Live Honorably

Explore the Bible Series

August 19, 2007

 

Background Passage: Malachi 2:1-16

Lesson Passage: Malachi 2:1-2, 8-16

 

Introduction: In Chapter Two, Malachi continued an important theme from the early portion of the book, the relationship between sound doctrine and honorable conduct.  Judah had fallen into a pattern of lethargic, unworthy worship and disgraceful behavior.  Chapter One made clear that this sorted state of affairs grew from poor understanding of the character of God.  The hardship of everyday life had convinced the Jews that God did not love them; therefore, they felt justified in offering defiled sacrifices in the Temple worship.  The priests, you will recall, bore particular responsibility for this moral and spiritual decline, and Chapter Two gives additional insight into the causes of the problems.

 

The first part of Chapter Two outlines the failure of the priesthood, especially as it related to its role as the theological guardian of the people.  To a large degree, we have similar problems today.  In my role as a college professor, I have the opportunity to teach a course called The History of American Religion.  To stay abreast of current trends, I often watch religious television programming, and, frankly, most of what I see greatly concerns me.  With a few notable exceptions, most of the broadcasts are completely devoid of the gospel of the cross, focusing instead on “deliverance” themes, various “how to” emphases, and a preponderance of prosperity preaching.  I listen for the message of sin, repentance, regeneration, justification, and the passion of the Savior, but you can tune into these broadcasts for weeks and never hear a word about the gospel.  I wonder if this is symptomatic of the kind of preaching in local churches.  A people that lose a firm grasp on the gospel will eventually adopt inadequate patterns of worship.  The gospel of the cross enthrones Christ and moves the heart to adoration of the glorious Trinity.  Where the gospel is absent, people will see God merely as a helper or counselor to solve their mundane problems, a kind of celestial “sugar-daddy” or heavenly psychotherapist. 

 

Furthermore, where religious leaders do not preach the gospel of the cross, the great analogies and symbols of redemption will be jettisoned.  The divine institution of marriage serves as one of the most pervasive types of salvation in the Scriptures.  Malachi found that inadequate views of God led the people to devalue marriage.  Dr. David Wells, keynote speaker at the recent Founders Conference, recently observed the deplorable condition of American families, and traced this situation to the Post Modern tendencies of our generation.  Sadly, Wells concluded, this circumstance emerges where people espouse “values” instead of virtues.   Values are malleable, transient constructs of social convention; whereas, virtues are transcendent moral absolutes that do not change with the circumstances.  The Bible has much to say about the timeless sanctity of marriage, and Christians must learn again the lessons of the past.  God hates divorce (See Malachi 2:16).  If I properly understand Malachi Chapter Two, God hates divorce because this marriage serves as a wonderful illustration of God’s covenant relationship with his people. 

 

This chapter has great relevance to our day.  Mankind has made remarkable technological progress in recent generations, but the great issues of life remain the same.

 

 

Outline of Background Passage:

 

I.                   Four Indictments Against the Priesthood (2:1-9)

A.    “You will not listen… (vv. 1-3): In a sense, the priests served as the “ears” of Israel.  Above all the people, the religious leaders needed an attentive heart to the precepts and leading of the Lord; yet, they grew dull in their hearing. Perhaps the din of popular opinion and the discouragement of the people had stopped their ears from hearing the Lord. God pledged to disgrace the priests because of their inattentiveness.

B.     “That my covenant with Levi may stand (vv. 4-5): Numbers 25:12-13 gives an account of God’s covenant with the sons of Levi, the family of priests in the Mosaic system.  In Malachi’s day, the priests had broken that testament.  The covenant was characterized by three qualities that God enjoined upon these leaders: peace, life, and fear (reverence).

C.     For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge… (vv. 5-8):Here we see the emphasis on the theological function of the priests.  They served a teaching function, and these men had abandoned their God-given task.  As a result, the people had stumbled at the false doctrine of the leaders.

D.    “you… show partiality in your instruction…” (v. 9): Apparently, these priests tailored their message to the social status of their listeners.  All men stand equal before the bar of God, and these men showed tragic favoritism to the wealthy and influential.

 

II.                The Profaning of God’s Covenant Through the Degradation of Marriage (2:10-16): Malachi pointed out two problems with the family life of Judah.

A.    They were faithless (vv. 10-12): The dissolution of Judah’s marriages reflected their unfaithfulness to her covenant with God.  The men of Judah had taken wives from unbelieving, idolatrous people, thus breaking the clear commandment of the Lord.  The defilement of the institution of marriage bled into the public worship of Jehovah, and the Lord pledged that he would cut off their worship by refusing to accept their offerings in the Temple.

B.     They cut the nerve of their worship by divorcing their wives and defiling their children (vv. 13-16). Malachi observed that the degeneration of the family produced violence and negated the power of worship.  Thankfully, the situation was not hopeless, and Malachi concluded this section by calling the men of Judah to take heed to their hearts by abandoning their treachery.

 

 

Question for Discussion:

  1. How does the institution of marriage mirror God’s relationship to his people?  Can you think of other Bible passages that highlight this relationship?
  2. Examine the connection between worship and marriage.  How does the imagery of marriage reveal the motive and spirit of marriage?
  3. Reflect on the role of religious leaders as reflected in our lesson passage.  What to roles, according to this text, did the priests play in the life of Judah?  Do you find any parallel between the Old Testament priesthood and pastors in the New Testament?