In the last several times that I have preached we have looked at the book of Malachi. The book has not painted a pretty picture of the Israelites of Malachi’s day. In the first three chapters we have seen that the people were half hearted in their worship. The priests, the spiritual leaders of the day, had set bad examples and led the people astray. Divorce and remarriage to ungodly people had become a major problem. The Israelites had become disillusioned because they witnessed the wickedness around them but did not see the wicked being punished as they believed they should. And finally not only were the people presented worthless sacrifices, they were not supporting the work of the priests and offering the tithe God had asked and the entire nation had been put under a curse.
Like Solomon once said, “there is nothing new under the sun” however. Although we live 2400 years later and thousands of miles from the land where Malachi lived, all of these issues are still problems among God’s people today. We have failed to learn from our history and have fallen for the sins of our spiritual ancestors.
This morning we will finish the book of Malachi with a final warning but also with hope. As the Israelites had been waiting for the coming Messiah and had become disillusioned in their waiting, Malachi offers them hope that the Messiah was still to come and that they all would be made right by his appearing.
Malachi 3:13-15 states, “’You have said harsh things against me,’ says the Lord. ‘Yet you ask, “What have we said against you?” You have said, “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.”’”
Have you ever said harsh things about God? The Israelites didn’t think so. The Israelites were very serious about not taking God’s name in vain. They went to extreme efforts to make sure that no one took God’s name in vain. So the accusation of saying harsh things about God probably startled them.
The people had not openly spoken badly about God but it was reflected in their words and actions. No one said God is unjust, God is unloving. However, what they did say reflected that they felt God was unjust and that God was unloving.
“It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?” Have you ever been really frustrated and sit down and evaluate your life and decide that for all of your faithfulness to God that maybe you deserve more from God, that for all of your service maybe the creator of all things could cut you a little slack and let things go your way just once.
My brother had his wisdom teeth out on Friday and I was elected to take him to the oral surgeon. Watching him come out of anesthesia was a real treat because he was goofier than he normally is. Later Friday night when I had a friend up from Virginia for yesterday’s Mid Year Conference, my brother was telling me that in his sedated state he almost mentioned to the dental assistant that his brother was single. This story led to joking discussion between my brother and my friend about all the things I had to offer a girl, from my low salary and the fact that I still live at home to my overall laziness and lack of personal hygiene. Ok, they didn’t mention personal hygiene but the other three were brought up.
Now all of this is to say that I would like nothing more to get married and start a family at some point but from some people’s perspective I don’t have a whole lot going for me. It would be easy to blame God for not blessing me despite my faithfulness. The Israelites did blame God because they saw how the nations around them had been blessed but they were not.
No one here is in the same situation that I am in, however, we all have situations in our lives that make us question God’s fairness. We have people here who are sick. Some of you have been in and out of the hospital and have had more tests than you care to remember. And when you look around, you wonder why you are experiencing hardship when others around you are not. Is God unjust? In our minds, we know that God is just, but in our hearts, we sometimes wonder when our faithfulness is going to be rewarded and evil is going to be punished. The Israelites struggled with all of this in Malachi’s day.
3:16 “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.”
It becomes altar call time at this point. Despite all of the things the Israelites have been accused of by Malachi there are still people who fear the Lord from among the Israelites. A scroll of remembrance was written in the presence of God, listing the names of the people there who feared God.
This is a public display. Everyone could see who was there and who was taking a stand for God that day. In an infant dedication service parents come in the front of the entire church and agree that they will raise their child in a godly fashion. The congregation likewise agrees to support the couple. A certificate of dedication is sometimes issued. What it all comes down to is that both parties are now held accountable to see that the child is raised to fear the Lord.
Likewise, those of you who are members of this church have come forward publicly and agreed to abide by the beliefs of the church. You agreed to support the church with your service and your finances. Some of you have been members of this church from before I was born and maybe things were done slightly different before. But you probably agreed to basically the same thing that is in the back of your hymnal on page 548.
