Malachi 2.10-16 (Study And Application)
FAITHLESS TO EACH OTHER (10) God loves His people. It is clear in so many ways. For Malachi, the claim of God's love is immediately grounded in His choosing of Jacob. God's pursuing, electing, covenantal love for His people is without question. But do God’s people love Him? Often, the answer to that question is sad and tragic. Up to this point in Malachi we see God’s love answered with weak worship, spotted offerings, lame leaders, and dung and death. In Malachi 2.10-16 we see the condition of faithlessness added to that of lovelessness. In these few verses we find a people faithless to their covenant community, faithless to God, and faithless to their spouse.
Three Questions, And Three Reasons, To Be Faithful Malachi 2.10 lists three questions that provide three reasons, or motivations, to be faithful. We have one Father, one Creator, and one covenant. The questions posed by God, through Malachi, touch on some of the reasons faithlessness was such an offense. Having one Father made the people one family. Their faithlessness to each other didn’t exist between strangers, but brothers and sisters. Their lack of love for each other was the result of siblings separating. The people also had one Creator. They were dependent creatures made by the One God to function under His reign and rule according to His design. In being faithless they were ignoring the call of God for them to be a people together as a community not just individuals. Related to this is the one covenant. They were a called out people in covenantal relationship with God and each other. Their faithlessness profaned this covenant by destroying unity in favor of selfish living. All too often the church today finds herself in the same place as the people of God during Malachi’s day. We fight, divide, disconnect, and ignore one another.
* What three foundational questions does Malachi provide as three reasons faithlessness was so intolerable? * How often do you think about your church as your family? What would change right now in your commitment to your church if you embraced the people as brothers and sisters?
Faithless To Each Other Malachi says we are faithless and by being this way we profane the covenant. We do damage to relationships and we wreck unity. In the church this faithlessness can be seen far too easily. We find churches packed with consumers instead of contributors, spectators instead of servants, guests instead of family. While any church longing to see their city reached and souls saved will be a visible mix of people and their covenantal connectedness, sadly, those who profess faith in Christ and claim to be His followers stay loosely connected as well, spending their lives consuming, watching, and basically doing nothing.
* Do you consume more than you contribute to your local church? Do you even have a local church that you are devoted to? * Are you more a spectator than a servant to your local community? * Would the elders, or other leaders, of your church see you as a guest or as family?
There are many consequences to covenant faithlessness, with one of the most glaring and deadly, being the weakening of the local church. Covenants are understood to be, at least, a defined relationship between two people and God involving responsibilities and confirmed with a vow. Far too often in churches today we find a loosely connected collection of individuals, using churches, leaving churches, and redefining church. If you are consuming more than you give you may be in danger of using the church. If you are constantly moving from church to church in search of “something better” you are most likely violating the unity of the church. If you have turned the church into something you just attend, can do without, aren’t devoted to, then you have redefined the church to be something other than the Bride of Jesus, His Body, God’s Temple, the dwelling place of the Spirit, a family, etc.
* If you stopped being a part of a church would anyone care? If you left a church would you leave a hole that needs to be filled? * Do you find yourself switching churches often? Have you ever left a church for unbiblical reasons? If you have left a church, why did you leave and what did you do before leaving? * What is the church? What do you think about the church? How central in your life is the church?
FAITHLESS TO GOD (11-12)
Malachi shifts from the general faithlessness of God’s people to each other and directs attention to what is labeled an abomination.
The Abomination Of Rejecting God (Daughter Of Foreign God) Malachi targets the men who were marrying foreign women, daughters of a foreign god. The abomination and profaning of the sanctuary was not about ethnicity, it was theological. Men were taking wives for themselves who didn’t love God, serve God, follow God, fear God, honor God. This would be equivalent today to a Christian marrying a non-Christian, pursuing the most intimate of relationships you can have with another person who has no love for the Savior who bled and died so you could live. In effect, the abomination was rejecting and forsaking God for the affections of a forbidden woman. In other words, trading devotion to God to be devoted to someone who isn’t devoted to God. The result so often of this sort of activity is a weakening of faith, an increase in compromise, and a lack of mission and purpose in life. Your affections are split, your devotion divided, and your life fractured.
