(Malachi 3) Are You Robbing God?

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Introduction

Malachi 2 reminded us that God hates hypocrisy, unfairness, divorce, and double-talk. And, God loves reverence, truth, justice and obedience. Today we look at Malachi chapter 3. This chapter gives warnings and promises to us.

1 God's Messenger (verses 1-2)

"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; even the Messenger of the covenant."

John the Baptist was the messenger who came to prepare the way to Jesus. And, then, of course Jesus came as the promised Messiah, the One through Whom all the world would be blessed.

2 God's Cure (verses 2b-5)

Jesus came to refine, purify, and purge our hearts.

"For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness." (verses 2b-3)

What does a "refiner's fire" do? This is an expression from smelting ore to extract pure metal. Jesus wants to destroy all in our lives that keeps us from being pure. He wants to cleanse our hearts. He is like "fullers' soap." What is "fullers' soap?" This was strong lye soap that would bleach the impurities from cloth and make it dazzling white.

I remember as a child that my mother used to make soap to wash our clothes with. We would save all the fat from our cooking, and she would strain it and save it in big tins. Eventually, when enough was collected she used to make the soap. She never let us kids come near her when she made it, as it was a dangerous procedure if she was distracted and added things in the wrong order. She used to warm the fat and combined it with lye to make soap. It was very strong soap and would really get the clothes clean. Not very much was needed to be effective. The clothes used to come out thoroughly clean.

Jesus wants to clean up our hearts and lives to make them "dazzling" clean for Him. Why? So that "they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness." (verse 3)

The result of a purified heart is an acceptable offering. Ephesians 5:26-27 tells that Jesus, "...loved the church, and gave Himself for it that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish." Those who love the Lord are His church.

Hebrews 13:12 says that "Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate."

God will come near us for judgment. "I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and the fatherless, and against those who turn away a stranger - because they do not fear Me, says the Lord of hosts." (verses 4-5)

3 God's Charge (verses 6-12)

  1. God expects the same today as He has ever expected from His people. "I am the Lord, I do not change." (verse 6) God's love does not change, and His judgment of sin does not change.
  2. You have gone away (backslidden) "You have gone away from my ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you." (verse 7)
  3. You have robbed God. "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You? In tithes and offerings." (verse 8)

The people of God were to acknowledge His ownership of all things by the tithe which was used to provide resources for the temple service. Because the tithe belongs to God - if it is withheld, it is called robbery. Nehemiah, a contemporary of Malachi told about the fact that the priests of God had been neglected in their support and had to go out to work in the fields as well as minister to the people because tithing had been neglected by the people.

Some say that tithing is an Old Testament law and this no longer applies to us. But, in Matthew 23:23 this is what Jesus said about tithing: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier maters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." In other words, they were to tithe, but not neglect justice, mercy and faith. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 it says, "He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." In 1 Corinthians 16:2 it says, "On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper..."

If God prospers you more, you need to give more than one-tenth! You may give a tenth and still rob God.

If you feel that God is unfair in expecting a tithe - that is a good indication that your heart attitude is not right. We should have the attitude of gratitude and wish we could give more!

What does "bring the tithes to the storehouse" mean? The "storehouses" were special chambers in the temple where the tithe was brought (food items and money). The Levites (who were the priests) were supported by the tithes. The principle is to bring the tithes and offerings to the house of God to support the word of God, and in that sense believers today should bring their tithes and offerings to the local church where they are spiritually fed, to support the work of the Lord in and through that local church. With the tithes and offerings the work of ministry is supported locally and the local church in turn outreaches through missions, Sunday schools, Bible studies, etc. etc.

The principle is: everything we own belongs to God. He gives us back nine-tenths to live on! If you are withholding your tithe, you cannot expect God to bless your life. That is what God's Word says.

4 God's Challenge (verses 10-17)

God has given us a challenge in verse 10, "'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, and prove Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts, 'if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.'"

Will blessing come just because we give 1/10 of our money to God? No - but because in giving the tithe we are in a place of obedience and subjection to God. The outward sign of obedience and subjection to God is the giving of the tithe. The principle holds true for today as it did then. God blesses His children not because they give 10% (or more) but because in their cheerful giving in keeping with the measure that God has blessed, they are giving testimony of their obedience, subjection to and dependence on God.

God has offered us a challenge - "Prove Me now in this." Go on - try it - and see if God will not bless you.

Does that necessarily mean that God will give us back money? No - He has promised to bless us - and that may or may not be in financial ways. But he has challenged us to step out in faith and trust Him to bless us.

Verse 11 speaks of the "devourer." God said He would rebuke the devourer for your sakes so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field.

The "devourer" which means "eat, consume" was a name for the locust because of its appetite. The locusts were destroying the crops. The people were then withholding their tithes because of the poor crops. God was in effect saying to them, "trust me even in this difficult situation and I will bless you."

Do we give to God in order to be blessed? No - We give as a response to God's great love for us.

The "blessing" God has promised to pour out does not mean material blessing necessarily. But, He has promised to bless. And, many have witnessed to the fact that when they tithe, it is amazing how God makes the nine-tenths go further!

Verses 13 to 15 the people were asking, "what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance?" If we only serve God for prosperity, we shall think of the wealthy proud as blessed, and the wealthy wicked as honorable and righteous. God want us to give from grateful hearts.

5 God's Jewels (verses 16-18)

Even in this time when the priests and most of the people were neglecting to serve God, there were still those who loved the Lord. Even in times when most people turn from serving God, He still has a remnant of people who love Him. "Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. 'They shall be Mine,' says the Lord of hosts, 'On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.'"

There were still a remnant of people who loved the Lord, who esteemed and honoured God's name and the Lord listened to them and recorded their names and remembered them.

They are God's jewels (His special treasures) God will spare them from the judgment He is bringing upon the wicked.

God has promised to give His children discernment so that we can know who is righteous and who is unrighteous, between those who truly serve God and those who do not. (verse 18)

Sometimes we can be tricked. God wants to give us discernment so we know who are His true disciples.

Recently, there was an attempted robbery, which, had it been carried out, would have been the largest robbery ever. But, because the police were tipped off, the robbers were caught in their plan. Even if they had been successful, they would have found that the jewels they would have stolen were fakes that had been swapped for the real gems.

It is like that with us. We might think we can rob God, but He knows our real heart attitude. He knows whether we serve Him from pure motives or not. He knows if we give our tithes cheerfully or grudgingly.

Do you "rob God?"

Is your heart attitude to serving God from a pure heart? Have you allowed Him to refine, purify and purge your heart from any rubbish that keeps you from being pure? Matthew 5:8 reminds us, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Is your heart pure in His sight? If not, He can cleanse you today.

Does everything you own belong to God? Are you trying to withhold anything from Him?

He has offered to cleanse our hearts and to purify our minds. He has challenged us to put God to the "test" in our giving. He has promised to pour out a blessing in our life that there will "not be room enough to receive it." Do you like a challenge? This is for you. He wants you to be one of His "jewels" - His special treasures. Accept the challenge today!

Note:

Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.

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