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.

 

 

DOING and SAYING the Things God Expects Us to Do and Say

1 PETER 4:10-11 AMPLIFIED BIBLE:

[10]  As each of you has received a gift (a particular talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits]  good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [FAITHFUL STEWARDS of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor].

[11]  Whoever speaks, [let him do it as one who utters] oracles of God; whoever renders service, [let him do it] as with strength which God furnishes abundantly, so that in all things God may be GLORIFIED through Jesus Christ (the Messiah).  To Him be the glory  and dominion forever and ever (through endless ages).  Amen (so be it).

ELIEZER of DAMASCUS–

Abraham and Eliezer
Abraham and Eliezer

Eliezer certainly wasn’t the most prominent of Bible Characters, and yet, he played a significant role in the life of Abraham where identified as “a steward of Abraham.”

“And Abram said, Lord God, what can You give me, since I am going on [from this world] childless and he who shall be the owner and heir of my house is this [steward] Eliezer of Damascus?”  (Genesis 15:2).

What is a “steward”?

In the OT [Old Testament]; a man who is ‘over a house’.

In the NT [New Testament]; two words translated “steward”:  epitropos (Mt. 20:8; Gal. 4:2). i.e. one to whose care or honor on has been entrusted, a curator, a guardian, and… oikonomos, the Greek word use in 1 Peter 4:10.  i.e. a manager, a superintendent – from oikos (‘house’) and nemo,u (‘to dispense‘ or ‘to manage’). 

The word is used to describe the function of delegated responsibility.

So, with that meaning in mind, ALL things are Christ’s and Christians are His executors or “stewards”–

In the case of Eliezer, he had to manage ALL of Abraham’s ‘stuff’, and boy, Abram had a lot to manage!

“Now Abram was extremely rich

in livestock and in silver and in gold.”

(Gen. 13:2).

ELIEZER, himself, mentions how great the responsibility was in Genesis 24:34-35:  flocks, herds, silver, gold, men servants, maidservants, camels, and asses.  That is a lot of STUFF!

As a STEWARD, his task was making sure that he was prompting Abraham in his best interests.  Over January 2012 062the years, Abraham had found ELIEZER to be faithful and dependable and chose him to carry-out an important errand–to find a woman who believed in the one true God.  He found Rebekah for his son Isaac and the rest is history.

No matter what Abraham placed in Eliezer’s hands, he was found to be faithful and dependable promoting his master’s best interests.  Over the years, Abraham and Eliezer had become more than a master/servant, but in relationship, had become trusted friends.

ELIEZER is an ideal example for us to imitate–

In 1 Peter 4:10, we’re told to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (KJV and NAS).

Now, everything belongs to GOD: “Behold, the heavens and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth also, with all that is in it and on it”  (Deuteronomy 10:14).

Even though GOD owns all things, He entrusts us with a portion of His possessions.  In His “manifold grace” He grants us ALL that we have and enjoy in this life.  We are then STEWARDS of what GOD gives us!

On what basis are we to be judged as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ stewards?

VERSE 11 tells us that we are good stewards when…we use all that we are given to promote GOD’S best interests–“so that in all things God may be glorified.”

THREE THINGS THAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO EACH ONE OF US TO “GLORIFY”:

1.  SPIRITUAL GIFTS.

The primary focus of 1 Peter 4:10-11, is to use our spiritual gifts Again verse 10: ‘As each one has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment – Amplified Bible)–“employ it for one another, as good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [‘faithful stewards’].

Look carefully what is said and meditate on the certain truths that are taught in this verse:

FIRST, Peter informs each of us we’ve been given a “special gift”.  There is not a single member of the Church assembly who has not received from GOD a GIFT.

SECONDLY, we are to notice the enablement–to ‘serve one another’ in the assembly.  These GIFTS grant us the ability to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.  Each GIFT represents a ministry that GOD calls us to perform within the congregation.

THIRDLY, only as we actively “employ” our special gift are we “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  ~ adopt, utilize, apply; engage, hire, use, ‘put-to-work’.

THE APOSTLE PAUL’S ADMONISHMENT:

Romans 12:6-8 speaks to us. in regards to being FAITHFUL, in the Use of Our Gifts.

[6]  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them:  [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith;

[7]  [He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching;

[8]  He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness.

“Unopened Gifts”

I happened to run across this great story late last night by Rosalind Renshaw, date 10/2/91:

How come you’ve left so many gifts unopened on the floor?  They have your name on them, they belong to you, they are yours for the taking–if only you will receive them.  What is that you say?  That they can’t be yours, you have your share already.  They must be someone elses. There must be some mistake?  You’re afraid of what so-and-so will say when they see you unwrapping that gift–you fear their reaction, their envy.  Go open up your package, see what is inside your gift box.  You’ll be amazed at how I knew exactly what to give you–the perfect fit for you right now–in fact, just what you’ve always wanted, but you didn’t know it.  Go on, open it!  You can trust Me.  I am the Master gift-giver.  I never make mistakes or give the wrong size, or color, or fit.  But, please do hurry and open it, to enjoy it and to share it with others, so they can benefit from your gift too.  That’s My whole purpose of giving gifts…not for you to put them back in the box, to keep them safe or even put them in a glass cabinet, to look at and admire.  No, all My gifts are for My children to use, to help their brothers and sisters, not to make anyone else jealous or feel less fortunate.  As I said, I see a number of unopened packages, gift wrapped especially for you.  They are yours!  I’m right here, waiting, longing to see you unwrap them, and to see the look of joy and wonder on your face.

