The LORD Never Changes, and the Results?

Malachi 3:6

[THIRD IN THE SERIES ON THE BOOK OF MALACHI]

We saw in Chapter 1 Malachi reminds the people of God’s love.  Many times it’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance.  But Malachi condemns their half-hearted attempts to worship God with “leftovers.”  They saved the best for themselves and then gave God the crumbs.

In Chapter 2 we see the priests (“spiritual leaders”) that they were no better than the people because they viewed their ministering as drudgery that they had to put up with.  They were just going through the motions to get a ‘paycheck’ (my term); they lost the heart and the passion for worship.

My Commentary on MALACHI 3:1-18 

Some things never seem to change.

The politician who promises the most before an Election and delivers the least afterwords.  Teenagers are always sure they know more than mom and dad till they get kids of their own.  Your paycheck almost increases as much as the tax rate.  Some things never change.  We’d like politicians to keep their promises, teens who listen now instead of later, and my Social Security benefit staying ahead of the tax rate.  Change can be a good thing.

On the other hand, I’m glad some things never change,  I’m glad the sun rises every day.  I’m glad for my wife’s unfailing love.  Most of all, I’m glad that in the midst of all that changes in this world, Malachi 3:6 says, “For I am the LORD, I do not change…” – God’s changelessness – what theologians call, His immutability–is comforting to me, no matter how my circumstances or feelings change, I always find Him to be sure and certain, faithful and loyal!

Malachi 3 breaks down 3 areas of God’s relationship with us that never changes–3 areas that will challenge and comfort our hearts.

HIS PASSION FOR PURITY (vv. 1-7)

I don’t like to peer into a glass of milk in the morning for breakfast and to my wondering eyes should appear, but black floaties in the glass.  If my dog, Ollie, somehow gets to the TV table to lick my plate when I left the room, and on my return, I catch him, I’m not going to eat from it!  And, in my humble opinion, water that’s not clear, isn’t fit to drink!!!  Purity will always be important in my life.

Malachi tells us PURITY is important to the Lord–so important that He is always passionate about our purity in worship and our obedience to His Word.

Back in Malachi 2:17, Israel asks the question, “Where is the God of Justice?”  They’re not just asking where He is–they’re asking God to show up and set things right.

VERSE 1 declares God answers with a personal appearance.  Jesus identifies the Messenger as John the Baptist in Matthew 11:7-10.  

But the main attraction is the LORD, whom you are looking for, whom you desire, suddenly comes to His temple and God Himself comes to His people, and Malachi says they get more than they bargained for.

VERSE 2:  But who can endure…who can stand?

The ANSWER is…Nobody!  He doesn’t come to put them on their backs–He comes to purify them, a refiner’s fire, like a launderer’s soap!  He comes to PURIFY His people like a metal worker, to clean His house spick and span.

He begins with their worship (vv. 3-4)

He will purify the sons of Levi that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.

The Levites were in charge of worship in the Temple.  God says their worship had degenerated into meaningless, mindless ritual, instead of thoughtful, adoration of their Lord.  God will purify them by bringing them back to worship Him in spirit and truth as they did in the old days (v. 4).

From the Temple, the Lord moves in verse 5 to purify the people in their obedience.

[5] “So I will come to put you on trial.  I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear Me,” says the LORD Almighty.”

God will judge those who don’t fear Him.  He will purge the land of rebels instead of just wiping them all out only because of His unchanging mercy (v. 6).

“I the LORD do not change.  So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed”

He invites them to return to Him, even though they act as if they have done nothing wrong (v. 7).

“Return to Me, and I will return to you”

On one level, this passage of Scripture reading predicts the coming and work of Christ.

Over 400 years after Malachi’s prophecy, God sends His messenger, John the Baptist to prepare the way for Christ.  And the Lord Jesus Christ does come to His temple to clean it out, purifying worship from hypocrisy, and calling out people to be purified as well, through the CROSS, to live obediently in the process.

