Malachi 3 v 6 – 12
Please turn with me in your Bibles to Malachi chapter three. We are going to read together from verse six and on – from verse six through to verse 12. What we are going to see – to give you the title upfront so that you can see how this thought progresses through the text – we’re going to look this evening at God’s constancy (that means he’s immutability, His unchangeability), His call, His curse, and His commitment – in Malachi 3:6-12.
6“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
7From 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?’
8Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you.
10Bring 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. 11I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts. (ESV)
I said to you that we are going to consider God’s constancy, His call, His curse and His commitment. That’s precisely what we see in the text. We find Malachi now in his fifth disputation between God and the people of Israel. He condemns the stingy and begrudging offerings of Israel, who had just returned from captivity. He returns to this – he already treated it in his second disputation back in Malachi 1:6-2:9. He already spoke about it, but he returns to that now. There in chapter one, what he was talking about, was the failure on the part of the priests to bring to God what they were supposed to bring to God. But here, he now broadens his horizon and his vision, to speak to the whole nation, and not just to the priests.
We don’t know, but he refers to Jacob over there, and probably to remind us of Jacob’s return from exile when he was in Paddan-aram, now coming back both to the promised land and to the Lord. Jacob bought an altar at Bethel, and he offered a tithe according to the vow that he had made to God in the 28th chapter of Genesis.
So, here too, when Jacob’s descendants returned from their exile, they too rebuilt an altar in Jerusalem, but they were grossly negligent, unlike Jacob, in offering their tithes. Now, this text is often used, especially by health, wealth and prosperity teachers to really, really lay a guilt trip on the Lord’s people that they must pay more tithes, and they must pay more offerings. Most of the time, it’s so that the Cadillacs can be bigger if there are still Cadillacs around. I think its other cars these days that they ride, and some of them are flying jets, and so on. And there’s been scandal upon scandal about how money is being abused among even many evangelical Christians. This text has been the object of much abuse, to get the Lord’s people just to give much money. I want you to know, that’s not what we’re doing here this evening. We starting right out to tell you if there’s one thing that we as elders can say of you as the Lord’s people, is we’ve seen your faithfulness, especially in this time of COVID. We have seen how you have brought your tithe and your offerings. So we can set that little thing aside and you don’t have to feel guilty about that, unless you know you’ve been negligent.
But the point is this – it’s not so much the money, the tithe and the offerings. Why did God want them to bring tithes and offerings to the storehouse? Well, because God had a plan with Israel – a plan that God wanted to execute that would bless the entire world. And in order to do that God was going to use the means with which He blessed Israel. So, God’s concern is that in not bringing their tithes and offerings to the storehouses, they were hampering, or they were frustrating the efforts of God that God wanted to do through His people. It’s kind of like people in a country today withholding taxes so the government cannot do what they wanted to do, because people are withholding taxes. How must they do all the things they are supposed to do? So, you see, it’s not just about having money – it’s about the purpose of that money and what has to be done with it. And here, Malachi is speaking on God’s behalf, and God has a huge, huge rebuke for Israel – they’ve come back out of captivity and unlike Jacob, they’ve not been faithful in bringing their offerings and tithes, according to what God required. But it gets worse, because we may say on their behalf, “but just read a bit more, go read the background to this, go read about it in Nehemiah and other places in Scripture and you’ll see – you are being too hard on the people of Israel because they had failed crops, they had drought, they had pestilence, and Malachi even speaks about it in verses 10 to 11”.
But the Lord tells them, that those natural disasters were not the cause of the nation’s disobedience to bring their tithes, they were the cursed result of them not doing so. We need to distinguish between causes and consequences – that drought and that pestilence and all of that, they were not the causes why the people weren’t bringing their tithes and offerings. The pestilences were the consequences of them not doing so, as we’ll see. So, what we are going to see in the text this evening, as I said, is: God’s glorious constancy, He’s gracious call, His grievous curse and His gracious commitment to Israel.
- God’s Glorious Constancy
So, in this context of them having returned and being unfaithful in bringing their tithes and offerings, the Lord begins by stating God’s glorious constancy in verse six “For I the LORD do not change.”
(i) God does not change
We’re talking here about God’s immutability. The fact that God does not change – you see, change can happen in one or two ways, things can get better, or they can get worse. Neither of those are possible for God, because God, being God, cannot get any better than God already is. So, God cannot change and become better as God. God cannot also become less than He already is and still remain God. Can you see that? If God became worse, lost some of His glory, that would mean that He’s no longer God. So, change is not possible with God. He says, “I don’t change”, and it implies that His eternal character, and His eternal purposes will never change – God will be constant, and that ought to give confidence and a solid foundation for God’s people’s faith. You need to stack your faith on that – that God will not change, He will not take back what He has said. He will never change. But unchangeable-ness in God’s character doesn’t mean that the Lord cannot change His actions according to what we do. His character can’t change, but His conduct according to circumstances can, because in the very next verse the Lord says, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” There, the Lord says, you change, I’ll change. Do you see that? His character cannot change, but His actions can change.
