Guard Your Family

Bible Book: Malachi  2 : 13-17
Subject: Family; Home; Marriage

I want to begin our reading with the thirteenth verse of the second chapter of Malachi and reading the verses that follow. I want to read and expound on one of the great ethical passages of the Old Testament that deals with the family; particularly the family in an age of crisis and family turmoil and family deterioration. Would you stand for the reading of the scripture?

"Another thing you do. You flood the Lord's altars with tears. You weep and wail because He no longer pays attention to your offerings, or accepts them with pleasure from your hand. You ask, 'Why?' 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. Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking a godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel, and I hate a man covering himself with violence as well as with his garments, says the Lord Almighty, so guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith. You have wearied the Lord with your words. 'How have we wearied Him?' you ask. By saying all who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord. He is pleased with them, or where is the God of justice?"

Prayer: Our Father, Thou hast spoken. You have caused that which you said to be written in the prophecy of Malachi. You've given the Holy Spirit to illumine and to apply that which you have spoken, and you've called me and helped me to this point and to this place to be a channel through which your Word would be illumined, and you've brought together these to hear your Word. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight, O Holy Lord and Redeemer. In the name of Christ, I pray. Amen.

You've probably insured your home against almost every possibility of tragedy. You have life insurance, fire insurance, accident insurance, health insurance. In fact, if you sat down and figured up how much of your budget goes to buying insurance, it probably would be alarming and disturbing. But have you insured the family itself? Do you have some kind of policy that guarantees your marriage against divorce? Is it safe? Unfortunately, you can't buy that kind of insurance, but, if I understand the word of God spoken through Malachi, there are steps you can take to protect the home against tragic destruction. It's amazing how God enabled these Old Testament prophets to look beneath the symptoms of the age and put their finger on the problem, on the cause, on the source.

The symptom in that age was social unrest, marital infidelity, flagrant divorce on every side. There were occasions of men who were leaving their Hebrew wives to be married to the wives of families that worshiped other gods. They flagrantly put aside the wives with whom they had made covenants and took to themselves these pagan wives, and it is against that kind of social unrest, that Malachi writes this word. And in it he enunciates as clearly as you'll find in the Old Testament or in the New Testament, some of God's ideals as they relate to the family. Twice in this passage an admonition is given which if followed will put your family under protection. Interestingly, in the text, the emphasis seems to be to the men of Judah. They were the violators of that day, but I think we will do no injustice to the text if we make it broad enough to apply to both husband and wives.

Here is the admonition - you find it first in the fifteenth verse when he says, "So guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

Now, when God repeats something, you and I certainly need to listen. He repeats it in the sixteenth verse when He comes to say, "So guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith." There is a relationship between the two sides of that admonition. You keep your spirit - you guard your inner spirit - so that you will not violate the commitment you made in that marriage vow; so you will not break faith with the wife or the husband of your youth.

Guard your spirit. It is as you guard your spirit that you protect your family from those things that would slip in and undermine the foundations of the home and cause the family to come to ruin. Now, if your family is to be used, you must have a family that is spiritually, and emotionally intact; in every way solid, and committed to exemplifying God's highest ideals for families. Those families that are filled with unrest, unhappiness and tensions and discontent are not useable in the hands of the sovereign and Holy God. I want to say to you three things from this text about: Guarding your spirit.

I. Guard Your Spirit Because Of The Nature Of The Spirit

The very nature of the human spirit supports this admonition - guard your spirit. The Bible begins in its record of man by saying that God breathed into the nostrils of man and he became a living soul. That word "breathed" and "breath of God" is related to the word which is translated "spirit." In this text the Old Testament Hebrew word, like the New Testament Greek word could mean "wind" or "breath," or it could mean that inner spirit of man. In this case, it is a reference to the inmost being, the inner self, the inner man, and he said that you are to guard put protection about- be careful about - keep carefully - the inner man, the inner person. That inner person needs to be kept in this way because that is the part of you that relates to God.

