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Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 4/24/2014
(edited June 2020)
“They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord.”
In Old Testament passages like this in Jeremiah 3:1 we can see an x-ray of the broken relationship between Ancient Israel and the Lord. And years before Jeremiah wrote that, Hosea had to prophesy and actually “live out” out a similar message. By the time we get here to the Book of Malachi at the end of the Old Covenant, the divorce of God from His People is final and the sense of loss is overwhelming. You can plainly hear that despair in the opening section of Psalm 77:
Psalm 77: 1-9
“I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.”
Scholars disagree about when this Psalm was written. Some believe that it may have been after Israel was overthrown by Babylon. Others say it was written at the time of David and Solomon. I’m not sure it matters. There is a longing and a disappointment throughout much of the Old Testament.
And though we, as New Testament believers, are to learn from their trials and experiences, we must not emulate the religion of the Old Covenant. They served God through the works of law. They served for physical blessings. They received a kingdom here on the earth. And when they failed God or those tangible blessing faltered, eventually, their relationship with the Lord failed.
But, despite all this, here in our little study God is bringing out through Malachi words of great hope and encouragement. Here at the end Old Testament God is laying out a direct path to the New Covenant. Listen to Him:
Verses 1-4: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.”
Brighter times would lie ahead and somehow the twisted mess of Old Covenant worship would be resolved. I think that is what He is saying. But the Good News was shrouded in mystery at the time of Malachi’s prophesy. But, as believers, we can recognize a lot in this passage, can’t we? Here’s a list of some of those things:
1. It has been fulfilled by John the Baptist.
2. It points to in the birth, life, death, resurrection of Our Savior.
3. Salvation is to be opened up to the whole world!
4. A New Marriage between God and His People is coming.
5. Heaven, not Canaan, is the New Promised Land!
Ancient Israel had often turned the righteousness of God into a lie and worship into an empty show. And we must not do this today. They attempted to bargain God down into accepting their sins. O, they tried to wash them up in a little bit of religion. But it didn’t work, and it won’t work today. This is how the Lord answered them back then:
Verses 5-6: “And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts. For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
Today, the Covenant has changed, but the Lord has not changed. He was perfect in His dealings with Ancient Israel, and he will poove to be perfect and righteous with us, also. Now that makes me feel both encouraged and sober at the same time. This is “heavy” stuff, listen:
Verses 7-15: “ Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts. Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.”
Ancient Israel tried to get away with sin through denial of their sin. And it worked for a while. They had an appearance of religion, but remained inwardly indifferent toward God. And, I think the point is, apart from Christ, we are no better than the they. And if we indeed have done such thing even after the Savior has come to the earth, aren’t we, in a way, actually worse than they were? The bottom line is that God could not accept insincerity from them and won’t accept it from us.
Verses 16-18: “ Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.”
There was true faith in the Old Testament, like the faith of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. And they too, apart from the works of the Law, are the Heirs of Salvation along with us. And we who trust in Jesus, also through faith, are destined to enter eternity as the Bride of Christ. There will be no Divine Divorce there as had occurred in the Old Testament. Halleluiah for that!
But, to be honest, there will be something worse in that day. There will be a Final Separation of God and men. A time of reckoning for each individual of EVERY nation. God loves you and me. He made us all. He sent His Son to make a Way for all who would believe, but He is still God! Malachi was privileged to get a glimpse of a hope which the Law could never bring. Today, that hope in Christ is commonly discussed by every child in the Sunday School. But just knowing isn’t going to be enough. As with Ancient Israel, how we live out our faith still matters very much to God. Let’s pray.