MALACHI – LESSON FOUR
MALACHI CONFRONTS THE PEOPLE
Some things never change. As Solomon observed – “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) The same sins are repeated in every generation and in every culture. But there are new ways of understanding God’s perspective of how those sins impact us and our societies.
Malachi now addresses the subject of divorce and unlawful marriages in Israel. He describes this as a sin against the love of Jehovah and a crime against the brotherhood of man. In his indictment of this action, he gives four original purposes of marriage that are powerful arguments for lifelong marriages within the family of God. Jesus will soon verify God’s design for marriage in his teaching to His disciples.
Then Malachi speaks of coming judgment. There is a day of reckoning coming for God’s people and for the land. It is not too late for reformation in their marriages and in their worship. God is a God of forgiveness and blessing when His chosen people come back to Him. Obedience is always the best choice, but the Jews are often slow learners.
DAY ONE: MALACHI BRINGS CHARGES AGAINST THE PEOPLE.
READ: Malachi 2:10-12
A. MARRIAGE UNFAITHFULNESS HAS OCCURRED.
Marriage is a great idea because it came from God. It had high ideals and was designed to produce noble results for individuals and families. But this institution, like all others, has been impacted by the fall. In various times it has been openly abused by God’s own people – always with disastrous results. Malachi will tell us some of the reasons why. As in all things, God’s way is the best way.
B. A COVENANT WITH GOD IS BROKEN.
Malachi changes his approach slightly. Rather than bringing the charges first, he begins this section by asking three questions:
- Have we not all one Father?
- Did not one God create us?
- Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?
Malachi reminds the Israelites that God is their Father. Their nation was created by Him so they could proclaim the one true God to the whole world. (Isaiah 43:1, 7, 21) When they divorce their Jewish wives and marry foreign women, they are now committing a crime against God and their covenant with Him. To bring idol-worshipping women into God’s holy family is to pollute the nation’s “marriage” to Jehovah.
This was strictly forbidden (Deuteronomy 7:3-4) in the Law of Moses. King Solomon had been drawn into this temptation many years before. (1 Kings 11:1-6) This led him into idolatry despite the fact that he had been given great wisdom by God.
It has never been God’s plan for believers to marry unbelievers. Paul taught this principle to the Corinthians with five comparisons in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16:
- What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?
- What communion has light with darkness?
- What accord has Christ with Belial?
- What part has a believer with an unbeliever?
- What agreement has the temple of God with idols?
At Mt. Sinai the nation of Israel was “married to Jehovah” (Exodus 19-20). To bring idol worshippers into the relationship is to commit adultery against God. So Malachi is telling the people – it is not just about you – your unlawful marriages are first of all a sin against God.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What did God say to Israel as He pledged Himself to them? (Exodus 19:3-6)
- What was their response to His proposal? (Exodus 19:7-8)
- Because they belonged to God, they must be separated from sin. How was this symbolized in their “wedding ceremony?: (Exodus 19:10)
- What does God say of His memory of their “wedding?” (Jeremiah 2:1-3)
- How must God feel when they violate their vows? (Jeremiah 2:32; 3:1, 20)
- What is the result if Israel does not repent? (Malachi 2:12a)
7. How eager is God to forgive our sins today? (1 John 1:8-9)
8. We are always tempted to follow our culture and “wed” ourselves to the world. What advice are we given in 1 John 2:15-17?
DAY TWO: MALACHI EXPLAINS CONSEQUENCES.
READ: Malachi 2:13
A. THE PEOPLE ARE DISTRAUGHT
Malachi continues his indictment against the men of Israel. There are occasions when we go along with the “times” and engage in behavior that is clearly against Biblical standards. We rationalize in various ways – everyone is doing it, this is a different world, I have no other choice, etc. The world says – “I’m okay; you’re okay.” So life goes on, but something is wrong. God does not overlook sin. There are always consequences when our behavior violates God’s rules for the universe.
In Israel life went on. Men were violating their marriage vows but also bringing their offerings to the altar. But they are not being blessed. They wept and wondered – what is wrong with God? Why isn’t He honoring His covenant of blessing? They expected God to be faithful, but the covenant blessings required covenant obedience.
Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous god. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.
B. MALACHI REVEALED THEIR PROBLEM.
God has been faithful. He is sending Malachi to reveal the consequences of their dangerous choices. Their tears are not effective. Their offerings do not cover deliberate, ongoing sin. Blessing cannot continue.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What does God say about sin in Numbers 32:23?
- What did God tell His people about repentance and forgiveness (Deuteronomy 30:1-10)
- What did God say about the sacrifice of the wicked? (Proverbs 15:8)
- What happened to Eli and his sons because they abused the sacrificial service? (1 Samuel 2:29-35)
5. The purpose of discipline is restoration. Read 1 John 1:5 – 2:2. How often do you honestly confess sin and ask for forgiveness?
6. When have you suffered earthly consequences for a sinful choice?
DAY THREE: ISRAELITES QUESTION THEIR INDICTMENT.
READ: Malachi 2:14-17
A. MALACHI REVEALS THEIR VIOLATION.
The people seem clueless. Why is God unhappy with us? When sinful behavior becomes the norm in a culture, it is harder to recognize it as sin. So the Israelites seem surprised that God is withholding blessing from them. They ask for a reason.
They have committed a crime against the brotherhood of man (verse 10). Every person in their nation is a part of God’s chosen family. They are in covenant with God and also with each other. It is unthinkable in a family to commit crimes against each other. The family strength and unity would be quickly destroyed.
