Minor Prophets: Malachi and the 2nd Coming of Jesus
A while back I preached a series of sermons on what are called ‘the minor prophets.’ This is one of the sermons I preached in that series. It is from the book of Malachi. I’m thinking of adding the rest of the sermons to box.net. I agree that they are a bit rough. My preaching was going through a transition at the time so there were some hits and misses. In this sermon, I simply ask: If you had one more time to say something to someone, what would you say. Canonically speaking, Malachi is the last thing God said to Israel for 400 years. What did he say? That’s the point. jerry
If you had one last try to convince someone of something before the whole world were turned upside down what would you say to them? How would approach someone if you wanted to give them one simple opportunity to get what others had said for you for several hundreds of years prior? As it turns out, God had sent prophet, after prophet, after prophet—starting all the way back in the days of Abel, Methuselah, and Noah—warning His wayward people, warning the people of earth—that things needed to change among those people.
He had sent Israel Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Later he sent Moses and Joshua. Then beyond that the Judges, Gideon, Deborah, Samson and the like. Then came Samuel. Then David and his son Solomon. And if that were not enough, He sent Elijah, Elisha and a whole slew of prophets from A to Z, Amos to Zechariah, and all those in between like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. He sent them during times of peace and in times of war. He sent them during the exile, before the exile and after the exile. There was never a time in the history of Israel when God did not have a prophet on the scene warning the people of the consequences of their actions.
Now the people had been back from the exile roughly 100 years. Things are up and running. Walls are built. Temple is constructed and being used on a regular basis. People are living in houses and planting crops. But something is not right. Something is amiss, strange, quirky. The people, I think it fairly obvious from Malachi’s book, did not even come close to noticing anything strange or wrong. The Lord will point it out to them—bluntly. He will ask them 7 questions, He will answer seven questions.
An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.
“I have loved you,” says the LORD.
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD -even beyond the borders of Israel!’ “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’
“You place defiled food on my altar.
“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’
“By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. “Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”-says the LORD Almighty.
Maybe the people did not know it, but the Lord did: This was the last prophet who would speak to the Israelites before that great and terrible Day of the Lord. And things must have been bad at the time. But let me ask, How bad to things have to be for the people of God to ask God, “How have you loved us?” How bad must things be for God’s people when they cannot even remember all that God has done for them?
Could we ever forget?
Then he charges them again: You have shown contempt for My Name. And they ask, “How have we shown contempt for Your Name?” How bad must things be for God’s people that they have to ask, “How have we shown contempt for Your Name?” I mean, does this indicate that people have forgotten what is contemptible? Does this mean that people have forgotten the nature of a Holy God? Does this mean people are simply uninvolved in the Word of God? Does this mean they never pay attention to the prophets God sent them?
Have we ever shown contempt for God’s Name?
Then He charges them again saying: You have defiled me. And again the people respond by saying: How have we defiled you? And he condemns them by pointing out that they are bringing garbage before him to the altar. They are not bringing Him the best. They are like Cain who brought before God the least of His fruit and not the Best of his Flock.
Do we ever defile the Lord by bringing before him Garbage, the least we can offer instead of the best?
“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty. “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.
And here he points out the problem: This is reflecting negatively on me in the nations, from one end to the other the people of this world thing ill of me because of you—And that is not right. Paul speak a similar sentiment in Romans 2:
Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you
We have to be careful. We have to be mindful. And how often we forget that our actions reflect on God. The way we behave in the community, the things we complain about, the people we gossip about, the trouble we make, those we fail to protect. Our actions reflect loudly on our God.
“And now this admonition is for you, O priests. 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. “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. And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. “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. 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. “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 Almighty. 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. “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.” 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? 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. 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. 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. 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. 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, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. “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.
You have wearied the LORD with your words.
“How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”
Why does God hate divorce? Because it is born out of lust and envy for something, or someone else. In this case, divorce is a metaphor for the unfaithful people of Israel who lusted after idols, gods, goddesses, What the Apostle John refers to in his book as, the Lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. God had warned them saying, “Do not take wives from among the nations or they will corrupt you.” But they did not listen. Peter warned about this too:
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”
Imagine, wearing out the One who neither sleeps nor slumbers. Imagine becoming such a tiresome group of people that God Almighty grows weary of your presence. And what happens when a people become so tiresome that God is bored with them? But even worse, imagine have no idea that you are even doing it. Imagine being so complacent that you don’t even know that you are boring God…
But you know as well as I do that there are folks in this world, and there are folks in churches nowadays, who do this very thing. They call good evil and evil good. They question: Where is this Invisible God you always talk about? What is He up to? Here it is, in plain English: God actually gets tired of people’s insipid questioning of the way He runs His universe.
I wonder if the people of this earth, or people in His church, bore the Lord Almighty?
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.
As if He had not sent enough messengers. As if…But He will send one more…One more who will prepare the way before the Lord Himself comes. No no more mere messengers. Now, says the Lord, “I Myself will come.” And I will send one to prepare the Way before me. I will come to you in judgment. Jesus said:
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
” ‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her motherinlaw—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.
This coming of the Lord that the people were tired of waiting for was not about to be a pleasant day—for anyone.
“You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD.
“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’
How bad must it be when the people of God don’t even know when they are blaspheming God’s Name? How unaware of Him must they have become? How oblivious to Him have they managed to make themselves? They first get in trouble for neglecting His presence by ignoring His Temple. Then, after it is built, they allow themselves to forget about Him by corrupting His Temple.
I wonder if We ever say harsh things against God?
“ Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
I have made the contention in the past that the problem with the church in America is not that we are persecuted by outside forces—made to confess Caesar or Jesus and put to death if we choose the wrong one, fed to lions, beheaded, disowned by family because we choose Jesus or anything like that—but my contention has been that we in America are actually persecuted with affluence. That is, we struggle not because we have too little but because we have too much. And so I came across this in a sermon by a man named John Piper. He wrote, “The great threat to the church in America is not that we are persecuted and homeless and driven about like refugees; but that we are so much at home here. We have let the Lord’s delay put us to sleep: No sense of urgency, no earnest expectation, no heart-wrenching cry: ‘Come, Lord Jesus,’ no passionate mission strategy to penetrate the un-evangelized peoples who must be reached before He comes. And inevitably, when the urgent zeal for the Name of God fades, so does the moral power to be pure.”
After Malachi, there would be a four hundred year stretch of time when there would be no prophetic Voice of the Lord. And then, when one did appear on the scene it was ‘as a Voice crying out in a wilderness’ so barren was the land for righteousness, so empty was the land of any other voice—it was as if the lone Voice could be heard for miles and miles and miles because there was no cacophony of voices as there was in days past. It was easy, then, to lapse in Phariseeism and Saduceeism and legalism in the midst such a vacancy.
In the midst of our own current delay—this 2000 year period we have been waiting for the Lord Jesus to return and take us to be with Him—what are the voices crying out? What does Malachi have to say to us?
Remember the Lord’s Love for you.
Don’t show contempt for God’s Name.
Don’t defile the Name of the Lord by bringing garbage before Him.
Don’t weary the Lord.
Return to Him Daily.
Don’t rob God.
Don’t say harsh things against God like good is evil and evil is good.
We are waiting. I heard someone say the other day that we are living literally in the very last days. That the Return of Jesus is right around the corner. And since all that is left for Jesus to do is come back, I guess to an extent that person is right. But even if the Lord tarries, even if He has another 1000 years before that time, we have no right to grow comfortable, so comfortable with our surroundings that we sink into the sort of life that the ‘just before Jesus Jews’ lapsed into.
We are waiting. And we are passing through. We have to remain on alert because I’m telling you, we are living in the last days—even as the church in the book of Acts was living in the last days. And what happens if the Lord comes back and finds us unprepared? What happens if He comes back and finds us wanting? What happens if we get so comfortable that we forget about Him and have to ask, “How have you loved us?”
What happens if we have grown so comfortable that we can no longer shout with the Spirit and the Bride, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
The reason this is the last book of the Old Testament, I think, is because God wanted to warn us of what not to become while we are busy or not busy waiting on Him. He says, Here is what you should guard against. Here is what you must not become.
Don’t grow complacent about your relationship with God just because He makes you wait a little…while…longer.