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.

 

 

“This Isn’t Another MESSAGE On ‘GIVING’ Is It?”

1 Chronicles 29:9 (KJV):

“Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD; and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.”

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ONE MOTHER’S TEACHING ON GIVING–

It was officially Mother’s Day on May 10th, 2015 and I thought, what better way of starting the conversation, but from a story regarding a mother’s teaching on GIVING:

A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson.  She gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar for church.

“Put whichever one you want in the offering basket and keep the other yourself,” she told the little girl.

When leaving thee church that morning, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given.

“Well,” said the little girl, “I was going to give the dollar, but just before the offering, the mn in the pulpit said, we should all be cheerful givers.  I knew I’d be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter…so I did.”

The mother may not have agreed with her daughter’s reasoning, but at the heart of the matter is the fact–the daughter gave in the way she believed.

True of all Christians–we give as we believe. 

In 1 Chronicles 29, DAVID led the people to BELIEVE in what they are given to.

David believed God deserved a TEMPLE.  At first, God would not let him build it because as 1 Chronicles 28:2-3 tells us,

DAVID wasn’t the type of man God wanted to have building the Temple.  BUT DAVID still believed the Temple for God needed building.

And so, in 1 Chronicles 29:2, David dedicated his own wealth to the project.

DAVID’S VISION IS INFECTIOUS (verse 6):

The leaders of the assembly dedicated money for the Temple.  And then (vs. 9), “the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with a whole and blameless heart they had offered freely to the Lord.  King David also rejoiced greatly.”

“the people REJOICED because”…

The Hebrew word here for “rejoice” or “rejoiced” is ‘samach’ [Strong’s Concordance #8055]: “Samach usually refers to a spontaneous emotion or extreme happiness which is expressed in some visible and/or external manner. It does not normally represent an abiding state of well-being or feeling.”  (See Footnote [i] ).

WOW! Rejoicing after giving.  What a concept and one that I surely need to give more attention to.  Remember, the people giving their offerings in 1 Chronicles 29 are giving willingly with a “whole and blameless heart.”

And they gave and they built because they believed in a VISION.

 The “What’s Happening Now Church?”

Flip Wilson was a popular comedian several years ago and one of his characters was a Preacher.  Flip did a skit once that I watched on television, where he told about this preacher.  He’d shout out:

“IF THIS CHURCH IS GOING TO SERVE GO IT’S GOT TO GET DOWN ON IT’S KNEES AND CRAWL!!!

And the audience yelled back,  “Make it crawl preacher, male it crawl!”

“AND ONCE THIS CHURCH HAS LEARNED TO CRAWL, IT’S GOT TO GET UP ON IT’S FEET AND WALK!!!”

“Make it walk preacher, make it walk,”  the audience moaned.

“AND ONCE THIS CHURCH HAS LEARNED TO WALK, ITS GOT TO BEGIN TO LEARN TO RUN!!!”

“Make it run, preacher, make it run!”

“AND IN ORDER TO RUN, ITS GOT YO REACH DOWN INTO POCKETS AND LEARN TO GIVE!!!”

(pause)  “Make it crawl preacher, make it crawl.”

A CHURCH CAN’T GROW IF IT DOESN’T GIVE.

And if our churches don’t give…it’ll crawl.

Inspiring People to Give–

Now when DAVID wanted to inspire people in their giving–he set the example.  He said–this is what I’m giving.  Then the leaders in the congregation stood up and set the EXAMPLE, the pattern for GIVING.

“TITHING” versus “FREE WILL OFFERING”:

In setting up the scene in 1 Chronicles 29, overlooking the “free will offering” principles would be detrimental to the whole MESSAGE on stewardship today.

Is there a difference between TITHING and OFFERINGS?

TITHING is giving GOD the first tenth of ALL your increase.  

In the Old Testament, most tithes were given from produce or herd.  But in modern times we tithe with MONEY since most of our increase is financial.

In the O.T. there were different types of tithes and different types of offerings.  TITHES were required giving according to the Mosaic Law, where OFFERINGS were voluntary.

Here in 1 Chronicles 29, the free will offerings given didn’t replace their tithes.  Their giving was above and beyond the Law of “10%”.

God trusted us with what is His in the first place:

He trusts us with an INCREASE–lets us have 90% of it–but places a 10%–the “sacred portion” aside (Deuteronomy 26:13; Numbers 18:28) which we are to tithe back to Him.  

This “sacred portion” is entrusted to us and we return it to Him.

TITHING TEACHES US Redemption–

The TITHE is the first tenth, the FIRST FRUIT of our increase.

Christ was God’s FIRST FRUIT.

