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Malachi 6

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Malachi 6.

We are back in the book of Malachi again [P], up to chapter 2 now! You may care to turn there in your Bibles. Last time I used this borrowed overview [P] to show where we had got up to. Verse 1 of chapter 1 was an introduction [P], then (v.2-5) was an oracle, a burden or a heavy message for Judah [P] – it was a proclamation of יהוה’s love for them, in contrast to his hatred of Edom. Then there was another heavy message, this was directed at the priests [P], the spiritual leaders. They had failed in their Divinely appointed task to honour the name of יהוה. But they were leaders – and people follow them. יהוה castigated the prophets for causing people to stumble in (2:8). The people can only go where the leaders go – so now יהוה turns to address the people. [P] The priests were unfaithful to the command, to the commission יהוה had given them, to the covenant made with them; so too were the people unfaithful. God hates faithlessness, or unfaithfulness. יהוה loves faithfulness because that is who He is! He is a faithful God. Last time I spoke about covenant – it is based on faithfulness, loyalty – a quality not much esteemed by the world, but precious in God’s sight. I remember going to a school camp at Godley Peak Station – a high country farm at the head of Lake Tekapo. We slept in the woolshed and various activities were organised; one of which was climbing a nearby peak. Those of us who were less athletic messed about in a creek all afternoon – I leave you to decide who made the wiser choice. But there were some keen trampers in our class and some who were sporty and off they set up this hill at a good pace. My mate Philip Flanagan went too. He was short and not that fit and was soon left behind. Much later they began to straggle in – it turned out that not everyone made it to the top. Some of these sporty ones gave it away and came back; but Philip soldiered on – he just kept on going, made it to the top and eventually returned, way after everyone else. Faithfulness gets there – it doesn’t give up, it hangs in there and lasts the distance. In both the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament – use one word for both “faith” and “faithfulness” – they make no real distinction. If someone was faithful you could trust them, have faith in them. But a funny thing happens – suppose I get Alex to investigate “faith” in his King James Bible – He reads all through the Old Testament, that’s quite a lot of reading, and he only finds it twice! Now faith is an important Biblical concept! Is there no faith in the OT? [P] The main Hebrew word in the Old Testament for faithful is “אֱמוּנָה” – of its 49 occurrences in the NASB it is only once translated “faith” [P] – and that is in [Habakkuk 2:4 But the righteous will live by his faith.] and they do that because that verse is quoted in the New Testament as “faith” – everywhere else it is “faithfulness”. But it is the other way around in the New Testament – the Greek word for faith is “πίστις[P] of its 243 occurrences in the NT only 3 times is it translated “faithfulness” [P]. So “faithfulness” is found in the OT but “faith” in the NT; but the Bible makes little if any difference between the two. And faithfulness pleases God – that is what He looks for in man and what He wants. [Hebrews 11:6 And without faith-faithfulness it is impossible to please Him,] Now יהוה looks for faithfulness …. [Jeremiah 5:3 Surely יהוה looks for faithfulness.] but what did He find: let’s read: [P] [Malachi 2:10-16 “Do we not all have one Father? Has not one God created us? (hence we are one – the issue is unity) Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers? (under the same covenant, from the same family) Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of יהוה which He loves and has married the daughter of a foreign god. As for the man who does this, may יהוה cut off from the tents of Jacob everyone who awakes and answers, or who presents an offering to יהוה of armies. This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of יהוה with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favour from your hand. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ (you repeatedly find this questioning of יהוה in Malachi) Because יהוה 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. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while He was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce,” says יהוה, the God of Israel, and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says יהוה of armies. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”] I have just read a passage of God’s Word – what is He saying? Does anything stand out to you? Do you detect some dominant theme? …. Last time I spoke, you may not have noticed but there was a hammer on the front seat at church – John had cleated down the wire running along the front here. I think that it is very appropriate to have here because have you noticed how יהוה likes to hammer home a point? I have read just 7 verses – four times He speaks about “dealing treacherously”, four times about your “wife”; twice about “profaning”, twice about the “covenant” and twice about “taking heed to your spiritיהוה repeats Himself because He wants to hammer His point home. And what is repeated again and again in this passage is: [P]dealing treacherously”! The word is used to denote unfaithfulness in several different relationships = deal/act treacherously, deal