This is the first in a series titled “Big Questions.” I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but almost every page of the Bible is full of questions. Questions from man to God, questions from God to man, honest questions we dare not speak aloud, revealing and challenging questions. Over the coming weeks I hope to explore some of these big questions in their context. My prayer is that their answers will shape how we live out what we believe in real life. I do hope you’ll stay with us for this journey!
Today’s question, “Have we not all one Father?” is from Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament. In 430BC, the prophet Malachi fires four questions at the covenant people of God: “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?” Concerning marriage, he asks, “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?” In our text, Malachi asks probing questions that are just as relevant to God’s people living in a faithless world today. He urges us to stop messing about with shows of religion, but to ‘guard ourselves in our spirit’ and honour our marriage partners and fellow believers. That is how we honour the Father who first loved us and joined us together in a covenant of adoption through his Son. As a mirror reflects a face, our relationships reflect our religion. There’s no way to divorce our relationship with God from our earthly relationships, especially the most unique and intimate union of all—Marriage. Let’s pray that we would live out our identity as children of God so that the truth of the gospel is visible in our relationships.
10“Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?” 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!
13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “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.”
One faithful Father
“I have loved you,” says the Lord…My covenant with Levi was one of life and peace (Mal 1:2; Mal 2:5). That’s the launch pad of Malachi’s oracle to the people of Judah in 430BC and the backdrop of our text today. We cannot give a whole answer to Malachi’s question unless we look through the lens of God’s covenant with His people through Abraham, Moses…and the perfect and final Mediator—Jesus Christ.
Malachi is reminding Judah that Yahweh has been completely faithful and true to them. He has loved them with an everlasting love. He is no tyrant or killjoy. Instead, God’s rule brings life and freedom to those who live under it. It is a covenant designed to promote human flourishing, not to stifle expression. Malachi cuts through the smoke and mirrors of their empty religion to expose three ways in which the people have despised God’s love and shown contempt for His covenant of life and peace.
- They broke trust in their dealings with each other (Mal 2:10).
- They married women who didn’t believe in the one true God, cutting off a godly legacy for future generations (Mal 2:11-12).
- They were unfaithful to their wives, trading them in for more desirable pagan women (Mal 2:14-16).
Yet, all the while they worshipped God with tears and brought Him their half-hearted offerings. They expected their God to save and bless them, but lived as though they were not accountable to Him (Mal 2:13). This was like groundhog day—a repeated pattern of faithlessness, hypocrisy and idolatry throughout the Old Testament.
Yet, over and over again the Lord calls the faithless to return to Him and be healed. Through another prophet (Jeremiah), God likens Himself to a despised father and the rejected husband of a faithless wife:
How I would set you among my sons,
and give you a pleasant land,
a heritage most beautiful of all nations.
And I thought you would call me, My Father,
and would not turn from following me.
20 Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband,
so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel,
declares the Lord…’”
22 “Return, O faithless sons;
I will heal your faithlessness.” (Jer 3:19)
Despite the faithlessness of Judah, Malachi foresees a day when the “sun of righteousness will come with healing in its wings” for those who fear God’s name. It’s the picture of God’s rule of life and peace being restored among his people and families being reconciled (Mal 4:2-5). Four hundred years after Malachi’s prophecy, the New Testament reveals God as Father, not of every person who is physically born, but those born again in Christ (John 1:13).We become sons and daughters of God when we know ourselves to be faithless, treacherous sinners and put our trust in the only faithful Son who ever lived—the Lord Jesus Christ. When He becomes our sin-bearer and master, we become Abraham’s seed, co-heirs bound together in God’s family forever (Gal 3:26; Gal 4:5-7). It’s the covenant of adoption that allows us to call God “Abba! Father!” And it’s this covenant that is the bedrock of what it means to be a Christian in our relationships.
The covenant of adoption
J.I Packer describes the staggering implications of being a son or daughter of God:
“What is a Christian? The richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father….Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Saviour is my brother. Every Christian is my brother or sister too…This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life and of a God-honouring life.” (Knowing God).
My dad has handwritten Packer’s little manifesto for each of his grandchildren, to remind them of who they are, wherever they might be in the world. The covenant of adoption speaks radically to how we treat other believers (Mal 2:10) and how we see marriage (Mal 2:11-16).
God cares how we treat other believers
In the context of our adoption as God’s sons and daughters, being ‘faithless’ and ‘profaning the covenant’ is not just about lying or cheating one another, but also about failing to honour our spiritual siblings. There are many subtle attitudes and blatant behaviours that destroy family bonds and break faith between us. If the Church is Christ’s beloved Bride—then an insult towards a spiritual brother or sister is an injury to the Lord Himself. We’re a preview of God’s heavenly kingdom to the world around us, whether true or distorted. That’s why dismissive, disrespectful and scornful attitudes have no place amongst Christians, even if we disagree with each other.
On the flip side, we have the prototype of our Father and older brother to imitate in our dealings with each other: Faithful in care and mercy. Generous and interested in all that we do. Wise and available to help us. Patient with our weaknesses. Loyal friend and encouraging coach who sticks with us even when we mess up again and again. Father who disciplines us and runs towards us when others run away. Friend of faithless, unworthy sinners like ourselves. Our Father intends for this kind of faithful love to be the signature of his covenant children too (1 John 2:9-11; 3:10-17; 4:7).
As a parent, I know how much pleasure it gives me when my children treat each other with kindness, but I also know how it grieves me when they fight and refuse to say sorry or forgive. We’ve all seen how the actions and words of one child can greatly harm or help the whole family. Children give joy or grief to their parents by their attitude to one another. It’s the same in God’s covenant family.
If you and I think that we are eternally secure children of God, justified by faith alone, but we refuse to allow Jesus to rule over our human relationships, we must ask ourselves if we are showing the fruits of true repentance (Luke 3:8-11). Jesus himself asks us this in his parable of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar (Luke 16:19-31). The complacent Pharisees insisted that Abraham was their father, but Jesus replied, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did” (John 8:39).
The Bible is not ambiguous about the ‘works’ that befit those who share a spiritual Father. Let’s meditate on some of them now as we respond to Malachi’s big question: “Have we not all one Father?”
Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15).
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11).
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom (James 3:13).
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 2:24-25 NASB).
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:5).
Prayer based on Ephesians 4:2-6:
Our Father in heaven, help us to be humble and gentle like our older brother Jesus. Give us grace to be patient, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your great love for us. Help us to be led along together by the Holy Spirit and so be at peace with one another. Lord, remind us that we are all parts of one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. For us there is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and we all have the same God and Father who is over us all and in us all, and living through every part of us. In Jesus’ name and for His sake, Amen.
Next week’s devotion: Did He not make them one?
Please join us next week as we look at the second big issue from our text—Why marriage matters.