The Malachi Project

Life-Changing Love

Malachi 1:1-5

MALACHI #1—HCC, 5/18/08

INTRO: 

Read text

Homiletic idea:

True appreciation for God’s love is the foundation

for the selfless, holy lifestyle of worship that He desires.

Today’s Sermon: (4 parts)

  • Background/context of the book
  •  Overview of the book
  •  Speech #1: Malachi 1:2-5
  •  Applications for today

Background/context of the book

  • After the Babylonian exile

Let’s re-create the world of a typical recipient of this prophecy.  You are an Israelite, a member of God’s chosen people.  God gave you the Law to guide you; He gave you many promises and told you that if you obeyed that would bring life and blessing, but disobedience would bring curses. (There were 27 types of curses in the first 5 books of the OT, things such as war and its ravages, famine, harm from wild animals, lack of peace and rest, and exile and captivity—included forced idolatry while in exile).  Even though He protected you and provided for you, your people rebelled against His Word and disobeyed, and as a result your kingdom was divided—the northern tribes or “Israel” were taken into captivity in Assyria, and you were part of “Judah”, the 2 tribes in the south that were taken into captivity by Babylon.

After a number of years, you were released and allowed to return to your home country, a small territory about 20 miles by 25 miles with a population of about 150,000.  In Judah, you were just a minor province among 120 provinces of the Persian Empire. Your people wanted to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem that had been destroyed by the invading Babylonians, but you met a lot of opposition.  However, by 516 BC the temple had indeed been rebuilt, but the city itself was still in ruins, its walls were broken—and the tremendous hopes your people had a century earlier were fading.

  • Poor Economy

Apparently, Malachi was a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah and preached either at the same time as they did or just slightly before—to those who had returned from this Babylonian exile.  If that was the case, the economy was not good: agriculture suffered, hampered by droughts and pests, and poverty was common.

  • Still waiting on God’s promises

Other biblical prophets (like Haggai and Zechariah) foretold the coming of the Messiah and, hence, a renewed presence of God among His people.  These promises would come true later, but at the moment they had not and there was no improvement from the close of the 6th century—and people apparently had simply given up on expecting and trusting God to do anything special.

  • Widespread spiritual decline—clergy and laity

The appointed spiritual leaders of the day, the priests, had lost the respect of the people, were not godly, did not enforce the sacrificial laws and other aspects of their duty—and had degenerated to the point of accepting imperfect animals from the people rather than the perfect ones God required for the sacrifices–just to have food to eat.  So both the clergy (priests) and ordinary people (laity) were spiritually bankrupt.  God’s glorious presence was not at the temple.  Finances were required to support the priests from the tribe of Levi as well as the temple expenses, but the people were not tithing (or giving 10% of their income), so this was undermining them and their worship of God. (These Levitical priests probably made up 1/12 of the population of fifth-century Judah and would have required about 8% of the nation’s income to be supported proportionately—add that to the expenses of maintaining the temple system and you see how 10% of the wealth of Judah would be necessary for the worship system to function in the way God laid it out in the Mosaic Law.  That’s why giving less than the tithe was such an offense—it hindered worship and revealed a disobedient heart).

And so the prophet Malachi comes on the scene and addresses you.

Overview of the book

After a very brief introduction in the first verse, Malachi is composed of six prophetic speeches and a summary, which might also be a part of the sixth speech:

Now let’s look at the first speech:

(some words, phrases and literary forms may be unfamiliar to you, but don’t feel bad about that—I’ll try to describe them as we come to them in the text)

Speech #1: Malachi 1:2-5 (Responding to God’s Love)

1 An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.

We have no way of knowing how many of a prophet’s oracles (=speeches or sermons) ended up in the written Scriptures.  Malachi, like other OT prophets, verbally spoke messages.  He might have preached on hundreds of occasions, and he or a collector selected six of his prophecies to include here in this book—OR, his entire public ministry might have consisted in these six speeches.  But what really matters is that God, who is the final author of all of Scripture, wanted these 6 included and preserved so that people of ALL generations could continue to hear His words.  So here we have “the word of the LORD.”

Out of all the OT prophets, the way Malachi’s book is written is one of the simplest in terms of form—six speeches, all using the same basic prophetic speech form (called “disputation”).  This form has four elements:

Assertion (by God)                

Questioning (by Israel)          

Response                                

Implication                             

Assertion (by God) (2a)

2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD.

Questioning (by Israel) (2b)

“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’

Judah questions God, “Where is the evidence of your love?  We just don’t see it.”  Commentator Theodore Laetsch says, “This question reveals their shameful ingratitude, their absolute failure to realize and appreciate what the love and grace of God had done for them” and was rooted in selfishness.  Before they went into exile, their prevailing sin was idolatry; after the exile it was selfishness.  They were apparently satisfied to worship God with an outward show and not an inward reality and when they didn’t see God’s hand of blessing and prosperity the way they expected it, the questioned God, “How have you loved us?”

Response  (2c-4)

“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”

Genesis 27 records the hostility between the two brothers Esau and Jacob.

The biblical language, “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated” must be understood properly—it is language of ANALOGY.  They are not words about personal attraction and affection (the way we probably use those words today).  This language speaks about national election and God’s purposes in the history of salvation.  “Love” and “hate” should not be understood in their absolute sense, as if God had great affection towards one and great hatred towards the other.  No, he simply chose one of them to accomplish his saving purposes, and that was Jacob.  These are words of ALLIANCE (Jesus, “hate mother and father”—of course he doesn’t mean HATE them, but choose to do God’s will first and foremost, choose to ALIGN yourself with God’s purposes and calling more than you choose to please the most important humans in your life—IF following Christ means in your situation choosing to turn your back on the advice, counsel of well-meaning but wrong loved ones, etc.).

Jacob did receive greater blessings individually and as forefather of a nation than did Esau.  Surely Judah would remember that, and as they doubted God’s goodness to them, they would remember his goodness to their ancestor Jacob.  Esau was not hated by God in the absolute sense—he too received a blessing from his father Isaac—but he didn’t receive the same position and calling as did Jacob.  God gave Jacob and his descendents a unique position in the outworking of God’s kingdom on earth.  They were ancestors of the Messiah; they were given these blessings, not Esau.  That’s why these difficult verses appear here—to remind Judah of their exalted position, to remind them of how much God HAD favored them.  This favoring did NOT, however, limit salvation to Israel.  Beginning at Genesis 3:15, the promise of salvation was universal; God chose Israel to bless ALL THE NATIONS through her.

v. 3 continues, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”

This is a biblical image that pictures desolate, uninhabited areas—the only thing present there are wilderness animals, “desert jackals.”  At one point, near the beginning of the seventh century BC (probably 150 years earlier), Edom had been formidable, and the people of Israel probably wondered, “If our God is so powerful and loving, how come the Edomites are taking over?”  But archeology has confirmed that another people group, the Nabateans, infiltrated that region and drove them out.

Verse 4 makes 3 points:

  • The Edomites would try to rebuild
  • God would frustrate their attempts to rebuild
  • Their PERMANENT downfall would remind everyone that God judges those nations that oppose Him.

4 Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the WickedLand, a people always under the wrath of the LORD.

This is an oracle against a foreign nation, one of dozens like it in the prophetic books.  Here the nation discussed is Edom, but who was Edom?  Edom had a long history of enmity against Israel, and actually is the nation spoken against most often by the prophets.  Their track record was so hostile that the prophets often used Edom as a figure of speech for Israel’s enemies in general.

The point of this passage is that the will of any or all of the enemies of Israel (including but not only Edom) CANNOT change God’s plan to redeem his chosen people Israel.

Genesis 36:8 says, “Esau IS Edom.” (Esau and Edom stand for the nation, the enemy, just as Jacob and Israel stand for the nation).

At this point, it will be very important for us to remember the purpose of oracles like these in the prophetic books—in a word, it is REASSURANCE (to Israel, God’s people).  The motive is neither vindictiveness towards the enemies nor hatred towards foreigners, and certainly not God’s pleasure in crushing those who rejected his will. 

Remember that this is a time of weakness and defeat for Judah.  Once Israel was strong, 12 tribes, but by the time of Malachi Judah was all that was left—the 10 tribes of the north were gone (repopulated by foreigners), they were a defenseless, financially depressed fringe province within the great Persian empire.  The capital city Jerusalem had been looted, burned and destroyed, so things looked pretty grim.  Edom, representing their enemies might boast, but God says no, they’ll always be under my wrath. 

Douglas Stuart: “The situation surely seemed hopeless from a human point of view.  Yet God encouraged the little remnant via Malachi’s preaching of this brief oracle against Edom….God was still their ally, and Edom—and nations like it—would not prevail against Israel, because Yahweh, Israel’s God, was ‘great beyond the country of Israel’ (v. 5)” (1283).

Implication (5)

5 You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD– even beyond the borders of Israel!’

God IS going to do a great work for His people; you are going to see it; His mighty deeds will demonstrate his love—so why not acknowledge His love now and serve him with gratitude now?

Three reasons to be reminded of God’s love:

.

  1. Bad circumstances and/or the consequences of disobedience can cause us to doubt it.

God’s promises for the coming of the Messiah had not come true yet; Judah’s land, economy and hope were languishing, and in those type of circumstances they may have doubted the love of God for them.  The fact that they had been sinful and had been sent into captivity could have compounded it.

In the OT, the prophet Malachi reminded God’s people of His word to them, “I have loved you.”

In the NT, as Jesus hung on the cross, his actions shouted, “I have loved you.”

  1. We can easily take God’s love for granted and drift spiritually.
  1. We can misunderstand God’s love: It doesn’t eliminate demands from our lives but frames and intensifies them.

Love is not liking and wanting things for yourself or liking and indulging certain people (e.g.  “I ‘love’ my child so I give her everything she wants”—that’s not love; it’s misguided sentimentalism.

Homiletic Idea

True appreciation for God’s love is the foundation

for the selfless, holy lifestyle of worship that He desires.

ILLUSTRATION TODAY

Two years ago, I was talking with the Manager of the rental property in my neighborhood. He told me that in the past years his company has provided his tenants the necessities they need; unfortunately, the tenants do not appreciate these provisions, but destroyed them. He has recently installed garbage disposal to every apartment in the facility; recently, the last renters who left the facility put holes in the wall, broke five windows and glasses in the back and front doors. He told me that the people do not care and appreciate these provisions. Malachi 1:1–5, describes cotemporary situation between God and the children of Israel. Despite of God’s provisions for his people, they did not honor him neither obey him.

APPLICATIONS

I want to remind you that God loves you. He loves your family. He loves his church. The story of salvation is one of love. John 3:16, declares that God so loved the world he sent his son to die for our sins. I have loved you,” says the Lord. Ask yourselves this question: How has God loved me and how have I loved him? I hope that this truth finds its way deep into your soul as you serve the Lord in total obedience.

Are You Serious?

Malachi 1:6-14

MALACHI #2—HCC, 5/25/08

INTRO: 

Read text

6 speeches in Malachi. Today we are going to examine a portion of the second one (plan to continue it next Sunday)

Speech #2: Malachi 1:6-2:9–Proper worship & spiritual leadership

Homiletic idea:

The quality of our worship is a direct reflection of our perspective on God.

All six of the speeches have a common form….

Speech form (disputation):

  • Assertion (by God)                
  • Questioning (by Israel)          
  • Response (by God)                
  • Implication
  • Assertion (by God)                

6 . . . “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.

  • Questioning (by Israel)          

6 . . . “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’

  • Response (by God)    

7 “You place defiled food on my altar.

  • Questioning (by Israel)          

7. . . “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ “

  • Response (by God)    

7-8. . . “By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. 8 When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong?

  • Implication  (8-2:9)

10 I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.

Background: sacrificial system of OT………………..

The Old Testament describes a  sacrificial system that God gave the Israelites to cover their sins temporarily.  There were several types of offerings, many which involved the sacrifice of a clean, perfect animal to God. The New Testament tells us that this system was an allusion to THE sacrifice of Christ–through whom alone salvation is found (Acts 4:12; Hebrews 10:4-10). . .

The short prophetic book of Malachi was written in the 5th century BC to Judah, the southern kingdom (2 tribes) of Israel—and that is the sacrificial system to which they had been exposed.  But their spiritual life was so weak at this point that there were big problems with their approach.  Both the people and the priests were at fault, but he starts by addressing the priests.  Let’s notice 3 reasons …..

Why Judah’s worship was unacceptable:

  1. It lacked respect for God (6).

6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’

If a father deserves to be honored by his son—and he does—and a master to be honored by his servant—and he does—then God, who is an even greater father and greater master deserves more honor and respect.  

But that wasn’t happening: It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.

We often separate someone’s name from them, but in the Bible one’s name stood for their character, their presence, or essence.  So showing contempt for God’s name was essentially rejecting and disobeying HIM. Honoring someone means treating them with respect, lifting them up, demonstrating their worth. 

  1. It was not their best  nor what God asked (7-8).

7 “You place defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ “By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. 8 When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.

Here’s how it works: God gives good gifts to humans and asks them to give sacrifices and offerings in return—acts of worship that signal love, loyalty, honor, and sometimes sorrow for sin (according to Leviticus 1-7).

David Baker nails the issue as he says, “When duty replaces devotion, however, human nature is such that it seeks minimum steps, barely enough to meet an obligation.  This contrasts with a true love relationship, seeking to do the maximum for the beloved.  Israel, and in particular her priests, are seen here having lost their first love” (NIV, 226)

The basic biblical perspective on wealth is that God owns everything—and humans are temporary controllers or managers of it.  To realize this in practice, the OT called for people to give the firstfruits, the very best of their flocks, their labors, over to God through the yearly tithe and periodic offerings for the temple.

Why would the priests accept these unworthy sacrifices?  Possibly a combination of a few of these factors

  • The sick animals were used in the burnt offerings and would be completely consumed, so no one would eat those—and they speculated it would be OK to “cut corners”
  • Maybe bribes were involved—farmers submitted animals of lower quality which weren’t much use to them
  • Priests’ income was made higher by making the offering easier (like contemporary pastor who avoids difficult issues or is afraid to offend by telling the truth lest his salary increases decrease)
  • The people that lived around them (like the Canaanites and Philistines) had looser standards on their sacrificial animals made it a challenge for the priests to uphold the higher standards from the Mosaic law.  If they gave a lower-quality offering but still got “credit” for it that was like killing two birds with one stone.

Back to Malachi’s day: Of course the priests ate some of the animals that were offered, and farmers have always eaten blind and lame animals—so they were sufficient for food—but an OFFERING to God was much more than a meal.  It was a symbol of one’s dedication and consecration to God; it was a lesson that was repeated over and over about the holiness of God, and it was the venue that God used then to cover their sins. 

So this wasn’t their best or what God asked:

Leviticus 1:1-3

1 The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. He said, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When any of you brings an offering to the LORD, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock. 3 “‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD.

Malachi, like all the OT prophets, is not inventing a new standard for the people; he was just calling them back to the old one already established.  Neither clergy nor laity believed God enough to do it HIS way.

We’ll come to the third reason Judah’s worship was unacceptable in a minute, but in keeping with the progression of the passage, skip down to the next section of your outline as we look at verses 9-11, which give the first of …..

God’s responses to blemished sacrifices:

  1. Pray, stop and know (9-11).

Pray

9 “Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”– says the LORD Almighty.

If the governor would reject that and you are trying to bring it to GOD, REPENT!  Ask God to be merciful.

Stop

10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.

 The doors in view here are either those that lead to the inner court, where the priests actually offered the sacrifices on the altar, or those by the outer court where the worshippers gathered while the offering was being made for them by the priests and they ate their share of the resulting meals cooked on that occasion.  It SEEMS to me to fit better with the first one, as they were the closest to the altar, and v. 10 talks about not lighting “useless fires” on the altar.  Rather than offending God as you are doing, it would be better to shut down the entire temple complex.

Know

11 My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.

This inadequate worship differs entirely from what is going to be the case one day: all over the world God will be worshiped reverently and properly.

Going back to Num 6:22, the priests were supposed to lift up the name of God high among the Israelites:

Numbers 6:22-27

22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 “‘”The LORD bless you and keep you;

 25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ‘ 27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

How ironic!  They weren’t doing it—but they needed to know that things were going to change—and God’s name WOULD be great AMONG THE NATIONS!  The implication is, if that’s going to happen out there, everywhere, get with the program here in Judah.

Why Judah’s worship was unacceptable:

  1. It coupled disobedience with a bad attitude (12-13).

12 “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty. “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD.

“profane IT” = profane God’s name = insult him

They showed their hearts were not right by feeling like worshipping God acceptably was a “bother.”  

God’s responses to blemished sacrifices:

  1. Match your offerings to my greatness, as hypocrisy will be cursed (14).

14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

People and priest were cooperating in this fraud.  The people brought them, and the priests accepted and offered them.  Here in v. 14 God addresses the individual worshipper who brought inferior animals.

Now the “vowed” animal differed from the regular sacrifices.  The firstfruits and tithes already belonged to God, but in addition to that someone could vow or promise a priest that he would bring an unblemished male from his flock for sacrificing in the future.  This was a “freewill” gift in addition to the annual requirements—but it STILL had to meet all the same standards of quality as the other sacrifices.  Substituting an inferior animal was cheating, and God will not accept that; in fact, he will curse it.

For I am a great king,”  should be understood as I am THE great king, the universal king.  Although most of the world was unaware of this fact, the Jewish priests should have known it but failed to act accordingly. 

NOTE:  Spiritual leaders have more accountability to understand and facilitate God-honoring worship.

(much more about that next week, as we continue this speech #2, which goes through 2:9).

Homiletic Idea

The quality of our worship is a direct reflection of our perspective on God.

Proper Perspective on God and Worship:

  1. God deserves more honor than any human we might try to please  (6).
  1. God deserves no less than our absolute best, and true worship is costly  (7-8).
  1. Worship is about what we bring to give to God  (9-13).
  1. God will not accept outward performance without inward reality  (14).

14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.

CONCLUSION: 

1 Chronicles 21:22-25

22 David said to him, “Let me have the site of your threshing floor so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at the full price.” 23 Araunah said to David, “Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this.” 24 But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” 25 So David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site.

Homiletic Idea

The quality of our worship is a direct reflection of our perspective on God.

ILLUSTRATION

When I was growing up as a child, I grew up with my Aunt’s husband. He was a tough man who rendered disciplinary action to whom disciplinary action was due; in the same token, he rendered rewards to whom reward was due. In this light, to please him, we were obligated to go on the farm daily once school was over. In rebelliousness to his instruction, his biological son became indifferent to the rule; therefore, there was friction between him and his son as the result of breaking the regulations. In similar manner, this how the children of Israel became indifferent to the law of God and eventually birthed defiled worship before their God.

