Malachi 2:10 – Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?
Malachi now turns, somewhat abruptly, to another offence. It involves the breaking of vows to God and to their fellow man.
God begins by reminding the Jews that they had been created by God. In this instance, God is not referring to their birth, but to the creation of the nation of Israel. God made them a peculiar people, set aside for his own purposes and glory.
God also refers to them as having ‘one father’, which refers to the patriarch Abraham. When God created/entered into covenant with Abraham and his offspring, it created a new set of relationships. The Jews were bound to honor both God and their fellow man. From that moment onward, every offence against a fellow Jew was a violation of their relationship to God and to each other. Simply stated, a sin against a brother/fellow Jew was a sin against God and the whole nation.
For example, back in 2 Samuel 24, King David sinned by counting all of the fighting men of Israel. In response, God brought a death angel upon the whole nation. Thus, David’s sin was treachery against not only God, but against his nation and his fellow Israelites. Before it was all said and done, 70,000 men were dead.
Notice that in verse 10, God did not name a particular sin. He just reminds his people that sin was a treachery against their brothers, their nation and their God. Clearly, God is laying a foundation for what he is about confront them with, and he will show how their sin is affecting their entire nation.
Malachi 2:11 – Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.
And here the specific sin is revealed. Jewish men were to have only one wife, who was also to be Jewish – they were forbidden to marry Gentiles. Like all young men, they would work to gain the affections of the daughter of a fellow Israelite, and enter into a marriage covenant with her. Much like today, they vowed to love her, provide for her, and be a lifelong companion to her through all the joys and sorrows of life.
But later these same men were enticed by sin; they lusted after the foreign women who lived in Jerusalem. Since having two wives was forbidden, they ‘put away’ or divorced their first Jewish wife in order to marry the foreigner.
God declares their actions an abomination, which is defined as anything that is hateful, wicked or shamefully vile; something that produces disgust and includes anything that is offensive to God. Even we, as sinners, can understand that there is no level on which this is righteous behavior. And it wasn’t just morally wrong. This sin had great spiritual implications as well.
The Jews were commanded to keep themselves separated from the nations around them, in order to maintain their position as custodians of the revelations of God to mankind. They were abiding witnesses of God’s existence. Through Israel, God planned to bless all the nations of the world by bringing forth the Messiah.
But they often disobeyed God and formed idolatrous connections to Gentiles. In fact, this sin (divorce/marrying foreign women) was absolutely rampant during the time of Malachi. Nehemiah and Ezra worked diligently to remove the evil which Malachi addresses here.
The Jews were faithless towards God, their nation and their fellow man. How sad that this takes place in Jerusalem, the Holy City which contained the ONLY sanctuary of the living God.
The sanctuary was the meeting place between God and Israel and it is often symbolic of that relationship. By having contempt for the ordinances of the Lord, they profaned the holiness of God and made a mockery of their covenant relationship to him, in a very public way. Thus, they are said to have profaned the sanctuary of the Lord. Rather than being a witness FOR God, they gave the Gentiles a reason NOT to believe in God.
Besides the fact that divorce is something God hates, why was it such a big deal to marry a foreign woman?
Because these physical unions/relationships had spiritual implications.
Those who worship and serve the true God are called his sons and daughters (Deuteronomy 32:19, II Corinthians 6:18). Likewise, those who serve false gods are the children of the idol or demon that they serve. Therefore, if a Jewish man married a foreign/Gentile woman, he was willingly making himself the son-in-law of Satan!
As one half of the marriage relationship, these foreign women had immense influence over their husbands.
All throughout the scriptures, we find foreign women introducing idol worship into the marriage relationship. This resulted in the Jewish husband turning to idolatry, rather than bringing the wife into covenant relationship with the Lord. The result was a divided house – partly serving God, while partly serving Satan. But ultimately, there can be only one master of a house, and in the day of Malachi, that wound up being Satan most of the time.
This was not just a problem for the common people. Sadly, the corrupt priests were also committing this sin:
Nehemiah 13:29 – Remember them, O my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.
How does this apply to our generation?
God has not changed. He still takes the marriage covenant very seriously and he still hates divorce. However, we live in a fallen world and there are times when reconciliation is impossible and divorce is the only answer. In these situations, God is there to provide healing, hope and forgiveness. Divorce is not an unpardonable sin.
On the other hand, we need to acknowledge that faithfulness and holiness in marriage is vitally important because in the new covenant, it represents the relationship between God and mankind.
Ephesians 5:31-32 – Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
When a man and woman are faithful to each other for life, building a sound relationship, knowing, respecting and loving one another, while facing the challenges of life together, it presents a picture of our relationship with Christ.
Not only that, the new covenant also reveals that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 6:15-20).
When we sin against our bodies by entering into unlawful sexual relationships, we are defiling or profaning the temple of God, which is the exact crime the Jews were charged with back in the day of Malachi. So really, nothing has changed. We too, profane the temple or sanctuary of God if/when we engage in sexual immorality. Just as in the days of Malachi, this sin is common in the church and can even be found in some of the pulpits of our nation.
