Friday, March 02, 2007


Malachi 2:1-11 The Symptoms Of Spiritual Decline

“Therefore, this decree is for you priests:
2 If you don’t listen, and if you don’t take it to heart to honor My name,” says the Lord of • Hosts, “I will send a curse among you, and I will curse your blessings. In fact, I have already begun to curse them because you are not taking it to heart.
3 “Look, I am going to rebuke your descendants, and I will spread animal waste over your faces, the waste from your festival sacrifices, and you will be taken away with it.
4 Then you will know that I sent you this decree so My covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord of Hosts.
5 “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave these to him; it called for reverence, and he revered Me and stood in awe of My name.
6 True instruction was in his mouth, and nothing wrong was found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and fairness and turned many from sin.
7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.
8 “You, on the other hand, have turned from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have violated the covenant of Levi,” says the Lord of Hosts.
9 “So I in turn have made you despised and humiliated before all the people because you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in [your]instruction.”

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.

Vance Havner, one of Southern Baptists’ more renowned authors and revivalists, once told about the little boys who were playing baseball. They just had one ball, but one little boy hit the ball over the centerfielder’s head and they lost it. They looked out in the grass for the ball, but their efforts were in vain. Finally, one kid said, “Let’s forget the ball and get on with the game.” The question is obvious: How are you going to play baseball without a ball? Furthermore, how are you going to live the Christian life and how are you going to have a dynamic, heaven-blessed, God-pleasing ministry in your church without the power of the Holy Spirit. The sins that are growing among the people have a source. They didn't just happen - Malachi says the fundamental problem is that the leaders - those who should be the most spiritually sound and mature - no longer truly honoured God. They had lost the plot, just like the baseball players. Malachi 2:1-2 - Actually, it seems, at first glance, that God is missing the real problem. It was the people who were corrupting the worship with their cut-rate sacrifices. There must have been a real temptation for the priests to pass the buck - "Why are you coming to us - WE didn't bring these sacrifices. Go after those half-hearted worshipers of Yours." So God goes back to the source of the bad sacrifices - "The people are bringing those sacrifices to Me because YOU are letting them. THEY don't respect the truth anymore because YOU don't!"

1. WHEN YOU DISHONOUR GOD’S HOLINESS (2-3). The first step down the slippery slope of superficial religiosity is that these leaders totally dishonored the holiness of God. It always starts here. It was A.W. Tozer who said, “What you think about God is the most important thing about you.” These priests no longer honored God, which means that they did not consider Him to be weighty or heavy. Notice in the first part of verse 2 that because they didn’t honor God they didn’t bother listening to Him: “If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,”

The rebuke “curse their blessings,” He’s saying that sin and rebellion are not just washed away by some benediction or religious service. Are you living in light of the legacy you will leave for your kids and your grandkids?

led to rejection, he word “offal” refers not just to the intestines but also to “dung” awful offal.

the removal. “will be carried off with it.” . When the priests cleaned out the offal, they were supposed to throw it over the wall and have it burned because it was unclean. But now, since their faces were covered with dung, they too were unclean and unworthy to serve.

2. WHEN YOU DEPART FROM THE WAY (8a) “But you have turned from the way” NLT “You have left God’s paths.”

The words of an engraving from the cathedral of Lubeck, Germany, reflect our Lord's teaching:

Thus speaketh Christ our Lord to us, You call Me master and obey Me not,

You call Me light and see Me not, You call Me the way and walk Me not,

You call Me the life and live Me not, You call Me wise and follow Me not,

You call Me fair and love Me not, You call Me rich and ask Me not,

You call Me eternal and see Me not, If I condemn thee, blame Me not.

3. WHEN YOU ARE DESTRUCTIVE TO OTHERS (8b). When we depart from the way we usually end up taking others with us: “…and by your teaching have caused many to stumble.” Since we all influence someone, when we grow cold, others will ice over too. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good character.” Matthew 18:6, when He said: But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day. I’d rather one would walk beside me than merely tell the way.

The eyes, a better pupil and more willing than the ear. Fine counsel is confusing, but example is always clear.

The best of all the preachers are the men who will live their creed,

But to see good put in action is what everybody needs.

I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done. I can watch your hands in action, your tongue too fast may run.

The lectures you deliver may be very wise and true, But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.

I may not understand the high advice you give, But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live."

4. WHEN YOU DESECRATE THE COVENANT (8c). God had a special rapport traced all the way back to Levi: “You have violated the covenant with Levi, says the LORD Almighty.” ). In verse 4, God is longing for His covenant with Levi to continue. Levi was the third of Leah’s sons born to Jacob. His name literally means, “to adhere,” or “be joined to.” Malachi 2:5 describes this covenantal relationship: “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.” This covenant of “life and peace” is a reference to what Phineas did in Numbers 25 when he took a stand against evil. The men of Israel were indulging in sexual immorality, which involved the worship of a false god named Baal. God’s anger burned against the people and so he told Moses to have those committing such abominations destroyed. Unbelievably, even after many were wiped out, in broad daylight, an Israelite named Zimri brought a Midianite prostitute named Cozbi into his tent and committed fornication with her. When Phineas the priest saw this, he jumped up, took a spear and drove it through both of them. This stopped the plague against the Israelites, but not before 24,000 people were killed. God was very moved by what Phineas did and said in Numbers 25:11-12 that because “He was as zealous as I am for my honor among them…therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him.” Verse 13 summarizes this covenant of peace that is referenced in Malachi 2: “He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.” With someone like Phineas in their family tree, it’s an anomaly that the priests in Malachi’s day could commit such abominations.

