Main point summary
God does not accept your offerings because you have been unfaithful to your wives, violating God's design and purpose in marriage. Therefore, be faithful because divorcing your wives incurs God’s judgment.
And this second thing you do.
And this is the second sin that you commit.
w You cover the Lord ’s altar with tears,
You cry and cry and cry
with weeping and groaning
with weeping and groaning.
because he no longer regards the offering
because God doesn’t pay attention to your offering anymore
or accepts it with favor from your hand.
or is pleased by what you sacrifice to him.
x But you say,
Surprisingly, you say, cluelessly,
“Why does he not?”
“Why on earth is Yahweh, our God, ignoring our offering, which he commanded us to make?”
Because the Lord y was witness between you and the wife of your youth ,
The reason is this: Yahweh has seen how you have treated the wife that you were once in love with,
z to whom t you have been faithless,
how you have cheated on her and divorced her,
though she is your companion
even though she is your friend
and your wife by covenant.
and you made a marriage covenant with her, promising to be faithful.
a Did he not make them one,
God made Adam and Eve one,
with a portion of the Spirit in their union? 1
and put his spirit within their union.
And what was the one God 2 seeking? 3
And what was God’s purpose in making them one?
b Godly offspring.
It was so that they would have children who love God and obey him.
So guard yourselves 4 in your spirit,
Therefore, keep watch over your inner self
and let none of you be t faithless to the wife of your youth .
so that you do not fail to be faithful to the wife that you once were in love with.
“For c the man who does not love his wife
“Because, the man who hates his wife
but divorces her, 1
and divorces her,
says the Lord , the God of Israel,
says Yahweh, the God who created and sustains Israel,
covers 2 his garment with violence,
has defiled his character,
says the Lord of hosts.
says Yahweh, commander of heavenly armies.
So guard yourselves in your spirit,
Again, because divorce is sinful, keep watch over your inner self.
and t do not be faithless.”
and do not fail to be faithful to your marriage covenant.”
You cry because Yahweh doesn’t accept your offering.
Surprisingly, you wonder why he doesn’t accept your offerings. It is because you haven’t been faithful to your wives.
When a man and woman get married, God makes them one flesh and puts his Spirit in their union.
THEREFORE, be faithful to your wives because divorcing your wife incurs God’s judgment.
God does not accept your offerings because you haven’t been faithful to your wives.
Israel’s Sin: They Were Unfaithful to Their Wives
God is not accepting their offerings
And this second thing you do.
You cover the Lord’s altar
because he no longer regards the offering
or accepts it
from your hand.
The reason: unfaithfulness
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
Why unfaithfulness is sinful
Purpose of marriage
Did he not make them one,
with a portion
of the Spirit
in their union?
And what was the one God seeking?
Guard yourselves and be faithful
How Israel Should Repent
So guard yourselves
in your spirit,
and let none of you be faithless
to the wife
of your youth.
who does not love his wife
but divorces her,
says the Lord, the God
“... the man ... covers his garment
^[For] says the Lord
So guard yourselves
in your spirit,
and do not be faithless.”
While God certainly has dominion over Israel, indicating a Subordination relationship, I think that their covenantal relationship is emphasized in the phrase “God of Israel”.
Introduction As you all know, there are a lot of issues in our culture today that can be discouraging, especially to Christians. And the topic of marriage and unfaithfulness in marriage is one of these discouraging issues. As we saw in events such as the #MeToo movement and emergence of the Ashley Madison website for adultery, there is a lot of sexual misconduct and marital infidelity in our culture. And unfortunately, we have also seen several well-known Christian leaders found to be guilty of sexual sin. And for many of us, the topic of divorce and unfaithfulness is not just an issue we read about in the news. It is likely that some in this room have been affected by divorce in some way. And if you haven't, you probably know someone who has. And you may have been in a conversation about divorce or adultery and wondered what to say. So, this is a good time to ask the question, "What is God's opinion about divorce?" Is he neutral about the issue? Or is it something that he hates? To answer this question, let's examine the Bible, God’s word to us. Specifically, let's look at chapter 2 of the book of Malachi, a significant passage about divorce and unfaithfulness in the Old Testament. Before we get into our passage, I want to clarify one thing. In this seminar, I will be talking about the Bible's teaching about divorce, and I will focus on one scenario: when one spouse decides to divorce the other because they are no longer content in their marriage. I am going to use the term "unfaithful divorce" to describe this type of divorce. Although the Bible does discuss other divorce scenarios, and in some of these scenarios, God does allow divorce, I will focus here on unfaithful divorce. Before we read our passage, let's discuss a bit of background. Malachi, the author of the book of Malachi, was a prophet that God sent to the people of Judah. God sent Malachi after Judah started returning to their homeland following their exile to Babylon that God brought about due to Judah’s unfaithfulness. God sent Malachi to deliver a message. The message that God gave him was one of rebuke, calling out Judah's unfaithfulness to God and calling them to be faithful. In Malachi 2:10-16, Malachi gives two ways in which Judah has been unfaithful to the covenant they made with God. First, in verses 13-15, Malachi rebukes them for marrying people who were not part of God's covenant people. In this message, we will focus on the second allegation in verses 13-16, the allegation that men in Judah are being unfaithful to their wives and divorcing them. They have been committing unfaithful divorce. Now that we have established some background, let's read our passage, Malachi 2:13-16: 13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 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. 