When we embrace things that are popular in our culture but have a sinful source (such as lust and sexual sin), we are being spiritually unfaithful to God. God has no agreement with idols and when we chose what stems from evil we are choosing/preferring evil over God.
This often results in spiritual blindness, loss of the favor of God, being snared by deceptive errors, and a loss of influence in our culture. Does any of this sound familiar? It should – this is exactly what happened to Israel. Through sin, they lost influence in their culture and they forfeited the privilege of exemplifying God to a lost and dying world. Let’s not make the same mistake!
In short, God’s will is for us to be in partnership with a person who also acknowledges him as Lord. When we are not, we often experience these consequences: domestic unhappiness, divided households and children who are spiritually confused.
Malachi 2:12 – May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!
Our translation says the Lord will cut off ‘any descendant’ who does this. Your translation may say ‘the master and the scholar’. This includes the person who actively originates the sin as well as the one who passively accepts it. Neither the priests (teachers/masters) nor the common people (scholar/student) would go unpunished. So, our translation is accurate when it says ‘any descendant’.
But let’s not rush through this concept. It is one thing to actively promote sin. All of us are against that. But through the prophet Malachi, God is saying that when we passively sit by and accept sin or do nothing to fight against it, we are just as guilty! Don’t we see this sin in our lives today? We may not have had an abortion, but sometimes we do nothing to stop it or fight against it. We may not have been the one to take prayer out of the public schools, but what have we done to fight against it? If the answer is ‘nothing’, then we too, share in the guilt of this offence.
God will cut off (literally to scrape off or to blot out) anyone who commits this sin. God puts his people on notice that no matter how prevalent this practice had become, no matter how accepted within the culture, God still considered it a sin and as such, it would result in punishment and eventually death, if they did not repent.
That is worth repeating: God puts his people on notice that no matter how prevalent this practice had become, no matter how accepted within the culture, God still considered it a sin and as such, it would result in punishment and eventually death, if they did not repent.
The phrase ‘bring an offering to the Lord’ is a little unclear.
- It may refer to those who consider themselves to be God’s people, as no one else would be bringing an offering to God.
- It may be a reference to the belief of the Jewish men that an offering with shield them from any penalty associated with this sin.
- It may indicate that the priests who are guilty of this fault will be put out of the office of the priesthood where they can no longer minister before the Lord.
We cannot overlook the fact that all three may be true, especially in light of what we just learned, namely, God considers it a sin for us to passively sit by and do nothing when sin abounds.
Malachi 2:13 – And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand.
The multiple sins of the people and priests have led to the situation described in this verse. The priests were corrupt. They no longer had respect for God or his offerings. They stopped teaching the common people the right way to worship God and live holy lives.
One of the sins that became rampant in that environment was the divorcing of their Jewish wives and the marrying of foreign women, who lured the Jews into idolatry and other wickedness.
Because they were engaged in gross sin, God paid no attention to them when they brought offerings to him. He did not regard or act on their prayers and petitions.
Once the people realized God was not moving on their behalf, they wept and mourned before the altar because their worship was futile. Their sacrifices did not please God and their worship was in vain. Because of their spiritual condition, they couldn’t see what was happening. They did not seem to understand the problem, so they moan and groan and complain that God had abandoned them.
Who was ultimately responsible for this situation? Malachi lays the blame at the feet of the priests. They were to keep themselves pure and holy, so that they could stand in the gap between God and sinful man. Once they became corrupted, all sacrifices were either polluted or offered by impure hands, and these could not be accepted by God.
Again, we must remind ourselves that in our generation, we are the spiritual priesthood of God. We are to keep ourselves pure and holy, so we can be salt and light in our generation and point others to Christ. As Jesus reminded us if the salt has lost its savor, what is it good for? Only to be trampled underfoot (Luke 14:34-35).
Malachi 2:14 – But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
There is no rational explanation for why people would attempt to make excuses or act innocent in the presence of an all-knowing God! Although the men feign ignorance, God has seen not only their actions, but their lust, pride and idolatry. God lays the charge of unfaithfulness right at their feet. They are without excuse.
These Jewish women were the wives of their youth, their companions and their covenant partners. They were with their husbands in sickness and in health, sharing the sorrows, joys, hopes, fears and interests of life. They were the ones who bore children and worked as a help meet to their husbands. These wives had indeed given their husbands the best years of their lives. They were the ones whom the husband had made a marriage covenant with; they were to be life time companions. And keep this in mind – the marriage covenant was entered into voluntarily – the men were not forced into it, they desired and sought after it!
So again, it is easy for us to see that the actions of the Jewish men were a gross abomination before God. Having violated their covenant responsibilities toward their wives, how can they expect God to answer their prayer and bless them as if they were righteous? Can we expect anything different when we actively choose to sin against God?
Today, we often consider marriage to be primarily a legal union, and so it is. But many people fail to recognize it as a true spiritual union as well, and breaking that spiritual covenant comes with a price.
Malachi 2:15 – Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.
