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Set Your Hearts To Honor God

  • by LA UBF
  • Jul 06, 2008
  • 701 reads




Malachi 2:1-16

Key Verse 2:15b (16b)

"So guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith."

** The Sin of the Priests (1-9)

1. Read verses 1-3. What warning and rebuke did God give to the priests? (1-3) What does this show us about God?

2. Read verses 4-6. What does the "covenant with Levi" refer to? (4) What was the purpose of it and why did God want it to continue? (5) How did Levi carry out this covenant and what were the fruits of it? (6) Can you give examples from the Israelites history of priests who honored God and those who did not? 

3. Read verses 7-9. Why must a priest honor God? (7) How did the priests in the days of Malachi not honor God in the priesthood? (8,9) What were the results? (9; 10-16) Although this message is directed at the priests, how might it be applicable to the believers of Malachi's day as well as our own? (Exo 19:5-6, 1 Pe 2:9, Ro 15:5-6) How can we honor God as Christians and Bible teachers? 

** The Sin of the People (10-16)

4. Read verses 10-12. What does "the covenant of our fathers" refer to? (10) In what way did they break faith with one another? (11-12) How does this breaking faith with one another profane the covenant? What can we learn about honoring God as his covenant people in Jesus? 

5. Read verses 13-16. Why did the people flood the Lord's altar with tears? (13) Why didn't the Lord accept them? (14) Why does the Lord act as a witness in the marriage relationship? (15) What does God hate? (16) How do we honor God through marriage?

6. Review the covenants God had made with his people, as mentioned in this passage. How did he respond when his people did not keep their end of the covenant? What exhortation does the author give us? (15b, 16b)

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Malachi 2:1-16

Key Verse 2:15b,16b

“So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.”

Today’s passage talks about two very important aspects of a person’s life: ministry and marriage. The institutions of ministry and marriage are unique in that they come from God, designed and established by God, into our lives. They represent the way in which God blesses us and makes us a blessing in doing his work. But the people in Malachi’s day had corrupted these two holy institutions by being unfaithful to God and to each other. So God shared his heart with them and gave clear repentance topics to honor God in the ministry and to honor God in the marriage through being faithful. May God help us today to listen to his call of repentance that our ministries and families may honor God and continue his salvation work in Jesus Christ.

Set your heart to honor God in your ministry (1-9)

Look at verses 1-3. “1 ‘And now this admonition is for you, O priests. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me.  3 ‘Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.’ ” 

In the last passage we saw how the people had hurt God through their lack of love and faithfulness to him. Today’s passage continues to reveal God’s broken heart. The priests compromised with God’s word in their teaching and practice. The people were treating God like a second class citizen and a burden. God gave them a harsh rebuke and warning. He would curse their blessings. He would rebuke their descendants. He would spread on their faces the offal of their sacrifices, which are the inner parts and guts of the animal. Their lives would be cursed and shameful, and even their children would suffer. 

God pointed out that their main problem was that they did not set their hearts to honor God. So when the priests came to perform their duties, they compromised God’s word in many ways. From chapter 1 we could see what their hearts were set on instead of honoring God. Mainly, they felt that God hadn’t done much for them and left them in a pitiful and pathetic state. Even though they had been set free from captivity and returned to Jerusalem, they were still ruled by a foreign government and considered themselves slaves. The temple, which was the center of their nation and their pride, had been destroyed for 70 years and just recently rebuilt. However, the rebuilt temple paled in comparison to the former one. The prophet Haggai expresses their feelings about the new temple well: “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?” (Hag 2:3). So they said the Lord’s altar and table are contemptible. They felt bad whenever they saw the temple. So they didn’t give their hearts to God. And from the moment they set their hearts on other things, such as the beautiful architecture of the past temple, or the wealth and pleasure of surrounding nations, or even just to themselves, compromise entered their hearts and service and spread to the people. 

God’s harsh words in these verses show how broken his heart was and also the importance of continuing God’s work in and through the priesthood. Although the temple had changed, God did not and does not change. And the purposes of his heart also do not change. So their honor to God and their hearts should not have changed as well. But God sees the heart and pointed it out here. Our hearts are difficult to control because they easily become set on so many different things, especially when as circumstances change around us for the worse. But God does not change. His love and purpose does not change. So he told them to repent and set their hearts on him and be blessed. God really wanted his work through the priests to continue. God wanted the priests to see the work he was really doing through the priesthood. 

