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Malachi points to Christmas

November 27th, 2010 by Vic

Malachi points to Christmas

First Sunday of Advent

November 28, 2010

2 years ago I compared Advent to a woman’s pregnancy.  There is expectancy.  For those with eyes to see, there is some evidence that someone is coming.  We are expecting Christ to come again and Advent is a reminder that we should be pregnant with the promises of God.

Last year on this Sunday I reviewed the book of Malachi.  I guess the Lord wanted us to look a little closer because I felt like I wanted to review this prophet again.  It had been 60 years since Ezra and Nehemiah had finished building the walls around Jerusalem.  Malachi is preaching to priests and parents that have enjoyed an easy life.  There had been no wars.  The infrastructure of Jerusalem was very adequate.  Life had settled into a routine.  Nothing exciting seemed to be happening.

In times of crisis, danger, or excitement everything becomes significant.  In times of routine we lose our excitement.  Why is Christmas exciting for a child and not for an adult?  For the child every question, every thought, every event is related to Christmas.  The coming of the promised Day of the Lord was important to the prophets.  They were pregnant with the hope of the Messiah and were excited about the fact that God was coming to live with us.

For the child, Christmas is a kind of crisis.  His relationship with his parents is important.  Everything they say may have something to do with Christmas.  For the Christian the gift of the Christ and the Holy Spirit is a pivotal event and our relationship with God is important.  Everything He says is important for me to hear.

The men of God in the Bible trembled at the thought of the coming Day of the Lord.  Have we ever felt the shiver of expectancy while pondering the fact of God coming and living among us?

To help us in our Christmas preparation God speaks to us through Malachi.  This is the book just before Matthew.  The name Malachi means messenger or voice.  The last thing he says is to families.  If you do not love and respect one another you will be cursed.  The O.T. ends with a  Malachi ‘voice’ and the N.T. begins with a voice in the wilderness speaking to families (Mal 4:6; Lk 1:17).  Malachi is trying to restore excitement in our relationships as the family of God.  And John the Baptist comes to restore relationships in families so they can hear The Word of God.

We looked at Zechariah last week.  Both Haggai and Zechariah had predicted that the glory of the Lord would come with great blessing after the temple was rebuilt.  The temple had been rebuilt over 80 years ago by the grandparents.  The walls had been rebuilt by the parents, but the Messiah still had not come.  This generation did not remember seeing any glory.  They had heard the stories, but their lives were routine.  They enjoyed good government and security, but they were apathetic about the things of God.  Worship had become meaningless rituals.  The feasts and sacrifices were not practiced with a loving heart.  They were intermarrying with pagans.  Divorce was common, even among the priests.  Priests were distorting the Word.  The poor were oppressed.  They were not cheerful givers.  In peaceful times we get apathetic toward God.  We study God in books.  We argue about God.  We treat worship as a hobby.  There is no crisis.  Nothing seems really important or significant.

85% of this book is God speaking.  There are 55 verses in Malachi and 47 are direct words from God.  In 1:2 God begins by declaring His everlasting love for us and ends in 4:4-6 with a vision 400 years in the future of John the Baptist’s ministry and Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

1:1-5

The people denied God’s love.  God declared His love for the people but they denied it.  God says, “you are blessed because I made a promise to Jacob.  Look at Esau.  He despised Me and his birthright.  Esau’s descendants have followed in his ways.”  They fought Israel.  They laughed when Israel was taken captive.  The Edomites lived in Petra.

The phrase, “Esau I hated” troubled me a little until I thought about the other phrase, “I have loved Jacob.”  Jacob was a deceiver.  Why would God love Jacob?  Then I asked myself, “Why would God love me?”

When you read a little more about the choices that Esau and his descendents made, the ‘hate’ of God, makes more sense than the love of God.  I do not understand God’s love and amazing grace.  It does not make sense.  Eight times in this book, the people answer back to God rather than humble themselves and obediently listen.  Yet God declares His love for them.  I want to have a heart that listens to God’s rebuke and responds to God’s love.

