Refine Me (Malachi 1)

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Last week my wife traveled to Iowa to be with her family after the passing of her grandfather. She took our youngest daughter and I stayed with our other three daughters. The first day of it being just “us” I realized that we needed a few grocery items. We packed into the car and went to the store. Loaded into our grocery cart were several items: cereal, milk, pizza, mac-n-cheese, and then we came to the fruit section. We picked up some apples but one of my daughters saw a package of special apples. These apples were special because on the outside they were coated with caramel and nuts – candied apples! My daughter wanted them and I said no. Apples are healthy but when you cover them with caramel they lose their nutritional value.

Religion can be a lot like candied apples. By itself, religion can be a very meaningful element of life. People pursue purpose and hope in life. Religion helps us to discover God provides answers and solutions that we cannot find solely with limited human knowledge. However, when one takes religion and covers it with human traditionalism then it becomes unhealthy.

This is what happened in Malachi’s day. Religion had grown rote. The people’s worship to God looked more like worldly business practices than having any spiritual relevance.

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EXAMINE     Malachi 1:1-5  Title: Refine Me
3 OBSERVATIONS ABOUT GOD WITH LIFE APPLICATION

#1 GOD SPEAKS

Malachi 1:1 “The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi”

  • Ma-la-chi: was he an Italian prophet?:)
  • Malachi’s name means “God’s Messenger”.
  • Prophets were messengers of God but they had a profound burden to speak God’s words.
    • That’s what the word “oracle” is – a burden, or weight. God’s word is a holy burden – a weighty responsibility to share the truth with others.[1]
    • In 4 chapters, approximately 50x, Malachi refers God’s words – “Thus says the Lord”.
    • Following Malachi, there would be 400 years of silence from God until the birth of Christ.
  • Malachi was Israel’s last prophet who served around 430BC.
    • Malachi was a contemporary of Ezra – Nehemiah, which means the time followed Israel’s exile and return from Babylonian captivity. Israel was back in and around Jerusalem but they still faced a prolonged period of social, economic, and physical hardship under Persian, Greek and Roman governments.
    • Israel still had not learned God’s lessons following the exile. They were indifferent and immoral and in need of God’s refining fire. There were at least 6 judgments against Israel that in our series we will condense to four refinements:

Refine Me

1:2-5         Israel doubted God’s love.

Refine My Church

1:6-2:9      Israel dishonored God’s Fatherhood and name with lame sacrifices.

3:6-12       Israel deprived God’s tithe.

Refine My Family

2:10-16     Israel was disloyal to God’s design for relationships with faithlessness, intermarriage with unbelievers and divorce.

Refine My World

2:17-3:5    Israel was disillusioned to God’s justice by committing evil (sorcery, adultery, lying, oppressing lowly, oppressing widows & orphans & foreigners and not fearing God).

3:13-4:13 Israel disgraced God with arrogance and apathy toward His holiness and judgment.

Since God speaks through His word with a profound burden

  • Pastor’s need prayer their integrity (purity) and intimacy (passion) with God.
    • Thankful for staff and deacons to keep me accountable and sincerely pray for me.
    • Thankful for encouragement to spend time in preparation of study of God’s word.
  • Congregation must cultivate hunger for God’s word.
    • Pray “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18)
      • Q: I want to know what God says… A: Well, read the Bible and listen to it taught.
      • Read. Observe. Analyze. Do.
      • Bible Groups – Smaller High 5’s.
    • Unbeliever of God’s word should test and try. How many people sit back and say “I’m not sure about this God stuff… I don’t really believe the Bible” – and they have actually never read the Bible seriously?
      • God says, “put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no need” (Malachi 3:10)
      • G.K. Chesterson “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

#2 GOD LOVES

Malachi 1:2 “I have loved you”

The Lord, through Malachi, started the indictment with reinforcing love before the rebuke. This is unique to the Christian God because in every other religion it starts with human obedience achieving divine love. Yet, Christianity presents divine love compelling human obedience.

  • Religion is like a man walking into an orphanage and saying, “Let me observe the children first and then I’ll adopt the most well behaved child.” [2]
  • Christianity is like a man adopting a set number of children, sight unseen, and then arriving to take them home. All the children are undeserving and many are unruly and rebellious, yet the Father chooses to love them.

Many people say that God’s love is unconditional, but what does that mean? Most people mean that one cannot earn God’s love, but that it is provided freely in the grace of Jesus Christ. God’s love is both unconditional in that you cannot earn it but it is conditional in only what Christ has done for you – His doing and dying – His righteous life and His substitutionary death to pay for your sin. Perhaps the issue with saying God loves us unconditionally is with the potential leading people to gloss over God’s grace of Jesus’ shed blood. We are so quick to move to God’s love without surrendering our devoted life to God’s glory rather than our own.

The fact that God’s love is conditional upon His own doing is freeing to you. It means God chose to love you based on His own desire, not something of your doing. It means you never have to guess if God loves you. Your relationship with God does not have to be a yo-yo or emotional rollercoaster. God is faithful. The gospel reminds us that God’s love is demonstrated and on full display through Jesus’ death. His love knew no limits.