It shows that God acts accordingly and differently in response to different situations among His people. But the Lord is constant – He is immutable to use the theological term. He will never change. We know that people try to change Him. We know that people try to change God to become like us. I think it was last week I spoke about it, that when the Pope changed the Lord’s Prayer, wanting to change God into the kind of father that earthly fathers are – they want God to be the kind of father that I am and you are as fathers.
Remember, the Pope said, “lead us not into temptation? – God will never lead, as a father, won’t lead His children into temptation. An earthly father wouldn’t do that, so why would God do that?” And I pointed out to you, that’s – as Dr John Piper says – that’s to do theology standing on your head. Because there are many things that God as a father does, that earthly fathers don’t do. No earthly father should or would sacrifice his only son to save a bunch of sinners. God, as a father, did that. Amen? But no earthly father should do it. But there is an example – now we want to change God into being the kind of father that we are. But here’s the good news – try as you might, and I know many of us do try, you can’t change God. You will never change God. He is the great I Am, and He’s going to stay that way. I praise Him for that, and I hope you do, too. Do you? Does that give you a consolation that as He’s revealed Himself to be, that’s how He is, that’s how He’s going to stay. And so, He begins with His glorious constancy, “I the LORD do not change.” And then He carries on, He says, “Therefore” – because of that, because He doesn’t change – “O children of Jacob, you are not consumed”.
(ii) God’s plan can never be defeated
We need a look at that, the “therefore” there – because God doesn’t change there’s a “therefore”. That implies that God’s intent and plan to bring great blessing to the whole world – through the descendants of Abraham, and through the Messiah that will descent through David’s line – will not ever be defeated, because God doesn’t change. That plan is not going to change, and it can never be refuted or confounded or defeated by people.
(iii) Israel is not consumed
So, because of that, and that alone, not because Israel hasn’t changed and become even worse than they’ve been at times, but because God doesn’t change, and His plan stands and what He said He was going to do, He’s going to do – because of that and because of that alone, Israel is not consumed. It’s not because of who we are that we are not consumed. It’s because of who God is. Can you see that? Because He doesn’t change that we are not consumed. The very fact that they exist and live as the restored community at this time of Malachi’s writing, ought to be proof to them that God does not change, and is faithful to His promises. So that’s His glorious constancy.
We also live in a time where people are trying to change God. Have you noticed the feminists now tell us that we cannot pray “our Father who art in heaven”, we need to pray “our mother who art in heaven”? Uhm, let me think about that a little… No, no, because God does not change, and He revealed Himself as a father. Was it a man? Was it a woman who revealed God as a father? Or was it God Himself – it was God Himself, and He doesn’t change. They want to change God, to be the kind of God that they think they need, who will rewrite His whole Word, His whole plan, and slot in with the agenda of the world – of the secularists – of the pantheists out there, and the atheists, and those people who believe that everything, never just sprang out of nothing, that’s why there’s everything. I’m sorry if I sound harsh, but that’s stupid. That’s a stupid statement. Think about it. A child will tell you that. But, we must change our mind about how the world came about – change our minds about what God told us about how things happened, change our minds about what God wants to do with the world, whether there’s a man and a woman, or a whole lot of other things, the whole alphabet, if you like! God does not change, and He’s not going to change His plan and His Word either.
- God’s Gracious Call
That’s where He begins to address a disobedient and unfaithful chosen people. That’s where He begins. He begins with His being – with “who I am” – “this is who I am. I don’t change; I am who I am. I’m going to do what I said I was going to do. That’s where I want to start with you, and You are a part of that” the Lord says to them, and as this God in His glorious constancy, He now comes with a gracious call in verses seven to eight. Notice the elements of this gracious call. There are a few elements to His call: We see a rebuke, [we see a call to return], we see rejection, we see a reply, we see a retort and another reply to God.
(i) a rebuke
He starts with a rebuke in his call, verse seven: “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them.“
You see, somebody did change – the people changed, and they did so for the worst. That’s where Malachi is used of the Lord to condemn them, to rebuke them –He said: “you’ve turned aside, you’ve gone another way, you’ve changed – you’ve changed your heart, you’ve changed your mind, you’ve changed your life, you’ve changed your resolves, and you’ve changed your direction, and you’re walking away from Me.” That’s what God rebukes them for.
