While the depravity of man can be uncomfortable to discuss, a right understanding of the pervasiveness of sin in the world is essential for any Christian. Thankfully, God’s grace, holiness, faithfulness, and justice stands in stark contrast to our fallenness. In this message on Malachi, David Platt depicts the extent of man’s depravity in contrast to the holiness of God.
- What We Have Learned About Ourselves
- What We Have Learned About Our God
If you have His Word, and I hope you do, let me invite you to open with me to the book of Malachi. It is the last book in the Old Testament. It might be easiest just to go to Matthew and take a left, and you’ll come to Malachi. It’s middle of the fifth century BC, and the temple has been rebuilt. The walls around Jerusalem have likely been reconstructed. Don’t know for sure exactly what time Malachi’s prophesying, but the walls of Jerusalem have likely have been reconstructed.
Malachi Contains a First-Person Conversation Between God and His People
So, now we are in Malachi, whose name means “messenger of the Lord speaks.” In 55 short verses, 47 of those verses contain first-person words from God to His people, which is significant, because, after these verses, we have silence for 400-plus years in redemptive history. God says nothing, and these are the words that are going to reverberate from generation to generation amidst the silence of God. So, I want us to actually read through this whole book. We’re going to split it up into a couple chunks. It’s a pretty short book, but I want us to listen to God.
Along the way, I want us to think about what we have learned about ourselves in this journey through the Old Testament, because the reality is, this is not just about Israel and the people of God then. We see in their lives a reflection of our own lives. We see in their hearts, a mirror of our own hearts. So, I want us to consider what we have learned about ourselves in this journey through the Old Testament and what we have learned about our God. So, let’s start in Malachi 1:1. I want us to read the first couple chapters here, so just picture this is what God is saying to His people after they’d rebuilt the temple in the city.
The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
“I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering.
For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
“And now, O priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it. So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the LORD of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name.
“True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”
Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob, any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!
And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who hates and divorces, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
What We Have Learned About Ourselves…
All right, things are not going well. The priests are despising the name of God, and God is saying He’s going to take dung from their offerings and smear it on their faces. This was strong language and strong imagery. What do we learn about ourselves here that we have seen all throughout the Old Testament? Number one, we learn that we are dead in sin.
I use that word “dead” because I mean dead. We are dead in our sin. We are prone to defame God. Now, think about this in them. They had rebuilt the temple for the worship of God and yet, in their very acts of worship at the temple, they were defaming God and despising His name, verse 6. In verse 13, they say, “‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts.” They were snorting at the worship of God. They were wearied by the worship of God. In their very religious acts of worship, they were bringing dishonor and disgrace to their Father and their King. They were bringing mangy, lame, and sick sacrifices that they wouldn’t even bring to a human governor, and yet, they’re bringing it to their God.
Now, that’s them. Think about the reflection of our hearts here. Is it possible for us to go through the motions of worship and do them in a way that defames God? That’s frightening. We gathered together in this room for the purpose of what? Worship as a people. Yet, it is possible, in some senses, in our church culture today, that we would actually defame God in the context of supposed worship. We are a people that are prone to gather together in buildings like this, sing songs, and study and yet our hearts be far from God. The reality of our lives may be far from God. Even in our thoughts, we sometimes have thoughts that are nonchalant with God and casual with God, and we are weary with the worship of God. Oh, may this text cause us in this place to check our hearts and our minds and our lives at this moment. We don’t want to defame God in the worship of God.
That leads to how we’re prone to defile one another. You get to the end of Malachi 2, and we started to see it. God begins to address the reality that they were intermarrying with pagan peoples which He had said not to do, and they were divorcing their wives to do it. So, He begins to talk about how their idolatry has led to infidelity. Don’t miss that. Adultery is always born in a heart that neglects the worship of God.
There is a direct relationship between our heart’s stance and status before God and our marriages and our relationships with each other. Idolatry and infidelity led to, what we’ll see in just a moment in Malachi 3, to injustice. God talks about how they were guilty of adultery and sorcery. They were oppressing the poor, indulging themselves while ignoring the weak, and defiling one another.
