Good morning! Today’s passage is Malachi 3:1-15. And what a rich passage it is. I believe there are at least 7 powerful lessons that the Holy Spirit would have us learn from today’s passage. (I summarize them in bold below.) Let’s go!
Malachi 3:1 (NIV)
1 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.
On verse 1: Here God says that He will send His messenger who will prepare the way before Him. Who is this messenger? Here are some clues. In verse 1 this messenger is called “the Lord”, “the one you are seeking”, the one who will come to “his temple”, and the one “whom you desire”. This messenger is none other than Jesus Christ the Lord, the long awaited Messiah. 500 years before Jesus arrived on the scene, the prophet Malachi, and other prophets before him, were already predicting His arrival. What’s the lesson here? Jesus is our long awaited Messiah, the one our hearts truly long for and desire.
Malachi 3:2 (NIV)
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.
On verse 2-4: After making the announcement that His messenger (Jesus) would come, God then asks a question: “Who can stand in the presence of this holy messenger?” In other words, who is worthy to stand in the presence of a holy God? The answer: none of us. Other religions and faiths, even the mainstream media, will tell you that we can earn our way to God (“I’m a pretty good person. Why wouldn’t I go to heaven?”). But the truth is: all of us are sinners who don’t deserve to be in God’s holy presence. As Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…” Yet the amazing news is that this messenger from God “will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap” (v2). He will Himself purify the Levites (the priests during Malachi’s time) and refine them like gold and silver so that they are able to bring offerings to God in righteousness, offerings that are acceptable to a holy God (v3-4).
What’s the lesson here? When we did not deserve to stand in God’s presence because of our sin, God sent Jesus Christ like a refiner’s fire and like soap to cleanse us, purify us, and refine us so that we could be righteous and acceptable in God’s sight. It’s not because we earned that righteousness by our good works. It’s all because of God’s amazing love and grace toward us expressed through His Son Jesus. All because Jesus shed His blood to cleanse us of our sins can we become children of God and priests in His kingdom, worthy to be in the presence and to serve Him.
Malachi 3:5-6 (NIV)
5 “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.
6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
On verse 5-6: Just because God is willing to cleanse us and forgive us of our sins does not mean God turns a blind eye to sin. No, God is a just God who hates sin. In His holiness and justice, God must judge all sin and evil. He would not be a just God if He didn’t. That’s why verse 5 says that God is “quick to testify against” all those who sin, whether by engaging in witchcraft and idolatry (“sorcerers”), sexual sin (“adulterers”), lying (“perjurers”), not loving those around them who are vulnerable (such as workers, widows, orphans, and foreigners), or not fearing God.
Have you engaged in any of these sins before? If so, then God’s justice demands that our sins be punished. In Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of our sin is death”, or eternal separation from God. Yet in His mercy God allowed someone else — His Son Jesus Christ — to be punished in our place. “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).
That’s why the cross is so crucial. At the cross where Jesus died, we find the intersection where God’s justice and God’s mercy meet. For at the cross, God justly punished all of our sin, and at the cross God also mercifully poured out forgiveness for all of our failing. At the cross we see that God is at the same time full of justice and mercy.
Malachi 3:7 (NIV)
7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
On verses 6-7: People’s hearts toward God can change. Sometimes we’re set on obeying God; sometimes we get distracted. For centuries, the Jewish people had turned away from God (v7a). But God’s heart toward His people never changes. From the beginning, God’s heart has been for His people to return to Him. That’s why God promises, “Return to me, and I will return to you.” (v7) Have you been far away from God? It’s time to return to Him. No matter how far away you’ve been, no matter how long it has been, you can always return to God, and He is committed to returning to You. That’s the amazing love of your Heavenly Father for you.
What does it mean to return to God? The Jews asked the same question in verse 7: “How are we to return?” Returning to God starts in the heart but then continues to the hands and the feet. In other words, returning to God begins with recognizing in our heart that we’ve strayed from God and that we need to come back to Him, but then our hands and feet must follow our heart by turning from old ways. As we will see in verses 8-12, one old way that God’s people needed to turn from was their refusal to tithe.
