God was desperate to reveal His glory through the people of Israel, and wants to do so through us now. Specifically through the way we relate to and treat each other. Conflict, rensentment, abuse - and above all, divorce - distort God's glory, and God takes a low view of anyone who takes a low view of others. Are we feigning unity with God and unity with our neighbor, our friends, our spouses the way the Israelites were doing when He spoke to them through Malachi?
He said: 'Return to Me.' We say: 'How'
He said: 'You are wearing me out.' We say: 'How'
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 5
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 4
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 3
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 2
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 1
He said: 'You have turned away.' We say: 'How?'
He said: 'You've despised me.' We say: 'How?'
He said: 'I've loved you.' We say: 'How?'
Robert: Hi, Joyce. It's been a while, hasn't it?
Joyce: I'd say so.
Robert: Seen you at a couple funerals.
Joyce: You have to be at those.
Robert: Yeah, well, you look good.
Joyce: Thank you. You look like hard times.
Robert: Not too bad. Do you think those two will do any better than we did?
Joyce: We weren't ever that giddy.
Robert: Oh, I think we were. You were, I know.
Joyce: I don't think so.
Robert: Hey, I didn't mean anything.
Joyce: I wasn't giddy.
Robert: Everybody is giddy when it starts.
Joyce: Look, could we just get on with this.
Robert: Sure, sure. Sorry.
Joyce: I wasn't giddy. Thanks.
Robert: That's it, the last one. There's even a little bonus.
Joyce: Thank you.
Robert: You know, I thought I'd feel a little lighter. No more child support. Truth to tell, it just feels lousy, mostly.
Joyce: You missed his party.
Robert: Yeah, I know.
Joyce: You don't know him anymore.
Robert: I'm sorry. I really am.
Joyce: Tell him.
Robert: Works hard, 60-hour weeks, probably getting laid off. Half the division. They say… Like you say, hard times.
Joyce: Those are excuses, Robert. You don't know your son anymore.
Robert: He starts at, uh, SMU in the fall.
Joyce: North Texas.
Robert: Still studying math?
Joyce: He's a painter, Robert! You don't know your son anymore. What are we doing here? You could have mailed this.
Robert: I don't know. What are we doing here?
Joyce: Do you have something to say to me, Robert? Because I've got to get back. Thanks for the money, Robert.
Robert: Joyce, go to dinner with me sometime.
Joyce: Excuse me?
Robert: It wouldn't have to be a big deal.
Joyce: Go to dinner with you?
Robert: Yeah, why not?
Joyce: Are you out of your mind?
Robert: I just thought we might…
Robert: Why what? I just thought we might…
Joyce: Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to be here right now?
Robert: I don't know. I just thought we might…
Joyce: Just thought we might what? Go out and have a few drinks for old time's sake?
Robert: I've been working on some things.
Joyce: Let me ask you a question, Robert. Whatever happened to your third wife, Carol or Katie or whatever her name is?
Joyce: I don't care what her name is. Why didn't she stick around?
Robert: Nothing happened there, Joyce. She just…
Joyce: I figured that's what I was here to hear about. I thought I was here to hear about your fourth wife. Is that what you're going to tell me, that you want another wife and you have the audacity to think it's going to be me?
Robert: I've just been thinking about some things. It has been…
Joyce: You left me, Robert.
Robert: Joyce, that was nine years ago.
Joyce: You left me! And I know I'm supposed to be over it. I watch Dr. Phil, Oprah, and Regis, and all the gorgeous, famous people in the world say that I am supposed to be over this, but I'm not. Yes, I am. You got married, and I died. I did the homework alone. I did the soccer alone. I did the grades alone, the girlfriends alone. I did the nights he came home drunk alone. You left, Robert.
Robert: A man can change, can't he?
Joyce: Can he?
Robert: We could see, maybe find out. One dinner. Please?
Robert: Why not? What'll it hurt?
Joyce: I just can't.
Robert: Look. There's this nice little Italian place. It's about halfway between me and you, and next week…
Joyce: I'm getting married, Robert. I'm sorry.
Robert: No, no, that's fine. That's great. Congratulations. Bad timing on my part. Who is he?
Joyce: Just a guy, a dentist.
Joyce: Yeah, Robert.
Robert: Pretty giddy over the guy, I see.
Joyce: Look, I have to go.
Robert: I'm sorry. Look who's here. Hey, kid, come on over. Hey, kid.
Connor: Mom's getting married.
Robert: I heard.
Connor: To a dentist.
Robert: Just think of the savings. Right? Crowns, root canals.
Connor: Missed you at my party. I'm 18 now.
Robert: I'm sorry. I know.
Connor: I'm growing up.
Robert: I'm sorry, kid.
Connor: Thanks for all the money over the years. I bought a lot of beer with it.
Joyce: Connor, don't do this.
Connor: Oh, I'm sorry. I just have this little habit. You know, telling things the way it is. Like, Mom's getting married.
Joyce: Robert, he's just mad.
Robert: No, I don't blame him. That's fine. Look. It'd be best if I go.
Joyce: I guess so. Sorry about dinner.
Robert: Maybe in the next life. Congratulations. Be happy. Okay? [Walks away]
Connor: Okay, a dentist? That is so pathetic. No, no, wait. When's the wedding? Getting married? Mom, you lied. Why would you lie? What are you doing?
Joyce: I don't know.
Connor: Oh, sure. You're over him.
[End of skit]
Lord, we know it breaks your heart that any of us would live separate lives. It breaks your heart that we would be separated from you and because of our separation from you begin to act as folks who are totally inconsistent with your nature, totally inconsistent with being forgiving, grace-extending, humble-hearted.
