Print this article


  A SERIOUS MISCONCEPTION MALACHI 3:6-18: “And now we consider the proud and arrogant to be happy and favored; evildoers are exalted and prosper; yes, and when they test God, they escape [unpunished].” (v15)

Is this not the same misconceptions that we all have whereby we think that God allows the proud, arrogant and evil people to be happy, to be favoured, to be exalted and to be prosperous? We are having this misconception because we do not know how to follow the things of God and know that God’s justice runs even when and where we are myopic about it. Before we start to focus on each of the eight beatitudes –which form what I am describing as the psychology of Lord Jesus–consider with me the situation to which the prophet Malachi is drawing our attention in the passage we have today. Several times in his prophecy, Prophet Malachi indicts the Jews for the sinfulness of their heart and the many different ways in which they dishonour God just as much as we are included. Each time God reproached them they responded in open-mouthed amazement and wide-eyed innocence. Take this for example “You have spoken arrogantly against Me” says the LORD. Yet you ask, “What have we said against You?” as seen in verse 13 which reads, “Your words have been strong and hard against Me, says the Lord. Yet you say, What have we spoken against You?’’. God answers that question with these words: “You have said, “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out His requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? as seen in verse 14 which reads, “You have said, It is useless to serve God, and what profit is it if we keep His ordinances and walk gloomily and as if in mourning apparel before the Lord of hosts?”. Then we have the astonishing statement selected as our text for today “And now we consider the proud and arrogant to be happy and favored; evildoers are exalted and prosper; yes, and when they test God, they escape [unpunished].” The Jews of Malachi’s day were so confused and contorted (twisted or bent out of the normal shape) in their thinking that they equated arrogance with being blessed. They thought that those who put themselves first (the selfish people) were the happy or blessed ones. That’s how the Old Testament finishes –with a misconception of what it means to be blessed of God. After this, for 400 years, the nation of Israel went through a dark period during which no prophet’s voice was heard in the land. Then the Son of God our Lord Jesus came into our world. And in one of His first sermons –the Sermon on the Mount –He spelt out in detail and in crystal clear terms exactly what it means to be blessed of God. In that sermon the Lord Jesus made it clear that the attitude of “Me-first” arrogance which people taught is what true blessedness means is not the way to a blessed life instead He said that–humility is. Can you see how the word of God deals with issues; He does not handle or treat issues disjointedly but follows it consistently in order to bring the true meaning of it to mankind. The confusion concerning the true state of being blessed of God that was not fully understood in the Old Testament was why the Lord God first started with the issue of blessedness in His ministry on earth in order to clear up the issue in the New Testament with His sermon on the Beatitude itemizing all the attitudes that makes a person to be blessed. Today in spite of the fact that the issue of what makes a person to be truly blessed of God is given by the Lord Jesus, have we imbibed it, are we correctly practicing it or are we still having the same misconception? So do not deceive yourself thinking that you are blessed of God when you have not decisively made up your mind to live the Beatitude in your day to day dealings with people.

  Robbing God Malachi 3:6-18:

In this chapter we have, 1. A promise of the coming of the Messiah, and of His forerunner and the errand He comes upon earth to do is here described, both the comfort which His coming brings to His church and the people and the terror which it will bring to the wicked as seen in Malachi 3:1-6. 2. A reproof or the chastisement of the Jews for their corrupting God’s ordinances or laws and sacrilegiously robbing the Lord God of His dues, with a charge or declaration to them to amend this matter or wrong attitude, and a promise that, if they did change, God would return in mercy to them as seen in Malachi 3:7-12. 3. A description of the wickedness of the wicked that speak against God as seen in Malachi 3:13-15, and of the righteousness of the righteous that speak for Him, with the precious promises made to them as seen in Malachi 3: 16-18. The first words of this chapter seem a direct answer to the profane atheistical demand of the scoffers of those days which closed the foregoing chapter: Where is the God of judgment? To which it is readily answered, “Here He is He is just at the door the long expected Messiah is ready to appear and He says, for judgment have I come into this world, for the judgment which you have so impudently bid defiance to”. One of the rabbis says that the meaning of this is, That God will raise up a righteous King, to set things in order, to clear up the misconceptions even the King Messiah. And the beginning of the gospel of Christ is expressly said to be the accomplishment of this promise, with which the Old Testament concludes, as seen in Mark 1:1, 2 “1The beginning [of the facts] of the good news (the Gospel) of Jesus Christ, [a]the Son of God. 2Just as it is written in the prophet Isaiah: Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will