deceitfully, deal unfaithfully, offend. It is the "not honouring" of an agreement. If you don't honour God, you won't honour an agreement either. It is used in connection with unfaithfulness in marriage and it is used to describe Israel’s unfaithfulness to יהוה [Jeremiah 9:2 Oh that I had in the desert a wayfarers’ lodging place; that I might leave my people and go from them! For all of them are adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men.] The problem was that they were not faithful and loyal, they betrayed their commitments. This was seen in every area of their relationships because this treachery was in their heart and so it was manifest in every area of their lives. It was seen in their relationship to each other. [P] They were brothers! The treachery was against their brothers – they were one people with one father. They all came from Abraham, all descended from Jacob the father of the nation of Israel. But they were not just one people naturally; they had one Father, יהוה! [Jeremiah 31:9 For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.] They were God’s people! As with the priests (cf. 1:6), יהוה starts with Him being their one Father and one God (Lord). They are united by their covenant relationship to the One True God. Therefore there should be unity, love, cooperation, consideration among them. But they are defrauding each other, dealing treacherously with each other. Sadly, this is true in the church also. We are all sons of God, Christ lives in each of us! Even more should we be united. Jesus prayed: [John 17:21-23 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity.] But we are opposed to each other, divide into factions, denominations, we get involved in doctrinal disputes. And the record of Christian businessmen with their brothers is an object of shame – they take advantage of their brothers and deal treacherously with them! This happened in Corinth and Paul spoke strongly against it in 1 Corinthians 6 – Christian brothers were taking each legal proceeding against each other [1 Corinthians 6:5-8 I say this to your shame. …. brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? … Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brothers.]. They were one people, brothers, because of the covenant that יהוה had made with their fathers, the patriarchs. Thus to deal treacherously with a fellow covenant member was to defile the covenant. As with the priests - the issue is one of covenant (cf. v.4 5 8). The priests corrupted the covenant (v.8) and the people defiled it also. We also have one Father: [Ephesians 4:1-6 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.] One, one one! Treachery destroys unity! It breaks asunder and divides. We too are a covenant people, fellow members in the new covenant - to defraud a fellow Christian brother, fail to honour an agreement with him, is to defile the covenant - i.e. break relationship with God! יהוה hates treachery! The breaking of covenant agreements - this is the essence of His condemnation against the people in this passage. Unfaithfulness to a commitment is the essence of treachery. For the second time (v.11) יהוה accuses Judah of dealing treacherously, of committing an abomination! This time the treachery is against יהוה! [P] We read that the priest had profaned יהוה’s name; now the people are profaning His sanctuary. How had they profaned it and dealt treacherously? By “marrying the daughter of a foreign god” – through idolatry. It may have even been literal, through cult prostitution associated with the Canaanite religions. But they had served other gods. Now they were in covenant relationship with יהוה! Marriage is a covenant relationship; so to go to another god was breaking the covenant – יהוה regarded it as adultery! Quite often the OT uses the image of adultery for idolatry – they even sound a bit the same. Same thing – breaking covenant, being unfaithful, acting treacherously. Israel and Jerusalem; were bound together, joined in some serious way with the abominable no-gods of the surrounding countries. This is breaking the covenant (marriage) relationship with יהוה! Cheating on Him! Dealing treacherously! Committing adultery! Joining yourself to another. It wasn't just God's people then - do we not today join ourselves and worship the gods of our age - science, human knowledge, technology, materialism, existentialism – you know, living for the buzz of the moment, entertainment with its immoral values, sport, humanism, lust. They are all gods that can take the place in our heart that is יהוה’s alone. But they carry on as if nothing is going on! There in (v.12) they are still presenting offerings to יהוה, going into His temple. But at the same time carrying on with an idol! It was profaning His sanctuary! How can you sleep with your wife when all the time she is carrying on with another man?! The thought is abhorrent! The marriage-bed is defiled. This is how it is for יהוה when they were pretending to carry on in covenant relationship when it was already violated. There is no meaning to those offerings when you are also serving something other. יהוה demands exclusive love, commitment. He is a jealous God. יהוה says that He will cut off such a person! Remove them from the tents of Jacob - i.e. remove them from the fellowship of His people - they will not be at home there anymore. יהוה hates syncretism - trying to be both – those who participate in idolatrous practices and yet still present offerings to יהוה, pretend that they are still loyal to Him. You cannot serve both! Jesus