Click here for the correlating audio message
Now let's turn to Malachi, the final word of God in the Old Testament period. God's final message before the coming of Jesus Christ.
Who Malachi was, where he came from, we know nothing. Some believe that the name of Malachi was just an assumed name, not the true name of the writer. But there is no real evidence to back up that belief. But the name Malachi... remember this morning I told you there were meanings in the names. That they just didn't name a child any name out of the dictionary, but they looked for the meaning of a name, and they named the child for the meaning of the name. Malachi means "my messenger." So Malachi was God's messenger, the last messenger of the Old Testament period. He doesn't give any background concerning himself as some of the other minor prophets do, telling you where they came from and who their fathers were. It just is,
The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi (Mal 1:1).
So that's your introduction to the book. Declaring the author and to whom the book is sent. Malachi, but the author, really, it's the word of the Lord. The messenger, Malachi, and the people addressed, Israel.
What is God's first word of the final word?
I have loved you (Mal 1:2),
What a glorious thing for God to say to a person, "I have loved you." Now that isn't a past tense. That is past and present, "I continue to love you. I have loved you." God's love never ceases. "I have loved you,"
saith the LORD (Mal 1:2).
But Israel in their cold spiritual condition responds,
Wherein have you loved us? (Mal 1:2)
Rather than responding in warmth to God, there is the challenge of that love. Now many people today still are guilty of challenging God's love. So many times a statement is begun with the words, "If God loves me then why..." Oftentimes the circumstances of my life, which seem to be very difficult or adverse, cause me, at times, to challenge God's love.
Now you find that today in Israel there is a tremendous challenge to this statement by the people. If you would go over there today and proclaim to the people in Israel, "God loves the people of Israel," ninety percent of them would say, "If God loves the Jew then how come six million of them were killed by Hitler?" I've had them say to me, "We don't need that kind of love." But God declares, "I have loved you, saith the Lord."
We think of love as some weak kind of thing that just is totally indulgent. But the Bible tells us that if you as a parent totally indulge your child, if you do not correct your child, you really aren't demonstrating love for that child, but you hate your child. The failure for you as a parent to discipline your child is not a sign of love, but a disregard, of hatred. God, because He loves us, disciplines us. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." But we're so used to thinking of love in the sickly sweet Hollywood sentimentality of the full moon and the beach in Hawaii and the guitars in the background and the waves gently coming up on the sand, you know. This whole kind of scene. That we don't understand the nature of true love and of real love. That's Hollywood. True love is strong, strong enough to rebuke when rebuke is necessary, strong enough to chasten when chastening is for the best good. Oftentimes chastening is necessary for our best good.
A child left to himself will bring reproach to his parents, according to the scripture. Because we love our children, we chasten them. Because we're concerned in their well-being and in their safety. We just, when they run out in the street, we just don't take a very haphazard attitude towards it, and say, "Oh, look he's playing in the street. Isn't that cute?" But we discipline the child. We tell them the dangers of playing in the street. We run out and we grab hold of them, and we get them out of the street, and we warn them of the dangers. If they continue and persist to go in the street, then we spank them to keep them out of the street. Because we know the danger that exists if they walk off the curb and into the street, and because we love them and are concerned in their well-being, we take that necessary step in the strength of discipline and we stop them.
So God in His love for us has that strength of love that brings discipline when we are doing those self-destructive acts. Now oftentimes it is during the discipline that we challenge the love of God. "If God loves me, then why is this happening to me?" It's happening to you because He does love you, and He's averting some tragedy down the road. You should be thankful. "Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth."
So there was the challenge, "Wherein does God love us?" God answers that challenge by pointing out the fact that He chose Jacob over Esau. Now they were twin brothers, and Esau was the elder. According to tradition, the blessings should have gone to Esau. The birthright should've gone to Esau. Though they were twins, because he was born first, the right of the birthright was his, and the blessing was his. But God reversed things. God gave to Jacob the birthright and the blessing and the promise. Being descendants of Jacob rather than Esau was the proof of God's love for Israel.
Now both the descendants of Esau and Jacob were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and carried away as captives to Babylon. However, the prophecy here is that Esau will go there endeavoring will not be rebuilt, or Edom will not be rebuilt, the descendants of Esau. Though they are trying, their area is going to be wasted and desolate, and they're not gonna make it. They're not gonna recover. Whereas God is going to recover Jacob and Israel in the land.
Were they not brothers? the LORD said: and yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau (Mal 1:2-3),
Now a lot of times people get hung up on this idea of God saying He hated somebody. Actually, it is a term that means love in a lesser degree. "I loved Jacob, but I loved Esau in a lesser degree." The word "hates Esau" is a rather difficult translation.
but I laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever (Mal 1:3-4).
So the Edomites were to be destroyed. God was going to cast them down, though they tried to repatriate and recover, they were unable to do so. The Edomites were lost from history. Herod was the last of the Edomites, the king Herod. Then from there, their ethnic identity is lost in history.
The Lord said,
Your eyes see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel (Mal 1:5).
From the border of Edom, the border of wickedness, it'll be desolation. But God will be magnified from the border of Israel.
Now the Lord brings out here an interesting thing. He says,
A son honors his father, and a servant his master: if then I am your father, where is my honor? and if I be a master, where is my reverence? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And you say, Wherein have we despised his name? (Mal 1:5-6)
So God says, "Look, a father receives honor from his son. In fact, under the law it says, 'Honor your father and your mother.' And the master receives reverence and respect from his slaves." God is saying, "Look, if I'm your Father, then where is the honor that you should be giving Me? If I am your Master, then why aren't you respecting or reverencing Me?"
