Jesus says in Matthew chapter ten: “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward” (Matthew 10:40-41).
But lest we think too highly of ourselves and define as benign the earthly glory God has prepared for us, we hear and see the prophet’s reward in Matthew chapter fourteen, when John the Baptist is beheaded for speaking the truth of God’s Word regarding marriage.
If you receive the prophets and apostles as they speak to you in the Word of God, don’t be surprised if you face a similar fate—if not a beheading then persecution for righteousness’ sake.
John said nothing but what the Lord had said regarding marriage.
It used to be that you could do that.
It used to be that you could say a lot of things.
It used to be that you could say—on Facebook or wherever—that dogs aren’t ministers of the Gospel.
After all, dogs aren’t ministers of the Gospel—and neither are they four-footed pastors.
But now, if you dare to say such a scandalous thing, you become known as unloving or divisive.
Now, if you insist upon saying what used to be true, you’ll be called foolish for spending so much energy on something so frivolous when there are conversations of so much more importance to be had.
But—“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” (Luke 16:10-11).
Or—to say it another way—how can you expect to agree on what is complicated if you can’t even say out loud what is obvious?
It used to be that you could do that—say what’s obvious.
It used to be that you could say that God does not desire believers to marry unbelievers.
After all, God does not desire believers to marry unbelievers.
In fact, He calls it an abomination.
From Malachi chapter two: “An abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, For Judah has profaned The Lord’s holy institution which He loves: He has married the daughter of a foreign god” (Malachi 2:11).
Now, we have to content ourselves with knowing that two consenting adults are going to be happy.
That’s what matters—happiness.
And to say otherwise, to conclude otherwise, to suggest, even, that another person ought to fear God, move out, and do things right—that’s what’s forbidden.
Now, you’re supposed to stay in your lane.
But thus says the Lord through Malachi: “May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob The man who does this, being awake and aware, yet who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 2:12).
It used to be that we took the warnings of God seriously.
It used to be that you could say what God has obviously said.
It used to be that you could call evil—evil.
And it used to be that you could call good—good.
But—“You have wearied the Lord with your words…[saying:] ’Everyone who does evil Is good in the sight of the Lord, And He delights in them’” (Malachi 2:17).
President Biden is not a good Catholic.
He’s not even a good Christian.
What with his obvious hatred for unborn children and what marriage is, it used to be that you could say obvious things like that, but now you have to add that, really, this could be said about any politician, it just happens to be his turn.
It used to be that you could say that God hates divorce.
After all, God hates divorce.
But if God hates divorce, we should, too.
Or, at the very least, we shouldn’t seek it out, like it, or be okay with it.
The readings tonight were from the New King James Version, because the ESV leaves out the harsh truth of God’s will.
Hear it for yourselves:
Here’s the ESV: “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless” (Malachi 2:16, ESV).
And here’s the NKJV: “For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously” (Malachi 2:16, NKJV).
Changes like that are made because we’ve embraced the sin—and so we either need to change ourselves or the words on the page, and it’s easier to change the words.
The world is different if God hates divorce—because if He does—then we should, too.
Any time this is said, it’s almost impossible not to mention all the times when and where divorce is allowable.
We have to bring those up to assuage our guilty conscience.
God may allow divorce—He still hates it.
It used to be that you could say that.
It used to be that you could say all these things.
And you still can.
You still should.
But “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial [the prophet’s reward] when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you…If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God as a Christian. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God” (cf. 1 Peter 4:12-17).
And know this:
The Lord does not rebuke you in anger. He does not discipline you in wrath (cf. Psalm 6:1).
The harsh truth of God’s will is not proclaimed that you would be condemned.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).
But saved from what?
From sin and God’s anger over sin.
From hell and God’s just judgment on the world.
His anger was poured out on Christ, sparing you.
His wrath, extinguished in the blood of Jesus, cleansing you.
He chastens with forbearing, in patience, desiring that all should reach repentance.
The Lord hears your plea. He accepts your prayer. All your enemies shall be brought to shame and greatly troubled. They shall be turned back and put to shame in a moment (cf. Psalm 6:9-10).
It used to be that we could say this.
It used to be that this would give us hope.
Well, we still can say it, and we do.
And we still hope, and we are not put to shame.
We shall receive our reward.
Keep the faith.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Advent 3 Midweek Sermon, 2021
Psalm 6; Malachi 2:10-3:5; Matthew 14:1-12
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt