Malachi 2:1-9 – … Even Though He Brings an Offering to the LORD Almighty

Mark Wheeler
November 9, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Malachi 2:1-9
… Even Though He Brings an Offering to the LORD Almighty

Sovereign God, we seek no glory but our own. Reveal to us all the mystery of Your will from before the foundations of the world. In the fullness of time, unite all things in heaven and on earth, in Jesus Christ Your Son. Amen.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a three-day prayer summit – 70 pastors and ministry leaders from churches all across the inland northwest met for the sole purpose of being together to lift our hearts to God and to listen for His voice back to us. On the 2nd night, we had the chairs arranged in a circle, and the leader looked straight at me and started making some kind gestures with his eyes, signals that I had no idea what they meant. So I looked back, quizzically, and nervously. Finally I started making hand signals, like “You talking to me?” But he just kept making the same weird googly eye signals. Finally as I started to stand up, his gaze refocused and he mouthed – “no, not you!” And I realized his wife was sitting in the row behind me.
Maybe you’ve been in a crowd and someone yelled, “Look out!” What do most people do? We either ignore the warning, or look around. “Look out” usually means “Duck!”
Moms can be good for giving warnings that lose their impact, too. How many of you have heard your mom say things like: “If you don’t stop crossing your eyes they’ll stay that way!”
I interrupted my sermon prep to check FaceBook and a friend posted the Taylor Swift song Shake It Off synced to an ’80s aerobic dance video, my friend said this: “I warn you, you cannot unsee this”, and then I watched it and cannot unsee it!

For the last month we have been listening to the Old Testament prophet Micah and heard him remind us that even though there are so many ways in which we fall short of meeting God’s standards, we can always count on His unconditional love. Micah kept reminding us of God’s worthiness of our worship.
We are now in the book of Malachi. This is the very last book in the Old Testament, and it was written, probably, around the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, also among the final books written in the Old Testament. We know almost nothing about Malachi, except that his name means “My messenger” or maybe “My angel”. Malachi continues the theme of God’s worthiness, but his emphasis is on our responsibility to worship Him well.

Hear the Word of God from Malachi 2:1-9…. —-
1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.
3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. 5 “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. 6 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.
7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 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. 9 “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.”

Did you hear the warning?! “If you don’t listen, and if you don’t resolve to honor my name, I will send a curse on you!”And then the warning turns ugly, “I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices….” And who said this? The LORD Almighty!
Look out!

Verse 1 does say, “OK you priests, this is for you!” So maybe we can all ignore the warning. After all, no one in this room is officially a priest! Maybe Kathy is, but not me! Right?
The term “priest” was not only used to identify a certain group of people in the Old Testament, but is also used to describe every believer in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, priests were descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron, who was from the tribe of Levi. They were called Levites and their job was to serve in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.
But, amazingly, the Bible teaches that you and I are priests. We are set apart to be involved in wonderful worship and sacrificial service. I Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” John put it this way in Revelation 1:6: “And has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father…”
So this warning in Malachi 2:1 is addressed to me, and to you!

Someone once said, to have a good sermon you need a good beginning and a good ending, and the two should be as close together as possible! We have seven points to make in today’s passage – but I’m gonna try to bring the beginning and the ending close together. So listen well, because this warning is important!

The criticism God was giving to the priests of Malachi’s day was that they did not honor His name. The first four of the big 10 were about honoring God’s name. The greatest commandment, to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind, means to honor His name! The Lord’s Prayer starts off with “Hallowed be Thy name” – it’s a prayer to honor His name!
Is this directed at us? You better believe it is! Whenever we ignore God’s Word in order to do what we want to do, we dis-honor God’s name. Whenever we carelessly gossip about someone, we dis-honor God’s name. Whenever we complain about not getting our own way, we dis-honor God’s name. Whenever we abuse whatever power or authority we think is ours, we dis-honor God’s name.
Is it ever excusable? Probably not! Does God offer forgiveness? Yes He does. But He also, simply because He is God, He has the right to REBUKE us however He sees fit. In the generation before Malachi that rebuke took the form of the people of Judah being sent into exile to Babylon. If we feel exiled, we might need to look to see if REBUKE might be a deserved discipline.
The LORD also has the right to REJECT whomever He chooses to REJECT! Does that sound harsh? It does to me, too. But I’m growing in my trust that God is Almighty, all-knowing, all gracious, He is also all trust-worthy!
And, the LORD has the right even to REMOVE any who dis-honor His name. He promises that He will not lose His grip on any who are truly His, but part of being truly His includes the desire to honor His name!

