Summary: The challenge is are we faithful and does my religious observance actually reasonate in my daily life or am i a hypocrite
Schizophrenia is apparently a quite frightening illness to watch but to the person suffering from it the world seems perfectly normal. In the passage before us this evening God through the prophet Malachi exposes the schizophrenia of the people of God. As you know from last week the Lord God first exposed the sins and moral failures of the religious leaders of the people. For some reason people quite enjoy ‘roast preacher’ and the no doubt the people of God were quite smug as they heard the list of accusations against the priests being aired publicly. No doubt many of them were shaking their heads in agreement and even a few ‘here, here’s’ were heard amongst the people. But suddenly the crowd fall silent because just when they thought they had escaped God now points the finger at the people in general. I am always struck in Scripture with how God begins with the religious leaders to expose sin and then brings it to the people in general. The truth is when it comes to faith in God most people are quite happy to be led, to be spoon fed and are just downright lazy – let the religious leaders do the work of preparation etc and spoon feed it to me in small chunks of less than an hour a week. There is nothing new there. So let us turn to the passage and see what God exposes as the sins of His people through Malachi.
Overall the passage deals with two specific sins the intermarriage with foreign women and divorce. Whilst they are the specific sins which God exposes it is clear from the context of the passage that they are examples of the ‘faithlessness’ of the people. Five times in this passage God speaks of their ‘breaking faith’ – verses 10, 11, 14, 15 and 16. From that I think it is fair to say that the key issue for God is their ‘breaking faith’ with Him through the breaking of the covenant and with one another through the breaking of covenants such as marriage. I am not going to deal with the specific issue of divorce this evening but to deal with the general issue of faithlessness of the people of God which the prophecy of Malachi deals with overall.
At the beginning I think it is very important that we realise that it is the people of God that are accused here of faithlessness towards God. It is so easy for us to read such a passage and apply it to those who have never entered into a relationship with God but that is not whom Malachi is addressing here. These people are the covenant people of God – as can be seen from verse 10 – read. As you can see Malachi asks several rhetorical questions each of which expects the positive answer ‘Yes, indeed.’ They have one father – God and the patriarch Abraham. They did not create themselves as a nation but were called by God to be a nation set apart for his glory and honour. They have a divinely created origin which began with the calling of Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldeas and to journey with God to the promised land. From this calling to be the people of God comes moral responsibilities and requirements – as is seen in the third rhetorical question – read. Knowing that they are in a covenant relationship with God which brings them into a covenant relationship with one another why then do they break faith with one another. In essence Malachi is asking them why they live as they do when they have the knowledge of who they are as the people of God. They know they are the people of God but they do not live as the people of God. Sitting comfortably are we? I can see the smile on the faces of the people of God slowly retracting as the point of these questions hits home.
Verse 11 – Malachi now outlines the sin of the people of God. They have been faithless to the covenant of God. Remember how this covenant came into being – divinely created and sealed through the shedding of blood – the ram caught in the thicket who took the place of Isaac. The circumcision which was the outward sign of the covenant between God and His people. To this covenant they had been faithless. They still had the outward sign of circumcision and if you look ahead to verse 13 you can see that they still observed the religious rituals and festivals of the covenant but they were no longer acceptable to God. Look at what God says about their faithlessness in verse 11 – it is an abomination before Him. He also states that their faithlessness profaned the holiness (the sanctuary) of Lord, which He loves. Now stop there for a moment. Notice how seriously God takes faithlessness in the covenant relationship. We know He is never faithless because He cannot and does not break His promises. Do you see that breaking faith with the covenant relationship with God is an abomination (is something detestable to God). In the Bible an abomination covers a wide range of things – from sacrifices that are left to go putrid. It also covers immoral sexual behaviour. It covers actions and words which offend the religious susceptibilities of others. So you can see that when God says ‘faithlessness to the covenant’ is an abomination before Him it is no light matter. To reinforce this God goes further and states that they have ‘profaned (or blasphemed) the sanctuary of the Lord.’ Another valid interpretation of that sentence is that the people of God have blasphemed or profaned the holiness of God. The sin was not just against the sanctuary, the temple, but against God Himself and specifically His holiness. Take a moment and take that in. Take in the seriousness with which God views faithlessness within the covenant relationship.