Those who belong to the Lord should be careful to live in a manner that pleases the Lord. Failure to live faithfully has been the focus of our study of the book of Malachi. Thus far we have learned that the people of Malachi’s day had major problems in their worship that God sought to correct. They questioned the love of God, they dishonored God with their worthless sacrifices and their apathetic worship, and the religious leaders (priests) turned aside from true instruction and caused many to stumble. In our sermon today we shall learn about a major area in which the people have sinned: they have profaned God’s covenant of marriage.
Judah has Profaned Marriage
After the return from Exile, the people of Israel quickly fell back into the sins of their fathers. One such sin involved marrying foreign women. Why was God against Jewish men marrying foreign women? In Deuteronomy 7:3-4, the Lord explicitly commanded the Jewish people to not marry the inhabitants of the land of Canaan when they come to take possession of it because “they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.” It wasn’t so much an ethnic, racial issue as it was an issue of idolatry. God prohibits the marrying of foreigners because they would lead the Israelites into idolatry. A major example is Solomon who was led astray by his wives (1 Kings 11:4). But, consider Ruth (a Moabite) who married Boaz (Israelite) because she chose to worship the Lord (Ruth 1:16).
Ezra gives more insight into this issue in Ezra 9. In verse 2, He wrote, “For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” In verse 11, Ezra remembered that the ban against marrying foreigners was because the land they took possession of “is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness.” Therefore, Ezra replied: “shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations” (14)? In Malachi’s day, marrying foreign women was a sign of covenant breaking and faithlessness and the men were seduced to turn away from God to serve false gods.
As bad as it was for the Jewish men to marry foreign women, they were divorcing their Jewish wives in order to do so. In verse 14, the Lord was “a 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.” God blessed Israel with the holy covenant of marriage in order to bless them and produce godly offspring. In marriage, God makes “them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union” (15). God hates divorce because it is a violation of His spiritual covenant. This is why God refused to regard their offerings and accept it with favor from their hand (13). The Lord will not accept worship and offerings from those who are in intentional, willful, rebellious sin. In verse 16, God commands them, “so guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” How do we do this?
Remember the Sanctity of Marriage
God is the Creator, Designer, and Definer of marriage. Marriage is the sacred bond that a man and a woman make with one another and with God. God witnesses their union and joins them together as one flesh (Gen 2:24, Matt 19:6). God takes marriage very seriously and commands His children to hold marriage in honor (Heb 13:4). Marriage is God’s blessing to us. No marriage is perfect, but every marriage is to be holy. Marriage is not a contract, it is a covenant. If marriage were a contract, then it would be a temporary agreement entered into for personal benefit. Contracts may be broken (with or without a penalty) at any time if a better opportunity becomes available. But, marriage is not a contract, but a covenant. A covenant is a pledge to dedicate yourself and all you have to another for their benefit. Marriage is not temporary and it is not primarily for personal gain (though both parties should benefit greatly). Marriage is not a contract between two parties, but a vow to God made by a man and a woman who desire to help one another mature in their faith.
Fight for Marriage
God is the One who created marriage and it is a sacred union that we should fight for. In a day and age when marriage is being redefined and Christians are being labeled (wrongly) as bigots, let us stand for God’s truth about marriage. We refuse to hate anyone or fight against anyone, but we must faithfully and boldly declare God’s plan for marriage. We also need to help one another. Men, hold each other accountable to be godly husbands. Women, hold one another accountable to be godly wives. Children, tell your parents that you need them to love one another. Let us not only fight for marriage in general, let us fight for our marriages. Husband, tell your wife that you love her, will provide for her, cherish her, and need her. Wife, tell your husband that you love him, respect him, admire him, and need him. Husbands and wives, commit your marriage to the Lord if you have not done so already. As one, plead for God to bless your marriage and increase your love for one another. Let us guard ourselves in the Spirit and not be faithless.