Today’s message is a tough one. However what I want to remind you is that this whole book was written in the context of a fathers love. The book opened with God declaring his love, and a reminder that the most loving thing he has done for his people was the very act of making them his people. He chose them, and now he is rebuking them out of love. The most loving thing he could do at this point was give them a tough talking to and point out their sin, so that they may repent from their sins.
One thing I love about working through a book is that it forces me to work through all topics within the context the bible discusses them. If it were not for this it would be easy to steer around tougher subjects and stick with the easier ones. Today’s message is no easy one. God is dealing with the religious leaders of Israel who are leading people astray and he focuses in on divorce. I myself am a divorcee so understand I tackle this subject like any other not out of a spirit of superiority but humble conviction. I will do my best to expositionally interpret the word of God we find here in Malachi chapter 2:1-17.
In the beginning of the chapter God specifically calls out the priests, and commands them to listen up, and gives a warning of consequences if they do not:
“And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it. 4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 2:1-4 ESV
What causes us not to listen? Is it that we don’t hear God’s message, that we don’t understand his word? This message was specifically pointed to the priests so it seems to me the answer is no. They received strict education from an early age; they studied the scriptures and commentaries on the scriptures. The problem even for us today is not whether we know the truth or have heard it, but that we make choices that make us happy or are easier, rather than those which bring God glory. We don’t want to listen. In refusing to listen we worship ourselves rather than God. We choose happiness over Godliness, and this never ends well. The moment we start worshiping the created over the creator we lose because nothing other than God will fill the desires of our heart, rather they will leave us wanting more.
Next God says that the consequence of choosing not to listen is to receive curses rather than blessings, curses that affect not just the priests themselves but their offspring. You see teachers and spiritual leaders don’t just hurt themselves when they fail to give right instruction. They hurt everyone, they cause others to stumble. They were meant to be part of God’s revelation of himself to his people. The proper handling of his word and ordinances is a high calling, which needs to be respected and taken seriously.
God literally calls their work crap, and tells his priests he will spread it on their faces, then throw them away with it. God didn’t pull any punches here he told them what he thinks of their offerings, and goes on to include their instruction. To us these words seem extreme but to the original recipients it was more so. The priests had to maintain a very strict high standard of cleanliness. So the idea of having waste spread on their face was huge. This would not only be unpleasant but would make them ceremonially unclean, it would disqualify them from taking part in the rituals of a priest, and would be a visible sign of their disqualification. They would have to go through a whole process of cleansing in order to regain the ability to perform the functions of their job. It seems to me that is exactly what God is saying here. I will disqualify you! You are not taking your position to heart, and this is what it looks like to me, now listen up or I will be rid of you.
In five through nine he told them what he is looking for in a spiritual leader:
“My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”
Malachi 2:5-9 ESV
Character is important to God in his people and especially in the teachers of his word.God had blessed them with life and peace, which were blessings from God. The word fear here means reverence. The priests feared God, that is they revered him as great and followed his commands out of that sense of awe and respect. Here they treat him with disdain. If they feared God they would be following his commands. Their faith would play out in their walk, in how they did his work.
Clarity is also important in a spiritual leader. We can’t afford to be vague, we must speak truth clearly. The word of God properly handled will do the work God has intended. Here God said the truth that was on his lips lead others away from iniquity. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 it says:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB
Scripture is the word of God and is meant to be used to teach us how to live out our faith. The job of the spiritual leader is to clearly teach the word of God, as they are the messenger of God. Then God goes on to say that they have not done this. They have done the opposite, and for that he will humble them before the very people they serve.
Next, God points out another sin the people of Israel have done which he calls an abomination.
“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. 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!” Malachi 2:10-12 ESV
The Israelites had intermarried with non believers, and in doing so they had profaned the name of God. We find scripture warning us not to do this both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. It seems to me the reason is that God is protecting the legacy. Who we marry is an extremely important decision. If we date or marry an unbeliever we put ourselves at risk of falling into temptation, for example King Solomon, and we put our future children at risk. It is hard enough to teach our children our faith but if we align ourselves with someone who doesn’t share it we show them our faith wasn’t our top priority. As we teach them scripture they will even see God’s warning not to do so, as it is in 2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” and in Deuteronomy 7:3-4 NASB “ You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.” The two do not belong together.
As Christians we believe we are fallen and in need of a savior, and by the grace of God Jesus, God in the flesh, lived a perfect life then offered himself as atonement for our sins by dying on the cross, then rose again conquering death. By his death we receive the gift of eternal life, and as God’s children our purpose for living is to glorify God and live out the purpose he has for us to reach all the nations preaching this good news. If we believe this, and are living this out, and seeking to leave a legacy of faithfulness how can we align ourselves in the most intimate relationship with someone who doesn’t agree with that which guides our entire purpose? This would be cutting our own legs out from under ourselves. I’m preaching to myself as much as I am to any other single. Friends I believe it is better to stay single than to put ourselves in a relationship where God will not be glorified. It is easy to get caught up in searching for happiness, or settling out of loneliness, but what is of utmost importance is Godliness. Searching for happiness at the cost of Godliness is heading for sure destruction.
Next God addresses divorce in Malachi2:13-16:
“This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand.Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce, says the LORD, the God of Israel, and him who covers his garment with wrong, says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” Malachi2:13-16 NASB