Malachi 2:13-15

Sermon preached on April 19, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Many years ago I saw part of a talk show on TV where the host was interviewing a beautiful actress and her husband. At one point they were talking about the wife's beauty. She was like a super model. The husband was talking about how much he loved his wife. The interviewer asked him something to the effect if he would still love her if she were in a car accident and got disfigured. He said something like,

"No. Her beauty is what I really admire and love."

I believe he went on to say that he wouldn't stay with her if she became disfigured. And his wife just sat there like she was fine with what he was saying! If my memory is correct I believe the interviewer even asked her if she was okay with that and she said that she was. She obviously had more beauty than brains.

Beauty is not the most important thing in marriage—it's not even close to being the most important thing. Outer beauty is superficial. It's fleeting. As Proverbs 31:30 says,

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;"

But if beauty is not one of the most important things in marriage—what is? I think a lot of people would answer, 'love'. And that's a good answer. Love is an amazing and wonderful thing. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says,

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love."

But the problem with the answer 'love' is that many people think of it mainly as an emotion. They think in terms of romantic love, something they believe you can't control. You'll hear a married person say,

"I fell in love with someone else. I couldn't help it. It just happened."

But that's nonsense. Such people don't know what real love is. They confuse lust and love. That's not the kind of love that 1 Corinthians 13 extolls.

Because of that some people think that even love is not the most important thing in marriage. Rather they define the most important thing as 'faithfulness' or 'faithful love'.

That's what e see in our text.

Here God shows us that faithfulness is absolutely essential in marriage.

It's one of the key things, if not the most important thing.

The passage before us is a wonderful teaching on marriage and we would do well to pay attention to it. Society today will give you lots of bad advice about marriage. Society is so wrong that I think it's appropriate to use the term physicist Wolfgang Pauli, used to use with his students when they were so far from the correct answer. He would say to them,

"That is not only not right, it is not even wrong!"

According to Pauli, you had to get fairly close to the truth before you could even be wrong. If you're so far from the truth that it's unbelievable—you're not even wrong. That's what today's world is like with marriage. They will tell you that it's all about you, about your happiness, about your needs. They will tell you that divorce for any reason is okay, that if you find your soul-mate, it's okay to break your marriage vows, and leave your children. They will tell you that gay marriage is okay. The whole thing is narcissistic to the core. They're so far from the truth that they're not even wrong.

In contrast to this, in his book, The Meaning of Marriage, (p. 80) Tim Keller gets at one of the principle biblical principles of marriage when he wrote,

"the Bible teaches that the essence of marriage is a sacrificial commitment to the good of the other"

We are told great truths about marriage in our text. God tells us what marriage really is and how important it is that we take it seriously and fulfill our duty.

This morning we are going to look at some of what it teaches us. One of the main things we see here is that

marriage is a covenant which God instituted and to which He is a witness.

Marriage is a covenant. It is a binding agreement that must be taken seriously. God responded to the people's question about why He wasn't blessing them. He said,

"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?"

She is the wife of your marriage covenant. The traditional marriage vows illustrate this both the bride and the groom promise to be committed to each other 'till death do us part'. This is because it is a commitment to God.

God is the One who marries the couple.

In verse 15 it says that He has made them one. It says,

"Has not [the Lord] made them one?
In flesh and spirit they are his."

In Matthew 19:6 Jesus referred to marriage and said,

"Therefore what God has joined together,
let man not separate."

John Calvin says that this means that,

"God is the founder of marriage."

God instituted marriage between a man and a woman. He is the One that presides when a man and a woman are married. Marriage is a covenant before God.

Another passage where marriage is called a covenant is Proverbs 2:16-17. It speaks of the wayward wife,

"who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant
she made before God."

Again, it is clear that the vows were made before God. Marriage is a covenant that God instituted. In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller distinguishes between the consumerism of today's idea of marriage and the Biblical idea. He writes, (p. 81)

"contemporary Western societies make the individual's happiness the ultimate value, and so marriage becomes primarily an experience of romantic fulfillment. But the Bible sees God as the supreme good—not the individual or the family—and that gives us a view of marriage that intimately unites feeling and duty, passion and promise. That is because at the heart of the Biblical idea of marriage is the covenant."

Covenantal relationships are binding on us. Keller says that there is a covenantal relationship in parenting a young child. The parents makes many sacrifices in bringing up the child and very often they get little out of it. But the good of the relationship takes precedence over the immediate needs of the parents. Parents are invested in the relationship. They are absolutely committed to it. And if they're not—if they abandon their children—most people would be horrified.

So, too, marriage is a covenant. It's an agreement made before God. We have an example of this in the agreement between Jacob and Laban in Genesis 31. Laban said to Jacob, (verse 44)

"Come now, let's make a covenant,
you and I, and let it serve
as a witness between us."

He then said, (verses 49-53)

"May the LORD keep watch
between you and me when
we are away from each other.
If you mistreat my daughters or if you
take any wives besides my daughters,
even though no one is with us,
remember that God is a witness
between you and me.'
Laban also said to Jacob,
Here is this heap,
and here is this pillar I have
set up between you and me.
This heap is a witness,
and this pillar is a witness,
that I will not go past this heap
to your side to harm you and that you
will not go past this heap and
pillar to my side to harm me.
May the God of Abraham
and the God of Nahor,
the God of their father,
judge between us."