One theme of Malachi is the love of God.  The people were ungrateful and rejected the faithful love of God.

1:6-14

God asks, “Where is my honor?  Where is my respect?”  God says, “You priests are showing contempt for My Name.”  The religious leaders were not honoring God.  They had become apathetic toward God and the people had followed their example.  They were despising and defiling God’s Name and did not see their sin.  Like the Laodicean church they thought they were rich, but they were blind and naked and did not know it.

They contradict God and ask, “How have we shown contempt?  How have we defiled You?”

It all started with the forgetting and rejection of God’s love.  And for us, all our troubles begin when we forget God and reject His love.  Worship for the priests had become just a job.  Worship for the people had become just another meeting to attend.  With pragmatic attitudes they were bringing left-overs, not 1st fruits.  They were not offering their best to the Lord.  They seemed to have no sense of their disrespect and dangerous sin.  They had no expectation of the coming of Christmas.  There was no need for God in their lives.  There was no crisis in their lives.

Worship is neither an event nor a task on your ‘to do’ list.  It is a heart relationship.  Lev. 22:32 says “Do not profane My holy Name” by giving a defective offering.  God is not pleased with plastic gifts.

1:10 says it is better to shut the church doors than to give offerings with a bad attitude.  If our coming together does not please God, we need to change our attitude or don’t come.

Two times God says, “My name will be great” (1:11) even if you despise Me.  Gentiles will worship with good attitudes and please Me.  All around the world people will honor Me and please Me.  God will be worshipped whether you do or not.

You defile the Lord ’s Table.  We are to present our bodies a living sacrifice.  “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning…  A man ought to examine himself.” (1 Cor 11:27)

If you are apathetic and insincere toward the love of God, you will bring a curse on yourself.  Where is the honor and respect of God in you?  God says, “I’m a great King.  What are you going to do about it?”

2:1-9

The priests were devaluing God’s word.  It was available, but not valued.  They were not letting the word penetrate their heart.  Honoring God is a heart choice.  We must choose to honor God.  It is smart to honor God.  If we don’t let God’s word penetrate our heart, we will distort His Word and we will suffer His wrath.

The blessings you pronounce will become a curse to you.  Like a baby messing his diaper, you’ll mess yourself and become repulsive to others.  Your children will suffer because of your sin.

The Levites pleased God when they stood with Moses against the group honoring the golden calf.  The ideal priest and father in the home should follow Levi’s example.  When it’s appropriate to reverence the Lord, stand in awe in His presence (5).  Speak the truth (6).  Walk with God in peace and integrity (6).  Don’t get distracted by selfish, impure motives.  Don’t just talk with God, but walk with God.  Let your life turn many from sin (6).   Remember the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (7).  Be solid in the Word.  Don’t show partiality (9).  When the priest is upright, many will be upright.

2:10-16

The priests and people profaned the institution of marriage, divorced their wives, and married pagans.  They were casual about their commitment to their wives and God.  They broke their marriage covenant and had no heart of repentance.  The Lord hates broken covenants.  The Lord hates divorce.  Divorce is not the unpardonable sin if there is repentance.  But most who have had a divorce, have tried to justify themselves rather than repent.  They ignored or despised the law of the Lord.  They forgot that God hates broken promises.  It was a heart thing.  They have found that a divided house is painful.

They brought offerings for their sin, but never felt like they were forgiven.  They wept bitterly because they felt God was not blessing them (13).  They ask God “why”?  God answers, “Because you broke your promise to me and your spouse.”  God takes your commitments and promises very seriously.  We don’t today.  We just pay a lawyer or judge to rewrite the law and justify our sin.

God says, “I hate divorce.”  You’re not even sorry for your sin.  You threaten those who try to admonish you about your sin.  Do you priests think I have quit punishing sin?  Do you think I have quit being holy and righteous?  I am slow to anger but I will punish sin.  Your unconfessed sin will destroy you.  You think your sin is just a little thing.  That attitude may be the unpardonable sin.