I want to show you how this was playing out, so turn back with me to the left. Go back to the book of Nehemiah. I want you to go with me to Nehemiah 10. The reality is Nehemiah is actually the end of Old Testament history. It’s kind of confusing because it’s a lot earlier in the Old Testament, but the reality is this is where Old Testament history stops, at Nehemiah 13. Malachi is prophesying in the context of this time period, and it’s going on in Nehemiah. So, here’s the overview of the book of Nehemiah.
In the first 6 or 7 chapters, you’ve got the people rebuilding the walls around the city of Jerusalem. So, they’re rebuilding the city. The temple has been rebuilt in the book of Ezra. In Nehemiah, they’re rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem. So, in the first 6 or 7 chapters, they are rebuilding the walls. The last 6 or 7 chapters are, basically, rebuilding the people, and it is like revival. Nehemiah 8 is one of the most incredible pictures of the people of God gathered together in assembly. They open up the book, and all the people fall on their faces and worship, and they’re lifting their hands and shouting out in praise to God, and as the Word is read, they begin to see in the greatness of God and His Word, their sinfulness, and they begin to weep over their sin, and they’re grieving over sin, and they’re confessing sin, and they’re experiencing mercy, and they’re rejoicing in it.
Then, you get to Nehemiah 9. The whole chapter is a prayer of confession and a celebration of the mercy of God. So, they’re confessing their sins. They’re receiving mercy. When you get to the very end of Nehemiah 9, in the last verse, verse 38, listen to what they do. Speaking about the mercy and forgiveness of God, and how they had sinned, it says, “Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.”
So, they say, “We’re going to obey.” They have all-out revival. “We’re going to obey, and here’s how we’re going to do it. We’re going to write it down what we’re going to do. Our leaders are going to fix their seals to it, and seal this thing. We’re making a covenant together to obey God.” You see the essence of that covenant if you go down to Nehemiah 10:30, and basically, they put all their names on the beginning, and this is what they say we’re going to do or not do.
Verse 30 says, “We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.” So, “We’re not going intermarry with pagan peoples.” Verse 31, “[And] if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day. And we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.” So, “We’re going to honor God on the Sabbath.”, and then third, in verse 32, they said, “We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: for the showbread, the regular grain offering, the regular burnt offering, the Sabbaths, the new moons, the appointed feasts, the holy things, and the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.”
So, you see three things. They said, “Here is what we’re going to do. We’re going to honor God with our marriages; we’re not going to intermarry with pagan peoples. Second, we are going to honor God on the Sabbath and then third, we are going to give for the care of the temple, and we’re going to give the proper offerings.” That’s what they said they were going to do. Here’s the covenant we’re making with God and with each other.
So, turn over to Nehemiah 13. What happens is they celebrate this in Nehemiah 12. This is just this incredible worship celebration in Nehemiah 12:27-47. Then, Nehemiah goes away for a little while and he comes back. So, this is where we pick up Nehemiah 13:6. “While this was taking place, I [Nehemiah] was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the king and came…” So, he came back to Jerusalem. Listen to this, “I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God.” Tobiah is, basically, living in the temple and defiling the temple. “[And] I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.”
So, they’ve defiled the temple. They said they weren’t going to do that. Then, you get to verse 10, and it says, “I also found out the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had each fled to his field. [So] I confronted the officials and said, ‘Why is the house of God forsaken?’ And I gathered them together and set them in their stations.” So, that’s one they had promised they were not going to do. The temple is not taken care of.
Now, go to the next paragraph. Verse 15, “In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food.” They’re doing exactly what they said they were not going to do on the Sabbath; they were desecrating the Sabbath. So, that’s the second thing they committed to.
What was the third thing they committed, do you remember? They committed their marriages; they’re not going to intermarry with pagan peoples. Go down to verse 23. “In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people.” Did you catch that? The exact three things they covenanted and committed, “We are going to not do these things. We’re going to honor God in these ways.” Within a short period of time, they have totally turned their back on, and Nehemiah is furious.