make ready Your way—”. So that by this the two Testaments are, as it were, tacked together, and made to answer one another. Can you now get the message that all the misconceptions, the figures and the shadows contained in the Old Testaments are cleared up in the New Testament. i. A prophecy of the appearing of His forerunner John the Baptist, which the prophet Isaiah had foretold in Isaiah 40:3 “3 A voice of one who cries: Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord [clear away the obstacles]; make straight and smooth in the desert a highway for our God!” ii. A prophecy of the appearing of the Messiah Himself. iii. An account given of the great ends and intentions of His coming as seen in Malachi 3:2. This may refer, a. To the terrors of His appearance because so many misconceptions has to be cleared and this people will seem to be disagreeable to, which happened. b. To the troublous times (full of trouble and stormy) that should follow soon after. c. To the trial which His coming would make of the children of men. See what the effect of the trial will be that shall be made by the gospel. 1. The gospel shall work good upon those that are disposed to be good, to them it shall be a savour of life unto life as seen in Malachi 3:3. Observe, i. Who they are that He will purify –the sons of Levi, all those that are devoted to His praise and employed in His service, as the tribe of Levi was, and whom He designs to make unto our God spiritual priests as seen in Revelation 1:6 “6 And formed us into a kingdom (a royal race), priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the power and the majesty and the dominion throughout the ages and forever and ever. Amen (so be it).”, a holy priesthood as seen in 1 Peter 2:5 “5 [Come] and, like living stones, be yourselves built [into] a spiritual house, for a holy (dedicated, consecrated) priesthood, to offer up [those] spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.” Note, that all true Christians are sons of Levi, set apart for God, to do the service of His sanctuary, and to war the good welfare. What is the good war that the Lord God asked us to war? ii. How He will purify them He will purge them as gold and silver, that is, He will sanctify them inwardly He will not only wash away the spots they have contracted from without, but will take away the dross (something regarded as worthless; rubbish) that is found in them He will separate from them their indwelling corruptions, which rendered their faculties worthless and useless and so make them like gold refined, both valuable and serviceable. So many times you hear Nnamdi Kanu talk about the worthless and useless faculties of an average black man, so here you can see why because of the indwelling impurities in him as spots, dross that he contracted from without when he alienated from God. God will have to purify him! iii. What will be the effect of this purification in the people: That they may offer the Lord an offering in righteousness, that is, that they may in sincerity be converted to God and consecrated to His praise (hence we read of the offering up, or sacrificing, of the Gentiles to God, when they were sanctified by the holy Ghost as seen in Romans 15:16 “16 In making me a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. I act in the priestly service of the Gospel (the good news) of God, in order that the sacrificial offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable [to God], consecrated and made holy by the Holy Spirit), and that they may in a spiritual manner worship God according to His will, and offer the sacrifices of righteousness as seen in Psalms 4:5 “5 Offer just and right sacrifices; trust (lean on and be confident) in the Lord” , the offering of prayer, and praise, and holy love, that they may be the true worshippers, who worship the Father in spirit and in truth as seen in John 4:23-24 “23 A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers. 24 God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality).” 2. It shall turn for a testimony against those that are resolved to go on in their wickedness as seen in Malachi 3:5 iv. The ratification of all this as seen in Malachi 3:6. From verses 7-12 we have here God’s controversy with the men of that generation, for deserting His service and robbing Him –wicked servants indeed, that not only run away from their Master, but run away with their Master’s goods. a. They had run away from their Master, and quitted the work He gave them to do as seen in Malachi 3:7 b. They had robbed their Master, and embezzled His goods. v. Among the people of the Jews at this time, though they all enjoyed the same privileges and advantages, there were men of very different characters (as ever were, and ever will be, in the world and in the church), like Jeremiah’s figs (Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “Figs,” I answered. “The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten), some very good and others very bad, some that plainly appeared to be children of God and others that plainly discovered themselves to be children of the wicked one. There are tares and wheat in the same field, chaff and corn in the same floor and here we have an account of both as could be seen in Malachi 3:13-18. This is a representation of the state of the universe today. a. Here is the angry notice God takes of the impudent blasphemous talk of the sinners in Zion and His resentments of it. Probably there was a club of them that were in league against religion, which set up for wits, and set their wits on work to run it down and ridicule it, and herein strengthened one another’s hands. Here is, i. An indictment found against them, for treasonable words spoken against the King of kings. ii. Their plea to this indictment. They said, What have we spoken so much against Thee? Can you see all what God discovered in the people He has chosen to be His, racking brain with God, doing wrong and turning around to ask what they have done wrong! iii.The words themselves which they are charged with. God keeps an account of what men say, as well as of what they do, and will let them know that He does so. We quickly forget what we have said, and are ready to deny what we have said amiss but God can say, You have said so and so. They had said it as their deliberate judgment. a. That there is nothing to be gotten in the service of God, thought it is a service that subjects men to labour and sorrow as seen in Malachi 3:10. This is a very unjust and unreasonable reflection and complains upon the service of God, and we can call witnesses enough to confront the slander. Are we not still doing all this? i. They would have it thought that they had served God and kept His ordinances, whereas it was only the external observance of them that they had kept up, while they were perfect strangers to the inward part of the duty, and therefore might say, it is in vain. Do you get that, when we do God’s command anyhow we still expect to get all the promised results; God says it doesn’t work that way! ii. They insisted much upon it that they had walked mournfully before God, whereas God had required them to serve Him with gladness, and to walk cheerfully before Him. iii. They complained that they had got nothing by their religion they were still in poverty and affliction, and behind hand in the world. b. They maintained that wickedness was the way of prosperity, for they had observed that the workers of wickedness were set up in the world, and those that tempted God were delivered as seen in Malachi 3:15. The outward prosperity of sinners in their sins, as it weakened the hands of the godly in their godliness as seen in Psalms 73:13 “13 Surely then in vain have I cleansed my heart and washed my hands in innocency”, so it has strengthened the hands of the wicked in their wickedness. Do you see how men began to think; they now were wiser than God and turned the word of God upside down to mean that it is the wicked that prospers instead of the righteous. Note, i. Those that work wickedness tempt God by presumptuous sins they do, as it were, try God, whether He can and will punish them as He has said in His word, and, in effect, challenge Him to do His worst, by provoking Him in the highest degree. ii. Those that tempt God by their wicked works are many times both delivered out of the adversity into which they were justly brought and advanced to the prosperity which they were utterly unworthy of. They are not only set up once, but when we thought their day had come to fall, and they were in trouble, they were delivered and set up again so strangely that Providence seem to smile upon them. iii. Though it be thus, yet it will not warrant us to call the proud happy. For they may be delivered and set up for a while, but it will appear that God resists them, and their pride is a preface to their fall and, if so, they are truly miserable, and it is folly to call them happy, and to bless those whom the Lord abhors. Wait awhile, and you shall see those that work wickedness set up as a mark to the arrows of God’s vengeance, and those that tempt God delivered to the tormentors. With all of the above in mind, let us begin by reading Malachi 3:6-18 6 For I am the Lord, I do not change; that is why you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 Even from the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, How shall we return? 8 Will a man rob or defraud God? Yet you rob and defraud Me. But you say, In what way do we rob or defraud You? [You have withheld your] tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with the curse, for you are robbing Me, even this whole nation. [Lev. 26:14-17.] 10 Bring all the tithes (the whole tenth of your income) into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me now by it, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. [Mal. 2:2.] 11 And I will rebuke the devourer [insects and plagues] for your sakes and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground, neither shall your vine drop its fruit before the time in the field, says the Lord of hosts. 12 And all nations shall call you happy and blessed, for you shall be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts. 13 Your words have been strong and hard against Me, says the Lord. Yet you say, What have we spoken against You? 14 You have said, It is useless to serve God, and what profit is it if we keep His ordinances and walk gloomily and as if in mourning apparel before the Lord of hosts? 15 And now we consider the proud and arrogant to be happy and favored; evildoers are exalted and prosper; yes, and when they test God, they escape [unpunished]. 16 Then those who feared the Lord talked often one to another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord and who thought on His name. 17 And they shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I publicly recognize and openly declare them to be My jewels (My special possession, My peculiar treasure). And I will spare them, as a man spares his own son who serves him. 18 Then shall you return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him who serves God and him who does not serve Him.

