************ Sermon on Malachi 2:16 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 24, 2000
A According to the Lord, "Judah has broken faith" (vs 11). Judah has broken faith "by marrying the daughter of a foreign god" (vs 11). The "daughter of a foreign god" is someone who serves and worships a god that is false. These foreign gods cannot speak or act; their worship generally involves an immorality completely contrary to the righteousness demanded by Israel's God.
According to Malachi, Judah has broken faith through the sin of intermarriage with the daughters of a foreign god. Let's make sure we understand what is in mind here. There is no objection in the Bible to marriages of different races or cultures. Did you know, for instance, it was a mixed multitude that came out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus? The Bible tells us, "There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children." And, we are told, "Many other people went up with them" (Ex 12:37-38). Who were these people? They were people of other races and cultures – even Egyptians – who committed themselves to Israel's God, submitted to circumcision, and kept the Passover (Ex 12:48). You can be sure that there was intermarriage between them and the children of Israel. Consider also that Boaz married Ruth the Moabitess. This marriage is nowhere condemned because Ruth had forsaken the Moabite god, Chemosh, for Israel's God (Ru 1:16). It is the marriage of people who serve different gods, who have different spiritual commitments, that is being objected to.
B Let there be no doubt about it: the Lord condemns any marriage between His people and the daughter of a foreign god. In marrying the daughters of a foreign god, God says, "Judah has broken faith." "Broken faith." This means that someone you trust has acted treacherously. This means that someone you trust has committed treason against you. King David's counselor, Ahithophel, "broke faith" with David when he decided to side with Absalom in his rebellion. Benedict Arnold "broke faith" when he broke ranks with George Washington and joined the British redcoats.
In marrying the daughters of a foreign god, Judah has "broken faith," she has acted treacherously, she has committed treason against God and against God's people.
God further describes intermarriage as "detestable" (vs 11). It is an abomination, right up there with idolatry, witchcraft, and other grievous sins.
Furthermore, "Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves." In marrying the daughters of a foreign god, says God, Judah has desecrated herself; she has treated as an unholy thing that which is holy. That would be like us trampling the Bible and the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper into the mud (Heb 10:29).
"Broken faith," "detestable," "desecrated": that's what God says about the marriage of one of His children to the daughter of a foreign god. Whoever commits this sin – even though he worships God and "brings offerings" – is to be "cut ... off from the tents of Jacob" (vs 12). Such a man loses his place in the covenant and in the covenant people. He and his family will eventually be called "not my people" (Hosea 1:9) and the Lord will have nothing to do with them. These are the people to whom God will say, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you" (Mt 25:12).
C What is wrong with intermarriage? Why does God so strongly condemn this sin? To answer this we first have to understand Israel's special place and calling. When He first made the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God set Israel apart from all the other nations and peoples. God called His people by His own name. He declared them to be His "firstborn son" (Ex 4:22), even His "treasured possession," "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:5-6). But look at them now! Through the sin of intermarriage Israel was in danger of losing her place and calling as the Lord's holy, special, different people.
The perfect illustration of this is King Solomon. With all of his wisdom, knowledge, and understanding he sure was dumb. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines and many of them were the "daughter of a foreign god." What happened because of these wives? Scripture tells us the sad story: his wives turned his heart after other gods.
(1 Kings 11:5,7-8) He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. (7) On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. (8) He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.
When a man and a women of different spiritual backgrounds get married, one or both of them have to compromise on the matter of faith and religion in order for them to live happily together. Usually what happens is that the less demanding standard prevails. That's what happened with Solomon. He ended up compromising on his faith and religion by joining his wives in the worship of their gods and goddesses. Because of his intermarriage Solomon lost his place and calling as one of the Lord's holy, special, different people.
The same thing happened with Ahab. He married Jezebel and ended up worshiping her god of Baal. In the days of Nehemiah and Ezra, the same thing happened again. Whenever God's people engage in intermarriage they almost always lose their distinction as one of God's holy, special, different people.
D This speaks to us today about what we are to look for in a future husband or wife. Young People, Single Adults, boys and girls too, what do you look for in a marriage partner? Are your requirements anything like Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of the Rev. Billy Graham?
Topic: Husbands and WivesGirls, is this the kind of marriage partner you are looking for or will look for?