One of the greatest definitions of worship ever laid down was one by William Temple: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”[1] This definition does not align with the attitude exhibited by the children of Israel when it came to the worship of God. They worshipped God in vain as contemporary to the today’s church.

Christians are advised to take notification that God takes no pleasure in vain worship.

In Matthew 15:8-9, read, “This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me…” Let Jesus’ words echo in our ears, “in vain do they worship me.” Vain worship is that which is professed with the tongue but not possessed in the heart. God takes no pleasure in vain worship and polluted sacrifices. Take a moment to reflect on the following: Why pray, why do you read the Bible, why do you attend weekly worship service, why do you give tithes and offering, and why do you urge friends and family to be reconciled to God through Jesus?

Are there any of the above that you have stopped doing? If you still do these things, do you do them unwillingly? Do you do them in a way that is most convenient for you? If so, you have lost the fear of the Lord.

APPLICATION

What is the answer to vain worship? In verse 8, Malachi writes, “Entreat the favor of Godthat He may be gracious to us.” How does one entreat the favor of God? You can do so by praying earnestly for God to forgive you, acknowledging your sin of failing to honor and fear him, confessing that your behavior has displeased him, praying for God to be gracious to you, trusting that God is gracious by nature and he is willing to forgive you, and depending upon God’s desire to grant forgiveness.

Truth or Consequences

Malachi 2:1-9

MALACHI #3—HCC, 6/1/08

INTRO: 

Leadership has the potential to do incredible harm or incredible good, which is why we must hear the words today of Malachi 2:1-9.

Read text .  .

6 speeches in Malachi. 

Last Sunday we began looking at the second one:

Speech #2: Malachi 1:6-2:9–Proper worship & spiritual leadership

The quality of our worship is a direct reflection of our perspective on God.

(1:6-14)

Background: sacrificial system of worship and connection with God/covering of sins for God’s OT people, Judah.  Rather than bringing their best animals to God, as the Mosaic Law required, they brought blemished ones—and unfortunately, the priests were accepting them.  So they were bringing contempt on God’s name by putting defiled food on the altar.  If we understand how great and glorious God is, then our worship will reflect that.

Today’s passage is a continuation of that second speech:

2:1-9

Homiletic idea:

God rejects spiritual leadership that fails to model and teach

the truth of His Word.

Today I want to walk you through 3 movements in this passage, respond to a potential objection to a strong warning passage like this, and conclude by showing how this text applies to us today in at least 3 areas.

Movements in the passage:

  1. God boldly admonishes the existing spiritual leadership about their failure (1-3).

1 “And now this admonition is for you, O priests.

All the time the priests were interpreting the commandments of the Mosaic Law for the people of Israel.  But now turns the tables as it were on them: “I have a commandment, an admonition, a warning for YOU.”

Verse 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me.

When you read “curse,” don’t think of witchcraft or something like that; think of a pronouncement of God’s punishment for sin. All of the curses that the prophets announced were based on those announced back when the Mosaic Law was given—along with promises for blessings if the people obeyed AND curses if they disobeyed.

“I will curse your blessings”—The priests were in the business of blessing people who came to them, to declare benefits and well-being.  This was probably the high point and the conclusion for the worshipper who came to the temple—their “benediction.”  The prophet here says that if they disobey God’s will, God in turn will not honor the pronouncements of blessing that they would make—they would be cursed.  The worshippers expected to be blessed with statements of God’s care, favor, presence and peace, but because the priests were disobedient they could face his neglect, disfavor, absence from their lives. 

“I will curse your blessings” may also have included material benefits.  Remember that the corporate blessings included prosperity and the curses economic disaster.  And since the priests and some worshippers offered blemished sacrifices—apparently with a financial motive, part of their punishment would likely have been economic devastation too.

3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.

There are two different curse types against the priests in this verse.  The first one is found in the phrase, “rebuke your descendants.”  The Israelites in general valued family line, and the priests were especially sensitive to it, since their office was hereditary.  A person could only become a priest by being born into the tribe of Levi (into Aaron’s branch of the Levites).  So this rebuke was a rhetorical threat that their family office of honor in the priesthood could be lost entirely.  (V. 2 informs us that it was conditional, “IF you don’t listen and IF you are not zealous to honor my name”). 

(NOTE: Right after Malachi’s ministry, Ezra and Nehemiah DID reform the priesthood by removing rebellious priests and thus purified worship in Jerusalem).

The second curse type comes in the second part of v. 3, I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.

Before the sacrificial animals were roasted on the altar, they removed the inedible part of their innards, especially from their stomachs and intestines (probably graphic enough)—that’s what the term “offal” is referring to.  So having this spread on their faces would be an especially humiliating experience.  It would be hard to create a more graphic picture of complete rejection and cursing by God.  Remember that priests had to be ritually cleaner than everybody else, and that cleanliness was a symbol of their holiness before a holy God.  Dung is unclean, unholy, and the offal is “from your festival sacrifices”—a time when there would be more sacrifices and more dung.

“and you will be carried off with it”—God is not going to allow these particular priests who will not listen to him nor do right to become ritually clean again, but is going to forcibly put them outside the temple in an unclean area where the dung is dumped.  You might paraphrase this as, “I’ll confine you to the dump.” 

Vivid imagery, isn’t it?  The point is that, because of their sin, disobedience to and dishonoring of God’s name, the priests will no longer be able to perform their priestly functions and will be expelled from the camp.

These words are uncomfortable but part of the Word of God—so we need to hear them. We need to know that God is not to be trifled with; we need to know and live in the FEAR of God—which means having a God-honoring respect for Him.  He is holy and will not allow sin to go unpunished, especially among leaders.

Verse 4 begins the second movement in the passage and shows why such a harsh response occurs:

  1. God explains the importance of godly spiritual leadership as part of His covenant of life and peace (4-7).

4 And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty.

“covenant with Levi”—A covenant is an arrangement made with promises and commitments on both sides.  God entered a covenant with Levi and his descendants that they would serve as priests in Israel, and he gave the entire body of Mosaic law to set forth the religion in Israel, to define how the people would approach and worship God, and all the specific duties that the priests had.  It was an honor to be in that line, to serve as a priest for God.  It was a special arrangement.  And God wanted to continue it, to bless it, to prosper it—and through those priests to bless his people for that era, BUT the priests in Malachi’s day had gone so far afield that the very covenant relationship was threatened.

God punishes the rebellious priests in order to purify the priesthood (not because he likes to cause misery), to preserve the covenant with Levi.  This had happened to the nation—they had been sent into captivity and the result was that when they returned a new, purified people had been shaped (Deut 4:29-31)

This is a terribly unfortunate picture, one which we should allow to sober us re: the importance of spiritual leaders doing good and right and helping us understand God’s care and compassion for His people as he desires them to have PURE leaders.

In the next two verses, he expands on this covenant with Levi:

5 “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. 6 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.

An analogy for covenant would be “contract.”  There were different kinds of covenants during ancient biblical times—most of them involved a superior granting a covenant to an inferior—which is the case here.  For their part, the priests were obligated to obey and honor God; God’s obligation in turn was to grant life and peace.

Life = long life, a perpetual priesthood (Num 25:13)

Peace = care and protection, favor, their sustenance through the tithes that the people gave, special cities to live in, and a portion of all the sacrifices (except the whole burnt offering which no one ate)

V. 5 spells out their responsibility in two key words: “revere” and “stand in awe”.  In other words, be serious as you supervise worship, enforce the provisions of the covenant, and work to keep the nation holy.  If they feared or “revered” God they would worship and obey him and make sure that HIS interests were #1.  At the very minimum, if God set out certain requirements for the sacrifices, make sure that those stipulations are followed—to show your respect for God.

What was Levi to do? 

  • V. 6—teach the law truthfully and accurately (“true instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips”)
  • Obey and serve God, or walk with Him (= “serve” in OT)
  • Preserve the holiness of God’s people (“turned many from sin”)

Verse 7 reinforces this and summarizes a CRUCIAL responsibility (and the essential nature) of every OT priest:

7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction– because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty.

God’s messengers—they were to share God’s Word, God’s commands, without changing them because of people’s actions, preferences or their culture. 

“Messenger of the LORD Almighty” is an important task

  1. 50 times in the OT is refers to God’s supernatural spokesman, the “angel of the Lord”
  2. 3 times it speaks of a prophet
  3. Only here in the OT does it refer to the priests.  Just like the angel of the Lord and prophets, priests were to speak for God.
  1. God explains why ungodly spiritual leadership is unacceptable and cursed (8-9).

8 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. 9 “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.”

3 accusations here in verse 8:

(1) The priests are disobeying (you have turned from the way)

(2) Their actions have harmed many (by your teaching have caused many to stumble)

(3) They have broken the covenant that made them priests (you have violated the covenant with Levi)

When spiritual leadership fails, people are affected; people are hurt.

How does God respond?  V. 9: he causes them to be “despised and humiliated before all the people”

This gives us insight into why God is so tough on these priests—it’s because He values authenticity and integrity and true ministry and people—and HE HATES HYPOCRISY!

So if a spiritual leader messes up, we shouldn’t reject GOD because of it; we should know that God rejects disobedient leaders too, and it should lead us to want to follow Him all the more.  Remember….

