Focal Passages: Malachi 2:1-16
At a store’s quick check-out lane, a woman smiled my way as I leaned on a display. In a bit, my better two-thirds joined me. When we put our items on the counter, the clerk smiled again and said, “I thought you were waiting on somebody.” I replied, “Yep. Been waiting on her for 56 years and vice versa.” The smile turned wistful as the young woman confided, “I wish I had someone in my life to be with for 56 years. But men today are just … just dirt.”
I felt sad for the woman and whatever she had been through. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to share how I had prayed Phyllis down from God for a covenant marriage instead of just a “relationship.” Malachi 2:1-16 tells us that God wants the same thing the young woman wants: namely, an unending covenant commitment of faithfulness for husband and wife with Him.
Clueless covenant-breakers (vv. 1-4). Israel’s priests stood guilty of faithlessly breaking the nation’s Levitical covenant with God. The covenant was to be a lasting commitment between God and Israel. The priests had refused to listen to God and honor His name as Lord of Hosts. God intensely identified their sin and warned of His curse that was already coming upon them and their blessings. Since they would not listen and yield their hearts to God, He would rub their faces in the waste of their polluted, rejected sacrifices. Yet, in God’s heart, He wanted the covenant with Levi to continue in loving faithfulness.
Covenant-keeping blessings (vv. 5-7). In covenant with Levi, God had promised and given life and peace. In response to God, here’s what Levi did: He revered God, stood in awe of His name, taught God’s truths purely, lived with integrity and uprightness and turned people from sin. He did what God called priests to do: namely, be trustworthy stewards of His truths. Further, the people were to confidently look to and go to the priests as messengers of the Lord of Hosts. These post-Exilic priests’ behavior broke their covenant and call.
Covenant-breaking contrasts and consequences (vv. 8-9). The priests did not walk God’s line. Their ways and teachings were stumbling blocks to the Israelites God had entrusted to them. So God judged the priests as despicable and humiliated among the people. The priests also taught with “partiality” — lifted their eyes and skipped over teachings in any way they wanted to.
Out of covenant: changing partners and gods (vv. 10-16). God had created Israel as His chosen family to serve Him. But the people had been faithless to God and to each other. They undermined their shared covenant with God by profaning His beloved sanctuary. Despite Israel’s spiritual and moral failures, they anguished over why God refused their sacrifices.
God clearly answered the Israelites’ anguish. In effect, He said they were exchanging gods and ending God-witnessed marriages. God’s divine design was (1) worship of One God and (2) marriage between one husband and wife for life. Faithless Israelites broke their covenant marriage with the wife of their youth. They cruelly divorced their wives to join idolatrous wives of foreign gods. Intermarriage itself wasn’t the issue; rather, spiritual pollution of God-worshipers marrying foreign-god worshipers, who would have offspring.
Older wives might not bear children, but they can grow in an unfading beauty that pleases God and causes husbands to cherish them (see I Peter 3:1-6). Divorce isn’t the unpardonable sin. Christians should be most Christ-like in showing the divorced or remarried compassion, care, help and faith.
But, ideally, it would be nice to have someone to wait with you for 56 years and still treasure each year together. Not all men are dirt — even though we came from it. We’re most like God wants us in honoring our commitments.
— Godwin, a retired pastor and publisher, is a member of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville.