By Brent Moore
Pastor to Adults, First Baptist Church, Clarksville
Focal Passage: Malachi 2:10-17
I am not part of a generation where one can count on another to keep their word. In fact, I do not think the previous generation was much better. I have heard stories about a former age relying on handshakes and a good look in the eye to get business done, but it seems like a long time ago. Today, we use our signature for phones, user agreements, and just about every store transaction. Even with contracts being signed every day, we do not seem like a more faithful people. Our problem is the same as the people of old, we have a heart problem.
Malachi opens this section in chapter two with rhetorical questions. “Don’t all of us have one Father? Didn’t one God create us?” The implication is the people are acting as if they do not. The individuals in Malachi are exhibiting unfaithful actions towards their fellow brothers and sisters. They are “acting treacherously” with one another. Malachi calls it, “profaning the covenant of our fathers.”
Covenants are different than contracts. Contracts are an agreement between two or more parties. Covenants are always before God. Faithful people understand that they live before an audience of One. Jesus reminded people of the importance of their word and faithfulness, “let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’ ” (Matthew 5:37). The context is entanglements in unnecessary oaths. Covenant people are honest, consistent people because there is a God in the universe who is over all and His image is upon everyone.
Covenants mean something because God is witnessing the action. God no longer wants to receive offerings with “weeping and groaning” because the people have been unfaithful to their marriage covenant. Jesus picks up on this covenantal language with, “what God has joined together, man must not separate (Matt 19:6).” Marriage is a spiritual union. Malachi bolsters this concept reminding the people God made them “a remnant of His life-breath.” The purpose is “godly offspring.” God is invested and interested in the marriage covenant because the outcome affects generations. When one flippantly divorces, he or she is “covering their garment with injustice.” In other words, they are hiding something, instead of dealing with the issue.
Knee-jerk reactions of divorce and patterns of unfaithfulness are wearisome to the Lord. God through Malachi is warning the people to “not act treacherously.” He will bring justice in due time and it is not going to look pretty for the unfaithful. We have a responsibility as covenant people to watch ourselves and warn others. We cannot say, “What is evil is good.” We have to ask God, “Search me and try me … see if there be any wicked way” (Psalm 139:23-24). When we find patterns of unfaithfulness in our own hearts we must repent. Then we call others to repent and trust God even when it is not fun and we do not feel like it.
Cultural changes occur from the inside out. Lasting change is not from outside pressure, but from an inside heart change. If our culture needs to change it begins with the household of God. I have sat in too many Christian leadership meetings where I have been lied to. Promised one thing and given another. The remedy is not the launching of grenades. Justice is ultimately going to roll (Amos 5:24). Our job is to exhibit covenant faithfulness in all things. A lost and dying world will see our character, integrity, and ultimately love as something to be desired. Truth, beauty, and goodness are not attractive because Christians invented it. It is appealing because God created us for it, and our hearts are restless until they find their peace in God.
— Moore is pastor to adults at First Baptist Church, Clarksville.