  Introduction:

One of the great attributes of God is His unchangeableness. We read in our Shorter Catechism definition of God that “God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable” in all His attributes. And that is what makes Him different from every one of us. We change every day. Even hour by hour everything around us changes. To our constant frustration, nothing in this world remains the same. Except God. Everything about God remains exactly the same. Always as seen in verse 6 which reads, “For I am the Lord, I do not change; that is why you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” That is especially true when it comes to Godʼs promises. God does not change His mind or alter His eternal decree. We read in, Num. 23:19, “19 God is not a man, that He should tell or act a lie, neither the son of man, that He should feel repentance or compunction [for what He has promised]. Has He said and shall He not do it? Or has He spoken and shall He not make it good?” And in, 1 Sam. 15:29 which reads, “29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie or repent; for He is not a man, that He should repent.” Also in James 1:17 which reads, “17 Every good gift and every perfect ([a]free, large, full) gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of all [that gives] light, in [the shining of] Whom there can be no variation [rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [as in an eclipse]”. God does not change His mind or alter His eternal decree, His purposes which were determined before the foundation of the world. Before time even existed. In eternity past. God determined certain things. In fact, God determined all things. Even further, the Bible teaches that God created the world in order that He might demonstrate His eternal purpose of salvation. And that is precisely why God allowed and decreed that Adam and Eve would fall into sin. The fall was necessary in order for God to carry out His purpose of saving sinners. This is a great and glorious doctrine. God has decreed the salvation of His people. Therefore, that salvation, our salvation, is sure and certain. For it has been decreed, it has been predestined. And God is faithful. Eph. 1:4-5, 11-12 which reads, “4 Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love. 5 For He foreordained us (destined us, planned in love for us) to be adopted (revealed) as His own children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the purpose of His will [[b]because it pleased Him and was His kind intent]— 11 In Him we also were made [God’s] heritage (portion) and we obtained an inheritance; for we had been foreordained (chosen and appointed beforehand) in accordance with His purpose, Who works out everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His [own] will, 12 So that we who first hoped in Christ [who first put our confidence in Him have been destined and appointed to] live for the praise of His glory!” Well, what we have in this Malachi needs to be read in this context of Godʼs unchangeableness with regard to His eternal decree of salvation. And so we read in verse six that, I. GOD REMAINS FAITHFUL TO HIS ETERNAL PURPOSE OF SALVATION V.6: Note the connection. Note how salvation is defined. God’s people are not consumed, not destroyed because God has promised to be compassionate and gracious and to redeem His people, because He has promised to forgive their sin and to cleanse them from all unrighteousness. Because of that, they will not be destroyed or consumed. They will not be brought to an end through judgment. That cleansing is what the Gospel is to do in our life, hence it is necessary for us to imbibe it and become embodiment of God’s word so that we can easily live it, practice it in our day to day living. As we live God’s word in truth and sincerity, we become inconsumable and indestructible by any form of judgment from God under God’s watch, care and protection through His Holy Spirit indwelling us. Today we have diverse form of judgment looming all over the world: terrorism of all kinds here and there, killing of people, diseases and sickness killing people, hunger, famine and lack of providence, natural disaster killing, and consuming people name it! God said if we turn back to Him, He will compassionately, mercifully and graciously protect and save us and part of His saving move is coming in His Son to teach us how to live life on earth by giving us His gospel to complement His Scripture. A. Because of Godʼs eternal purpose, His people are not destroyed: In other words, they will be saved. According to Malachi, when Lord Jesus would come, the first time, it would be a day of judgment. We saw that in v.2, 5 which reads, “2 But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; [Rev. 6:12-17.] 5 Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against the false swearers, and against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and who turn aside the temporary resident from his right and fear not Me, says the Lord of hosts.” His judgment is certain. Judgment upon His enemies. But that judgment wouldnʼt touch His true people as seen in verse 6 “6 For I am the Lord, I do not change; that is why you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” Jeremiah writes in the book of Lamentations about the terrible judgment coming upon Israel, a book whose very title accurately indicates its subject. It is a book of grief and sorrow, a book of genuine lamentations. But in the midst of that sorrow, right in the middle of that book, is a great statement of the Lordʼs faithfulness to keep His eternal purpose of salvation. This is seen in Lamentations 3:21-26 “But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: It is because of the Lord's mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. [Mal. 3:6.] They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. [Isa. 33:2.] The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him. [Num. 18:20.] The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God's word]. It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord.” That hope is ours, and so we have sung those words