ILLUSTRATION

When I was growing up as a child, I grew up with my Aunt’s husband. He was a tough man who rendered disciplinary action to whom disciplinary action was due; in the same token, he rendered rewards to whom reward was due. In this light, to please him, we were obligated to go on the farm daily once school was over. In rebelliousness to his instruction, his biological son became indifferent to the rule; therefore, there was friction between him and his son as the result of breaking the regulations. In similar manner, this how the children of Israel became indifferent to the law of God and eventually birthed defiled worship before their God.

One of the greatest definitions of worship ever laid down was one by William Temple: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”[2] This definition does not align with the attitude exhibited by the children of Israel when it came to the worship of God. They worshipped God in vain as contemporary to the today’s church.

Christians are advised to take notification that God takes no pleasure in vain worship.

In Matthew 15:8-9, read, “This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me…” Let Jesus’ words echo in our ears, “in vain do they worship me.” Vain worship is that which is professed with the tongue but not possessed in the heart. God takes no pleasure in vain worship and polluted sacrifices. Take a moment to reflect on the following: Why pray, why do you read the Bible, why do you attend weekly worship service, why do you give tithes and offering, and why do you urge friends and family to be reconciled to God through Jesus?

Are there any of the above that you have stopped doing? If you still do these things, do you do them unwillingly? Do you do them in a way that is most convenient for you? If so, you have lost the fear of the Lord.

APPLICATION

What is the answer to vain worship? In verse 8, Malachi writes, “Entreat the favor of Godthat He may be gracious to us.” How does one entreat the favor of God? You can do so by praying earnestly for God to forgive you, acknowledging your sin of failing to honor and fear him, confessing that your behavior has displeased him, praying for God to be gracious to you, trusting that God is gracious by nature and he is willing to forgive you, and depending upon God’s desire to grant forgiveness.

Homiletic Idea

God rejects spiritual leadership that fails to model and teach

the truth of His Word.

Objection: “I don’t know if I can accept a God who punishes hypocritical leaders.”

Response:

  • Reward and punishment are an integral part of any just situation.

This happens every day when things are done properly.  For example, on your job: if you perform well on the basis of your job description and the expectations of your employer, what happens?  You keep your job, get commended, and occasionally compensated better and perhaps even promoted.  I was with a friend this week who manages a restaurant—he had an employee who didn’t show up for work for a week without calling or asking off, then called him while I was with him and wanted to know if she still had her job.  He kindly but forthrightly said, “You’ve been replaced; you don’t have a job any longer.”

Students, in school, if you do your homework, study for tests, and pay attention in class, and you’re likely to pass, maybe even make an A.  But if you goof off or slack off, you can’t expect good grades.

True justice and goodness requires punishment for wrong—in order to protect the innocent. 

  • As God, He gets to set the agenda—not us.
  • Thank God that He cares enough about people to insist that their spiritual leaders live and minister with integrity.

Several places in the New Testament reinforce this principle.  For example,

Mark 9:42

42 “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.

James 3:1

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Titus 1:6-9

6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.

 7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless– not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Applications for us today:

Homiletic Idea

God rejects spiritual leadership that fails to model and teach

the truth of His Word.

ILLUSTRATION

When I was growing up as a child, I grew up with my Aunt’s husband. He was a tough man who rendered disciplinary action to whom disciplinary action was due; in the same token, he rendered rewards to whom reward was due. In this light, to please him, we were obligated to go on the farm daily once school was over. In rebelliousness to his instruction, his biological son became indifferent to the rule; therefore, there was friction between him and his son as the result of breaking the regulations. In similar manner, this how the children of Israel became indifferent to the law of God and eventually birthed defiled worship before their God.

One of the greatest definitions of worship ever laid down was one by William Temple: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”[3] This definition does not align with the attitude exhibited by the children of Israel when it came to the worship of God. They worshipped God in vain as contemporary to the today’s church.

Christians are advised to take notification that God takes no pleasure in vain worship.

In Matthew 15:8-9, read, “This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me…” Let Jesus’ words echo in our ears, “in vain do they worship me.” Vain worship is that which is professed with the tongue but not possessed in the heart. God takes no pleasure in vain worship and polluted sacrifices. Take a moment to reflect on the following: Why pray, why do you read the Bible, why do you attend weekly worship service, why do you give tithes and offering, and why do you urge friends and family to be reconciled to God through Jesus?

Are there any of the above that you have stopped doing? If you still do these things, do you do them unwillingly? Do you do them in a way that is most convenient for you? If so, you have lost the fear of the Lord.

APPLICATION

What is the answer to vain worship? In verse 8, Malachi writes, “Entreat the favor of Godthat He may be gracious to us.” How does one entreat the favor of God? You can do so by praying earnestly for God to forgive you, acknowledging your sin of failing to honor and fear him, confessing that your behavior has displeased him, praying for God to be gracious to you, trusting that God is gracious by nature and he is willing to forgive you, and depending upon God’s desire to grant forgiveness.

The Lord’s messengers must be careful to speak and act in a way that brings glory and honor to the Lord. In Malachi 2:1-9, the Lord commanded the priests to repent of despising His sacrifice, turning away from Him, and causing many to stumble by their instruction. This warning was given to the priests in Malachi’s day and is applicable today to all Christians (especially preachers and teachers). Let us all be very careful to speak God’s Word truthfully and to adorn it with faithful, godly living.

God instructed the priests in Malachi’s day to know, teach, and obey God’s rules. This message is not just for them, it is also for all Christians. In the New Covenant, all Christians are priests unto God (see 1 Peter 2:9). In the Old Covenant, only the priests had access to God and the people must go to God through them. In the New Covenant, all Christians have direct access to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is our High Priest (Heb 4:14) who has commissioned us as priests in His name. Every Christian is a messenger of the Lord of Hosts. John Calvin spoke of this when he said, “All believers … should seek to bring others into the church, and should strive to lead the wanderers back to the road, should stretch forth a hand to the fallen and should win over the outsiders.”[4]

Let us all be careful to speak and act in a way that brings glory and honor to the Lord. Let us pay close attention to the preachers and teachers who faithfully teach God’s Word. Let us hold them accountable to faithful teaching and living. Let us be intentional to deliver God’s message to a hurting world.

Keep the Faith

Malachi 2:10-16

MALACHI #4—HCC, 6/8/08

INTRO

God is a covenant God—you’ll probably hear that a lot today—he enters into covenant relationship with people—and establishes covenant relationship between people as well. A covenant essentially is a “promise relationship” between two parties.  Before we go any further, please think for a minute, “Am I in any covenant relationships?”   (Hint: marriage, family, church)

In the process of preaching each week through the OT book of Malachi, we come today to Malachi 2:10-16, which addresses this CRUCIAL issue for our lives.  As I read the text, you will notice that on 5 occasions in this short section the prophet talks about “breaking faith.”  In fact, I want to ask you read the words that are underlined together outloud as we come to them in the text.

10 Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?  11 Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god.  12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob–even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty. 

13 Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands.  14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. 

15 Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. 16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

God’s word for us this morning is…..

Homiletic idea:

Faithfulness to each other is a crucial component of faithfulness to God.

Speech #3        Unfaithfulness to covenants

As we look at this text, it’s pretty obvious that God’s people Judah to whom this was written about 2500 years ago were not displaying loyalty to either their spiritual family or their individual nuclear families.  And the prophet Malachi challenges them on it—based on covenant. 

3 Reasons God’s People Should Keep their Covenant Promises:

1. Unfaithfulness hinders the unity and health of the spiritual family (10-12).

10 Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another? 

God creates a people—in the OT, it was Israel, in the NT the church—and makes them his own, and asks for their loyalty.  He also unites them with each other. 

Since they are spiritually united, with only one Father and one Creator, WHY would they break this unity by breaking faith with each other?  When they do that, they “profane” or desecrate the covenant. 

How did Judah profane the covenant?  3 sins are going to be listed in this passage. Working backwards……

(1) Divorce, 14-16

(2) Pagan-style worship, 12-13, and here in V. 11:

(3) Interfaith marriage

11 Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. 

God had told the Israelites not to intermarry with the pagan nations, not because of ethnic, racial or national bias, but because it was compromising the true faith of Israel by joining a believer and pagan together as one flesh, which is the essence of marriage.  No sleeping with the enemy, in other words.  But apparently this was being violated in a widespread fashion: v. 11 says the detestable thing “has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem.”

The audience of Malachi needed to hear once again that they were to be devoted to Yahweh ONLY and avoid the terrible practices of the pagans—and those whom they chose to marry reflected that commitment, or lack of it; their lifestyle choices honored or dishonored their covenant with God.

Religious intermarriage was very widespread that ridding Judah of it was a major concern of both Ezra and Nehemiah after the people returned from the exile.  There was a difference between ethnic intermarriage and religious intermarriage.  We have several OT examples of non-Israelite women who were welcomed into the people of God because they accepted the true faith of Israel—Ruth, Rahab, Abigail, etc.  But normally a woman brought in from another culture would bring with her the pagan beliefs and practices when she married into Israel.  All of these groups were involved in idolatry, pantheism, and so forth, which is why Israelite men were told not to marry them, so they would violate the first  commandment by introducing foreign gods into Israel and the second one by bringing in idolatry.

One of the saddest pictures of the negative affects of doing this very thing is found in the life of the once-great Solomon:

1 Kings 11:1, 2, 4

1 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter– Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.

