Scriptures

Malachi 2

Introduction

‘And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honour my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honour me. “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. “So, I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.’ Malachi 2:1-9

When God instituted the priests among Israel, He promised them the blessing of the support of the people if they carried out their duties according to His law. However, in this case, if they continued in their injustice and indifference, God would command a curse upon them which means the priests would lose the support of the people.

But as always God is patient with people, especially His own people and offers a solution, they can repent, which means to reconsider what they’re doing and after some reconsideration change their attitudes and behaviour towards God and what He requires of them.

When God says,

‘I will curse your blessings,’

He’s speaking about the benefits they enjoyed because they served in the temple, Nehemiah 18:8-19.

When the people brought sacrifices to the altar, they had the privilege of taking some of the offering for their own use. Remember the Levites didn’t receive any land, they were chosen to serve God in the temple and the other Israelites were to take care of their needs. Numbers 18:21+24+31 / Numbers 18:25-26+28.

In their insincere service, however it seems that ‘the curse’ had already begun. The poverty-stricken people couldn’t bring sacrifices to the altar, and the sacrifices they brought were blemished and so, God rebukes them.

What would possibly happen was that the offspring, or the descendants of the priests, would be removed from being priests. The existing priests would be removed as the refuse of the offerings was taken out of the city, Leviticus 4:11-12 / 1 Samuel 2:29-30. God wanted to correct the religious leadership, James 3:1.

This ‘covenant’ between God and with Levi, isn’t specifically mentioned in the Old Testament, other than the fact that Levi was in a mutual covenant relationship with God as a part of the entire Israelite family, Deuteronomy 33:8-11.

In God’s covenant with Israel, the Levites were given a special intercessory relationship with the people as ministers to God on behalf of the people.

Here in Malachi, Levi stands for all the Levitical priests of Israel who stood before God. The Levites were to be the teachers of the law and they were to set an example of purity and obedience before the people. They were also to demonstrate in their lives the nature of the commandments of God.

The Levites were to administer justice and be peacemakers among the people and they were to be known for ‘the truth that proceeded out of their mouths’.

Malachi was a messenger of the Lord, Malachi 1:1 and through his teaching of the law of God to the people, the Levitical priest communicated the will of God to the people. Malachi was God’s messenger to the people, as well as John the Baptist who would be the messenger sent before the Messiah, Malachi 3:1.

As the messengers of God, both Malachi and John delivered to the people the message of God. Remember that a priest spoke to God on behalf of the people but prophets spoke to the people on behalf of God.

The priests of Malachi’s day had

‘forgotten their way’,

it might have been because they had forgotten God’s Law, Hosea 4:6, and so they didn’t know what to do according to God’s Law, or it might have been because they weren’t interested in God’s Law. Whatever the reason Malachi says they were still under the condemnation of God for not functioning as priests as they should.

Even today, anyone who wishes to take on any kind of leadership role within the church, must know what God requires of them and His people and anyone who wants to be a leader but hasn’t got a clue what God’s wants of them and His people, are simply just blind guides, Matthew 15:14 / Matthew 23:23.

And it’s those people that God causes to

‘stumble’,

He causes them to stumble because they haven’t understood the huge responsibility involved in being a leader. James 3:1.

Here in Malachi, the spiritual leaders led people away from God and through their behaviour, they became blind guides in the sense that they didn’t honour the commandments of God. Mark 7:1-9.

They violated the conditions of the covenant of the priesthood and in their application of the law, they became ‘partial’ to the wealthy. God had given them the blessing of enjoying the support of the people through offerings, but now they had taken advantage of their full-time support, and became partial to the rich so that they can keep their office as priests.

It may have been that the full-time priests catered to the rich in order to receive some offerings but in doing so, they ignored the poor.

I remember when I lived in Scotland and I was speaking with a Church of Scotland minister about baptism. He didn’t believe in christening or infant baptism yet, he still practiced it. I asked him why he did this, despite believing in a believer’s baptism for the forgiveness of sin and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and his response was,

‘if I practiced what I believed in the Church of Scotland I would lose my job, my income and my house.’

I think there’s an application and warning here for ‘fill-time preachers’ within the Lord’s church. Preachers need to be careful not to give in to their supporting congregation, when their supporting congregation start to dictate what happens within another congregation or how the preacher should understand certain doctrines and beliefs.

So often, preachers feel pressured to change their beliefs or practices in order to keep their financial support. There are times we need to put the truth ahead of everything else, including our finances.

‘Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another? Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD remove him from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings an offering to the LORD Almighty.’ Malachi 2:10-12

Now the background to the rebuke in these verses is God’s purpose for the restoration of Israel to the land, and the Israelites’ renewing of their identity as the people of God, Exodus 19:6. In order for the promises to the fathers to be identified as fulfilled through Israel, the people of God had to be identified as Israel at the time of fulfilment.

For this reason, the people were dealing unfaithfully, in that they

‘married foreign women’.

They had repented of their idol worship which was partly the cause for their going into captivity.

However, when they returned, they were marrying foreign women, and so because of that, they were destroying the identity of God’s people among the nations. In other words, they were marrying themselves out of existence as Jews.

The one God created the nation of Israel by bringing them out of Egyptian captivity, Isaiah 43:1-21. God had created them as a nation and race of people, but they were destroying their identity through intermarriage with foreign women. God had established a covenant with Israel but their integration into the local people through marriage of foreign women violated the conditions of the covenant, Deuteronomy 7:3-4.