You're desperate to bring us back first into relationship with you and then, through your healing of our hearts, freeing us from the fear and shame which rules so many of our lives to allow us to begin to love one another even as you have loved us, so that in the context of community, as you intended us to experience and live, we can begin to have life in the way you framed it for us, life that you've called abundant.
We realize that we do much to destroy that abundant life you've given us. We have chosen a way that seems right to us, and we have found that in the end it has been the way of death. So we look again this morning at your Word, and we are not surprised to find there that things we have chosen that look life-giving to us are things that you say, "Don't go there; it's the way of death," things you hate.
We are grateful this morning, Lord, as we look here that we find out that things you hate are things that are destructive to us and things you love are things that as we live in them will make it go well for us. What a great God we have, that the more we know of him, the more your ways prevail, the more your kingdom comes on this earth as it is in heaven, the more we will experience heaven on this earth.
I pray, Lord, that you would allow us to fight through the deception this world constantly floats before us and begin to see truth for what it is and that we would learn to hate what you hate and love what you love in response to your love for us. We pray this in Christ's name, amen.
We saw our two friends this morning work through the awkwardness of that separated, destroyed relationship. As we got to watch their pain with one another and the pain of their son and the pain of the destruction which comes, where they thought, nine years prior to that moment we observed, it would bring them greater joy, greater life, greater freedom, we see that looking back, like so many of us as we look back on choices to break off relationships with those we shared life with, the life we hoped for wasn't there.
We're in the middle of a little study of the book of Malachi. If you're a guest here today, Malachi is a book that is the last effort of God to communicate with people who he had chosen to reveal himself to in what we call our Old Testament. If you brought your Bible this morning, we invite you to turn to Malachi with us. If you don't have one, we'll turn there in a minute. We're using a little theme that God Is from Mars, We Are from Venus, as a way to kind of guide us through that book.
The reason we've chosen that is because there is a little trigger throughout this book, eight different times where conversations are held between God and the folks he's trying to reach out to where he says, "You don't love me" and the people respond, "What do you mean we don't love you?" There's such a disconnect between the God who has efforted a relationship to people and the people who are trying to respond to it that it's kind of like the book we've looked at, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. They're completely missing each other in their effort to communicate.
All through this book of Malachi, God has been saying, "You don't get it, and when you don't get it, it's going to cost you dearly. Not just eternally. Certainly it will there, but it's going to cost you now in the temporal sense. Too many people think of eternal life only in terms of the quantity of life we get at the end of life on this earth. While that is some aspect of eternal life, think of eternal as abundant, the life God intends us to have, the full life. It has a lot to do not just with the quantity but the quality of life we experience.
The way God had chosen to reveal himself to a watching world was to take a group of people who were not any better than any other group of people on the face of the earth and to reach out to them and develop a relationship with them, and in the context of a relationship with them he would give them insight into how they were made. He would speak truth into their life, divine truth that would allow them to walk as no other men had walked before them.
He would heal their hurts. He would take the scales off their eyes, and he would prosper them as they walked with him, so that other individuals on this earth who God also loved would come to this people and say, "What is the secret to the way you guys go through life that brings you such fulfillment, protection, safety, abundance, joy, and security, such peace, such love, such harmony in your land? What's the key?"
The Jewish people were to say, "It is not because we're better or more brilliant than you. It is because God in his greatness has shown us things we could never know on our own. We want to introduce you to this God, because he is not our God; he is your God. He is the one God, and he is desperate for you to know him so you can experience what we are experiencing in relationship with him."
But this group of people, Israel, consistently stiff-necked itself toward God. God made a consistent effort to pursue them again and again, offering to call them back and to put them back in a place where they could be a light to the world, a source of hope, and a kingdom of priests, people who would mediate and explain who God is so they could live in relationship with him and experience life as they wanted.
The book of Malachi is God's last effort to draw them back into a relationship with him before God introduced a new program to declare his greatness to the world, because this stiff-necked people would never get it. He wanted them to get it. He wanted them to be all he intended them to be as a nation, yet he was warning them severely in this book, "If you do not respond, there's going to be great consequence."
We find, in fact, that they did not respond and there was horrible consequence that continues even to this day for the Jewish people. God continues to pursue them and in his grace one day will break through to them, but you'll find out as you read the rest of your Scripture that it'll break through only in light of tremendous horrors, horrors that will make the Holocaust almost look like a hiccup on the landscape of world history.
God will bring them back, but this was his effort to bring them back then. Even as he longed for them to get it right so they could experience life as he intended, this book has application to those of us today who want to know God. He is desperate for us to get it right so we can be that source of salt and light to a watching world, so he can be revealed to the nations. Ultimately, it's about the glory of God and God letting himself be known.
People have asked consistently, "Why is God so concerned with his own glory? Is he insecure? Is he an egomaniac? Is he on some marketing blitz, that we would vote for him as the sovereign over the universe?" No. See, when God reveals his glory… You have to understand that everything about God is good and the more God's glory goes out, the more goodness goes out. The more we observe and live in relationship with the God who himself is glorious, the better it will be with us.
So he's desperate to reveal his glory, and he's desperate to reveal it, in this case, through a group of people who walk with him and acknowledge him. Now let me just lay out for you Malachi up to this point. We're going to pick up today in Malachi 2:10, and he's going to begin to deal with them in light of how they are failing in their relationship with one another. You'll find out that he says they're failing in their relationship with one another because they are ultimately rejecting their relationship with him.
