In Malachi, God reminded this half-hearted nation that they are loved and chosen by God. But rather than whole hearted worship, they treated God with contempt. They offered God their worst when he gave his best. They were breaking faith with their faithful God, when you break faith with God you end up breaking faith with everybody else. Turn to verse 10
Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another? (NIV)
Why is it that if you pray regularly with your spouse you have a 1 in 1000 chance of divorce? Which are much better odds than 1 in 3. Why? because as you come together before your Father in heaven it impacts how you approach each other. For us Christians, in every relationship there is always 3 of us, you, the other person and Jesus.
We all have one God, creator and father whom we both will give an account. Blood may be thicker than water, but it’s the blood of Jesus that binds us together. If God is faithful to us he expects us to be faithful with others in all our dealings. Israel didn’t get that.
1. Marriage is a covenant.
Malachi 2 is one of the few places where marriage is referred to as a covenant, look at verse 14
You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner the wife of your marriage covenant. (NIV)
The marriage covenant speaks of promises made and kept. They are promises between equals, she is your partner or companion. They are promises made between one man and one woman. In a world of never ending options, God only give us one option for sexual expression and that is marriage. These promises are for an exclusive relationship that is life long. These promises are built on faithfulness. Which means, being trusthworthy is more important than being in love
What caught my eye when I chose my future wife Sandy.She was committed to serving Lord Jesus.
I could trust her! Why? Because I knew she would love Jesus more than me. Oh yes and she was very very cute.
Covenants are also promises that are formalised. This is the problem with de facto relationships; this social experiment that has been happening since the 60’s has caused so much grief. Marriage covenant stops the ambiguity. Each person is making clear promises before God and before human witnesses. And God says “I am a witness to those promises.” Everyone knows where they stand.
I remember one friend asking a couple who were living together "How long do you think you will be together?" At the same time, she said forever and he said 3 years. Defacto relationships are not clear on what is expected, that is why they break up more often and the children and, often the woman, also pay the price. Defacto relationships are more likely to break up in the first 4 years than a married one.
So Israel was half hearted with God which led to being hard hearted to their wives. They were breaking faith and marrying foreign women.
2. Marrying foreign women
Turn now to Malachi 2:11-12
Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord remove him from the tents of Jacob - even though he brings an offering to the Lord Almighty. (NIV)
The sin of marrying foreign wives is viewed as a destestable thing, it brings explusion from God's people, making the holy unholy. This is not a racist statement. It's not saying ethnically mixed marriages are evil. I’m in one, Sandy and I have no genetic overlap at all. Some of the great women of faith in the Old Testament were foreign women, like Ruth the moabitess who said to her Jewish mother in law “Your God will be my God, and your people my people”
But these foreign women in Malachi were daughters of foreign gods, the Jewish husbands were tempted to worship their wives gods. It was so serious that Ezra, the priest, directed the husbands to divorce their unbelieving foreign wives. Now in the New Testament the same principle operates but its applied differently. The principle is we are not to be bound with unbelievers, 2 Corinthians 6:14-15
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? …Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? (NIV)
This principle applies in marriage. That is why 1 Corinthians 7:39
A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. (NIV)
Notice the freedom for the widow or widower, they can marry a person who is 15 years older or 15 years younger. You can marry any person from any nation language or tribe, but he/she must belong to the Lord. It is why at MBM we don’t marry believers to unbelievers. It’s why we don’t let anyone who is dating an unbeliever teach God's word to children, youth or adults. The one big difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is this - In the Old Testament if you marry an unbeliever you must divorce them. In the New Testament if you’re married to an unbeliever you must NOT divorce them. See 1 Corinthians 7:12-13
To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her she must not divorce him. (NIV)
The marriage covenant remains intact, don’t leave your unbeliever partner in the hope that your partner might be saved. All of this means dating a non Christian is off limits. "Missionary dating" is out of bounds.
To be honest, when I became a Christian I didn’t need a bible verse to tell me it was foolish.
Seriously, it’s hard enough to be a Christian in the world than to have the world at home.