even today. Great is thy faithfulness. Can you see that faithfulness of God here, God had talked to His people warning them in Mal. 3:6 “6 For I am the Lord, I do not change; that is why you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed”, in Isa. 33:2 “2 O Lord, be gracious to us; we have waited [expectantly] for You. Be the arm [of Your servants—their strength and defense] every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble”, and in Num. 18:20 “20 And the Lord said to Aaron, You shall have no inheritance in the land [of the Israelites], neither shall you have any part among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the Israelites” about this impending lamentations as a result of their wickedness, evil and their disobedience to His ordinances and laws but they failed to listen and eventually the lamentations burst loose on them. We are heading for the same today because we have failed to live the Beatitudes. We are not destroyed. But let’s look at that same idea from a positive perspective. B. Because of God’s eternal purpose, He claims His people for Himself as seen in v.16-18: There were true people of God in Israel, and they met with one another just as it is in the universe today. On one hand they were the ones who feared the Lord, honouring Him with their whole lives. And they produced abundant fruit of their loving service to God, so much so that weʼre told that a book of remembrance was written in Godʼs presence concerning them. The book of remembrance was a Persian custom, in which the good deeds a person did on behalf of the king were written down and recorded so that they could be properly rewarded. Here, God is recognizing His faithful followers, those who honoured His name. And God identifies them as His own; He claims them to be His own treasured possession. As seen in verse 17 which reads, “17 And they shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I publicly recognize and openly declare them to be My jewels (My special possession, My peculiar treasure). And I will spare them, as a man spares his own son who serves him.” They will be personally identified and claimed by God. And that is the ground for their entry in the Book of Remembrance, a book symbolic of the Lambʼs Book of Life. And they will be separated from the wicked as seen in verse 18 which reads, “18 Then shall you return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him who serves God and him who does not serve Him.” Can you now see where the world’s activities are gearing to, to the separation of those who know and serve God from those who do not! Are you preparing for this separation? The ultimate and eternal fulfilment of that separation is recorded for us in, Matt. 25:31-33 “31 When the Son of Man comes in His glory (His majesty and splendor), and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them [the people] from one another as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats; 33 And He will cause the sheep to stand at His right hand, but the goats at His left.” The example of God’s claiming His people for Himself, separating them from the wicked, and publicly identifying them as His goes way back to the time of Moses, the covenant at Mt. Sinai. Exod. 19:5-6 reads, “5Now therefore, if you will obey My voice in truth and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own peculiar possession and treasure from among and above all peoples; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation [consecrated, set apart to the worship of God]. These are the words you shall speak to the Israelites.” Deut. 7:6 reads, “6For you are a holy and set-apart people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a special people to Himself out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.” Deut. 26:17-19 reads, “17You have [openly] declared the Lord this day to be your God, [pledging] to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes and His commandments and His precepts, and to hearken to His voice. 18 And the Lord has declared this day that you are His peculiar people as He promised you, and you are to keep all His commandments; 19 And He will make you high above all nations which He has made, in praise and in fame and in honor, and that you shall be a holy people to the Lord your God, as He has spoken.” Can you now see the unchangeableness of God, the above quotes is for the Jews and all people that are grouped together with them and now God is about to repeat the same thing and this time around with the Gentiles headed by the Jews of Africa and all the other people that will be grouped with them and the question now is will we the Gentiles act aright bearing in mind what the Jews of Israel did as at that time or will we fail God by repeating the same mistake? The godly and the ungodly of the world are now about to be separated through a universal phenomenon that will take diverse dimension. And those words are clearly quoted by Peter in the NT to apply to the NT people of God, the church of Jesus Christ, 1Pet. 2:9-10 read, “9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own [a]purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people [at all], but now you are God’s people; once you were unpitied, but now you are pitied and have received mercy.” Did you notice the word here that He is not talking of the Jewish nation of Israel but another special nation of His that can be identified by the word being in darkness and He will call them out of the darkness “God’s special people who He has called out of Darkness into His marvellous light...”Because of Godʼs eternal purpose, He claims His people for Himself. Theologically, we call that adoption. When He claimed us for Himself, He adopted us as His children as could be seen in Gal. 4:4-7 which reads, “4 But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born subject to [the regulations of] the Law, 5 To purchase the freedom of (to ransom, to redeem, to [a]atone for) those who were subject to the Law, that we might be adopted and have sonship conferred upon us [and be recognized as God’s sons]. 