MALACHI THE MARRIAGE COUNSELOR
This morning will be the second part in a four-part series entitled “God’s Message Through Malachi.” Do you ever wonder what’s in a name? I’ve always found it interesting how parents decide on the names of their children. Some parents name children after themselves or an extended family member. Some parents read through baby name books until something sounds just right. Some parents, like the Dugger family on TV, name all of their children with the same first letter. In the days of Malachi, your name often defined who you were. When you read through the book of Genesis, very often a baby’s name reflects how the mother or family felt at the time of birth. For instance, Leah was so happy at the birth of her firstborn son that she named him Reuben, which means “See, a son!” When her fourth son was born, she praised God, and named her son the Hebrew word for praise, which is “Judah.” There is a famous missionary from the 1800s whose name was Jonathan Goforth. I cannot think of a cooler name for a missionary than “Goforth.” Perhaps the only person who has a more suiting name than Jonathan Goforth is Malachi himself. Malachi literally means “my messenger.” This morning we are going to look at a part of Malachi chapter two where Malachi, who is God’s messenger, has an extremely important message for God’s people. So please open your Bibles to Malachi 2:11-16.
“Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth and offering unto the LORD of hosts. And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, “Wherefore?” Because the LORD has been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not He make one? Yet had He the residue of the Spirit. And wherefore one? That He might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”
Let us pray.
The title of my sermon this morning is, “Malachi the Marriage Counselor.” Malachi chapter two isn’t a typical passage for preaching on the importance of marriage, but there are several key pieces of advice here that every person needs to hear, whether you’ve been married for sixty years or whether they still think that girls are icky. In these six short verses Malachi crams in seven distinct principles on how to build a successful marriage. So this morning we are going to explore these seven principles, and learn how we can apply them to our own marriages.
Principle #1: Do not marry a person who is not a Christian. Let’s read verses eleven and twelve again together. “Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth and offering unto the LORD of hosts. Malachi in these verses told the children of Israel what not to do, and then told them what would happen if they disregarded the command. He said that the children of Israel had profaned the holiness of the LORD by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. And what is the consequence of someone that marries a daughter of a foreign god? Malachi says that he will be cut off from the tabernacle of Jacob, whether he be a master or a scholar. The phrase “master or a scholar” is a Hebrew idiom that most closely means “the teacher or the pupil.” The teacher is referring to the priests of the temple, and the pupil is referring to the people of the land. So Malachi is saying that whether you are a priest or a peasant, God will not tolerate you marrying someone who does not worship Him.
Now, we know that God can forgive us of any sin, and so if you are here today and your spouse does not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, do not give up! God can use you as a witness to your spouse, but I’m sure that you can testify that it isn’t easy. But why is it that God commanded the Israelites to not marry someone who did not serve Him? I’m sure that you’ve heard of the mighty King Solomon. King Solomon was the richest, most powerful ruler than Israel ever had. The kingdom of Israel was larger during Solomon’s reign than at any other point in history. Solomon was so rich that neighboring rulers would offer him their daughters for marriage as an assurance that Solomon would not attack them. Over the course of his forty year reign, Solomon accumulated more than 1,000 wives and concubines! But do you remember what happened near the end of King Solomon’s reign? The Bible says that the wives of Solomon began to turn his heart away from God, and Solomon began worshipping idols.
This is the exact reason why God does not want us marrying non-Christians. You’ve probably heard horror stories of a person who was drowning, and a second person who heroically swims out to save them. But in the drowning person’s desperation, they cling so tightly to the rescuer that they can no longer swim, and in the end they both drown. That is what it is like marrying a non-Christian. So many times people will say something to the effect of, “Well I’m going to date them to save them.” They have it all backwards. The Bible tells us that the saving must come before the dating.
Maybe you’re here and you’re saying, “Bro. Josh, I’ve already married someone who isn’t a Christian, so what do I do now?” Pray, pray, pray! Not only that, but your spouse has to be able to see, hear, and feel how Jesus Christ has transformed your life. Your situation is not easy, but with the help of God and this congregation, your spouse can come to Christ. But for those of you who are not married, Malachi strongly recommends that you not marry a person who is not a believer.
Principle #2: Do Not Be Faithless to Your Wife
Let’s read verses thirteen and the first half of verse fourteen. “And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, “Wherefore?” Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously:” Let’s stop right there. Malachi starts off this principle by saying that the people, specifically the men, are going into the temple and offering their sacrifices, but God is not hearing their prayers. He even says that the people are weeping at the altar, begging God for help. But is God answering their prayers? No. And why not? Because the people, again specifically the men, have betrayed their spouses and married someone else. Now this single principle of being faithful to your spouse is the foundation for the next five principles, so make sure you get this one down pat. We must be faithful to our spouses!
