Malachi Bible Study (Consider Your Ways)

Acting Treacherously

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We are looking at the words of the prophet Malachi who was calling upon the people to consider their ways. In verse 13 of chapter 2 the Lord begins to describe another problem during that time.

“This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand” (2:13; NASU). We mentioned last week a number of charges listed against the people of Israel. We saw that the people were offering blind and lame animals for sacrifice and the priests were accepting those offerings. Further, they complained about it being a weariness to serve and worship the Lord. In verse 13 we see the people are weeping because God is not accepting their worship, yet the people do not seem to understand that it is because of their own actions. God had not rejected the people for no reason. The people had turned their backs upon God. Therefore God rejected their offerings, and the people are upset. The people wanted to live their lives how they want to live and have God accept their worship. But they should know that this is not how we serve God. But this is the worship we want to have. We want to be able to do whatever we want to do, and still call it worship to God. This is how we have churches having Super Bowl parties, ping pong tournaments, and a number of other entertainment functions. But the Lord is going to explain some more reasons why God no longer accepts the offerings of the people.

The Seriousness of Marriage (2:14-16)

“Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (2:14; NASU).

Is this a surprising answer from the Lord? The Lord declares that he is not accepting their worship anymore. What sins did you expect him to list as an explanation? I doubt that we expected God to point out how the men of Israel were treating their wives. The Hebrew word for “treacherously” literally means “to cover” and is used figuratively “to act covertly,” according to Strong’s. They were acting deceitfully in the marriage. Malachi does not explain the exact details of how they were acting covertly and treacherously. But part of this treachery was the divorcing the wives of their youth. God calls marriage a covenant in this verse and also in Proverbs 2:17. It was treacherous and deceitful to enter into the covenant of marriage, that was not to be broken, and then divorce the wife. The people viewed marriage as something that they could get out of and Malachi is calling upon them to consider their ways. The Lord was a witness between the husband and wife. God was a witness of the covenant that had been made, and the people had no concern about breaking that covenant. Just as we saw last week where the people were making vows to offer certain animals for sacrifice, but then breaking the vow, so also the people entering the covenant of marriage only to break that vow. Further, God is telling the people that he was no longer accepting their worship because of these acts.

“For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the LORD of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (2:16; NASU). I do not think the Lord could be any more clear about how he feels about marriage and divorce. Marriages are not broken or violated. God hates divorce. Our society could use to see these words. I wonder what the reaction of the people would be if there were those black and white billboards with this verse: “I hate divorce –God.” Divorce has become far too acceptable. But we will talk more about this at the end of the lesson.

Calling Evil Good (2:17)

The second problem the Lord deals with is the teaching that a person can do evil and be considered good in the sight of the Lord. God cannot believe that people would say that the Lord delights in these kinds of activities. God seems to be rather incredulous at this point. The worshippers are bringing blemished animals and the priests are accepting those animals. No one wants to serve God, walking around declaring their worship to be a weariness. The people have married people that God had commanded them to not marry. They were divorce the wives they were supposed to keep and had made a covenant. They had treated their spouses deceitfully. In all of these actions, the people say that God delights in their actions and their evil is good in the sight of God.

We see this same thing happening today. Many in the religious world will say that God tolerates and allows the sins we are committing. This is especially true when it comes to sexual sins. Churches are now tolerating sexual activity outside of marriage. Churches are even overlooking adultery, accepting the very thing that God was condemning in this text: people putting away their spouse and going and getting another spouse, breaking the covenant they made to one another before God. Unfortunately, homosexuality is now being tolerated by churches, even though the scriptures are very clear that this activity is against God’s law. We are simply doing the exact same thing. We are seeing more and more people committing evil but declaring that it is good in the sight of the Lord. Yet, in the midst of committing these sins, the people have the audacity to ask, “Where is God’s justice?” The people’s hands are stained with sins, but they look out at other’s and clamor for God to act in judgment.

Impending Judgment (3:1-6)

But God says that judgment is coming upon the nation. The Lord says he is coming with fire to purify and refine the people so that they can be pleasing to God again. But the coming in fire was a symbol of God’s wrath as he would destroy the wicked when his messengers came. Thus, Malachi says, “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?” (3:2).  This prophecy explains why both John the Baptist and Jesus spoke about the nation of Israel’s impending doom and judgment in terms of fire. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12).

Applications:

1. Proper Treatment of Our Marriages. One of the important lessons we learn from Malachi is the need to have proper treatment of our marriages. Marriage is a serious commitment. In fact, marriage is a covenant, not a convenience. Marriage cannot be treated so flippantly, as our society treats. Marriage is not something that we can decide to dissolve. God intended our marriages to be permanent. Jesus himself taught this very fact. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate” (Mark 10:7-9; HCSB). Because of this fact, we must carefully choose our spouse. The marriage covenant is life long. What this means is that we cannot deal treacherously with one another. Marriages would probably not be broken as often if we truly had in our minds that we would not divorce no matter what. Therefore, I need to treat my spouse well so that we will have a good relationship for the rest of our lives. We can either work together and treat one another properly to have a good marriage. Or we can treat each other badly and be miserable in our marriage. But divorce is not a given option. God hates divorces and, according Malachi, those who commit such an act.

Proper treatment of our marriages goes beyond having a good life now. It also allows us to have a relationship with God. Remember, God said he was no longer accepting the people’s worship because they were dealing treacherously in their marriages. This fits the teaching of the New Testament also. “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1Peter 3:7; ESV). God is not listening to our prayers or accepting our worship when we mistreat our spouses. We are married for life. Rather than thinking about a way out, we need to spend our energies trying to improve the marriage.

2. Do Not Call Evil Good. Unfortunately our society has done a wondrous job glorifying divorce as something good. We are told that it will be better for the children if the parents are divorced. Somehow it is better for children to only see one parent 50% of the time or less than being with both parents 100% of the time? I still have not figured out this logic. Divorce is not good. God hates divorce. Do not call divorce good.

Further, we cannot call sexual sins “good” either. God condemned fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. We are very shortsighted in seeing where we are going with our acceptance of sexual sins. Fornication has now become acceptable. In fact, we are told that it is simply impossible to tell people to not engage in sexual relations. But adultery was wrong. But now adultery is glorified in our society. Adultery is portrayed as a just act against an ogre spouse. But homosexuality was wrong. But now homosexuality is not only tolerable, but glorified. We are told that we are born this way and it is just wonderful to see two people of the same gender in true love. But bestiality is wrong. But that line will be crossed. We will be born that way also, just give it time. We will be told about how some animals do not stay in their own species. The point is that every time we erase a line of sin and call it “good,” we move into the next level of deeper depravity.

3. Upon These Things, Judgment Will Come. God brought a judgment of fire against Israel for their sinful actions. God has promised the same today. “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12,15; NASU). It is time for us to consider our ways so that we can be found righteous in the sight of God on the day of judgment.

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