When God speaks to man, He does not speak to the body as such, though the body is involved. Man is a unitary being spirit, body, and soul bound together in one organism. But God primarily communicates not physically, not emotionally, but spiritually. He communicates with that inner you, that inner capacity that God has given you to respond to Himself. So when God says, through the prophet Malachi, "Guard your inner spirit," He is saying you must guard that part of you that relates to God. That is of interest and that is important. You will do no better job keeping your family intact than you do keeping your relationship with God intact. So He said, "Guard your spirit because of the very nature of the spirit. Not only is it that part of you which relates to God; it is also that part of you which is the very center of action. Malachi knew that if you can guard your inner spirit, then you can determine the words that will come out of your mouth, you can determine the deeds that will be performed by your hands and your feet and your body, for it is in that inner you that options and attitudes find their origin.

It is in the spirit of you that they find their beginning. David recognized this in Psalm 51 as he prayed, "Renew a right spirit within me." David knew that the affair with Bathsheba that led to the shame and disgrace upon his reign as the King of Israel, and had now brought him to his knees and broken him before God in confession, had not begun in the physical dimensions of his life. It had not begun simply as a sexual impulse one night, but it had begun in the inmost part of his being; it had begun in his spirit. So when he comes seeking restoration and seeking spiritual renewal, he prays to God, "Renew in me a right, a steadfast, and upright spirit." And what word did Jesus use? He did not use the word "spirit" He used the word "heart," but He is talking about the same reality when He said, "Out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, adultery, fornication, murder, etc." as He gives that shameful list. Out of the heart, out of the inmost man, out of the spirit, and it is recognition of this that causes Malachi, as he sees the breaking up of the marriages and families in his day, to say to the people of God in that day.

"Hey, folk, give attention to your inner spirit." The poverty of spirit and the corruption of your inner spirit is the root cause in itself of divorce, and in family break-ups on every side. The very nature of the human spirit admonishes us "Keep guard on your spirit."

II. Guard Your Spirit Because Of The Capacity Of The Spirit

A second thing: The capacity of the human spirit gives support to this admonition. You see, that inner you that we call "the spirit" has the capacity to be indwelt by God Himself. Holy God by His Holy Spirit can reside and manifest Himself in that inner you that is called spirit. And, the other side of that is the inner you also has the capacity to be indwelt by all kinds of evil.

Malachi in not saying, "Now guard your spirit against God's Holy Spirit, don't let Him live in your heart." No, that is not what he is saying. He is saying "Banging on the door and seeking entry into your life are all kinds of destructive evils. Therefore, put up a guard - give care - give attention - to the inner spirit that you do not allow those destructive elements to find residence in your inner spirit. Because the destructiveness that has come to the home situation in the days of Malachi he traces back to evil that has been given residence in the hearts of the people of God. For instance, bitterness and malice are a terrible, terrible evils when they finds habitation in the heart of a child of God, especially as it relates to the family.

Let me remind you of a word from Paul. In the Colossian letter, the third chapter, and the nineteenth verse, he says, and I am reading from the New International, "Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them." I like the King James translation of that. The King James says, "Do not be bitter against them." The word that Paul uses there expresses itself in harshness, but it goes deeper than that. Paul is not talking about somebody just speaking a harsh and unkind word to his wife. He is talking about unkind and harsh words being spoken because there is bitterness and ill-will and animosity that are being allowed to find a place in the inner spirit they express themselves in harsh behavior. It is the very nature of marriage, for male and female to come together and to seek to become one flesh and one spirit. However, that spirit of togetherness must be guarded and nourished so that bitterness and malice will never intrude.

I was watching a rerun the other night about the family -"All In the Family." Edith Bunker, that noble wife in that family, was counseling her daughter Gloria. Gloria and "Meathead," as Archie calls him, were coming into one of their first marital crises. Gloria had begun to look closer at Mike.

You know, it is amazing how before you get married, you can see only that which is positive and good and affirming and alluring, and attractive. It is not until after you have been married a while that you begin to take that second look and see what you married. Well, Gloria had done that and she had begun to discover in Mike little irritating things; things that were building up in her.

They were just getting all over her, getting inside her and she was having a hard time staying with Mike because of these little things that she was translating and allowing to become bitterness.

Edith wisely took her aside and told her how she went through the same thing with Archie one day. Now it is hard to imagine anybody finding anything bad about Archie, but Edith began to tell Gloria about how when they first married, she had never noticed, but after awhile, she noticed that Archie had a way, every time he was reading a book, he would wet his finger and turn the page. If he was reading a newspaper, he would wet his finger and turn the page, and she said, "As he began to do that, it began to get on my nerves. I wanted to jump up and scream. I wanted to shout, I wanted to do something every time he did it." And she helped Gloria see that one of the secrets of living together was learning to tolerate and accept those little differences and different ways of doing things.

You know, it is amazing how little things can be translated into bitterness, to house terribly destructive bitterness against that woman seated beside you. And, ladies, according to Peter, in I Peter, chapter 3, evidently the female side of the family has that same kind of capacity. Do you remember that Peter admonished when he wrote to those wives who were living with unkind and un- Christian husbands that they needed to be careful to maintain a meek and a quiet spirit. What is the opposite of that? It is an angry and a bitter spirit.

You see, you need to keep your spirit carefully, because there is in you the capacity of giving residence to bitterness and anger that can become a terribly destructive force in the family life. I mentioned anger in the same breath with bitterness because unresolved anger has a way of also finding residence in the heart.

I counseled once with a dear couple. Their family had really come to the brink of separation, and it all started on Friday night at the dinner table. The mother had been working all afternoon to prepare the dinner and the little boy came to the table and sat down and did not want to eat. His mother said, "You are going to eat if it is the last thing you do, you're are going to eat." The father said, "He does not have to eat if he does not want to." And mother and daddy got into a squabble at the dinner table over whether or not the boy was going to eat. They went to bed angry - in different beds, of course. The got up the next morning angry. Mother did not fix any breakfast; she did not fix any lunch; she did not fix any dinner. She did not speak to them all day; they did not speak to her - angry all day. They came to church on Sunday morning, sat on different pews -angry were not speaking. Sunday morning she did not fix any breakfast, Sunday noon she did not fix any lunch. Sunday evening Dad fixed Junior dinner, but did not fix her any. They came to see me on Thursday, still had not spoken all week. And I told them, "You have violated one of the basic biblical principles that relates to marriage, and that is, never go to bed angry." That is what Paul said in Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 26, "Never let the sun go down on your wrath." You see, your human spirit has the capacity to give a home to anger and the longer it stays in the spirit, the stronger it gets. And the longer it stays in there, the harder it is to give it up. And I have known for it to stay in the human spirit for thirty years, and as a pastor, I have tried to help a person, with God's help to get it out. It becomes a demon after so many years of abiding and finding residence in the spirit.

No wonder Malachi said, "Guard your inner spirit." Guard the spirit. It has the capacity to give a home to all kinds of animosity and ill-will and ingratitude and anger and bitterness and malice and strife, and they express themselves in violent words, if not in violent deeds. It may be in our text that these men in Malachi's day were guilty of wife-beating. Did you notice in the text that he refers to these who clothe themselves with violence as well as with garments? It may well be that there were instances in this Old Testament text of mistreatment of wives by men, and it all began, the prophet said, because of a problem in the spirit.

But, you say, "J.W., you are preaching at Kiokee Baptist, you have the best of the Baptist family here. You do not believe that somebody would come to Kiokee and would actually give habitation in their heart, in their spirit, to those kind of things. And you do not believe that there is anybody here that would ever act violently or speak violently toward their marriage mate do you? Well, you can throw a song book if you want to, but I have been pastor long enough and married long enough to know that if you get the wrong kind of spirit you are capable of all kinds of things.

I have counseled with wives of Baptist deacons and Baptist staff ministers and Baptist preachers who were telling me stories of violence - violent deeds and violent words, and it all went back to the spirit. Malachi said, "Guard your spirit." If you want to take out insurance on your family, be careful about whatever is in you that has the capacity to give residence to, give a home to, all kinds of destructive malice and evil.

III. Guard Your Spirit Because Of the Influence Of The Spirit

The third thing I would say is that not only the nature of the spirit and the capacity of the spirit, but the influence of the spirit, and this really is what I want to expound in the text - that inner you, that inner spirit has profound influence upon your marriage. Let us look in the text as Malachi begins to speak to us in that fifteenth verse. He has already alluded in verse fourteen to God's intention and God's ideals when he talks about marriage being a matter of covenant; a covenant relationship; but then he comes to say, "Has not the Lord made them one, has not the sovereign Lord of marriage made the man and the woman one when they come in covenant." He explains, "In flesh and spirit they are his." I am reading from the New International. If you have studied the Hebrew text, you know this is a very complex text and you will find variations in the translations. I like this one - "in flesh and spirit they are His." You see, God, the same God that made it possible for man and woman to become one physically, in the covenant of marriage, has committed Himself to bring about oneness, union, unity, and spirituality. And if you and I are not fighting carelessness and spiritual indifference, are allowing those things to find residence in our heart that frustrate, that quench, that resist what God is seeking to do in bringing about spiritual oneness in the marriage, we are thereby making our very definite contribution to a spiritual and marital tragedy.

Now you can read all the books about marriage, all the how-to, and do all the right things, but if there

is not a right spirit in the wife and in the husband, the how-to's don't work. You can play together and pray together, but if there is not the right spirit, you do not stay together happily. You may stay together for the sake of appearance; you may stay together for the sake of the children, but you will not stay together because of the satisfaction and joy that comes from the relationship. You see, I must cooperate with God who has committed Himself to bring about that spiritual unity in my marriage by making sure that I, by His spirit and by His grace, keep out of my inner spirit those destructive evils that are committed to destroying my marriage and my family. I must assume responsibility for that. Influence - influence on the children. The children seem to be the forgotten ones in the modern marriage tragedy of our day, but they are not forgotten by God. I want you to note what he said in the text: "And why one?" That asks the question, "Why am I so concerned abut the unity of the marriage, the oneness in flesh and in spirit, why one?" Because He was seeking godly offspring. Now some try to refer this to one of the patriarchs or some different situations. I see it as an expression of an eternal, unchanging concern of God.

One of God's primary concerns about the family and the family stability and Family unity is the impact that the family has on the children. God wants godly Offspring. I'm not telling you anything you do not know. What you are on the inside, in your spirit, has much more to do with what your children become than what you say and the admonitions you give and the lessons you teach. Bitter men and women produce rebellious offspring regardless of how often they go to church. Men who are unfaithful in spirit have a way of producing unfaithful sons. God want godly offspring and God knows the impact your inner spirit is having upon those impressionable, tender, precious children He puts in the family. So God says, "I am committed with you to bring about oneness and stability in that relationship."

I speak cautiously, I speak humbly, I am a father. I have a daughter and two sons, and I know that each of them have the potential of breaking their mother's heart and breaking my heart and becoming a disappointment to the family of God, but I also know that they have the potential to be well-pleasing in His sight. And in my deepest heart, in my deepest awareness of who I am, I know that what I am in my inner spirit will have much to do with what they become, and especially as that spirit relates to my family. The best thing you can do for your children, Dad, is love their mother, and Mom, love their Dad, and keep an open spirit between the two of you.