6 And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the [[b]Holy] Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba (Father)! Father! 7 Therefore, you are no longer a slave (bond servant) but a son; and if a son, then [it follows that you are] an heir [c]by the aid of God, through Christ.” God is faithful to those whom He has adopted. He is our Father as seen in 1 John 3:1 which reads, “See what [[a]an incredible] quality of love the Father has given (shown, bestowed on) us, that we should [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! The reason that the world does not know (recognize, acknowledge) us is that it does not know (recognize, acknowledge) Him.” But, back in Malachi, there were many among the people of Israel who didnʼt fear the Lord nor honour His name. Though outwardly, the OT nation of Israel was the nation of Godʼs people, still, II. GODʼS PEOPLE FREQUENTLY SIN AGAINST HIM. v.7a: Notice the definition of sin there. “You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them.” Sin is defined by Godʼs law. Specifically, sin is breaking Godʼs law as can be seen in 1 John 3:4 which reads, “4 Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect—being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will).” Sin is not defined by what it might do to us or to some other person. Sin is defined by its offense against God. Breaking one of Godʼs laws is an offense against God then and it is still now. And, A. Those who sin are called to repentance as seen in v.7 “7 Even from the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, How shall we return?” “Return to me.” That’s repentance. Turn away from your sin. Give it up. Put it aside and hate it, bury it and run away from it. That’s half of repentance. The other half is this, start running toward God in obedience. With that commitment, which is itself a work of God’s grace in our hearts, with that commitment, our relationship to God is re-established. It is not a system of works salvation, but rather an expression of the restoration that must take place in our relationship with God. “Return to me, and I will return to you.” In fact, God actually draws us to repentance. And no one would come if He doesn’t draw you towards Him. God actually allures His people back to Himself, bringing them to repentance. But many will harden their hearts. In fact, B. Those who sin hide themselves from their own sin: There is a certain arrogance to sin. A certain self righteousness that we have seen throughout this prophecy of Malachi. It is the proud and hypocritical statement of spiritual blindness: “How have I sinned?” We often ask this question. It is a man’s personal disbelief that he could have possibly sinned. We’ve seen it over and over. And we see it here. v.7b “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, How shall we return?” Then in v.8 which reads, “8 Will a man rob or defraud God? Yet you rob and defraud Me. But you say, In what way do we rob or defraud You? [You have withheld your] tithes and offerings.” And finally in v.13 which reads, “13Your words have been strong and hard against Me, says the Lord. Yet you say, What have we spoken against You?” “Who, us?” “What have we done?” “How have I sinned?” How grievous it is when people harden their hearts so thoroughly that they are unable to see their own sin, and even become angry or defensive when someone points it out to them. I have met all too many people who have reached a spiritual plateau of lazy complacency, and have determined that they would go thus far in their Christian life and no farther. And, a person in that position usually becomes insulted when you push them farther, especially when you confront them with sin that they have been unwilling to identify. I have met all too many people with the self-righteous sense that sin is what other people do-- those adulterers, murderers, and thieves. How grievous it is when people refuse to see their own sin. So how would you respond if someone points to something in your life and says, “That is a sin.” Do you get angry? Defensive? Does your heart get hard? Or soft? Beloved, don’t hide yourself from your own sin. Don’t get defensive. Don’t get angry, or argumentative. Don’t try to justify yourself or explain away the aspects of your life that do not measure up to the perfect law of God. Just repent, ask God to forgive you and cleanse you, and commit yourself to loving Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. “And this is love for God and obedience to His commands.” Beware of reacting like those Israelites Malachi described, whose heart can best be described by the word rebellion. Ultimately, C. Those who sin are in rebellion against God. v.13: Literally, “13 Your words have been strong and hard against Me” Strong words are words of rebellion, words of accusation, words of disrespect, words of disbelief, words of arrogance, words of pride. And what were those strong words? They are accusations made against God, in arrogant rebellion. The prophet quotes their very words as seen in v.14a “14 You have said, It is useless to serve God,” It’s vain, unprofitable, empty, meaningless, futile to serve God, they said. There is nothing to be gained, as if they measured the benefits God could give them as a consumer shopping for the best bargain as seen in 14b “and what profit is it if we keep His ordinances and walk gloomily and as if in mourning apparel before the Lord of hosts?” “What benefit do we have in obeying His laws, especially going about like mourners,” no doubt a reference to fasting. Actually, these rebellious people think, the wicked have more fun. The arrogant are more richly blessed. Those who do evil prosper greatly. And even those most in rebellion against God are not punished as seen in v.15 which reads, “15 And now we consider the proud and arrogant to be happy and favored; evildoers are exalted and prosper; yes, and when they test God, they escape [unpunished].” Serious charges against the Lord God, aren’t they? Yet there are additional answers and rebukes for these rebellious people of Israel. First, how arrogant they were to think that their outward shows of religious devotion