In fact, in the New Testament, Jesus was approached. They said, "If we had to boil down all that the Old Testament said is what made us right in your eyes or that you call us to be as a people…" There were some 613 different laws God gave the nation of Israel to help them be set apart as a people. They said, "Which one of these 613 is the most important?" You can see in Matthew 22, this is the way Jesus responded.
He said, "You have to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind." He said, "This is the first and greatest commandment, but the second one is just like it. You have to love your neighbor as yourself." He said, "If you understand these two things, you'll know that all of the other commandments, all of the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments. If you get these right, you'll get everything right."
In Malachi, as he efforted to communicate to the people what they weren't getting right, from chapter 1, verse 1, to chapter 2, verse 9, he is talking about, by and large, the fact that they have failed to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Now in chapter 2, verse 10, he's going to start coming at them from another perspective.
He's going to say to them, "Here's the problem with you folks. This is why you're about to go into a time of great darkness as a people in isolation from me: because you have rejected who I am. You don't know what it means to love me." They responded back, "What do you mean we don't love you?" and he explained why he said, "You don't love me." He said, "You despise me." The people said, "What do you mean we despise you?" and he said, "I'm going to tell you why you despise me."
He's about to say, "Not only do you not love me and despise me, but the second problem I have with you is that you don't love one another, and I hate the fact that you don't love one another. I hate the fact that you're abusive in relationship with one another. I hate the fact that you are destroying each other's lives instead of being a blessing in each other's lives as I created you to be."
He's trying to call them to a place where they would repent, change the way they lived life so God could use them to declare his glory so that others could live in relationship with this God who is good. "There is a way which seems right to man, but in the end it is the way of death." It looks like, many times, that what God calls us to would imprison us and strip us from freedom and, therefore, strip us from fun, but what we don't understand is that our freedom to do what we want to do is not joined with a nature which always chooses what is best for us.
We always can choose what we think will be best for us, but the Scripture says, "Look, man. There is a way which seems right to you, a welling up of emotion or passion that seems right to you if you will just let it go, but in the end it's going to lead you not to life but to death. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge me, and it will be well with you," or if you will, "I will make your path straight."
Now in Malachi, chapter 2, I want you to look specifically at a little verse right here. We'll start and look at verse 13, because this is the little trigger we were talking about that God uses in this particular section to talk about what they don't get. He says, "This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because [you say] He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand.""Yet you say, 'Why don't you accept what we're offering you?'"
Let me explain this to you. What's going on here in Malachi is God is saying, "Look, you guys are crying your little hearts out for me." In the vernacular of our day, "You go to church every Sunday. You're cutting your check every week. You're plugging into your place of service. You're checking 'Christian' on your census box.
You're wearing your little jewelry that has crosses on it, and by and large, you would consider yourself my people, yet you cry out, 'Why have you left us? Why is that peace, that life that should be associated with life with God not really something we're experiencing?' In fact, you're starting to shake your fists at me and saying I'm not keeping up my end of the bargain."
So he looked at these people who were saying this and said, "I'm going to explain to you why it is as you say. It's not because I've not kept up my end of the deal. It's because you don't understand that as you feign devotion to me through cultural and corporate religious activities, I am not impressed when you live disjointed lives, lives that are not consistent with what a follower of Jehovah (in the Old Testament), a follower of Christ (in the New Testament) looks like. You don't love me, and that is most evidenced in the fact that you don't love one another."
That's the case God is about to make to communicate to these people who just don't get it that God wants them to engage with him and live in a faith relationship that is evidenced in the fruit and the way we love and serve one another. Specifically, he's going to use an illustration today which involves the practice in that culture of being flippant in their covenant relationships with one another.
I'm going to talk today about marriage and why God hates us to have a low view of marriage. What you really need to understand this section of Malachi is saying is that God has a low view of anybody who has a low view of the value of other people. They treat them as shoes: they try them on and throw them away when they get tired of them. Or they treat them like clothes: when they become out of fashion or passé, they just move on.
God says, "That is not the way you should treat one another, specifically in the ultimate human relationship where you stand before me and say, 'This is a gift from God, that he has brought me together with this person, that together we might mirror his image to a world he is desperate to reveal his glory to; that together we might manage our world in a way that reflects his goodness over all the earth; that together we might come together and produce a godly offspring that walks with God as we do; that together we might sharpen each other and complete each other in a way that would make us both more into the image of who God created us to be; that together we might show what unconditional love and a right response to that unconditional love looks like.'"
When God takes two people and puts them together and before others they say, "Before God we join our lives together until the grave," he says, "You disregard those relationships especially, and I have a serious problem with it." Now let me take you back to the beginning of this little section, Malachi 2:10. As Malachi communicates for the Lord, he says to the people, "Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us?" In other words, he's saying, "Didn't God make the male and the female?"
"Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?" In other words, God has called us to be in a relationship with him, and he has told us from the beginning that the way we treat one another has a lot to say about what our relationship with him is really like.
He's saying, "Don't you understand when you are flippant and inconsiderate in your care for other people that I take notice of that? Don't you know that the same God who made you and loves you and calls you blessed considers that other person valuable? When you're abusive toward them from your position of strength or power, I take note of that. Don't think this is going to continue without consequence in your life."
He goes on to say in verse 11, as an illustration, "Judah has dealt treacherously, and an 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." Which is to say that many of the men who were in Israel that day, when they came back to the land God had given them, that land was full of people who didn't know God.
When the Jews were called by God and delivered from Egypt to come into the land that was flowing with milk and honey, they were told to be an instrument of God as a picture of God's ultimate judgment on the earth one day when he would call everyone into account who does not live in relationship with him. He used Israel in that moment in history to go in and drive out seven nations that were greater in number and strength than they were and to annihilate them completely as a sign of judgment and ultimate judgment that would one day come.