 4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

When this happens “the sanctuary the LORD loves” is desecrated.  In my opinion, that doesn’t speak of a building made by human hands, but of God’s holy people Israel.  Long before the temple was built, in Exodus 15:17 God referred to his people as “the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established.”

Why would they do it?

Money?  In-laws would help them in business dealings, jobs

Sex?  Man may be attracted to someone new

12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob–even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty. 

As Douglas Stuart writes, “Some sins are so heinous that they require elimination of the sinner from the community of faith” (1333).

even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty. 

The pagan belief in that day was that no god would ever turn away a worshipper, regardless of how evil he was, because the “god” would then be starving himself.  But the biblical view is that sacrifice is offered to God out of gratitude and does not obligate God to us.  The true God values obedience over sacrifice and cannot be manipulated. 

Now the contrast with pagan worship continues in v. 13, which also gives us the second reason God’s people should keep their covenant promises:

  1. Unfaithfulness severely impacts one’s ability to worship God properly (13).

13 Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 

Pagans assumed that loud displays of emotion that showed how sincere the worshipper was in making an appeal could influence the god.  The laity themselves could not approach the altar, so presumably this would be the priests acting on their behalf.  Here are a couple of OT pictures of pagan worship:

Hosea 7:14

They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds.

1 Kings 18:26-28

26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.

Now, there is nothing wrong with crying. If fact, it is good to mourn over sin.  But the pagans did is as a worship style in order to influence the gods.  Emotionalism without true repentance, without a commitment to honoring God in life, misses the worship boat.  If you sin and confess, yes, God will forgive you. But the Israelites had to be warned about being misled to believe that they could break God’s covenant and marry pagans, violate the first commandment, and still somehow receive God’s blessing or favor by “worshipping while sinning.”  The same is true today.  Notice what Jesus taught on this subject:

Matthew 5:23-24

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Why should God’s people keep their covenant promises?  Because…

(1) Unfaithfulness hinders the unity and health of the spiritual family (10-12).

(2) Unfaithfulness severely impacts one’s ability to worship God properly (13).

Finally…….

  1. Unfaithfulness in marriage breaks promises made to God and impacts the nuclear family (14-16).

14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. 

Covenants in those days always had witnesses, and it was the job of the witness to enforce or guarantee the covenant.  God was always the witness for the biblical covenants.  And marriage was like a legal contract. 

“wife of your youth”—reminds us that marriages were arranged, sometimes before they were born and almost always before puberty. Prior to the marriage they were betrothed.  Now in those days polygamy was practiced (never outlawed in OT), but marrying a subsequent wife was no reason for divorcing the first one, the “childhood wife.”

Interesting that in a culture that decisively viewed women as inferior to men, God calls wives “your partner”, stressing equality in the covenant relationship

15 Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

When God brought Adam and Eve together, he defined their union as “one flesh.”  Oneness is at the heart of marriage—spiritual, emotional, and physical.  And a key reason for God to do that, according to v. 15, is so there could be godly offspring.  The world says, “Don’t sacrifice your own personal desires for the children.”  God says, “Love and submit to and be one with your spouse, and out of that union do everything you can to produce godly children that will also walk in God’s ways.”

In light of this, what should God’s people do?  The end of v. 15 answers: So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

Notice what God hates in this verse:  Divorce.  Not divorcees, but divorce, the act itself.  God has made married people one, and He knows and loathes the pain involved in trying to separate that. 

And actually, the context is divorce based on aversion (not any and all divorce).

The men of Judah didn’t get to choose their childhood wives; their fathers did that. But people like to be in charge of their own lives and apparently then were exercising that right by divorcing those women because they were attracted to others. 

The verse continues with an interesting metaphor:

and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment”

It pictures someone covering himself with clothes, but in addition covering himself with violence or crime.  So the expression would be “crime on your clothes”, similar to a modern-day one, he had “blood on his hands.”  God will not accept a cavalier approach towards marriage and commitment that results in divorce because of convenience or preference, so the prophet concludes this speech with a challenge at the end of v. 16:

So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not ………….. (SAY IT WITH ME) break faith.

Marriage is a covenant………

Proverbs 2:16-17

Wisdom . . . 16 . . .  will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, 17 who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.

Jesus pointed to the sanctity and permanence of marriage when asked about it:

Read Matthew 19:3-9

Read 1 Corinthians 7:10-13

Homiletic Idea

Faithfulness to each other is a crucial component of faithfulness to God.

ILLUSTRATION

While ministering in Africa, I met a Christian worker who raised his six children on $10 a month. He told me the story of how children in his village were going blind because of a disease that could be prevented with medicine that only cost 50 cents. He began to pray and ask God to send a rich person to their village to help vive the money for the medicine, but no one ever came. As he kept praying, the Lord told him he should give the money to buy the medicine. But with six children and only a $10 a month salary, he couldn’t see how he could do this. But he and his family prayed and decided that every month they would buy the medicine to help one child. When I last spoke with him, he has been doing this for seven years and had saved 84 children from going blind. And this family saw God meet all of their needs.

.

APPLICATION

Learn to practice giving with little thing God has given you. Make yourselves available by giving to the needy and unfortunate people of the world. Budget some funds or material items to give to charity organization or individual who is in need of what you have. Be generous in giving.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Malachi 2:17-3:5

MALACHI #5—HCC, 6/15/08 (Father’s Day)

INTRO: 

Read text

God’s Word for us this morning is

Homiletic idea:

Being aware of God’s character and larger plan can protect you from

destructive and unbiblical thought patterns.

Themes in 2:17-3:5

In this speech, there are two themes that have been brought forth earlier in the book of Malachi:

Reform of priesthood

Acceptable worship

Now joined with . . .

Messiah

Day of Judgment

Social Justice

Speech?  Malachi is composed of 6 speeches:

2:17-3:5          Speech #4       Unfaithfulness and the “Day of the Lord”

The speeches in Malachi have a common form:

Speeches in Malachi

2:17a   Assertion (by God)      
2:17b   Questioning (by Israel)  
2:17c   Response  
3:1-5 Implication  
2:17a   Assertion (by God)     “Words that weary”

17 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?” 

2:17b   Questioning (by Israel) How?

17 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?” 

2:17c   Response “God must be indifferent”

17 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?” 

Pessimism underlies this statement that amounts to questioning whether there is any difference between those who do right and those who don’t.  The people in Israel claimed that God was actually pleased with evildoers.  Why would they say something like that?  Apparently their society had degenerated to such a degree that it seems as if God wasn’t bothered by it—otherwise, He would be changing it.  They were clearly frustrated…and venting.

after returning from captivity……………

After expressing that, they call for an explanation with a question:

2:17c   Response “God must not be just”

17 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?”

They knew that God was supposed to be the God of justice—the psalmist wrote (89:14), “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.”  On that basis, they wanted to SEE GOD ACT firsthand in a way that would prove it to them.

Isn’t it inconsistent for a nation that is corrupt to expect justice?   It is, but as Douglas Stuart writes,

“The thief is always outraged when someone steals from him. The liar is deeply offended when someone lies to her.  The cheater deeply resents finding that she has been defrauded, and the murderer wants himself and his family to live in peace” (1348).

3:1-5 Implication Messenger  

3:1 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

The language of this verse is that which is used in the Bible to speak of God’s mighty intervention in human affairs, the Day of the Lord. 

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.

This messenger is a forerunner sent by God to prepare people for the sudden arrival of a second person whom the people were desiring—and this second one is called the “messenger of the covenant” and is the Lord himself.

Any ideas who these 2 messengers were?

Many cultures in history practiced the sending of a messenger to prepare people for the arrival of a VIP.  This first messenger assigned to that task was John the Baptist (amazingly predicted 500 years before he came!).  When the religious leaders asked John who he was, he said in John 1:23ff., “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'”  Then they asked him why he baptized.

26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

The second messenger was Jesus Christ—sent by God, but God himself, as indicated in v. 1, “then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple”

–In the ancient near east, they believed that a great sovereign could overcome his enemies in a single day, hence “suddenly”

“Come to his temple”—Jesus worshipped at the temple in Jerusalem at age 12, and on the day we memorialize as Palm Sunday he rode triumphantly into Jerusalem and went to that temple again.

So God promises a messenger (which was Jesus)—and this messenger also will be a judge:

3:1-5 Implication Messenger Judge

2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR.  God is going to send justice.  He is going to show Himself and his character—by sending His Messiah—but his coming involves probably more than they bargained for.  See—they wanted OTHER people to be the object of God’s justice, for God to judge these other nations.  It appears they had a misunderstanding about what his “Day” of judgment would involve—which would include judgment of THEM too.  They were expecting good things to happen when the messenger comes—they longed for a Messiah to come and intervene in their situation.  They believed that God would act decisively–at some future point, he would come as a conquering judge to vindicate the righteous and defeat the wicked.  That was true—but they forgot, overlooked or somehow missed that THEY TOO were wicked—even though they claimed to be God’s people.

Amos 5:18

18 Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light.  19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.

In the New Testament, every reference to the Day of the Lord refers to the second coming of Jesus Christ.  His first coming was when he came to be born as a baby and live in a human form, but after dying, being raised from the dead and returning to heaven, the Bible promises that he will come back again—that will be the end of human history as we know it—and that day will fulfill every aspect of what the OT prophets described as the Day of the Lord

2 Peter 3:10-12–10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming

2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.

who can endure the day of his coming?

