified in our sin.
• We know that God is faithful and commands us clearly to be faithful.
16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
• “who does not love his wife” shows this is talking about divorce based on aversion (feeling of dislike).
• God hates divorce. Different translations say this a bit more explicit.
o NLT: “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty
• Divorce was not good for them and it’s not good for us.
• God has a picture of his people, his relationship. It’s not something to take lightly. He values it. It’s not a promise between two people, or a piece of paper, or a useless holdover from a different time. it’s a spiritual reality.
o There is a slippery slope in our culture, the devaluing of marriage in society has led to increased divorces, and a general disrespect for the covenant.
• There are a couple biblical moral reasons to get divorced, but “the man who does not love his wife” is not among them.
• All the sacraments are depictions of our relationship with God; it’s a big deal.
• To the audience, divorcing your wife is to throw her to the wolves, it is rough.
• NIV says the man who divorces his wife “does violence to the once he should protect”
• I think to cover your garment with violence happens when you do not love your wife. It invites chaos and violence says the LORD!
Humans have a sense of what is right and wrong. Innately we know what it means to be faithless. In Mere Christianity Lewis observes that we humans when we do sin, almost always try to excuse our bad behavior away. If a friend accuses us of breaking a promise, we find reasons why the rules don’t apply.
This quote is talking about people who made a marriage promise without understanding what it meant or willingly ignored the seriousness of it.
“Someone may reply that he regarded the promise made in church as a mere formality and never intended to keep it… They were imposters, they cheated. Who would urge the high and hard duty of chastity on people who have not yet wished to be honest?” CS Lewis
We can’t be faithful unless we are honest first.
• God spoke a curse that the people would be cut off from his promises because of marriage to women who worshiped foreign gods
• God had stopped accepting the offerings and prayers of the people because the Israelite men were not faithful to their marriage covenants.
• God hates divorce, not the people who get divorced.
What does it mean to be faithful? o Study the real thing, God’s word!
In what ways am I not being faithful? o Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
In what ways am I justifying my faithlessness?
Why should we ponder these questions?
• God has called us to be faithful.
• In order to do that we need to know what that means.
• Second, we need to identify what areas we need to improve
• Thirdly we need to remove the blockers that tell us we don’t need to change
God keeps his promises, and calls us to do the same.