Love’s Faithfulness (Malachi 2: 10-16)
First, let’s define some terms. We’ll use Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. Faithful: steadfast in affection or allegiance; firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty. Covenant: a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement. Promise: a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified.
Now, let’s look at what’s happening in this scripture passage. Earlier we read God’s declaration that he has loved Israel in the past and promises to continue to love his people in the future. We saw that the people had grown bored and weary of fulfilling their duties to God, instead complaining about what a burden worship had become, offering unfit sacrifices, and disobeying the law. We saw God’s admonition to the priests, warning them that because they had abdicated their duty to instruct the people in the law and to model reverence for God’s name, because they had not kept the promises that being a priest required, the covenant between God and the tribe of Levi was broken.
Now we learn that Judah, the men of Israel, have been unfaithful to God, specifically by divorcing their wives and marrying pagan women. Such unions between the people of God and heathens were forbidden because they resulted in the men of Israel falling away from following the one true God and instead worshiping false gods. The penalty for this forbidden intermarriage was that those guilty were cut off from God, even if they continued to bring offerings and worship him. God would no longer accept these offerings or even acknowledge them. Once again, people who broke faith with God suffered the consequences. Might we find parallels to this situation in our own culture today?
What about divorce? “It is because the Lord is acting as a 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.” God has made them one in flesh and spirit because he wanted their union to produce children who would also be faithful to him. But divorce breaks the marriage covenant, breaks faith with one who was promised a lifelong commitment. Society cannot prosper when the family unit breaks down. We see this also in our modern times.
Faithfulness is essential for healthy relationships. Promises should not be offered if we don’t plan to keep them. Covenants are intended to be binding, so we should not enter into them lightly. What happens between two people mirrors what happens in a community, a nation, even the whole world. God will never break his covenant, the promise of salvation made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, so keeping it is up to us. “Guard yourselves in your spirit,” the Lord says, “and do not break faith.” How much better would the world be today if we all took these ancient words to heart?