Agonizomai: Malachi 2:14-15 - Faith, Marriage and Fruit

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Malachi 2:14-15 - Faith, Marriage and Fruit

Malachi 2:14-15 - Faith, Marriage and Fruit

Malachi 2:14-15 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. 15 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.

Why does God not regard the offerings? Asked and answered, really. A more foundational question might be to wonder how this "regard" was to be known as having been given or not? What clue, what sign, what outcome did Israelites expect to see that would tell them, that would assure them that God had regard for their offering? Everything imaginable could be put here. Freedom from guilt? - but people can fool themselves. Answered prayer? - but so often God delays or says no. Fire from heaven upon the sacrifice? - but that was not the norm. So how did they know when God had accepted or rejected their offering?

Well, that they knew, or thought they knew is plain from the text. How does any of us know that God is propitious? He speaks peace to our hearts. Sometimes we must seek for a long time and sometimes we can be assured in an instant. But it is God Who speaks the peace. Even under the Old Covenant it was by faith that the sacrifices were offered up, because the blood of bulls and rams was known to have no power or to give any true pleasure to God. The hope was always in God to provide the way by which true peace with Him could be known. The true remnant in every age understood this in some way. Even those at the beginning, who had little of the light that progressed in successive revelation, believed God sufficient to obey, though not seeing afar off.

And so we Christians know that God is propitiated because we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ - the Messiah - the Lamb of God slain for the reconciliation of His elect people to God. There is salvation in no other name. In Him all the promises of God (to His people) are yea and amen. The shadow was given and the reality has come. His life and work are foolishness to the unregenerate heart, but the wisdom of God to we who are being saved. So, quite simply, we know because God says He is at peace with us and He points to the cross of Christ. Any and all who will believe that in Christ crucified God has put away their sin will be saved. There will be, there can be, no other "proof." And God gives to His people the faith to believe and to trust in Him to the end. The work of God is to believe in the One Whom He has sent. {Joh 6:29}

Jesus Christ crucified, dead and risen is the evidence because He is the offering and there can be no other. And He is to be received in all the fullness of His life, death, resurrection, righteousness and acceptance with God, through faith alone. The shadow is fulfilled and the reality is come.

So why does God not accept the offerings of the Israelites? How do they know the offering is not accepted? Because God has not spoken peace to their hearts on account of the fact that the offering was not made through faith in God alone to provide forgiveness by grace. To them it was a promise of provision to come - but it was always to be God’s righteousness and not the worth of their offerings. Their offerings were an acceptable symbol of what was to come, but their faith was to be in God, not themselves.

And it is clear that by this time there was not much faith left in Israel. When the Son of Man comes again, will He find faith on the earth? Or will the professing church have fared about as well as professing Israel? God will regard the faith of His people because, by it, they trust in Him alone. But the men of Israel in the time of Malachi were trusting only in their lustful passions for the riches and attractions of this passing world.

Cast-off wives whose first bloom of womanhood had given way to a maturer look - whose faces and blandishments had become "familiar" and mundane - these were readily discarded for others who were either younger or who provided advantage through marriage alliance, even with Gentiles. Worldliness. Unfaithfulness. Unsteadfastness. Their covenant breaking hearts towards God were evidenced in their covenant breaking attitudes towards marriage and the purity of the nation.

As an aside it should be noted once more that God most certainly brought into Israel Gentile women like Rahab and Ruth - but they were the exception designed to show either God’s sovereign election or the primacy of faith over even nationality. Nevertheless, Israel was forbidden to intermarry with those outside the faith - the Hebrew religion of serving Yahweh.

Israel whored after the world and simply relegated God to a position in their hearts that He will never take. He is a jealous God and there must be no other gods before Him. He will not come in second best. And He will either chasten or disregard those whose practice reflects this. And, to one extent or another, idolatry governs or taints the attitude of every Jew and Gentile - and every saint among them.

Marriage was a covenant relationship. Jesus said that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of the people’s hearts. Moses - not God. God does not tolerate evil; He forbears until He deals with it. God is infinitely intolerant of evil. God exhorts us to hate every false way {Ps 119:104} because He hates all doers of iniquity; not just the sin, but the sinner also. {Ps 5:4-5 Pr 6:16-19} True, the children of God who walk by faith in His righteousness still sin - but they hate to do so and they rely upon the grace and mercy of God to reconcile His hatred and His love. In setting His love upon His elect before the foundation of the world He also slew Christ from before the foundation of the world, so that His holy hatred and His unfathomable love could be reconciled to the praise of His glory.

Union is God’s means of intimacy and commitment. It is an expression of faithfulness, steadfastness and the sort of self-denial that rejoices. Not the sort that self-righteously points to what it must give up, but the sort that sees that it gains Christ by honouring God. Again it is a matter of the focus of the heart. What did the Israelite hearts dwell on? Their own ends. What does God want us to dwell on? Him. And in marriage the dwelling on God is through the obedience of faith from the heart in steadfastly clinging to the one with whom there is union through thick and thin until the end.

The wonderful part is that the union with God Himself, which the saints have in Christ, is through thick and thin until the end - but with God the end is eternity. We have eternal life by our union with Him. We might stumble, but He is true.

It is strange that the God, Who can raise up children to Abraham from the very stones, nevertheless desires that His people, through faithfulness in marriage, raise up godly offspring. I must constantly remind myself that word “godly” does not mean god-like, but god-seeking. Just the same as the children of a marriage where only one has come to faith are "holy" - that is, separated. God blesses the whole household because the faith of the believer sanctifies it all.

But I am persuaded that salvation is always a matter between God and the individual, and not a matter of the state of the parents, regardless of how sanctified they may be. It is God Who saves. It is His election and His calling. What god-seeking parents do is to submit themselves as instruments of God’s will through their own obedience, leaving the rest in His hands. Remember - many a godly parent has raised a child of hell, and the children of many hellish parents have been saved by God. The principle is not one of we influencing who will be saved, but of we obeying God regardless, and looking to Him for His faithfulness and mercy. To the extent that God has linked such obedience to His promises we may hope. But we may never presume, and even our children must not come between us and God. Absalom’s wickedness never caused David to stop loving God nor to stop deferring to His will.

God does desire god-seeking offspring from his children. And He has ordained that god-seeking parents will provide the structure and example by which children, growing up into adults, may be exhorted and guided in the right way. Note then, that it is the obedience of the parents that is the main subject of the verses - and not what may or may not be gained by them as a result. In a very loose way, the youths in the fiery furnace illustrate the attitude that obedience is obligatory whether or not God saves. {Da 3:17-18}

Within the context of historical Israel, God had promised faithfulness to a thousand generations of those that kept His covenant. Purity, devotedness, faithfulness and obedience were incumbent upon the people, and under such obedience God would bless their offspring; in fact it was in large part through their obedience that the offspring would be blessed by God. But, lest we forget, the condition of Israel throughout history was one of largely increasing apostasy with a decreasing remnant of the faithful. Israel failed, but God succeeded - THAT is the message.

Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon all who profess faith in God to strive for faithfulness in marriage so that God might produce god-seeking children through their obedience. Guarding the spirit is watching that the enemy does not slip into the thinking on this matter. It is abiding in His word and knowing His precepts - and in never thinking we stand, lest we fall.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I wish every married couple could listen to this. It made me cry for a few reasons. There is so much wisdom in the Word! Why are we so dumb as not to heed it? (rhetorical question- we are, after all, called sheep for more than one reason)

I liked the pictures you chose. I fully expected the mouse- over to reveal Ralph Kramden saying "To the moon, Alice, to the moon!"

4:46 pm  

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