Ian’s Notes – www.postach.io
Thumbs-up from a Canaanite Baal: In Malachi’s time Jerusalem was being slowly re-settled and was a relatively small community. The people of the land around them spoke a different language, worshipped gods that they had created and had pagan beliefs, values and customs that were strongly condemned by the moral and judicial standards of the Law given to Moses and upheld by the Levites.
Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother, so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?
The issue in Malachi’s time
This verse begins a section where the context is inappropriate marriage and inappropriate divorce. These Jerusalem settlers of Malachi’s time had been marrying Canaanite women, without thinking about the consequences for the offspring – would they be children of the covenant or not? What language and customs and values would they grow up with? The father, as head of the household, bore responsibility for bringing up children in the fear and knowledge of the Lord. To fail was a sin.
Ezra and Nehemiah would address this some years later and order that these women be counted as dependents but not wives. Some Jews were jumping the gun and divorcing wives for no reason.
This was relational and social breakdown and to “deal treacherously” was to “profane the covenant of our fathers”.
The challenge for us
So why is it, that often we can’t we get along? Why do we “desecrate the covenant… that binds us together”?
The implications of breaking faith with one another (cf. v.11) are broader than marriage and divorce. There are breakdowns in relationship which lead to the ‘divorce’ of relational; separation in other areas of life. All betrayals, from the slightest unkindness to the grossest injustice, merit God’s disapproval.
Church, the place of love and trust and forebearing relationships, should be the place everyone looks to. If anyone can model it, we can. It is our job to be a priesthood to the world, showing how to live God’s way, in covenant with Him and each other. Demonstrating covenant community in handling disagreements constructively.
What causes breakdown?
Why do we break faith with one another, and hold it so lightly? People fall out over secondary doctrinal issues. A church decision doesn’t go the ‘right’ way in someone’s view and they leave. There’s a mistake or misunderstanding, and we take offence rather than choosing not to.
Why do we break faith with one another, and hold it so lightly? There are many reasons: we revert from spiritual awareness to living in the flesh, and we have an enemy who is quick to exploit that.
But I think the greatest reason is that we don’t see ourselves as covenant people, upholding covenant as a priority, as God’s way for us. We don’t recognise that relationship breakdown is sin against the covenant, with far-reaching consequences.
That all sounds a bit dire – but the remedy is simple. Live for God and live His way – the essence of Malachi’s message. As Jesus said, the Law is fulfilled in loving God and loving others.