God, who can use whatever he wants to use as an instrument of his divine justice and retribution, had in that moment of history sovereignly called Israel to be an individual nation that would execute justice. The Scriptures tell us for hundreds of years, tens of generations, groups of people had continually rebelled against God, and he said, "Their day of judgment has now arrived. Israel, I'm going to use you," in the way that prior to that he had used water, in the way that in the future he will use other means to bring this earth to a place of ultimate justice.
In that day and age, he had used Israel with a group of people, but Israel wasn't faithful in executing that justice, so a number of those tribes continued to thrive in that region. Because they were disobedient to what God called them to do, you'll find out that those tribes infiltrated Israel and taught them their rebellious ways.
In fact, there were some beautiful women from these other nations who believed other things about life and what was right and who had other practices of worship and gods they had created in their own making. Not that God had crashed into their world and revealed himself to them, but men who God had set eternity in their hearts had invented a god when they could not have a relationship with God on their own.
So these other nations had come up with other theories about how the earth had come into existence and about how they would prosper on the earth. One of them included the practice of what is called sympathetic magic. When you read your Old Testament, you will find the word Baal a lot. Baal is just an ancient word for lord. Baal worship involved this thing called temple prostitution. It involved temple prostitution because they practiced this thing called sympathetic magic, or worship.
Basically, Baal worship was the idea that Baal, the god of the sky, the lord of the heavens, would have relations with Anat. Sometimes you'd see her name as Asherah. Every season, Baal would copulate, and his semen would fall on the earth. It would be rain. Anat, the god of this earth, would take that seed into her womb, the earth, and it would cause the seed which was there to germinate, take root, and spring forth and give you crops.
To live, you would eat the offspring of Baal and Anat. So since you ate, if you will, the children of the gods, the way you worshiped those gods and the way you understood their pain to give you life is that you would offer your own children as a sacrifice for them. In their fallenness, they believed this was the way to keep the harvest plentiful.
One of the ways they worshiped was by having individuals whose entire life was committed to temple prostitution. You would go to the temple of Baal, the temple of Asherah, and you would go to the high places on the mountains, and you would have relations with these goddesses, these priests and priestesses of Baal and Asherah, and then those children, if they did come, and some of yours would be offered in the fire as a sacrifice. You eat their offspring; you give them yours.
Clearly, this was offensive to God. What happened is that some of these women who believed this were rather attractive, so when the Jewish men would go and look for a wife or if they had a wife they got tired of, they would sometimes see these other women, and they would then join themselves to these other women in a covenant relationship, leaving the wife of their youth.
What God is saying here is, "You wonder why there's a broken relationship between you and me, Israel? Part of it is because, first of all, you don't love me. You're worshiping other gods. You are combining other world beliefs with mine. You still come to church, or in this case, you still come to the temple and offer your sacrifices, but you do that while you go to the high places and offer sacrifices to Baal and Asherah. I don't want that."
What God is saying in this first part is, "Ninety-five percent devotion to me is a 100 percent mistake. I'm not looking for a nation that will show up at certain times and do certain things, but 95 percent devotion to me is 100 percent off what I am looking for. I want people whose hearts are fully committed to mine. Not when it's convenient, not when it'll get you favor with those you're around, but people who understand that I'm a God who is good and cling to me and walk with me by faith."
Now this is what he says. He continues. Verse 12: "As for the man who does this, may the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob everyone who awakes and answers…" Which was just a metaphorical way of saying anybody who's alive, anybody who awakes and answers the call of God. "…or who presents an offering to the Lord of hosts."
In other words, if you are going to be a person who doesn't really walk with God and yet you feign relationship with God by going to worship services, by having certain symbols put on your tombstone when it comes to be your time to move forward, God says, "That does not impress me. I don't want you just to make me a God of convenience or a God of your culture. I want you to walk with me and to know me. Then you cry out why I'm not blessing you the way I promised you I would bless you if you were my people. The answer is because you don't get it in relationship to me."
He's going to give another illustration right now that has a direct corollary to this earlier abandonment I just described. Here it comes. "You say, 'For what reason do you not bless us, Lord?'" Verse 14: "Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so [has treated their wife treacherously] who has a remnant of the Spirit."
He said, "If you knew me, you would never treat your wives the way you do. You wouldn't be so treacherous toward them. You wouldn't be so insensitive. You wouldn't be so callous. You wouldn't be so mean-spirited. You wouldn't be so indifferent toward them. You would love them like you love yourself. You would never let isolation come between you. You would never let anger and bitterness reside in her heart. You would never not cherish her and value her if you loved her the way I've called you to love her. Anybody who has any remnant of my Spirit wouldn't treat women the way you treat women."
"And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring?" In reference to God, it says, "How did God treat you as he was seeking to bring you into relationship with him? He loved you. He pursued you. He was gracious toward you. He forgave you. He initiated with you. He gave you second chances, third chances, fourth chances. He cherished you and valued you and honored you, yet there is nothing in you that is consistent with how God pursued you in the way you treat those who are near you."
So he says, "Take heed then to your spirit, and [do not] deal treacherously against the wife of your youth." Now he's going to say something that shouldn't surprise any of us. I'm going to change it just a little bit so you can understand the bigger picture of what he's saying, and then I'll get specific with this application to that culture and certainly an application to ours.
"For I hate it when one man is abusive to another man. I hate it when one individual breaks relationship with a friend. I hate it when you are flippant about how much another human being matters in life. I hate it when a woman gossips about another woman. I hate it when a man uses a female as an object of his pleasure. I hate it when you are callous in your treatment of and exploiting one another.
