Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 15, 2012 AM
At the turn of the century a young salesman approached a farmer and excitedly told him about a great new book he was selling. It had all the information needed to run a profitable farm: when to plant and harvest, how to predict the weather and care for livestock—everything that would make the farmer a success. The farmer patiently listened and then replied, “Young man, I know everything that’s in your book. My problem is doing it.” We may read our Bible, know how we are to live as Christians, yet find the hard part is to do what it tells us, why is that? It is a matter of obedience.
Why is it so hard for folks to do what they know they should do? Paul wrote that he would “not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God.” (Romans 15:18 NIV) Malachi begins with a blanket condemnation of Israel’s disobedience to God’s decrees throughout her history. Let’s discover this morning why Malachi saw obedience to God as so important for God’s people as we discover what being obedient means…
I have often wondered why one child will graciously share while another will display an Ebenezer Scrooge-like attitude. The other day at Play Group one young mother vainly tried to get her youngster to share. Instead he decided to defiantly declare that the toy he was using was, “Mine!” His self-centered attitude was kind of like the Israelites of Malachi’s day, what had been graciously given by God they saw as “Mine!” It was a…
I. Disobedient attitude of not trusting God! (Vv. 7-8)
1. Physical things can get in the way of our spiritual trust!
1) God reminds the Israelites of their stubborn attitude by reminding them, “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.” From the sandy shores of the Red Sea to the wild wadis of the wilderness the Israelites had whined, griped, and complained. If Israel would just return to him in faithful obedience, then he would respond and would return to her. “Return to me, and I will return to you,” God tells them. This promise was based on the covenant God made with Israel. When God promises to watch over our lives he follows through with his promise because he does “not change” (v.6).
2) The Israelites respond with a smirking adolescent attitude, “How are we to return?” They knew what their problem was—they were not trusting God! Only a person who willingly confesses their sin can repent, but Israel pretended to be unaware of her disobedience. They had the false premise that “If God truly loved me he would do this for me.” Just as God will not work in the life of someone who deliberately sins, he will not work in the life of someone who deliberately distrusts him. We are told to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).”
3) The people’s distrust developed into stealing from God! Stealing from someone was bad enough, but only a fool would try to rob God. Israel robbed God in their “In tithes and offerings.” Not only was the quality of their sacrifices in question, they had deliberately brought “blind animals for sacrifice” (1:8), but the quantity was also the issue! The tithe was to be a tenth of all their crops, livestock, or goods. Meanwhile, offerings were that which was given above and beyond the required tithe. This was the real sacrifice, not the tithe! The tithe was expected and displayed obedient trust, while the offering displayed sacrifice! Jesus related, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV)
EXAMPLE: Every four years we enter into a period of accusation, condemnation, and self-acclamation known as election process. Pundits and politicians proclaim the political piety of their primary politician. Attack ads that focus on the other guy’s shortcomings are common place. No matter what we say concerning negative campaigning, showing your opponent lacks character garners votes. We are saddened when the people we trust prove untrustworthy. It is sadder still when they try to justify their wrongful actions just like Israel did. How about you, dear child of the Lord? Do you trust God with what you have or have you robbed God?
It is curious that many of those who do not believe in God want the government to become the god-like entity that controls every area of their lives instead. It is because of the average American’s sinful aversion to live for the Lord that our nation has reaped what it has sown. A nation that gives God its leftovers should not expect great things from the Lord. In fact, Malachi goes on to relate for us…
II. The result of what disobedience brings! (v. 9)
1. The sowing of obedience is the only way of reaping God’s blessing!
1) When Gods’ people do not do the will of God, then the nation they live in suffers the consequences! The Israelites are bluntly told, “You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.” Since the temple was God’s house, failure to support its ministry was considered equal to personally robbing God! Sadly, many Christians today wrongly believe that our nation’s problems are due to non-believers. This is not the case. It is because Christians do not trust God as they should and it is displayed by their willingness to rob God of their tithes and offerings.
2) Jesus speaks to this issue of a believer’s disobedience. Jesus reminded his listeners that God will eventually come and judge. He asked, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” And of course the answer is, “Yes.” Jesus continues to ask, “Will [God] keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7 NIV) This teaching of Jesus follows his discourse on a persistent widow who continually bugged a judge asking him over and over for justice. If we continually come to God asking for justice, yet are disobedient, will he not judge us? When Jesus comes again dear child of God, will he find faith and trust in his children?
EXAMPLE: What would you do if your child lies to you? I remember when I lied to my father about where I had gone for the afternoon. I went to play in a field where I was not allowed to go. When he found out, he grounded me. We did not have TVs, computers, smart phones, tablets, or mp3 players in our rooms. Instead, my father made me take all of my toys and books and place them in a box on the back porch. Grounded meant grounded. I could not go play with the other kids, nor could I enjoy my room. I spent my time cleaning, dusting, and polishing the floor. After a few days, I had the cleanest room in Wenatchee! I learned a powerful lesson: disobedience always brings its own curse. The same is true for God’s people. Dear child of the Lord, what is your disobedience bringing you?
For the Israelites it brought about God’s curse. When we are obedient, we show God that we love him and have more faith in him than we do in ourselves. To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what he asks. God requires the obedience of his followers. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46 NIV) And he challenged, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 NIV) This is why Malachi reminds us that…
III. God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! (Vv. 10-12)
1. Obedience to God is an expression of our love for God!
1) The promise made here is a reaffirmation of God’s word to the Israelites. God states in Deuteronomy 28:1 that if they “fully obey the Lord… and carefully follow all his commands… God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” He challenges the Israelites to “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” What the people of Israel were experiencing was a disobedience-curse relationship specified by God. Since the Word of God is sure, his promise would be carried out. In fact, Israel could attest to the truth that she was experiencing certain aspects of the curse because of her unwillingness to tithe! What about your life in God? Are you in disobedience to Him concerning your tithes and offerings?
2) Notice also that this is the only place where His people are specifically asked to “test” God. He is challenging Israel to bring their whole faith into action and to trust his promises, by bringing the “whole tithe into the storehouse.” By doing this, God would “pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Far too often we live by sight and not by faith. Here God tells us to test our faith and live by it. Faith is never found in what we see. It is found in how we trust God and sometimes that requires uncertainty. God always blesses those who are willing to trust Him.
EXAMPLE: I will never forget the answer that Ward Lawrence gave folks who asked him about his certain death. Dying from a very painful form of cancer, it was certain that he would not live much longer. They wondered what it was like or if he had any fear. He replied, “I only know the words of Job: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.’” (Job 19:25-27 NIV) If you are trying to live your faith by sight, you will live a shallow weak faith. It will always be a mere shadow of what it could be. Dear child of God, he desires so much more for your life. As Paul would transliterate from Isaiah 64:4, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV) It comes only by trust.
We learned about a disobedient attitude of not trusting God, the result of what disobedience brings, and that God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! Bring all your trust to his storehouse and test him in this and see if he will not pour out so much blessing you will not have room for it. In fact, it will most likely overflow into the lives of others around you. That’s the way God works.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.