What does Malachi mean when he says ‘did not he make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union’? Keep in mind, the subject at hand is marriage.
Marriage was the very first institution that God sanctioned. It came before the church, before family and before government. When creating a helper for Adam, the Spirit of God had enough power to make as many women as he wanted to. If God had wanted Adam to have 10 wives, he could easily have accomplished that. But he didn’t.
When God instituted marriage, he made it in ONE specific way: One man and one woman.
This law is confirmed by Jesus during his ministry on earth:
Matthew 19:8 – He [Jesus] said unto them [Jews], Moses because of the hardness of your hearts allowed you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
In this New Testament passage, the Jews relied on a law given by Moses, which allowed them to break their marriage vows. But Jesus rejects that idea and points them back to the original institution of marriage in the Garden of Eden.
The marriage of one man and one woman until death do them part is a perpetual law that God made from the beginning. Divorce was allowed under the law because of circumstances relating to sin, but it is not God’s will. His will is clearly revealed by Jesus in the same passage of scripture in Matthew:
Matthew 19:4-6 – And he answered and said unto them, Have you not read, that he who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they two shall be one flesh? Therefore they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
So we now understand the reference Malachi makes when he says God has made them ‘one’ – he speaks of a man and woman becoming one in the sight of God when they marry.
One of the things that God desires from marriage between his people is godly offspring – children who are trained by their parents in the precepts of religion (salvation, prayer, being filled with the Spirit, holy conduct, familiarity with the word of God, etc).
It is plain to see that if the Jewish men married women who served Satan, there will be problems in the spiritual lives of the children. They may receive some instruction in the ways of Jehovah, but they would also see and probably practice idol worship. This would result in spiritual confusion and chaos. It would NOT result in children who are trained and ready to take over spiritual leadership in their nation, when their parents get older. With no trained people at the helm, what will happen to true religion?
This is a concern that still faces the church today. With more and more ‘unchurched’ young people in our society, we have a lack of true spiritual leaders who can take over when this generation gets old. There is much work to be done for the kingdom of heaven and for our nation!
This passage also reveals a deeper truth. Consider this: God could have created millions of couples (men/women) at the beginning in the garden, but he only creates a single pair – Adam and Eve. Why does God desire that the whole human race springs from a single pair?
So that Christ, coming from the same family, might in his sufferings taste death for every man; because he had a nature that was common to the whole human race. If God had made multiple pairs of men/woman at the very outset, Jesus could only die for the sins of the world by being incarnated into each family line.
For these reasons, men are not to deal treacherously with their Jewish wives, which they married in their youth.
Malachi 2:16 – “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.
This force of this scripture is best revealed in the King James version:
Malachi 2:16 – For the LORD, the God of Israel, says that he hates putting away: For one covers violence with his garment, says the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that you deal not treacherously.
Obviously, we wear garments or clothes all the time. Their purpose is to cover up or to hide our nakedness. The Jewish men were guilty of betraying their wives. This is the violence described in the verse. The ‘garment’ they used to try and cover up or hide this sin, was the permission of Moses to divorce their wives (Deuteronomy 24:1).
But they are not fooling God! He sees right through their foul garments and into their hearts which are full of lust and idolatry. Therefore, God warns the Jews to guard their own souls and to remain faithful to him, to their fellow Jews and to their nation.
What about you? Are you searching for something to wear in the spiritual realm? Here are the most fashionable items: Garments of praise (Isaiah 61:3). Robes of righteousness (Psalms 132:9, Isaiah 61:10). Clothes of salvation (Isaiah 61:10). Clothes of humility (I Peter 5:5). White robes of holiness (Revelation 3:18). Even sackcloth is a good choice sometimes!
If we spent as much time and effort on our ‘spiritual clothes’ as we do our physical wardrobe, we would surely be pleasing to God!
Malachi 2:17 – You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”
This verse is actually the beginning of a new discourse between God and his people. We are going to comment on it next week, as we look at Malachi chapter 3.
Let me offer you some encouragement and relief:
In this section of Malachi, God calls his people to account for their evil actions in the matters of marriage and divorce. What was happening in the physical realm was an indication of their spiritual unfaithfulness to God, their fellow man and their nation.
But we don’t have to fall into the same trap as they did. Let’s examine our own spiritual clothing – are we wearing robes of righteousness and holiness? Are these robes pure or could they use a little washing in the blood of Jesus?
The good news is that we can wash or even change what we are wearing. If our attitudes and actions are outdated and worn, God will provide us with new garments. As always, you are not alone. The Holy Spirit is ready and waiting to assist us in making changes, so call upon him today.
Let me offer you some strength:
Let’s be honest – there are times when we are tempted to be unfaithful to our fellow man, to God or to our nation. There are times when it would just be easier to give up or do nothing, rather than to getting involved and making sacrifices for good.
But we know those temptations are false promises. We must rise up and resist them. We can stand strong, if we choose to do what is right, and let God fill us with his strength.
Proverbs 3:7-8 – Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to your body, and strength to your bones.