I hate it when in the supreme human relationship you say you will love each other for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health, that you will model Christ's love for the church and the church's response to that love, and then you quit. I hate it when you stay married and don't honor each other the way I intended two people to honor each other. I hate anything that destroys the love relationship I've called you two to experience so that you might have life, because I love you and I want you to experience life as I intended you to experience it." That's what he's saying in Malachi.
Do you know what's really interesting? I spent the last three weeks, if you haven't been here, talking about why marriage is such a big deal to God, and I made hopefully a pretty good case about why just purely from what we would call theological reasons, reasons that impact who God is and his purposes on the earth, marriage is a big deal to him. But do you know what's so interesting about why this verse shows up in our Bible? Do you know why the Bible says God hates divorce?
God hates divorce because he hates abuse. God hates it when we are abusive toward one another. God hates murder. God hates it when we call each other idiots. God hates it when we act toward each other with malice, when we steal from one another, when we lie about one another. God hates us not loving one another. Now listen. I, as a dad, tell my kids all the time… I get them together and go, "Do you know the greatest way you can love me?" We've done this enough now my kids can usually respond back to me.
Recently we had this conversation. They said, "For us to obey you, Dad." I go, "That's right. For you to obey me, but when you obey me, what do you think that looks like? What am I talking about? The greatest gift you can give me as a dad, the thing that would give me greater joy than anything else in the world is if you love one another, if you're kind to one another, if you play together, you serve one another, you help each other out, not tattle and destroy each other's lives, not try and make yourself better than the other person.
When I see you serving each other and when I see you, Ally, do things that are going to bring Kirby joy, that is the greatest way you can love me, because my entire goal is to serve Kirby and love Kirby in such a way that Kirby's life would be complete and secure and peaceful. So when I see you, Ally, joining me in that effort, I go, 'Oh man! How much does that girl love me to join me in my purposes in caring for another person I love so dearly.'"
There is no greater gift a child can give to a parent than to love deeply someone else they love. This is really what the Scriptures are saying. "Do you love me? You can't say you love me and not love other people." It is impossible to be a follower of Christ and not love as he loves, see as he saw, do as he did, feel compassion as he felt compassion, and serve as he served. You can't do it. This is what he's saying here in Malachi.
In fact, he says, "For I hate divorce, and the one who covers his garment this way with wrong is an individual I'm going to deal with." To cover somebody with your garment was an ancient way of saying to betroth yourself to somebody or to take them as a covenant partner. It was a symbolic picture. "When I wrap you in my cloak, I will take you as a mother hen does under her wings." To put a cloak on somebody, as Boaz did Ruth, was to say, "You are now mine. I will care for you. I will love you."
To cover a garment with wrong is like to cover a garment with blood. It would be like the woman who I said I would care for, protect, value, cherish, and nourish I bludgeon to death, so instead of being secure in that cloak, she bleeds to death in it. Or I have my own garment on, and to exploit another person for my own selfish gain, in the midst of murdering them to get something they have that I want, my own garment is covered with blood.
The idea is when you cover your garment with wrong, a bloody mess, you are labeled as a murderer, and God says, "I don't take much liking to murderers. When people take that which I value, the highest form of my creation, and treat it poorly, they will have to do business with me." That's Malachi. Malachi is making an effort to tell this group of people why they are going to come into confrontation with God. He says, "It's because you don't love each other this way."
Now how does this relate specifically to the issue of divorce today? What about our relationships with one another? What about our marriages? What do you think God thinks about marriage for us today? Well, I believe the reason marriages in our country are struggling the way they are… You probably don't need to see statistics, but I'm going to show them to you anyway. This has been the progression of what our country has done over the last 70 years. Actually, I'm just going to show you 50 of those 70 years of what has happened with our view of marriage.
In the 1920s, one out of every seven marriages ended in divorce. In the 1940s, as you can see, one out of every six. Just 20 years later, we were up to 25 percent of marriages, until 1972, one out of three marriages, and then five years later after that and consistently since then, 50 percent of all marriages end up with couples, if you will, despising one another and not pursuing one another in love.
What is really going on here is we are a nation, at this point, that as an ongoing practice, just in the context of a marriage relationship, 50 percent of the time flies right in the face of how God says we should treat each other. I'm going to make this even worse, because I will tell you of the 50 percent of the marriages that make it, a large percentage of those, if not a majority of those, though they don't end up divorcing, end up having a marriage which in and of itself is also an affront to God.
God doesn't just hate divorce. There are many other things God hates, and he hates it when we do not cherish and honor and value one another. I wouldn't just hate it if my kids went down to the court and said, "I want to divorce myself, change my name. I want to do everything I can to legally not be a part of the Wagner family."
Probably, there's not a single person in this room who has had a sibling legally seek to separate themselves from you, but there are folks thick through this room who have siblings they won't speak to this day, who are abusive toward those siblings specifically, who are mean-spirited toward those siblings, who have a broken relationship, which is a grievance to God.
So whether or not the relationship stands legally, even with the 50 percent of marriages that make it, God goes, "I am deeply grieved that you do not love one another as I have intended you to love one another." Then you step outside the role of marriage, and you just look at the way we go through life as neighbors, as friends, as roommates, as individuals who date and break up, and God says, "I hate people who are abusive, who cover relationships with wrong with one another."
That's the context, ultimately, of Malachi. It's much bigger than marriage, but it's especially highlighted in marriage. Marriage, as we've talked about, is God's provision to allow us to experience the commitment, the community, the care, the love he intended for us to have. When we walk all over that, we don't just walk on God's gift to us; we also walk on what is the foundation that God says a healthy society is built on.