In a little bit we are going to talk about the rewards of being faithful, and the consequences of not being faithful, but just for a moment let’s decide exactly what it means to be faithful. If we were on Family Feud, and the topic was “top ways to be unfaithful to a spouse,” the big obvious number one answer would be “Adultery.” And this is exactly what the primary sin was in Malachi’s day. After the children of Israel were freed from slavery and returned to the Promised Land, they began to take wives from their pagan neighbors. That was the primary reason that Malachi gave them principle number one and told them not to take foreign wives. But the fact is, many of these men were already married, and they were divorcing their Jewish wives so that they could marry their pagan wives. And so when Malachi shares this principle with us, we have to know that he is telling us to not commit adultery.
But what exactly falls under the umbrella of adultery? Do you remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount? He said that whoever even looks at a woman with lust commits adultery with her in his heart. According to Jesus, it is sinful to even look at another woman with lust! Now that Malachi has given us this general rule of thumb, he is going to give us five pieces of advice that revolve around this principle.
Principle #3: Our Spouse is Supposed to be our Companion
Listen closely as I read the second half of verse fourteen. Yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. So if principle number two so what not to do, then principle three is what to do. Within the American family today, it is all too common for a husband and wife, even if they are faithful to each other, to neglect spending quality time with one another. Did you know that your spouse is supposed to be our best friend? You guys that aren’t married yet, remember that fact.
The word “companion” in the Hebrew is a very interesting word. When the Jews used the Hebrew word for “companion,” they were often referring to two people who had been connected through the use of magic. For instance, if two things were tied together in a magical knot, those two things were said to be “companions.” Our modern-day illustration is of a person who has drank a love potion, or perhaps has been shot by Cupid’s arrow. You know what these kinds of people look like. In the Disney movie Bambi, Thumper would describe this kind of husband and wife as being “twitter-pated.” Malachi is saying that a husband and wife are supposed to be connected on such a deep level, that the thought of looking for someone else could never even cross their radar. Malachi finishes the verse with another illustration of marriage. He says that she is the wife of thy covenant. The word “covenant” in the Bible normally has political connotations. It normally refers to two entities who have agreed to peace, and have agreed to never attack each other. This is the idea that Malachi is trying to get across. So to sum up principle number three, we are supposed to develop a deep, intimate alliance with our spouse that we commit to never break, no matter what pressures come from the inside or from the outside.
Now you may be saying one of two things. The first thing you may be saying is that this preacher has no idea what he’s talking about, because he’s only been married for a few years. Well, you’re right, but I am always striving to let the Bible do the talking, so even in my inexperience I can at least parrot what the Bible commands. The second thing you might be saying is that it would take a whole life-time to develop the kind of relationship Malachi is proscribing. Well, you’re right! It does take an entire lifetime, and that is exactly why God gives us a whole lifetime with our spouses. Principle number three, our spouse is supposed to be our companion. In our next principle, we’re going to look at the foundation of marriage itself.
Principle #4: God Himself Joined Husband and Wife
Now we’ve seen the what not to do, as well as the what to do. Let’s read the first half of verse fifteen again together. “And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit.” Sometimes it’s helpful to look at multiple translations of the Bible, so we can have multiple perspectives on what Malachi was trying to say. The English Standard Version says “Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?” Malachi is telling us in these two short sentences that it is God Himself who put husband and wife together. On top of that, the Holy Spirit Himself is working within our marriages, always fighting to keep us together, no matter what.
The key to understanding this principle is that God loves marriage. Before there were clubs, countries, or even churches, there was marriage. It did not take Adam long in the garden to figure out that he was missing a very important part of his life. And after God created Eve, He said “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Not only does God love marriage, but it was He who instituted it. And that doesn’t just apply to Adam and Eve’s marriage either. For you married couples out there, did you know that God approves of your marriage? Now I’m speaking in general terms, because just a few verses up we read about how God does not approve of some marriages. God does not approve when a man dumps his wife to find someone younger. God does not approve when a Christian marries an Atheist. But oh, how God approves when a man and a woman come together in marriage. Let’s discover why God loves marriage so much.
Principle #5: God Desires Godly Offspring
Listen closely as I read the middle section of verse fifteen. “And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed.” To paraphrase that little snippet, “And why does God want husband and wife to be one? Because He wants them to have godly children!” A minute ago I quoted a verse from Genesis chapter two where God joined together Adam and Eve, several verses before that, God told Adam to “Be fruitful and multiply.” Not only is it God’s desire that we have godly marriages, but it is also his desire that we have godly children.
Now I’m sure that all of you parents can attest to the fact you cannot make your children be godly. I’ve heard some of your testimonies about your unsaved children, and I’ve heard you pour out your heart to God, begging Him for their souls. Not only can a godly marriage sometimes yield ungodly children, it’s also possible to grow up in a broken home and still turn out all right. My dad’s parents got divorced when he was young, and he is still a faithful Christian. So when I say that a godly marriage leads to godly children, I am merely speaking in general terms. But we can know with certainty that when children see that their parents love each other, and they can see first-hand what a good marriage looks like, they are more likely to one day have a good marriage. Throughout the Old Testament, God talks about how the sins of the father trickle down to the future generations. That promise is just as true today is it was in Bible times. For the sake of our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren, we must protect our marriages. Our next principle, number six, is a grim picture of what often happens when we ignore God’s commands about marriage.
