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Home Sermons Malachi: Evidence of losing touch with the living Lord - [2] Text

Malachi: Evidence of losing touch with the living Lord - [2] Text

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Malachi: Evidence of losing touch with the Living Lord   [2]   

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Malachi 2:1-3:16

David Calderwood

How well is your conscience working?

Conscience is that inbuilt mechanism which reminds us what is right and wrong; the keeper of our distinctiveness as a person – causing feelings of guilt when we act against our value system and feelings of well-being and security when our actions, thoughts and words are in conformity with it.

But we all know that maintaining a good conscience is a tricky thing. We know by experience that if we act contrary to conscience long enough, we can actually convince ourselves that certain thoughts, actions and words are consistent with our value system, even when clearly, they are not.

The prophet Malachi was, in a very real sense, the conscience of the nation Israel, sent by the Lord to expose how as God’s people they had lost a good conscience, lost their distinctiveness.

Essentially this is the story of the Bible from the time of the Exodus. God had committed himself to a personal, unique relationship or covenant or relational contract with the nation of Israel, expressed in the words - I will be your God and you will be my people.

Practically God promised to bless Israel, providing the good life he wanted them to have. They were to respond to God’s generosity by living a distinctive lifestyle reflecting God’s character and how much they loved and valued him.

The rest of the Old Testament to the time of Malachi, about 1000 years, tracks God’s faithfulness to the relationship, and Israel’s repeated failure to live that distinctive lifestyle God longed for.

Over the generations the Lord sent a total of 16 prophets, with Malachi being the last. Each acted as the conscience of the nation exposing their sinful thinking, loss of distinctive living, and calling them back to the values that would reflect God’s character and love for them.

So, a key word for Malachi is the word covenant, reminding God’s special people of God’s relational contract with them, his living loving unique relationship with them and commitment to prosper them in every way through the good life that only he could give.

Malachi, the messenger of the Lord, called for renewed authenticity and integrity, a return to the distinctiveness that was right and proper as God’s loved people. And to achieve that end he presents the damning evidence of losing touch with the Living Lord.

 

 

God’s people lost ‘God’s passion’ and, therefore, their distinctiveness. God’s people were certainly distinctive, but for all the wrong reasons, starting from the top down.

Demeaning God’s name instead of honouring it (2:1-6). The priests should have been so distinctive as God’s representatives to his people, but, verse 1, they had not set their heart to honour the Lord’s name.

The Lord’s name included recognition of his character and actions; his greatness and majesty; his value and reputation among the nations of the world.

The priests failed miserably in their primary task – to glorify God in the way they lived and acted, and so every aspect of their ministry as priests was useless to themselves and their people.

God promises that he will expose and humiliate them, and ultimately dispose of them if they refuse to hear this call to repent.

Endangering God’s people instead of promoting life and peace (2:5-9). The priests were God’s gift to his people – to encourage and lead them into life and peace – good relationship and blessing with God and a love of truth, righteousness and a hatred of anything offensive to God.

But these priests, verse 6, obviously were not walking with the Lord. Rather, by their careless thinking, words and actions were leading people into sin and danger of death and destruction.

The priests had no personal relationship or walk with the Lord, leaving only religious ritual and outward show as the benchmark and model of worship.

Modelling betrayal instead of family unity (2:10-16). God casts his net wider making clear that all his people were guilty of betraying the relationship. Three key aspects of life show the serious spiritual malaise afflicting God’s people.

Verse 10, God’s covenant was a contract, like marriage, in which God united himself or glued himself to his people in an exclusive, life-long, loving relationship, to use the language of Genesis 2 .

Verses 11-12, God exposes the betrayal of his people in marrying foreign women. It was spiritual adultery to form one-flesh unions with girls who worshipped other gods, who had totally different worldviews. To think they could mix easily was deeply offensive to the Lord, and a mockery of any claim to love and serve the Lord only.

God’s people are here described as Judah to emphasise the hurt God would have felt given his profound and lasting love for Judah (1:2). Essentially God was accusing his people of betraying his love and all that he brought to the relationship, preferring instead what the world offered them.

Verses 13-16 God exposes a similar betrayal at work in divorce, which appears to have become normal and acceptable for God’s people.

Marriage was God’s institution – a partnership, a life-long contract or commitment to love and value, made with God as a witness, and so to dissolve that relationship was a sin against God.

Likewise God remained faithful and committed to his bride, Israel, even when she failed. But in divorce they were refusing to show the same commitment of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness – the very things they pleaded for with tears at God’s altar.

This act of hypocrisy and failure to be distinctive in this area of life had immediate consequences. What they refused to show in their marriages, God also withheld from them.

Unbelieving, rubbish thoughts instead of praise words (2:17- 3:16). Look at verse 17. Feel God’s frustration and annoyance as he exposes his people to be persistent, whinging children who are just mouthing off rubbish – words that have no contact with reality.

