Weary in well doing, or worse

MALACHI -Fourteenth in a series

Is there ever any excuse for a Christian to feel worn out and resentful of or impatient with the Lord? The Jews under Malachi's frown felt they had that right.

Malachi 3:13-14 Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?
Some commentators state that their failure to tithe or to bring offerings (keeping his ordinance) reflected their inner feelings that such obedience did not pay. It was a wasted effort, never rewarded or noted by God. So why do it?

It may be that they had worldly —not godly— sorrow (2 Cor 7:10); yes, they walked mournfully (vs 14) but in their hearts they had not truly repented of any sin.

The deeper problem was that these unrepentant Jews had lost confidence in the God of their fathers, who explained himself in their Scriptures. Since the Temple services were not exemplary, nothing seemed true; God was not real to them.

But for any who embrace the Bible, there is no cause to grow weary in well doing (Gal 6:9). Though the days of trials are long, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, yet there is often a need to rebuke the devil. Our discouragements are not from the trials but from our sinking hearts. We must be determined to keep our trust in God— whether we live or die (Phil 1:21), when we are disciplined (Heb 12:6), when we are persecuted for our faith (Mat 5:10), when our faith is tested (Jas 1:12), when we cannot see our way and feel forsaken (2 Cor 5:7), when we are purged to bear more fruit (Jhn 15:2), and to learn compassion (2 Cor 1:4).

Now, in verse 15, Malachi reemerges as the speaker as in Mal 2:10 (see post 10), confirming the testimony of the Lord who has accused Israel of faithlessness.
Malachi 3:15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

Some of those in his hearing became ashamed and repentant, and sought out like-minded believers:
Malachi 3:16 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.

There are varying interpretations of vs 16. For example, Dr. Thomas Constable* views the "book of remembrance" as a covenant renewal document bearing the signatures of the faithful:

Upon hearing the Lord's rebuke through His prophet, some of Malachi's hearers who genuinely feared the Lord got together. Evidently they discussed Malachi's message and agreed among themselves that they needed to repent. They even wrote down their commitment on a scroll. (ref)

Matthew Henry* states:

A book of remembrance was written before him. Not that the Eternal Mind needs to be reminded of things by books and writings, but it is an expression after the manner of men, intimating that their pious affections and performances are kept in remembrance as punctually and particularly as if they were written in a book, as if journals were kept of all their conferences. Great kings had books of remembrance written, and read before them, in which were entered all the services done them, when, and by whom (as Esther 2:23). God, in like manner, remembers the services of his people, that, in the review of them, he may say, Well done; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord... Never was any good word spoken of God, or for God, from an honest heart, but it was registered, that it might be recompensed in the resurrection of the just, and in no wise lose its reward. (ref)

John Calvin* states similarly:

He shows by the issue itself why a book of remembrance was written— that God in due time would again undertake to defend and cherish his Church. Though then for a time many troubles were to be sustained by the godly, yet the Prophet shows that they did not in vain serve God; for facts would at length prove that their obedience has not been overlooked. But the two things which he mentions ought to be noticed; for a book of remembrance is first written before God, and then God executes what is written in the book. When therefore we seem to serve God in vain, let us know that the obedience we render to him will come to an account, and that he is a just Judge, though he may not immediately stretch forth his hand to us… (ref)

I have included these special notes from historic commentaries to encourage any who may be weary.

Malachi 3:17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
In what manner will the Lord spare those who serve him? In what day will he make up his jewels?

Malachi 3:18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
To whom is it spoken Then shall ye return, … Who will return and where is the place of return?

Briefly, the righteous will return, that is, come around to a time yet future, and in that day will see that God has rewarded in kind the proud doer and the humble believer. And in a further day hidden in eternity, the ones who sought to be God's servants will become jewels in his treasure box, pleasurable to behold, spared from Judgment.

*Thomas Constable is Sr. Professor Emeritus of Bible Exposition Dallas (Texas) Theological Seminary; *Matthew Henry was a 17th century Presbyterian minister in Great Britain; *John Calvin was 16th century French theologian and pastor of the Reformation era.

Fully engaged in worship

MALACHI -Thirteenth in a series

Malachi 3:7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
Our sins of omission and commission are in plain view to the Lord, yet we often don't know what they are until the Lord sends us a prophet. Today this normally means reading or hearing God's Word.

Malachi 3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
We understand what a tithe is. As for offerings there were "several classes of dues to God" according to Albert Barnes, a 19th century minister and theologian. He notes five: (ref)
1. The first fruits
Commanded by Moses in Deuteronomy (Deut 26:2-11), the gathering of the first fruits at harvest to set before the altar was in remembrance of the mighty acts of God in 1) choosing Israel from among all the nations, 2) delivering her from slavery, 3) bringing her out of Egypt by miracles, and 4) giving her a land rich with produce.
2. The annual half-shekel
Described in Exodus (Ex 30:13-15), this amount was due from men rich or poor, but not from Levites, women, minors or old men. Its purpose was for atonement for all Israel and its use would be to maintain the temple or the services there. (See Mat 17:24-27)
3. The offerings made for the tabernacle
Freewill offerings were given by the people when items and materials were needed to build or to restore the place of worship (Ex 25:2-3; 35:5 et al; Ezra 8:25 ), as requested by the leaders of those whose hearts were willing.
4. Tithes of their own tithes
The priests would lift or "heave" a tithe of the tithes received from the people, a vertical motion acknowledging that the Lord of heaven had given them their sustenance, and rejoicing in it. This heave offering was not set aside for burning, but was enjoyed as food by the priests and their families. (ref; Num 19:26-32)
5. Of the portions of the sacrifice which accrued to the priests
A heave offering would be for the priest who sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice of the peace offering (Lev 7:14-21)

Very specific instructions were given to the Hebrews for worship practices. The tithes and offerings required study, understanding, actions, devotion, desire, faithfulness and time. These are required of each Christian who worships today as well.

