I’m posting late on Sunday mornings. I’m doing that because I want you to come to church and talk about Malachi 2, rather than simply read my thoughts about it here. It’s good for us to gather.
The writer of Hebrews said we should not neglect to meet together, “as is the habit of some” (Hebrews 10:24-25). When we meet together, we have the opportunity to stir each other up to love and good works. We can encourage one another. And we all need encouragement these days.
So I am posting late today, until after we’ve had a chance to meet. But I am posting – because some of our church members aren’t yet comfortable gathering and some of them live far away this time of year. I want to give you just a little bit to think about as you follow our daily readings.
Today is Pentecost Sunday. It’s the birthday of the church. On Pentecost, Christians recall the moment from Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit descended on the church and filled it. Like when God’s presence filled the temple of ancient Israel, now his presence fills the church.
It’s a remarkable concept, and much of what we have been reading in the Old Testament points to this day when God would dwell fully with his people. The church is the new temple of God. Each of us is a member of that temple. Christ is the cornerstone. These are all New Testament metaphors that help us understand what God is doing in the world today.
Another way to look at it is through “body” metaphor. Christ’s body is the temple. Remember, he told people if the temple of his body was destroyed, it would be raised again in three days. That statement got Jesus in quite a bit of trouble with the temple leadership! And we know the “temple” was raised!
So as Christ’s body is the temple, we are members of his body. And just as Christ was filled with the Holy Spirit, so is the whole church and so is each member of the church. The apostle Paul said, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Paul said that to remind the believers in Corinth to be mindful of what they did with their bodies – because their bodies were part of the body of Christ.
And so it’s important for us to keep this in our minds as believers. We have the presence of God dwelling in our bodies. What we do with our bodies is what we do with Christ. Paul at one point talked about prostitution. Should we take our bodies, which are members of Christ, and join them to a prostitute? Paul said, “Never!”
To think about being a member of the body of Christ – and to have the very presence of God living in us – is sobering. When we think about our sins and the idea of taking Christ and thrusting him into those sinful acts should make us blush. Where have we been taking Jesus? We are Christians living post-Pentecost lives. Everywhere we go, he goes. What acts do we put him through? What words do we make him party to? What thoughts do we think in his presence?
It is sobering.
All of this takes us into Malachi 2 because Malachi 2 is about breaking faith with God. It’s about being faithless to the covenant. You’ll notice that term is used repeatedly in this chapter.
“Why then are we faithless to one another …”
“Judah has been faithless …”
“The Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless …”
“So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.”
“So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
We are tempted simply to say this passage is about divorce. And then we could argue whether divorce is permissible for one of God’s children and under what circumstances. Read Matthew 19:1-12 and Deuteronomy 24:1-4, and let Jesus be your teacher when it comes to divorce.
This passage does teach about divorce, but an underlying principle exists here. It is about being “faithless” to God.
Malachi upbraids the priests and Levites for failing in their covenant responsibility to offer “true instruction” to the people about God’s law. God had a covenant with Levi, whose descendants were temple workers and teachers of the Torah. Read more in Exodus 32 and Numbers 25. (God’s covenant with the tribe of Levi seems to have been sealed in Phinehas, who had a “covenant of peace” with God.) The Levites had turned aside from the way of this covenant, and they had caused a lot of Israelites to fall into sin.
So God criticized the priests and Levites for failing in their covenant responsibilities. And God criticized the men of Israel for marrying foreign wives, which was against God’s law. “For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves.” The concern of God – which repeatedly proved true for Israel – was God’s people would take spouses who worshipped other gods and that those spouses would draw God’s people away from him (Exodus 34:10-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-5). And the men of Israel were being faithless to God’s covenant with them.
And after God criticized the priests and the Levites for being faithless teachers, and after he criticized the men of Israel for being faithless in marrying non-Israelite women, God criticized the men of Israel for being faithless in their marriages to the “wives of their youth.” The Israelite men were discarding their wives, treating them as objects, and breaking their covenants with them.
This is a chapter about being faithless.
Our God is a God of covenant. He enters into a relationship with us – indeed the whole book of Malachi is about relationship with God – and he wants us to move toward him as he moves toward us. He wants his people to be faithful in their covenants to God and to each other. There’s an interesting community aspect that can’t be forgotten here (Malachi 2:10).
We still are in a covenant with God. A new covenant has replaced the old and is sealed with the blood of Christ (Matthew 26:28). And the new covenant results in the Holy Spirit’s presence in us (Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 14:15-7, 25-27). Remember Pentecost.
And so Malachi 2 drives us to think about whether we are being faithful to God and his covenant with us. On this Pentecost Sunday, perhaps we should remember the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. And we should remember the covenant.
The apostle Paul would remind us, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And Malachi would remind us, “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”