Look at verses 4-6. “4 ‘And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue,’ says the LORD Almighty. 5 ‘My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.’ ” 

God just wanted to bless his children and give them life and peace. He wanted to have fellowship with them and set them free from sin. These are all the things we want and need. So God established the priesthood through the house of Levi, one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The main duties of the priest were to teach God’s words, serve the sacrifices at the temple, and pray to God on behalf of the people. God’s main focus in this chapter is their teaching. The priesthood was God’s divine institution to reveal himself and to guide the people on a daily basis. Simply, he wanted to bless them with the very best, which was himself. 

Let’s look at verses 5b-6 again. “[T]his called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.’ ” To serve as God’s ambassador to the people was not a light position. Because of who God is, to be a priest required reverence and awe. It required a pure life of walking with God and faithfulness to obey his word. Do you know what it takes to became a US Ambassador? The usual requirements are an advanced degree in International Studies, fluency in a foreign language, and expertise in the history and culture of a region. On top of that the candidate must be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. It is very difficult. Only those who demonstrate that they will honor the US best in foreign affairs will be chosen. How much more should a priest honor God whom he is serving? 

Verses 5 and 6 tell us that Levi set a good example of honoring God. The first example among the Levites occurred after the exodus from Egypt. The people left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea and came into the desert. While in the desert Moses went up Mt. Sinai and received the Ten Commandments from God. But while he was at the mountain, the people rebelled against God and made an idol to worship in the form of a golden calf. So God sent Moses back to the people to take care of the issue. Let’s read Exodus 32:25-29. The Levites honored God and helped the people to repent and turn back to God. So God honored them and made them priests to take care of his people in this way for the future. Indeed, Moses himself was a Levite who shepherded over God’s people and taught them God’s words. Another good example is the Levite Phinehas. He also lived in the days of Moses and the people had again rebelled against God and were committing sexual immorality with the women of a foreign nation and worshiping their idols and false gods. At that time Phinehas stood up for the Lord’s honor. Let’s read Numbers 25:6-13. And there are many more good examples in the Israelites’ history (such as the priest, judge, and prophet Samuel). God was so pleased through Levi’s example which bore good fruit. 

Look at verse 7. “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction—because he is the messenger of the Lord.” This is the essence of a priest: they are God’s messengers. What comes out of their mouths, hearts, and lives was the uncompromised word of God. We too are God's messengers. 1 Peter 2:9 says that all believers are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” God considers us his priesthood because he has given us the charge to proclaim the gospel so that people might turn from sin to God by faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 15:15-16).  2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.” We are Jesus’ messengers. His message is the same life giving message that God wanted to communicate through his priests in Malachi’s day. It is the gospel message of life, peace, freedom from sin, and fellowship with God through Jesus Christ who died for the sin of the world and rose from the dead and is coming back to judge the living and the dead. 

When we think of ‘ministry’ or ‘Bible teaching’ it may sound complicated and difficult, or boring. But ministry is simply fulfilling our duty to get God’s uncompromised message out—and what a wonderful message it is. God has established his people to be a direct line to influence this world. Serving the Lord is the blessed work to bring life and peace and freedom from sin to this otherwise sinful world. Even if you searched the whole world you could not find these things. But God wants to give them through his people. 

We have to ask ourselves, “Do I have a clear message? It is the Lord's message? And if it is the Lord's message, is it being clearly delivered? Is the Lord being honored in my life and teaching?” Wherever we go, and in all we do and teach, we give a message. Is God going to say such good things about us as he did about Levi? We should examine ourselves and ask, “How do we compare to Levi?” Today’s passage especially challenges us to check what our hearts are set on. If our hearts are set on anything besides honoring God through being his messenger, then today we need to make the decision to take control of the heart and set it on honoring God. And honoring God means first to apply his uncompromised to myself first, and then to uphold it in my teaching. Honoring God means being faithful to his word. 

Do you know how the marathon race began in the Olympic games? A Greek soldier was given the task to deliver the message of a coming attack by the Persian empire. They were approaching soon so he had to run fast and not stop. And that’s what he did for 26 miles. Along the way he was injured. But he ran bleeding, and limping, in temperatures up to 100 F degrees. After he delivered the message he collapsed and died. He gave his life to deliver this message. It was a matter of saving the lives of many people. He was a true messenger. 

We should regard our positions as messengers with the same honor and importance as the first marathon runner. 

Look at verses 8-9. “8 ‘But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,’ says the LORD Almighty. 9 ‘So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.’ ” 

What did God have to say about the priests of Malachi’s day? 

