Malachi 2:1−16 comment (0)
June 7, 2012
By Kenneth B.E. Roxburgh
Related Scripture: Malachi 2:1-16
Bible Studies for Life
Chair and Armstrong Professor of Religion, Samford University
Do You Honor Your Commitments?
In a book that analyzes the modern world, Craig Gay suggests that the essence of worldliness is not to be found in personal morality but rather “going about our daily business in the world without giving much thought to God.” As such, the secularism of our society has led to the “eclipse of God” within our lives and we are more interested in the momentary illusion of personal well-being than in a hunger and thirst for God and His righteousness.
Commitment to God-Given Responsibilities (1−9)
Malachi calls the priests and people of Israel to consider their covenant relationship with God, which is the basis of real religion. Covenant is essential in Malachi: our relationship with God is grounded in His grace but calls for a response of gratitude from His people. God’s desire in entering into relationship with sinful humanity was to give us “life and well-being” which called for a life of “integrity and uprightness.” Tragically the priests “turned aside,” causing the people to “stumble” and fall into sin. Unlike Enoch, the priests were no longer walking in fellowship with God. Since they despised God and His ways, God would despise them and they would be exposed as spiritual frauds in front of the people.
For Malachi the responsibility of a leader is to teach future generations, to be faithful custodians of spiritual knowledge. This does not mean we are to fail to communicate the message of God to our generation creatively, but the message which we tell is the same “old, old story of the love of God for the world.” Malachi continues to bring a challenge to teachers of Baptist Sunday School classes to “rightly discern the word of truth.”
Commitment to Others and to God (10−12)
One of the issues Malachi felt the religious teachers of his generation had missed was the problem of Jews marrying unbelievers. He draws a parallel between this manifestation of breaking covenant and the more serious breaking of their covenant relationship with God. They had profaned the sanctuary of God by associating with other religions and not worshiping Him in purity and holiness. The key word which Malachi emphasizes over and over again is “unfaithfulness.” He contrasts our unfaithfulness with God’s constant love as a father to His children.
Commitment to Family Life (13−16)
In the context of North America where faithfulness to marriage is continually being undermined, these verses are not intended to bring a sense of condemnation into the lives of those who have passed through the trauma of divorce but to encourage all of us to take the vows of a wedding ceremony seriously. Ideas of fidelity, commitment and steadfastness are never to be taken for granted or minimized. As churches we are called to seek practical ways in which we can affirm, strengthen and support marriages in the 21st century.
Malachi stresses that marriage is primarily to be viewed as a covenant, not merely a legal contract. A contract focuses on rights and responsibilities, which are important in their proper place. But a covenant relationship reminds us of the unending love of God for His people. As Hosea reminds us, God’s love as a husband for his wife brings Him heartache when the relationship is broken, but God tells Hosea to mirror God’s love for Israel by going back and loving his adulterous wife once again. Covenant love is reciprocal, and although the Scriptures teach us that divorce is permissible in certain circumstances it is never to be viewed as God’s best for His children.
We are called to ground all our relationships on God’s commitment to us. Malachi appears to link the scandal of prophets who do not live with integrity to a people who turn their back on God’s teaching. Worship that has become a burden to bear rather than a response of joy and thankfulness has left the people of God undernourished spiritually, with little or no resources to live the Christian life according to the ways of the Spirit. Thus the prophet calls the people back to God and back to one another to live as faithful children of an all-forgiving father.