Maybe the last two months I’ve been preaching from Malachi you’ve been thinking, I sure wish so and so was here. Most of you that are here are faithfully here every week and you don’t struggle with the same things the Israelites did. However you know members of this church that aren’t here and should be here.
As a congregation you were witnesses to the membership of these people. At the end of reception of new members the pastors says, “Brethren, I commend to your love and care these persons whom we this day have received as members of our church, and call upon you to do all in your power to increase their faith, confirm their hope and perfect them in love.”
The Israelites had a scroll of remembrance written so that they could know who had made a commitment. We have a membership roll of those who have made a commitment to this church. According to what I have seen, we have 78 adult members of our church. We are averaging 40 in attendance. That leaves almost half of our membership is not here any given Sunday. Some are unable to be here because of health reasons. Others no longer want to be here. As a congregation you have made a commitment to them as much as they have made a commitment to this church. It is this whole church’s responsibility to be visiting our members who are no longer capable of being with us. It is also the congregation’s responsibility to try to provide reconciliation over petty disagreements and other things that have caused members to stop coming here. As a pastor, I’m willing to do what I can but I don’t know many of the situations concerning our missing members. As you have made a commitment to each and every person that has joined this church it is your responsibility as much as mine to see that they are increasing in faith, confirming their hope, and perfecting their love.
3:17, “’They will be mine,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
Remember the question, “What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before God Almighty?” I never answered it. This is why we serve God. Even though at times it seems like God does not reward those who serve him and turns a blind eye to those who do evil, there will be a day when our faithfulness is remembered. We will be treasured possessions.
My cousin Vanessa has a stuffed bunny that she’s had for years. This bunny goes everywhere she goes. And it looks like it. At one time, bunny was pink. Now bunny is unwashably gray. Although bunny has only seen normal wear, it looks like a dog might have attacked it at one point and ripped the stuffing out and attacked again after bunny was repaired. Nevertheless if bunny gets left at my house her mom has to come back and pick him up.
This is what it means to be a treasured possession. In my eyes, bunny needed to be put out of misery a long time ago. We’ve already established this morning that my hygiene is lacking, but bunny disgusts me. He won’t come clean anymore. We’re the same way. We should have been put out of our misery. We’re filthy and disgusting. And still we are treasured possessions that God isn’t going home without.
4:1-3 “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the Lord Almighty.
Malachi tells the people that there will be a day when the wicked are going to be judged. All the enemies that surround the Israelites and taunt them and make their lives miserable are going to pay for what they’ve done.
We’ve had it ingrained into us so much that we are turn the other cheek and take abuse good naturedly that accounts of judgment and revenge in the Bible bother us. This is actually a joyful passage. The wicked are getting what they deserve. In today’s society we use the phrase “Let he who has not sin cast the first stone” as a cop out to turn a blind eye to sin. We don’t want to call sin sin anymore. It’s politically incorrect to tell it like it is.
It may not be our right to judge in all cases. We are incapable to reading the hearts of men and women. Our outward actions do not always reflect our inward thoughts and feelings. However, God sees what we try to hide. God is allowed to judge. Vengeance is mine says the Lord. And why can he do this? Because he is just. He is without sin. Because he paid the penalty for sin and has offered everyone forgiveness. The people that do not accept forgiveness, God has every right to judge because he has given them every chance.
4:4-6 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave at Horeb for all Israel. See I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will strike the land with a curse.”
Malachi ends with a promise and a final warning. The day of the Lord is coming. The Messiah that the Israelites were longing for would come. This passage actually projects to the second coming of Christ, but the Israelites were unable to understand this. What they needed to know what the God was coming. This was great news for those who were waiting and continuing to place their trust in him. This was terrible news for those who were living like there was no God and that their sins would go unpunished. It is my prayer that the coming of the Lord is great news for everyone here today.