1) They caused people to stumble (in sin) by their teaching. It was the exact opposite of Levi who turned many from sin. Rather than preserving the knowledge of God, they showed “partiality in matters of the law.” When their hearts were not set to honor God, God’s message bended in compromise. 

2) They were despised and humiliated before all the people. That may sound terrifying. And many times we compromise God’s word in our teaching and practice because we are scared to be despised or humiliated in front of others, because God’s message is at odds with the message of this world. But it is much, much worse to be despised in the Lord's eyes and humiliated before him. May God help us to overcome our self-consciousness because we are the Lord’s chosen messengers. We have to please our master and get his uncompromised message out in teaching and daily living. 

This passage makes clear that God holds his messengers responsible for the condition of the people and their nation. When believers honor God, a nation can be transformed into a holy and godly nation. By the same token, if we don't honor him, then we will lead people to stumble in sin. It is not Obama or McCain who will shape this country. It is the believers. May God help us set our hearts to honor him and may he raise many honorable messengers and transform America into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Set your heart to honor God in your marriage (10-16)

Look at verse 10. “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?” When people weren't faithful to God, they were not faithful to each other. Compromise spread and families fell apart. It's because we are first children of God and part of his family.

Look at verses 11-12. “11 Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. 12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.”

Here God uses the word "detestable". They “desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves.” The sanctuary was the Most Holy Place of the Temple, where there mercy seat was, and where God met with the High Priest. It was the intimate place of fellowship with God. But they defiled it by bringing in idols and other gods. When believers unite with and marry unbelieving people, it is the same as desecrating the Lord’s most holy sanctuary. 

There was a man named Nehemiah, who was Malachi’s contemporary and a governor of Judah at this time. He also spoke to the people about this matter. Nehemiah 13:26-27, say: “26 Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. 27 Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?”

Why did they do this? Their hearts were not right. We are a family under one God, our Father. And he is seeking to build his family. But their hearts were carried away to please themselves. What they ended up doing was breaking faith with God, with each other, and bringing demonic influences into the family. God was ready to cut off such a person that did this thing, even if he still brought offerings to the Lord. Sometimes we think that we pay our dues to God and everything will be okay, even our sin. But God wants our full hearts, because it is when we give our full hearts in honor and obedience that we can truly be blessed in fellowship with him. 

Look at verses 13-14. “Another thing you do: You flood the LORD's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.” Not only did the people establish ungodly families, but those who were already married were breaking their marriage covenants with their wives through divorce and violence. These are the same problems we face in families today, that is, brokenness due to unfaithfulness and violence. My parents divorced and I witnessed my father being violent to my mother. It is a most horrific thing to witness. 

So God stepped in as the witness between the husband and the wife. The marriage is so valuable and important to God. In fact, he made marriage and is the one who unites people. Look at verse 15. “Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” It is said that a marriage is made not between two parties, but three parties: A man, a woman, and God. God made the marriage to produce godly offspring. The family is the means by which to grow the family of God. The family is the vessel that carries out the Lord’s work. It is the garden from which the Lord’s blessings spring out. God has a vested interest in each family. This is why marriages must be between two believers who are committed to the Lord Jesus. This is why the marriage covenant must be honored through faithfulness and love. A family that sets its heart to honor God in faithfulness and love to serve the Lord is like the paradise of the Garden of Eden. 

Let’s read verse 16. “ ‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of Israel, ‘and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,’ says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” God couldn’t be any clearer about what he hates and what we are not to do. There is no gray area or room for compromise. So we guard ourselves in our spirits because breaking faith begins with the heart going astray. It is possible to be unfaithful to your spouse in the heart. Jesus said that even if a man looks at a woman lustfully he has already committed adultery in his heart (Matthew 5:28). Also, in our hearts we may desire to use the family for our own purposes or pleasures. 

God hates divorce and covering with violence. The book of Malachi has shown us that actually we have broken all of our covenants with God. Yet, God did not divorce his people or abandon them. Instead, he continued to love them and he sent his Son Jesus Christ to perfect the relationship with his people and build the family of God. We must make no excuse for breaking faith. But we can guard ourselves in our spirits and hearts through remember God’s heart. 

Let’s pray according to this passage to keep the two repentance topics: to honor God in our ministry and to honor God in our marriage. May God help us to set our hearts to honor him and build families of God. May God change this nation into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

One Word: Honor God in your ministry and in your family

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