Recently, Pastor Mark preached Malachi 2.10-16 | God is Faithful. I am grateful that God has blessed our church with several men who can preach. Each pastor brings his own experiences, style, and presuppositions to the text. I once feared sharing the pulpit with anyone. Over time, God has shown me the beauty of what different perspectives, styles, and voices can bring to a given text. Though each sermon may sound and look different– God is always glorified and they always preach gospel truth.
I have found it difficult to worship when I don’t preach on a Sunday. This is not a good thing (blog on this coming soon). Unfortunately, when I don’t have the privilege of preaching on Sunday morning, I often find myself meditating on how I might approach the particular passage being preached. In no way am I suggesting that my approach is better (or worse) than another preacher–just different. Nevertheless, I have found it difficult to just sit on what amounts to an “un-preached” sermon…so I blog. Like a good old-fashioned Monday-Morning Preacher, here are my thoughts:
Malachi has spent the better of two chapters (1/2 of the prophecy) condemning unacceptable temple sacrifices. The worship at the temple has become worthless in the eyes of God. They cannot fool God with their religious appearances–He knows their hearts are far from Him. As Mark indicated, their refusal to honor God as Father, or obey Him as Master, was a refusal to take the covenant of God seriously. Upholding the covenant of God meant continuing in relationship with God. The covenant was a relational agreement between God and His people–it was a promise. Interestingly, one of the primary aspects of the covenant was the prohibition of marriage to foreign wives. This law was not simply God’s suggestion for Israel, it was an integral part of maintaining the covenant relationship with God. And while this might seem strange for us, we learn that God’s primary motivation for this prohibition was that these foreign wives would lead them to worship false gods. In other words, God declares that our relationships matter that they are, in fact, an essential part of how we worship and relate to our God.
Marriage Relationships Matter
Relationships with others are, in some way, a part of our worship. This is no more true than in a marriage relationship. Marriage was created as the deepest relationship two people could share with one another. God gave marriage, ultimately, to reflect the kind of relationship He would have with His people, made manifest in the New Covenant. But we have much to learn from the Old Covenant. God connected the purity of marriage with the purity of worship. Our the nature of our love for our spouses revealed the nature of the love for our God. The people of Israel did not love their the wives of their youth, they divorced them. The emphasis of the passage is not so much on divorce, as it is on their failure to love as they ought. The people should have loved their wives in the same way the priests should have loved their God. The failure in their marriages has the same result as unacceptable sacrifices: “the have profaned the sanctuary of the Lord.” Marriage is an act of sacrificial worship. It could be said that our relationships with others reflect our relationship with God. If their covenant with God was solid, then their marriage covenants would have been solid. They profaned both. Their marriages should have reflected three things: 1) PRIORITY 2) FIDELITY and 3) INTIMACY. These are the same things that any right thinking husband or wife would desire from their spouse. These are the same things that any right thinking God would want from His people. God connects the marriage relationship with one another, to His covenant relationship with us, because one reflects the other.
Child Relationships Matter
But God does more than that. The main purpose of marriage is to bring glory to God. That is the primary, but not single, purpose for anything God creates. Additional purposes for marriage include companionship, completeness (think helpmate), sexual purity, and procreation. In Malachi, God warns Israel that their failure to hold to their marriage covenants will impact their offspring. God goes so far to say that, through marriage, God seeks “godly” offspring. God does not want more babies simply to populate the world. Like marriage, God has a greater goal for childbearing–to fill the world with His name. We can give many things to our children including food, shelter, clothing, gifts, protection, love, etc. But out of all of the things that we can give our children, there is only ONE thing that will last in eternity–the truth of our covenant God. In part, this occurs through teaching them to remember the covenant; but it also happens as we live the covenant before them in our marriages. In other words, our marriage relationships impacts our relationship with our children in that they either display truth or lies about our relationship with God (Wow…long sentence).
Church Relationships Matter
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, our relationships to one another matter in the church. Malachi begins this section by reminding the people of God that their faith is personal but not private. He asks, “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?” It seems as if Malachi wants Israel to understand that they are in covenant together. What one Israelite does in their marriage relationship, for better or worse, impacts them all. This echoes the perspective of the blind priests who didn’t consider how their failure to lead would impact others. In the same way, we must consider how our relationship with others, especially our wives and our children, affect our worship. And if it affects our worship individually, then it affects our worship corporately. IF we are a family of families, then how you lead your family impacts mine–and vice versa. This is what it means to be the church–we are in relationship with God and worship Him together; even if we are not always assembled together to worship.