would be acceptable to God with their obviously selfish motives and half hearted devotion as seen in verse 14 “14 You have said, It is useless to serve God, and what profit is it if we keep His ordinances and walk gloomily and as if in mourning apparel before the Lord of hosts?” They were fasting, going about like mourners. Obviously, it was a show. What did they gain for their show? Well, nothing. But not because God was harsh and unfair, but because they were white-washed hypocrites. Second, how selfish they were, looking for their own personal gain, evaluating God’s faithfulness by the richness of their reward. “What did we gain?” Well, if you are looking merely for worldly profits, you probably won’t gain very much. And if you are looking for selfish fulfilment and satisfaction, you probably won’t gain very much either. For true godliness is a search for God’s glory and God’s profit. Indeed, the true path to real riches is the path of self-denial. Mark 8:34-35 reads, “34 And Jesus called [to Him] the throng with His disciples and said to them, If anyone intends to come after Me, let him deny himself [forget, ignore, disown, and [a]lose sight of himself and his own interests] and take up his cross, and [[b]joining Me as a disciple and siding with My party] follow [c]with Me [continually, cleaving steadfastly to Me]. 35 For whoever wants to save his [[d]higher, spiritual, eternal] life, will lose it [the [e]lower, natural, temporal life [f]which is lived only on earth]; and whoever gives up his life [which is lived only on earth] for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it [his [g]higher, spiritual life [h]in the eternal kingdom of God].” Beloved, if you measure the reality of God by the benefits which you want God to give you, then it is futile to serve Him. If you are interested only in the riches of this world, then the arrogant unbeliever who amasses great wealth is surely, apparently and seemingly the most blessed as seen in v.15 ““15 And now we consider the proud and arrogant to be happy and favored; evildoers are exalted and prosper; yes, and when they test God, they escape [unpunished].” What a sad description of those in rebellion against God. But how dangerously similar is the attitude described by those words to the attitude of the religious consumer of our day. People today do very much measure their spiritual experiences based on what they get out of it. They certainly measure and evaluate churches on that standard. They almost always describe their experiences in a worship service in just such a selfish mode. “What do I get out of it?” “What did I gain?” “What’s in it for me?” Once that attitude is firmly entrenched, it is carried over into everyday life, and obedience to God’s law is given only if it clearly benefits “me” or the person. What horrible rebellion Malachi describes here. Beware of these very dangers and horrible behaviours and attitudes in your own life as seen in v.13-15 which reads, “13 Your words have been strong and hard against Me, says the Lord. Yet you say, What have we spoken against You? 14 You have said, It is useless to serve God, and what profit is it if we keep His ordinances and walk gloomily and as if in mourning apparel before the Lord of hosts? 15 And now we consider the proud and arrogant to be happy and favored; evildoers are exalted and prosper; yes, and when they test God, they escape [unpunished].” But I’ve skipped the middle part of this text, the part which gets most of the attention the verses on tithing. Having said everything that I have, I want all of that to be the context for the teaching on tithing. Tithing is here used as a case study.

  III. A CASE STUDY: TITHING:

The exhortation to tithing is given in the context of salvation, that is, as a call to repentance unto life. It is given in the context of God’s eternal purpose to save His people in Christ. And it is given in the context of many who outwardly claim to be God’s people but whose lives are far from Him. The issue came up in God’s call to repentance, a call which included the promise of life as seen in v.7 which reads, “7 Even from the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, How shall we return?” They want an example of what sin they need to turn away from? Then God gives them an example in tithing as seen in v.8 which reads, “8 Will a man rob or defraud God? Yet you rob and defraud Me. But you say, In what way do we rob or defraud You? [You have withheld your] tithes and offerings.” The tithe is the tenth portion of something. In His law, God required that His people give the first tenth of all their increase to Him. It was not an aspect of works salvation. The Israelites were not saved by their works or law-keeping. They never were, not even under Moses. Instead, the law was given as God’s rule for their life, the expression of His will, intended to be the measure of our love for Him. There was to be an outward demonstration of true devotion and that is through tithing. Now are we really showing our measure of love for Him in this case study through tithe, are we really given God our true one tenth of all our increase in tithe to Him? Now coming to offering take for example HOJ, HOJ has testimony offering and general free will offering in every Sunday worship only these two sets of offering, how many people participate in the two? Instead they choose one and leave the other or none and these are the people who want to be prosperous in all that they do, and when you ask them they will have a ready- made answer for you and that is the true arrogance A. Commitment to God is tested by obedience. The prophet uses tithing as that test: Now, we must avoid the error of the Pharisees, who hypocritically kept the outward demonstration of law-keeping while covering up a wicked and sinful heart. Lord Jesus was very strong in His rebukes to such empty religion. Don’t let anything I say cause you to think that there is value in merely external obedience. There is no spiritual value in outward, legalistic obedience. In the words of Lord Jesusʼ rebuke as seen in Matt. 23:23-24 which