The priests were allowing this to happen among the people, for they were also putting away the wives of their youth in order to marry younger, foreign women, Ezra 9:1-2. Israel was supposed to be a people that was separated, ‘holy’ from the nations of the world and so they were a holy people, Leviticus 20:24. But in their marriage of foreign women, they violated the sanctity of their holiness.

Their practice was an abomination to the Lord, something that was ‘detestable’ in His sight. They had been created as a nation, but through their intermarriage with foreign women, they were working against the plan of God to reestablish Israel for the purpose of bringing the Messiah into the world, 1 Kings 11:4.

As a result of this, God is going to

‘cut off the males’

of the household who disrespect the covenant relationship between God and Israel through marriage of foreign women. With the men being cut off from the household, there would be no one who could bring the offering to the Lord.

‘Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favour on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.’ Malachi 2:13-16

1. They were marrying foreign women.

2. They forsook their Jewish wife in order to marry the foreign women.

They already had an Israelite wife, but then they put this wife away in order to marry foreign women.

With the offering of sacrifices came the common practice of mourning. In an effort to make their sacrifices more acceptable to God, they would pour out more

‘tears’.

But as we know God wants obedience in all areas of our lives. And so, they needed to change their behaviour, not pour out more ceremonial tears.

The same application can be made today, we can offer God, £1000 in the offering every week but if we don’t live obediently the rest of the week, then we shouldn’t think for one moment that our offering will be acceptable. We can’t sing praises about how wonderful God is, if we don’t live like we believe it.

Talk about trading in your wife for a younger model. The older men were putting away the wives that they had married when they were young in order to marry younger, more beautiful wives in their older age. In other words, they had forgotten their ‘marriage covenant’ with their wife.

When one marries another, he or she comes into a covenant relationship with his or her partner. It’s a covenant that is made in the eyes of God, and so it is honored by God, Genesis 31:50 / Proverbs 2:16-17. When someone puts away his or her mate, he or she has broken the marriage covenant.

‘Body and spirit’

is in reference to when two are joined together in marriage, they become one in order to bring forth children to the glory of God, Mark 10:9.

Parents who demonstrate godliness before their children may raise children who will continue their spiritual heritage, Ephesians 5:22-6:4, but sadly, this isn’t always the case, sometimes children will grow up and do their own thing, no matter how godly their parents are or how great the example they have been is.

We have to remember as Christian parents were called upon to raise our children in the ways of the Lord, were not called upon to make them Christians!

Here in Malachi, the Jewish men were putting away the Jewish wives of their youth, so that they could marry foreign women and because of this, they were bringing the influence of idolatry again into Israel, and there was a real danger that they could influence their children away from God.

Now let me ask,

does God hate divorce?

No! He hated the way they were going about divorce.

Now remember that Moses gave instructions concerning the

‘Certificate of Divorce’, Deuteronomy 24:1-9

But that ‘Certificate of Divorce’ was given to bring the Israelites into conformity to God’s law concerning marriage, that one man be married to one woman for life, Matthew 5:31-32 / Matthew 19:3-10 / Mark 10:1-12.

The Hebrew word for ‘divorce’ is ‘shalach’ which means to send away or put away. God hated the putting away of their first wife so that they could marry another woman. The divorce here was based on the desire the man had toward another woman other than ‘the wife of his youth’.

The detestable thing that was happening was that the wife of his youth, who was now as old as he was, was rejected for the sake of his marriage to a younger, more attractive woman.

The man, therefore, was thinking selfishly, and not giving honour to his wife with whom he had been in a covenant relationship for many years, Ephesians 5:25-33 and so God hated this practice of divorce for such reasons.

In other words, divorcing wasn’t the real issue, it was the way they were divorcing, trading their old wives in for younger models and divorcing their wives without the use of the

‘Certificate of Divorce’

it was an illegal divorce. A woman couldn’t marry anyone else unless she had this certificate and if she did she would become an adulterer.

Please note that a ‘Certificate of Divorce’ wasn’t needed when the spouse died, 1 Corinthians 7:39 nor was it needed when one of the married couple committed ‘fortification’ or ‘adultery’, why?

Simply because the punishment was stoning to death, Exodus 20:14 / Deuteronomy 22:22 / Leviticus 20:10. This is what Jesus was trying to drive home to the Jews in Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:3-10 and Mark 10:1-12.

And the effect of this practice was that the men were bringing violence upon their divorced women. The Old Testament custom was when a man claimed a woman to be his wife, he would cast his garment over her, Ruth 3:9 / Ezra 16:8.

When a man put away the wife of his youth, he was dealing unfairly with his wife by taking another to be his wife. His unfaithfulness was in the fact that he had promised a lifetime covenant with his first wife, and then broke the covenant by spreading his garment over another woman.

‘You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?’ Malachi 2:17

This verse introduces us to the punishment of those who had

‘tired God out’,

so to speak, with their complaints that God was looking after evil people but neglecting His own people, Isaiah 1:14 / Isaiah 43:24.

The struggling Israelites looked to the nations from which they had come from and wondered ‘why those nations were prospering’, and yet they themselves were struggling to survive.

Their struggles led them to doubt whether God was actually with them and this is can easily happen when we go through trials and struggles and take our eyes off Jesus. James 1:2-3 / Matthew 14:22-32 / Hebrews 12:1-2.

Go To Malachi 3

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Hebrews 4:16

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