Subtopic: Duty of Husbands
When Ruth Bell was a teenage she wrote the following list of particulars:
"If I marry: He must be so tall that when he is on his knees he reaches all the way to heaven. His shoulders must be broad enough to bear the burden of a family. His lips must be strong enough to smile, firm enough to say no, and tender enough to kiss. Love must be so deep that it takes its stand in Christ and so wide that it takes in the whole lost world. He must be active enough to save souls. He must be big enough to be gentle and great enough to be thoughtful. His arms must be strong enough to carry a little child."
Scripture is clear: when you look for a marriage partner you are to look for someone who shares with you a commitment to the Lord of life. Either that, or when you get married you will end up breaking the faith like Judah and Solomon and Ahab did.
Young People, Single Adults, boys and girls, let me ask you again, what do you look for in a marriage partner?
And parents, what do you encourage your children to look for in a marriage partner? I know a woman – and this is so sad – who said to her daughters, "Find a rich one and get him into bed." Moms and dads, is that what you want your daughters to do? If all the emphasis in your home is on money, then that is what you are pushing your children to look for in a partner. On the other hand, if Jesus is the center of your home, the pivot of your marriage, then your example is encouraging your children to find a partner with whom they can share a common commitment to Jesus.
My prayer for each of our children, young people, and single adults is that none of them – like Judah, Solomon, and Ahab – break the faith by marrying someone who is not a born-again Christ-believer. I pray that none will commit treason against God and His church by this sin.
A The people of Judah were very religious; they were very faithful in their worship of God. They offered prayers and presented offerings. And yet, their prayers went unanswered and their offerings were unacceptable. In an effort to get God's attention, these worshipers redoubled their efforts and drenched the Lord's altar with tears. But God still did not pay attention. "Why?" they asked. "Why doesn't God hear our prayers and accept our offerings?" (cf Mal 2: 13-14).
Malachi knows the answer. God doesn't hear because "Judah has broken faith" (vs 11). Judah has broken faith not just through the sin of intermarriage but also through the sin of divorce. Judah has committed treason against God and His people through the sin of divorce.
(Mal 2:14) You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
Amazing, isn't it, that the people of Judah don't understand the connection between their disobedience and the Lord's silence, between their sin and the Lord's rejection of their prayers and offerings?
Subtopic: Causes of Failure in
Title: Secret Sin Blocks Prayer
In his book Why Prayers are Unanswered, John Lavender retells a story about Norman Vincent Peale.
When Peale was a boy, he found a big, black cigar, slipped into an alley, and lit up. It didn't taste good, but it made him feel very grown up ... until he saw his father coming. Quickly he put the cigar behind his back and tried to be casual.
Desperate to divert his father's attention, Norman pointed to a billboard advertising the circus.
"Can I go, Dad? Please, let's go when it comes to town."
His father's reply taught Norman a lesson he never forgot.
"Son," he answered quietly but firmly, "never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience."
This is true for today too. Sometimes Christians wonder why God doesn't answer their prayers. One of the reasons is unconfessed and unrepented sin. God lets us know this evening there is a most immediate connection between our lifestyle and the acceptance of our prayers and worship. Or, to put it another way, we must practice what we preach, we must not be hypocrites, we must be more than Sunday Christians, if we want the Lord to answer our prayers and to accept our worship.
B "Judah has broken faith" (vs 11). Judah has broken faith through the sin of divorce. Malachi uses three phrases to emphasize the seriousness of this sin: "wife of your youth," "your partner," and "wife of your marriage covenant."
The first phrase is "wife of your youth." How graphic the image:
She whom you wrong with the sin of divorce is the same woman who, in the bloom of her young beauty, left her father's house and shared in your early struggles and rejoiced in your later successes. She is the woman who walked arm in arm with you along the pilgrimage of life, cheering you in its trials by her gentle ministry. And now, when the bloom of her youth has faded and the friends of her youth have gone, when father and mother whom she left for you are in the grave, then you cruelly cast her off as a worn-out, worthless thing, and insult her by putting some pretty, young heathen in her place.This reminds me of the young man who married a woman who slaved away to put him through college, medical school, and a couple of years of internship. He finally graduated and got to hang out his shingle. Her reward: he divorced her for someone younger and more glamorous. He deserted and shamefully treated the wife of his youth.