Then the Lord speaks out about the priesthood. He said,
O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Where have we despised your name? [God said] In that you have offered polluted bread upon my altar; and you say, Where have we polluted thee? [God said] In that you say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if you offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil? offer it to your governor; and see how he thinks about it (Mal 1:6-8).
God said, "You wouldn't offer that kind of lame sick stuff to your governor, and yet, you offer it to Me." It's amazing how many times God gets the castoffs. You know, "I don't know what to do with it. I don't want to send it to the dump. I'll just give it to the church." The castoffs.
We had the ugliest rocking chair in our church parsonage in Tucson. It was double ugly. So we were talking with some of the members of the church about how we planned to get some new furniture in the parsonage, and we were gonna get rid of the rocking chair. "Oh no, no. You can't get rid of the rocking chair." We said, "Why not?" He said, "Well, that's our rocking chair; we gave it to the church." We said, "But we won't have room for it when our new furniture arrives. We'll bring it back to your house." "Oh no, we don't want it." But it had some sentimental value to them. But they really didn't want it themselves, so the church becomes a storage place. And we've got to have that dumb, ugly rocking chair in our living room, because they don't know what to do with it. Giving God the castoffs.
God speaks of His disdain for it, "Offering Me polluted offerings, offering Me the lambs that are sick, the lambs that are lame, the lambs that are blind, maim." "Can't do anything else with it, give it to God; use it for sacrifice." When God in the law said that they were to offer the firstfruits. When they offered a lamb, that was to be without spot or blemish. They were to offer, really, unto God the sacrifices that were the best that they had.
I read of a man who had an old upright piano in his home, and he loved playing the piano. So he went out and bought himself a beautiful Steinway, a baby grand. He didn't know what to do with the old upright piano, and so he decided, "Well, I'll give it to the church." He called the pastor, and said, "I have a piano I want to donate to the church." The guy said, "Fine." You know, and the Lord began to speak to him. He said, "You're gonna give that old rickety worn out upright to Me and you're keeping for yourself that Steinway?" God really began to nail this guy. So when the van came to pick up the piano, guess which one went on the van? The Steinway, and he kept his old upright. He just couldn't give to God the castoff. Yet, how many times we pollute our gifts by giving to God the castoffs. When God requires the first and the best of our lives.
God said, "Will the governor be pleased? Will he accept the person for that sick lame sacrifice he's trying to offer? Of course not."
Now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this has been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts (Mal 1:9).
"If the governor won't regard you for that sacrifice, do you think that I should regard you and be pleased?"
Then the Lord said,
Who is there among you that would shut the doors [for nothing] for nought? neither do you kindle a fire on my altar for nought (Mal 1:10).
Now there are some who have interpreted this as a professional priesthood. In other words, they don't just give their service to God, but they want pay for their service to God. However, that is not evidently what the Hebrew implies. God is saying actually, "I would just as soon that someone would close the doors of the temple so that you wouldn't offer Me any more of these sacrifices that are nothing. Don't bother coming. If that's all you have to offer, forget it. I just wish that someone would close the doors of the temple so they wouldn't be offering Me anymore of this junk. I can do without it." Is the idea behind the Hebrew text.
I have no pleasure [God said] in you (Mal 1:10),
He said, "These things don't please Me. I don't have any pleasure in your junk."
neither will I accept the offering from you (Mal 1:10).
Now, it should be of great concern to each of us when we consider the benefits of being a child of God, when we consider all that God has done for us. It should be a primary concern to us even as it was to the psalmist in Psalm 116, when he said, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all of His benefits unto me?" When I think of all of the blessings and the benefits that God has bestowed on my life, the question, "What can I give to God?" Well, what can I give to God that He needs? He doesn't need anything that I have. You know what the psalmist finally came up with? He said, "I will just take His cup of salvation, and call upon His name." I don't know what to give to God. I'll just receive that which He wants to give to me. I'll take the cup of salvation, and I'll just call upon His name. Because you see, I really don't have anything of value that I can give to God that He really needs.
I read of a mission out in New Mexico where they were ministering to the Indians out there on the reservation. This one old Indian came into the meeting, and he was really touched. His heart was touched by God. So when they passed the offering plate, when they came to him, he told the usher, "Put it down lower." The usher put it down with a quizzical look, and he said, "Lower yet." He put it down lower yet, and he said, "Lower yet!" And finally he put the offering plate on the floor. The old Indian stepped in it, he said, "It's all I have!" Giving himself. But you know, as far as God is concerned, that's all He wants. What better gift can you give to God than just giving yourself to Him? Giving God your life. Take the cup of salvation; call upon the name of the Lord.
Now the Lord speaks concerning the Gentiles. The priesthood has been more or less corrupted.
For from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts (Mal 1:11).
So that promise which is yet future in the Kingdom Age, when Jesus shall reign, where ere the sun doth her successive journeys run. When every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord to the glory of God the Father. When Psalm 2 is fulfilled and the Father has said to His Son, "Ask of Me, and I will give you the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy dwelling place." When that glorious day has come, "From the rising of the sun, even to the going down thereof, the name of the Lord shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto My name, a pure offering."
