Message from Malachi
A Prophetic Warning to the Church
Dealing Treacherously with Those We Love
“For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence.”
Beginning in Malachi 2:10, there is a shift from God’s chastisement of the priests to His reproof of the people in general. Lack of priestly leadership, it seems, is no excuse for unfaithfulness to the Lord. However, sheep follow the shepherd. So judgment begins, as the Scripture states, in the house of the Lord, with the shepherds, the priests, and the preachers of today (1 Peter 4:17). Malachi employs some strong words in this chapter to convey God’s dealings with His people and their attitude towards Him. He uses treacherously five times in 8 verses. We also find profane or profaning, abomination, and God saying He literally hates something. Those two words alone, God and hate, should get our attention.
These are strong words for erring people.
Why Do We Deal Treacherously with Each Other?
The first question God directs to the people in Malachi’s day, and to the church today, is “Why do we deal treacherously (or, unfaithfully, deceitfully, traitorously) with one another?” (Mal. 2:10). Why do we betray each other? Why do we deceive, mislead, and victimize each other? Why do we hold each other, especially within the Body of Christ and in our own marriages, with such contempt, disdain, and disrespect? Why do we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, as family, heavenly siblings, those chosen by God and created in His own image, profane the Lord by destroying His children, those for whom He died, by our unfaithfulness to each other? Why would we do that?
Our answer is, of course, we don’t. We categorically deny any responsibility or knowledge of the offense. But God sees it differently. He says all of His people, Judah, Israel, Jerusalem, have “profaned the Lord’s holy institution which He loves.” And what institution is that? we ask. Marriage. And how have we profaned marriage? We have “married the daughter of a foreign god” (Mal. 2:11).
At this point, most of us would look at the national statistics and our own experience and know we stand guilty regarding our rejection of the sanctity of marriage. We, the church, divorce each other as fast as those outside the church, sometimes even faster. It’s now so hard to find someone who is still the “husband of one wife” to serve as our pastor, deacon or elder that we go to great efforts to redefine what “husband of one wife” means so more people in our congregation can qualify (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6). And, as the church, we do this to our own shame and peril.
One Man, One Woman, One Lifetime
This passage, primarily, deals with the marriage covenant— one man, one woman, for one lifetime— and how the people and priests in Malachi’s day, and in our own day, have forsaken and profaned it (Mal. 2:11). Divorce is the greatest betrayal most will ever experience in their lives. And the children of divorce, those who suffer the most, carry the scars of that betrayal to their graves, often inflicting their pain and hurt on their own children. Divorce becomes a generational curse, children suffering for the pain of their parents.
Because divorce has become such a part of the fabric of our church life, we’ve become desensitized to it. After all, every family I know has been impacted by divorce. Everyone, including my own. My parents divorced. My wife’s parents divorced. My only brother divorced, and on and on it goes. And since “familiarity breeds contempt” we have turned a blind eye to what God says about divorce.
Malachi is our wake-up call.
Worship, Church-life, and Divorce
The permissive, tolerant, “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude towards the sin of divorce by the priests in Malachi’s day, and from the pulpits today, is the reason the church is in the shape it’s in regarding marriage. Pastors today tend to shy away from controversial topics that may incite the congregation and divorce certainly is top of the list. But truth is to be proclaimed from the pulpit and from the man of God regardless of how uncomfortable that truth may be. Pastors, priests, and shepherds are to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and not simply what the people want to hear (2 Tim. 4:2-3). Pastors today should view the sanctity of marriage much like Nehemiah did when he rebuked the marital infidelity of the priests and drove the grandson of the high priest from his presence because he had “defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites” (Neh. 13:29). His crime? He had divorced his wife to marry another woman, a foreign woman (Mal. 2:11). Where are the men of God today who will not allow divorce as an option among those he shepherds!
When Malachi speaks of the “daughter of a foreign god” (Mal. 2:11) he is referring to a woman who is not from Israel nor holds to the beliefs and values of the people. He’s talking about a pagan woman, one the Lord warned would lead His people to worship foreign gods (Ex. 34:11). It’s a classic case of mixed marriage, being unequally yoked, a believer with a non-believer, which God explicitly forbids (2 Cor. 6:14). God is speaking about a believer, one under covenant, who divorces his own wife to marry a pagan, a heathen, someone who is not a believer (Mal. 2:10). And this sin, dealing treacherously with your spouse, had crept into the camp of Israel while the priests, the watchmen and shepherds of God’s people, did nothing to stop it. In fact, they encouraged divorce and were divorced themselves. Same can be said of the church and the pastors today.