The unspoken answer, of course, was ONLY THOSE WHO HAD FAITHFULLY KEPT GOD’s COVENANT.  The day of his coming was and is going to be a day of separation—the just from the unjust, the sheep from the goats. 

Two elements are named here in vv. 2-3 that separate: fire and soap (lye).

For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.

Valuable metals had different melting points, so the refiner would use fire to separate them from each other.  This fire would remove the slag or dross from the ore, leaving nothing but a pure end product. 

Lye (or soap) was used in those days as it was dissolved in water that clothes were then soaked in, beaten, scrubbed and rinsed.  Again, this speaks of separation—separating the dirt and stains from the fabric of the clothes so there could be a pure product in the end.

On the Day of the Lord, God is going to separate what should remain from what should not.

Verse 3…………………………………………………

3:1-5 Implication Messenger Judge  

3 . . . Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,  4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

5 “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.

7 Sins:

1. Sorcery (sorcerers)

2. Adultery(adulterers)

3. Perjury (and perjurers)

4. Cheating workers(against those who defraud laborers of their wages)

5. Oppressing widows and orphans(who oppress the widows and the fatherless)

6.  Mistreating the weak(and deprive aliens of justice)

NOTE: This refers to “OT aliens”, not “space aliens” ……………………

7.  Not fearing God(but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty)

Homiletic Idea

Being aware of God’s character and larger plan can protect you from destructive and unbiblical thought patterns.

ILLUSTRATION

A child has willfully disobeyed. For this offense he has been chastised, and confined to his own room. He is very sullen and obstinate, and his father reasons with him, and tells him with tears that he is greatly grieved with him, and feels wounded by the ingratitude which he receives after all his love. The boy angrily replies that he does not believe in his father’s love: if he loved him, why did he whip him, and send him to bed? This would be a very rebellious speech; but it would be pitched in the same key as our text. It would also set forth the spirit which is often seen in Christians when they measure the Lord’s love by their temporal circumstances, and ask in rebellion whether their poverty, their pains, and their persecutions are fit fruits of divine favor. The Lord knows how foolish we are apt to be when our soul is vexed with bitter anguish, and therefore he does not destroy us for our presumption, but he patiently reasons with us that he may bring us to a better mind.

APPLICATION

God cares and loves you; therefore, be appreciative of his loving kindness or goodness toward you. Be obedience, shows respect and gratitude to God. Pray and thanks him every morning and evening before getting out of bed or going to bed.

Rob or Return?

Malachi 3:6-12

MALACHI #6—HCC, 6/22/08

Rob or Return?  Malachi 3:6-12

I am going to talk about finances in the sermon today because I’m teaching through the last book in the OT, Malachi, and we come today to Malachi 3:6-12, which talks about how giving generously—or lack thereof—is a crucial indicator of how willing one is to follow God’s commands. 

About 2500 years ago, a prophet named Malachi delivered 6 speeches to God’s people Israel

3:6-12              Speech #5       Unfaithfulness and Giving

Let’s hear the Word of God:

6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse– the whole nation of you– because you are robbing me.

10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

God’s Word for us this morning is this:

Homiletic idea:

When God’s people give generously to His work,

they–and others–will see the blessings of God.

3 blessings that result from generous giving to God:

1.  Nearness to God (6-9)

6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.

This verse stresses God’s grace and changelessness (immutability).  Israel would have had no legitimate complaint if God had destroyed them, but he didn’t, because “I the LORD do not change.”  He is a God who shows mercy; his unchanging nature allows him to forgive and restore.

7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.

The sins that were prevalent among Judah in the 5th century BC had been around a long time.  Unfortunately, God’s people in the OT rebelled against him (as many of the OT prophets tell us).  They have “turned away”——–

And yet, the second part of verse 7 contains words of hope: Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.

They left God, and as a result God abandoned them.  Before the final judgment at the end of human history, God’s abandoning his people does not necessarily include death, destruction or take away the fact that he is present everywhere.  People with different values might not even notice the absence of God, but the Israelites should have—and probably many of them did.  Some probably assumed that God was incapable or limited in his power, because they certainly weren’t seeing his blessings, but there was a reason behind it.  It wasn’t because he COULDN’T bless them; it was because he WOULDN’T bless a disobedient people.

“Return to me, and I will return to you.”  What a great promise.  And some of you today might need to hear that from God.  If you have been like the rebellious Israelites and left God, disobeyed His commands, if you will repent and return, he will return to you.

Like the other speeches, the dialogue continues with their asking God a question:

“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse– the whole nation of you– because you are robbing me.

How should they return?  The prophet points to a key issue involved in their leaving God—if you read the entire book of Malachi, you realize that there were many—but here he zeros in on their refusal to give God the material possessions that really belonged to him as an indicator of their faulty heart condition.

Failure to bring tithes and offerings was symptomatic.  But how is that “robbery”?

Psalm 24:1-2 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2 for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”

ALL the wealth in the world belongs to God; humans never truly “own” it; we just handle it temporarily, for the few fleeting years of our lives.  He commanded Israel to tithe (= one tenth of their possessions) and above that to give offerings to recognize the reality that God owns everything and all we have comes from him.  SO the tithe actually belonged to God, and if you take something from its owner and keep it from them, that’s robbery.

In a minute, I’ll show you why it was important for them to tithe PRACTICALLY, but for now let’s let it stand that they were commanded by God to do so, and failure to do so amounted to disobedience and rebellion and displeased the Almighty God.

9 You are under a curse– the whole nation of you– because you are robbing me.

Economic conditions weren’t too good for them, so it may have been easy to skimp in terms of their giving to God, but the result of this direct sin against God was punishment.

On the other hand, here’s one of the WONDERFUL things about obeying God’s commands—whether it is those related to giving, those concerning truthfulness or humility—when we obey God, we are close to God.  “Return to me, and I will return to you.”

The second blessing that results from generous giving to God is….

2.  Participation in God’s great purposes (10a)

10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.

Tithing was not voluntary in the OT.  Each person paid 10% of their income to the temple in order to support the priests, Levites, temple singers and servants, and to provide the needed supplies and maintenance of the temple.  The Levites comprised approximately 1/12 of the nation’s population, so to support them alone it would require 8.3% of the GNP (nation’s income).  Add to that the costs of maintaining and operating the temple and you could see why 10% of income was needed in order for them to have a SYSTEM OF WORSHIP, “that there may be food in my house.” 

So God’s system of giving tithes and offerings not only demonstrated God’s ownership of everything, but PRACTICALLY it kept the Levitical priests employed and enabled the worship and sacrificial system of the temple to be carried out.

God had a purpose to provide the temple, and it required funding, so the people of God were asked to fund it with tithes and offerings, allowing THEM to participate in God’s purposes.  But they were being stingy, selfish and not giving like they should, so they were missing out.

When people give generously to God, they are close to God, they participate in God’s great purposes, and finally, they experience another blessing:

3.  Overwhelming BIBLICAL prosperity (10b-12)

Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

It’s not uncommon for God to invite people to test his willingness to come through for them:

Ex. 4—Moses (staff becoming snake)

Ps. 34:8-Taste and see that the Lord is good

This is different from people testing God by demanding that he prove himself; this is God himself taking the initiative by saying “Test me in this.”

And what will he do for them?

“and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

The key to prosperity for those that raise crops and animals, like Judah of that day, is RAIN.  They might have been experiencing a drought because of their disobedience to God.  This wording, “open the floodgates” indicates ABUNDANT rain in the Bible.  And it would result in so much blessing that they would not have enough room.

11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty.

If you are going to have a successful crop, you have to be free from pests and crop diseases.  If they obeyed, God would prevent these disasters from happening and they would be able to enjoy the fruit of their labor. 

Look what happens in v. 12:

12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

The blessing will be so impressive that the other nations would call them “blessed”—they would acknowledge that God had favored them.  They would have a “delightful land”—a land that has (imo) not only material blessing but God’s favor, loyalty and presence (so Stuart).

            Contrasts with “unbiblical prosperity”:

            a.  For God’s people as a whole

(not a technique for individuals to get rich—the WHOLE nation in Malachi)

            b.  To enjoy and bless others, not to consume selfishly

            c.  As a tremendous testimony to outsiders

Homiletic Idea:

When God’s people give generously to His work,

they–and others–will see the blessings of God.

Old and New Testament Giving Comparisons

  Malachi 3 New Testament
Amount Tithes and offerings  
Place Storehouse  
Result Blessing  

Tithes and offerings—Malachi 3 speaks of the tithe to support the priests and the work of the temple.  But there are two other tithes mentioned in the OT: the festival tithe in Deuteronomy 12:10-11, and every three years the “poor tithe” of Deut. 14:28-29 (helping people in poverty)—which would average to 3%/year.  Then there was what we might call “mandatory profit sharing”—leaving some of the fruit in your fields for the poor to glean.  There was also there temple charge required to pay for materials for temple worship.  It’s hard to get to the exact percentage the pious Israelite would pay, but apparently it was at LEAST 13% and possibly 23-25%!

Over and above these mandatory tithes were freewill offerings, such as the voluntary offerings collected to build the temple.  Are we getting the picture?

  Malachi 3 New Testament
Amount Tithes and offerings Liberal, cheerful giving with right motives (2 Cor. 9:6-7)

2 Corinthians 9:6-7

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Place Storehouse “Storehouses” didn’t exist

1 Corinthians 16:19

The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.