When God gave to us His only Son to die on the cross for our sin, He REDEEMED us from the curse of the Law.  And when we give our TITHE, we are worshipping God by recognizing His REDEMPTION.

So then, we should recognize that through JESUS, we are redeemed and in turn God redeems and blesses the 90% that is our portion.

I remember after my wife and I were saved, our preacher gave a sermon on TITHING as many preachers try to fit in once a year, at least.  Afterwords, we both admitted to one another that “tithing” was out of the question.  We were overwhelmed at the time with debt and other obligations of a young family; we could tithe 10%!  But then, the Spiritual Light Bulb came on! God’s Word had penetrated our spirit, and we decided to be faithful and to trust God for the results.  We’ve been BLESSED ever since.

Is today’s Church suppose to adhere to the “giving principles” of the Old Testament?

Many people believe that today’s church should not follow the practice of TITHING–it was in the Old Testament–not mentioned in the New Testament except for reference.

But I say the LAW was given to help us see our need for redemption every time we tithe in honor and recognize our need for God and the amazing way He has blessed us and provided for us.

I think that many use the Gospel of Grace to free themselves from OBEDIENCE instead of discovering the GRACE OF GOD enables us to follow Him more passionately.

SO WHAT IS AN “OFFERING”, or generous giving?

1 Chronicles 29:6-8 (NASB):

[6] Then the rulers of the fathers’ households, and the princes of the tribes of Israel, and the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with the overseers over the king’s work, offered willingly;

[7] and for the service for the house of God they gave 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, and 10,000 talents of silver, and 18,000 talents of brass, and 100,000 talents of iron.

[8] And whoever possessed precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the Lord, in care of Jehiel the Gershonite.

[9] Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the LORD with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly.

OFFERINGS are something that you search your heart for (not your wallet), deciding to give beyond the tithe BUT NOT IN PLACE OF THE TITHE.

TITHES go to the local church but offerings are free for you to decide what to do with.  

Many people give OFFERINGS to their place of fellowship because they’re excited about what God is doing there and they know there’s a need.

Others use their OFFERINGS to support missions, a favorite radio or television preacher, maybe a local Christian para-church ministry.  ALL are great options as an OFFERING or GENEROUS GIVING.

Christian Maturity–

Christians mature (grow spiritually) as their FAITH grows in fiscal responsibility; in giving more and more generously to God’s kingdom through offerings that are over and above the TITHE.

Looking at a great verse where the Apostle Paul talks about offerings in his second letter to the church in Corinth:

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 up 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].

“GIVING” FOR A REASON:

Now hopefully, we don’t give to the “building project,” and we don’t give to the Pastor.  And as we see in 1 Chronicles 29, the people gave to God, to GLORIFY HIM, to build up His Kingdom.

If the attitude out there is “Yeah, sure we do”, then reread 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 one more time, or as many times as it takes, to give with a “blameless heart.”

Hopefully, you can give with a VISION; that God is going to do something special with your offerings because of your faithfulness.

It’s about BELIEF…

In 1 Chronicles 29, David says something about our believing (vss. 10-17).

IN DAVID’S PRAYER…HE PRAYED acknowledging that they were giving to the building of the Temple because… the believed God would supply.  The funds all came from God’s hands in the first place.  They were only using His bounty to build a place of worship for Him.

Other passages of the Bible speaks of this kind of BELIEF (1 Corinthians 9:6-11; Malachi 3:10-11).  

This is all in agreement with the powerful message given to us in Hebrews 11:6:  

“But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] BELIEVE that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].”

And so FAITH is important in all aspects of our Christian walk in Christ Jesus.  Especially in our giving.

TITHES & OFFERINGS:

Both our tithes and offerings (generous giving) should be a part of our lives as Believers–Christians. SO…

–GIVE “JOYFULLY” (1 CHRONICLES 29:9),

–GIVE THANKFULLY (1 CHRONICLES 29:10),

–AND EXCEL IN THE GRACE OF GIVING,

BUT NEVER FEEL PRESSURED TO GIVE!

It is NEVER about the amount you give, but about the JOY in your heart to give.

A song that almost every parent with small children have heard a million times and know the words by heart, is from the Disney movie, FROZEN – “LET IT GO”

Let me give you the words in the music lyrics that I thought might fit in perfectly to the message in our giving of tithes and offerings:

It’s time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me

I’m free

[TO GIVE]

set-it-free

 

 


 

Footnotes, Credits, and Commentaries:

Footnote [i]:  Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

Photos:

Google Search in 1 Chronicles 29 Images.

Bible References:

Amplified Bible except where Noted.

Commentaries:

ABC’s of Giving by Jeff Strite

Tithes vs Offerings by Patrick McCue