Check this out. In verse 25, Nehemiah says, “[And] I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of the men and pulled out their hair.” Be very glad Nehemiah is not your pastor. Could imagine this intensity? Don’t just gloss over this. He’s pulling their hair out of their heads. The picture here is of a people who committed, who resolved, and who genuinely committed, “We’re going to honor God in these ways.”, and after a short time, they’re worse off than they were before.
Is this story not familiar to every single one of our lives? Be honest. Have we not all, at some point said, “I need to do better here. I need to be a better husband. I need to be a better wife. I need to be a better mom or dad. I need to stop looking at those images on the Internet. I need to stop. I need to try harder. Here’s my plan. I commit to do this. I’m going to get others to know about them and hold me accountable. I need to pray more. I need to study the Bible more. So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll lay it out.” Then, that lasts for a little while, and then you find yourself at a point where, in likelihood, you’ve not only come back to where you were, in many contexts, you are worse off than where you were at the start. Is that not familiar to all of us? Why is that?
It’s not that there’s not genuineness here, not resolve, and not willingness. It was there. It’s in our hearts, and yet we can’t do it. Why? Sin is too subtle in us. The reality is these guys did not make this covenant, and then the next day desecrate the temple and divorce their wives and go off and marry pagan peoples. It was, “Okay, I’m not going to be able to give this one offering this time at the temple.” Then another, then another and as a result of neglecting the worship of God and things at home, just little by little by little, until all of a sudden that wife is gone and another one from a foreign land is here.
Malachi Reminds Us that the Adversary Tries to get Us to Turn Our Back on God
Oh, as pastor of brothers and sisters in this faith family, let us be wise here. The adversary is not going to tempt you tonight to turn your back on God and hate church and never come back. No, the adversary is likely going to try to take a small area of your life and begin to pull you just a little way from intimacy with God. If he can get you that far, then a little further and a little further. “I mean, it’s just a glance, right?” That leads to a thought, that leads to flirting kind of conversation, then that leads to you turning your back on your wife or husband. “It’s just one site. I mean it’s better than I have been doing. Just one little thing here.”
God, help us to see this sin is so subtle in us, and it’s too seductive to us. You hear the shock in Nehemiah’s voice. What once seemed unfathomable is now normal. We’re so easily lured. Realize this again and let us be wise. Satan is not going to come to you in your life this week and announce your destruction by luring you away. He is going to come to you, and he’s going to announce your delight by luring you away. Stay on this image that is being addressed there concerning their unfaithfulness and their impurity. Satan’s not going to come to you and say, “Look at this site on the Internet, and it will ruin your mind and destroy your marriage.”, though he knows full well it will do exactly that. He is going to come to you, and he is going to say, “Look at this site on the Internet because it will fulfill your desire, and it will be far better than your marriage.” That’s seductive.
That’s one example. There are countless examples we could name. I hope that even now, at this moment, you are thinking of those subtle areas in your heart and in your life, that you are prone to. If you can’t think of one, then start with the subtlety of pride because we’re all prone toward the sin that is seductive to us, and ultimately, it is too strong for us. Sin is too strong.
They are doing what they thought, what they swore they would never do, and this is how the Old Testament ends. What is that about? You’d think if you were writing this script, you’d end it better than Nehemiah pulling people’s hair out and priests with dung on their faces. There is a word here for us after generation after generation after centuries of God’s people, people that have wanted to obey, that have tried and resolved to obey and over again. I mean you think back to Exodus 24 when they enter into covenant with God at Mount Sinai. Blood seals the covenant. Before the blood is even dry on that covenant, they’re worshiping a cow that they make with their own hands.
In 2 Samuel 7, this height of the Davidic covenant, God is restoring His people and His promises to David. It’s beautiful, and then, before you know it, there’s a glance from a rooftop, and the kingdom spirals into an indulgent son and a whole host of sinful kings. Even when we see reform among some of these kings like Hezekiah or Josiah, and people are returning, we think, “Yes!” Then, sometimes within days, they are turning back to their sin. God, help us to see this.
