Listen - I am Disappointed in your Ways

Bible Book: Malachi  2 : 1-9
Subject: Obedience; Covenant Living; Judgment; Curse
Series: Listen Up - God is Speaking - 8 Sermons

Listen - I Am Disappointed in your Ways

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

Malachi 2:9

The little girl was warned by her parents not to play near the busy highway in front of her home. Her mother had caught her near the street on one occasion and had spanked her lightly as a warning. The child wandered once again toward the roadway to play her childish games. This time a spanking would have been a blessing compared to what happened. A truck came over the hill, struck the little girl solidly and threw her more than a hundred feet down the highway. Both of her shoes were knocked completely from her feet. She was killed instantly.

In essence, we could say that the mother had pronounced a curse on the road and told the child to stay away from it. The child had chosen to do her own thing. Now the girl was dead, the mother was grieving that her little one had not listened to her. The story I have just told you is true. It happened just up the road from my home when I was a boy. The little neighbor girl was about six years old when her life ended.

We can use this incident as an analogy. There are some things upon which God has pronounced a curse. The curse of God is not a divine power-play. God told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that there was a curse of death upon anyone who ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We know what happened. The pair did not listen to God and the curse became a reality. God did n tell them about the curse because He was mad at them or because He wanted to hurt them, but He told them about it to protect them. Just as the little girl's parents had warned her about playing in the road.

It is sad to note that many people today treat God the way the little girl treated her parents. She thought, no doubt, that her parents were trying to deprive her of some pleasure, which she considered her right. The result was death. Since the days of Adam and Eve, we have had an internal desire to do our own thing. The result is to experience the curse upon our lives.

Today we are going to look at a curse that was pronounced on the priests during the days of Malachi. We are going to learn that it is possible to live under a divine curse even in these modern days. There is an escape from the curse and I pray that we will take the steps to step away from the curse and unto the ground of blessing.

I. The Reason For God's Disappointment - Chapter 2:1-2

We need to begin by remembering that every believer in the New Testament is a priest before God. This is true because each of us has the right to approach God without the necessity of human agency. We are told to come boldly to God's throne of grace (Hebrew 4:16). We can do this because Christ is our intercessor and has opened the way for us to call God, Father, or more personally, Daddy (Abba-Father - Romans 8:15). Thus, the passage here in Malachi, though spoken to the professional priests of the Old Testament, can apply to all of us as Christians in the New Testament.

As we read our text today, we note that a two-fold rebellion had developed in the life of God's people and it was bringing a curse from God upon the land.

A. They had a Hearing Problem

Listening to God is vastly more important than we take it to be. To see this clearly, look at some passages, which speak of heeding God's words found throughout the Bible.

Deuteronomy 18:19, "If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account."

Isaiah 65:12, "I will destine you for the sword, and you will all bend down for the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me."

Jeremiah 6:10, "To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it."

Jeremiah 26:2-8, "This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD's house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. Say to them, "This is what the LORD says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth." The priests, the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the LORD. But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the LORD had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, 'You must die!'"

1 John 4:6, "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood."

These verses make it clear that listening to God is very important. In our passage found in Malachi, chapter 2, we discover that the people were going to be placed under a curse if they would not learn to listen to God!

When God says that we should listen; He is not merely talking about hearing, He is also talking about heeding. James said, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22) Our doer must keep up with our hearer!

B. They had a Heart Problem

The Lord said that the people were to honor Him from the heart. It was not enough to go through the motions of worship or service to God; they were to love the Lord. Even if the people were to listen and to obey, but did not set their hearts to honor His name, He would send the curse or judgment upon them.

We cannot read this without remembering the Church at Ephesus found in Revelation 2. The church mentioned there was orthodox in doctrine and pure in practice, but they had failed to love God. Jesus told them that they had left their first love. Friends, loyalty without love is function without feeling. God would have us live right, but not without loving Him rightly at the same time.

II. The Results of God's Disappointment - Chapter 2:2b-4

God stated that He was going to send a curse upon their blessings; in fact He had already begun to curse their blessings. We must understand the meaning of the word curse and what a curse from God involves.