Principle #6: Divorce Will Fill Your Life with Violence
In principle number two we looked at how God does not want us to be faithless to our spouses. Principle number six shows us what happens if we do it anyways. Let’s read the first half of verse sixteen once more. “For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garments, saith the LORD of hosts.” In other words, when people get divorced, they are covered in violence in the same way that our clothes cover our bodies. There is an extremely vivid illustration of this in the Old Testament. You remember King David in the Bible? While he never actually divorced anyone, his practice was just to marry anyone he was attracted to. So over the course of his reign, he acquired several different wives, and had children by several different wives. When those children grew up, they often fought amongst themselves and fought against their father. One of his sons, whose name was Absalom, killed one of his half-brothers, and that same son later attempted a coup-de-tat against King David. In the end, his son was killed and the revolt was quenched. But the point remains the same that if David had maintained a godly marriage, his life would not have been filled with violence.
So if you are here this morning and your marriage has hit a rocky patch, you now have several reasons to not get divorced. For one, God desires for you to stay married. Second, your children and your grandchildren will be affected by your decision. And if those two aren’t enough, Malachi now tells us that divorce will fill our lives with violence. Now I know that most divorces do not end in gunfights, but I never witnessed a divorce that was not filled with arguments over property, money, children, and cars. And I know it’s possible for step-siblings to get along remarkably well. Sometimes step-siblings even become best friends. But once again speaking in general terms, complex families with steps and halfs and wholes are more likely to face problems down the road. Now let’s look together and our seventh and final principle.
Principle #7: Guard Your Hearts
Let’s finish out verse sixteen now. “therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” The ESV says, “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That adage is extremely applicable to our marriages. Malachi warns us to take heed to our spirits. This means that if we want to build a successful, lasting marriage we must guard our hearts. Before there is an affair, there is that glance that lasted a little bit too long. Before there’s pornography there’s always lust after other women. Before there’s a divorce over money there’s always arguments about who spends too much, or who doesn’t make enough.
Friday I had the opportunity of meeting Richard and Billie Jean Barnes. Did you know they have been married for fifty-nine years? Fifty-nine years. Unbelievable! And he told me that he loves her more today than he ever has before. Praise the Lord! But I hope you know that you cannot make it that long if you don’t set up some firewalls in your marriage. Just like a firewall protects a computer from all of the viruses that try to invade it, we need firewalls in our marriages so that we will never cross the line that leads to divorce. Malachi warns us that we must guard our hearts, or else in the end we will end up in the same situation the Israelites found themselves in. And something else about protecting our marriages, there is no one in this world that is too good of a Christian to need marital protection. There is not a pastor or deacon or Sunday School teacher in this world who can successfully be married for sixty years without guarding his or her heart.
So what exactly does guarding our hearts look like? For those of you who work in the professional world, that means never giving an employee of the opposite sex too much attention. That means never messaging someone of the opposite sex on Facebook and intentionally hiding it from your spouse. It means installing software on your computer that prevents you from seeing things on the internet that no Christian should ever see. But it also means taking time every day to tell your husband or your wife how much you love them. It means investing time in each other’s hobbies, even if they do not interest you in the least. These pieces of advice may seem a bit extreme to some of you, but there is no doubt in my mind that our marriages are worth it! I guarantee you that if every marriage in the United States followed those little pieces of advice, most divorces would never happen.
In conclusion, if you are here this morning, and your marriage is in trouble, I urge you to do whatever it takes to fix it. If you need to talk to me, my door is always open. If you are here and you are married to someone who is not a Christian, then pray, pray, pray. And you know what? We will pray with you! And if you are here this morning, and you aren’t married, but are considering becoming married, I urge you to follow these seven principles that Malachi laid out for us. And if you are here this morning, and you are feeling really discouraged because you have been divorced in the past, let me offer you a word of encouragement. A prior divorce does not have to be the defining moment of your life. There is complete redemption found through Christ. But as Malachi told us, a prior divorce does put us at a higher risk for future family trouble, but God can redeem whatever situation you are in. Through the help of Christ, and through the encouragement of your fellow Christians, you can rebuild a successful family and a successful marriage.
And finally, if you are here this morning and you have never accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you will not have the marriage that God intended. I mentioned earlier that the Holy Spirit helps keep husbands and wives together. In fact, in a Christian marriage the Holy Spirit is the glue that keeps husbands and wives together even when our marriages hit rocky spots. But if you do not know Christ, then you do not have the Holy Spirit, and your marriage does not have the glue it needs to hold itself together. If you have never made Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, I strongly urge you to talk to myself or any other member of this church, and we would be more than happy to show you what it means to be a Christian.
Let us pray together.
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