The glaring reality of the Old Testament is that we are dead in our sin. What can you do to overcome deadness? You can do nothing. Try harder? You can’t try harder, you’re dead. Do better next time? You don’t have life; you’re dead in sin. You’re dead, and you’re stuck there until someone from outside does something to you. You need someone to do something supernatural to you, and that is what the Old Testament is showing us.
We are dead in our sin, and we are desperate for a Savior. We are absolutely, utterly desperate for a Savior. We need someone. We don’t need someone who will come and give us new laws. We need someone who will come and give us new life. We don’t need someone to come on the scene in history and call us to reform. We need someone to come into our lives and cause us to be reborn. We don’t need someone to come and tell us how to be better. We need someone who can tell us how to be born again.
This is the picture; don’t miss this. They were dead in their sin, and they didn’t realize it because they were going through religious activity. Religious activity is the biggest cover-up for the subtlety of sin in our lives and the seductivity of sin in our lives. Religious activity is the biggest cover-up, and this is what every religious system in the world is built on. It is built on how to overcome this whole problem. Follow this 8-fold path. Follow these truths. Pray to these gods. Participate in these rituals. Wash yourselves in this river. Do this or that. It’s a whole system, and the real danger is that we take Christianity, and we just make it a part of the system. Start by repeating this prayer, then get dunked, then go to church and raise a nice, decent family, and you’re good. The reality is you can do all of this religious activity. You can say the prayer every time it’s said. You can be dunked numerous times. You can be in church every single Sunday and live the most decent, good, wonderful life you could imagine. The reality is you’re still dead. The danger is you think you’ve got it. Is this not a huge danger for us in this culture?
Realize this: you need to be born again. You need a supernatural rebirth, new life, and this is what we’ve learned about our God. He is overwhelmingly gracious, meaning His grace is able to overwhelm our sin and overcome our sin. You come back to Malachi, and these first five verses of Malachi are mind-boggling to say the least. “Jacob, I’ve loved; Esau I’ve hated.” We could spend the rest of this night dialogging about that one. We could discuss the will and the ways of God here. The people of God are saying, “Do you really love us?”
God points them back to Jacob, 15/16 centuries before, and He said, “I poured out my grace and my blessings on Jacob and not Esau. Esau, look at Edom,” God says, “Right next to you. They may try to rebuild, but I’ll tear down the people with whom the Lord is angry forever. Jacob on the other hand, I promised blessing to, to bless all of his descendants, and sixteen centuries later, I’m still blessing, and it’s clearly not because of the faithfulness of the people.”
What We Have Learned About Our God…
There is so much we could discuss here. So, many questions we can dive into, but let’s just realize this simple truth when it comes down to it. The only reason the people of God are even standing in the book of Malachi is because of the sheer, sovereign grace of God. It’s the only reason. I would take it a step deeper, and I would say the only reason you and I could ever stand is because of the sheer, sovereign grace of God. He’s overwhelmingly gracious. He loves His people, not because of anything in them. It’s solely because of what is in Him.
He is inexpressibly holy. It’s what we’ve seen all throughout the Old Testament, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” This is the only attribute of God mentioned three times in succession like that in the entire Old Testament. It’s like we don’t have a word to describe God’s holiness, and we don’t. It’s inexpressible. We don’t have a way to express how holy and perfect He is. He is without error and without equal. Our God is, and He deserves more than mangy sacrifices. He deserves that which is pure and spotless because He is pure and spotless.
He is consistently faithful. When you get to the end of Malachi 2, and the Lord speaks like this against divorce, you may wonder why does He point out divorce in particular? Now, the ESV doesn’t translate it this way the end of Malachi 2 this way, but you’ve got a note in the bottom of your Bibles. It takes you down there that talks about how God hates divorce. Some of your translations may say, “God hates divorce.” He talks about the man who divorces his wife and is covering himself with a garment of violence. This is strong language.