A curse is a pronouncement of judgment against a person, place or thing. It is a statement of wrath from the Almighty. Human curses are mere wishes and carry no force of authority, but a divine curse is a promise of judgment. A curse is the opposite of a blessing from God. In essence, what God curses no man can bless and what God blesses no man can curse. No voodoo, hocus-pocus, magic, human or satanic power can bring a curse on you or your family if God has pronounced a blessing on you. No human or Satanic power can stop a curse from God once it is pronounced. Two important elements are present in a divine curse.

A. Warning Always Precedes Divine Judgment

God never sends judgment without warning. Note the quintessential example found in Genesis. God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. He told them that they could eat fruit from all the other trees in the garden. We are all familiar with the fact that Eve was tempted by Satan and sinned by eating of the forbidden tree. She gave some of the fruit to Adam who also ate that which had been forbidden. As a result, a curse or judgment from God came upon the couple. What was that curse? It was the very curse, which God had previously announced it was death.

Sometimes we are guilty of pronouncing judgments, which we do carry out. For example, a parent will warn a child that a repeated infraction will result in punishment. When the child repeats the offensive behavior, the parent simply delivers another warning. This continues until the parent merely gives up on the threats. This format of warning without penalty is not in God's nature. What He says He will do, that He does!

Going back to the example of Adam and Eve, we see that their taking of that which God had banned brought God's judgment upon themselves. But that was not all that happened, the curse extended beyond the couple. The curse also came upon the serpent, the form that Satan used to tempt Eve (Genesis 3:14). The curse extended to the earth (Genesis 3:17). Then, at last, the curse came also upon us (1 Corinthians 15:22). All of us will die a physical death because of Adam's sin.

The pattern then involves two elements. First, there is a warning given from God to avoid the curse. A person does not accidentally happened to fall ignorantly into a divine curse.

B. The Curse Ultimately Affects Everyone

Even though we may be the ones who sin, others are drawn into the judgment. Surely there were some who were being faithful to God in Malachi’s day, but the judgment came on them as well.

Let me illustrate this point. When the Israelites went across the Jordan to face the city of Jericho, God gave them a command not to take anything that belonged to the citizens of Jericho. Everything was under a ban (the same root word for curse) (Joshua 5). To take the thing, which was banned, was to incur the wrath of God. A man among the soldiers of Israel named Achan took some items and hid them under his tent. Nothing happened at first. He must have thought that he had violated the ban and incurred the curse with impunity. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

After the great victory at Jericho, the Israelites soldiers went up to a city named Ai to defeat another group of Canaanites, but on this occasion the Israelites were put to flight. Ai was a small enemy compared to Jericho, yet the Israelites failed miserably. Joshua, the leader of the people of Israel, prayed to God concerning this exasperating defeat. The Lord told Joshua that someone had taken something from Jericho and that divine judgment had come upon all of Israel because of the disobedience. Until the guilty party was located and judged the curse would not be removed.

The man who had taken something from Jericho, who had violated the ban, was identified. His name was Achan. Because of the sin of Achan, the entire camp of Israel had been judged. A curse from God always involves warning, but it also results in impacting others who may not themselves be guilty of the infraction. That is why listening to the warning of God regarding a ban or curse is so vital to all of God's people.

The curse which God pronounced on the priests in Malachi, chapter 2, is clear and concise. If they would not turn from their sin, God was going to cause their blessings to become a curse. This is what often happens when God is left out of our lives. That which is meant to bless us, curses us! Take the example of human sexuality. This was a gift from God and was meant to be a blessing. But we have defiled God's gift of intimate love and degraded it. As a result, terrible consequences have come upon us. We see today that men and women do not know how to respect each other, sexually transmitted disease is devastating our world, and the children born out of intimacy are suffering terribly. Children suffer more abuse from parents today than perhaps ever in history. Many children never even have the chance to live because of the atrocity of abortion. Children are growing up in homes without love and are becoming violent at younger and younger ages. Kids are killing kids and adults all over America. This is a byproduct of not listening to God or loving Him enough to obey His commands regarding human sexuality. We could look at this from several other perspectives, but I think you get the point. That which was meant to be a blessing becomes dung spread over our faces because we are in rebellion against our Creator!

