Monday, May 25, 2015

Faithful

My Sunday School lesson for May 24, 2015 ...

Have you ever done something online where you had to click on one of those "I Agree" buttons?

Like everyone else, you probably just click “Yes” and ignore the terms and conditions.

By clicking that box you promise to abide by the terms of use for that product. But have you ever read it? Usually there is a LOT of text, all of it written in legal jargon.

For Apple’s iTunes, that's a lot of pages. I printed out 24.

If it’s just for an app, then you can probably safely ignore the confusing legal stuff, but if something goes wrong with, say, buying plane tickets and then your flight changes, or if you have a dispute with your cable company or on your credit card bill, then you had better know what it said.

But one thing is for sure: entering into agreements is a big part of our everyday lives.

God set the terms of His covenant with Israel from the start. The problem was that the people ignored it and had to suffer the consequences.

One of the biggest ones was "Til death do us part."

Under the new covenant followers of Christ also must guard our hearts so that we won’t be led astray by sin’s deception.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Last week we introduced the book of Malachi, the last of the minor prophets in the Old Testament.

*** In chapter 1, the Lord through Malachi chastised the priests for dishonoring God during worship. They allowed people to bring in animals that weren't the best of the best, and God wasn't pleased.

*** This week in chapter 2 we see how Malachi described the unfaithfulness of the people. The people weren't following the covenant God had given their ancestors. They treated the Lord’s sanctuary with contempt and intermarried with people of other faiths. Others were divorcing their wives and marrying other women. God called it all unfaithfulness.

*** At the same time, Malachi said that people seemed to long for justice (see 2:17), but they apparently did not really want it in their own lives.

IRRESPONSIBLE BEHAVIOR (MAL. 2:10-12)

10 Don’t all of us have one Father? Didn’t one God create us? Why then do we act treacherously against one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has acted treacherously, and a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the Lord’s sanctuary, which He loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 To the man who does this, may the Lord cut off any descendants from the tents of Jacob, even if they present an offering to the Lord of Hosts.

*** We are family, all my brothers, sisters and me.

--- Malachi appeals to the people's heritage. They shared a common ancestry bound under one Father, and that's God.

--- They also shared in the sins of the nation.

(Is that fair? Surely there were many pious Jews there. Would we want to be punished for the sins of America?)

*** Malachi says the people acted "treacherously."

--- That's a strong term, suggesting willful irresponsible behavior.

*** They profaned the covenant.

--- Again, this is a serious charge, saying that the people have disregarded God's laws and dishonored God's promises.

*** Marriage to pagan women was a problem.

--- God established marriage. God loves marriage. But it is clear in the Bible that marriage to unbelievers violates God's covenant and thus our relationship with Him.

--- This isn’t some Old Testament law to keep the Jews’ ethnic bloodline pure. After all, Joseph married a believing non-Israelite. Boaz married Ruth, who was a Moabite. Moses married a Midianite and an Ethiopian.

This is also in the New Testament and it’s about keep ourselves pure. Paul writes about this in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16a:

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?

--- Our relationship with our Heavenly Father impacts all that we are and all that we do. They were also reminded that negative consequences that one generation’s bad teaching can have on the next generation.

--- Marrying a non-believer who doesn’t share your faith is almost always bound to affect your faith for the worse, just as spending time with friends and co-workers threatens to drag you down.

THE MARRIAGE COVENANT REAFFIRMED (Mal. 2:13-16)

13 And this is another thing you do: you cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning, because He no longer respects your offerings or receives them gladly from your hands. 14 Yet you ask, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have acted treacherously against her, though she was your marriage partner and your wife by covenant. 15 Didn’t the one God make us with a remnant of His life-breath? And what does the One seek? A godly offspring. So watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously against the wife of your youth. 16 “If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.

*** The people don’t get it.

--- The Israelites continued to offend God. The men of Israel had rejected their wives, so God rejected their sacrifices.

--- Bringing a sacrifice didn't automatically make up for the people's disloyal behavior when their hearts weren't full devoted to the Lord.

*** "For what reason?"

--- When the people ask that in verse 14, they reveal severe spiritual ignorance. They didn't see the disconnect between what they were doing in their lives and their worship. They were clearly just going through the motions.

--- When Malachi refers to the "wife of your youth," suggesting that they had been married young. But the men started going through a mid-life crisis, getting a sports chariot, etc. And divorcing their wives for a trophy wife who probably was a pagan. (Starring on “the Real Housewives of Judah.”)

*** Christ as our example.

--- Paul teaches us that marriage is a picture of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32):

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.)

--- Couples who marry for life have the opportunity to experience a great depth of love. As Christians, our marriages are a testimony to the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.

*** Still, Christians are not immune to failed marriages, and not always at fault.

--- Just among ourselves in our class we see the effects of divorce, and if you haven't then you've been touched by it from your family and friends.

*** QUESTION - Why do you believe the divorce rate is so high among believers?

*** Since God loves marriage, it makes sense that he doesn’t like divorce. God really does not like it when people treat marriage flippantly.

--- This cuts against the grain of our culture, but the reality persists. Divorce severs relationships and shatters lives.

--- It is true that divorce was permitted in the Mosaic law, but only as Jesus later said, “because of your hardness of heart:”

Matthew 19:8-9 - Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

--- A wise man once said marriage is like gluing two pieces of cardboard together. You can pull them apart, but they are both torn, with pieces of each other permanently attached. One cannot be divorced without leaving some of yourself with your former mate, while you always carry some of your former partner with you.

*** QUESTION - What can we do to demonstrate God’s mercy toward someone who has been wounded by divorce?

GOD BRINGS JUSTICE (Mal. 2:17)

7 You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you ask, “How have we wearied Him?” When you say, “Everyone who does what is evil is good in the Lord’s sight, and He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”

*** God was tired of the big hot mess that was Israel.

--- God cannot actually become weary, but He was tired of the whining, of the complaining, of the rebellious attitudes.

--- The culture had been tainted so much that the priests were allowing people to bring inferior offerings and to abandon the marriage covenant.

--- The more the culture disregards God's commandments, the further we decay spiritually.

*** Israel’s doubts continued.

--- According to Malachi, the people were accusing God of injustice for not punishing people whom they considered to be evil.

--- QUESTION - With these conditions, what did the Israelites believe about God? What realities in today’s world cause some people to ask “Where is God?”

--- How can we respond? Start by reading them 2 Peter 3:9-13: 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

--- As marriage goes, so goes the family; as the family goes, so goes the culture; as the culture goes, so goes the nation.

The 2012 report on Marriage in America from the Institute for American Values reveals that the health of family life has declined over the past several decades. For example:

• More than 40% of children in the late 2000s were born outside of marriage.
• Over the last forty years, the annual number of marriages per 1,000 unmarried adult women has dropped by more than 50%.
• The current divorce rate for an average married couple now stands between 40-50%.
• In 2011, 26% of all children lived in single-parent homes, a sharp increase from 9% in 1960.
• Since 1960, the number of unmarried cohabitating couples with children has increased fifteen fold.

Sadly, some marriages do end in divorce, and not always because of a casual attitude toward marriage.

When possible we should strive to avoid it and encourage others to work through their problems when possible rather than to give up on their marriages.

The church today must deal compassionately with those who have experienced this tragedy, while at the same time must uphold the biblical standard.

*** Lack of faithfulness toward God leads to breakdowns in human relationships.

*** Ask yourself, how would Jesus want you to treat those who have been through divorce?

*** What can you do to encourage the marriages around you?

Notes are taken from Lifeway's Explore the Bible as well as Grace to You Ministries, Love Worth Finding ministry and other sources.

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