Summary: Being a covenant keeping community is essential to our relationship with a covenant keeping God
Recently someone who has attended our church in the past sent me an email that contained these words:
At this time, I have decided to take a step back and do some more thinking about things. I need some time to digest what I have learned and discovered and decide if it is right for me.
This is certainly not the first time that I’ve heard words very similar to this from someone who has decided to no longer attend our church. I’m grateful that, unlike so many others, this person at least had the courage and decency to let me know why he or she is no longer attending TFC. There are others who have left without extending that same courtesy.
As long as I’ve been at TFC, I can only remember one person who either left the church or didn’t return here after visiting because of a disagreement over doctrine. In every other case where the person has given a reason for leaving, it always comes down to that person’s personal preferences. In essence, like the person who wrote to me recently, it is a matter of whether TFC is “right for them”.
This idea that one’s relationship with God is entirely personal, although I believe it is certainly more prevalent in our culture, is not new. In fact, as we’ll see this morning, the prophet Malachi had to deal with the same attitude about 2,500 years ago. So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Malachi chapter 2 and in just a moment you can follow along as I begin reading in verse 10.
But before we do that, we’ll begin, as we’ve done very week in this series, by reviewing the overall theme of the Book of Malachi. Once again I’ll ask you to help me fill in the blanks:
God desires for me to pursue Him
in the same way He has pursued me
With that main theme in mind, follow along as I read our passage for this morning.
Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!
And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
(Malachi 2:10-16 ESV)
After addressing the priests in the first part of chapter 2, Malachi now turns to the people as a whole. And again, keeping in mind that God loves them and wants what is best for them, Malachi rebukes the people – this time not so much about their religion, but instead about their relationships with each other.
Many, if not most of the commentators and sermons that I’ve encountered in my study of this passage, treat it as a passage that deals primarily with marriage and divorce. But to me, there is a bigger picture that Malachi has in mind here, and he is merely using marriage and divorce as an example to illustrate a much greater truth – one that I would summarize like this:
The big idea:
Being a covenant keeping community
is essential to our relationship with a
covenant keeping God
This morning, I’d like to use this theme as the basis to help us work through this passage and see if we can’t identify why this is true, and, even more importantly, how that ought to impact our daily lives. So let’s begin by taking a look at…
Three Important Truths
1. God is a covenant-making and a covenant-keeping God
We were introduced to this idea in the first part of the chapter where Malachi wrote about God’s covenant of life and peace that He had made with Levi. And that emphasis on covenant continues here in this section, where Malachi refers to a covenant twice: