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.

 

 

“MASQUERADE” – Removing the Masks of Religion!

SCRIPTURE TEXT:

[3] “[The acts of the hypocrite’s worship are as abominable to God as if they were offered to idols.]  He who kills an ox [then] will be as guilty as if he slew and sacrificed a man; he who sacrifices a lamb or a kid, as if he broke a dog’s neck and sacrificed him; he offers a cereal offering, as if he offered swine’s blood; he who burns incense [to God], as if he blessed an idol.  [Such people] have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations;  [4] So I also will choose their delusions and mockings, and I will bring their fears upon them–because when I called, no one answered; when I spoke, they did not listen or obey.  But they did what was evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight”  (Isaiah 66:3-4 AMP).

Well, after a month and a half, and my last three posted blogs, I find myself in the last chapter of Isaiah.  You might be asking yourself, as I found myself asking,  ‘Why these particular verses of the last chapter?  The Religious Ways of Man?’

WITHOUT A HUMBLE SPIRIT:

ADVENT

FIRST of all, the focus is NOT on HUMILITY, or even definitions of WORSHIP, but more about “the WHY’s” of our worship; why we do the things we do.

Often over the years, I have wondered why Christian denominations practice their rituals of worship without any Biblical understanding.  Christmas Advent Candles, Lent, Ash Wednesday, Church fasting, and Communion…on the first Sunday of every month, are just some examples.

Now I’m not saying that these religious events are out-of-order in the Church, but has religion and religious acts, for the sake of ‘just doing it because of tradition become hateful and distasteful to God?  There becomes a ‘honor with lips, but the heart holds up’ (Mark 7:6) that shows up in our private and corporate ways of worship.  Now that I got that off my chest…that’s where I want to begin.

Hypocrisy is Rebuked – Isaiah 66, verse 3.

The language seems specifically chosen for the purpose of offending religion in that day, even in our day.  Strange comparisons in verse 3 indicate people’s religious sacrifices and offerings were but an external ritual.

WHAT IS HYPOCRISY IN WORSHIP ?

Lets start out with Stephen D. Renn’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts:  The Old Testament word for Hypocrisy, Hypocrite in the Hebrew Language is haneph [Strong, 2611]. 

The noun occurs thirteen times and refers to people who are “profane,” “godless,” or “hypocritical” (cf.  Job 8:13; 17:8; 36:13; Prov. 11:9; Isaiah 9:17; 33:14). 

In Isaiah 66, the term is used by the Amplified translators use of Brackets [  ]; contain justified clarifying words or comments not actually expressed in the immediate original text, as well as definitions of Hebrew and Greek names.  This idea was intended to achieve the greatest possible clarity and understanding in their reading of the text.  The Amplified Bible is what I choose to read and study for this Blog.  I am NOT necessarily endorsing the translation as the only accurate translation, just my personal choice.

The New Testament word is hypokrisis [Strong 5272, 5273].  In the Greek text, the term refers to the practice of dissimulation or hypocrisy, with the Pharisees being the target of Christ’s public condemnation during His earthly ministry; hypokrisis occurs seven times and is translated “hypocrisy” in all but one text, James 5:12, where it is translated as “condemnation.”  It is also found in Matt. 23:28; Mark 12:15; Luke 12:1; Gal. 2:13; 1 Tim. 4:2; 1 Pet. 2:1.

In Mark 7:6-7, JESUS is speaking to the “religious leaders” of His day:

“[6] Excellently and truly did Isaiah prophesy of you, the pretenders and hypocrites, as it stands written:

These people [constantly] honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far distant from me.

[7]  In vain (fruitlessly and without profit) do they worship Me, ordering and teaching [to be obeyed] as doctrines commandments and precepts of men.”

The Strange Comparisons of Isaiah 66:3–

The words Isaiah uses, indicates the peoples religious sacrifices and offerings of that day were but an external ritual; a tradition of religion.  Their proud sacrifices were but external compliance to man.  In their hearts…they still served themselves.

Since there was no change in heart [“heart condition”], their tithes and offerings had become an abomination to God, as murder was and perverted as offering unclean animals (Lev. 11:7).  In reality, they were going do it their way (Isaiah 53:6; 65:12), rather than the Lord’s way.  Frank Sinatra would have been proud!

What God Desires–The Lord’s Way.

God tells us, in Hosea 6:6, what He desires:

“For I desire and delight in dutiful steadfast love and goodness, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of and acquaintance with God more than burnt offerings.”

Anything, and I mean “anything” we give to God, not accompanied by a heart of mercy and obedience isn’t acceptable.  Our society that we live in and work in, urges us to be assertive; follow our urges and fulfill our desires.

Don’t let your freedom and right to choose lead you away from God’s pathway of eternal life.  God looks for a heartfelt obedience      (2 Chronicles 16:9; 1 Samuel 16:7).

Why God Despises Their Worship–

“So I will choose their delusions and mockings, their calamities and afflictions, and I will bring their fears upon them–because when I (God) called, no one answered; when I spoke, they did not listen or obey.  But they did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight”  (Isaiah 66:4).

Their refusal, in responding to God’s call to come and listen to Him, brought about harsh judgement in the last four lines of verse 4.  It is almost identical to Isaiah 65:12 based on people’s choices.

