Apathy or Piety | Lessons from Malachi | William J. Stewart
Recently I read a short clip about a robbery at a local church. No value was set on what had been stolen, but the suspects were identified and the date and time of the theft was known. The story ends in this way:
…the robbery happened in full view of the church during Sunday services. It happened as the offering plates were passed during … worship.1
Malachi 3 begins with a prophecy about John the Baptist. He is the messenger who would come before the Lord (Luke 7:24-28). The people of God were not what they needed to be, and thus a forerunner was necessary, to prepare the way. They tolerated sorcerers, were guilty of adultery, listened to perjurers, exploited the venerable, and refused to help strangers (v 5). The LORD called for them to cease from their wickedness and return to Him, but they refused to even acknowledge that they had departed from Him (v 7).
In addition to their mistreatment of others and disdain for God’s way, they were a nation of thieves. Verse 8-9 reads:
Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.
They had done this before, in the days of Nehemiah (13:10-12). The solution was the same this time as it was then—bring the tithes, as you are supposed to, and God will bless you (Malachi 3:10-12).
Serving God had become pointless to them (v 14). Maybe they viewed it as an antiquated way of life; perhaps they balked at the Law and it’s restrictions. They were wearied with the need to acknowledge their sins and give offerings to God (“…walked as mourners…”). And so rather than keep His ordinances, they established their own. The Lord commands His people to be humble, but they pronounced blessing upon the proud. He exalts those who do His will, but His people respected and honoured those who did wickedness. It seems the bolder one was in defying the Lord, the more esteemed or celebrated he would be among the people. They were especially impressed with those who “tempt God and go free” (v 15).
A time of judgment would come. Verse 2 asked the question,
…who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?
Verse 5 began,
I will come near you for judgment.
And in verse 18, the LORD will
…discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.
Generally, when we think of the wicked, we think of those who are outside of Christ. The Jews had the same kind of thought—they were righteous and the Gentiles were wicked. It is not that simple. In fact, the wicked that Malachi writes about in chapter 3 were all Jews. They were God’s people in name, but not in action. They would fall in judgment. If we claim to be a Christian but fail to live according to God’s word, we too will fall in judgment. Are we approving things God does not? Do we mistreat or take advantage of folks? Do we rob God by not giving as we should? (NOTE, the New Testament calls for a freewill offering, not a tithe) Do we fail to see the relevance of serving God and foolishly exalt people who do contrary to God’s word? If we are guilty of any of these, we need to repent before it is too late.
Let’s close with Malachi 3:16-17. A book of remembrance was written for those who fear the Lord and mediate on His name. God records and remembers the work of His people (Psalm 56:8; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 20:12). Not only that, but He labels such people as His own—His jewels. And more than that, He declares, “…I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”
Serving God is not futile; it comes with great reward. Those who will keep His law and walk in His way will stand in the judgment and will enter into eternity in the presence of God, victorious.