Malachi encourages us to worship God meaningfully and well. Not just to avoid being rebuked, rejected, or removed, but simply to honor His name well.
Malachi 2 reminds us that we have the responsibility and the ability to RESPOND to God in obedience. God wants us to listen and to set our hearts for obedience. James 1:22 tells us that faith without works is dead, but listen to how The Message translates that verse: “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!”
Our Moving Back into the Neighborhood Guiding Team is in the process of helping us listen. Are you listening to the Lord? Are we as a congregation listening to the Lord? The litmus test of true listening is in our living out what we know to be true. RESPOND to God in obedience!

Malachi 2 reminds us that we have the responsibility and the ability to REVERE God as awesome! 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.” Leah was hoping that with his birth, her husband might be drawn closer to her: “Now at last my husband will become attached to me … so he was named Levi (Genesis 29:34)”.
This reveals a universal desire of wives everywhere. They want their husbands to be locked into them. Malachi uses that image more a little later.
What’s kind of interesting about this “longing of God” is that no where does the Bible mention something called a “Levitical Covenant”. In fact, Levi is often mentioned in negative terms. But Moses and Aaron were in the Tribe of the Levites, and Moses is well known for how he revered God, especially through the 40 years of Wilderness. Do you REVERE God as awesome? Even when life is hard? Let’s turn to our neighbors and just remind each other that “God is awesome”!

Malachi 2 reminds us that we have the responsibility and the ability to RESOLVE to lead ourselves! Look at verse 6: “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.”
We each own the duty of RESOLVING to lead ourselves in God’s Word – that might mean joining a Bible study group, it might mean morning devotions, it might mean memorizing Scripture passages. However it works for you, we are obliged to make sure that God’s Word penetrates our lives!
Don’t wait for the New Year to make a resolution. RESOLVE today to pay more attention to God’s Word in your lives. Imagine our impact on our families and friends, our community and neighborhoods, our city and state, if we RESOLVED together to lead ourselves into God’s Word!

Malachi 2 reminds us that we have the responsibility and the ability to REPRESENT God to others! 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 ….” This really just means to live our faith out loud – to boldly live like we believe what we say we believe. To preserve knowledge means to guard against hiding our faith in a closet so that no one knows what we believe!
In a way, REPRESENTING God to others happens automatically when we obediently RESPOND to God’s Word with REVERENCE for God’s awesomeness causing us to RESOLVE to live even more deeply in His Word.
If we’re living our faith out loud, people will notice and they will seek instruction from us. If no one has asked you why your life is different, then maybe it really isn’t!

Did you hear the warning for you? … Even Though He Brings an Offering to the LORD Almighty, God can REBUKE, REJECT, even REMOVE us if we do not RESPOND in obedience, REVERE God’s awesomeness, RESOLVE to lead ourselves more deeply into His Word, and REPRESENT God to the world around us.
Like Mom said, If we “cross” our eyes – maybe they’ll stay that way! Thanks for the warning, Mom. Amen!

Resources:
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 496.

Smith, Ralph L.; Word Biblical Commentary 32; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1984; Pp. 317-325.

Micah 6 – Who Is Like Yahweh?

Mark Wheeler
October 19, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Micah 6
Who Is Like Yahweh?

Shepherd of Your flock, restore Your wayward people; lead us again to green pastures and renew us beside the waters of comfort. Because of Your faithful care, we worship and praise Your holy name. Amen.

I read about a man named Andy this week. Andy was an interesting guy. He’d never been out of his home town until he went to college. He rarely showed any signs of emotion, but he had a great sense of humor.
Andy became a devoted Christian while he was in college, and often told people, “Just remember. Jesus loves me, and He loves you.” When he became angry, however, Andy would simply say in a deadpan fashion, with a completely straight face, “Just remember, Jesus loves me, and he sorta likes you.” But when things really went badly – I mean really bad, he would eventually throw up his hands and look at the sky and yell, “Good God Almighty, what do you WANT from me?”

Can any of you relate to Andy? Just looking up at God and pleading with Him, “Good God Almighty, what do you WANT from me?” I can testify, for a fact, there have been plenty of times when that was me!

We are in our sixth week looking at the Old Testament prophet Micah – a book of WORSHIP – a book which author’s name translates as “WHO IS LIKE YAHWEH?”. A book within which every chapter talks about how NOTHING or NO ONE compares to GOD! No one is like Him!
But this is also a book that claims that this God who is worthy of our worship is a God of JUSTICE which authorizes His JUDGMENT and provides means for His GRACE.

So with that backdrop in place, let’s look at the 6th chapter of Micah, & see what it says about what God wants from me! And we will see that there is no one like Yahweh! Listen to God’s Word from Micah 6:1-8…. —-
1 Listen to what the LORD says:
4 “I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.
5 My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered.
Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.”
6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah was the prophet of the downtrodden and exploited people of Judean society. He prophesied during a time of great social injustice and he boldly opposed those who imposed their power upon the poor and weak for selfish ends. As he preaches to the people, Micah himself raises the question that Andy asked – “Good God almighty, what do you want from me?”
Of course, Micah is a bit more poetic – “What does the LORD require of us?”