OT—temple; NT—house churches; today—local churches with facilities, staff and missions

Place Storehouse To further God’s work through the church (2 Cor. 8-9)

2 Corinthians 8:1-2

1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

Place Storehouse By principle, the place of spiritual nourishment, worship & service

No direct command in NT for “storehouse” giving—BECAUSE THERE WEREN’T storehouses as we know them, but by principle and precedent as we APPLY it to today, it seems that the place that one receives spiritual nourishment, worships, and serves should be the place where one’s gifts are concentrated (for most, that is the local church).

Result Blessing Blessing (Luke 6:38)

Luke 6:38

38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Result Blessing Continued enablement & glory to God (2 Cor. 9:8-13)

2 Corinthians 9:8-13

8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  9 As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

Homiletic Idea

When God’s people give generously to His work,

they–and others–will see the blessings of God.

ILLUSTRATION

Leighton Farrell was the minister of Highland Park Church in Dallas for many years. He tells of a man in the church who once made a covenant with a former pastor to tithe ten percent of their income every year. They were both young and neither of them had much money. But things changed. The layman tithed one thousand dollars the year he earned ten thousand, ten thousand dollars the year he earned one-hundred thousand, and one- hundred thousand dollars the year he earned one million. But the year he earned six million dollars he just could not bring himself to write out that check for six-hundred thousand dollars to the Church.  He telephoned the minister, long since having moved to another church, and asked to see him. Walking into the pastor’s office the man begged to be let out of the covenant, saying, “This tithing business has to stop. It was fine when my tithe was one thousand dollars, but I just cannot afford six-hundred thousand dollars. You’ve got to do something, Reverend!” The pastor knelt on the floor and prayed silently for a long time. Eventually the man said, “What are you doing? Are you praying that God will let me out of the covenant to tithe?” “No,” said the minister. “I am praying for God to reduce your income back to the level where one thousand dollars will be your tithe!”

APPLICATION

Money that individuals give comes to the church from five sources, or “pockets.” Obviously, these are not actual pockets, but symbolic pictures representing five major motives of church members in giving to their church. When church leaders understand the nature and source of their church’s income, they can better plan a strategy for outreach and growth.

Does Serving God Really Matter?

Malachi 3:13-18

MALACHI #7—HCC, 6/29/08

INTRO

Today’s passage, Malachi 3:13-18, talks about GOD’s TREASURED POSSESSIONS.  This passage is the sixth and final speech in the last book of the OT.

3:13-4:3          Speech #6        Unfaithfulness and Fearing God

TODAY’S TEXT = 3:13-18

. . . which is about half of the last speech; next week, missionary Chris Johnson, who went with the Harvest team yesterday to Missisippi, will be preaching here, and Lord willing, two weeks from today, I’ll conclude this Malachi series with a message on Malachi 4:1-6.  Let’s hear God’s Word:

13 “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ 14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.'”

16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

17 “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

Homiletic idea:

If you choose to honor and serve God,

He will choose to value and spare you.

Two views about the value of serving God:

  1. View of the Arrogant (13-15)

13 “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’

I’ve called the six sermons in Malachi “speeches” because they were delivered most likely orally first, and the book of the Bible we are studying records them in writing.  The actual speech form is called a “disputation”—which is a “give and take” speech form in which an assertion is made and then disputed.  Six times in this little book, the people dispute God’s statements:

“I have loved you”

How have You loved us?(  1:2-5)

“You have shown contempt for my name”

How have we shown contempt for your name? (1:6-2:9)

“I will not accept your offerings”

Why doesn’t God accept our offerings?  (2:10-16)

“You have wearied me with your words”

How have we wearied the Lord with our words?  (2:17-3:5)

“Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed me.”

How do we rob God?  (3:6-12)

And now……….”You have said harsh things against me”

What have we said against God?  (3:13-4:6)

What do arrogant people say about the idea of “serving God”?

  1. It is useless to serve the Lord (14).

14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty?”

The theme of v. 14 is “futility”—the proud say, “It’s USELESS to serve God.”

“futile” is the same word used in the 3rd commandment, “Do not take the name of the Lord your God in VAIN.”  So they are claiming that there is no real worth or value to serving God—it is empty.

14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty?”

“Serve” here refers to worshipping and obeying God.

14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty?”

What did we GAIN?  What was in it for us?

The original word for gain was “profit” and referred to weavers cutting a piece of cloth from the loom—the gain, the “cut.”  Here in Malachi the idea is someone like a robber who would demand his “cut” for doing something wrong.

Walt Kaiser says, “All too frequently contemporary churchgoers act as if God owes them something once they have participated in, or merely attended, services in the house of God—no matter how cold or bankrupt the real affections of their hearts were in that service!  Such a mercenary approach to serving God and attending his house is strong evidence that worldliness was at the root of the problem” (95).

So there are 3 claims wrapped into one:

  • Useless to serve
  • Useless to obey God (“carry out his requirements”)
  • V. 14—useless to fast/mourn

14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty?”

When people would fast & confess their sin, they would grieve through mourning.  They would dress uncomfortably (sackcloth and ashes), get dirty, fast—but they claimed that it was irrelevant, that God was irrelevant.

FUTILITY

FALSE ASSUMPTIONS:

  • Whatever happens to people in life is a direct result of how they act.

Somewhat linked, and/or sometimes linked—but not a direct “one for one.”  Eventually linked, yes, but not immediately linked.  Eat 2 double cheeseburgers, fries, a milk shake, and piece of chocolate cake, and you probably won’t die of a heart attack on the spot, but………….

  • When God does doesn’t respond to circumstances the way we expect him to, it is because he is unable or not interested.
  1. God doesn’t “do anything” when people disobey, so the ungodly are just as well off as those who do right (15).

15 “But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.'”

3 statements all make the same basic point: God does not respond when people do wrong.

But now we call the arrogant blessed—Resentment is obviously simmering under this claim that views the ungodly as better off than we are

Certainly the evildoers prosper—This amplifies the first statement by stating that people who do wrong are rewarded, not the godly.

and even those who challenge God escape.'”—even when they test God, they get by with it.  It must have referred to various ways that people were disobeying God’s law.

(in groups)—name 7 books or movies

(2) Identify the” hero” of the story, the one presented as likable, cool, desirable, etc.—“good guy” (virtue, character, moral, unselfish, tender) or “bad guy” (bad morals, wrong actions, self-centered, etc.) ?

But not everybody agrees with the arrogant:

  1. View of the God-fearers (16)

16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

  1. God is to be feared (16a).

16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

Proverbs—to fear the Lord is to HATE EVIL.

  1. God is to be honored (16b).

16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrancewas written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

Apparently this minority group said, “Enough is enough.  We are going to show that we are going to be loyal to God, regardless of how others act or think.”  So they created a scroll in which they signed a statement that they were committed to God and his ways, a “scroll of remembrance.”  It was a written covenant of some sort to trust and obey God.

God’s Response:

  1. God treasures his own (17a).

17 “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession.

Psalm 4:3– Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him.

EVERYONE wants to be treasured, desired, both men and women, children and teens, young and old.  Women who are married, that’s why you agreed to take that sorry husband of yours, because he made you feel SPECIAL, wanted, like you were the only girl in the world.

Some—have never found this kind of love and acceptance

Some—found it but then lost it

But even for those rare few who found it and still have it, it’s only human and it is not everlasting or perfect.  Today, hear the voice of God saying about the people who honor and fear him, his people: They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession.

There IS a HUGE difference between the godly and the ungodly—in spite of all appearances in OUR society

Isaiah 49:14-16:

14 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

The wicked may have fun, money, friends, popularity, appearances of being satisfied, but THEY DON’T HAVE THIS!!

What’s your most treasured possession?

If someone unexpectedly were to ask you that question, you might have to stop and think about it, but if you were to ask God, I don’t believe it would be difficult for him to answer.

He probably has picture frames too, with his treasured possessions in it

  1. Not the physical world, though he created it and owns everything in it (going to burn up at the end of time and be replaced by a new heaven and new earth)
  2. Picture of his people, those who are his children through faith in Jesus Christ.  All those who are saved are part of his people—and if that’s you, He might just have a picture of you on his mantle!
  1. God compassionately spares his own (17b).

I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.

# 2 and 3 are so related, let’s add #3 to the screen:

  1. God distinguishes between the righteous and wicked in judgment (18).

18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

Chapter 4 talks about the “Day of the Lord”—that future day that will bring unbelievable blessing and reward to God’s own, and unbelievable punishment for those who are not. 

The prophet Malachi had people in his day who should have known better—that gave up, that gave in to their own sinful desires.  And they tried to justify it by claiming that God didn’t do anything about it anyway, that the righteous and wicked were all essentially the same.  No, the prophet loudly proclaims in v. 18,

And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

A day IS coming—and it won’t be a pretty sight.  Chapter 4 (which we’ll cover in 2 weeks) details this.  Verse one says, “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.

Today in our world sometimes it looks like mockers, scorners, out and out ungodly people are doing just fine.  But 2 Peter 3 reminds us…..

2 Peter 3

3 First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.

Homiletic Idea:

If you choose to honor and serve God, He will choose to value and spare you.

What should we do today?