16 "For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So, guard yourselves in your Spirit, and do not be faithless." In this message, we will look at three things this passage teaches about God’s stance on unfaithfulness in marriage. What is going on in this passage is that although the men of Judah were very religious, God was not accepting their offering. We know that they are religious because verse 13 says they covered the Lord's altar with tears. They weren't casual in their worship; they had the emotional part down. In verse 14, we see that they wondered why Yahweh wasn't accepting their offering, which is striking because it seems that if they had read Genesis 2, they should have known that divorce was not part of God's design for marriage. Genesis 2:24 says, "a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." So, somehow this truth had become lost in Judah. But verse 14 also shows us God's graciousness. Notice that even though Judah should have known why God was not accepting their offering, God still gives them an answer. And it is in this answer that we see three things about unfaithfulness in marriage. First, it is a sin against your spouse. Second, it is a sin against God. And third, it is a danger that we should avoid at all costs. Point #1 First, let's look at how unfaithfulness is a sin against your spouse. In verse 14, God says that the men of Judah are not only sinning against their wife but that they are sinning against the wife of their youth. God designed marriage to be a lifelong union of a man and a woman. In this union a man and a woman promise to be faithful to each other for life. But as we get older, we change physically. Often, we aren't youthful or vigorous as we once were. So, some men or women decide that they would prefer to be married to someone younger and better looking, and they divorce the wife of their youth. But this is not right. It is a sin because the offending spouse is not keeping their marriage promise. We also see in verse 14 that God says that the men of Judah didn't just divorce their wives, but they divorced their companions. God created Eve, the first woman, because it wasn't good for man to be alone. He needed a companion. So, God created women to be the perfect companion for men. So, divorce isn't just the severing of a contract. It is the breaking of a friendship. In verse 14, we also see that unfaithfulness is a sin because we are breaking a covenant. God created marriage to be much more than a casual relationship. Instead, it is a relationship founded on a covenant, an agreement that a husband and wife make with one another. In this covenant, both parties agree to be faithful to one another, meaning that they agree to not have sexual relations with anyone else and always care for one another and support one another. And each marriage covenant between a man and a woman is like a picture or a copy of a bigger covenant: God’s covenant or covenants that he made with his chosen people over the course of history. He first made a covenant with Adam and then with Noah and then with Abraham and then with Moses and then with David; covenants are a big part of the biblical story. And covenant is the one he made with followers of Jesus, through Jesus’s death on a cross. In this New Covenant, God agrees to pardon the sins of anyone who trusts in and follows Jesus. As Christians, our faith stands or falls on the fact that God will be faithful to this covenant he made with us. If he ever decided to break it, if he even decides he is tired of forgiving our sins, we would be damned forever in hell. And, as Christians, we should be becoming more and more like God. So, if God keeps his covenant with us, we ought to keep our marriage covenant with our spouses. Point #2 So, we have established that this passage teaches that unfaithfulness is a sin against your spouse. However, if we asked someone on the street if they thought unfaithful divorce was a bad thing to do to one's wife, I imagine many would say yes. That is, many could go along with our first point, that divorce is a sin against one's wife. However, Christians need to recognize another reason that unfaithful divorce is a sin. Specifically, we see in verse 15 that unfaithful divorce is a sin against God. God is the author of marriage, and unfaithful divorce goes against his intention. In the first part of this verse, we see that marriage is God's creation. He made them one. Although commentators note that this verse is tough to translate, the phrase "did he not make them one" in the ESV is probably a reference back to Genesis 2, in which God makes Adam and Eve one flesh. But this phrase is also a reminder that God is the creator of each individual marriage. So, when a husband unfaithfully divorces his wife, it is like vandalism against God's artwork. If you can imagine the marital union between a man and a woman as a sculpture made by a brilliant artist, namely God, then unfaithful divorce is like someone coming and smashing the sculpture into pieces. What a tragedy. In Mark 10:9, Jesus, talking about divorce, says, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." Man has no right to vandalize God’s creation. But in verse 15, we also see something else about marriage that is very profound. God himself is present in every marriage. Verse 15 says that he "made them one with a portion of his spirit in their union." Again, although this verse is hard to translate, the ESV translation indicates that God put his Spirit in Adam and Eve's union. And because their marriage was the first one and is a model for all the marriages that would follow, this phrase indicates that God's Spirit is in every marriage union. Did you catch that? Many of us are probably aware of the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer. But this verse seems to indicate that the Holy Spirit is also in a one-flesh union of a man and a woman. If a man and a woman have become one flesh, then it isn't as if the Holy Spirit dwells in the man and woman separately. Instead, this verse indicates that the Holy Spirit also dwells in both of them together. This raises a lot of questions. Might the Holy Spirit empower a marriage in the