You look quickly as you go through the Scriptures at individuals who have rebelled against God's institution of marriage. Sodom and Gomorrah. Whatever else was going on there, you can tell they did not have a high view of what a one-man, one-woman relationship was to God. They looked to have all other kinds of relationships. We know Sodom and Gomorrah have become a metaphor for what happens to a nation that rejects God's view of a right relationship between a man and a woman.
You find that David, one of the greatest kings in the history of Israel, when he violated God's marriage covenant, never recovered from it. Solomon, his son, the wisest man who ever lived… He had all the wisdom in the world, but when he violated God's high view of marriage in the face of all revelation and wisdom, he never recovered from it.
You look at Rome. People say Rome wasn't built in a day and it wasn't destroyed in a day, but Rome was destroyed from within. It crumbled from within. The breakdown of the societal moorings which held it together and made it great. You look at our country, and for the first 150 years, there was a strong, strong ethic to hold to God's view of how a man and a woman relate.
Did we miss it in relationship to how we treat one another? For a long time. We covered our brethren from Africa with a garment of violence, and it was an abomination to God. In the same way that we abused individuals in the context of slavery and that was an abomination to God and we as a nation dealt with that, I believe we have to come back and take a strong look at the way we're dealing in our relationships one with another.
God will not let a nation that scoffs at a right relationship with each other prosper for very long and even exist for very long. Marriage becomes, if you will, an exclamation point, a highlighted example of a nation turning its back on God. When you have a high rate of divorce, a high rate of cohabitation, a high rate of immorality and infidelity, you have a nation that is showing its hand.
No matter what they say on their census forms, no matter what they say when they're quizzed by a pollster, God is saying, "Your lack of love and care for one another in relationship with each other as you date, as you room together, as you live together, as you stand before an audience and say, 'We will yoke together' shows your hand." There is always a consequence to that.
So what do we do? What God has called us to be is a group of folks who are humble, gentle, patient, showing forbearance to one another, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in a bond of peace toward one another, in keeping with our profession that we know him and love him. Let me just spell this out as we look to wrap this simple lesson up today. It's very, very simple. God hates divorce. That shouldn't surprise any of us based on what I've said these last three weeks or the context of what this means in this little section of Scripture.
Not only does God hate divorce. Let me make it very clear before I go forward. God hates divorce, but he also hates a lot of other things. Let me just show you in Proverbs 6. "There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven…haughty eyes…" The way we look at each other. "I'm better than you" or "I don't need you" or "I don't need God." "…a lying tongue…""I'll say whatever I need to say for my own good, no matter what it costs other people."
"…hands that kill the innocent…" There's that idea of covering a garment with violence again. "…a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord…" Or a gossip, a slanderer. God says, "I hate those things." Do you see how all of those things that God hates have to do with that which destroys the relationship of his children one with another? Because God loves us, and he sees us being destructive toward one another, and he says, "Wait a minute. You can't tell me you love me and be destructive toward one another."
Look at what else he hates. In Deuteronomy 16 he says, "And never set up sacred pillars for worship, for the Lord your God hates them." This is the idea: "Don't come to my temple and yet really worship something else. Don't be idolatrous. Don't be syncretistic." In other words, "Don't kind of take a little bit of me and a little bit of what the world says is right and try and blend them together."
Psalm 11 says, "The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence." Or who doesn't mind harm happening to other people. Psalm 26: "I hate the gatherings of those who do evil…" Evil in all forms. Evil is not just defined by a fracture in a marriage relationship. We know evil when we see it. Then it says this, three little verses that go together in Isaiah: "I hate all your festivals and sacrifices. I can't stand the sight of them. I hate dead worship," if you will, "led and participated in by hypocrites."
Jeremiah 44: "This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You saw what I did to Jerusalem and all the towns of Judah. They now lie in ruins and no one lives in them. Because of all their wickedness, my anger rose high against them. They burned incense and worshiped other gods—gods that neither they nor you nor any of your ancestors had ever known.
Again and again I sent my servants, the prophets, to plead with them, 'Don't do these horrible things I hate so much.' But you chose to keep doing them, so it got to where," as it says in Amos, "I hate all your show and all your pretense. I wish…" This is what God is saying. "I wish y'all would have at least quit going to church and just been consistent with who you were, which is a group of people who really don't care about me, and that is evidenced by your lack of ultimate care and love for each other."
It's a sin of omission as much as a sin of commission. You cannot just live in a tolerable relationship with one another and not divorce and honor God. God wants us to be active in loving one another. This is one of the keys to the Golden Rule. Confucius, long before Jesus, said, "Don't do to others what you don't want others to do to you." Jesus came along and said, "Wrong. Do to others as you want people to do to you." Do you see the difference?
Jesus didn't say, "Just don't go slap somebody upside the head with a baseball bat, and you'll be okay with me." Jesus said, "You look at what your brother needs and actively go provide it for them. Like you want people being attentive to you, I want you to be attentive to other people. It's not a matter of avoiding being evil to them; it's a matter of pursuing love for them." The Scriptures make it clear in the context of a marriage. "I want you to be active in the way you love and serve each other."
In the context of a friendship: "I want you to be caring and considerate of that other person. If you see them hurting and isolated, if you see them hurting your feelings… You want somebody to tell you if you're hurting their feelings so you can stop, so you go to them and you love them and tell them, even if they're going to get more angry at you and make it awkward for you. It's not about you; it's about them. You go love them. I hate people who say they love me and won't do that."
