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Malachi 2:10-3:5: The Faithless and the Faithful Print E-mail
Sunday, 16 May 2010

Malachi 2:10-3:5

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Husbands and wives are supposed to be faithful to each other.  When a couple gets married and speaks their vows to one another they often include the vow to only love and cherish each other.  In our day, these commitments are seemingly being lost.  Many men and many women are not faithful to their spouse.  In fact, some couples don’t even try to be.  They don’t even expect faithfulness from their spouse.  This is the unfortunate state of marriage in our day.

Yet, the truth remains: husbands and wives are supposed to be faithful to each other.  This is how marriage was designed and intended to be (see Ephesians 5:22-33).  But we as humans have continually struggled with the call to be faithful.  We struggle with it in marriage and we struggle with it in our relationship to God.  We know that we should be faithful, but knowing it and doing it can often be two different things.

In one sense, none of this is new.  After the exile, the men of Israel struggled to be faithful to their wives and faithful to the Lord.  We see this struggle clearly in Ezra 9-10 and Nehemiah 13.  The men in Israel were marrying foreign women who worshipped idols and they were divorcing their Israelite wives.  These actions were a violation of God’s covenant with Israel and were therefore unfaithfulness to Him as well as each other.  Ezra and Nehemiah confronted the people over these actions in their ministries.  Likewise, Malachi spends his third disputation on these sins.  In his fourth disputation, he takes up the more general issue of God’s dealing with Israel’s unfaithfulness.  As we did last week, I want to look at these two disputations by focusing on the question that the people ask the Lord.  Thus, we will look at their question and His answer.

First, why does the Lord no longer favor us (2:10-16)?

The question in the first disputation does not come until verse 14.  God has stated his displeasure with the people’s worship and the fact that He no longer looks upon them with favor, to which they respond by asking: why does he not (favor us)?  The general answer is that the Lord no longer favors them because they have been unfaithful to His covenant.  We see this demonstrated in two specific sins they were committing.

First, they were abandoning the women of Israel for idol worshippers.  Look at 2:10-12.  Malachi begins by reminding the people that they belong to God for He has created them.  Yet, they have been faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers.  What exactly were they doing?  Malachi answers: Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.  The men of Judah were marrying idol worshippers.  We need to note that the problem was not that they were simply marrying foreign women.  Rather, the problem is that they were marrying foreign women who worshipped a foreign god.  Foreign women had married into the people of Israel (consider Rahab or Ruth), but in doing so they had abandoned their idols and believed in Yahweh, the God of Israel.  But this is not what is happening here.  Instead, men are marrying women who continue to worship idols and lead them into idolatry as well.

For all of the single people among us this morning let me just note a point of application from this text: you need to be particular in who you marry.  Better yet, you need to be particular in who the person you marry worships.  Paul warns against being unequally yoked (see 2 Corinthians 6:14ff) in much the same way as Malachi.  Thus, as you struggle through the question of who you are going to marry, you need to keep this question in the front of your mind: who do they worship?  Do they worship the One, True Living God who sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins and gave His Spirit?  If the answer to that question is no, then you should not marry them, lest you be unequally yoked and dishonor God as many were doing in Malachi’s day.

Second, they were abandoning the wife of their youth.  After Malachi notes their mourning over God no longer favoring them, he gives them a further reason for His displeasure in verses 14-16.  Look at those with me.  These verses are difficult to translate and thus difficult to interpret at points.  Yet, the basic point is clear: men were to remain faithful to the wife of their youth.  They were not to abandon them by divorcing them.  We see in this passage God’s attitude toward divorce.  He hates it.  His does not want marriage to end in divorce.  Rather, He wants godly offspring, which seems to be referring to children.  He wants men to be faithful to their wives and their families.  He wants marriage to be valued and children to be valued.  Unfortunately, both of these values are being attacked in our day.  Divorce is common and children are a burden.  We need to hear what the Lord says through Malachi, which prepares us for what Jesus would teach concerning marriage (see Matthew 19:1-12). 

Both of these sins (marrying idol worshippers and divorcing the wife of your youth) were ways that the people of Israel were being faithless.  They both involve abandoning the Lord and His covenant.  This is why the Lord no longer favored them.