How about you and I? If God had to say to us “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them” – whatever we may say about our past as a nation. I remember a time when I was a boy, where there were certain magazines, in the stores on the corner that had to be covered up so that the kids couldn’t see them. How many remember that? Now, from the days of our fathers, we’ve turned aside. Our father’s had their lacks and the failings and so on, but [it] seems to me at one time, they did try to at least have a semblance of faithfulness to God, even in this land, and we have turned too – look at us now. Look at what we see everywhere –have we changed and for the worst too? The Lord rebukes His people for that.
(ii) a call to return
Then there’s a call to return. Here’s the call that follows the rebuke. Verse seven, the second part: “Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.“
That sounds familiar – in Jeremiah chapter 18:11 we read this: “Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, everyone from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.‘”
That call to repentance anticipates and looks forward to the call of His messenger that we looked at last week, John the Baptist in Matthew 3:4 and in Luke 24. And in Acts 2:38, we see the Gospel proclamation – what will happen if we heed that call to repentance. The Lord is calling them to return. Let me tell you something, it’s never too late to return if you wandered off. When you hear the Lord calling you to return, you need to return. You know, the problem with our world these days and with our people is they don’t even know they’ve wandered. They’ve so bought into the existing culture and worldview out there, that they don’t even know that they are walking away from God, together with a crowd that is as bad as God told us they will be in the last days.
And that can happen in all kinds of ways brothers and sisters – we can buy into unbiblical world and life views without even knowing it – especially if you have a television in your home – especially if you’re on YouTube all the time and on the internet. Before you know, you can buy into an unbiblical world and life view, and you can be walking away from God, together with everybody else, looking so natural, so that somebody who is going the other way looks like the weirdo. And you can do it so easily, that you don’t even notice – you don’t even notice! We need to ask ourselves what are our ways and deeds that we need to amend. It’s my call as your pastor to – I don’t like the word challenge – but to afflict our consciences and say, have we become as materialistic as the world? Have we become as hedonistic as the world? Are we seekers of pleasure, lovers of money, lovers of self? If we are, He’s calling us to return – to amend our ways and our deeds.
(iii) a rejection
So, after the call to return there is the rejection: “But you say, ‘How shall we return?“
Isn’t that just arrogant? Did it strike you as arrogant when you read it? How can they not know? Here they are, part of God’s people who have experienced His blessings, who have seen His power, and they know why God blessed them like that, with His power. Now they pretend that they don’t know how to return, acting all innocent. Isn’t that what we do at times too? We just act innocent: “How can we do that?” It betrays insincerity. The question is not only callous, it’s also disingenuous. It’s to deny that there’s anything that they need to change, and that’s exactly the way the Lord says we’re going to be in the last days too.
(iv) a reply
God replies in verse eight: “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me.“
In other words, there are things that God has given to them that they’re holding from God. Because God wants to continue this culture of giving – He gives them abundantly; they give back a part of it; He gives more; they give to the widow, to the orphan; they institute in their societies, those structures of society that God wants, with the priesthood, and with the kings and so on. It’s all provided for by God, but by withholding this, they refute God’s whole plan.
They frustrate the designs of God, and God calls it robbing Him, and that can not only be money, it can be other things too – your time, your treasure, your talent, and your ties (your relationships), all four of those things that we need to be good stewards of – our time, our treasure, our ties, and our talents. Are we withholding that from the Lord? Are we spending it on ourselves? That’s the question we need to ask – are we robbing God?
(v) a retort
Now, you’d think after that, after God says to them “Will man, rob God” – it’s a rhetorical question that implies the answer “No” – they would feel so bad. They would say, “Father, forgive us for we have sinned.” But look how they heighten the arrogance.
It’s a retort, next: “But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?‘”
That turns God into a liar. “Can you prove this? How have we robbed you?” Does it sound like a sincere question to you? It’s not a sincere question. There’s an implication there that they disagree with God, and they’d like Him to prove to them, and hopefully God will find out in examining that in His own mind, somehow, He’s been wrong and He’s accusing them unfairly. Is there any end to how arrogant people can become in the face of God? Is there any limit to it?
(vi) a reply
They reply to him with a retort, and God replies to them, He says: “here’s how you have robbed Me, in your tithes and contributions. You have not come back to the place of worship with the rest of the community, returning some of what I have blessed you with, so that I can bless some more people. You’ve not done that, you thought only of yourself.” That’s the Lord’s point.
So, we see God’s glorious constancy, and His gracious call – a rebuke to return to Him. But they don’t heed it.
- God’s Grievous Curse
So, we see next God’s grievous curse. In verse nine, God says: “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you.” That doesn’t seem like there’s one exception – “the whole nation of you, you are robbing Me!”