Malachi 3:9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
In Malachi's time, Judah had been back in the land only about a century but the promised curses had been enforced already: …if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day… curses shall come... (Deut 28:15-19)

Malachi 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
From this verse, it seems there was not sufficient giving to sustain the priests and Levites, nor were services conducted based upon the full participation of the worshippers. This verse is frequently misapplied by TV evangelists or certain pastors, that their devotees will become rich in proportion to their giving. Properly understood, its application today is that those who wholeheartedly worship the Lord and help to sustain the church that is his Bride, do experience the abundant life in Christ (John 10:10) who also warned that the rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 19:23)

Malachi 3:11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.
Ancient Israel was promised divine protection for obedience to the Law. Many who see the national disasters today in the USA believe that it is God's judgment for national sin, and this would include lack of respect and honor for the church. Yet, believers do find that they are under divine protection as they obey God's Word; if we will consider our blessings, we will find God has been faithful. The Lord is mindful of his own.

Malachi 3:12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.
While the Western world upheld biblical truth, great prosperity was enjoyed; yet today we see the governments throwing away the advantages with both hands. In the long run, God blesses the obedient and casts out those who hate his law.

The Messenger of the Covenant

MALACHI -Twelfth in a series

Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
We read of two messengers, the first who prepares the way of the second. The first is a reference to John the Baptist, as delineated in the New Testament. (Mat 11:14; Mark 9:13; Luke 1:17) The second is "the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in."

To reflect on this, we might ask, which covenant? Three covenants were referred to in Malachi 2: First, the one pledged to Phineas, a Levite whose devotion refrained God's hand of judgment (Mal 2:8); second, the covenant of God with the nation of Israel (Mal 2:10); and third, the marriage covenant of man and wife (Mal 2:14).

Certainly, the covenant characterized by a messenger and a forerunner would refer to the one that God made with Israel, initiated with Abraham (Gen 17:4), continued with Isaac (Gen 17:9), then with Jacob (Ex 2:24); that was testified in circumcision (Gen 17:10) and then through law keeping (Ex 19:5; Ex 34:27-28), with many promised blessings (Lev 26:3-12), yet ensured by mercy even when Israel failed to live up to their side of the arrangement. (Lev 26:45; Mal 3:6)

Next we could ask: How should we understand the phrase, "whom ye delight in"? Who delighted in this messenger? The priests and Levites? Yet they did not uphold the Levite covenant nor their own marriage covenants, so why would they delight in this messenger of the covenant between Israel and the Lord?

Was he, the coming Messiah, their delight because of their expectation that he would vindicate and honor Israel when he came? Would he not deliver his chosen people from enemy occupation, and exalt them to rule with him in his new kingdom that they read about in Isaiah? (Isa 25:8-9)

Malachi puts an end to their delusions of grandeur.
Malachi 3:2, 3 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

When Christ would come suddenly to his temple, the very temple the priests were desecrating by their ruinous ways, he would teach Truth that would make men uncomfortable. Those who were led to repent, purified, could then reflect his likeness, and their offerings would be accepted. The Son of Man would teach and command a higher way than the priests enforced.

Malachi 3:4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
If there were true repentance, the worship services could be as in some former times when there was peace and fellowship between the Lord and his people. However, as we know, this did not occur. The Temple rulers did not repent but instead called for Christ's crucifixion. But after his death and resurrection, many priests did commit their hearts to Christ. (Acts 6:7)

There is an aspect of prophecy that does not state what the future holds, but how it might be, if certain conditions are met. God already knows which course will come to light.

Malachi 3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.

It's true, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and made pointed statements, for example, And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. (Luke 11:19-20)

This passage might be applied to Christ as a swift witness against the sorcerers.

Yet, on balance, Christ's words preserved for us in the Gospels are gracious and wonderful (Luke 4:22) much more than words of fierce accusation. The one caught in adultery was told to go and sin no more rather being condemned to hell (John 8:7-11); the teaching about ignoring the stranger, for example, is within a parable (Luke 10:33-36), not directed to specific wrongdoers.

In view of this, Malachi 3:6 makes perfect sense: For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

God's laws never change: sorcery, adultery, false swearing, oppression of the vulnerable, discounting the stranger, and lack of fear of God are warned against from generation to generation. God's nature cannot change either. He is long suffering toward us, not wanting any to perish (John 3:16; 2 Pet 3:9).

The messenger of the covenant is calling. Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Ps 95:7-8; Heb 3:7-8; Heb 3:15; Heb 4:7)

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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