Now we are told in the book of Revelation, chapter 5, that when Jesus takes the scroll out of the right hand of Him who is sitting upon the throne, that the twenty-four elders come forth with little golden bowls filled with incense that they offer before the throne of God. The Bible tells us that the incense is the prayer of the saints.
Now the offering of incense is a symbolic act. The sweet savor, the sweet savory smell going up is a symbolic act. We were talking Thursday night of the danger of taking the symbol and replacing the symbol, or using the symbol to replace the reality. How this is so commonly done in religious realm, where you take a ritual that began as a symbol and soon you place a greater emphasis upon the ritual than you do the reality. And you forget the reality, and it's all, your trust is just in the ritual itself. The offering of incense was a ritual symbolic act, for the prayers were to represent... or the incense was to represent the prayers of God's people that ascends up to God as a sweet smelling savor before the Lord. How God enjoys the prayers of His people. So in the book of Revelation, the incense, these little golden vials full of incense, odors, which are the prayers, it says, of the saints. So that offering of incense, the pure offering is actually the prayers that are offered up to God from around the world from the hearts of His people in every language.
Now God says concerning the Gentiles, "They will be offering up of these sacrifices; My name shall be great."
But [He said] you have profaned it (Mal 1:12),
That is, you've profaned the name of God, the name of the Lord.
in that you say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible (Mal 1:12).
Now, they had begun to take a very bad attitude towards their service to God, and their worship of God. It had become a labor. It had become a burden to them. It is tragic when people are serving God out of a sense of obligation or pressure, or giving to God out of the sense of pressure. It, to me, is tragic that churches use pressure tactics to get people to make their pledges for the year. They use that old psychology of sending two or three important people from the church to your home to sit down and to discuss with you what will be your pledge for the church for this next year. Of course, you don't want to look like a skinflint, and these people are important people, and you want to look good to them. And so while they're there, you are more or less coerced into making a pledge that is really more than you intended to give, but you just want to look good in the eyes of the people. But then each month as you get your little dun from the church saying your pledge is due, you get angry and you write out that check, and your name has a little cross on the "t", you know, that indicates that, "I don't like this, but I made the promise." You're actually resenting what you give to God, and that's terrible. You'd be better off by far not to give to God at all than to actually resent.
God doesn't want you to resent anything. That's why Paul the apostle in the New Testament said, "Let every man as he has purposed in his own heart set aside that portion that he wants to give to God" (II Corinthians 9:7). For your giving should never be out of constraint. It should never be through pressure, for God loves a cheerful, and the word in the Greek is hilarious giver. Now whatever you can give to God hilariously, give. What you can't give to God hilariously, keep. Don't pollute. God says, "You polluted the whole thing." Why? Because of the attitude of your heart when you're giving to God, your attitude of that is contemptible. "Oh, I've got to do that again." None of my giving to God should ever create within me a contempt. If it is, then I shouldn't be doing it. God loves a cheerful, hilarious giver.
You said, O what a weariness it is! (Mal 1:13)
"Oh, do we have to go to church again tonight? Oh no! There's a neat program coming on T.V. and I've got to watch it. If I'm not there, they're going to be calling me. I don't want them to call me. I can't stand it." "Weariness to Me!" Oh, what a sad, sad state of spiritual affairs when the things of God become worrisome. Tragic.
My wife always gets after me, because even on vacation I can't stop ministering. Going to Hawaii next month for a vacation, but we'll be ministering in Honolulu for Bill Stonebreaker while we're there. But I love it. You know, it's not wearisome to me. She would like to be with me more. In fact, she told me tonight to pray about spending more time with her. I'm praying about it. The ministers' wives are many times the unspoken heroes of this whole warfare. We talk about the sacrifices a minister has to make, but the wife also makes many sacrifices. I thank God for the sacrifices that Kay has made, and the reflection of those sacrifices in the lives of our children. Because I was gone so much, a great part of the burden of giving to the children that security, in word and love and all within the home, fell upon her. She made it a point to never allow the children to come home to an empty house. Always to be there whenever they came home from school, and we thank God for the blessed fruit that we have now from those sacrifices that she made while we were engaged in the work of the Lord.
But if serving God ever becomes weariness to you, then it's time to get out, time to do something else. Surely you should not be inflicting yourself upon others, if you yourself have become weary doing the work of the Lord. You say, "Oh, what weariness it is!"
and you've snuffed at it, and you've brought that which was torn, that which was lame, that which was sick; thus you brought an offering: and should I accept it? saith the LORD. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and vows, and sacrifices unto the Lord a corrupt thing (Mal 1:13-14):
God pronounces a curse upon that man that would make a promise to God and then substitute on it, and give God, sacrifice something that which is corrupted.
for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is awesome among the heathen (Mal 1:14).
Now He addresses Himself to the priests.
And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. And if you will not hear, and if you will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because you do not lay it to heart (Mal 2:1-2).
Now, in order to get a real background to Malachi, you need to read again the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, because Malachi was prophesying during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. This was the time when the children of Israel had returned from their Babylonian captivity and were starting to rebuild the nation. We remember how they read to the people the law of the Lord, and how that the people had begun to put away their wives and began to marry the wives from the cities of Ashdod and Ammon and the Moabites. Malachi will come down on this pretty soon, but you get a historic background to Malachi in Nehemiah and Ezra, which you should reread just to put the whole prophecy in perspective.
Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it (Mal 2:3).
God isn't really very gentle, is He?
And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name (Mal 2:4-5).
Now God established the covenant of the priesthood with the tribe of Levi, because of the fear of the Lord, the reverence that he had towards God. The covenant was of life and of peace. God's covenant with man is that of life and of peace. God has promised to you eternal life and the peace of God which passes human understanding. These are the benefits of our covenant with God. This is the covenant that He had made with Levi because of Levi's reverence for Him.
The law of truth was in his mouth, iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and in fairness, and did turn many away from iniquity (Mal 2:6).
Of course, that was the duty of the priests, to walk before the Lord honestly, in righteousness, in peace.
For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts (Mal 2:7).
Now, that really is the ministry, of bringing the people the knowledge of God. For we are the messengers of the Lord. That's what we stand here to do, to proclaim to you a message from God. And that should always be what is upon our hearts whenever we step into the pulpit: I have a message from the Lord for you. As Paul the apostle said, "That which I have received from the Lord, I also delivered unto you" (I Corinthians 11:23). That should always be the means of communication to the church. God, through His servant, proclaiming His Word, His truth to His people.
But ye are departed out of the way; [that is, the priests] you have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts (Mal 2:8).
This can be said of so much of the apostate ministry today. I have no respect for those ministers who deny the Word of God. Who deny the authority of the Word of God, who deny the authenticity of the Word of God. I don't know why they're in the ministry. They've corrupted their positions. They have turned people away from the Lord. There are many people today who are turned away from the Lord because the churches and the ministers totally failed to proclaim to them the truth of the Lord. The church became a social center, and the ministers became the head of social organizations. Their emphasis became the social program, and their messages were sweet little nothings about birds, and flowers, and butterflies, and the reviews of the latest books. But they had no message from God for the people, and the people were turned away from God because of the failure of the priests or of the ministers. "Ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi," God said.
Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people (Mal 2:9),
Now, what happened is the people turned against the priesthood, and they began to treat the priests contemptibly, and rightfully so. It is interesting in Brazil how that the people have turned against the ministers. Treating them with contempt. You can't blame the people; you have to blame the ministers who were derelict in their duty of bringing the people the truth of God's Word and of God's light, and foisting upon them some social action program. There is a place for social actions, but not the church. Our place is to proclaim God's truth to the people. It is the changed people who change the society.
"Therefore have I made you contemptible and base,"
according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in [your administering of] the law. Have we not all one father? is there not just one God who has created us? then why are we dealing so treacherously against our brothers? (Mal 2:9-10)
Would to God that the churches could realize that we have only one Father; we're serving only one God. Why should we have all of the divisions within the church? Why should we have, you know, this church downing that church? All of this competition, fighting, jealousies, strifes going on within the body of Christ. We should realize that there's only one God. We all serve the same Lord. God help us. If we are Baptists, or Lutherans, or Presbyterians, or Catholics, or Nazarenes, or whatever. God help us to just simply be Christians. One God, one Father. We're all brothers. God said, "How come they don't realize that? Why is there all this treachery going on between them? All the rivalry."
Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god (Mal 2:11).
So the Lord is here speaking about this treacherous thing that was going on, in that the men of Judah who had returned to rebuild the nation had begun to divorce their own wives of their youth. They began to marry these girls from Ashdod, that is, of the Philistines, from Ammon. That is the area of Moab, Jordan today. Leaving their wives and marrying these young gals from these foreign nations who were strangers to God and to the covenants of God. So He speaks about the treacherous dealings of these husbands. Actually, in the book of Nehemiah when Nehemiah saw what was going on, he called all the people together. He really laid a trip on these guys who had left the wives of their youth and had married these young gals, and had had children by them. He said, "All right, this is what you've got to do. Put away every strange wife, every man of you, you've got to put away your strange wives, and the children that were born by them." He went among them and started pulling their beards, and knocking their heads, and just really treating them rough. He was setting things in order. The last chapter of Nehemiah, interesting picture of how Nehemiah was dealing very forcibly with this thing which was such an abomination unto God. That a man would deal so treacherously with the wife of his youth when he became older.
The LORD will cut off the man that does this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles [or tents] of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts. And this have you done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, and weeping, and crying out, inasmuch as he regards not the offering any more, or receives it with good will at your hand (Mal 2:12-13).
All of your tears and crying and everything else unto God doesn't alter what you have done. It does not allow God to condone what you have done.
You say, Well why? Because the LORD is the witness between you and your wife, the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously: yet she is your companion, and the wife of your covenant (Mal 2:14).
You made a vow. You covenanted, "Till death do us part." The wife of your covenant.
And did he not make the two of you one? Yet had he the residue of the Spirit. And wherefore [and why] one? That he might seek a godly seed (Mal 2:15).
God was seeking to preserve a godly seed for the nation Israel, in order that they might bring forth His Son into the world. That's why He commanded them not to marry outside of the race.
Therefore [He said] take heed to your spirit, let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth (Mal 2:15).
There are people who imagine that the Bible teaches against interracial marriages, but it really does not. Except for the Jews, and that was to preserve the godly seed that He might bring forth the Messiah from this nation. But there is really no prohibition in the scripture as such against interracial marriages. Again, we all have one Father, and we all serve one God. Culturally there may be difficulties, but scripturally I see none.