reads, “23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, pretenders (hypocrites)! For you give a tenth of your mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected and omitted the weightier (more important) matters of the Law—right and justice and mercy and fidelity. These you ought [particularly] to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, filtering out a gnat and gulping down a [a]camel!” Now have you seen how the Lord God started with tithe which is the outward side and has extended it to explain how an individual’s inner mindset with regards to true love and sincere commitment to God can be reflected in what he does outwardly. But, Scripture also rebukes those who claim to be righteous in heart but fail to demonstrate that righteousness in their lives. Simply put, you cannot say, “I love God,” and live in disobedience to His commands. In this, there is no difference between the OT and the NT. Your commitment to God is tested by your obedience to His law. And tithing is a good case study. These words are stark in their declaration as seen in v.8 “8 Will a man rob or defraud God? Yet you rob and defraud Me. But you say, In what way do we rob or defraud You? [You have withheld your] tithes and offerings.’’ It is the same response we put on today-- “ME, a robber?” How many proud church-goers in our society would say just that? How many people might listen to these words and decide that they won’t come back to this church again? We have here an explanation and then an exhortation, as seen in v.9-10a which reads, “9You are cursed with the curse, for you are robbing Me, even this whole nation. [Lev. 26:14-17.] 10Bring all the tithes (the whole tenth of your income) into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me now by it,” People of God, let me use this verse today as Malachi used it then. Scripture requires that you demonstrate your faith and your love by giving God the tithe of your income. And if you are not doing that, then you are robbing God. You’re not robbing me. Youʼre not robbing the church. You are robbing God. You are a thief--claiming as your own that which belongs to someone else. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. That is, bring the tenth into the storehouse of God’s church. Give it unreservedly, with no strings attached. That’s the test of your commitment. If you refuse, and fail that test, God Himself calls you a thief. You have broken the seventh and eighth commandment which reads “Thou shalt not steal and thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”. And God’s word calls you to repent and return to God! And if that applies to any of you here, then I call you to repent. And on the basis of God’s word, I call you to bring your whole tithe into the storehouse. With a promise of great blessing as seen in v.10-12 which reads, “10 Bring all the tithes (the whole tenth of your income) into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me now by it, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. [Mal. 2:2.] 11 And I will rebuke the devourer [insects and plagues] for your sakes and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground, neither shall your vine drop its fruit before the time in the field, says the Lord of hosts. 12 And all nations shall call you happy and blessed, for you shall be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 2:2 reads, “2 If you will not hear and if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to My name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; yes, I have already turned them to curses because you do not lay it to heart. Lev. 26:14-17 reads, “14 But if you will not hearken to Me and will not do all these commandments, 15 And if you spurn and despise My statutes, and if your soul despises and rejects My ordinances, so that you will not do all My commandments, but break My covenant, 16 I will do this: I will appoint over you [sudden] terror (trembling, trouble), even consumption and fever that consume and waste the eyes and make the [physical] life pine away. You shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I [the Lord] will set My face against you and [a]you shall be defeated and slain before your enemies; they who hate you shall rule over you; you shall flee when no one pursues you.” C. Obedience to God is rewarded by rich blessings: I know of no other instance in the Bible where God says, “Test Me in this.” In fact, as a rule of law, we are commanded not to test God, not to hesitatingly question Him and demand that He gives an answer to us to prove His truthfulness. When Lord Jesus Himself was tempted by the Devil, He answered, “It is written again, ʻYou shall not tempt the LORD your God.ʼ” So it is not appropriate to question God’s word. It is not appropriate to challenge His truthfulness. But in His grace, God invites us to test Him in this area tithing. God says to His people, “If you obey me, I will richly reward you” as can be seen in verses 10-12 Only those who tithe realize that 90% of your income will go much farther than 100% of it. Only those who tithe realize that when the first 10% goes to the Lord, the remaining 90% lasts longer. Only those who tithe know from experience that obedience to God is rewarded by rich blessings. Tithing is an appropriate case study, for it is a uniform requirement upon God’s people. It is not related to spiritual gifts which vary from person to person. It is not related to how much or how little money you actually make. It is simply a straightforward test of your commitment to God. The failure to tithe is an obvious demonstration of spiritual rebellion. The willingness to tithe is an accurate demonstration of genuine commitment, a commitment which will be richly rewarded as seen in v.12 which reads, “12And all nations shall call you happy and blessed, for you shall be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.”

  

Gracious and loving heavenly Father, thank You for opening up to us a new way of life. Help and guide me to enter into all that You want to teach me and grant that Your Will finds a lodging place in my heart. In Your name Lord Jesus Christ I pray. Amen!