This past month we watched the pro tennis player Novak Djokovic prepare to win a big match. He is believed to be the number one tennis player in the world. He comes from Belgrade Serbia. It is amazing how far this young man has come. In a heated moment, he accidently bounced a ball that hit a judge in her neck and was kicked out of the tournament. It was not only unfortunate but predictive. It was not the first occurrence of unrestrained anger for him and the judges decided it was “Game Over” for this exceptional athlete. No matter his talent, how he treated others changed the game. It reminded me of a game show years ago “Hollywood Squares” when the star Paul Lynde suddenly died of a massive heart attack. It was sudden to us but there were multiple warnings for his substance abuse according to biography.com. He was playing games and then it was “game over” for his life. It was preventable and predictive which made it even more heartbreaking. This past month two national leaders were exposed for sexual sin and the church at large once again became “just like the world”. As I read the words from Malachi to the people, “take this to heart” it was clear that Gods position was from a desire to spare, a hope to bless His people, yet they continued in their own self-directed ways. Folly will eventually be exposed, no matter one’s title or position. In our fast-paced world, it is easy to forget that God is faithful to punish and reward. Malachi’s burden was to tell the people to take God seriously, take His word to heart and to not ignore the prodding’s of the Lord.
Malachi has come to a post exiled community where Nehemiah had been promoting, “Make Jerusalem great again!” In spite of prophetic warnings, the people after the exile were just as corrupt and lukewarm as those who were rebuked prior to the exile. The Exile had not accomplished what it was intended for – change and repentance. The interesting thing is that Malachi was addressing the religious leaders – the priests and not just the people. They were exploiting their workers, treating others treacherously, committing adultery and idolatry. Using and abusing people had become the norm. So, Malachi lets them know that God was tired of the games they were playing and wanted them to know they were loved. The entire message is couched in terms of love and repentance. Judgement was coming, Messiah was also coming, and the people were given warning after warning – to no avail. Instead of responding to Gods offer of love the people hear Gods declaration, then defend and give argumentative feedback and God responds. Who could imagine winning an argument with God? Instead of surrendering to Gods offer of love, they push back with fighting and more disingenuous questions. This message is timely for todays situations as well. It speaks to leaders and believers today to lay aside idolatry, adultery, and treacherous ways. God may delay but surely, He will come! As we have watched national leaders fall recently, the message is painfully relevant. It is time to arise from our slumber and make God our number one priority. We must take the day seriously and focus on God’s will, putting aside lesser loves.
For those of you college grads you know what it is like to feast on spaghettios or Rama noodles. Cold Pizza is just what you have to do to get thru those busy study times. You learn to eat leftovers for survival but somewhere along the way we forget that season is over and it is a new day. Our palates get used to lukewarm leftovers and we expect nothing else. Perhaps the tyranny of life also acclimates us to survival in our relationships, marriages, church attendance, even our Christian walks if we are not intentional. One occasion can turn into every day quickly. Malachi calls us to stop the mindless, passionless activities and get back to giving God and loved ones, our BEST – fresh, pure, passionate hearts. It is time to refresh our palates and our hearts!
I’ve been listening to Matthew Wests song “Going thru the Motions” this month. It asks the questions, what if I had given everything instead of just going thru the motions?” It’s a haunting thought. Do we realize how much potential we have in God, how ready He is to hear and answer our prayers? If we truly believed in His name, we would live very different. Today is not over yet….
Chapter 3 “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. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? (I believe the New Covenant and Lords supper is being prophesied here) It begs the question – why are people hesitant to take communion, to pause and rejoice in the New Covenant? Today in 2020, we need to remember and not forget what God has done for us! His table still matters. Reflecting on His sacrifice will give us a proper perspective and focus. Churches need to remember the New Covenant and not be weary of the very thing Jesus said to do “in remembrance of me”. Honoring and respecting God trickles down in how we treat one another. In what areas have we become weary of God? The pandemic has given many an excuse to continue being apathetic and serving God with a lackadaisical attitude.
Who can stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. (See also Isaiah 1:18) 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.5 “So I will come to put you on trial. 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 the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.