On another level, this prophecy outlines God’s passion for His people everywhere.  The Lord is demonstrating to the people of His unchanging commitment to PURITY.  He loves them too much to leave them to their polluted worship.  He loves them too much to allow disobedience to corrupt their relationship with Him.

So in mercy, He makes a personal visit to purify them–even though they don’t realize how ‘dirty’ they really are.

The Importance Of Staying Healthy –

I’m told that whenever there’s an outbreak of sickness, one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to frequently wash our hands.  Doctors say you can pick up bacteria and viruses off almost anything these days–a doorknob, a telephone, a pen, a magazine in the doctor’s office.  That microscopic impurity can make you sick, and if you get a bad enough case, you can even die.  Purity is especially important to good physical health.

Through Malachi, the Lord tells us that purity is also important to our spiritual health.

It’s vitally important that our worship stay pure–purely devoted to Christ Jesus, not just meaningless rituals.  Worship that comes from the heart that truly adores the Lord, not just from singing a song, or praying a pastor lead prayer, or your pastor’s sermon.  Pure worship comes from a place down deep inside of you from a pure heart!

God is committed to our purity–we need to be committed to being PURE for Him,

Malachi mentions another area where God never changes.

God’s Blessing On Those Who Give To Him (vv. 8-12)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on the Lord’s blessing!  So pay attention to what Malachi is going to say regarding our willingness to be blessed!

Malachi Chapter 3 is perhaps the most preached, the most taught Scripture when it comes to the issue of GIVING in the church.  Preachers have been known to use this text to shame Christians who don’t give a whole lot to God’s cause.  And (in many churches) I suppose there’s a reason for the premise–the national average of giving is 3%, with the majority of the support – in any given church – a handful of people.

This passage almost preaches itself because that’s exactly what Malachi was trying to get across to the people.  He was shaming them.  Malachi was basically telling them, if they would put into their relationship with God, they’d get more out.  The Israelites had become lax in their obedience to the law and specifically the part of that law that required them to give a regular tithe to God.  But hey, they were under the Law – we’re not!  They were specifically instructed to give a 1/10 of their income to God -we’re not…at least I don’t think so.  Actually, it’s not quite that simple.

God is the Great Giver!

He gives us life, along with all the joys and pleasure that come with it–from eyesight, to love, to the colors of the sunset.  He’s always giving.  He wants His children to be generous givers.  This may be one reason why He commands us to give to Him–so that we can learn the blessing of giving.  

He is changelessly committed to blessing those who give to Him first.

BUT…Israel had made a trade–the garment of giving for the robes of a thief.

“How can anybody rob God?  No!,” Israel replies.

You might steal from somebody else and get away with it, but how can one steal from God, Who sees and knows everything?

“But you have robbed Me!”  [Nervous laughter].

Lord, how could we do such a thing, robbing You?  [The Lord isn’t smiling]

“You have robbed Me by not giving your tithes and offerings.  That’s why you are under a curse right now!”

What was the CURSE?

Vs. 11 gives the idea where God speaks of the devourer, vines that fail to bear fruit…insects that destroy crops, a blight which keeps the vines from producing a harvest.  God makes a connection they fail to make:  WHEN YOU STOP GIVING TO ME, I’LL STOP BLESSING YOU!

But God has a remedy built-in for their situation in verse 10:

The TITHES mentioned here were offerings given to God – 10% of all they owned. 

They were to be given, not as a duty, but as a way to WORSHIP the Lord, to acknowledge His ownership of everything, out of gratitude for His gifts to them.

The storehouse was the Temple; the Levites and priests.  Give to Me what I have commanded you to give and then I will open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it!

Jesus echoed the same changeless principle in Luke 6:38:

It’s an unchanging truth about God:  He always blesses those who give to Him first!