said: [Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.] You either worship the world's gods; indulge in its pleasures or you worship יהוה - you cannot have it both ways! You cannot pretend to still worship יהוה when you have one foot in the world! But they were carrying on as if there was nothing wrong, as if their idolatry did not affect their relationship with God. In (v.13) you see them weeping and groaning before the altar of יהוה and yet He took no notice. They appear to be contrite, earnest in their religion, as do many today; but it is all show! It had no effect. Why not? This is what the people wanted to know - what more could they do? What was the formula for making the slot machine of God deliver the desired goodies? Because that’s all God was to them – a means to get what they wanted, to harness supernatural means to their own ends. There is no true repentance! They do not turn from their treacherous ways, they do not cease from their adultery. יהוה has no time for show religion, no matter how convincing the performance. They were crocodile tears, emotional show, but the heart had not changed. Why was He no longer favouring them, no longer accepting their offerings? Does if ever seem like your religious observance is accomplishing nothing, that there is no response to your prayers? Maybe there is a reason. There was with Judah – the reason was TREACHERY – they were dealing treacherously. In (v.14) they ask יהוה the reason and He says: “Because יהוה 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.” There was treachery against their brothers, treachery against יהוה, and now יהוה accuses them of Treachery against their wives [P] They had dealt treacherously against the wife of their youth. Once she was young, everything was fresh and new – and the implication is that now time has passed and things have become jaded. They are not there for the long haul. So what they did was abandon her, go after someone new, young, exciting. There was no social welfare, a woman was left without support or income, without prospects. I thought of Stan and Ivy. Ivy is the wife of Stan’s youth. They were young when they got married; now 60 how many is it? – years later still together, still loving each other. That is how it should be. What an utter contrast to what was going on here! They abandoned the wife of their youth. But worst of all in יהוה’s eyes was that she was wife by covenant. To break covenant was adultery, was dealing treacherously. Relationship with יהוה is only by covenant, so to break covenant is a big deal in יהוה’s sight – that is why He hates divorce. Now whenever you speak about this topic it is a sensitive area because there will be those in the congregation who have suffered broken relationships. I know there can be difficult situations and extenuating circumstances – but speaking from God’s perspective, from His ideal; marriage is for life. He hates divorce. It violates a covenant made before Him. It is separating what He has joined together. Look, I am a cynic who came to marriage late in life – God had to change my views drastically. We see around us imperfect human relationships – but marriage is from God. He designed it, ordained it, initiated it. It was He who said that it is not good for a man to be alone and initiated the first marriage. We live in a secular society, but still marriages, in the most part, are vows made before God. When Jesus was questioned about divorce, He went right back to the original design and plan: [Mark 10:6-12 “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”] Dealing treacherously! Jesus was black and white, He was totally against divorce because God hates divorce. You see, the thing is that we see it merely as relationships but it is a spiritual matter! Three times in 2 verses it refers to “spirit”. Twice יהוה says “take heed to your spirit”! It is a spiritual matter! Those with just a remnant of the Spirit of God will not deal treacherously against the covenant that they have made – because the Spirit of God is FAITHFUL, LOYAL. What is God’s purpose in marriage? – to raise up godly offspring. He made them ONE – not to be separated. The family is a unit, a protective and secure environment that God has created to nurture children and to pass on and preserve the knowledge of Him. That is why He chose Abraham in the first place [Genesis 18:19 “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of יהוה by doing righteousness and justice, so that יהוה may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”] God made the man and wife ONE. Those that have even a remnant of the Spirit of God will remain one. This is how godly children are raised - out of a stable, unbroken, monogamous relationship. That "ONE", that God made when a man and a woman become husband and wife, produces seed for God, offspring for Him – and exists for the very purpose of producing them. In doing so, they are obeying the Divine ordinance of "be fruitful and multiply". They bear fruit for God, not children for themselves. This is the consequence of husband and wife being one. If the husband marries another this pattern is violated – there is no remnant of the Holy Spirit left in the relationship because the covenant has been broken So the husband-wife unit must be careful to preserve, guard the Spirit of God that dwells in them by virtue of God's joining them together. To break the marriage covenant, to deal treacherously with your marriage partner, is to break something that God has created! The covenant is violated, that Divinely created