Sometimes we look around our country and culture, and those of us old enough to remember a number of generations are sometimes shocked with what we see. The drift away from traditional and biblical values is oft startling. There is a tendency to believe the world is the worst it has ever been. The trends are not positive, that is for sure. Yet people who are genuinely and deeply committed to God and truth are not rare, even if they are fewer in number and percentage of the population than in the past.
But at the time of Malachi, the degradation of the entire culture and nation was rather complete. And today’s passage speaks of statements of condemnation to both the priests who were the spiritual leaders, and also to the masses of the people.
Additional Warning to the Priests (continued from chapter 1)
2:1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.
3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty. 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.
7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 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.”
The priests were corrupt. Malachi’s message speaks of Levi – the son of Jacob who became the tribal family of priests in Israel. God was in a covenant relationship with the priests to bless and prosper their ministry as they would honor Him in their duties. But the Old Testament record is shockingly full of corruption in the priests of Israel, and so God says they would be rejected and carried away like the worthless parts of the sacrifices.
Breaking the Covenant through Wrongful Marriages
10 Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?
11 Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. 12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord remove him from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings an offering to the Lord Almighty.
A way that the people had disobeyed God was to intermarry with those outside the nation – hence bringing in a passion for foreign gods and divergent, often extraordinarily evil, systems of worship and belief. Syncretism of belief – such as we have in our culture and even in churches today that deny objective truth – is nothing new.
Breaking the Covenant through Divorce
13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.
16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,”says the Lord Almighty.
So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
Divorce was common in this era, and not seen as any big deal apparently. The application of this is not simply on the matter of the breaking of a covenant relationship between two people, but of how the nation had likewise broken their covenant with God … divorcing themselves from honoring Him. The family committed to a covenant relationship with one another would produce offspring who would likewise carry on that value. Israel had married outside the nation, they were quick to divorce, and all of this testified to their larger problem of not honoring the covenant they had made with God.
Breaking the Covenant through Injustice
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?”
I understand that the secular world today grows weary of Christians who repeat the timeless truth that God honors those who honor Him – that any nation that walks away from God is destined to eventual failure. It is not popular to believe in a one-way system of right and wrong – a fixed belief that sees man as subservient to a creator God. It seems so much more freeing to believe that man is totally independent to seek his own happiness in his own way.
This independence and denial of God and truth has never worked, nor will it in an advanced scientific age. And those few who still trusted in God in Malachi’s day were not wrong simply because they were a despised minority. And likewise those who honor the Lord – no matter how unpopular it becomes even in the USA – will not be wrong for standing for Him even in a dark era.