Whatever you do, don’t limit this timeless truth to MONEY, or POSSESSIONS.  Of all the things God can bless us with, money is the least valuable for one important reason.  Are you ready?  It doesn’t last!

Proverbs 23:4-5 (NIV)

[4] Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.  [5]  Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

It’s true, often God will bless our giving financially, or give us more stuff. 

But the real blessing that comes from giving is eternal–the JOY of giving back to your Savior Who gave you so much; the peace that comes from not being enslaved to covetousness (keeping up with the Jones), or greed–the pleasure of seeing how God can use what you give, glorifying Him in changing the world.  The GIVING pays off in so many ways other than just more money, more stuff.

And remember this:  If you are not giving from a heart of worship, you’re not really giving to God at all!

Your giving is not a business transaction:  “If I give you this, you should give me that!”  Your giving is an important way you worship the Lord in acknowledging His ownership of everything and your gratitude for what He has already given you and about to give to you!

I remember when I was a new Christian and having a conversation with my wife after listening to our pastor’s message on tithing.  How could we as a family give 10 percent of our income to the church when we were having a hard time even keeping on top of our bills?  But we trusted in God’s provision and have been trusting Him ever since.  And God has always, and I mean ALWAYS, provided for us!

GIVING comes down to two things:

  • Who you love,
  • And who you trust.

Are you robbing God?  Or are you proving the promise of Malachi’s words here?

GOD ALWAYS BLESSES those who give to Him first.  That’s our unchanging truth.

One last thing I want to address about God that never changes is…

God’s distinction between the RIGHTEOUS and the WICKED (vv. 13-18)

“WHO’S THE ‘we’s?” (v. 14)

The Lord quotes the people’s murmuring in verses 14-15:  Does it really pay to serve the Lord?  Look around you at the wicked, evil people living the good life and we have it so hard!  Look at how all these sinners prosper and mock God, and we barely scrape by trying to be faithful followers.  Lord, it’s just not fair!!

Have you ever complained this way?  Maybe you watched all those celebrities who seem to get so much out of life than God-fearing people.  At your workplace, perhaps where the schemers, the liars, the people who don’t care one iota about God, who seem to get ahead, while the folks who love God try to live right and get run over.  It’s always been that way in the world.  The Lord doesn’t deny that’s the way it seems, but He offers a different perspective.

FIRST, He reminds the people:  I keep a close eye on the righteous.

It’s not clear who verse 16 refers to when it talks about those who feared the Lord.  Could they be the folks mentioned in verses 13-15 (maybe they had a change of heart)?  Or are they others who stayed loyal to the Lord, in spite of doubts and the doubters?  Whoever they are, God tells them, I’ve written your names in My Book and those who fear the Lord meditate,  (honor) His Name (vs. 16-17).  

And yes, Malachi is speaking openly to the Israelites, the Jews of his day.  But since Bible prophecy is multi-layered, like an onion, is the Book of Remembrance (vs. 16) pertain also to NT believers as well?  [See Rev. 3:5; 20:12; 21:27]  That’s a rhetorical question on my part.

We write down names to remember them; God writes down names to show us He never forgets the righteous (Rev. 20:17).

“They are My special peculiar treasure (My “jewels”).  I have special plans for their future.  There will come a day where everybody will realize I always make a distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous.”   (v. 18)

In eternity, serving God will pay off more than the wicked ever received in this life.  God always, always makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked.

Matthew 13:47-50

It always pays to live in obedience and serve the Lord God Almighty.

It might not always seem to pay off here on earth, but in eternity, everyone who loves and serves the Lord will spend forever glad they did!  Everyone who didn’t love and serve will spend eternity wishing they had!

Some things never change: God’s passion for our PURITY, God’s blessing to those who GIVE to Him first, God’s distinction between the righteous and the evildoers.  Aren’t you glad these things about God never change?

And remember when you get discouraged and are tempted to wonder if it really pays to serve the Lord, bringing Him the glory…when we get home, it will be worth it all! 