thing is broken, the Holy Spirit departs; dissipated because of treacherous dealing – He dwells where there is unity. Isn't it plain why יהוה hates divorce? It is destroying what He has made! The "ONE" that He made is no longer one! This is a terrible tragedy of great spiritual dimensions! It is not just the breaking of a human relationship! Again יהוה says "take heed to your spirit" (cf. v.15 ) – your spirit is affected by your relationship with your wife. They are one spirit together – if the marriage is broken, so is that spirit. Divorce, marriage break up is spiritually devastating! It has serious spiritual implications - this "one spirit" in a marriage is why marriage to a non-believer (or, as here, to an idolater) is untenable. Take heed then, to your spirit! "Do not deal treacherously against your wife! [ Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is to be held in honour among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.] Twice יהוה says: “take heed to your spirit” and twice: “do not deal treacherously with your wife” – dealing treacherously is a spiritual matter. It is a matter of the heart and of the spirit. If treachery is in your heart, if you have this spiritual disease, then it will be manifested in every area: against your fellow man, against God and against even the one closest to you. Those who divorced their wife clothed themselves with wrong or with violence; that was their garment. What they were within was manifest outwardly. Marriage matters to God because it is a close picture of our relationship with God. Both are based on covenant and throughout the Old Testament – marriage is used as a picture and illustration of Israel’s relationship with יהוה. When you get married you enter into a covenant – a legally binding agreement that joins you together. That is what the covenant with יהוה is. Legally binding, it is not to be broken. But marriage is not just a legal contract – it is above all a relationship! What joins you to your spouse – a legal contract written on a piece of paper? No, it is your love for each other. Not just some warm fuzzy feeling but something a bit more lasting and secure than that – it is a loyal love of commitment – covenant love. What the Bible calls: חסֶד [P] – one of the most wonderful words in the Bible. If “dealing treacherously” is the negative, then the positive is חסֶד! What is the opposite of dealing faithfully? - חסֶד! The King James Bibles mistranslates it as “mercy” (if you want to know why, ask me afterwards) – generally in more modern translations it is rendered: [P] “loving-kindness”; “steadfast-love”; “loyal-love”. It is really a mixture of these concepts: [P] love, loyalty, faithfulness, commitment, steadfastness, kindness, grace – it is the basis of covenant relationship. And there is no relationship with God without a covenant – just as there should be no joining of man and woman together without a covenant. There have been various covenants: יהוה made a personal covenant with Abraham, He made the “Old covenant” at Sinai with the nation of Israel in Exodus 24 – a covenant that we have no part in because we are not Jews. We can only come into relationship with יהוה because a new covenant was enacted in Jesus’ blood. The covenant is binding, it is a legal contract; but it is a relationship based on חֶ֫סֶד. Covenant love [P] – the absolute antithesis of dealing treacherously. יהוה loves covenant relationship because He ordained it and He did so because it is in keeping with His character. When יהוה revealed Himself and declared His Name to Moses, He said: [Exodus 34:5–7 יהוה descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of יהוה. Then יהוה passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “יהוה, יהוה God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness (חסֶד) and truth (or faithfulness); who keeps loving-kindness (חסֶד again) for thousands.”] Faithfulness, compassion, grace, loving-kindness – that is the nature of יהוה – that is the basis of covenant relationship. We have all heard of the strategy of “divide and rule”. Satan consistently uses it over and over again – because it is consistently effective. It works every time! Treachery breaks unity, it divides – and satan is set on dividing. TREACHERY was in their heart – adultery! Adultery to God and to man. You notice that God joins together – He has made us one body, [1 Corinthians 6:17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.] God joins a husband together to his wife, Jesus said: [Matthew 19:6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”] And satan is determined to separate what God has joined – that is why he attacks marriages, fosters division between fellow Christians and entices people into idolatry, breaking their union with God. We have just had earthquake repairs done on our paths. The bloke came around and I asked if he wanted access to a power point for a jack-hammer. He said no, he just used a sledge-hammer and crow-bar. It is hard yakker busting a slab of concrete with a sledge-hammer. But once he had got it cracked, he wedged the crow-bar underneath – then it busted easily. It is the same splitting logs – once the tip of the wedge is in, it is easy. Once we have dealt treacherously, the bond has been broken. That is why we have to [P] [Ephesians 4:3 be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.] The unity is there – it is from God! He has joined – we must be careful to allow no wedge in – dealing treacherously is what busts us up.

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