“I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated”

Again, God’s love is not conditioned on either of Jacob or Esau’s works but upon God’s grace. Both Jacob and Esau were undeserving. Jacob was a lying fraud and Esau was a fool. Esau had every opportunity to approach God’s blessing – he was a descendant of Abraham the promised seed, the firstborn son of his family, had a close relationship with his father Isaac – and yet, despised God’s blessing for personal short-term benefit in a bowl of soup. Esau is the epitome of failing to have an eternal perspective.

To be clear, God is not rejecting a man who is loves Him and is pursuing Him in faith. Instead, God is allowing the consequences of Esau’s choices. God does not reject that who desires to receive Him.

  • God’s love welcomes our inquiries but warns against our interrogation.
    • There is a difference between curiosity and searching for answers versus making demands and couching questions with hidden statements. We must be careful how we approach God. The people of Malachi’s day are filled with questions showing they lack trust in God.
      • Curiosity Questions:
        • How can I learn contentment and to control my anger when God is not answering my prayers?
        • How can God bring about good when there is so much evil in the world?
        • How can I learn to use my blessings to be a blessing to others?
      • Couched Questions:
        • Why doesn’t God care about me since He won’t give me what I want?
        • If God is so good then why doesn’t He kill the people who do me harm?
        • Why does always bless other people and not me?
  • God’s love is not achieved by human effort, so those loved by God must increase the awe factor.
    • When we do not see ourselves as great sinners then we do not see God as a great Savior.
      • We grow to have a sense of entitlement like Esau and even Jacob. We could ask, “What is the thing that I feel like I deserve and God is slow in giving?” This is my idol.
  • Instead, we must grow our sense of humility, gratefulness and awe of God’s love.
    • à Gratitude produces Growing & Going Christians.

The people of Malachi’s day were not atheists but they were angry. They were angry because God was not fulfilling their happiness and comfort. Their finances weren’t the right amount; their family wasn’t self-fulfilling so they rejected God’s plan; their worship wasn’t entertaining their needs so dismissed God’s ways.

  • We must be careful not to create a God in our own caricature.

#3 GOD DEMANDS

Malachi 1:5-6 “Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’”

One of the titles for God in the book of Malachi is “Lord of hosts”, referenced 24x.[3] Following the exile, Israel would have been a very small and insignificant nation. Israel would have been without an army, leaving its people painfully aware of how helpless and unprotected they were before a vast Persian empire. Yet, God uses Malachi to remind the people that the Lord is their protective strength. The Lord is the “God of Angel Armies”; a phrase translated by Eugene Peterson in The Message for the term ‘Jehovah Sabbaoth”.

Chris Tomlin has a song titled Whom Shall I fear?” with lyrics
I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind
The God of Angel Armies, Is always by my side
The one who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine
The God of Angel Armies, Is always by my side.

The Lord’s reminder to Israel is that the unseen is stronger than the seen. There will come a day when your own eyes will see the Lord’s greatness, and not just in Israel but beyond its borders throughout the entire world (1:5). “For from the rising of the sun to its setting, God’s name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts” (1:11).

Illus:
In reading the newspaper or online there occasional editorial sections with humorous sketches called caricatures. A caricature is a picture of a person in which a certain features or characteristics are sketched with exaggeration in order to make a point about the person’s personality or character. Caricatures hardly tell the whole story about a person.

Sometimes we draw caricatures about God to over feature His love, grace, forgiveness to the exclusion of other features.

Malachi starts with God’s love but throughout the book are coinciding features of God’s judgment, accountability and expectations. God demands honor and worship.

  • We must recognize God is wholly other.
    • Reading the Prophets help us to have a greater picture of God. Not many churches take time to preach from an entire OT book as such.
    • Read Malachi once a week. Write notes answering
      • Who is God?
      • Why is God condemning the people?
      • How are we alike/dislike the people being condemned?
      • How does Malachi foreshadow Jesus?

APPLY/THINK

Ultimately, Malachi is a book about legacy.

  • It starts with the people of Israel and pointing them to look back to God’s love with Jacob.
  • It ends with the people of Israel and pointing them looking future to God’s love in Jesus.

When it comes to legacy, everyone inherits a legacy and they are seeking to implement a legacy.

  • How are you responding to your inheritance? Are you learning lessons or repeating the same foolish cycle of decisions?
  • Jesus is the cycle breaker.
  • Jesus is the legacy you want to leave for future generations.
    • Do you have Jesus?

– – – –  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

[1] See E. Ray Clenden, Malachi. The New American Commentary, p.242.

[2] Illustration idea from Mark Driscoll’s sermons on Malachi at Mars Hill.

[3] Malachi 1:4; 1:6; 1:8; 1:9; 1:10; 1:11; 1:13; 1:14; 2:2; 2:4; 2:7; 2:8; 2:12; 2:16; 3:1; 3:5; 3:7; 3:10; 3:11; 3:12; 3:14; 3:17; 4:1; 4:3.

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