Marriage is a covenant like that. God instituted it. When a man and a woman get married they do it before God. When they say,

"I do,"

they are saying it, not primarily to each other, not primarily to the minister—but to God. As Tim Keller says, (p. 83)

"They are looking forward and technically answering the minister, who asks them the questions. What they are really doing is making a vow to God before they turn and make vows to one another. They are 'speaking vertically' before they speak horizontally. They get to hear the other person stand up before God, their families, and all the authority structures of church and state and swear loyalty and faithfulness to the other."

Marriage is a covenant before God.

The second thing we see in our text is that

God acts as judge when someone breaks their marriage vows.

God is a witness to their marriage and He holds the bride ad groom accountable. God was not blessing the people in Malachi's day because of the husbands' unfaithfulness to their wives. We read, (verse 13ff)

"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."

Their complaint is that God is no longer blessing them. The people pray to God. They bring offerings to Lord's altar—but He does not bless them.

This is one of the themes we see in the book of Malachi. It's a dark time in Israel's history. The exile is over. The temple has been rebuilt. But disillusionment has set in. God was not giving success to His people. He was not blessing them. The prophet Malachi tells the people that God's love for the is founded on His covenant with them (1:2-5) and that, his judgments are based on their violation of His covenant. One of God's complaints about them was that they were violating their marriage vows.

In marriage, God holds each accountable to Him. Christopher Ash puts it this way, (Marriage, p. 342)

"He [God] places the whole weight of the divine presence in support of the vows and in judgment on any who threaten or break them."

God is involved intimately in our marriages. He watches you. He blesses you or withholds blessings, in part, on how you fulfill your marriage vows.

This is true of Christians and non-Christians. That it applies to Christians is evident from 1 Peter 3:7. The apostle wrote,

"Husbands, in the same way be
considerate as you live with your wives,
and treat them with respect as the
weaker partner and as heirs with you
of the gracious gift of life, so that
nothing will hinder your prayers."

Peter taught that if husbands did not treat their wives with respect, their prayers would be hindered. They would miss out on blessings.

Now one of the great questions in all this is

why is God so intimately involved in our marriages?

Why does He care so much? There are many answers to that question, but two of them are clear from the Bible.

First, He cares for you.

In giving you husbands wives, God was seeking to bless you. As Proverbs 18:22 says,

"He who finds a wife
finds what is good and
receives favor from the LORD."

Having a godly husband or wife is one of the greatest blessings that a person can have. Being in such an intimate relationship with someone is designed to sanctify the other. In Ephesians 5:25–28 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Husbands, love your wives,
just as Christ loved the church
and gave himself up for her
to make her holy,
cleansing her by the washing
with water through the word,
and to present her to himself
as a radiant church, without stain
or wrinkle or any other blemish,
but holy and blameless.
In this same way, husbands ought to
love their wives as their own bodies."

God wants us to be holy.

But secondly, God cares about our marriages because He cares about other people coming to know Him.

Our marriages reflect Christ's covenant with the church. John Piper writes, This Momentary Marriage, (p. 25-26)

"Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. 'Till death do us part' or 'As long as we both shall live' is a sacred covenant promise—the same kind Jesus made with his bride when he died for her. Therefore, what makes divorce and remarriage so horrific in God's eyes is not merely that it involves covenant-breaking to the spouse, but that it involves misrepresenting Christ and his covenant. Christ will never leave his wife. Ever. There may be times of painful distance and tragic backsliding on our part. But Christ keeps his covenant forever. Marriage is a display of that! That is the ultimate thing we can say about it. It puts the glory of Christ's covenant-keeping love on display."The most important implication of this conclusion is that keeping covenant with our spouse is as important as telling the truth about God's covenant with us in Jesus Christ. Marriage is not mainly about being or staying in love. It's mainly about telling the truth with our lives. It's about portraying something true about Jesus Christ and the way he relates to his people. It is about showing in real life the glory of the gospel."

Piper continues, (p. 35)

"marriage is designed to be the display of God. In Ephesians 5:31–32 he quotes Genesis 2:24 and then tells us the mystery that it has always contained: 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church."

What does this mean?

First of all, how seriously you need to keep your marriage vows. How faithful you need to b to four spouse.

Marriage means that husbands and wives have a moral obligation to be faithful. Marriage also means that husbands and wives have a divine calling to be faithful. This means giving to the other was is promised. It also means that in your marriage you need to be forgiving, patient, showing forbearance to your spouse when they fail.

Second, this means that you should be optimistic about being faithful to your marriage partner.

By that I don't mean that we should be proud or think that we can stay faithful on our own. No. We can do nothing on our own and we need to work hard at our marriages and not be negligent.

But the fact that God is against so much against unfaithfulness in marriage means that if we rely on God He will give us the strength and power to be faithful. He wants us to succeed and bring Him glory.

Lastly, if you're not a Christian,

you should come to Christ.

That's the only way that you can be a true blessing to your spouse. Christ is the key to happiness, to glory. Go to Him today.