same way that he empowers an individual? Or when we are not getting along in marriage, might that especially grieve the Holy Spirit? We could camp out on this topic and ask many other questions. But for the sake of time, we need to move on. Later in verse 15, we see that unfaithful divorce is a sin against God because it thwarts God's purpose for marriage. God says that a reason he brings a man and woman together is so that they will have godly offspring, children that love and obey God. Have you ever thought about what the purpose of marriage is? There are many answers we could give to that question: for companionship (see Genesis 2), to prevent sexual sin (see Romans 7), to be a picture of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5). But here God focuses on the purpose of bringing godly offspring. And this was God's plan from the beginning. In Genesis 2, God instructs Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth. And in this passage, we see one thing that they were to fill the world with: godly offspring. But when a husband unfaithfully divorces their spouse, it is harder for the marriage to produce godly offspring. Certainly not impossible. But harder. Point #3 So, we have seen that unfaithful divorce is a sin against your spouse and a sin against God. Because of this fact, at the end of verse 15 through the end of verse 16, we see that unfaithful marriage is a danger that Christians should guard against. In these verses, God warns the mean of Judah to guard against unfaithfulness, bookending these two verses with the phrase "guard yourselves in your Spirit." The message is clear: we need to be careful. So, we see that unfaithfulness is something we can guard against. It isn't something that happens to us. Consider the following hypothetical scenario. Daniel and Madeline, once high school sweethearts, have been married for sixteen years. Their marriage has led to several children and has seen Daniel receive several promotions in his career, leading to much wealth. After a while, they start to drift apart. Daniel spends a lot of time at work and neglects the effort needed to cultivate a relationship with his wife. He also feels that Madeline doesn't respect him and doesn't appreciate what his career has done for their family. Daniel becomes discontent with his marriage. He wonders if his life would have been better if he had married someone else. And then, he meets another woman at the gym, and he feels connected with her. He confides in her about his marriage and finds that she is in a similar situation in her marriage. Although Daniel has always felt that adultery is wrong, he feels that he is trapped in his marriage and deserves something better. And the result is that Daniel decides to divorce his wife to be with this new woman. In this scenario, we can see that Daniel's adultery resulted from a sequence of sins, starting with discontentment with his marriage. Adultery happened here because Daniel let his guard down. He wasn't diligent in fighting against discontentment or lust. And the result is that he became lured into this sin, a sin that eventually led to divorce. So, what could Daniel have done to guard against unfaithfulness? We should start with the basics; the tools God has given us to fight against any sin. These include Bible reading and prayer, tools which Paul mentions in Ephesians 6 as needed to fight against Satan. And fellowship with other believers is another essential component in the war against sin. Specifically related to adultery, we need to have friends that we can confess sins to and who can be willing to hold us accountable for our behavior. And we can also guard against adultery by doing things that make our marriage stronger, that help us become more thankful for our spouse. Go on dates. Study your spouse and figure out some ways to bless them. Guarding against adultery takes work. But a Christian hates sin so much that they decide this work is worth it. And the reason we need to guard ourselves against adultery is that this sin has terrible consequences, as we see in verse 16. Again, commentators say that this is a hard verse to translate. The ESV translates this verse as "whoever does not love his wife but divorces her covers his garment with violence." The NIV has God saying, "The man who hates and divorces his wife does violence to the one he should protect." The NET Bible says,” ‘I hate divorce and the one who is guilty of violence." Despite the different translations, the main point is still clear: unfaithful divorce is a sin that God hates, and therefore he punishes people for committing this sin. Because of the consequences of unfaithful divorce, I urge you to know Christ, especially if you are married. Because although we may not have all committed adultery or divorced our wives, Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:27-30 that God requires that we not only do not commit adultery but that we remain faithful to our spouses in our heart . If on the outside, we appear faithful, but in our heart, we are continually lusting after other men or women, Jesus says that it is as if we had committed adultery. That is, it is possible to commit adultery just by desiring it in your heart and letting that desire linger. The standard is faithfulness in our hearts. And if we are honest, we know no one can meet this standard. Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But the good news is that in Christ God forgives those who repent. Romans 6:23 says that the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. So, I urge anyone who does not know Christ to repent of their sins, even sins in their heart, and receive this free gift. Conclusion In closing, our purpose for looking at this passage was to learn about what God's opinion is about unfaithful divorce. And what we saw is that God hates divorce and will punish us for it. But the good news is that punishment is not the end of the story. All of us who have been unfaithful, whether committing adultery, or looking at someone with lustful eyes, or failing to care for our spouse's emotional needs, can be forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. So, if that is you today, I urge you to go to him. Tell him what you have done, ask him to forgive you, and commit to obey all that he commands.