5. WHEN YOU ARE DESPISED BY THE PEOPLE (9). It’s ironic that the priests were accepting substandard sacrifices in large part because they didn’t want to get the people mad at them. They valued what the people thought more than what God did. But because they were in a spiritual freefall, they ended up being rejected by the people:


When we were up in Glen Innes, I really enjoyed going out on to some fo the farms and loved to see the dogs working the sheep. A few cows were quietly chewing their cud in a nearby corner while perhaps a hundred sheep moved across the paddock toward the pens where they were to be dipped. Mack, brown collie, was in his glory. He came from a long line of working dogs, and he had sheep in his blood. This was what he was made for, this was what he had been trained to do. It amazed me to see him circling to the right, circling to the left, barking, crouching, racing along, herding a stray sheep here, nipping at a stubborn one there, his eyes always glued to the sheep, his ears listening for the voice of his master. “Go round”, “up the back” “back off” “over”

When all the animals had been shut inside the gates, Mack tore around the outside of the pens and took up his position at the dipping trough, frantic with expectation, waiting for the chance to leap into action again. After being dipped and sprayed, they would struggle to climb out the side, and Mack would snarl and snap at their faces to force them back in. Sometimes, tearing at top speed around the flock, Mack would jam on four-wheeled brakes, his eyes blazing but still on the sheep, his body tense and quivering, but obedient to the command to stop. What the shepherd saw the dog could not see -- the weak ewe that lagged behind, the one caught in a bush, the danger that lay ahead for the flock."Do the sheep have any idea what's happening?" I asked.

"Not a clue!" he said. "And how about Mack?"

I'll never forget the answer: "The dog doesn't understand the pattern -- only obedience." Let your days be Mine to order; Where I lead, obedient be. Let your own desires be nothing; Only seek to follow Me. --Anon.

2. YOU MUST REVERE GOD AS AWESOME (4-5) awe..fear. .Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Scientists refer to the year 1905 as Albert Einstein's “annus mirabilis” — his year of miracles. While working as a patent clerk, Einstein spent his free time debating physics and working on theories that would end up altering the way we think of the world. All within a few months, he completed a series of papers, the least of which included his theory of special relativity and the renowned equation E=mc². Yet among these better-known contributions was also his most revolutionary contribution. One hundred years ago this month, Einstein submitted a paper that directly challenged the orthodoxy of physics. The paper described his radical insight into the nature of light as a particle.

In 1905, all physicists explained light in the same way. Whether the flame of a candle or the glow of the sun, light was known to be a wave. It was a time-honored, unquestionable fact. For over a century, scientists had grown in their certainty of this, citing experiments that made certain the wave nature of light, while overlooking some of its stranger behaviors. For example, when light strikes certain metals, an electron is lost in the process. But if light were only an electromagnetic wave, this would be impossible. Albert Einstein would not overlook these peculiarities, proposing that light was not a continuous wave, but consisted of localized particles.

Einstein knew that his theory was radical, mentioning to friends that subject matter of his March paper was “very revolutionary.” Yet perhaps the most helpful aspect of his theory was the unassuming attitude with which he presented his far-reaching thoughts. He seemed to recognize that there was an unfathomable quality within the dual nature of light, and that understanding light at all was a lofty feat. “What I see in nature,” he once noted, “is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility.”

You and I know the world around us similarly, seeing it as in a mirror faintly. We are awed because it is beyond us, and awed that we should discover anything at all. It seems obvious at these moments that the mind is more than a flux of atoms, if for no other reason than that it recognizes there is more to see and know. The writers of Scripture engage the hope within the unfathomable realities around us, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34).

There is much to life and faith that is unplumbed by my own mind, even as it has been searched by minds long before my own. Why have we been given minds to search and know? How is it that we should know God by name, or know his voice? And how shall we respond to the call of God among us: “This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it-the LORD is his name: 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know'“ (Jeremiah 33:2-3).

In 1905, Einstein's departure from the established beliefs about light so disturbed the scientific community that his particle theory of light was not accepted for two decades. His theory was and remains a revolutionary concept. The idea of light being both a wave and a particle is a vast reality to grasp. Even so, it is incredible that we should know light enough to marvel at it. It is unfathomable that He who first commanded light to shine out of darkness calls us by name.

3. YOU MUST RESOLVE TO LEAD YOURSELF (6a). After responding to God and revering Him as awesome, the next step is to lead ourselves. What I mean by this is that we need to make sure the spiritual is real in our own lives. Look at the first part of verse 6: “True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness…” If we want to lead people upward we must make sure that God’s Word penetrates our own personhood. We must concentrate on our walk with Him more than anything else.

4. YOU MUST REPEL PEOPLE FROM SIN (6b). The last part of verse 6 challenges us to do whatever it takes to turn “many from sin.” When we see someone straying we may be tempted to turn the other way. James 5:19-20 exhorts us to not disengage from this task. If we’re serious about leading others upward sometimes we have to go get people out of the mud: “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

5. YOU MUST REPRESENT GOD TO OTHERS (7). One of the roles of the priest was to represent God and reveal His will to the people. We see this in the first part of verse 7: “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge…” 7: “…And from his mouth men should seek instruction-because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty.”

I read about sandals with treads that leave the words "Jesus" and "Loves You" as you walk along sandy or muddy ground. The sandals can be ordered for about $25 from a website called "Shoes of the Fishermen." The company also sells snowboots for those who want to leave their mark while walking in the snow. I'll leave it up to you to decide if this is a worthwhile use of your money. But as I read the story about sandals that leave the words "Jesus Loves You" wherever the owner walks, it made me think. I couldn't help but ask what kind of "impression" I'm making in the lives of others. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8 Paul said, "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."

1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

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