Don’t be naive to think: "I can change them"
One woman Julie said “I asked my mum, when I was young, why she had married my dad knowing that he was not a Christian and she said she had hoped that he would become one because he had been to Sunday school and knew a bit of the bible.”You marry a non-Christian you not only have to explain yourself to God but to your kids.
Don’t be naïve to think: "I’ll date them but I won't marry them."
I remember one lady from my first church, she dated an unbeliver for years but made it clear “I won't marry him unless he becomes a Christian” and to be fair, he always went to church and bible study with her. Of course she eventually did marry him and on their honeymoon she said “Darling, it's time to get ready for church” He said “Oh, I’m not going to church anymore.” When asked why? He said, “because for as long as you said no to marrying me, I thought there must be something in this Christianty, but now that you’ve said yes, it couldn’t be all that important.”
If you want to help a person take Jesus seriously then hold your ground and teach your kids the same. There are those of you who came to faith after you’re married, you have done nothing wrong.
There are those who choose to marry an unbeliever like my sister. Don’t justify your decision, just confess this as sin and know you’re forgiven.I wasn’t sure if I would attend my sisters wedding, I knew it was a sin and so did she. I decided I would attend but not participate. I also made it clear to my brother in law Michael that the moment they were married I will back this marriage 1000%.
Fast forward 18 years, I receive an email from sister:
“Hi Ray, I just want to let you know that 3 weeks ago on Easter Sunday I recommited my life to Christ. I now confess that when I married Michael, I sinned against God and I was wrong. Though I am thankful that even in my disobedience God gave me a loving non-Christian man.”
Clear ownership of sin. God’s grace means she is fully forgiven
I am aware this limits who you can date. So we need a healthy dating cutlure at MBM. Personally, I would not encourage dating until you hit 18. It will mostly lead to either broken hearts or sexual sin. You’re free to ask anyone who is an adult Christian but you are not free to manipulate and guilt people into dating you.
Please don't say “the Lord has told me you should go out with me”. Friends, if God told you he will tell them as well. If you’re asked out, you’re free to say ‘yes’ and you’re free to say ‘no’. If you decline just be gracious when you say 'no'. Thank them for considering you. If your invitation is rejected. Don’t be so precious and sulk or bag out the person who said ‘no’ to you.
If you use online dating, and many do here at MBM do:
Back to the text, verse 13-15
Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. (NIV)
They failed to see the obvious, God would treat these men with contempt if they kept treating their wives with contempt. They were abandoning the wives of their youth. Wives they promised to love and cherish for better or worse for as long as they both shall live. It was easy to divorce. The result was that their wife would fall into poverty, while they managed their pathetic midlife crisis in the arms of a brand new young wife who worshipped other gods.
When I think of marriage I now have 3 words - Safe, love and flourish
Our spouses have a right to:
That is a God given mandate to treat all humans especially our spouses. Safe not only from physical abuse but the threat of it. Safe emotionally psychologically, financially and spiritually, verse 16
The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. (NIV)
So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful. To divorce is to hate and to hate is tantamount to being violent. There is God given permission for divorce and re-marriage: When your spouse is unfaithful or when your spouse deserts you. You’re free to divorce and remarry, and functional desertion can take place in cases of abuse. Husband are to protect their wives, not make them feel unsafe.
Not just safe but loved. That is a Christian's responsiblity to their spouse. To love ones wife as Christ loved the church or to love and respect ones husband as to the Lord. But more than that.
My spouse is part of God's people so I am to help foster her God given gifts and not just mine.
Sandy does a lot of training around Australia. On a lot of Saturday nights I’m picking her up from the airport. I need to remember this is my privilege. I'm called to foster her gifts and not just mine.
There are 3 types of married relationships.
The first and second thrive in counselling - when people want to grow. The toxic relationship marked by abuse need more than counselling. I honour those who are working hard on their marriage. I plead with those who are struggling in marriage to seek help. One bad marriage is one too many.
I honour those who refuse to date non Christians or break up with the one you love because they don’t yet love Jesus.
Let's not break faith with our God by breaking faith in our relationships generally and in our marriage specifically.