Covering the Altar with Tears

Malachi 2:13–14.
     13      And this is the second thing you do:
     You cover the altar of the LORD with tears,
     With weeping and crying;
     So He does not regard the offering anymore,
     Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands.
     14      Yet you say, “For what reason?”
     Because the LORD has been witness
     Between you and the wife of your youth,
     With whom you have dealt treacherously;
     Yet she is your companion
     And your wife by covenant.

The wives in Israel were so treacherously abused that they had no recourse but to cry before the Lord. THEY are the ones covering the altar with tears and bringing their cries to the Lord.

For this reason, God will not hear the prayers or accept the offerings of the husbands. You cannot treat your wife as a slave, a servant, or a beast, without bringing upon yourself the wrath of God.

In fact, Peter alludes to this passage in 1 Peter 3:7

1 Peter 3:7 (NKJV)
7Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

If you treat your wife with anything less than the honor befitting a firstborn heir of eternal life in Christ, you are also dealing treacherously with her.

God hears the cries of the oppressed and he answers them.

Remember, dear ones, that Lazarus received evil things on this earth for a time, but when he died he was carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham, and rests in the arms of Jesus for eternity.

The rich man, on the other hand, who was treacherous to Lazarus, was tormented day and night.

God knows how to deliver the godly and give them peace. The cries never go unheard.

She is a wife by covenant. This does not mean that you can treat her however you wish and she is not allowed to leave you. That is contrary to everything we know about covenants. I have written on that before. Malachi is using Old Testament language to say what Peter says in the New Testament. She is a co-heir of eternal life, a wife by the covenant you made with her, and that covenant can be broken.

Israel understood broken covenants. They had already been cast out of the land because they broke the covenant with their God. And now, as they are resettling the land, they are treating their wives, whom they made covenants with, the same way.

Which follows – they deserve to be cast out.

God is bearing witness of your treachery, and refuses to hear your prayers as long as your wife is covering the altar with tears.

Matthew 5:25–26 (NKJV)
25Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.
26Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

In Malachi, the adversary is the oppressed wife, crying out to the judge. Make peace with her before Christ comes in judgment. Repent of your treachery, for there is a God in heaven coming to hand you over to judgment.

In fact, it would be better to give her a divorce and send her away (verse 16).

Therefore, the wise man will hear.

Take heed to your spirit, and do not deal treacherously. (Verse 16)


Filed under Divorce, Marriage

7 responses to “Covering the Altar with Tears

  1. FreshGrace

    I have left many tears on the altar. It’s good to know they do not go unheard.

    Thank you for this reminder

  2. A

    I needed this today.

  3. So helpful. This understanding is soooo needed in Christendom.

  4. Sharon Bernhardt

    Pastor Powell, I am so thankful for your wisdom in handling the Word of God, for the encouragement you have brought to me. I have cried so many tears before God, being abused in ways more painful than physical abuse by a ‘highly esteemed man in the church’ husband for decades…and by pastors. I know God is Good and that He loves me. *I’m praying for you and your family that God gives you strength & encouragement. Thank you. You have been a blessing to so many!

    • I’m so sorry for everything you have endured and at the same time I am thankful that my words have given you a measure of comfort.
      Thanks for the kind note of encouragement

  5. Anu Riley

    “Israel understood broken covenants. They had already been cast out of the land because they broke the covenant with their God. And now, as they are resettling the land, they are treating their wives, whom they made covenants with, the same way.

    Which follows – they deserve to be cast out.”

    I never thought of it this way; never made that kind of connection! Thank you!

    Isaiah 58:3 speaks of the Israelites that ask of Him: “‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’”

    He replies that when they fast, the “exploit all your laborers, fast for strife and debate, strike with the fist of wickedness…Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the Lord?”

    Apparently He saw everything, down to every detail, of the extent of suffering they caused. And fasting, when performed a religious “ritual,” does not remove one tear that was shed, one iota of abuse they inflicted. They cried out for His honor since fasting caused them harm, He told them to honor the cries of those they harmed.

    The rest of the chapter is SO beautiful; goes into detail about what IS acceptable to Him: “To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?”

    That is only a small part of what He describes. His insistence that how we treat others makes a difference in how He treats us, is both sobering and celebratory!

    Chapter 58 is not speaking to covenanted couples, but does speak to a people covenanted to Him. Look at how seriously He took how His people treated each other within a covenant with Him. It is fair to conclude how seriously He must take how individual people in a covenant treat each other.

    Malachi is similar to Isaiah 58; they asked Him why He was not treating them the way they thought He should: “Yet you say, “For what reason?”

    The answer is the same: You dealt “treacherously” with people, You dealt “treacherously” with the wife of your youth.

    “Because the LORD has been witness.” Aka: He saw every tear, every cry of pain, every inch of hatred. No amount of offering from them removes any amount of suffering caused by them.

    Since every tear counts to Him, He counts every tear. Knowing my own tears are treated as treasures doesn’t make them hurt any less, but it also doesn’t make them hurt any more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s