Zechariah 8 says, "Don't make evil plots to harm each other. Stop this habit of swearing to things that are false." In 1 John he says, in summary, "If anyone says, 'I am living in the light' but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in the darkness. Anyone who loves the other believer is living in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble. Anyone who hates a Christian brother or sister is living and walking in darkness. Such a person is lost, having been blinded by the darkness."
It is true, folks, that God hates divorce. It is true that God hates those of us who are destructive to each other in relationships, but let me make it very clear that God doesn't hate any one of us. God does not hate the divorcee; God hates divorce. God loves the sinner but hates the sin. He's calling those of us who are divorcing ourselves from right behavior to repent so we can be restored back into a relationship with him, so our hearts can be softened so we can begin to love one another in a way that gives us the life we've always longed for.
God knows what our sociologists are just beginning to find out. I have statistics I can tell you till I'm blue in the face that show how divorce is destructive to children, divorce is destructive to men, destructive to women, destructive to society. It has gotten to be where folks who do not view God's Word as authoritative or anything we should be submissive to will write books these days and tell you, "This is why I no longer counsel divorce except for extreme cases of abuse and hopelessness."
They say divorce consistently leaves people more depressed than they were when they were in a bad marriage, with lower self-esteem than they had when they were in a bad marriage, with no increased sense of personal autonomy or mastery just because they got out of a bad relationship. They found that those bad practices and habits, that depression chased them, and because of the stresses that come from that isolation that comes from that broken relationship, they, in fact, often increase.
They found that people who want to tell you this great divorce assumption that you only have two choices, that either you stay married and stay miserable or get divorced and find life, have not been dealing in truth with you. It goes against not just the Scripture's admonition; it goes against everything sociologists observe. What they're telling you is that God had a clue when he told us about the value of working to preserve relationships, and this trapdoor of life, which is called divorce and starting over again, is not such a sure thing.
God hates divorce because it takes us out of the holy refiner that is marriage that'll push us to the place of health he wants us to be; because it doesn't improve our ultimate condition; because it also causes huge cracks in the foundation God established to be a source of blessing for our human existence; because it devastates children, devastates men, devastates women, and devastates society, and it destroys the pictures God wants to use to reveal his goodness and glory to a world.
So what do you do? What I want to do in these next few minutes is walk you through a couple of simple things. What do you do if you're divorced and you have already made a decision to be in a place that you go, "I understand that God hates it. I hate it too. So what do I do if I've been divorced? Maybe I got divorced and I didn't care if God hated it, but now I do care that God hates it. Or I got divorced and I hated it just like God hated it. What do I do? What should I do? What's the best thing for me to do from this time forward?"
The Scriptures don't leave you out there to dry. Let me take you to Matthew, chapter 5, and remind you first of what it says in verse 21. He says, "You've heard the law of Moses." This is the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus is showing what sin is. We used to think sin was just murder, but he's now about to elevate it to another level. We used to think sin was just adultery, but prior to this he elevated it to a different level. It's looking at a woman with lust in our heart.
He says, "You've heard that Moses said, 'Don't commit murder or you're going to be subject to judgment.' But I say if you're angry with someone you're subject to judgment, if you call someone so much as an idiot you are in danger of being brought before the high council, and if you curse someone you are in danger of the fires of hell." Well, hello, Jesus. This is what he says we should do in light of that.
He says, "In light of that, I want you to be thoughtful. If you're standing there before the altar in the temple… If you realize that that's my standard of holiness and you find yourself before me, worshiping me, telling me how much you love me, and you remember that you've broken relationship with somebody, then you stop what you're doing on that Sunday morning. You stop what you're doing at that Communion Table, and you make it job one to go and do everything you can do to own what you have done to hurt that other person.
As much as you are able, be at peace with that person. I won't hold you responsible for how that person responds. I won't hold you responsible for bringing back together what you may not be able to bring back together, but I want you to get that log out of your eye. I want you to go with sheets and reams of reasons that you know you harmed that relationship, that you increased the opportunity for that relationship to fail, and I want you to humble yourself and ask their forgiveness."
If you are already married to somebody else, what do you think God wants you to do? Do you think he wants you to break the marriage you're in and go back and remarry somebody else who you previously divorced? Of course not. In fact, in Deuteronomy 24 he says that's an abomination. It can't happen. It should never happen. But what you need to do is you need to get on your face before the Lord. You need to write a letter. You need to own everything you did that brought about consequence in those other people's lives.
I don't care if you're the person who's 5 percent at fault and the other person is at 95 percent and they never touch the 95 percent they contributed to the problem. God says you own your 5 percent 100 percent, and you do everything you can to own what you did. You ask forgiveness from Christ. You ask their forgiveness. You do everything you can do to make their life tolerable at that moment.
You don't fight them for every nickel and dime. You do everything you can to show them you're taking responsibility for the fact that you brought violence into their life. You don't try and navigate those waters on your own. You ask others to come around you. It's not loving to let an angry spouse exploit you and abuse you, because God holds them into account for that.
What you need to do is get around some other folks who can say, "Okay, this is a reasonable way to love this person. This is a reasonable way to do all you can to make restitution for what you brought into that relationship wherever it is at that moment." God says you do everything you can to own what you did and ask their forgiveness. You write a letter. You talk to those kids. You own it. You tell them you've seen the light, and as much as you are able, you reconcile.
Now what do you do if you're in a marriage right now that's broken, if you're in an abusive relationship? What does Christ have you do then? You're not already a divorced person, but you're in a relationship that you go, "I hope it ends that way soon, because this is, frankly, killing me." The Scriptures also give you instruction.