Amen?

____________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

PHOTO/IMAGES:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); The Hebrew Lexicon.

Commentary:  “Our Unchanging God” – SermonCentral.com,  by Dean Rhine, Nov. 3, 2016.

 

 

Sundaykeepers: An Infringement or A Liberation?

1924 Olympic Photo
1924 Olympic Photo

“Instead of involving ourselves in what pleases us, the Sabbath is to be a day devoted to what pleases God!” (Franklin).

Eric Lidell  (in the film that portrayed his life, “Chariots of Fire”), was a participant in the 1924 Olympics.   As one of the world’s premier runners who was unwilling to run one day he considered the Sabbath.  If he would have entered the 100 meter event on that day–the Olympics, rather than God, would have become the “god” that determined his righteousness.

Referenced Scripture: God’s Instructions for us on the Sabbath Day–

[21]  “Thus says the Lord:  Take heed to yourselves and for the sake of your lives bear no burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in through the gates of Jerusalem.  [22]  And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy (set apart to the worship of God), as I commanded your fathers”  (Jeremiah 17:21-22 AMP).

SABBATH BACKGROUND:  “HOW LONG HAS THERE BEEN A SABBATH?”

“THUS THE heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  [2] And on the seventh day God ended His work, which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. [Heb. 4:9, 10.]  [3]  And God blessed (spoke good of) the seventh day, set it apart as His own, and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all His work which He had created and done”  (Genesis 2:1-3 AMP).

*When did God make observance of the Sabbath official?

1.  CAIN and ABEL – Genesis 4:1-8.

2.  The first time the word SABBATH is used in Scripture is in The Second Book of Moses Commonly Called EXODUS:

“See, the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day the bread for two days; let every man leave his place on the seventh day.  [30] So the people rested on the seventh day.  [31] The house of Israel called the bread manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and it tasted like wafers made with honey”  (Exodus 16:29-31).

3.  The Ten Commandments (4th Command).

*How long has there been a problem with the observance of the SABBATH?

Obviously, CAIN had a problem with the SABBATH observance.

Obviously, the Israelites had a problem with the SABBATH observance:

— The Exodus manna.

— The Ten Commandments.

— The Folks in Jeremiah’s day.

— Today!

*Why is it so important?

— God created it and called for its observance!

— God “blesses” those who observe it and withholds His blessing from those who don’t!

— God wants us to prove Him (the law of the ‘double blessing’)!

COMING FROM A CHURCH BACKGROUND:

I have come to understand over the years that PEOPLE with a Christian background– usually believe their only major obligation is to attend a “church service” ; one that usually takes about an hour in duration.

The most diligent may also attend a Bible Study and or a second service, but few see the SABBATH as an entire day to be observed.  When people from this background learn about the SABBATH day in Scripture, they have little experience in how to keep it.

The SABBATH Question Today:  “What is the purpose of the Sabbath?”

This question was addressed by JESUS to the religious leaders of His day in all four of the Gospels.  I want to direct your attention to His conversation on The SABBATH Question:

ONE SABBATH while Jesus was passing through the fields of standing grain, it occurred that His disciples picked some of the spikes and ate [of the grain], rubbing it out in their hands.  But some of the Pharisees asked them,  Why are you doing what is not permitted on the Sabbath days?  And Jesus replied to them, saying, Have you never so much as read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him?  How he went into the house of God and took and ate the [sacred] loaves of the showbread, which it is not permitted for any except only the priests to eat, and also gave to those [who were] with him?  And He said to them,  The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.  And it occurred on another Sabbath that when He went into the synagogue and taught, a man was present whose right hand was withered.  And the scribes and the Pharisees kept watching Jesus to see whether He would [actually] heal on the Sabbath, in order that they might get [some ground for] accusation against Him.  BUT He was aware all along of their thoughts, and He said to the man with the withered hand,  Come and stand here in the midst.  And he arose and stood there.  Then Jesus said to them, I ask you, is it lawful and right on the Sabbath to do good [so that someone derives advantage from it] or to do evil, to save a life [and make a soul safe] or to destroy it?  The He glanced around at them all and said to the man, Stretch out your hand!  And he did so, and his hand was fully restored like the other one.  BUT they were filled with lack of understanding and senseless rage and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus”  (Luke 6:1-11 AMP).

