[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.
 “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)
 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.  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.
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!
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.