(T.V. Moore; "Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi: A New Translation with Notes")
The second phrase is "your partner." This is an echo of what God says in the Garden of Eden:
(Gen 2:18) "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." A wife is a man's companion and helper, his equal, the one to whom he is united or joined, the one with whom he is one flesh. We are reminded here that husband and wife belong together, just like Elmer's with glue, cows with milk, and banks with money.
The third phrase is "the wife of your marriage covenant." The secular man and woman do not think of marriage as a covenant. Rather, they consider it a contract – complete with pre-nuptial agreements. But, as you all realize, a contract can be broken. The children of Israel knew better: they knew marriage was a covenant (NOT a contract) between two parties – a man and a woman – with the Lord Himself as witness (Gen 31:50; Pr 2:17). A covenant, complete with oaths and God as witness, can never be taken lightly.
The 3 phrases together emphasize that God has made husband and wife one. And, we all know what Jesus said about this: "what God has joined together, let man not separate," (Mt 19:6). In other words, divorce should never be a viable option for true Christian believers. The Word of God through Malachi is very clear about this: "I hate divorce," says the Lord God of Israel in our text.
C It is so important to keep faith with the wife or husband of your youth. Husband and wife are joined into one so that separation can be caused only by a tearing. In other words, divorce is accomplished only with much pain, much hurt, many tears. But also, those marriages blessed with children must stay together in harmony for the sake of the children. The prophet says:
(Mal 2:15) Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. God's goal in those marriages blessed with children is "godly offspring." But it is only when both parents remain faithful to their marriage vows that the children can be given the security which provides the basis for godly living. Don't forget, the family is the school in which God's way of life is practiced and learned (Ex 20:12; Deut 11:19). This reminds us of what study after study has indicated: the real victims in divorce, the ones with the greatest wounds, are the innocent children. It is their souls we damage when we divorce the wife or husband of our youth.
Fathers, do you know the best thing you can do for your children? You can love their mothers! And mothers, do you know the best thing you can do for your children? You can love their fathers!
D "I hate divorce," says the Lord God of Israel. "Guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth." That's what God says. Yet, many in Judah broke faith with their spouse. And many today break faith too. Marriage is supposed to be a covenant, a covenant for life; yet many today regard it as a 90-day option, as a contract that can be broken.
Topic: Grand Parents
Title: The Wedding Ring
A young girl was examining her grandmother's wedding ring. "Wow, what heavy and awkward rings they made fifty years ago!" commented the young girl.
"That is true," replied the grandmother, "but in my day they were made to last a lifetime!"
The September 4, 2000 issue of Christianity Today has an editorial entitled, "The Christian Divorce Culture." The editorial informs us that the public media have gotten the idea that most churches no longer oppose divorce. They get this idea from the way churches have handled the matter. I have three things in mind.
First, I think of how the church has been handling high-profile divorce cases. Listen to what the Christianity Today editorial says:
The most recent high-profile example happened this spring, in the divorce of Charles Stanley, pastor of the 5,000-member First Baptist Church of Atlanta. Stanley acknowledged the gravity of divorce when he promised a few years earlier to resign if he were to divorce. But after Stanley's 44-year marriage ended, Gearl Spicer, the church's administrative pastor, told the congregation that Stanley, 67, would continue as the church's senior pastor. At this the congregation stood and applauded ...While I happen to agree that Stanley is a terrific preacher and pastor, I cannot agree that any church leader be allowed to continue in church office after the sin of divorce. Any church leader involved in divorce should take at least a two year period of absence from office for repentance, reflection, and renewal. I say this because in God's eyes divorce is a sin. "I hate divorce," says the Lord God in our text. Divorce nullifies God's intent. God joins people together; divorce pulls them apart.
Second, I think of the prevalence of divorce within the church. A recent study by George Barna showed the percentage of born-again Christians who have been divorced (27%) actually beats the national average by 2 points. That is awful and it should make us weep in sorrow and in shame.
Third, I also think of the terms used by the church when it comes to divorce. It is often called a "tragedy," a "painful experience," a "great loss." But it is not usually called what it really is: a sin, a thwarting of God's will, a breaking of faith.
All of us, whether single or married, whether young or old, whether male or female, must work at being faithful. None of us are to break faith with God or with each other. We are to keep the faith by considering marriage only to a fellow believer. We are to keep the faith by staying married to the wife or husband of our youth. Says Malachi:
(Mal 2:16) So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.
I ask you, do you break faith or keep faith?
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