B. MEN ARE SINNING AGAINST THEIR JEWISH WIVES.
Jewish marriage was a lifelong covenant entered into before God and human witnesses. Marriages were arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. It was considered binding and was made final when the groom paid the agreed bride price to her father. When all was ready, the groom came for his bride and brought her to his home. Malachi reminded the people of God’s original plan for marriage:
- God joined the couple into one. A divine bond is created.
- God designed man and woman to procreate and produce Godly offspring.
- It was God’s design to require a mother and a father to establish a suitable home environment in which to rear Godly children.
- The wife was to also provide companionship for the husband.
In Malachi’s day divorce was only initiated by men. What a travesty when the wife entered honestly into the marriage and was later discarded wantonly. God hates divorce and considers it a violent crime to tear apart a family that He has supernaturally joined. (Verse 16)
The men are warned to guard their emotions so they can resist the temptation to abandon their wives. Today the temptation is greater than ever. In the working world men and women are thrown together day by day and often even travel together. Relationships develop, often by accident. Ultimately families and societies are severely damaged by broken relationships. Guards must be put in place to stop the bleeding in our culture. God still hates divorce because of the terrible damage it brings to individuals and societies.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Read the story of the first marriage in Genesis 2:18-25.
- What did Joshua say about intermarriage when the Israelites got ready to settle in the Promised Land? (Joshua 23:12-13)
- How did Ezra teach the Jews to rectify their sin of intermarriage with foreign women in Ezra 10:1-4?
- How does this story in Ezra illustrate the importance of Malachi’s advice of taking heed in guarding against emotions at the inception of temptation?
5. What special temptations do you see today that might threaten marriage fidelity?
6. What are some resources that are in place in our culture for helping troubled marriages?
DAYS FOUR & FIVE: ISRAELITES COMPLAINED AGAINST GOD.
READ: Malachi 2:17 – 36
A. GOD IS WEARY OF JUDAH’S COMPLAINING.
This passage is all about expectations. What do we expect from God? We may expect that all of life will go smoothly. We may expect prosperity and protection and peace. We may expect that all of our prayers will be answered swiftly and precisely. If our expectations are unreasonable, we will be surprised and disappointed when we have to suffer in some way. We have to go back to the Bible and see what Jesus promised for His followers.
The Israelites were full of expectations. When they returned from Babylon, they expected to resume a life of independence, peace and prosperity. However, they were experiencing hardship while their enemies appeared to be thriving. This is not a new problem. In the Psalms David seemed to struggle with the same issue.
B. COMPLAINTS ARE LISTED.
In Malachi’s day the people verbalized their complaints, and God was tired of being accused. When they asked how they had wearied God, they were reminded of three false complaints:
- They said that God has prospered the people who do evil so He must consider them good.
- They said that God takes delight in evildoers.
- They said that God was not a God of justice.
The Jews should have remembered their covenant with God. He will bless them when they turn from their evil ways. Although the wicked (who are abusing them) do seem to prosper, God’s judgment will eventually come to them.
Their understanding of God is totally skewed. He has never delighted in wickedness – in evil people or in His own chosen people. When the people called for justice, they didn’t know what they were asking.
C. GOD WILL BRING JUSTICE.
God will send a messenger to prepare the way for the Messiah. Not only will the Messiah execute justice on the Gentiles, but on the sinful Jews as well. John the Baptist was the messenger who announced the Messiah’s first coming (Matthew 11:30). The Messiah will come unexpectedly.
Verses 2-5 speak of the second coming. He will come again in judgment as a refiner.
- The priests will be purged so that the offerings will once again be acceptable to God.
- The people will be purged. Judgment will come upon sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, exploiters of workers, widows, and orphans.
There are times when God’s judgment seems slow, but eventually it will come. In answer to their complaint Malachi reveals – God does not delight in wickedness. He does not change. He will judge the wicked and purge the Jews. But they will not be consumed. A remnant will be left to fulfill the covenant relationship and welcome the Messiah.
Today people complain about God’s justice when we hear of criminals getting away with murder, corporations that defraud people and partners who abuse marriage. We must be thankful that God is long suffering – giving men time to repent before the great and terrible DAY OF THE LORD. In that day God’s justice will be seen clearly.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What does Jeremiah 31:35-37 promise about the preservation of the Jews?
- What does Romans 11:25-29 say about their future?
- What great promise is given to God’s chosen people in Lamentations 3:22-23?
- What has the New Testament revealed about God’s workings? (2 Peter 3:9)
5. Since God’s mercies are new every morning, we can always claim them for a new start each day. In what area do you need mercy today?
6. Are you in the habit of complaining to God? Begin a new habit of thanksgiving for one or two new things each day.
What are our expectations today? Are we demanding “heaven on earth?” Do we complain that God isn’t “showing up” to right the wrongs? We will never see the first installment of heaven on earth until Jesus returns to govern perfectly. God will one day bring forth a new heaven and new earth. Until then we must trust His judgment and His timing.
The Jews wanted justice for their enemies but overlooked their own blatant sins regarding divorce and unlawful marriages with pagans. They complained loudly because God wasn’t governing his creation in the way they wanted. Malachi looked into the future to reveal a time when all evil will be judged – for Jews and Gentiles. For now true believers have a great privilege and opportunity to model God’s intent for marriage as well as exhibiting perfect trust by not complaining about God’s workings among all men. One day the picture will be complete.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
Trusting God and modeling His ideals is an impressive way to show love and honor to Him.
Take every opportunity this week to speak fondly about God and His ways.
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