For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hates divorcing: for one covers violence with his garments, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that you deal not treacherously (Mal 2:16).
So God sets Himself against divorcing. He said, "I hate it." The Lord said there was only one real cause for divorce, and that was adultery, fornication.
Then the Lord said,
You have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet you say, Where did we weary him? [He said] When you say that, Every one is good in the eyes of the LORD (Mal 2:17),
"Doesn't matter, you know, every one is good. There's a spark of good in everybody." God said, "You weary Me with your words." The innate goodness of man, "Everyone is good before the Lord." There are still those today saying that. And, "God delights in all men." Where, then, is the God of judgment? God will judge the wicked, and God is wearied by this false philosophy, "Oh, everyone is good. God delights in all men." The universal fatherhood of God, and the universal brotherhood of man, "No matter who you are, or what you've done, we're all the sons of God and everyone is good in the eyes of God." Then wherein is the God of judgment? Why does God speak so much about the judgment that is going to fall upon the wicked?
Now the promise of the coming of John the Baptist as the forerunner to Jesus Christ.
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appears? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like the fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and in the former years (Mal 3:1-4).
Now here we have a co-mingling of both the second... the first and the second comings of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist did come as the forerunner, proclaimed the coming of the Lord after him. "There's One coming after me mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I'm not worthy to unloose" (John 1:27). When he saw Jesus, he said to his disciples, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). He bore testimony of Jesus Christ.
But Jesus was rejected. He did come to the temple. He did cleanse it. He drove out the moneychangers and those that were selling the doves. But He was rejected. But He is coming again, and before He comes again, Elijah shall come, precede Him, and prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Lord. So part of this was fulfilled in His first coming; much of it remains to be fulfilled in His second coming.
But with Malachi and so many of the others, they did not see the two aspects of the coming of the Messiah. So as they wrote, Peter said, "They wrote of things that they really didn't understand." Earnestly desiring to look into these things and to understand them. But they really didn't, and they didn't understand, really, the seeming ambiguity and contradictions of the prophecies that they were making. For they were prophesying that He would reign as King and Lord forever upon the throne of David and establish the kingdom forever, and yet, they were saying, "and He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief, cut off from the land of the living" (Isaiah 53:3). "The Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself" (Daniel 9:26), or without receiving the kingdom. So they were giving these prophesies that they could not themselves understand, because there was this seeming paradox, the differences. But yet, they wrote of them, honestly obeying the voice of the Spirit that was speaking to their hearts, though they themselves did not understand the things of which they wrote.
The Lord said,
And I will come near to you to judgment (Mal 3:5);
Now this is referring, of course, to the second coming of Christ; He's coming to judge the world. The first duty, the first activity of Christ when He returns to the earth is that of judgment, gathering the nations together for judgment.
and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers (Mal 3:5),
Now the sorcerers are those... the word in the Greek is pharmakeia, from which we get pharmacology, which is the use of drugs... those that are using the drugs for hallucinogenic purposes, against the adulterers.
against [those who are liars] false swearers [those who swear falsely], against those who are oppressing their [employers, or their] employees in his wages (Mal 3:5),
Withholding, actually. In James it says, "Go to now ye rich, weep and howl for the woes that have come upon you, for you have defrauded the laborer, you've been holding back his wages in order that you might live sumptuously." Now the Lord speaks of their being cut off. So those that are oppressing the hirelings holding back the wages,
oppressing the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed (Mal 3:5-6).
God's promises to Jacob are sure, otherwise He would've consumed them; He would've consumed the people. But His promises He keeps, and He promised that to Jacob there would arise the star, the morning star. So God keeps His word, but God is here declaring that if it were not for His word, they would be consumed. "But I am the Lord, and I change not." This is what is called, from a doctrinal standpoint, the immutability of God. That is, God does not change. In the New Testament we read concerning Jesus Christ, "The same yesterday, today, and forever." He does not change. God's immutability--one of the divine attributes of God.
Even from the days of your fathers you are gone away from my ordinances, and you've not kept them. Return unto me, and I return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But you said, Why should we return? (Mal 3:7)
So God is even now giving them the chance to turn. "Return to Me," God said, "I'll return to you." They said, "Why should we?" They were surely impudent people.
Then the question:
Will a man rob God? Yet [the Lord said] you have robbed me. But you say, Where have we robbed you? [And God said] In the tithes and in the offerings (Mal 3:8).
The word tithe means a tenth. God claims that a tenth of the increase belonged to Him. For them to withhold it from God was robbing God, and God looked upon it as actually robbing from Him. This is under the Old Testament law. God said,
Ye are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed me, even this whole nation (Mal 3:9).
Now, when Nehemiah came back the second time, the worship in the temple had been forsaken because the people were not bringing tithes and offerings into the temple. Thus, the priest had left the ministry in the temple and they'd gone out into the fields, and they were cultivating fields and they were working in order to provide for their own necessities for their own survival. Thus, the temple worship was neglected when Nehemiah returned. So he called the people together and he rebuked the people for the fact that the priest had to leave the ministry of the temple and go out into the fields to work to support themselves. Nehemiah set this thing straight. So again, the book of Nehemiah helps give you background for what Malachi is saying.
God talking about the people robbing Him, and then God commands them,
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour out unto you a blessing, that you'll not have room enough to receive it (Mal 3:10).
Now, it is interesting to me that, as far as I know, this is the only place in the scripture where God has actually challenged a person to prove Him. For God says, "Prove Me and see if I'll not pour out upon you a blessing so great that you won't be able to contain it."
Now, we often hear the objection, "Well, there is no mention of tithing in the New Testament. It is a part of the Old Testament law. It is not something that is applicable to the church age." This, for the most part, is true. There is only one mention of tithing as such that I can think of, and that is when Jesus was speaking about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and how they had twisted so many things, "straining at a gnat, swallowing a camel" kind of thing. He said, "You paid tithe of your anise, your mint, and your cumin." Now these are spices; they're little spice gardens that they would grow. They would take these little anise seeds and count out, "Nine for me, one for God. Nine for me, one for God." Little tiny seeds, and they were very careful that God got His tenth part of this spice from their herb gardens. He said, "You pay tithes for these things, but," He said, "you totally overlook the more important things of fairness and honesty. You know, you're crooked in your dealings, yet you're so careful that God gets His tenth part, even of your spices." Now God said, Jesus said, "This you ought to have done," in the reference of their tithing, "You ought to do that," but He said, "You shouldn't leave the other undone."
Now, I do not, and you know that I don't, preach tithing as a requirement or as a law. You know that oftentimes I have spoken to you of the grace of God, and that God will never be a debtor to any man, and how that our blessings from God are not predicated in this covenant of grace upon our obedience to the law, our faithfulness in devotions, our faithfulness in tithes, or whatever. Where the people at one time related to God through the law, God has chosen that we should relate to Him in love.
God has chosen to bestow upon us His blessings on the basis, not of our obedience or faithfulness to the law, but upon the basis of His grace towards us. So that all of God's blessings are bestowed upon my life not because I merit them, not because I deserve them, but because God just loves me, and I just can't help that. I am so thankful for it. That God just loves me so much He wants to give to me. Now, wouldn't it be rather stupid for me to say, "Oh, God, don't do that, you know. Don't do that. You're too good, Lord!" I often say, "You're too good," but I don't say, "Stop." I appreciate the goodness of God. I thank God for His grace, and I thank God that I can relate to Him in love, not the law. I feel sorry for people who have a legal relationship with God. Oh, how I thank God for this love relationship that I have. I love Him, He loves me, and it's just a neat deal. Because He loves me more than I love Him, and He is always showing to me how much He loves me. Quite often He is showing me how much He loves me right after I have failed so miserably, just so I won't get discouraged. By His grace He just sort of says, "Hey, I know you're frame. I know you're but dust. I still love you anyhow, and I want to show it to you." God just is constantly overwhelming me with His love.
However, there is a divine law involved in giving. I would be derelict as a minister if I did not point out to you a divine spiritual law that God has enacted in this universe. The law is basically expressed in the New Testament in these words, "Give, and it shall be given unto you. Measured out, pressed down, and running over, shall men give into your bosom" (Luke 6:38). Now that's a spiritual law of God. The more you give, the more you will receive. Paul the apostle expressed it by saying, "He who gives sparingly will receive sparingly, but he who gives bountifully will receive bountifully" (II Corinthians 9:6). It's a divine spiritual law.
Now, we're quite conscious of the natural laws that govern our universe. Though we don't fully understand them, we are aware of them. And we live in accordance to them, and we take advantage of them. Now, I'm certain that none of us really understand how gravity works; we just know that it does work. We know that an apple falls down not up. Just how the principle of gravity may work, how mass attracts, we don't really know, but we know that there is an attraction by mass. So we learn to respect the law of gravity and abide by the law of gravity.
Now, we have learned through our scientific developments and technology to learn that there are other laws of aerodynamics by which we can compensate against the law of gravity. We can put airplanes into flight by the laws of aerodynamics, which we understand--the thrust of air going over and so forth, under the airlines and so forth, the lifting power and thrust. And we've learned through the laws of aerodynamics to compensate against the law of gravity. But basically, we, all of us, respect the laws of gravity. We don't just jump off a ten-story building, saying, "Well, I don't care for the law of gravity. I don't understand how it works, and I just don't believe in it." We're not that stupid that we would defy the law of gravity in such a way.
Now, there's the law of electricity, how that the positive particles repel and the negative particles attract. And we know the opposite poles, the attraction of opposite poles and so forth, but yet, to understand electricity, we really don't. But we sure learn how to use the law of electricity and make it our servant.
Now, just as there are laws of gravity, laws of electricity, laws of aerodynamics, and these basic laws of nature that we have learned to live with and to use, so there are spiritual laws in the universe that God has inaugurated that you can use for your benefit. God has established these laws. They are just as powerful in their cause and effect as is the law of gravity or any of the other laws of nature which we have learned to live with. One of the laws, the spiritual laws, involves the giving to God, and that is, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; measured out, pressed down, running over." The more you give to the Lord, the more you will receive from Him. That's just a basic spiritual law. You say, "Well, how does it work?" I don't know. All I know is that it does work. God, only in this area, challenges people to prove Him. "Just prove Me," God says, "just see if I will not pour out unto you blessings that you won't be able, you won't have room enough to contain."
Now, you want to take God's dare? God's challenge to you, try it. Prove the Lord. See if He will not pour out unto you blessings that you cannot contain. There will not be room enough to receive it. For the Lord says,
I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts. And your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against you? (Mal 3:11-13)
Every time God tells them something is wrong, they challenge, "Where, why, when, how?" "You said that it was vain to serve God. It doesn't pay to serve the Lord. That's what you're saying," the Lord said, "Saying it was vain to serve God, doesn't pay to try and be good."
what profit it is that we have kept his ordinance, that we have walked mournfully before him? (Mal 3:14)
"God, it doesn't pay. God does not respond to us. There's nothing, you know. The Lord hasn't done anything. Doesn't pay to serve the Lord." How many times Satan tries to throw that little trip on us. "Doesn't really pay. What profit is it that I've tried to be good? Look, they've took advantage of me. It doesn't pay to serve God."
And now we call the proud happy; yes, they that work wickedness they are (Mal 3:15);
Voted into office many times. Thank God we've got some good Christians in some of the areas of government. I think that it is the duty of every Christian to really know the position of a candidate on spiritual things. I really feel that that's our obligation. That we really can't complain about bad government if we are not exercising our privilege of voting, and if we are not using diligence in determining those that we vote for. And when Dr. Peterson runs for the School Superintendent of Orange County, you should know that he is a beautiful born again brother in Jesus Christ. You should think about that when you vote. It's illegal for me to try to persuade you to vote for a particular candidate, and I wouldn't think of doing that. But don't forget the name Dr. Peterson. He happens to be the incumbent. But find out about the candidates; find out about their position. God help us, it would be glorious if we had all spiritual men serving in the cabinet of the President, serving in the legislature, the offices of legislature. Of course, then we probably wouldn't be so anxious for the Lord to come.
Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another (Mal 3:16):
The Bible says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The Bible says that to fear the Lord is to hate iniquity, or is to depart from iniquity. The fear of the Lord is not a phobia type of fear that debilitates a person. The fear of the Lord isn't even a healthy cautionary type of fear that is so important for our survival. But the fear of the Lord is a reverential awe as we stand in the presence of His greatness, of His glory, of His majesty, and of His power. We think of the greatness of the God who created this vast universe. We think of the wisdom of God who created all of the life forms, and we just sort of stand in awe of that greatness and power, and wisdom. That's what the fear of the Lord is.
"They that feared the Lord spake often one to another," always talking about the Lord. Isn't it glorious to be around people who want to talk about the Lord all the time? You know, whenever you get around them, the conversation comes up, "Oh, the Lord is so good. Oh, let me tell you what the Lord's done. Let me tell you what the Lord did for me today." Just so full of the Lord, they speak often one to another about it. As they speak about the Lord,
the LORD hearkens unto them, and hears it (Mal 3:16),
The Lord eavesdrops on every conversation concerning Him. Isn't that neat? God just loves you to talk about Him. We used to sing a chorus, "Let's talk about Jesus, the King of kings is He, the great I Am, the way, truth, the life, the Lord." It's just a... what better conversational piece can you have than the Lord? Isn't it interesting how the world says, "Well, you want to open a conversation, just start talking about the weather." Sort of a, you know, "Well, the sun did come out today, didn't it? I wondered if it was going to come out. Typical May weather." You know, talk about the weather. Yeah, well, the weather is such a changeable thing, yet isn't it sad that people have nothing better to talk about than the weather?
Now, there are people who all have their favorite subjects, and they can be a total dud until you get on their subject. Then they come alive. They become animated. Now you're in their field. Oh, now they'll really expound. But you bring up the subject of the Lord and things will go quiet. What happened?
"They that feared the Lord spake often concerning Him one to another. The Lord hearkens, He hears,"
and he's keeping a book of remembrance for them who feared the LORD, and thought upon his name (Mal 3:16).
Names in the Hebrew culture were all meaningful. They didn't just choose the name out of the dictionary for their children, but they chose a name that meant something. Now, our name still means something, you can look up in a dictionary and find out what your name means. But your parents, as a general rule, weren't thinking of the meaning of the name when they named you that. But when they were in school they had a friend by that name, and they liked that friend very well. So that name has always been a good name to them. There are some names, you know, you knew some dummy in first grade who couldn't read, and his name was this, and it sort of stained you on that name. You just never did like that name because it always reminded you. So it's interesting how we don't think of names as far as significant in their meanings. Or else we would probably be naming our children different names than what we do. We're calling our children, "Beautiful Sunshine" or something, or things that mean something to us. A little kid goes to school, the teacher says, "What is your name?" "Beautiful Sunshine Smith." So it just isn't appropriate in our culture.
But in those days names were significant, and the name of the Lord is extremely significant. So much in the Psalms and in the Proverbs you find the references to the name of the Lord. "The name of the Lord is great," and so much concerning the name of the Lord, and the awe and the reverence that a person should have concerning the name of the Lord. The name of the Lord is actually a Hebrew active verb. The name Yahweh means the Becoming One, and so God has expressed His nature in His name. God has expressed in His name His desire, for it is His desire to become to you whatever your need may be. So the name of Yahweh was often compounded with other Hebrew words. So you have the Yahweh-Raphah, the Lord has become our healer. Yahweh-Shalom, the Lord has become our peace. Yahweh-Jireh, the Lord will provide. Yahweh-Tsidkenu, the name of Jesus in the Kingdom Age. It won't be Yeshua, it will be more difficult for you, Ya-Tsidkenu, which means the Lord has become our righteousness. And He is. He is our righteousness for us who trust in Him. But the name was significant. The name of the Lord, or the name Yahweh is a strong tower. The book of Proverbs says, "The righteous runneth into it, and is safe" (Proverbs 18:10).
Have you ever run into the name of the Lord, just sort of closed yourself around it and said, "Oh, Jesus! Lord Jesus!" And you just sort of have fled to the refuge of the name? In danger, in peril you've fled into the name of Jesus, "Oh, Jesus!" You feel that warmth and that protection and that comfort and that assurance of the name of Jesus.
The name Yahweh, Yeshua, is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe. So, "They who thought upon His name, they who reverenced the Lord and thought upon His name." God keeps this book of remembrance, their names are written in the Book of Life, in His book of remembrances.
And [the Lord said,] they shall be mine (Mal 3:17),
I get so excited when I think of God speaking about me in the personal, possessive pronoun. When God speaks of me as, "My son, My child, My servant." Oh, how I love God to speak about me with a personal, possessive pronoun. I belong to Him; I'm His. "They shall be mine," the Lord said.
and in that day when I make up my jewels (Mal 3:17);
You are His treasure, Peter said, "for we are His peculiar treasure." The Lord speaks of you as a treasure that was hid in the field, that He bought the whole field that He might take the treasure out of it. Paul in writing to the Ephesians prayed that God might open up their understanding, that they might know what is the exceeding riches of His inheritance in the saints. Now in another place he said, "Oh, I wish you knew what God has in store for you, the riches, and the glory of God's kingdom." But then he is praying, "Oh, God help them to understand the riches of His inheritance." In other words, God help you to understand how much God values you. We're so often putting ourselves down. "Oh, I'm not worthy. Oh, I'm nothing. Oh, I'm just so miserable." And we're oftentimes putting ourselves down, and God looks upon you as a valuable gem, as a treasure. "And in those days when I make up my jewels," the Lord says. He treasures you and He values you so highly that He was willing to send His Only Begotten Son to take your sin and to die in your place that He might redeem this world, in order that He might claim you as "My child." All possible because Jesus paid the price of the redemption for the world, that you might be saved. "They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels;"
and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him (Mal 3:17).
So the Lord has promised to spare us from what, and when? The Lord will spare us when His day of judgment comes. Chapter 4, verse 1:
For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all of the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be the stubble: and the day that cometh shall come shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch (Mal 4:1).
The great day of God's judgment that is coming, but those who fear the Lord, those who think upon His name, those who talk of the Lord, they will be His, His jewels, written in His book of remembrance, spared from the day of judgment that is coming to destroy the wicked.
Now wickedness is contrasted with the lack of the fear of the Lord, or is associated with a lack of the fear of the Lord, and is contrasted with those that fear the Lord. So in verse 2:
But unto you that fear my name [or reverence my name] shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall (Mal 4:2).
So the glorious promise of the coming of Jesus Christ: the Sun of righteousness with healing in His wings to establish God's glorious kingdom upon the earth.
And you will tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts. Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all of Israel, with statutes and judgments. And behold, I will send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (Mal 4:3-6).
So the promise of the coming again of Elijah before the great and noble day of the Lord. That causes me to be convinced that in Revelation, chapter 11, as God sends His two witnesses to witness for a period of time here upon the earth while the antichrist is in power, that one of the two witnesses will indeed be Elijah. "Behold I will send Elijah."
Now John the Baptist was not Elijah. They came out and said, "Are you Elijah?" "Nope." "Who are you?" "I'm the voice of one in the wilderness crying, 'Make straight the way of the Lord.'" But Jesus said of John the Baptist, "Of all of the women born of men, there's not been a greater prophet arise than John. And yet, he who was least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And this, if you're able to take it, is Elijah, of whom the scripture spake" (Matthew 11:11, 14). A partial fulfillment when Zechariah's father was accosted by Gabriel the angel and told that his wife Elizabeth in her old age was to have a son. He said, "And he shall go forth in the spirit and in the power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the children unto their fathers" (Luke 1:17). Coming in the spirit and the power of Elijah, a type of the actual coming of Elijah before the second coming of the Lord.
Now it is my own personal deep conviction that somewhere on the earth today Elijah is alive. I think we're that close to the coming of the Lord. Of course, who and where he might be, I don't know. But I do, I am personally convinced that he's alive somewhere in the world today. I've had some people come and tell me that they were Elijah. I directed them back to Metro. But I do believe that he is alive somewhere today, along with the other witness.
I think that God is winding things up, and I think that we're just on the border of seeing the culmination of things. Things are happening in Israel. Israel is still prepared to invade Lebanon. They are waiting patiently for a provocation from the PLO that they can use as an excuse. They are presently, have mobilized 40,000 troops on the Lebanese border, the army reserve is on an alert, standby basis right now. They're just waiting for the provocation of the PLO to move on into Lebanon. The Syrians have dug in in Lebanon expecting their attack, and it, no doubt, will be a very fierce battle. I believe that it will bring Russia's involvement into the Middle East, and of course, that could surely bring to pass the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38, and 39.
So we're living in exciting days. A lot of attention is on the Falklands, but that's not where it's gonna happen. The real excitement will take place over in the area of Israel. That's where you need to keep watching.
Shall we stand.
May the Lord bless and keep you in the love of Jesus Christ. May you feed this week upon the Word. May the Lord just open up your hearts to the understanding of His truth, and cause you to grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May He give you just a beautiful, blessed week, walking in fellowship with Him. In Jesus' name.