Second, how have we wearied the Lord (2:17-3:5)?

The fourth disputation begins at 2:17 and contains another question from the people.  Look at that verse.  The Lord tells them that they have wearied Him and they want to know how.  So He tells them: By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.’  Or by asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?’  The people of Israel were questioning the justice of God.  They looked around and saw the prosperity of the wicked and concluded that God delighted in the one who does evil.  They wanted to know where the God of justice was.  Such blatant unbelief was wearisome to the Lord.  Thus, He goes on to answer their questions.

The Lord tells them in 3:1-5 that the God of justice is on His way.  Look at verse 1.  The Lord is going to send a messenger to prepare the way before me.  Who is this messenger that will prepare the way of the Lord?  None other than John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus and His ministry.  So then, the God of justice is going to send His messenger and come to the temple.  This is what they think they want.  Yet, the Lord continues in verses 2-4.  Look at those with me.  The Lord is not just coming to bless Israel.  No, He is coming to refine them.  He is coming to burn off all of their sins and rebellion.  He is coming to make them righteous.  He will not let them continue in their rebellion to Him for He longs for true worshippers and a true sacrifice.  Of course, these are all great statements about why Christ came.  He came to refine a people.  He came to make them holy by offering Himself in their place.  He came so that through belief in Him we too could offer ourselves as acceptable sacrifices to the Lord (see Romans 12:1ff).  Thus, Malachi is pointing us and preparing us for the ministry of Christ.  It will not be what the people expected.  They wanted blessing.  They wanted a King.  They were not expecting a Suffering Servant.  Yet, that is precisely what they (and we) needed.

Malachi also notes that justice will be given to those who remain in their sins.  Look at verse 5.  The Lord is going to judge those who refuse to turn from their sins.  The list of particular sins here is representative of all sin.  The Lord is against sorcerers…adulterers…those who swear falsely…those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless…those who thrust aside the sojourner, and any who do not fear Him.  If you remain in your sins and refuse to repent and trust in Christ then you will be counted among those who do not fear the Lord.  Thus, when Christ returns, He will come to judge and you will face His judgment.  Those who continue to weary the Lord by remaining in their sin and not trusting in Christ for salvation will face the judgment of God when that day comes.  The God of justice has sent His Son to refine all of those who turn to Him.  And the God of justice will return to judge all of those who remain in their sin. 

Malachi writes to encourage the faithless to repent and be faithful to the Lord.  He tells us that the God of justice is coming to refine, which was fulfilled with the first coming of Christ.  And he tells us that the God of justice is coming to judge, which will happen at the second coming of Christ.  Thus, we do not want to be numbered among the faithless.  We want to be faithful to the Lord.  Yet, how can we be faithful?

The only way that faithless people like us can be turned into faithful people is through Christ.  He came to do just that.  He came to die on a cross for our sins and rise again on the third day so that we could turn from our sins, trust in Him, and be made faithful.  He came to refine us and to make us holy.  This begins by confessing your sins and turning from them (repentance) and by putting all your trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross (faith).  Do not make the mistake of thinking that you are able to be faithful enough.  The Bible makes it clear that we can only be faithful through faith in Christ.  Turn from yourself and trust in what He has done.

Likewise, if you are a believer this morning, then perhaps you need to be reminded that Christ did not come to leave you in sin but to refine you and make you holy.  Malachi warned the people against abandoning the Lord by marrying idolaters and divorcing the wife of their youth.  Instead of abandoning the Lord for our sins, instead of following our culture in its distorted view of marriage and family, may we abandon our sins for the Lord by His grace.  Jesus died to give us victory over sin.  He died to make us like Him.  The Spirit is at work in us for this very purpose.  Thus, may we abandon our sins and cling to the Lord.  May we marry those who are following hard after the Lord and remain faithful to them.  May we fear the Lord by obeying Him as He has instructed us to do.  And may we know that the God of justice is coming.  He will make a complete end of sin on that day.  He will right all the wrongs and bring us through the refining fire so that we will be like His Son on that day.  Keep your eyes fixed on these promises as you labor by His grace to be more like Christ every day.  Come Lord.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 May 2010 )

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