You talk with smooth words.  You tell the people that God loves them and won’t send any Jew to hell.  You’ve justified yourself in the eyes of man.  You’ve redefined sin and evil.  You call good evil and evil good.  God can’t hear you unless you repent.  God won’t hear you unless you repent.

The Lord forgives sin.  He does not want any to self-destruct.  The Lord forgives divorce.  He has been calling you to repent.

3:1-3:5

God promised to send 2 messengers (3:1).  The first will prepare the way for God.  The second will be the Lord of the new covenant appearing in His temple.  The new covenant will bring salvation by grace.

When Jesus was brought to the temple to be dedicated 2 people recognized Him, Anna and Simeon.  They were expecting Him.  Why were they waiting in the temple?  Because of this prophecy in Malachi.  They knew the Word of God and were expecting Him.  Are you pregnant with the hope of His coming?  Can you recognize the voice of God and the workings of God?

Jesus promised us, if we seek Him with our whole heart, we will find Him.

When He comes His love reveals the sin in our hearts and if we repent He will forgive us and use suffering and tribulation to refine us and purify us so we reflect His image perfectly (2-3).

God takes sin very seriously.  We have become inoculated against the horror of sin.  Sorcery is not  a harmless game to play with.  Homosexuality is not normal.  Pornography is not a right of free speech.  Lotteries are not good for the state budget.

The people that will be purified are sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, identity thieves, embezzlers, and other criminals.  These people all have one thing in common.  They do not fear the Lord Almighty.  What does that tell you?  If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom then they are really stupid.  Judgment is coming.  It is smart to honor and respect the Lord.

3:6-12

God accuses the people of turning their backs toward God.  But they say they haven’t.  They had no sense of guilt or shame.

God accuses them of robbing Him, but again they deny it.

The Hebrew word for tithe is related to our word “harem”.  It is a devoted thing.  Lev 27:30 declares, “The tithe is the Lord’s.”  Romans 14:8 says, “We are the Lord’s.”  It is no longer just 10% in the NT.

The tithe is the Lord’s whether you give it to Him or not.  You are the Lord’s whether you live for Him or not.  Just as it was stupid not to get God’s 10% out of their bank account in the OT, so today it is stupid not to live our lives unto the Lord.  Achan left God’s tithe in his house under a blanket and he died.  God wants to clean up sin.

3:13-18

The people were accusing God of injustice.  They were degrading God’s work.  They claimed that serving God did not benefit them.  It was a waste of time.  It does not gain me anything.  The wicked are prospering and they don’t serve God.

They sounded like Judas when the Alabaster box was broken.  “You’ve squandered a year’s wages.”

But God hears those that fear Him (3:16).  He is planning to reward those that respect Him.  He has great things for His children (17).  He will make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked.  Not all the priests were corrupt.  Not all the people were corrupt.  God cares for those that honor Him and walk with Him in peace.

4:1-6

The evildoer is compared to wheat stubble and the Christian is compared to calves let out in the big pasture.  This picture of the Day of Judgment is pretty vivid for the farmer.  The destiny of the wicked and the righteous are radically different.

4:4 God says remember.  Remember the ministry of Moses and Elijah.  All your problems are rooted in your neglect of the Law and the Prophets.  These all point to Jesus.  Moses and Elijah meet Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration and confirm the fulfillment of Scripture.

Before the Messiah comes there is one coming in the spirit of Elijah who will turn the hearts of the fathers and children so they can repent and not suffer the fire of God’s wrath.

Malachi is a message of God’s patient love.  God still loves us, but He expects honor and faithfulness on our part.  God calls the people to repent.  But they deny the charges.  Malachi says that they will receive no more words from the Lord until a messenger comes in the spirit of Elijah.

The next word is the angel’s word to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist.  Luke 1:17

1:18 Zechariah protests like other Jews have done before him, “How can this be, I am an old man.”

1:19 The angel replies, “So what?  I am Gabriel.”

God is God.  He has spoken.  What are you doing about?

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