Are Your Beliefs A Burden or A Blessing?

Too Much Luggage
Too Much Luggage

  Was this picture of ‘Too Much Luggage” to be burdened with, what Jeremiah was speaking about, “bear no burden on the Sabbath”?

The following are some LAWS that either still are or once were in effect in various places in the United States:

— In Iowa, it was a LAW that one armed piano players must perform for free.

— In Wyoming, you cannot take a picture of a rabbit during the month of June.

— If you keep your donkey in a bathtub in Georgia, you may be arrested.

— In Harper Woods, Michigan, it is illegal to paint a sparrow and then sell it as a parakeet.

— In Connecticut, a pickle must bounce to be considered a pickle.

— In Hood River, Oregon, you need a license to juggle.

And in the State of Vermont, it is illegal to whistle underwater!

I can imagine that the stories behind these LAWS are just as humorous as the LAWS themselves.  Did someone drown underwater during a whistling contest in Vermont?

Two Incidents Concerning the SABBATH LAW Are Brought Forward in Luke 6:

The mounting opposition from the religious leaders was reaching a climax.

1.  The first occurred on “the second-first Sabbath (literal translation).  EXPLAINED: “the first Sabbath was the first one after the Passover.

2.  The second was next after that: 

Wiersbe:  “By their strict and oppressive rules the Pharisees and scribes had turned the Sabbath Day into a BURDEN instead of a BLESSING God meant it to be, and JESUS challenged both their doctrine and their authority.”

What does it mean to ‘not work’ on the Sabbath?

The SABBATH was made for humanity not humanity for the SABBATH!  The Sabbath is to be a BLESSING for us.  It’s a GIFT, not a set of rules and regulations to burden us, but a gift to be received.

Burdens or Loads we sometimes carry as “Sundaykeepers”–

According to Harper’s Bible Dictionary (page 145), burden, a heavy load, but also psychological and spiritual anxiety (Deut. 1:12; Gal. 6:2, 5).  Now the Hebrew word for burden in Jeremiah 17:21-24 is referring to ‘carrying goods’, but I believe it can also refer to the psychological and spiritual ‘burdens’.  The ones which can weigh heavy on our spirit (heart), to the point of feeling a load upon on our shoulders. 

How then, can we lighten the load?

JESUS tells us, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you rest. [I will ease and relief and refresh your souls.]”  (Matthew 11:28 AMP).

A “Sundaykeepers” Burden–

Oh how I remember when our kids were living at home and the JOY of going to church on Sundays.  Sounds great doesn’t it? But many times, the experience would become a curse instead of a blessing.  A load that parents must bear!  Really?

Waking them up on Sunday mornings, fighting with them to get ready– so we could leave and arrive on time.  And when they were little, and riding in the car, they would say such awesome and inspiring words to mom and dad: “He hit me; her leg is on my side of the backseat; I want to go back home.”  And when we all arrived at our destination (the “church”)…we’d climb out of the car and say, “Try to smile everyone, okay?  It’s Sunday!”  Then Dianne and I praying as we walked down the steps to the Worship Center’s entrance, that God would accept our thanksgiving and praises for the Sunday services.  Was I carrying too much luggage? Was I carrying a load, a burden before Worship ever began?  Could I even worship at all?  The answer was obvious:  “NO!”

If I would have only meditated on the words of the prophet Jeremiah during those particular Sunday mornings:  “And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day”  (Jeremiah 17:22).