In Matthew 18, this is what it says. If you're in a relationship with somebody and they've hurt you or you've hurt them, it says you should go privately and point out that fault. If the other person listens to how they've hurt you and confesses how they've hurt you, you've won that person back, but if they don't… It doesn't say quit and go, "There, I've told you, and I'm out of here."
It says you go, you take one or two other witnesses with you, and you go back again, so that everything you say about how that person is hurting you and being abusive might be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If that person still refuses to listen, then you increase the community and take it to the body of Christ that is around you.
Then if the church at that moment decides you are right and you're living with an abusive person who doesn't care that they're abusive, who's going to continue to be abusive, then and only then, in the context of appropriate progress, process, and time, do you begin to consider how you might treat that person differently.
It doesn't say if after 15 years you wake up and you're sick and tired of it, it doesn't say after one affair, it doesn't say after you finally get so hard in your heart you'll never let them back in that you should then move forward. No, you tend to your relationships. You keep short accounts. You own the fact that the reason your heart is so hard is that for the last 15 years you've let them walk over you and you have never loved them enough to tell them. You've never caused them to work through that pain with you.
You've never brought other people in and said, "This is our marriage. We're going to get naked with you. I'm going to tell you why I'm not sure I can stay in here. I don't want to stay in here. I know God does. I know he tells me I should honor this person, but I need help to honor this person, because they're hurting me." You say, "You know what? I need to ask your forgiveness, because I've let my heart get really hard toward you. It's so hard right now I'm not even sure I want to go back through this process with you one more time."
If you're in a relationship that is broken or abusive, what do you do? You work on it 24/7 and avail yourself to every resource God gives you in the context of the community of faith. You tell them how they've hurt you. You call them to repentance. You extend them forgiveness as God extends you forgiveness in Christ, and you work it out with other believers as best you can. If it continues to be abusive, then there is another scenario, but that is way down the road.
If we walk through Matthew 18, I will tell you, we wouldn't get there half the time. We have relationships in this church all the time where people get crossways with one another, and we find that when we live the way God wants us to live, we still hurt each other, but we work through it, we extend each other grace, we offer forgiveness, and we make our way down the way.
Let me make it very clear: God does not want you to stay in an abusive relationship. You need to get out of your mind that you only have the option of staying in a miserable relationship and continuing to be abused or get divorced. Those are not the only two options. The Scriptures are telling us to make sure we go through the process before we deal with the problem in a way that seems right to us but in the end brings death to children, men, women, and society.
There is no question that sometimes divorce is absolutely unavoidable, but it shouldn't be the first card played out of the deck. It should be something that is done only in light of garments that are consistently being covered with wrong, and everybody should see it, not just you alone. One last question. What do you do if you don't want your marriage to drift into isolation that leads you to divorce? What do you do then? That's what we spend an entire week on next week. Let's pray.
Father, we want to end today by not focusing on so much what you hate, but we want to focus now with a time of worship with who you are and the fact that even though we are covering our garments with wrong in the way we are abusive in our relationships with one another, the way we've been selfish, the way we've been lazy, the way we have been inactive, indifferent, we can still find a wonderful, merciful Savior who when we confess our sins forgives us our transgressions, justifies us, and allows us to be restored into relationship with him where our hearts that are filled with hardness are softened and our hearts that are filled with selfish indulgence are transformed into being others-centered hearts where we begin to love each other, forgive each other, be gentle toward one another, show forbearance to one another in patience, and are diligent to preserve the unity which you've called us to live in with one another.
We know, Lord, that only a wonderful, merciful Savior could take people who bring a breach into relationships and cause us to be peacemakers and healers. Lord, we need you to do that, because there's nothing in our flesh that wants to. We have felt like we have been so unjustly treated by others sometimes that we're entitled to hate, and then we are reminded of your example and of your mercy toward us who have been consistently rebellious toward you and yet you initiate with again and again and again and again.
So we are thankful that those of us who are sinners find a wonderful, merciful Savior, and as we worship and sing about how you are that, we ask, Lord, that you would make us more wonderful in our own mercy, in our own grace, in our own commitment to each other, in keeping with people who are conformed to your image. Would you do that as we worship you now?
When we survey that wondrous cross, as it says, on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and I pour contempt on all my pride…all my pride that says, "I cannot go back to that person again and tell them I'm wrong when I feel like they're much more wrong than I am."
That other person has a God who will do work in their heart. Let God do work in your heart. I pray that word we just sang, that because of the cross… When we think, "I can't love again," think of the cross. God demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were still abusive toward him in our covenant relationship, Christ died for us.
He said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Even as I have loved you, that's how you should love one another. In light of the cross, pour contempt on your pride. Leave your offering here at the altar and go reconcile with your brother, and then return, and I will accept your offer of sacrifice. Be tenderhearted, kind toward one another, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you."
Divorce is there, the Scripture says, because of hard-heartedness and sin. The cross is there because of hard-heartedness and sin. If you, in the midst of your divorce, come to the cross, return to the one you have divorced and love them like you've been to that cross, that's what marks you as a follower.
When it comes to communication, men and women often struggle to understand one another. Even though we care, at times we just can't make sense of what's being said. In the same way, the nation of Israel misunderstood what a relationship with God should look like, even though He repeatedly revealed His heart to them. And even today, churches and followers of Christ miss what He's trying to say. In "God is from Mars, We are from Venus", you'll see God's effort to clearly communicate what a vital, abundant relationship with Him entails as expressed in the book of Malachi. You can learn volumes from this small book that caps off the Old Testament as you consider who God is, who we are, and what it takes to live in right relationship with Him.This series includes the 5-part sub-series on marriage entitled "Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God".