But why is this so important?
Simply put, as hard as it is to accept, God says He will not receive your worship if you are unfaithful to the “wife of your youth” (Mal. 2:13). Why? Because “He hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16). Cut and dry. Not open to negotiation or compromise or political correctness.
God says the man who divorces his wife and marries the “daughter of a foreign god” will be “cut off” from Him and His people since he is fully aware, willfully aware, of what he is doing. Then that very man, while showing such contempt to His covenant, has the arrogance, the audacity, the blatant hypocrisy to come and bring an offering to the Lord and expect God to be pleased (Mal. 2:12). Not gonna happen.
Malachi 2:13 reads:
And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands.
Regardless of how much emotion you put into your worship of the Lord, even with tears and weeping and crying, God will not hear you nor receive your worship as long as you profane His covenant. In what way are we profaning His covenant? you ask. “Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously (or, unfaithfully, deceitfully, traitorously); Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Mal. 2:14).
In other words, until this sin of treachery and betrayal against our spouse is made right, God and the church can go no further. They stop at this point. The pride and belligerence of those who are called by His name (Isa. 43:7), those who defiantly refuse to change their attitudes about something God calls an abomination (Mal. 2:11), must be confessed and repented of. Must. Why? Because God “hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16). He hates divorce because it is the breaking of a covenant between a man and a woman (Mal. 2:14), between two who are now one flesh (Mal. 2:15; Gen. 2:24), and the violation of an oath given before God of our vow, our pledge, and our solemn promise of faithfulness in marriage (Mal. 2:14). It’s the very definition of dealing treacherously with each other (Mal. 2:10).
There’s no middle ground with God on this issue. None. In fact, it might be that the anemic spiritual condition of the church in the West, and of you and me as Believers in Christ, is caused by our willing acceptance of divorce as a viable option in relationships covenanted by God— which is the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, the Bible gives us only two acceptable reasons for divorce: sexual immorality (Matt. 5:32, 19:19) and the abandonment of a believer by an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:15). No where do we find popular phrases like: irreconcilable differences, incapability, or lack of fulfillment, as reasons for divorce.
How Did We End Up Here?
How did we get in this place?
By lowering our standards and accepting the political correctness of this fallen age more than the unchanging truth of Scripture (James 4:4). By leading our churches via consensus and not by the truth of God’s Word. In essence, as our congregations begin to experiment with divorce, instead of standing tall and strong for the truth and offend those who are sinning, we change our preaching and morph our Biblical standards just enough to keep those in dire need of repentance coming back. We want to make church comfortable, even for those in the very throes of sin. And in doing so, we systematically diminish the holiness of God and the covenant relationship of marriage. “After all,” we say, “it’s the loving thing to do. We don’t want to offend anyone.”
Really? Looks like the only One offended is the Lord.
There’s a conversation that takes place in the movie Courageous that sums up the attitude of the church today regarding divorce. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recognize the following. And if you haven’t seen the movie, you need to watch it today.
David: I had a good dad, I guess. I mean the guy wasn’t perfect. My parents split up when he had an affair. But I think he regretted it and I struggled with it for a while. But, you know, divorce just comes with the territory now.
Nathan: I disagree, man. Divorce happens because you make it an option.
David: Nathan, you don’t always know what’s gonna happen. People change. You can’t always work stuff out. Sometimes you need to part ways.
Adam: I think I agree with Nathan. People don’t fight for their marriages anymore.
The church needs to step up, to take charge, to boldly lead in the fight to save our marriages. Why? Because divorce can no longer be accepted as an easy option for the believer in Christ. We, as the people of God, desperately need the blessings of God to once again freely flow in our churches, families, and in our nation. And tolerating what God calls an abomination is not the way to make that happen.
Evil is Not Good in the Sight of the Lord
One final thought. Are you tired of hearing and reading messages like this one? Are you weary of preaching that makes you feel bad, uncomfortable, or uneasy? Would you rather come to church, or read a post, and be blessed and told how good and wonderful you are?
Sure you would. Most people would. In fact, that’s what they wanted in Malachi’s day. But God had another idea.
Malachi 2:17 reads:
Statement: You have wearied the Lord with your words;
Question: Yet you say, “In what way have we wearied Him?”
Answer: In that you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,” or, “Where is the God of justice?”
Just so you’ll know, the Lord doesn’t delight in those who sin and do evil. In fact, His Word says just the opposite, “God is a just God, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11).
Repent of the sin that separates you from His blessing and enjoy the freedom only He can give.