Sunday, July 25, 2010

Malachi 3

"Behold, He is coming" (vs. 1-5)--The last two chapters of the Old Testament both speak of the coming Messiah. Verse 1 tells us of the "messenger" who "will prepare the way before Me." Jesus tells us plainly in Matthew 11:10 that this is John the Baptist. About 300 years before Malachi, Isaiah had spoken of the work of John in leading the way to Jesus (Isaiah 40:3). So the way to the Messiah is clearly marked. It isn't God's fault if people missed it.

The Christ is "the Messenger of the covenant" (v. 1). This "covenant" could refer either to the one in Genesis 3:15 where God promised all of mankind a Redeemer, or it could be the covenant with the Jews, which had the same purpose--to bring the Savior into the world. Either way, "Behold, He is coming." Yet, He is so righteous and holy that we have no right to stand in His presence. "Who can endure the day of His coming?" (v. 2). Only those who accept Him by faith. He will cleanse and purify His people. Notice that Malachi writes of the "sons of Levi" (v. 3) and "Judah and Jerusalem" in verse 4 within a context that is definitely referring to Jesus. This helps us understand the spiritual nature of prophecy; these references are not literal. All Christians are priests (I Peter 2:9--"sons of Levi"), and Judah and Jerusalem represent the people of God in the new dispensation. God will accept our worship (v. 4), and come in judgment against all kinds of wicked people "because they do not fear Me" (v. 5). The glorious coming of Messiah brings blessings to the righteous and cursings upon the disobedient.

"Will a man rob God?" (vs. 6-12)--God's nature does not change, nor does His purpose for mankind. Even since the fall of man, God planned to bring a Savior into the world and that intention never wavered. And even though the Jews were certainly deserving of obliteration, "you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob" (v. 6), because God had a higher purpose, i.e., to use those people to bring the Savior into the world. Thus, despite the fact that "from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them" (v. 7), God spared them, and offered to "return" to them if they would "return to Me" (v. 7). However, they didn't know the way: "But you said, 'In what way shall we return?'" (v. 7). Well, one way was to quit robbing God. "But how have we done this?" they asked. "In tithes and offerings," the Lord responded (v. 8). They had been cheating Him of what was rightfully His, and the "whole nation" was "cursed with a curse" (v. 9). Verse 10 beautifully announces the way to "return": "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it." God can shower us with such blessings, so many that we won't know what to do with them all. If Judah would only do as He asked, their sustenance would not be stolen nor would it fail (v. 11), and all the nations around them would call them blessed because of their abundance (v. 12). All of this, though, conditioned upon obedience and submission.

"It is useless to serve God" (vs. 13-18)--People who close their eyes cannot see the blessings God pours out upon us, and thus argue that serving God has no value. If we look only at this world, then the probability is that we will, indeed, see and understand very little of God and His righteous purposes. The Jews of Malachi's day had fallen into that mindset. They said, "It is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance?" (v. 14). Well, they hadn't kept His ordinance so they had never really put themselves into a position where He could favor them as He had promised. Yet, verse 15 tells of their worldly view: "So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; they even tempt God and go free." As we look at this world, who is it whom man exalts? The rich, the powerful--the "proud" are "blessed," the wicked are "raised up"; they seem to get away with all sorts of sins--they tempt God and aren't punished for it. Yes, that is the way things seem to be. But God's people stay together. Verse 16 is beautiful: "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name" (KJV). The eyes of the truly wise are on the Lord, and they are in His "book of remembrance." That's where we want to be when this brief life is over. His people belong to Him, will have great spiritual riches ("jewels," v. 17), will be spared His judgment, (v. 17), and know what is right and wrong, who serves God and who doesn't (v. 18). The wicked know their own, as do the righteous.

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