We have seen in the past two lessons the prophet Malachi preaching to the people to consider their ways because what they are doing in their lives is unacceptable to God. We have seen the people declaring that worshiping God was a weariness and were not offering the fruit fruits to God. We saw last week that they were mistreating their spouses, divorcing for any reason. Worse, they were calling evil good, and good evil. There are two more charges that God lays against the people in Malachi 3. We pick up the explanation of these charges in verse 7 of chapter 3.
In verse 7 God gives the decree, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” But people respond with, “How shall we return?” From the perspective of the people, they have not left God. They do not think there is a need to return to God. How shall we return? Are we not with you and worshiping you? We saw this problem from the beginning as the people think that God is please with their worship. They are still offering sacrifices. The people think they are doing what God wants. But God is telling them that they are not doing things according to His commands. Therefore, the people need to return. Malachi must explain further what the people are doing wrong.
God declares that the people are robbing God. The people rightly question how they are robbing God. I don’t know that we think about the fact that there are things we can do to rob God. God explains that the people are robbing God through their tithes and offerings. Remember that God began his condemnation of the people because they were not offering the first fruits of their labors. Rather than bringing an unblemished lame, the people were bringing the blind, lame, and sickly lambs to be offered as sacrifices. Not only were the people shorting God in their sacrifices, but they are also shorting God in their tithing and in their contributions. There are a number of problems with the people not giving to the Lord as they ought.
Reflects Spiritual Defection. The first problem is that the people not giving to the Lord as God has asked simply reflects that the hearts have defected from God. The people are making two statements by refusing to tithe. First, they do not want to do what God says. It is a matter of rebellion. Second, the people are declaring a lack of trust in God. They see their money as their own, not the Lord’s. Further, they wanted to keep their money rather than trust in God to give what they need.
God removes blessings from us. God tells the people that they are only hurting themselves when they choose to rob God. In verse 9 God says the whole nation has been cursed because they have robbed God. This is an interesting principle that God defines for the people. When we short God, God will short us. When we rob God, God will rob His blessings from us. Verse 11 seems to describe the shortage in their crops and a lack of fruitfulness in their labors because they were not giving to God as they ought.
Lost God’s workers. Nehemiah was a contemporary of the prophet Malachi. Nehemiah finds that the priests and Levites are no longer serving the Lord in sacrifices and performing the tasks of the temple because the people were not bringing in the full tithe. Remember that one of the primary purposes of the tithe was that the contribution of money and animals would be given to the priests and Levites, who lived off of that contribution. The priests and the Levites had returned to the fields for work because they would not live on what the people were giving (Nehemiah 13:10ff). God was angry that this situation had come about.
God’s Challenge. In verse 10 God offers a challenge to the people to test the Lord in regards to His blessings. God says to bring the whole tithe into the temple storehouse. If they will do this, God will open for the people the windows of heaven and pour out blessings until it overflows. God is asking the people to put their trust in Him and He will take care of them.
I think there are a number of things that we need to think about in regards to our giving from the message of Malachi. First, I believe it is important to know that the law of Christ did not command the tithe. The tithe was a command under the Law of Moses, which was given to the Israelites. But that does not mean we are exempt from giving because we are not commanded to tithe.
Weekly and In Proportion To Our Prosperity. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 shows us that all the churches in the first century were commanded by the apostles to set money aside and save it till the first day of every week when the Christians would give. In the command to “set aside” is the picture of knowing what our offering will be each week. Then, we are too given in proportion to what we have prospered.
Purposefully and Cheerfully. According to 2 Corinthians 9:7 God wants us to give “as he has purposed in his heart” (NASU). Again, we are to make a conscious decision as to what our giving to the Lord will be on a regular basis, according to our prosperity. Second, we need to give with the proper motive. God does not want giving that is under compulsion or that is grudgingly. Rather, God wants a cheerful offering.
I would also like us to consider that our offering goes beyond our weekly contribution. We are commanded to help one another. We are commanded to use our money to further the borders of the kingdom and to bring glory to God. Remember the parable of the talents. Each of us has been given a different amount of prosperity. What we do with our wealth will be judged by the Lord. I want us to think about how we treat our money is regards to God and spiritual things. Forty dollars is no big deal when we talk about taking our family out to eat. But we are often unwilling to give forty dollars to God. We are unwilling to buy ourselves a Bible or study materials. Forty dollars seems to be no big deal when we are talking about our hobbies or recreational activities. But suddenly, forty dollars seems like a fortune when we talk about giving to the Lord, giving to those of our needy brethren, or toward our own spiritual strength. We need to consider our ways.
Vanity to Serve God
In verse 13 God identifies another sin the people have committed against the Lord. God charges the people with being arrogant or harsh in their words against Him. The people ask how they have been harsh. It seems pretty easy to determine how the people’s words have been harsh. Look at what the people have been saying: “It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the Lord of hosts?” The people do not see the point in serving God. Verse 15 explains why. The people have gone about calling the arrogant blessed because the doers of wickedness prosper. The evildoers test God and escape. Two thousand four hundred years ago people asked the same question that we ask today. The righteous often cannot understand how it seems the wicked continue to prosper while the righteous suffer. God’s response to their harsh words is interesting. I would suppose that God could have said that they are suffering because they are not righteous. They lives are full of iniquities such that the Lord sent Malachi to get the people to consider their ways.
But God gives a different answer in verses 16-18. God says that the righteous are written down in the book of remembrance. Why are their names written down? Because judgment is coming against the wicked and God knows who are His. God’s response throughout the scriptures about injustices is simply to wait. God will take care of all the unjust in due time. God does not strike down the wicked immediately, but allows them the time to repent. But, because of this, we are left with time where we must deal with their evil actions.
We need to be thankful that God allows these injustices to continue. Would any of be alive if God immediately struck down the person who sinned? Would any of us be sitting in these pews today if God wiped us out the first time we did something wrong against another person? This building would be empty! Swift judgment sounds great when we are talking about anyone else but ourselves. But we want God to overlook our wickedness and injustices, but not other people’s.
We need to remember that there is a book of remembrance. The righteous and wicked will be separated. Each person will be repaid according to his or her deeds. Sin will not go unpunished. Evil works will not be forgotten. Our acts of service are before the eyes of the Lord. Let us not grow weary and not lose heart in serving the Lord. Chapter 4 goes on to describe the coming judgment that will take place against those wicked people.
Do not rob God. God wants our hearts. God wants our best. God wants our offerings. We should not sneer at the opportunity to give money for spiritual things. We should look forward to giving of our means each week. We should want to spend money on things that will help us spiritually, like a nice new Bible that will encourage us to read more regularly. We should want to use our money to help out our brethren. We will be judged by how we use the wealth God has given to us.
Never think it is a waste of time to serve God. Judgment is coming. We quickly forget how God has judged many nations in the past. All of us will die at some point. What will happen next? We must be ready to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of our lives. The wicked will pay for their deeds. They will not go unpunished.