the prophet Malachi, 1:14(b) God Rules, O.K.?
The word Malachi means ‘My messenger’ or even ‘My angel’. History has moved on from Zechariah, Haggai etc. and the Temple has been made reusable – though not in its former glory. The Israelite returnees are offering sacrifices and the Temple in Jerusalem was the heart of the system. But God’s message is that the priests and the people are keeping up the appearance of worship, but their sincerity is in doubt. Their own hearts are not in what they are doing.
This is a common Bible theme. Love for God turns into lukewarmness. Revelation 3:16. Reverent respect for the Almighty God turns into ritual. Holiness is replaced by habit.
God has charges, accusations to make against His people throughout Malachi:
1:2 Why do you complain that I don’t love you?
1:6 Why don’t you give Me due respect?
1:13 Why do you find it a burden to worship Me?
2:8 Why do you teach half-truths?
2:13 Why do you cry false tears in the temple?
3:1 Why do you say bad people are good?
3:5 Why do you tolerate social injustice (and blame Me (God) for it)? vs1
3:10 Why do you only give Me part of My dues?
3:14 Why are you self-centred in following Me?
Perhaps the summing up of all these accusation God made against His people is in 3:7. “You have returned to Jerusalem, returned and built the temple, but why have you not returned to Me?”
1. Notice: The Greatness of God.
The God of Malachi is the God Who speaks “the word to Israel”, 1:1. He is the God who chooses, 1:2, 3. His love is declared supremely in that He chooses (He elects) some people to be His. God is Almighty, 1:4, able to do everything He pleases – the frequently used title in Malachi. 1:5, “Great is the Lord – even beyond the borders of Israel.”
God is the covenant God, 2:4, 5, who always keeps to what He has said. God is the Creator God, 2:10. God is the blessing God, 3:10. God is the God of the Law and of the Prophets, 4: 4, 5.
Application: Oh that we Christians would think more about our God. While Muslims can recite 99 names for God and display them on wall posters, Christians hardly understand God as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit - leave alone anything more! Muslims frequently say “God is great”, Many Christians don’t appear to know!
Malachi’s God is also great in His wrath, 1:4, His cursing, 2:2, (including the solemn phrase “I will curse your blessings.” He is the God of judgement, 3:5. And
He is unchangeable, 3:6.
We dare not play with Almighty God. The phrase ‘playing with fire’ does not carry the awe-full dangers of the all-consuming fire of God.
Let’s read 1:11 & 14.
“‘My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to My name, because My name will be great among the nations’, says the Lord Almighty.” That puts into proper perspective statements made about Khartoum and Sudan by President and Government ministers. They make good speeches, but God’s word (not theirs) is final.
“‘For I am a great king,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And My name is to be feared among the nations.’” 1:14(b).
The greatness of God. Malachi brought this word to people who had lost the wonder of God.
Illustration: Do you remember the third of the Ten Commandments? “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” Exodus 20:7.
Most Christians I know do not swear. A few do. Most don’t. But they do so easily break this commandment! Their words may be pure … but are their works so pure?
Now we will just highlight some of Malachi’s message to test our own works.
(2) Take These Tests of our own works.
1. Second-best is given God. 1:7 “You place defiled food on my altar.” The Jews were to give their very best animals to sacrifice, but they didn’t. The ones that wouldn’t sell at market were given to the Lord. And the Jews had settled for the fact this was OK. People and priests concurred.
Instead of being able to honestly and sincerely offer, letting their lives be shaped by submission to God’s will – their choices were based on economics, on personal tastes and benefits.
God describes this as “useless fires on my altar”, 1:10. The motions of worship without the meaning.
Application: God is more pleased with no worship than half-hearted worship! The half-hearts will be among those on judgement day who say: “We’ve done this, that and the other, in Your name,” and the Lord will say “but the one thing I wanted, you never gave Me. I never knew you.” Test yourself – best or second best given to God?