OUR BELIEFS AND PRACTICES OF THE SABBATH SHOULD BE BASED ON GOD’S RULES!

God’s Word [His “rules”] are for our benefit and not our misery. 

God doesn’t say, I’ve got you now, you dirty rotten sinner!  You’ve broken My rules again (ha, ha, ha).  Our beliefs should have its basis on God’s Rules (His Word) and under the Lordship of Jesus.

“He is Lord of the Sabbath”–

O.T. :  Many Laws and few principles.

N.T. :  Two laws, many principles.

Christians are not required to keep the SABBATH LAW but should observe the SABBATH PRINCIPLE:

“[9]  So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath rest reserved for the [true] people of God:  [10] For he who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors, just as God rested from those labors peculiarly His own [Gen. 2:2]”  (Hebrews 4:9-10).

QUESTION:  “What is Our Duty then on the Sabbath?”

Some may say…it’s to REST!  But ‘resting’ is not our duty.  RESTING is only one of the things we should do on the SABBATH.  I like how Moses puts ‘keeping the Sabbath’ for the Israelites and the sign given by Jehovah God:

“It is a sign between Me and the Israelites forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased and was refreshed”  (Exodus 31:17).

Some may say…to do good to others!  But this is not our duty!  HELPING OTHERS is only one of the things we should do on the SABBATH.

ANSWER:  Jeremiah 17:22, 27   tells us, first and foremost, “Keep the sabbath day holy”.

The word “HOLY” means to “sanctify to separate from the world; to consecrate or dedicate to God.”  I like the way Dan Allender speaks about the word “holy” in his book SABBATH:

“Holy beauty must be crafted from material that’s loved.”

HOLY means set aside, not lost in the sea of everything else.

Throughout Scripture, God stresses the importance of making this day a holy day:

“But if you diligently listen to and obey Me, says the Lord, and bring in no burden [‘physical’ or ‘mental’] through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath say holy (set apart to the worship of God), to do no work”  (Jeremiah 17:24).

THE BLESSINGS RECEIVED DURING JEREMIAH’S DAY AND THE BLESSINGS RECEIVED TODAY!

I wanted to focus on the BLESSINGS for being “Sundaykeepers” and not all the religious implications of observing the SABBATH:

National Perpetuity–

JERUSALEM was the center of the theocracy during Jeremiah’s day and it should remain forever.  The essential and fundamental position occupied on the Sabbath amongst Mosaic institutions of his day.   It was in this way that the idea and authority of Jehovah God be perpetuated in the heart of Israel.

National Prosperity–

It is a godly banner raised by Israel, presented with a promise, to the surrounding regions and nations.  There is no lack of gifts nor of willingness to give.  Only a time of PEACE and abounding HARVESTS.

National Unity–

JERUSALEM is the ‘bull’s eye’; focal point, the meeting place of many ‘spiritual trains’:  “…from the cities of Judah…from the land of Benjamin…from the Lowland, from the hill country, from the South”  (Jeremiah 17:26). In this way, the brotherhood and the solidarity of the people were sealed.

National Faith–

This is the national outcome, even the beginning of religious observances.  It is the tendency of true religion (true Christianity today), it increase upon itself and cannot remain stationary.  Therefore this outburst of enthusiasm of Divine services are evident in peoples lives.

HOW ARE TODAY’S “SUNDAY-KEEPERS” VIEWED BY OTHERS?

Now that should be easy to answer at the end of this blog:  Insert the word “Christian” in place of the word “National” :

Christian Perpetuity–

Christian Prosperity–

Christian Unity–

Christian Faith–

When you enter your particular place of worship this week, to honor and praise His holy Name during the Sabbath, remember to separate yourself from life’s ‘doings’, ‘stresses’, heaviness and be liberated and refreshed on the Sabbath Day:

BLESS the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me,

bless His holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits–

(Psalm 103:1-2)

Set Free on the SABBATH
Set Free on the SABBATH