People have asked me a number of times, "What was different about your home; what did your family do that other families did not do, that made a difference." I have looked back and I can honestly say "I do not know." My family was very ordinary. We went to church every Sunday. I think though the primary difference was, in spite of the shortcomings of my dad and my mom. They had many. My mother was an uneducated woman. She dropped out of school in the fourth grade because of family situations. My dad never got past the second grade. Very common, ordinary people, but I never one time in all my growing up, sensed in her or in him a wrong spirit - toward each other; toward me; toward their pastor, toward their church, or toward God. Perfect? No. Loved? Yes. Sinners? Yes, but careful about their spirit, and I am the benefactor.

Guard your spirit because of its influence on your family, on your children, on your mate, and on God. But did you note what God said in the beginning, down in that thirteenth verse? He said, "You come to my altars and you pour out your tears and you weep and wail because I no longer pay attention to your offerings or accept the things you bring, or find pleasure in the things that are in your hand." Why does God no longer find pleasure? Sacrifices seem to be correct; the rituals seem to be correct; they seem to be doing the right thing, but God is concerned not with just what you do. He is concerned with why you do it; what is in your spirit as you do it. We are talking about mission service for the family. Listen, if God is going to use your ministry in any dimension, there must be within you a spirit that is right with Him and right with your fellow man, where there is no place given to those destructive evils and wrongs. How do you do that? I would say a good place to begin is to ask God the Holy Spirit to let your inner spirit under go a good, thorough inspection. Have you done that recently? That is always good. You see I am saying that in prayer you just invite the Holy Spirit to come in and take a look around.


I invite you now to go over that which belongs to Him and point out any thing that is displeasing to Him, with a commitment to the Lord that when He shows it to you, you will get it right and get rid of the wrong. Have you done that recently? That is a good place to begin. You see, there is no need to bar the door if you have already got the evil on the inside, and that is what we try to do many times. Sometimes in a worship service we come down to the front and say to the ones standing there, "I want to come and rededicate my life." What does that mean? For many of us, it means we are going to put the bars up, we are not going to let anymore sin or evil or wrong or malice or greed or anything else in our spirit. We are going to do better tomorrow. What about what is already in there? So, what we need is not just rededication. We need an old-fashioned housecleaning. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." When you find the evil that is within you and bring it to Him and confess it, it is gone. The blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin, but He will never, never cleanse it until you confess it. That is His way. When you have done that housecleaning, then it will happen. Make sure your inner spirit always has some of the Word of God in it. Remember the words of David, "Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee." There is something to that. Having that regular quiet time with God in which you take your spirit and His Word, and you meditate upon and study and practice His Word in your spirit and your life. There is something about that that keeps the evil out. Stand guard.

Remember the words of Paul, "Walk in His spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." God's Holy Spirit who dwells in you now, morning-by-morning, noon-by-noon, evening-by-evening, is the strength of your life, the guide of your life, the protector of your life. Walk in Him and live in Him and abide in Him day-by-day. He will stand guard over every entrance to your spirit and when anything comes up to your spirit seeking entrance that is displeasing or obnoxious to Him, He is going to say "Turn that one away, don't let it in." And if it happens to get through, He is going to scream in your conscience, "Get out it doesn't belong here," and He will help you maintain a meaningful, clean, upright, steadfast spirit.

Now what I am really talking about is personal revival. Every fresh encounter I have ever had with God, my wife has been the first to know it, because it made me a better husband. When I get the inner me cleaned up, I have got a lot more capacity to respond to her, to affirm her, to prize her, to love her and to help her. But when my inner me is all cluttered up, she is also the first to suspect it, because it begins to show in my attitude and my actions.

What would your wife say about your spiritual condition? What would your husband say about your spiritual condition? What would your children say about your spiritual condition? What about your dog or cat? What would God say about your inner spiritual condition?

Prayer: Father, I thank you for the family that finds its joy in serving Christ. I thank you for a wife who stood by my side for these years and shared in every day of my ministry. I thank you for the family. Oh, God, would you look at me in a fresh way just now. You have already looked me over this week and you have already found some things that were amiss and I thank you for that. Already I have known the joy of cleansing. But afresh do it, not just to me but to all of these. Amen.