Malachi 3:8-12 (NIV)
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.
9 You are under a curse–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me.
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty.
12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.
On verses 8-12: In verse 8, God says that the people were robbing Him by refusing to faithfully give their tithes and offerings. What is a tithe? Tithing is giving 10% of all I earn to God. A tithe literally means “one tenth”. To give a tithe means to take one tenth of our income and dedicate it to God by giving it for use in the church. (What’s the difference between a tithe and an offering? A tithe is giving the first 10% of all I earn to God, and an offering is what I give in addition to my tithe.)
As followers of Jesus, we are commanded to tithe. Why? Here are four reasons why Christians should tithe:
1. Because God commands us to tithe. Leviticus 27:30 says that the first 10% of what we earn belongs to God. When we tithe, we’re not tipping God or giving him a bonus for good performance. Tithing is giving God what already belongs to Him. In fact, Malachi 3:8 tells us that when we fail to tithe, we are robbing God.
Malachi 3:8 (NIV)
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.”
Tithing is not an option. It’s a command. When I refuse to tithe, I’m disobeying God’s word.
2. Because tithing shows that God has first place in my life.
If a person says, “I put God first”, but they’re not willing to tithe the first part of their income to God as He commanded, are they really putting God first? The answer is no.
Deuteronomy 14:23 (TLB) says “…The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives.” Tithing helps us put our priorities in order and reminds us of who we belong to and what’s most important in life.
In Malachi 3:9, because the people were not putting God first by tithing faithfully, they always like they were under a curse, never having enough. You’ll find that happening in your own life too. When you don’t obey God’s command to tithe, and you keep the first 10% to yourself, you will find that you never have enough. Yet when you seek His kingdom first and His righteousness, God adds everything you need (Matthew 6:33).
3. Because tithing gives God a chance to prove He exists and wants to bless you!
Malachi 3:10 is the only place in Scripture where God encourages us to test Him. It says,
Malachi 3:10 (NIV)
10 …Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
In other words, God promises that when we are faithful in tithing, He will provide us with everything we need and more than we contain.
Tithing is an exercise in faith. Our faith grows when we tithe, and with greater faith, God is able to bless us even more. When others see the way that God has blessed us, it will attract them to follow the Lord as well. As verse 12 says, “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land.” Praise God! When we tithe, we give God a chance to bless us and to make us a blessing to others.
4. We tithe because we need to take good care of the church God has given us.
God wants to make sure that His church has all the resources she needs to thrive and to accomplish God’s purposes. That includes taking good care of those who dedicate their full time working hours to the church. Malachi 3:10 (NIV) says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house…”
God initiated tithing so that His church would always have more than enough.
So here’s the question: are you tithing?
As followers of Jesus, let’s be faithful in our tithes and offerings, so that we can live out God’s command, experience His blessing on our lives, and take good care of the church He has given to us.
Malachi 3:13-15 (NIV)
13 “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
14 “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?
15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.'”
On verses 13-15: The Jewish people had spoken harshly against God, questioning the need to serve Him and questioning His goodness. Instead of worshiping God, they worshiped those who don’t trust God.
What can we learn from this? God cares about the way you speak about Him to others. When you’re going through a tough time, don’t speak harsh words about God that are born out of a bitter, immature heart. Rather, bring your bitterness and frustration to God. As you spend time in His presence, He will renew your perspective and restore peace, hope and joy to your heart again. For more on this read Psalm 73.
Heavenly Father, thank You that I was sullied with sin and could not get into Your holy presence, You sent Your Son Jesus Christ to die for me and to cleanse me. Because of Jesus, I can enter Your presence. May I never forget the justice and mercy You showed at the cross where Jesus died. Because You gave Your all to me, may I not hesitate to tithe faithfully, knowing that You will bless and make me a blessing when I do. Whenever I stray, help me to return to You, not just with my heart, but with my hands and feet as well. Thank You for Your life-changing presence. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.