Why does God hate divorce? The answer is because God loves faithfulness, and because God is faithful. It’s the picture He set up in the very beginning in Genesis 1 and 2; this is why we see marriage in the garden as a perfect reflection of God’s relationship with His people. This is before sin comes in.
God is faithful, and marriage is designed to be a demonstration of His faithfulness. It’s why all throughout the Old Testament, He’s referred to Himself as husband and Israel as His wife. In even a greater way in the New Testament, it’s why Paul in Ephesians 5 says the reason God designed marriage like this is a mystery to point us to Christ’s love for His church, for His people. That’s the whole point of marriage, so it makes sense that God hates divorce among His people, because among His people, there is a picture of unfaithfulness that He has designed to be a picture to the world of His faithfulness.
Now, I know that this is a culture, and even in the church, I would venture to say that just about every family, in some way, has been affected by divorce, whether in your own marriage, in your parent’s marriage, in your children’s marriage, sor omewhere in the family line. It’s commonplace. I know there is so much hurt and pain and questions that go with that.
God is consistently faithful. He is completely just. This is where we left off in Malachi 2, so pick up in verse 17. “You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, ‘How have we wearied him?’ By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.’ Or by asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?’” They’re questioning the justice of God. Where is your justice God?
So God says, “I will show you my justice.” Malachi 3:1,
Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
Malachi Offers Us a Look into the Righteousness of God
Through the mouth of Malachi, God says that He will demonstrate His righteousness. “God is going to demonstrate His righteousness, and you’re going to see offerings and righteousness brought to the Lord because I’m going to send a messenger who will prepare the way before me, and the Lord is going to come to His temple.” The picture this messenger points us to, and we don’t have time to dive into it totally, but if you just turn a few pages over, you’d come to Matthew 3:1-3, and you see this messenger in the line of Elijah the prophet who would come named John the Baptist. Jesus identifies him with the Elijah that was prophesied here. It’s not Elijah, like, a physical reincarnation; it’s a prophet who comes from his line, much like we’ve seen that David is going to come. Well, not David himself, but one from the line of David.
So, in Matthew 3:1-3, John the Baptist comes on the scene, and he says, “This is what was written by the prophet Isaiah.” He quotes from Isaiah and says, “The one coming who will prepare a way for the Lord.” What is in his mouth in preparation for the coming of the Lord? The first words out of his mouth are, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
God will demonstrate His righteousness. He will demand our repentance, because He deserves our repentance. The picture is, “Repent, or I will be swift to bring my judgment upon you, and you will not be able to stand on that day. Repent, turn from your sin, yourself and your arrogance and your idolatry. Turn.” He will demand our repentance, and He will display His wrath. He will be swift in judgment; it will be clear on that day that God is just. Know this, ladies and gentlemen, when you see sin and evil rampant in the world around, know this: there is coming a day when every single sin will be judged. God will show His justice. Everything that anyone has tried to hide will be judged because God is completely just.
You keep moving on. He is ultimately sovereign. Malachi 3:6,
“[For] I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the fields shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.
“Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”
The picture is in their worship of God, they were accusing God, not just of injustice, but unkindness and saying it is worthless and it’s vain to serve this God. God is reminding them that He is not only ultimately sovereign over the fruit of their soil and the vine in their field and everything else, but He is unquestionably supreme. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but all throughout the book of Malachi, there is one name for God that is mentioned over and over again. It’s the Lord of what? Lord of hosts. Over and over again, 24 different times in this book, this phrase is mentioned, which comes out to almost six times a chapter.
What does that mean? Lord of hosts is a picture of God being the Lord of armies and angels, and it’s this picture that we see in Scripture of the Lord surrounded at all times by an army of angels who do His bidding. Multitudes, myriads, thousands upon thousands of angels who constantly do His bidding and constantly sing His praises. Oh, be careful here. Even in this imagery of bringing offerings, be careful here not to begin to think that God somehow needs something from us. The reality is, this is what He said in 1:11, “My name will be praised from the rising to the setting of the sun in every place on the earth. Among all the nations on the earth, I will be praised.”
