Malachi: The Smack DownPart 3 of a 4 part message on Gods Justice and Redeeming Grace
Yesterday we looked at Malachi chapter two and how God dealt out judgment upon judgment on Israel and her priest. We looked at the injustices that we covered on Wednesday and sought the reasons as to why God did what He did to Israel. The priest if you recall decided it was better to barely scrape by and give God the second, third and fourth best as an offering rather than give the first fruits, the choice lamb upon the altar of God. As you recall God did not take too kindly to this offering and He threw it back into their faces as it tells us in chapter one ““I have no pleasure in you”, says the LORD of host, “and I will not accept an offering from your hand””. God does not accept an offering from the Israelites because of their disobedience, and today we will look into the further injustices Israel has and is committing against God. Let us begin.
Malachi chapter three opens up with this dialogue from God concerning the messenger from God ““Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 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. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.” Two things I can immediately point out to you here are A. The messenger of the covenant is referring to John the Baptist, B. The message is that of the coming of the Messiah, the Christ. Compare this text to words spoken by Jesus in Matthew chapter ten verse eleven “This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’” We find that Jesus is in fact saying that John the Baptist fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy about the coming of the messenger and his message you ask? The message is that of Christ making himself known, coming into the world. The message is that of the new covenant replacing the old covenant, because obviously it wasn’t working for the Jews of Israel. The man who “will sit as a refiner and purifier” is Jesus, He is the only person qualified to cleanse men and women of their sins. Christ will purify “the sons of Levi….and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord”. Malachi is telling us that God is sending Jesus to heal the affliction of sin and disobedience and that He is coming soon. The messenger has been chosen and the message is at hand. John the Baptist is coming soon to bring about the good news of redemption in Christ and Jesus is coming soon to fulfill the prophecy of the Messiah, the new covenant. God then goes on to tell us through Malachi that the offerings will again be pleasing to Him once Christ comes to redeem Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem. God is promising the redemption to Israel even though they continue to disobey His commands. How amazing is our God? He is loving and just in His will and ways. He is constantly giving man the chance to pursue Him, seek Him out, and draw ever close to His side. The term God is love gets tossed around too often these days I think, but here it is explicitly applicable because God in His infinite wisdom, grace, mercy, and love defies all kings, emperors, conquers probably responses to disobedience and disloyalty by offering His children a way of redemption. That is just incredible to ponder and talk about with anyone. So for today only I will cave and say God is love.
Later on in the chapter we see God communicate through Malachi this discourse on how He is being “robbed” by the Israelites and how they can once again receive blessings from Heaven. Verse six goes as follows “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes 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?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” Okay now this passage is actually pretty easy to understand once you break down one key indictment against Israel that God imposing Israel with. God is telling Israel that I am being robbed by you, and Israel has no idea what God is talking about(as usual). God is referring to the fact that Israel is not giving Him their best, and this is in fact robbery. I look at it this way, if I were to say to God “Father you’ve commanded me to bring tithes and offerings to you, well I’ve earned $100,000 this year and I know you demand 10% but I’m going to give you 1% and use the rest for me”, now God would have every right to say that I am robbing Him of what is owed to Him. In fact everything I earn belongs to God because it is His to begin with, and this is the point He is making with Israel and their lack of adhering to the Law. They owe everything to God and all He asks in return is obedience, faith, loyalty, and a pure offering(honestly not a whole lot considering God is the Maker of the Universe) God then tells the Israelites that if you do bring me what I deserve than you will be blessed, I will remove the curse, I will keep the “devourer” at bay and I will not “destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear”. God clearly wants to provide for Israel and all they have to do is trust and obey in His command. You think that it would seem clear to Israel by now that if they only just obeyed the covenant set forth by God to Abraham than they would be blessed and overflowing with bountiful gifts from God. What can you take away from this passage? Well do what Jesus tells us to do in Matthew chapter twenty-two verse twenty-one “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” We must give to God which is already His and for ourselves rely solely on His provision. Israel just couldn’t quite grasp that and even in the New Testament where Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees in the context of the scripture above they still didn’t have it figured out. Hopefully we can learn from their mistakes.
Wrapping up chapter three we come across a small passage where God talks about remembering those who serve him in reverent fear and love. Starting in verse sixteen “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” God knows who honors Him, God knows who loves Him, and God knows who fears Him. Is it that hard to understand that God will only admit those into Heaven who believe in Him and faithfully follow Him? Here God is reminding Israel that those who are “wicked” will not receive His blessing. They will only inherit death and destruction. They will never venture into Paradise in fellowship with their Father. That’s a scary indictment and something we all as Christ followers need to keep in mind. Several people who call themselves Christians because of the church they go to or the Christian things they say and do will never enter Heaven because they truly never admitted their sin and truly never followed Christ commands. We as followers of Christ must constantly witness to our own because we never know what words of Truth we speak will affect someone’s eternal soul. God is calling on us all to step up to the plate and change our lives to pattern them more like Christ (ergo His own life). I leave you with this question for the day, and it’s one I’ve asked before. What are you doing to follow and serve God, and do you know where you stand with your Father in Heaven?
All scripture is taken from the English Standard Version (ESV)
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