Disappointment, resentment and anger at God filled their hearts in thoughts that mocked God’s character - We’ve done the right thing by God and have nothing to show for it, but all those evil nations out there seem to thrive – so much for God’s justice! The same thought is in 3:14-15

God says, don’t be stupid – you’ve seen my judgment on evil in the past and you will see it again, beginning with you lot. Stop thinking nonsense and return to me, 3:7. Stop pretending you don’t know what is required of you. Stop ripping me off and start acting like my people ought to act.

Friends, the immediate question for us is – how are we doing in showing our distinctiveness as God’s people. How well is your conscience working?

Commentators immediately move from priest to pastor and church leader in application, but this is not quite right. In Christ every believer is a priest. Listen to 1 Peter 2:4-5 and 9.

Clearly leaders like myself will give special account to the Lord for my modelling and teaching to you. But every Christian individually, and together as a church family must embrace the challenge to declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvellous light.

So, how distinctive, faithful or counter-cultural have you been this week – at work, at home, in your relationships, your thought life, leisure time?

And how do you think we have done as a family unit this week? We need to help one another, as a family unit, to show distinctively God’s character of grace, mercy, deep unity, and forgiveness, even when others fail us or sin against us, or disappoint us, or frustrate us.

Think of this in respect of Facebook activity this week: Some were directly involved. Others formed opinions and attitudes on the sidelines. But everyone needs to ask if this interaction clearly demonstrated our distinctiveness as Christ’s people?

We are to be in the world but not of the world. We must have clear, biblical, well-argued responses to the issues under debate in our society. We cannot simply plead tradition, nor should we easily adopt what is popular in terms of the positions we hold. And the way in which we argue and interact will always be equally important to the outcome.

But friends, against all the faithlessness of his people we see how the Lord faithfully displays his distinctive love for and commitment to his people.

God’s people protest, 3:7, that they don’t know how to re-engage with the Lord. But the real issue is their lack of desire to respond to the Lord’s call to repent and renew commitment to him.

So, the real question they need to ask in their hearts is why should they re-engage with the Living Lord? And closely tied to that question is what would they miss out on if they refuse to set their hearts to honour or glorify God’s name?

God offers them something that is far too good to refuse – recognise, embrace, enjoy and benefit from my distinctive love for you.

 

I, the Lord, do not change (3:6) God’s character and promise offers immediate and ongoing hope for God’s people.

Throughout these two chapters God has issued real warnings to his people – you need to recognise and own your sin and repent. But at the very same time he offers hope for the future. There is still time and opportunity to listen and change.

The door is still open. God will come to his people to bring justice, but there is still the opportunity to experience God’s intervention as discipline rather than absolute destruction. God is telling his people that he would much rather they heed his warning and return to him.

What an incredible offer by the Lord – own your sin and repent of it, turning in new humility and determination to be faithful and obedient. Set your hearts with a passion to honour and glorify me, and you will see that I will return to you.

Such is my loving commitment to you that though you have given me every reason to destroy you, I still want life and peace for you. Surely this is enough reason to act decisively – God’s intervention will be to your good not your destruction.

2. Trust me in my promises – now and in the future (3:10-12 &16) The source of their disappointment with God is that he hasn’t given them what they want, and they have not recognised and valued the blessings he had given them, so they felt let down by God.

Into this mindset God says trust me in my promises – truly set your hearts on being satisfied with me and you’ll see that the good life opens up before you such that the whole world will envy your blessing. It’s the same promise God has always held out to his people

Surely this is enough reason to set your heart on glorifying God – not only is he worth honouring, but as you honour him, you find your deepest desires for life and peace and security are met in an incredible way.

But there is a future element as well, verse 16. Setting their hearts to glorify God’s name in this work-a-day world has eternal benefits. Those who serve the Lord never do so for no gain, as was their current thinking.

Rather those who serve the Lord can be sure that the Lord will honour them by taking them home to heaven. We do not honour the Lord to get to heaven. We honour the Lord because he is worthy of our honour and obedience, but the bonus is heaven and eternity with God.

Surely this is reason to glorify the Lord – Heaven is to be gained or lost by our choices now.

3. Look to me for grace knowing you can’t do what I demand of you. Buried in God’s words in 3:7 is an amazing truth. God knows full well that his people cannot deliver the obedience and loyalty he demands.

Their priests had failed to walk with the Lord. They seriously needed a better priest who would truly represent them to God, truly deal with their sin, and truly teach them faithfulness. And God would provide just such a priest in Jesus.

Husbands had betrayed their wives. God’s people seriously needed a true husband, a good man who would never break his promise and abandon his first love, but would ensure she was secure and perfected in his love. And God would provide such a bridegroom in Jesus.

God’s people failed to respond to God’s word or message. They seriously needed a powerful, true word planted deep into their heart and help to understand and obey that word to put them back in touch with the living Lord. And God would sent a powerful, renewing, captivating divine word in Jesus, and Christ’s Spirit who would make that word new and real in our hearts.

Surely friends, this is reason to set your hearts on honouring and glorifying God’s name. God has committed himself to doing for us what he knows we could never do for ourselves – meet his standards of relationship.

So, in the word of Malachi (1:9) implore God to be gracious to us and set your heart to honour God’s name and determine to respond with delight and thankfulness to his gift of Jesus.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 July 2015 08:57  

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