In verse 4, God addresses the purpose for the curse. What is it that God is doing by pronouncing a curse upon His on people? Is He just a power-mad Sovereign who wants to throw His divine weight around the universe? Is He some sadistic deity enjoying the suffering of people on the earth? The answer is no to both questions. God pronounces the curse for a very definite and important purpose.

Two purposes are always at the foundation of a divine curse or judgment.

1. First, God Is Desirous To Correct Something

God is ready to correct something that is amiss and is dangerous. In this case, He is correcting the corruption of the Covenant He had previously made with Levi. In the Old Testament, the tribe of Levi was the priestly tribe. They ministered at the Tabernacle and later at the Temple before the Lord. They pictured the Christian of the New Testament who would have fellowship with God and would minister among the holy things of God. Every Christian is a kind of Levite. You have the Holy Spirit in you. You can talk to God. You have a ministry to perform for God.

The problem in the days of Malachi was that the priests were corrupting the Levitical Covenant. What was this Covenant? It was a Covenant of fellowship and service. The Levites were to have fellowship with God, which spoke of their hearts; and, they were to have service before God, which spoke of their listening. They had broken the Covenant in both the areas, which God had established.

We see the love factor in the mentioning of reverence in Malachi 2:5; and, we see the service factor in Malachi 2:6.

2. Secondly, God Is Desirous To Protect Something

God is desirous to protect something very important. Because the priests had turned away from their faithfulness to God, many people had been made to stumble. On past occasions, I have shared with you that God is angry when His servants do anything which keeps those who do not know Him from coming to Him. That is what happened on the day that Jesus chased the money-changers out of the Temple Courts. The Lord is seeking to protect the purity of His truth so that those who are struggling in sin may find their way home to Him. God's curse is not so much a negative thing as a positive one. For example, when you warn your child not to get into the car with a stranger, are you trying to keep him or her from enjoying a pleasant ride somewhere? Certainly not! You are protecting them from a danger. When you tell your child to play anywhere but in the road, are you just a mean parent who wants to keep your child from having a good time? Certainly not! You love your child and you know that playing near the highway or street could result in injury or even death. You prohibit your child from such play as a protection. You threaten your child with punishment if he disobeys. And what happens if the child persists in breaking your rules? One of two things will occur. The child will be punished and lose the privilege of playing outside at all; or, the child will step out into the street and the curse you pronounced will come on the child - a car will strike him and just what you said will take place. Your curse concerning the highway was not cruel; it was out of love and mercy!

III. The Removal of God's Disappointment - Chapter 2:5-6

A. We Must Receive the Covenant (vs 5a)

God offers us a covenant of love and peace. To the lost, H offers a covenant of grace and salvation. Come to Him, believe in Him, trust what Christ did at Calvary and you will receive the blessing that is in the promise. To reject the covenant, is to experience the curse.

B. We Must Respect the Covenant (vs 5b)

Once we have entered into the covenant with the Lord, we should respect it. We should honor our word. Not to do so means to bring sorrow on our lives. I have heard Adrian Rogers say, “Sorrow follows sin and surely as night follows day.” Indeed, it does!

C. We Must Relate the Covenant (vs 6)

How do we relate the covenant? We say what God has said and we say the way God has said it. If God says something is wrong, it is wrong. If God says something is holy, it is holy. We don't change what He said. We don't alter His word. We share the truth as the truth whether it is popular or not. We not only relate it in word, but also in action. One reason this is important is that to do otherwise is to lead someone astray. Deuteronomy 27:18 states that a person is cursed who misleads the blind. If we, who have had our eyes opened to grace and truth, mislead others whose eyes have not been opened yet, we are cursed. That does not mean we will be lost, for salvation is an eternal covenant from God. It does mean sorrow and hardship. It means fruitlessness in our relationship with God. It means a distance from the Almighty, which will leave us unfulfilled and empty in our hearts. I truly believe that this is why many people who are saved lack the joy God means for them to know and experience.

Conclusion

Let us make a new commitment today to listen to the Lord and to follow Him with all our hearts. Let us turn from habits and ways which He has banned, and turn again to the blessing of walking with Him. For those who are lost, step off the ground of the curse, which you are standing on due to sin, and step onto the ground of all the blessings found in Jesus Christ.