ILLUSTRATION

There goes a story that the man carried a sign that says “Talking Dog For Sale.” The owner directed him to the backyard to see the dog. He was not sure and decided to call out. Do you talk? “Yep.” the mutt dog replied. The man said to the dog, what is your story? The dog said “Well, I discovered this gift when I was young and wanted to help the government; therefore, I went to work for the CIA. I travelled around from country to country in order to spy on world leaders because no one ever figured a dog could eavesdrop. I was one of their most valuable agents during those days in disguised. I uncovered some incredible secrets and was awarded a bunch of medals. I had a wife, a mess of puppies, and now I am just retired.” The man could not believe that a dog could talk. He was already contemplating of way he could get an eavesdropping dog; therefore, he turned to the owner and said, “How much do you sell him?” The owner replied, “Ten dollars.” The man replied, “Your dog is amazing. Can I ask why you are selling him so cheap?” The owner said that he is selling him cheap because he is a big liar. It reminds me of the man who had serious hearing problems for over 15 years. He went to see the doctor and was given hearing aids that enable him to hear perfectly. On his follow-up visit a month later, the doctor said, “Your hearing is 100 percent; therefore, your family should be pleased that you can hear again. The man replied and said he has not told his family; however, he sits around and listens to conversations. He has changed his will three times. As we come to our passage today, God is eavesdropping on some our conversations. He is listening to two groups of people who are talking. The first group is speaking against Him. The other group speaks in awe of Him. Group one looked around and complained and group two looked up and understood.

APPLICATION

Christians are to be mindful of what they think and say about people and God; because what Christian says is never hidden from God because God hears and understands everything Christians think of and say. Guide your thought life by reading scriptures, prayer everyday and think of the goodness of God toward you and family members, and be appreciative of what God has done for you and will continue to do for you instead of complaining against him.

The God of Thunder and Sunshine

Malachi 4:1-3

MALACHI #8—HCC, 7/27/08

INTRO

As we turn our attention to the Word of God, Malachi 4:1-3 talks about something magnificent, scary, sobering, glorious—and CERTAIN!  There’s uncertainty about when exactly it will happen, but certainty about the fact that it will.

Note:  Malachi 4:1-3 is part of a speech that goes from 3:13-4:3.

Two views about the value of serving God:

  1. View of the Arrogant (13-15)
    1. View of the God-fearers (16)

Malachi 4:1-3

1 “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. 3 Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty.

God’s Word for us this morning is. . .

Homiletic idea:

God’s final Day of Judgment is certain,

and it’s certainly something to prepare for.

3 Facts about God’s Judgment Day (“Day of the Lord”):

  1. It is certain (1a).

“Surely the day is coming. . . “

The Lord’s second coming, the day of the Lord—has often SEEMED FAR AWAY.  But it is CERTAIN—the Lord says it.

The main difference is this: with the day your children are going to leave home, you could calculate when it was coming if you had wanted to—but with the coming of the Lord, you can’t calculate; you don’t know when that day is.

Add things God said that seemed “crazy” or “uncertain” and came true……

  • To Adam & Eve—if they sin……
  • To Noah—flood
  • Predictions of Jesus’ birth………………………..

The Day of the Lord, that COMING day—is CERTAIN!  Why?  Because God said so—and He is the God of truth; His Word is always trustworthy; He never lies or deceives.  He always prepares us for what we need to know in His Word.

Sometimes we say things that we mean at the time, but they don’t come true (perhaps because of circumstances out of our control).  But that never happens to God.  Whatever he says already has come true or will.

“Surely the day is coming. . . “

Another prophet talked about that day, Joel:

Joel 2:11

The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?

Homiletic Idea

God’s final Day of Judgment is certain,

and it’s certainly something to prepare for.

2.  It will be horrible for the arrogant/ungodly (1b).

“it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them

“burn like a furnace” is a phrase that pictures the hottest fires ancient people saw.  There were huge metal-working furnaces shaped like beehives that were stocked with wood, ignited and then fanned as hot as possible for the smelting process.  At the top of these furnaces were holes that provided ventilation, and when the furnace was burning hotly, flames shot high into the air.   That’s the picture here.

All the arrogant and every evildoer = everyone who rebels against God

Will be stubble

This refers to grain stocks, stubble and chaff that is left from the process of harvesting grain—and the Day of the Lord will be like a fire that devours or consumes them

So really, this approaching Day will indeed bring what the righteous of that day had hoped for: vindication of their faithfulness versus those who habitually ignored and/or violated the covenant that God gave—the people of 3:15 who challenged God and APPEARED at that time to be getting by with it or even PROSPERING.

In the era of restoration, God’s people will be a pure nation; they will be completely cleansed from all sin and removed from those who are not in a right relationship with God.

Isaiah 2:11-12

11 The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. 12 The LORD Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled).

Not just the OT, but the NT predicts this same outcome of the judgment that will result from the second coming of Jesus Christ, which is the last Day of the Lord in the Bible:

2 Peter 2:6-9

6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)– 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.

So the OT prophets included in their notion of the Day of the Lord many expectations that would be fulfilled at various times:

  • Fall of the northern kingdom 722 BC
  • Fall of the southern kingdom 586 BC
  • Restoration of Israel that began in 539 BC with Cyrus decree to go rebuild Jerusalem
  • First coming of Jesus Christ
  • Second Coming of Jesus Christ

So Scripture views the Day of the Lord as One Day that is a collective event comprised of many happenings throughout God’s dealings with humanity.  So any one of these events rightly were called the Day of the Lord but no one of them fulfilled everything about it—so none of them, until the VERY LAST ONE which we wait for now, exhausts the meaning of the “Day of the Lord.”

I like the way Walt Kaiser puts it: “Thus every evidence of God’s intervention in history, either to save or to judge men or nations, became a preview, a sample, a down payment, and earnest money on that climactic conclusion to history” (103).

Do I like talking about this truth?  No, actually.

Am I willing to avoid the topic entirely?  Because it is Scriptural, the answer again is “no.”

God is a God of Thunder. . . . . But he is also a God of sunshine.  As surely as the certain Day of the Lord will be horrible for the arrogant/ungodly, . . . ..

  • It will be amazing for the humble/godly (2-3).

2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.

But for you who revere my name

Literally “Fear” my name = revere and obey GOD,

Look what happens:

the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.

This is a clear picture of the warmth, brightness, happiness and complete well-being that will come to God’s people on that great, last day, the Day of the Lord.  It will be a time when he intervenes on our behalf and will bring righteousness and healing.  The “wings” of the sun are its rays, and this is powerful imagery—like that used in Psalm 37:5-6:

Psalm 37:5-6

5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Where will it come from and why will it be so great? 

Luke 1:76-79

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

See, God’s people in the 5th century BC experienced some of the same things we experience today—a LOT of ungodliness all around them, a lot of arrogance on the part of those that weren’t obeying God, those that claimed it is useless to serve God.  Being a Christian is AWESOME—but also at times it can be difficult, challenging and hard.

The reason the coming day of the Lord will bring such incredible healing is because of the PERSON who COMES on the ultimate final day of the Lord, Jesus Christ—prophecied here and also in Jeremiah 23:

Jeremiah 23:5-6

5 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.

Verse 2 of Malachi 4 continues, And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.

That language may not mean a lot to us today upon first hearing it, but most people in that society would have seen young, fattened, healthy bull calves that love to run and leap.  It’s part of their muscle development and the hearers in Malachi’s day would have immediately thought of EXHUBERANCE!

Malachi 4:3

 Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty.

This verse reaffirms that on the Day of the Lord, the faithful will prevail and the wicked will be eliminated

“You will trample down the wicked” is NOT an order for the righteous to do that elimination; it is an affirmation that God will have already accomplished this; the wicked will already be done.

One final passage that pictures both sides of the coming Day of the Lord—the sobering, scary reality for God-rejectors and the unbelievable glory of his followers:

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10

6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

Homiletic Idea

God’s final Day of Judgment is certain,

and it’s certainly something to prepare for.

ILLUSTRATION

My fellow Christian brothers and sisters, could you allow me to briefly interact with you today? I would like to hear from you a couple of you today in this forum. Please tell me and this Christian assembly your best day. Just shout out a date and tell me this Christian assembly what happened on that day. Thank you for sharing those wonderful days with us. I will not ask you to share your worst days with me and this assembly; however several of you could name several worst days you faced in your lives. Some days you desire you could live over and over and some days you try to forget because they were not good days at all. Today we are going to be hearing from God’s word about a day that is coming that will be unlike any other day ever in the history of the world or the universe. If you have asked Jesus to be your Savior and Leader of your lives, that day will be infinitely better than even your best day. If you do not have a relationship with God, that day will make your worst day seem like a picnic! It will be the most terrible, day ever.

APPLICATION

The application of this scripture reminds us that judgment awaits the wicked or the unrepentant; therefore, Christians are admonished to give their best in worship, to lead by example that exemplifies Godly leadership, to observe marriage as a covenant designed by God to be permanent, to honor God with their finances, and to serve each other reverently and the body of Christ. Christians are to repent from sins and be ready to meet Christ when he returns during the Second Advent.


[1]http://www.pastorlife.com/members/sermon.asp?sermon_id=4157

[2]http://www.pastorlife.com/members/sermon.asp?sermon_id=4157

[3]http://www.pastorlife.com/members/sermon.asp?sermon_id=4157

[4] https://firstbaptistscottcity.org/2018/02/05/unfaithfully-teaching-gods-word-malachi-21-9/