STUDIES IN MALACHI:Message 2

STUDIES IN MALACHI:Message 2

Theme: Indictments by the divine judge in two messages.

OUTLINE

Message 1 First and second indictments, Breaking the covenant by dishonoring 1:1-14, and breaking the covenant by deceit 2:1-17

Message 2 Third and fourth indictments, Breaking the covenant by disobedience 3:1-15, and Breaking the covenant by disrespect 3:16-4:6

INTRODUCTION

If you like court TV which is a popular reality show in these days, you should love Malachi. In this book the judge enters, the court is called to order, and the indictments are read. The judge is the jury, because, in this case the crimes are against the judge Himself. Thus God rebukes His ancient people, the children of Abraham. This is not a role that Judge Judy could fill though her firm adherence to law and order would be at home. It is, however, as the last book in the Old Testament, a perfect prelude to the New Testament and the gospels. After conviction comes repentance and that is how the New Testament gospels begin with a call to repentance and the announcement via John the Baptizer that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, which brings hope of forgiveness. As we did in the first message, let us now enter the courtroom and hear the remaining indictments.

I BREAKING THE COVENANT BY DISOBEDIENCE

The catalog of sins in 3:1-15 is daunting. Let us hear it: “I am about to send my messenger, who will clear the way before me. Indeed, the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple, and the messenger of the covenant, whom you long for, is certainly coming,” says the Lord who rules over all. Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can keep standing when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, like a launderer’s soap. He will act like a refiner and purifier of silver and will cleanse the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will offer the Lord a proper offering. The offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in former times and years past.“I will come to you in judgment. I will be quick to testify against those who practice divination, those who commit adultery, those who break promises, and those who exploit workers, widows, and orphans, who refuse to help the immigrant and in this way show they do not fear me,” says the Lord who rules over all. “Since, I, the Lord, do not go back on my promises, you, sons of Jacob, have not perished. From the days of your ancestors you have ignored my commandments and have not kept them! Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord who rules over all. “But you say, ‘How should we return?’ Can a person rob God? You indeed are robbing me, but you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and contributions! You are bound for judgment because you are robbing me - this whole nation is guilty. “Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in my temple. Test me in this matter,” says the Lord who rules over all, “to see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until there is no room for it all. Then I will stop the plague from ruining your crops, and the vine will not lose its fruit before harvest,” says the Lord who rules over all. “All nations will call you happy, for you indeed will live in a delightful land,” says the Lord who rules over all. “You have criticized me sharply,” says the Lord, “but you ask, ‘How have we criticized you?’ You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God. How have we been helped by keeping his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord who rules over all? So now we consider the arrogant to be happy; indeed, those who practice evil are successful. In fact, those who challenge God escape!’” Let’s face it. Israel was so blithely unaware of their corruption that they were looking forward to the Messiah, the messenger of the covenant as a liberating event, and here God tells them that instead, it will mean judgement. They will encounter a refining with the harshest soap and the hottest fire. Nobody in the New Testament talked more than Jesus about hellfire and judgment. From this Scripture we can draw a list of their crimes, and here it is: polluted sacrifices, occult practices, adultery, dishonesty, exploitation, anti-sharing, and robbery to name a few and in an extreme case of irony, the only reason they have escaped judgment up to this point is God’s covenant promises through Abraham. In the midst of all this they are blaming God. It would be easy for Christians to look down on these Old Testament people, but we are doing the very same things. We too are in need of cleansing and purification. And we should not be surprised when judgments come. In Lange’s commentary we read the following penetrating observation on offerings 10-12. "How much depends upon our giving ourselves wholly as an offering to the Lord ! The offerings which the Lord now requires are our own hearts, and all that comes from them. But if the Lord was so strict in tithes, how much more so is He with our hearts?  If you wish the full blessing of God, then be exact in whatever is our duty! Whatever God requires of us, whether great or little, whether his service or an every-day life. How can he who is not strict in his duty hope, or even pray for the full blessing of God?"

II BREAKING HE COVENANT BY DISRESPECT

The final words of this prophecy might be disregarded by us because it does deal with disrespect, that is, with attitude, mindset, perspective, and these do not seem to be serious offenses. However, we look upon outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart, and He is more offended by disloyalty and disrespect than overt acts. And so we read in 3:16-4:6 the final words of the Lord through Malachi Then those who respected the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord took notice. A scroll was prepared before him in which were recorded the names of those who respected the Lord and honored his name. “They will belong to me,” says the Lord who rules over all, “in the day when I prepare my own special property. I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you will see that I make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who does not. “For indeed the day is coming, burning like a furnace, and all the arrogant evildoers will be chaff. The coming day will burn them up,” says the Lord who rules over all. “It will not leave even a root or branch. But for you who respect my name, the sun of vindication will rise with healing wings, and you will skip about like calves released from the stall. You will trample on the wicked, for they will be like ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the Lord who rules over all. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, to whom at Horeb I gave rules and regulations for all Israel to obey. Look, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord arrives. He will encourage fathers and their children to return to me, so that I will not come and strike the earth with judgment.” The prophet contrasts the evil accusations of the unbelievers with the praise of the faithful. Note please that words matter. Even when they are uttered in secret in a whisper. How many Christians take the Lord’s name in vain? How many more lie in business, commercial, and social relationships? We so easily disregard our Lord in our daily lives. No respect reminds me of an old comedian, Rodney Dangerfield, who always included in his humorous rants the line, “I don’t get no respect.” But we do it to our Lord and according to this Scripture, He observes it, and it matters. Wordsworth has written these lines, “The Lord on mortal worms looks down From his celestial throne; And when the wicked swarm around, He well discerns his own.  The chronicles of heaven shall keep Their words in transcript fair; In the Redeemer’s book of life, Their names recorded are.” This chapter concludes with the warning of Elijah’s advent. Elijah symbolizes all the Old Testament prophets and Moses symbolizes the law. These are the two who appear with Jesus in the transfiguration. And as we read in Mark 9:11-13, And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.” Jesus was referring, of course to John the Baptist who ultimately died for his faith. Thus concludes God’s warning through Malachi. They have been called to keeping the covenant by their honor, and truthfulness, obedience and respect. Then, as today, some in Israel knew what they were doing and many others were unaware of how the Lord was displeased with them. Now they knew, and now we know. Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come and will keep coming until the ultimate consummation.