God is not here begging for their worship, which is exactly how we often picture it. We wouldn’t admit it, but so many in our culture for sure, and I would say in the church, almost picture the worship of God as God being some beggar on the side that we’ll flip a coin to every once in a while. No, our God is, at this moment, surrounded by thousands upon thousands of angels who are singing His praises in heavenly wonder. Regardless of whether or not we sing a song, He is receiving constant praise at every moment. At every moment of our lives, when we lay our head on our pillows tonight, He will still be praised and glorified and honored regardless. That’s why, in places like Psalm 50, God said, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you. I own the fields and everything in the world is mine.”
He doesn’t need an offering here. He’s the one who gives the offering to be given to Him. He’s not a man, Acts 17 says, that He should be served by human hands. Our God is all-sufficient and self-sufficient. Listen to the way Tozer put it, “If every man on earth became blind, it would not diminish the glory of the sun and the moon and the stars, and if every person on earth turned atheist, it would not diminish the glory of God.”
Malachi Shows Us that We are in Desperate Need of a Savior
In light of this whole picture, I hope it’s abundantly clear to us. Here we are dead in our sin, and here is God, inexpressibly holy and sovereign and supreme. What can you do? What box can you check off to be reconciled with this God? There’s nothing. You need a Savior, and the message in the Old Testament is that God is the only one who can save. God is the only Savior. So, the book of Malachi ends with a picture of a people that God will save, a remnant. Listen to this in verse 16:
[Then] those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.
Here’s this picture of God saying that He will preserve a remnant, a people who will worship and serve and honor Him, who will walk in righteousness, and who will be spared on that day. “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings…” Amidst a world where self-indulgence and self-righteousness both reign, God will preserve a remnant who will trust in Him as their Savior, who will look to Him to do what they cannot do. How is it possible?
How is that possible for anyone who is dead in sin to all of a sudden be saved from sin and walking in righteousness? Oh, this is the best news in the world. The only way that is possible is if this inexpressibly holy God would, in His grace, come to His people just like He promised in Malachi 3:1. “Behold I am coming.” If He would come to His people and live the life that none of us have been able to live, a righteous and holy life with no sin. Then, for the holy one in the flesh to take the payment of sin, which is death, upon Himself in our place. He would live the life we could not live, die the death that we deserve to die, and then to rise in victory over sin and death. That is the only way that a people who are dead in sin can be brought to life, and God has done it.
He has preserved a remnant by providing a redeemer, and that is the promise of the Old Testament, but don’t miss how it ends. Look at verses 4, 5 and 6. This is the end of the Old Testament. The words that are going to reverberate. Just listen to this. He looks back, “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.” Remember the law. Then, he looks forward, “I will send you Elijah the prophet…” This is a reference to John the Baptist, “Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” Listen to this last verse. “He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come…” listen to the last phrase of the whole Old Testament, “Lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
How about that? The Old Testament ends with the words “utter destruction” and the potential reality of it. Don’t miss this. To every person sitting within the sound of my voice, do not miss this. There is a picture here in this “lest I come and bring about utter destruction,”. There are two options. One option for anyone of us is to continue dead in sin.
Now, that might look different ways. It might look like you in your life just deciding, “Hey, I’m going to live it up here in the world. I’m going to do things the way I want to do them. Maybe, even, I’m going to take this religious path over here and try to earn my way and overcome my evil.” Or, instead of the path of self-indulgence, you may walk the path to self-righteousness. This path may look like church attendance the rest of your life and a good decent life, but you are still dead in sin.
The other option is to humble your heart before this God and cry out in need of salvation that only He can bring. The other option is to say, “I am dead in my sin and there is nothing I can do, and by your grace alone can I be saved. The only way I can be righteous is in the righteousness of Christ. The only way I can be victorious is in the victory of Christ. I can’t do better. I can’t try harder. I need Christ to do in me what I could never do on my own.” When you call out for Him to save you in that way, by faith, not by anything you have done, by His grace through faith, He redeems you. He puts your name in the book of remembrance, and you are clothed in His righteousness and saved from your sin for all of eternity. Will you choose utter destruction or eternal salvation?