* What are some of the implications for a Christian who chooses to marry a non-Christian? * What should a Christian do if they are currently married to a non-Christian? (see 1 Corinthians 7)
Succumbing To Syncretism (Profaning The Sanctuary) While the focus of Malachi 2.11 and following is about marriage, we find a principle of syncretism laid out. Whatever you give room to, in your heart and your life, will have your heart and your life. You can love the sanctuary and still profane it. You can love the church and still leave Her. As Christians in love with Jesus we don’t separate from the world, but we better not marry the world. You need to love the world as John 3.16 states (people who need a savior) but as 1 John 2.15-17 says, you better not love the world for the things the world offers (desire of the flesh and eyes, possessions, the world that is passing away). In fact, loving the world, marrying yourself to the world, is a declaration that you do not love God. Tragically and seductively, this drifting from love and devotion and faithfulness to God often happens over time as you become more entangled in the world, seeking satisfaction from the world. This is what happened during Malachi’s day when men married women that didn’t love God. Eventually their love for God just grew cold. Unfortunately, this is what happens to many in the church, they marry the world and begin to look more like the world. They end up profaning the sanctuary by succumbing to syncretism.
* Why is marrying the world, or the things of the world, in effect rejecting God? * What is the difference in love and engagement in the world between John 3.16 and 1 John 2.15-17? * In what ways are you currently married to the world? Think about what you spend money on, the media you consume, the lifestyle you live. How different from the world that doesn’t love Jesus is your life? Is there any distinction?
Cut Off From God, Even While Bringing Offerings In verse 12 we see a prayer and petition that those who commit the abomination of rejecting God, so they can fornicate with the world, would be cut off. Malachi is praying that the church would not be infested with half-devoted nominally faithful people. A detail even more shocking than the prayer for the removal of these faithless men, is that it is directed to those who were bringing in offerings. What you have in this verse is someone who says they love God, does certain religious activities that appear to honor God, all the while having hearts married to those who hate God. Just because you attend a church, read your Bible, give offerings, serve, does not mean you are devoted to God or not guilty of the abomination that Malachi speaks of in these verses. In some sense, this verse looks more at who you love than what you do, where your heart is, not what your offering is. You can do many religious things but do them with a heart far from God and ultimately end up far from God.
* What does Malachi pray for in this verse? * Do you love God? Do you have affections for God in addition to bringing offerings?
FAITHLESS AND FAVORLESS (13-16)
Malachi continues his discourse on faithlessness by turning attention to men who have left their wives, broken covenant, and offended God.
Weeping For The Wrong Reasons While Being Religious In Malachi 2.12, we see men weeping, covering the altar of their offerings with tears, wondering why God shows them no favor. On first glance, these tears appear like a good sign, an evidence of repentance, confession, and Godly grief. But as we look at the context of the passage we see men weeping for the wrong reasons even while being religious. What we have in these verses is men bringing offerings to God in postured devotion while forsaking their wives. What caused the tears is not their lack of integrity, character and covenantal faithlessness to their wives, but rather, the lack of God’s favor. Their crying was not confession. They are showing sorrow for the situation, not for their sin. They want God’s favor, His faithfulness, but don’t care about their own faithlessness. These men are crying for consequences not for offending God. This is regret not repentance. Put even more bluntly, their tears started when the “treasure” ceased. If God hadn’t withheld favor it seems that the tears would have never started. All too often this is the sort of “repentance” we practice. Tears shed for the situation not for our sin, for consequences not for crucifying Christ. We grieve over the results of sin but not the offense. In other words, we don’t hate sin, we hate that we can’t get away with sin.
* How often do you confess sin? How often do you confess sin prior to the sin being found out by others? When you confess sin do you grieve over the offense to God or is your confession more motivated by guilt or concern of the consequences of your sin? * Read Psalm 51. How is all sin ultimately against God? How does this Psalm impact how you come to God for forgiveness?
A Companion By Covenant God’s favor was withheld because faithfulness was forsaken. When God unites a man and women in marriage He does so in a covenant. This binding one-flesh union is never meant to be broken and faithlessness in marriage is ultimately an offense against God, your spouse, and even the following generations. When we are faithless to our spouse we are forgetting our vows. The vows I made with my wife, my pledge, my oath, have nothing to do with her obedience to me. No. I said I would love, be committed, be faithful, no matter what happens until death. Whatever she chooses to do in our marriage I can be faithful to her and ultimately to God. If I trade the wife of my youth in for a newer version I am not just forsaking her, I am offending God, and I am damaging my kids. Practically, modeled faithlessness often passes to the fowling generations. God is seeking godly offspring, not faithless fathers making faithless followers.