2. Heart set to honour God 2:2. “You have not set your heart to honour Me.” There is a comical, yet awful picture in verse 3 of God smearing the dirt from the offerings over the faces of the priests. Why would He do this? I think the answer is that this would make them unable to sacrifice. They would obviously be unclean! “But”, God is saying, “to Me they are already obviously unclean.” “You may realise it then if I smear them with dirt, but I know now that their outward actions are not supported by their inward ambitions.”
“Levi” the priestly founder, 2:5 “revered Me and stood in awe of My name.” He spoke and lived the truth. But you, 2:8, are an obstacle for people following God – not an opportunity.
The prophet Samuel had to learn when looking to anoint a king that while man sees only the outward appearances – God looks deeper into the hearts.
Application: Test yourself. Your body is in church tonight, but where is your heart? People regard you as a fine Christian – what does God see that they do not? Even the blessings God gives can be a curse if they lull a sense of false security on eternal reward.
3. Broken faith. 3:14. As if God was your first wife, you have taken a second and divorced Him! Four times in verses 11-16 come variations on these words “do not break faith”.
Illustration: 32 years ago, when I said ‘Yes’ to Brenda becoming by wife, I said in effect, ‘No’ to every other single woman in the world! And Brenda is my only wife! 40 years ago, when I said ‘Yes’ to Jesus becoming my Saviour and Lord, I said in effect, ‘No’ to any other allegiance having priority in my life! Is Jesus still my only Lord?
Illustration: How easily rivals creep in! They are as persistent as the desert dust blown here in Khartoum. They must be dealt with daily to prevent them taking over. You cannot worship God and live as you like.
There is wise advice in 2:16 “Guard yourself in your spirit.” Test yourself - how many promises to God have you broken?
4. Works do not back up words, 2:17. “You have wearied the Lord with your words.” There is a saying you may have heard among pastors: “Christians don’t tell lies – they sing them”! Are your songs of praise and worship Holy or Hollow, Real or Ritual, Inspired or Illicit? Beware of ‘double-speak’, (dictionary: hiding the truth, giving watchers the wrong idea) “empty, deceptive or ambiguous talk – especially by politicians (should we add, AND Christians?).” I must move on quickly.
5. You stop your own blessing. 3:8-10. You steal from God! Do you honour God with your money and possessions?
6. You wrongly blame God. 3:13. How often do we think or say ‘God has let me down’?
do you say, 'I've done my part, I'm still waiting for God to do His?'
7. You are only a Christian for personal gain. 3:14. We think ‘it is not worthwhile for me to serve God here’. We move somewhere else just for a bigger salary.
(3) Choose to Use A God-given opportunity. 3:7 “‘Return to me and I will return to you’, says the Lord Almighty.”
Chapter 3 speaks of judgement day and therefore speaks of God’s provided Saviour. Judgement is a sign of both God’s love and His justice, 3:5.
This great God is like a refiner’s fire – He will put us through the heat of a furnace to make us more holy, if we’ll let Him, 3:2.
Illustration: Sudanese reminder. He is like a laundry soap – able to remove the deepest stains, if we’ll let Him.
Illustration: Shirt to wash, use a machine, scrub with a board, take a boy to the bath. The objective is to get clean.
3:1 Jesus, the “Lord you are seeking will come to His temple.” Good News, a Saviour is born.
4:2 Jesus, the “sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” God News, a Son is given to save.
3:17 God is making for Himself “a treasured possession.” Something that means things are special. 3:16, Those who fear the Lord – who obey Him, who do what is right, who are different from those around – 3:17 “‘they will be Mine’ says the Lord Almighty.” The treasured possession are those God has chosen to be His!
Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 26:18.
Since God has chosen you to be His, will you choose every moment of every day in every issue to be really His?
Remember how great He is.
Test your own works.
- What do you give God, best or less?
- Where is your heart set?
- Have you broken faith?
- Do your words accuse you?
Will you take today’s opportunity to return to the Lord? He has given us the Saviour Lord Jesus! We need nothing else. We only need Jesus..
God Rules, O.K.?
Khartoum International church 8th December 2002.