We Each Have Different Gifts Given to Us:

Each GIFT given to the ‘re-birthed’–and this is an important first step.  None is more important than any other and only when each of us actively uses our GIFT can a church body grow as GOD intends.

EPHESIANS 4:15-16 says,

“we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, cause the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

Are we using our gift(s)?  Are we performing the ministry that GOD has called us to?  We will be judged by how faithful we used our gift(s), as much as how diligently we lived the life of righteousness and worshiped GOD properly?  (Matthew 25:14).

2.  OUR TIME

The second area where we need to be GOOD STEWARDS is the use of the time GOD grants us.

Even though the length of our lives seem so long when we are young, the truth is…LIFE IS SHORT!  I’ve asked myself over the years in my Christian life, “Am I being a good steward of the precious time that GOD continues to give me?”

Paul writes in Ephesians, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil”  (Eph. 5:15-16 NIV).

Are we, as good stewards, investing time in ACTIVITIES that promote GOD”S interests and glory?

Are we investing time now in the ACTIVITIES that will pay dividends in eternity?

Or, are we wasting valuable time that GOD has graciously given to us, engaging in ACTIVITIES, that have absolutely no spiritual significance?

How much TIME do we devote to self-improvement?

We all have weaknesses in our lives.  We all have faults.  The question becomes, how much TIME and EFFORT do we dedicate to changing our practices and habits?

How much TIME do I use, to make myself a better person, so that my light might shine brighter for GOD?

3.  MONEY!

The third and last area to discuss is our STEWARDSHIP OF MONEY.

It’s so easy for us to forget what we think of as OUR MONEY–what is actually GOD”S money (Ezekiel 16:17; Haggai 2:8).

The income which we have is given to us by our GIFT-GIVER; our GOD, to meet our basic needs but, above all, to promote His interests and glory.

When we steward GOD’S money, what is the appropriate amount to set-aside?

Every Lord’s Day, GOD’S people are encouraged to give–Scripturaly and doctrinally.  The question we need to ask ourselves, is whether or not, as STEWARDS OF GOD’S MONEY, do we contribute or offer an appropriate amount?

When my wife and I were SAVED–born-again in 1972, the issue of “giving” our money to the church, was an issue.  In our minds, there wasn’t room in the budget to “give”…period!  Much less, a tithe!!

The pastor who led us to Christ could point to Scripture about tithing all he wanted, but we just couldn’t and wouldn’t make room to GIVE!

But then the Holy Spirit’s “Light bulb” came on as we matured in Christ Jesus and has stayed on ever since; even during bad economic times in our family when things looked dark–repeated unemployment; low pay; no health insurance for a growing family.

THE TRUTH ON GIVING IN 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NKJV:

16  Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  2 On the first day on the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”

When we go about determining how much we are to give and frequently focus our attention on “as he may prosper”, then we are tempted to adjust our thinking in giving.

Often we interpret the phrase “net profit”; that is, in accordance to what money we have left over after expenses of other worldly activities.  We GIVE GOD a “cut” of whatever is left over.

However, that’s not what Paul is talking about.  The phrase “as he prospers” is referring to what GOD has prospered us with, before we begin to divide it up!  It is based upon our “gross” earnings before expenses.  In other words, GOD expects His cut first; He wants the first fruits of our labor.

There is the story about a little boy who had two quarters, one for ice cream and one for giving to church on Sunday.  Unfortunately, he accidentally dropped one of the quarters in a storm sewer.  “Well, Lord,” said the boy, “there goes your quarter.”

We are tempted to be just like that little boy in the story.  We get our pay-checks, divvy it up to this and that and when we find we have little or nothing left-over for GOD…we say, ‘Sorry Lord, maybe we can give more next time.’   GOD calls that ROBBERY! (Malachi 3:8-12).

You may be thinking right now, the Scriptures you referenced, about GOD”S money, really doesn’t apply in today’s world.  That’s Old Testament Law! 

THAT THINKING would be incorrect.  The apostle Paul repeats the same message in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (AMP):

[6]  [Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings.  [7] Let each one [give] as he has made his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].  [8]  And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].

As GOOD STEWARDS; trustees, we put GOD”S interest and glory first…even in the church offering each week.

What a privilege it is to be chosen by GOD to be His stewards.  May we all take our role seriously and glorify our Lord and Savior.