1 Peter 4:17 tells us that “judgement begins at the house of God”. Before the return of the Lord it would make sense that priests would be the first group that God addresses. The priests of that day did not meet on Sundays and their duties encompassed their entire lives. We can now read 1 Peter 2:9 and realize WE are the royal priesthood today and this message is for all who say they follow after God. These words are to challenge us as they challenged the priests then. Sadly, some representing the Lord are still exploiting workers, dealing treacherously with other saints, and committing sin. Many in privileged positions still ignore the poor and treat others partially. The people today, like then, operate as if a holy God is not watching. The hope is that IF we surrender to the refiner and purging one, we can be white as snow, pure gold reflecting Gods image. That possibility remains for any who return to the Lord. We must choose to do so, actively, and willingly while there is still time.
The Old Covenant required that we give tithes and offerings. If you are still stuck offering 10% you are under the law. The New Covenant initiated by Jesus Christ is above and beyond, better than, greater than and hopefully looks more wonderful in our lives and fellowships. The minimum is for people that do not trust God will come thru, it is a litmus test. Then and now, God wants our hearts and first place – not leftovers and people doing heartless, perfunctory rituals. Wild abandon to God with joy and grace is more the picture. Now is the time to test and prove God!
If you study the fall of the Roman Empire, you will see that if they had heeded this book they may have lasted longer. Both kingdoms were not destroyed from enemies without but imploded due to a BIG enemy within- apostasy and divorce. Gods people were forgetful of God’s name – person, character, and deeds. They forgot His precepts, law, and commands. God bored them and they were irritated that anything was required of them. Because of their forgetfulness, the people practiced faithlessness and divorce became the norm. Treacherous relationships where people lie, cheat, steal or treat others with dishonor does not bring Gods’ favor. It blocks it and incurs Gods wrath. When people are biased and partial like in Malachi’s day, God sees. God sees today as well. In order to avoid meddling I will not mention racial justice, sexism, ageism or a host of other areas where we categorize or ignore people due to various grouping but it would be worth ones time to ask God to search our hearts and show us areas where we have engaged in these behaviors. The privileged leaders in Malachi’s day were incredulous when confronted. They did not believe they were doing anything wrong, yet God thought otherwise. We cannot change what we are not willing to confront and own. Search us Lord, dig deep!
In other prophets you hear them speak for God but here we get to hear God directly, “You have spoken arrogantly 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 do 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, evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’” 16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name.” How do we honor His name? That means to reflect and treasure His person, character, and deeds. It takes time and intentional purpose to get to know God. We need to treat God and His name with respect and honor, worshipping with pure hearts. God heard their worship but also their conversations. God knows those who are His with devoted hearts and those who are tepid in their faith.
17 “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. 4 “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays (awesome promise!). And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.
4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
For those who celebrate the New Covenant, we are still called to remember it, we are still called to bless the Lord with worship, offerings and tithes, we are still called to be holy but it is not out of obligation or demand but– love. Malachi warned the people of God in his generation and we hear his clarion call today – guard against having a treacherous heart, return to God, return to the God who loves you and He will return to you. Quickly – the Lord is coming soon. Do not just go thru the motions but pursue Him with everything. Stop the games, the evil deeds and worship the Lord.
Malachi’s word was so intense that it lasted 400 years. God did not receive their priests or sacrifices. He used a visual of smearing feces on their faces to emphasize His point! Gross. Let that sink in for 400 years….. Then came a perfect baby in Matthew, that we know as the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. Even though we gave God our worst, God offered us HIS BEST. No other sacrifice is needed, no other sacrifice will pay our debt. That child became the perfect High Priest who walks and ministers thru the heavenlies and will be very opposite of the priests in Malachi’s day. He became the perfect and BEST High priest. His everlasting love will be seen on the cross and He became for us the forgiving and perfect faithful One, returning for His Bride. Malachi knew God hated divorce, he knew God was upset with their sacrifices, he knew their faithlessness to each other was indicative of their faithlessness and forgetfulness of God. When Christ returns to the Temple, He prepares the way, clears it out so His father’s house could become a true place of prayer and worship, not games. Christ is our example; Christ is our solution and Christ is the answer – for America and for eternity.
Read Malachi, let his message go deep down into your soul. I do not know if we can “Make America Great Again” but I do know we can ask God to refine us, purge us and make us like HIM. Everything else needs to fade and Malachi reminds us that the great one does not change. We need to see HIM as great, trusting that He will make us His treasured possessions and spare us as a father spares His son. What will you now do with this message? My prayer is that it will not make you weary but HUNGRY for more of GOD with a desire to honor Him and His name.