People in Israel (the congregation), professed to know the Lord in their doings.  But actually, their doings, their play-acting— were evil because they did not choose God’s way.  And since they have chosen their way, God will choose their punishments; they will become victims of nameless fears which haunt their subconscious minds.

“SPIRITUAL HEART DISEASE” CAN BE PREVENTED!

Taking the Holy Spirit’s Lead–

“Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word:  Your brethren who hate you, who cast you out for My name’s sake, have said, Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy!  But it is they who shall be put to shame.  [6] [Hark!]  An uproar from the city!  A voice from the temple!  The voice of the Lord, rendering recompense to His enemies!  (Isaiah 66:5-6 AMP).

The Holy Spirit will lead you in worship.

He will put aside the masks of power, position, pride from your heart in order to humble yourself under God’s mighty hand.  Resist manipulation in the temptation to use your power, position of authority and pride to manipulate people to your advantage.

The apostle Peter wrote, 

“Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you”  (1 Peter 5:6 AMP).

Ask the Lord to help you put aside your dependence on your power, position or pride; enabling you in the best of ways.

UNVEILING THE FIVE MASKS  OF “RELIGIOSITY”:

Masquerade

1.  The Mask of “Legalism”–

The Holy Spirit sends discouragements to those who try to hide behind the “Mask of Legalism”.  Paul wrote to the church at Colossae:

“If then you have died with Christ to material things and have escaped from the world’s crude and elemental notions and teachings of externalism, why do you live as if you still belong to the world?”  (Colossians 2:20).

“If then you have been raised with Christ, aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  [2] And set your minds and keep them set on what is above, not on the things that are on the earth”  (Colossians 3:1, 2 AMP). 

2.  The Masks of “Super Spirituality”–

YES, the Holy Spirit takes us to task with this “chameleon” camouflage we put on at times.  JESUS said to the super-religious of His day,  “You are the ones who declare yourselves just and upright before men, but God knows your hearts.  For what is exalted and highly thought of among men is detestable and abhorrent (an abomination) in the sight of God”  (Luke 16:15).

* Ask the Lord to teach you how to be more responsive to His correction when you lean towards Pharisaic spirituality.

3.  The Hiding Behind “Frantic Activity” Mask–

Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia addresses the congregation on this very issue, saying to them,  “know that man is not justified by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.  [17] If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin?  Absolutely not!”  (Galatians 2:16-17 NIV).

* Ask Holy Spirit to find your satisfaction by obeying the will of God, instead of trying to impress people with your church related activities.

4.  The Popularity Mask–

JESUS said,  “Woe to (alas for) you when everyone speaks fairly and handsomely of you and praises you, for even so their forefathers did to the false prophets”  (Luke 6:26 AMP).

* Ask the Lord to help you from hiding behind the “Mask of Popularity”, choosing instead… the of pleasing God, regardless of whether or not it pleases people.

5.  The Holy Spirit Counsels Church Leaders In Hiding Behind the Mask of “Super-Rationalism”–

Paul wrote to the Assembly of Corinth:

“And my language and my message were not set forth in persuasive (enticing and plausible) words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit and power [a proof by the Spirit and power of God, operating on me and stirring in the minds of my hearers the most holy emotions and thus persuading them],  So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (human philosophy), but in the power of God”  (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 AMP).

* Ask the Lord to help you rely more on the Holy Spirit’s empowering rather than human wisdom.

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart write:

“Christianity does not stand or fall on the way Christians have acted

throughout history or are we acting today.  Christianity stands or falls

on the person of Jesus and Jesus was not a hypocrite. 

He lived consistently with what He taught, and at the end of His life

He challenged those who had lived with Him night and day,

for over three years, to point out any hypocrisy in Him.

His disciples were silent, because there was none.

Since Christianity depends on Jesus, it is incorrect to try

to invalidate the Christian faith by pointing to horrible things done

in the name of Christianity.”

(Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions

Skeptics Ask About the Christian Faith ~ Here’s Life Publishers 1980) pg. 128.

THE CHURCH IS A WORK IN PROGRESS– (and so are its members):

Like a cathedral, it may take decades or centuries to complete.  The process is long and difficult at times but someday…it will be complete, standing as a testimony to the power of Christ that will transform lives for the better.

Until the Church and all the followers of JESUS are glorified there will be, unfortunately, hypocrites in the Church.  That doesn’t negate Christianity or the claims of Christ.

A Fitting CLIMAX to the Book of Isaiah–(Isaiah 66:6):

” [HARK!]  An uproar from the city!  A voice from the temple!  The voice of the Lord, rendering recompense to His enemies.”

The disgrace of the proud and the JOY of the faithful is announced from the Church.  The thought that God Almighty will lift up the humble and judge the wicked is a fitting climax to the Book.

The hope of God’s people, not in the externals of religion (the “masquerade”), but in repentance and faith (the removal of the “MASKS”) and the power of God to enable us to live truly righteous lives.

Faith and power comes from the listening to and obeying God’s Word (Romans 10:17-18).  Even in the climax-ending to The Phantom of The Opera, the Phantom’s mask is gone; removed to reveal all his external flaws, his ugliness.  But Faith removes the mask and unlike the Phantom, reveals the beauty of Christ Jesus in who we want to be.

The Phantom’s Mask
The Mask Removed

Note: Photos from The Phantom Of The Opera was provided by ALL MOVIE PHOTO.com/