And He curses them. Now a curse is the opposite of a blessing. A blessing is something that someone who is superior bestows upon someone else and says, “I wish you this and I’m going to do certain things to bring that about for you.”
Now when God blesses you – as He says He blessed Abraham and Isaac and Jacob – He puts His power with His blessing – He puts His resources with His blessing. Our curse has the opposite effect. When the Lord curses us, He makes sure that we bear the consequences, and this curse is the consequence of them withholding their tithes and offerings.
- God’s Glorious Commitment
But I love how the text ends in verses 10 to 12, because just as our God is, He ends with a gracious commitment, notice God’s gracious commitment: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse,” – and here’s His commitment – “that there may be food in My house. And thereby put Me to the test,” – God says, “I’m committing to this” – “says the LORD of hosts,” – listen to this, – “if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.“
Don’t you long to see a time like that, a time when you can eat your plate of food, and not be aware that there’s somebody somewhere who’s not eating. I don’t know if that afflicts you, but it certainly does me, and increasingly as I see the lack and the need around about me. Mealtimes become a kind of a time of devotion to me. I long for a time when there is no more need, do you? It matters that there is a need isn’t there? I looked at the children at the Sunday school picnic this afternoon and I saw them, and Susan sent me this picture of myself and little Caleb in the book room when I still had that beard that you all told me to shave off. Caleb was small. There we were, and I think back – my sister-in-law passed away recently – her little boys who grew up with my children, and they were just playing the games other children were playing, doing the same things and so on. I look at how their lives have turned out now. I told you last week about having to find one of them somewhere on the street, [to] tell him that his mother died. To think that a life of a little boy can turn out like that is a scary thought. And I looked at the children at the picnic this afternoon, and I said, ‘Lord, make us faithful. We don’t want them to be people of need.’ Do you want them to be people of need when they grow up? Now children in this church – we want God’s very best for them. Amen!? We want a church in which we don’t just pray for God’s very best for them, but where we work for God’s very best for them, a time when there is no more need.
So, God’s commitment is first of all to prosper them (in verse 10). But His commitment is not only to prosper them, but also to protect them (in verse 11): “I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.“
The Lord’s commitment is not only to prosper them, so that there is no more need, but to protect them, so that there is no more plague that destroys the crops. A commitment to prosper them, verse 10, a commitment to protect them, verse 11, and it gets even better – a commitment to promote them in verse twelve – to raise them to a position of supremacy in the world. Notice verse 12: “Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.“
You see, what the Lord wanted to do with Israel is to rescue them from junk status. I know some countries who need that, do you? You’ll be a blessing – He’ll promote them. What does that mean? That means that He will contribute to the progress or the growth of them. He’ll advance them, He will boost them, will further them, will encourage them, He will upgrade them, He’ll advance them, He will raise them, He’ll elevate them, and He will make publicity for them. He’ll show the world – that’s my people look at them. They are a land of delight. This is God’s commitment to a nation whom He just brought out of captivity – bless them, to rebuild a temple and an alter – then they withhold their offerings.
What is wrong with us? In the world in which I live, and I’ve seen in three careers now, I see exactly the same things. I can tell you I have seen that what Paul says to Timothy is absolutely the truth. That’s the way we get and all the time we are in God’s ears – He must change, He must become different. He must be the one who serves us, He must be the one who hears us.
And this we see this evening – brings upon them, God stating his glorious constancy in verse six saying, “I don’t change, live with it.”, and His gracious call, rebuking them and getting the call to return. They’re rejecting it; His reply to that, and then their retort and His reply to them again, and that’s followed by something horrible, a grievous curse in verse nine. But His commitment, and His commitment is to His people in the Lord Jesus today as well. His commitment is this:
If we bow down and worship the God who doesn’t change, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, within His plan of redemption, He is the God who will prosper us in Christ, who will protect us, and who will promote us that our leaders in this country can see this too and know that if you yield to the Word of God, and we stop all this corruption, robbing God, God will prosper us, God will protect us, God will promote us and all nations will call us blessed and we will be a land of delight. So can be your own household, your family, a little land of delight, where the Lord prospers you, protects you and promotes you if you don’t withhold bringing tithes and offerings to His storehouse, acknowledging you’re just returning what God gave anyway, it already belongs to Him. Let’s not rob Him –He gave His all. He didn’t give us a tithe of the apple of His eye. He gave us the whole eye! He didn’t give us a bit of Jesus, He gave the whole of Jesus. He gave all of Him – His blood, His life, His glory – all of it on a cross – holding nothing back. Let’s not hold back on what He blesses us with.