The context in Micah carries with it the sense that these people were hurting, and they came to God doing their best to meet every rule, to follow every church expectation, to even exceed the minimums. And yet, they suffered. They were still looking for a job; they were still fighting the courts; they were still diseased or injured or alone or afraid. Good God Almighty – what more could be hoped for ?

This third, and final, “Hear ye”-saying of this short book, says, “Listen to what the LORD says”, and then there’s a brief line up of the ways God has rescued the remnant, the ways God has delivered the Judahites, the ways God has saved the Israelites – from their own sin and from oppression from others.
Micah reminds them that there is no one like Yahweh! All we need do is trust Him.

Have you wondered this week, what does God expect from you? You recount the list – I go to church, maybe I even attend Bible study or Sunday School; or I sing in one or two or three of the choirs; I brought a bag of candy for the Trunk or Treat event; I brought a can of lima beans for the UGM Food Barrel; I made some cookies for Just-for-Fun; I serve on one of the boards, or I volunteer to do some activity on Sundays, or I try to give money when I can. What more does God want?

The answer Micah gives is not hard to understand. Micah 6:8 is one of the clearest explanations of God’s expectations of His people.
This is not the first, or only, time the Bible tells us what God expects of us. Way back in Deuteronomy 10:12 the same question is posed: “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you?” In this passage the people had built their golden calf in the wilderness, and Moses came down the mountain with the second edition of the 10 Commandments, and the answer to this question is: “Fear the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good.” And Jesus references this passage in Matthew 23:23 where He criticizes the scribes and Pharisees, “Hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, but have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done without neglecting the others!”
What makes this answer hard is not in the understanding – it’s in the actual doing!

So, what does it mean to “act justly”? I have a number of ideas here that I will throw at you – but first, let’s hear your voices. Name some ways you can do justice in the name of God:
• Recycle and don’t over use the earth’s resources – a fair share for all.
• Treat people of all races, nations, languages and classes as we would like to be treated.
• Work toward affordable housing for all who want/need a roof over their head.
• Improve the employment rate – job availability for every employable person.
• In our relationships, just be respectful and generous.
• When disputes arise, look for peaceful, respectful, trusting ways to reconcile.
• Keep our promises; don’t deceive or take unfair advantage of others.
• Forgive others when they fail at any/all of these ideas.
• “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and the on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

How does one “love mercy”? Name some ways you can love mercy in the name of God:
• Show compassion to the needy.
• Forgive others when wronged by them.
• Go out of our way to be helpful to someone, even a stranger.
• Welcome people into our church, our homes, our neighborhoods – even if the “fit” seems uncomfortable.
• Accept others as they are – not necessarily approve of them, but accept them in love.
• “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

What word should be emphasized in “walk humbly with your God”? In that phrase, “walk humbly with your God”, which word would you put the most emphasis?
• Walk – daily prayer, in every encounter, enact your faith.
• Humbly – respecting others as more valuable than yourself, and knowing that God is God, and we are not!
• With – not lagging behind God, and not running ahead of Him either.
• Your – claiming full allegiance to God and God’s ways, regular in worship, faithful in study, expressive in life; you belong in the House of the Lord!
• God – trusting ourselves to God in all of life’s “boundary experiences” – illness, grief, loss, pain, death; and praising God in all of life’s victories – health, gain, birth, life.
How do we walk humbly with our God?
• Live like we believe what we say we believe! – even when it is hard to do so!
• Be confident that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

None of this is easy – in fact it is impossible for any of us to live-out perfectly. But, thank God, it is not impossible with God in our lives!
Acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God will not earn us a place in heaven – salvation still only comes by faith in Jesus Christ! We cannot save ourselves by doing enough justice, or being kind enough, or even by living lives of piety. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, dying on the cross and resurrecting on the third day – do you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and do you confess with your mouth that God raised Him from the dead? That’s how we gain salvation.
But this directive from Micah is also not an attack on church tradition or our participation in rituals and liturgies. It is merely an assault on doing those without faith!

Who is like Yahweh? No other faith in the world expects justice and mercy, even humility in our walk with God, to be a response to God’s perfect justice and full grace for His people. No other god is like Yahweh!

Resources:
Kaiser, Walter C., Jr.; Hard Sayings of the Old Testament; InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, IL; 1988; Pp. 226-228.

Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 491.

Wingeier, Douglas E.; Troublesome Bible Passages; Abingdon Press; Nashville, TN; 1994; Pp. 40-44.