* What vows did you say on your wedding day? How often do you think about your vows? Where are you right now breaking those vows? * Why is God’s judgment on faithlessness so severe? What are some consequences of faithlessness in marriage?
Guard Yourself Or Wear A Violent Garment Those who hate and divorce put on a garment of violence. In other words, they bring destruction and pain. The fallout of a faithless spouse damages families and decays communities. Marital covenantal faithfulness is not just a private issue concerning a husband and wife, but includes children and grandchildren, cities and societies. Sometimes the “violence” seems small but in every case of faithlessness there is pain. It is inescapable. To separate and sever a marriage union is to rip and tear two lives that have been melded into one. There is always damage. Divorce is violence.
* In what ways does divorce bring violence? What are some of the specific results of divorce? * Who does divorce effect?
THE FAITHLESS FINDING FAVOR (Jesus Is Faithful)
Malachi 2.10-16 ends with the command to guard our spirit and to not be faithless. As we have seen faithlessness is destructive. Is does damage to relationships with each other, with God, with our spouses, with our children, and with our society. If we are honest, all of us are guilty of faithlessness in some way. All of us must receive the rebukes of this passage for we have not guarded and we have not been faithful, at least not perfectly. The hope we need for our faithlessness is the faithfulness of the One who is always faithful. If we look inside, or look to others, we will find faithlessness. What we need is the Faithful Husband of a Faithless Bride.
The Faithful Husband Of A Faithless Bride Read Hosea 1 and Hosea 3. In chapter 1 we see God’s call to Hosea to marry Gomer, a wife of whoredom. Hosea is faithful to God’s command and takes to himself a faithless bride. Hosea marries Gomer and has children with her. Sadly, by Hosea chapter 3 we see that Gomer has returned to her previous lifestyle. God commands Hosea to “go again, and love a woman who is loved by another man and even is an adulteress.” I still remember vividly reading through these chapters in January 2008. My devotional time for weeks had been in the book of Hosea and as I sat in a Starbucks reading through these chapters again I was praying that I would be a faithful man like Hosea. I was asking God that no matter what happens in my life with my spouse, my kids, family or friends, or church that I would be faithful. Even if everyone around me was faithless that I would be faithful, that I would “go again” and love those who didn’t love me or who had forsaken me. And as I sat there praying I was leveled with this reality; I am not Hosea, I am Gomer. It felt as if God spoke to me, “You are not faithful, your are faithless, your are not Hosea, you are Gomer.” And I wept. I cried out to God saying “I don’t want to be Gomer. I don’t want to be a whore. I don’t want to run from you or forsake you to fornicate with others.” Still praying the Spirit continued to apply the text and said; “until you know you are Gomer you will never get the Gospel.” I wept again. What I was learning is I will never know what Jesus has done for me on the Cross, until I know how my faithlessness put Him there. Jesus, the perfect faithful husband came and saw a faithless bride and married her anyway. He bought her with His blood and covered her in the wedding garments of His righteousness.
* Where do you find yourself in Hosea chapters 1 and 3? Do you believe you are like Gomer? * How would you explain the Gospel from Malachi 2.10-16? How is Jesus the hero of these verses?
Faithful From Faithfulness I am unfaithful, but Jesus is not, and by His faithfulness I find hope and strength to be faithful and I find grace and forgiveness for when I am not. As I learn and remember that I am Gomer God makes me more like Hosea. As I see what Jesus has done for me in my unfaithfulness I learn to be faithful. When I see the forgiveness He grants to me, at the cost of His life, I can forgive lesser offenses, whether my spouse, my kids, my family or friends, or my church. When I remember His commitment to His Bride, I stay committed to mine. As I see how Jesus loves the church and gave up His life for her, I follow in love for my wife. When I am faithless I remember I have a faithful Husband who will never leave or forsake his bride. Jesus will not profane the covenant. Jesus will not forsake the wife of His youth. Faithlessness brings violence and destruction but Jesus by His faithfulness brings peace and restoration, with God and with each other.
* How does experiencing Christ’s faithfulness make you more faithful? * How does knowing the Gospel allow you to find forgiveness for unfaithfulness and grow you to be more faithful? * What do you need to seek forgiveness from for being unfaithful? * Who do you need to forgive that has been unfaithful to you in light of the forgiveness you have received for being unfaithful to God?